The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Archive for January, 2011

Learning to Focus

They say I must learn to focus
But they do not mean I must learn to focus
what they mean is I must learn to unfocus
on everything but them
whoever they are, whatever they want from me
that is what they mean; that is what they want
they want my full and undivided lack of focus
They want my will to become theirs
and so – it becomes theirs
I give it willingly
because I want to be loved
and they promise that giving them my will makes them love me

They do love me
but when they say, “me”
they do not mean me
my heart is not a heart to them
my spirit is not a spirit to them
in their minds my spirit does not soar
in their bosom my heart does not beat
they harvest my spirit
they dissect my heart
they take from within it the jewel that God put within
and grind it up, create for themselves a paste
a potion from which they acquire perverted power
an aphrodisiac, from which they entice the lusts of the next one
my powers no longer heal others, but sicken
my beauty no longer inspires others, but entraps
the blood that gives life to my body
poisons the next, and the next…and the next

I focus
but the things I see me doing horrify me
I avert my gaze, ashamed of that thing that was me
my shame is used against me, to slam as a gate
against my escape
and so the fortress is built around me,
not to protect, but imprison me
in my own shame, I do their work

I focus
and I see that my shame is a mirror
there is no shame
only a reflection
By beholding, I become changed
indeed, I must learn to focus
They were right
and yet they lied with the truth
perhaps they live with shame as well
and perhaps I shall tell them, “you must learn to focus”
and perhaps I will not mean that they should learn to unfocus
on everything but me
But to focus on everything but them

Old Neighbors

Late last night, as I was writing my night’s letters, I saw my neighbor taken away by Ambulance.

The silent red and white flashing filled the small space of neighborhood sky beneath the firs and cedars, binding together our several houses share here at the end of the town, a space we never really see as just ours until these lights come, and show us the boundaries of this little world. Our neighbor is old, and this isn’t the first time he has traveled by ambulance.

My wife and I worry – nay, know – between ourselves that one of these trips will soon be his last, and so I stood looking out my window as the paramedics clambered out of the ambulance, pulling equipment out of various vehicle orifices with a clunk here, a clang there, the sound of bouncing plastic on the pavement taking advantage of the cold night air to hurl itself harder against my window. I stood, wanting to go over, not wanting to get in the way, wanting to help, not wanting to stop the help, wanting that corner of our consciousness to be safe again. I wanted to wake my wife, to share the comfort of our common concern.

In the end I only watched, out my office window. I stood, though sitting was possible, because this moment seemed too reverent to sit for. The flashing lights beat like a gavel, calling to order a Higher Court whose jurisdiction presided over our neighbor’s life. I stood, watching his wife fumble with the keys to the car, bleary-eyed with undone sleep and worry. She seemed so different in the cold, stark flashing strobes, vulnerable to every care she defied in the daytime. The usual warm smile, the “How ARE you, dear” every time she saw any of us, was so far beyond her reach now. She was mortal. His mortality and hers seemed inextricable, one from the other, as I stood worrying.

I could not move. There was no time. She fumbled, and then I could see the interior light in her car come on, the car whose mirror I had replaced when it was knocked off last year, and had taken the time to checked that all her lights worked, inside and outside the car. I started to smile at see it working, but quickly wished it to go back out, for her porch light to go back out, and for the ambulance to drive backwards up the street from where it came. It did not. The interior light was replaced by the brake light, struggling against the still-swirling ambulance lights, then the dimmer tail light. The white glare of reverse lights came on, the ambulance slid away with nothing but the grind of studded tires, and the swirl of all that activity blew down the street. With a velvety rolling sound the neighborhood sky once again fell nearly dark.

I stood, looking out my window, watching that corner of our world, that side of our life that was guarded by a quirky, brickslively old couple whose kindness meant it was safe to be here, wishing it were safe again, wishing strength for her stooped back, courage for her bleary eyes, and for him to get up off that gurney and sit back down on his front porch with his paper.  In the swirling cloud of disturbed stillness, I clipped the leash on the dog, and went and stood in the front yard, watching the night calm slowly return, like a snow-globe village set back on its shelf. I unplugged the christmas lights. My dog looked up at me, as if to say, “hey”, and went back to sniffing the evening’s news from the shrubs and trees.

Sylvia and Don – come home. We are waiting to hear, waiting to know what we can do to repair that part of ourselves that is you, wishing that you could go on forever being that sweet old couple we share our joys with, that we hope to be ourselves someday. Tomorrow’s newspaper will languish in your driveway without you.