Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Storm-torn Edge of Heaven

The wind lifts some of the bedsheets sideways and others billow almost straight up. The old woman has to tug the lines down to get the clips on. She can’t be seen, tending to the linens, but without her there would be no sky at all, no dusk or dawn of variance, no tumultuous layerings of cloud and color. Even when the sky seems clear, which is to say, when there is only one cloud over all things, just very high, she is there at each corner, without fail, making certain no edge of heaven so much as grazes the ground. There was a time I believed this story even as I made it up. There were times when storms blackened the sky and I knew her ire as I knew my own, that she would have to pull down the entire sky and start over, that she would knead and knead until the covers wrung white again, crisp as the starched edge of an old man’s Sunday shirt collar, a sky that seemed less to pass over than to hover protectively far beyond my own reach and powers. Just when, you ask, did the actual subsume the imagined? Just when did grade school science supplant the power of myth, the realms of gossamer and glitter, those fiercely held first beliefs let go of, at last? It just happens. One day you look at the clouds and see clouds, just canopies or scrims of moisture beneath which the whole of earth turns. And you never think again of the old woman’s stout legs and arthritic, weary fingers, the unwavering patience and devotion of her work, her just and gentle oversight, all those vestiges of a love you once had for yourself, but now is lost, as distant as the sky itself, of which you rarely think, at which you rarely look, but which stretches forth beyond you, whether noticed or not.  end  

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