by Rainer Maria Rilke In deep nights I dig for you like treasure. For all I have seen that flutters the surface of my world is poor and paltry substitute for the beauty of you that has not happened yet… ~ from The Book of Hours II, 34
When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla you must count yourself lucky. You must offer her what’s left of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish you must put aside, and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed, her eyes moving from the clock to the television and back again. I am not afraid. She has been here before and now I can recognize her gait as she approaches the house. Some nights, when I know she’s coming, I unlock the door, lie down on my back, and count her steps from the street to the porch. Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper, tells me to write down everyone I have ever known, and we separate them between the living and the dead so she can pick each name at random. I play her favorite Willie Nelson album because she misses Texas but I don’t ask why. She hums a little, the way my brother does when he gardens. We sit for an hour while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been, crying in the checkout line, refusing to eat, refusing to shower, all the smoking and all the drinking. Eventually she puts one of her heavy purple arms around me, leans her head against mine, and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic. So I tell her, things are feeling romantic. She pulls another name, this time from the dead, and turns to me in that way that parents do so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something. Romantic? she says, reading the name out loud, slowly, so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel wrapping around the bones like new muscle, the sound of that person’s body and how reckless it is, how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.”