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The Incident

1.

The child’s right foot turns in as if seeking shelter when she walks,
especially when she holds her stuffed bear or my hand – really
to her one and the same –

her legs long, loose jointed
as her stories after school.
Dreamy, she is called, too often because that is
a word we use when we have no idea what might
constitute the content
of another’s mind. It is a lazy word
rather like the muscles (not) controlling her right foot.
It drags conversation along but lacks precision – –

2.

At the huge store housed in a huge space selling huge boxes
of frozen fish and loaves of bread large enough
to feed many congregations of gatherers and fretful families
one sees in the tight glance, the convex spine and gripping fingers
that the more huge the market space
the smaller the heart becomes
until it is just a hurried accountant, keeping the books
or re-working them, the chambers closed to all
but its own blood –

An old man draped in a worn sweatshirt, round glasses fatigued from
the years and the accounting –
wanting nothing at all to do with a small aimless child –
by luckless rhythm aimed
his metal wheeling cargo,
and drummed it into the child’s new unfocused face.
Blood, blackened eye, blame – the hardening set in
as a potter’s glaze, stiffening the story into place – –

3.

One afternoon I heard a parable
it went something like this:
there was a great rabbi who had many followers
he spoke of the Torah as love and making offerings of the self
to the unending ocean of compassion.
“Place the teachings on your heart,” he would say,
“Place the teachings of love on your heart.”

One day a student approached him and asked
“Why on the heart? Why not in the heart?”
“Ah,” he said, “we place the teachings over and over on the heart
so that one day
in the evening of your life
after many luckless calamities
your heart will break
and the teachings can fall in.”

Yes. Yes, I thought upon hearing this.
But the student did not ask
what happens if the heart breaks
all the way through
like a crystal glass cracked rim to stem
and then cannot hold
what it waited so long to be taught.

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