my brother had the perfunctory paper route.
easy task on weekday afternoons,
just nailing doormats with newspapers,
and fleeing from the occasional dog
on an old Schwinn bike.
the white canvas bag hanging full,
front and back
with just a grinning preteen cruising an ever widening world
oblivious to the weight of all those words.
slick tom sawyer persuasion enlisted me weekdays
to help fold all that black and white.
compressing all those contradictions
in a tight red band.
those words could F L Y
from the open hand of an older brother.
and what you might ask does a virgin in a bathtub
have to do with brothers and paper routes?
it's just the warm air slipping in the windows of summer
and somewhere in the distance there is music playing
and suddenly i am remembering.......
folding over stuffed Sunday papers with my brother
while it seemed the entire world was sleeping.
outside of the occasional marauding cat and haloed street lights
it was a neighborhood transformed by stillness.
while my brother loathed the 4 a.m. wake up call,
one step into the nocturnal world
firmly wedded me to the mystery of the moon and softening stars.
the thrill of tipping the scales of darkness into light.
where he saw the drudgery of weighty newspapers,
i came willingly for a chance to
walk beneath the hem of the whitening sky.
i walked on the sure feet of innocence
before the first birds began calling in the light.
before death came knocking.
loss visited. long before darkening
hearts or crushing disappointments, self doubt, or any of life's reckless seasons
that visit everyones doorsteps from time to time like the inevitable
slap of a morning paper.
past the cookie cutter neighborhood where every fifth house
began the cycle of monotonous tract houses all over again,
the stars were vanishing.
somewhere between the seen and unseen worlds,
that mystical portal that lasts but a few fleeting moments
i entered a courtyard.
the language of flowers were braille etching my soul.
baskets of tendrils reaching down,
arms of trees
lush, dark shadows with secret blossoms.
to a tow- headed girl of eight,
i walked softly as a whisper towards the door.
that is when i saw her.
placed in a shower of flowers that rained in a perfect arch around her,
a stone statue of the virgin mary.
i cannot tell you why i felt so compelled to drop to my knees,
but i did without forethought or hesitation.
the cumbersome gaping mouth of the canvas bag with all those folded wings
in front and behind me
replaced by prayer.
head bent. eyes closed. hands folded.
predictable childhood never flooded my heart
with such intensity.
our religious upbringing a thin perfunctory thread simply stitched
at the end of the week,
never pierced my soul with such conviction.
i cannot tell you now
how long i perched on the earth before her
nor can i say what words
comprised my prayers.
i can tell you
my heart was flooded.
to a place life had not yet taken me.
when i rose so softly and solemnly before her
just as the light of day cracked open the ceiling of the sky
i began to step backwards
towards the streets of my youth
my eyes on her eyes,
my heart froze to see one aging hand slowly
close the curtain from the window above.
i have never shared this with anyone,
but the innocent dawn, the promise of flowers,
the aging witness of those hands in the window.
the unseen eyes drinking in that moment
when mary captured the heart of
a freckled newspaper girl.
the days of my brother needing me are long gone with the
songs of that distant summer.
as is my father,
folded permanently into my heart.
my mother has been a widow for a dozen years.
my brother is a father of girls.
my son is sleeping even as i write. my husband is in the kitchen talking to our cat.
soon there will be breakfast, as our clothes dry like so many prayer flags
above our chosen and unchosen lives.
as my heart floods with that predictable neighborhood,
i could not leave fast enough for wilder ground.
yet even as i traveled the world, finally and forever settled down,
i am always looking for the sacred in the mundane.
the unexpected hidden in the ordinary.
a glimpse into the heart of mystery.
i rise early.
to find my place in the portal of those few fleeting moments
between the seen and unseen worlds.
to pull back the aging curtains of all that comprises life
and wait for the return to innocence,
wait for the arrival of the light.