Anytime one of the four of us leaned sideways, you could feel it tip, your body kiltering toward the place where on land you would've fallen, the thing 13 meters long and five feet wide. I tried to imagine fifty others crowded aboard, then fifty more if the pirogue were slightly larger, some with every important thing in a single bag, others with just their souls clutched to their chests, which is to say their children. Masser says in the beginning it was just boys, teenagers stealing a boat at night and heading for the open sea, Spain's Canary Islands a thousand miles away, or maybe to Libya and then onto Italy. And still they go, he says, though 4 out of 5 die-- death by water, death by hunger, death by lack of water, death by lack of a compass, death by a hundred desperate people at a time crammed on hoping for better lives. On the radio, the most popular entertainer in Senegal sings, "Last night in my dreams, all over the world: food for all. Ça, c'est necessaire," he concludes. In the pirogue on the relatively glassy waters of the Sine-Saloum delta, I lean east, and those with me lean east. I lean west, and we all lean west towards the setting sun whether we want to or not.
Consequently, there are maybe only a couple hundred here, all of us standing on Wright Terrace and peering hopefully across the water towards Monona, people like me who are fireworks junkies, who will drop anything for even the briefest encounter with ephemera, and from the look of things, people who are new to the city, people who do not know that Madison does not have a proper Fourth of July fireworks show. If I had to guess, I would say that like my grandfather, like me, the crowd is maybe 60% foreign born. The woman next to me wears a headscarf, speaks to her two small daughters in a language I cannot name. As for me, in this brave new world, I am beginning to arrive in a place where I cannot tell the difference between numbness and ease. Day-to-day, it is possible what I feel is both. When the fireworks begin, one of the woman’s daughters starts to jump up and down as if on a spring. Watching her, I feel my own heart leap with some emotion of yore. In the Declaration of Independence, the founders wrote of the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions. I want to say this is in the past. I want to say it’s complicated, but actually it’s not. Overhead a firework explodes, creating a red heart ringed in blue. When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another… The little girl is still jumping up and down, her heart flooded with it.
Last Saturday is Eid al-Fitr, the final day of Ramadan, and it’s perfect rainbow weather, the storm clouds steely yet bright. From my window I watch the eastern sky. In the Quran, ‘god’ is often expressed in the first person plural. What if the Bible were the same? And the bow shall be in the cloud; and We will look upon it, that We may remember the everlasting covenant with every living creature that is upon the earth. Would we see a collective self in all things? When it finally comes, it is doubled, the inner bow seemingly crystalline, touchable. Four years ago I spent Ramadan in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Each night à table Mohamed would hand me the plate of dates before all others, allowing me to eat first though I was not fasting as they were. Technically a double rainbow occurs when the light refracts a second time through each water droplet, in other words, the rainbow reflected back on itself, the thing acting as its own mirror. We are who we are inside and out. Let us all be humbled by both the seen and the unseen. Let us comport ourselves accordingly. I stand at the window long after the colors fade. With or without me, they will come again.
where motor boats can’t go but it’s easy in a kayak, and so most afternoons I slip under to the place where the same thing happens as occurs in the Blue Grotto off the coast of Capri, there the blue of the sky reflected off the white-sand bottom, the color intensified in the waters of that cavern, how the first and only time I was in Capri I was fourteen years old, and now when I kayak under the bridge it’s like being there again only here the light shocks the water an electric green, almost neon, the water so bright that each time I come I feel as if I’ve floated into heaven despite the sleeping bags, the pair of men’s rubber boots, the ratty possessions, everything someone owns crammed into less than two feet of overhead space, and each time I come to be dazzled I am reminded that this is not heaven, this is a world where some men live under bridges, some men are shot as they drive home with the people they love, some of us are granted admittance to unspeakable beauty as teenagers. This is a world where if one of us is lost, all of us are lost.
I paint my nails mint in an attempt to cool myself. High winds and the Strawberry Moon paddle is canceled. At the all-day retreat at Deer Park, the lama tell us we must wish that all sentient beings have the tools to achieve happiness. Bub, look around, I silently think. We are of a nature to burn. We have not gone beyond burning. Behind me, the kid with the prayer wheel like a god with a world.
Thursday & a bird has once again built its nest in the stoplight on Regent. O feathered sister, in the moment when this mechanized sun goes silent, does your 460 beats per minute heart beat even faster as you await the return of the light, the yellow winking every third interval? Is that why you are here again, drawn to this halogen yolk, this incontrovertible that blasts you w/its radiance, each day simply a matter of seconds & then darkness, repeat, or am I thinking of it all wrong, am I letting the darkness that we can't seem to escape cloud my heart? O to live in your jerry-rigged world— each day composed of thousands of dawns, each one a fresh start!