Sirens

DT2002The ceiling of our church is the underside of a piano, those rolls and baubles, carved rods, that make fancy furniture from rude trees.  The service had been: nine slain.  People had cried, well, Episcopalian cried– sniffling and wiping eyes.

When I stood in the water the evening after the day at the beach, I knew how warm and loose and filling of holes a good shower was  We had read how Jesus calms the water, though only after they said, “Lord, do you not care that we are all about to perish?”

I knew it was like that, that Jesus did not care I was about to die of loneliness, or of wanting a husband whose shirt I would even iron, poorly, and would tell me I could and should be a mother, and that I was beautiful, in a different way than other people said it.  I knew Jesus didn’t care if you asked to make the kids shut up so you could talk, please, just for a minute, so we can go on, so people will say, You’re a good teacher, you demand respect, Jesus slept through you even when you cried sitting on the floor or sitting on the steps.  Jesus slept through all of it, like my baby brother slept through his first Easter when he was a week old.

I believe in church, more than I believe in anything.  I know God, Christ, The Divine.  I know Art, including The Text.  But I believe in church.  So although I had slept fitfully all night, woken again and again, hot and cold, remembering dreams and what my life was, what to gird for, and dreams again, I happened to be awake at 9:50 AM, I had been to my usual service the night before, and I didn’t feel great, but I thought, people at my church wanted to speak, were hurt, church was at 11, and it was a good day for white people to go to church, you know, unarmed.

Our priest told us she loved us.  That made me tear up, too.  What does it mean for someone who doesn’t know whow awful you can be to say, I love you?  Or if she does?  I will take either.

A poet read a poem, and another woman read a prayer she had specially chosen, she managed to read it with great effort.

I was too full, too nearsighted, to accept Charleston’s story, but I felt betrayal for them, abandonment.  Jesus did not show up and spare anyone.  Their reverence, politeness, kindness, does not stop bullets.

Moving to New York did not fix everything about me.  I mean, I knew it would not fix everything, only one small what if about moving to New York.  And it broke things.  That happens.

The awning across the street says, “Crown Hights Beauty.”

When you try so hard.  We who are church people, we have problems, maybe more than people who don’t go to church, but I would say our virtue, if we have one, is that we try so hard.

Those people in that church, they were really trying, man, they were showing up.

I showed up at church.  Singing helped.  We sang “Let Us Break Bread,” and “There Is A Balm in Gilead” (which, oddly, I didn’t know), and “Go Down Moses,” which felt funny with an organ and a classical signature.  And “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”

I knelt and thought about if I would get a bagel, how hungry I was, or maybe I would make breakfast at home.  Maybe French toast.  I would be tired forever.  I should have gone back to sleep.

Jesus was just a person, he slept like people do, he had to.  Christ, though, is always awake, and you should call him when you’re upset, how else will He know?  All those numbers in your phone, a good number of those are Christ, as are most people standing next to you waiting for the light to change and the people sitting at the bar.

I was walking up from the subway, on the way home, when I felt really tired, though, it all fell down on me, and I delayed-reaction wanted to cry.   I remembered the Orthodox people I had seen the last time I got off at my stop, three young women walking together, two young men walking together.  The women in their long sleeves and tights, even in the heat, and the men in their beards and hats, though they were young.  Sabbath was over.  The Saturday sun had gone down.  There is a siren on Fridays, the first time I heard it, I was like, tornado?  Where?  There is no siren for the end of Sabbath, you just see the sun is down.

Parade

photo-5The Mermaid Parade was nice, the ride there was nicer.  A female “sailor” with a “mustache” was standing next to a cooler, and what would probably become a tail.  We got on the D train, and a guy asked us if anyone was going to Coney Island.  Yes, I said.  What is it like, he said, we’re visiting.  I don’t know, I said.  I think she’s going though, referring to the “sailor,” who happily talked up the parade, she was meeting her girlfriend, who would be mermaided, and the trains were all messed up, she was late, she hoped not too late, they were supposed to sign up to march at 1.

The subway on the weekends is like me on the weekends, except unpredictable.  It hardly does much, it is not clear what it is doing, though it still has a routine.

There was also, in our car, a self-appointed subway director of traffic, who told everyone that the N was running on the R track, and if they wanted the R, they should just get on this train.

For a while, he and the “sailor” chatted about how bad the trains were.

I realized the woman going for the same seat as me was really first, and I let her, she said, She needs to sit down, and someone somewhat frail-looking sat down there instead.  Of course, I said.

A woman sitting facing me looked at me and smiled broadly, we all knew many of us were on our way to the Mermaid Parade.

I watched the train as it rounded turns and could see itself, and the top of that Chinese-looking building, and the ancient painted signs that Brooklyn is still that Brooklyn, in places, especially in the south of it.  The trash along the train tracks, and the graffiti, and the half-done repairs, the 100-years-agoness and never-nowness of New York, I loved, and the shared suffering, the weekend trains that do what they feel.

I was reading Brain on Fire, the memoir about the woman who had a psychotic break because of an autoimmune problem, and the mention of EKGs reminded me that though I skipped many traumatic experiences in childhood, I happened to spend two nights keeping two different kids awake all night long, in anticipation of an EKG.  You were supposed to keep the kid up all night so that during a daytime appointment, kid would sleep and get brain waves measured.  I had made play-doh late at night, watched movie after movie and then MTV, eating candy in a ranch that overlooked the golf course.  I had known two kids with brain issues.

I tolerated the cattle march that is the spectators of the parade, finally found a spot to see, though I could really only photograph the backs of paraders.  Neptune, mermaids, jellyfish, octopi, babies, old people, modesty, pasties, bubbles.  It was longer and slower than I thought.

I went down to the beach and lay down on a sheet, on my stomach.  It was chilly.  I wore a hoodie and I put the hood up.  Sometimes the beach feels too big to me. It reminds me of the zooming agoraphobia I’ve had with panic attacks.  It doesn’t hurt, it just reminds me.

Walking back to the train, I realized I had forgotten my mother’s most important rule and not brought food with me.  I felt thin.  Nothing looked or sounded good.  I waited until my transfer, bought peanuts and Gatorade, and when I ate, I felt how hungry I was.

I went to church.  I felt a little silly wearing a mermaid t-shirt.  I like to look kind of reverent.  That’s just for me.

Our priest talked about the shooting in the church.  She was burning with the horror of it.  I hadn’t even felt it.

This happened before, me not feeling a big tragedy, when Sandy Hook happened, there had been a gun incident at my school, and the far-away gun thing just didn’t register, I was already so full of agony at what was closer.  Right now, I’m full of ending the school year, limping one more week, and job interviews, which take a lot out of you.

Like the one in South Carolina, our church has a historical connection to the abolition of slavery.  Most of our congregation is black.  I hadn’t even thought about this, honestly.  I liked Jon Stewart’s bit about this, I feel similarly, this just happens, and it doesn’t matter.  In America, freedom for individuals matters more than the health of groups.

I didn’t feel it, I don’t, yet, but our priest had special prayers, readings, there is a special service tomorrow, a vigil the bishop has asked us to go to.

One of the kids I knew, she had seizures.  We didn’t talk a lot about it.  Doctors knew best.  They would work it out.

Evil doesn’t usually surprise me.  I don’t know if that’s good.

I think the water makes me write poetry, or maybe being alone more, as I am here.  Here I’ve written more poetry than I have since I was in high school.  I thought I was done with poetry.  Water, being alone, being on the edge of the continent, one of those things.