The weather finally turned this weekend; turned back into the brick-baking hot I want and need. Two weeks in the seventies–sixties overnight–was putting dark, sorrowful circles under my eyes. I’m not truly happy, in the summer, unless I’m looking at even odds on self-combustion; unless I’m experiencing heat-related heart palpitations sixty seconds after exiting a building. It’s the summer, and I want to be warm. I’ll be encased in permafrost soon enough. For now: someone could tell me that a solar flare was inbound, and I would rush out-of-doors to bask in its rays.
SOMEONE: But that’s up to 1032 ergs of energy!
My parents came into town this weekend for a multitude of reasons, and one of them was to go to the Air and Water Show, and to listen to my brother announcing the the Navy Leap Frog team’s parachute jump, for that is what he does. Despite living in Chicago for almost five years, I had never attended the Air and Water Show. [“Do I look like I go to Air and Water Shows?” I would have asked you, if you had happened to ask me about it. “Frankly, yes,” you might have replied, and you might have been right at that.] On Saturday, my parents, my little sister, and I plowed through the crowds near North Avenue Beach to get to Matthew, or at least within spitting distance. As we did so, planes that looked like these, doing smoky things like this:
–Made loud loop-de-loops over our heads. “Look!” we said. “Look! Look! Oh look!”
“I like things that are loud!” I added.
When we finally made it onto the beach, we plowed some more, but the going was rough, through sundry small boys, sand, and American flag t-shirts. Suddenly, one of my parents touched my arm, and pointed at one of the mounted loudspeakers: Matthew’s voice was issuing from it! With vigor! What a good announcer! I was riveted, and so were the heavily tattooed young men next to me, one of whom said, of the Naval jumpers: “Man, that’s the s***.” [This is a family blog, people.] The Leap Frogs fell through the sky right smartly, and the crowd went wild as Matthew urged them to give the sailors a hand. Then–this is all real–Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A” started playing. I was in heaven, gentle readers; I cannot lie.
Afterwards, another member of the Armed Forces took a family portrait:
Then my father took a picture of my sister and I being real jerks:
That night, my parents experienced their second reason for coming to town, which was the viewing of a ten-minute play I wrote for a thea-tah festival. I was turrible excited and nervous for them to see it. “Geez, I hope you like it”, I kept saying, along with “I hope you laugh and stuff”, and “Can we get pie after?” [I think I only said that once.] I had already seen it when it opened, on Thursday night, surrounded by other loved ones; and if you want to talk about being encased in permafrost, see also: me, Thursday night, surrounded by loved ones, nervous as Robert Scott must have been when he learned that Roald Amundsen had whupped him in the race to the South Pole! But everything ended up being beautiful and good, and I was able to breathe again for the first time in several days without the aid of a brown paper bag.
Anyways, all of that prepared me for Saturday. It’s your parents and sister, for the love of Mary, Mother of God, I reasoned. They will still love you. They are your blood kin. They did like it–they laughed and laughed and all, and were very proud–and at intermission, my mother leaned down the aisle and said to me, lovingly:
The faithful return to circles. Out walking,
we come across the church at the hour
they assemble into cold. And it is cold,
still, April, my hand in yours. The congregation
links without touching on the grass,
their hands occupied with light. I am
trying to explain how I trust you. Tonight,
believers hold out their arms for fantails:
white-edged, splintered, flat. There is singing
now as we reach the curb. The woman
leading them understands they will keep
what she offers, the way the bees returned
to the farm from summer, each year the cloud
of them rising from the frost-clipped fields,
that bone rattle, that haze. So when they
do not return, you will know they are dead,
disease sweeping the husks like wind lifting
the hair of a girl. Next spring the palms,
brown and curled, will be burnt and returned
to the body, the black on each forehead,
a testament to touch, against forgetting.
Will we be here also a year, our arms
like cuttings. Then, a wreath.