Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 27: Shatter Like Glass, Book Club, Donald Hall

Billy didn't want to drop from the car to the ground.  He sincerely believed he would shatter like glass.  So the guards helped him down, cooing still.  They set him down facing the train.  It was such a dinky train now.

There was a locomotive, a tender, and three little boxcars.  The last box car was the railroad guards' heaven on wheels.  Again--in that heaven on wheels--the table was set.  Dinner was served.

Billy is a little disconnected from reality.  He's traveled for days in a dark railroad boxcar, without sleep, without much food.  He feels fragile, like a piece of crystal that would splinter if exposed to sudden movement or operatic high notes.  So he sits, stares at the guards and their food.

It is Book Club night.  My house is prepped, the casserole is in the oven.  This month's selection (in honor of National Poetry Month) is former U. S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall's book Essays After Eighty.  It's a beautiful collection, and Hall, pushing into his ninetieth decade of living, is undiminished in talent and wit.  He's an inspiration to me as a writer and person.

I remember, a few summers ago, an occasion where I was able to attend a dinner held in Hall's honor.  There he sat in his wheelchair, signing books, looking a little grizzled and wild.  When we started speaking together, Hall's years seemed to melt away.  He spoke of a mutual friend we had, and, I swear to God, he giggled as he told me a story about the friend.

That moment, speaking with Donald Hall, was a Billy Pilgrim disconnect moment for me.  If I had shattered into a pile of dust, I would have died a happy man.

So, the table is set.  I am wearing my old man flannel shirt in honor of Donald Hall.

Saint Marty is thankful tonight for his Book Club friends.

The great man and Saint Marty

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