April 2018

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Easter Story

As Ann finished reading aloud Patty Smith's Just Kids, Smith's memoir about her loving relationship with her soulmate, Robert Maplethorpe, I wiped a tear from under my right eye.

My tear surprised me. I wasn't surprised that I cried. The memoir and its close were moving. My right eye, however, has not teared since I had surgery four years ago. Right after surgery, I could not close my right eye all the way because of nerve damage, but I've regained a lot of control since then, so I've been able to close the eye for some time. Generally, however, the right eye does not water. If I cry a tear, my left eye usually sheds that tear.

At night, Ann puts an ointment in my eye so that it doesn't dry out too much, and during the day I use eye drops. I know that if my eyes dry out, they hurt, and I don't see very well. Thus, this tear feels hopeful to me.

I think of the Ocotillo, my favorite flowering desert plan, which looks like dead sticks buried in the dry desert sand, but in the spring, strange green leaves sprout from its woody stems and its ends bloom a surprising bright red. At a desert museum, I once encountered a sign in front of the ocotillo in its woody winter phase: "Dead or Alive?" Sometimes, as the poet Pablo Neruda writes so hopefully in "Keeping Quiet" (one of my favorite poems), "Perhaps the earth can teach us / as when everything seems dead / and later proves to be alive."

Spring is the time of so much rebirth. Maybe this single tear tells me not to give up where I have given up. Maybe this tear tells me that my nerves may yet come back to life.

I don't want to fool myself, but I don't want to miss signs of life, either. I wonder in what ways the world and I are coming back to life. I wonder if I am noticing.

(I've posted all of Neruda's poem below, so that you can love it, too.)


KEEPING QUIET -- Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we all keep quiet.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors
would put on clean clothes and
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with
total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving
and for once could do nothing
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

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