Among the first we learn is good-bye, your tiny wrist between Dad's forefinger and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom, whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield. Then it's done to make us follow: in a crowded mall, a woman waves, "Bye, we're leaving," and her son stands firm sobbing, until at last he runs after her, among shoppers drifting like sharks who must drag their great hulks underwater, even in sleep, or drown. Living, we cover vast territories; imagine your life drawn on a map— a scribble on the town where you grew up, each bus trip traced between school and home, or a clean line across the sea to a place you flew once. Think of the time and things we accumulate, all the while growing more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging, our bodies collect wrinkles and scars for each place the world would not give under our weight. Our thoughts get laced with strange aches, sweet as the final chord that hangs in a guitar's blond torso. Think how a particular ridge of hills from a summer of your childhood grows in significance, or one hour of light-- late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings the shadow of Virginia creeper vines across the wall of a tiny, white room where a girl makes love for the first time. Its leaves tremble like small hands against the screen while she weeps in the arms of her bewildered lover. She's too young to see that as we gather losses, we may also grow in love; as in passion, the body shudders and clutches what it must release.
Julia Spicher Kasdorf - 1962-
We keep our quilts in closets and do not dance. We hoe thistles along fence rows for fear we may not be perfect as our Heavenly Father. We clean up his disasters. No one has to call; we just show up in the wake of tornadoes with hammers, after floods with buckets. Like Jesus, the servant, we wash each other's feet twice a year and eat the Lord's Supper, afraid of sins hidden so deep in our organs they could damn us unawares, swallowing this bread, his body, this juice. Growing up, we love the engravings in Martyrs Mirror: men drowned like cats in burlap sacks, the Catholic inquisitors, the woman who handed a pear to her son, her tongue screwed to the roof of her mouth to keep her from singing hymns while she burned. We love Catherine the Great and the rich tracts she gave us in the Ukraine, bright green winter wheat, the Cossacks who torched it, and Stalin, who starved our cousins while wheat rotted in granaries. We must love our enemies. We must forgive as our sins are forgiven, our great-uncle tells us, showing the chain and ball in a cage whittled from one block of wood while he was in prison for refusing to shoulder a gun. He shows the clipping from 1916: Mennonites are German milksops, too yellow to fight. We love those Nazi soldiers who, like Moses, led the last cattle cars rocking out of the Ukraine, crammed with our parents--children then-- learning the names of Kansas, Saskatchewan, Paraguay. This is why we cannot leave the beliefs or what else would we be? why we eat 'til we're drunk on shoofly and moon pies and borscht. We do not drink; we sing. Unaccompanied on Sundays, those hymns in four parts, our voices lift with such force that we lift, as chaff lifts toward God.