(A 45 year-old memory)
The boy creaked open a half-hinged door.
The barn exhaled its cow’s lung full of dank hay breath –
sweet feed and corn cobs, fur dust and feathers.
“What sleeps slack-jawed under the floor,”
he pondered, always fearing falling through,
“with eyelids cracked crustily for manna from above?”
Stopping to read Braille messages in saddle leather scrolls,
he looked to the loft, just glimpsing the striped coon tail of a spy.
He pecked a stale kernel or two off a cob left behind,
crunching their consistency of candle wax and peanut brittle.
A dark corner called, so he took a notion to hide a while in the hay
and watch the shifting edges of morning light sweep their way
across knotted planks to the hidden earth beneath.
Knee deep in a farm field daydream, he heard a horse bray,
and thought of wanting to feel its rubbery lips and warm breath
searching and sniffing for sweet feed in the manger of his hands.
This morning, while driving in a slow rain on my way to work and pondering the melody of Elgar’s “Nimrod,” I saw something that will hang with me like a painting and speak to my soul for a long time.
A slender high school-aged man wearing glasses that sat just a hair off level and looked a bit big and dated for his face, stood wearing a green over-sized raincoat under a worn black umbrella at a school bus stop near the end of his street. Beside him stood a young girl, probably early teens, if that. I couldn’t make out her features or her garb, as she was partially hidden in the raincoat folds hanging just to the young man’s side. There they stood, sister and brother, I presume, silent and still in the coarse mist of a fall morning, framed in wet light and shadows like a freshly-stroked impressionist painting. They could have been anywhere, at any time. But they were to my immediate right as I was driving in. To think, I almost missed them.
My perception was that traffic around me slowed, perhaps to pay them homage, but I could be wrong. If it didn’t, it should have. In recent memory, I have seen no more poignant expression of the totality of the human condition than this young pair of sentient beings, leaning in to each other at the intersection of have and have-not streets while waiting in the nearly-not rain of Wednesday morning.
Like a visual depiction of hope, sanctuary and benediction threaded through the melancholic lines that bow and weep and sing in Elgar’s elegy, the young pair tightly held onto each other in this lean-to shelter made of their small bodies and their spirits’ filial bond.
I saw gray and I saw rain. And I saw a rainbow and I saw pain.
And I saw a love light hiding under a bushel, as worn black cloth folded up and the doors sprang open on a yellow bus, and I sped along to work in the glowing midweek mist.