Today is my birthday! I’m as old as Jesus now. Not quite ready for martyrdom yet – you’ll be the first to know! Mostly I spent the day running errands, which isn’t as dreary as it sounds; I find errands pleasant most of the time. I wear my headphones and just bop along in my own little world.
I see weird stuff in my little world sometimes. As I’ve mentioned, I fixate on color and composition, and I’ll catch these frozen moments, these random tableaux that stop me in my tracks and make me forget what I’m doing.
When I was about twelve, I remember being in the passenger seat of the car, driving down Columbus Boulevard in Tucson. Tucson doesn’t have a lot of grass, because it’s the desert, and it doesn’t have a lot of sidewalks, and I don’t know why that is. Most streets just have dirt, curb, and then pavement. We’d just passed the park with the YMCA in it when I saw a woman standing in the dirt at the side of the road, wearing a white sundress and a hat. She looked pretty in an old-fashioned kind of way, and she stood with her feet together, leaning almost precariously to one side as her fluffy golden dog pulled its leash straight out. On the other side, a child about four or five pulled her other arm just as far. I caught this perfect moment: the slant of her body and arms, like architecture, like the sound a blade makes in the air; the stark color of her dress against the dirt and the furious burning blue of the sky, the way her face was alive, just on the edge of laughing, and the faces of her charges were too, consumed by their own totally incompatible pursuits.
That’s it. Just a woman with her kid and her dog pulling her in two directions at once, for a second. I still remember that, every detail of how she looked, twenty years later. In my mind she transubstantiates, shifting from woman to edifice to weapon to woman again, always smiling.
If I ever tell you I saw an angel, that’s usually what I mean: I saw someone who pulled me out of myself, someone frozen in a moment so flawlessly arresting that I can keep it forever, step back into it anytime I want. My brain embroiders them with power, magic, strangeness, significance. That’s what it is to be human, I think – to imbue things with import that way, to point at a thing and declare it to be meaningful, and thus to make it so. My life is a sequence of moments like that, in some vague order. Everything in between is just bloodless data, nothing but names and dates.
“Memory, prophecy, and fantasy; the past, the future, and the dreaming moment between – all are one country, living one immortal day.”– Clive Barker, “Everville”
I saw a couple of angels today –
a woman stood at the side of the road
out of her open palms a river flowed
that bit by bit washed all her skin away.
They’re easy to spot in the afternoon –
their wings get tangled in the golden light.
They can’t escape or fall, but hang in flight,
stuck there dreaming till the rise of the moon.
On the ground, you can tell them by their eyes,
flat and bright like silver coins, reflective
and, of course, the peculiar things they do.
Though people still expect them to be wise
and ask them questions till their lips turn blue,
all they’ll show is you, from their perspective.