Friday, November 13, 2015

November 13: Bewildered Expression, Paris, D. H. Melhem, "41," Off the Top of My Head

And then Ives blinked and found himself standing on the sidewalk beside his wife, across the street from the Church of the Ascension.  On the pavement, just by his feet, was a large piece of canvas, and under it a body, stretched out.  Then the officer lifted off the canvas and shined a flashlight onto the face to reveal the shocked and bewildered expression of his son.

This is the moment when Ives' entire life shifts.  The police officer lifts that piece of canvas, and Ives stares down at his new life.  A life defined by tragedy and loss.  He's no longer going to be the father of a future priest.  Forever more, Ives will be a grieving parent, victim of violence, symbol of tragedy.

This evening. I spend almost two hours watching the news reports about the terrorist attacks in Paris.  So much confusion and fear.  Over 140 people killed in six separate attacks.  The entire country of France shut down as the police and military try to restore peace.

As I sat watching the same images over and over, listening to the news anchors saying the same things over and over, I couldn't help but remember September 11.  How I spent the day glued to the television, watching the World Trade Center towers fall again and again.  And the panic.  Cars lined up at the gas stations because of a rumor about skyrocketing prices.  All airplanes grounded.  Everyone was waiting for the next tragedy to happen.

I'm sure, in the coming days, the networks are going to be full of stories about the victims and survivors.  There will be wild speculation over who is responsible.  Tomorrow, I'm sure, names will start coming out.  A long ticker tape of the innocent.

In light of these events, I find myself struggling to find something about which to be thankful tonight.  I am thankful that my wife and kids are safe.  I'm thankful that I live in a place that's remote, protected.  Not that I think that I'm immune to tragedy in the Upper Peninsula.  I'm not.  But I don't have to worry about soldiers patrolling the streets of my hometown, toting automatic weapons.  My kids don't have to walk through metal detectors at school.  Most of my neighbors don't even lock their front doors at night.

Tomorrow, I will go to McDonald's for breakfast with my family.  In the afternoon, I will put up my Christmas tree with my daughter.  I will attend church in the afternoon and get pizza for dinner afterward.  Tomorrow night, I may watch It's a Wonderful Life.  My life is not a fairy tale, but I am, for the most part, happy.  Safe.

Saint Marty is living happily ever after.

41. (from Country:  an Organic Poem)

by:  D. H. Melhem

Education is out there,
                                        in the street, man--

I told you of the Beast, and Beauty, and that the Beast was how he saw himself, and was treated, although the handsome Prince within his skin was the virtue of his soul, and how Beauty approached with a single candle flickering away the dark to disclose the perfection of his blackness, and the drops of white tallow that burned him awake to his death by the stream where Beauty followed, and her tears upon him as she cried, "Ma Bete!"  And beneath those tears the loving Prince of his desire rose to embrace her as they were received by the stream that grew everywhere into its pervasive tributaries, nourishing the dessicated land.  And I wept, that the joyful Prince could not speak in you, that you feared and raged along the banks of your spirit, that you could feel upon your skin, as yet, only the tallow . . .

Off the Top of My Head

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