Carved Marble. Edmonia Lewis, 1875 My God is the living God, God of the impertinent exile. An outcast who carved me into an outcast carved by sheer and stony will to wander the desert in search of deliverance the way a mother hunts for her wayward child. God of each eye fixed to heaven, God of the fallen water jug, of all the hope a vessel holds before spilling to barren sand. God of flesh hewn from earth and hammered beneath a will immaculate with the power to bear life from the lifeless like a well in a wasteland. I'm made in the image of a God that knows flight but stays me rock still to tell a story ancient as slavery, old as the first time hands clasped together for mercy and parted to find only their own salty blessing of sweat. I have been touched by my God in my creation, I've known her caress of anointing callus across my face. I know the lyric of her pulse across these lips... and yes, I've kissed the fingertips of my dark and mortal God. She has shown me the truth behind each chiseled blow that's carved me into this life, the weight any woman might bear to stretch her mouth toward her one true God, her own beaten, marble song. Edmonia Lewis (1845-1907) was an African/Native American expatriate sculptor who was phenomenally successful in Rome.
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,
I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
From What the Living Do, copyright © 1998 by Marie Howe. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved.