I was reading Preston’s entry today at Deeper Story. I love that southern born boy who wants to see the world and write about it in an accent that goes down my ear easy. He was writing again about tables and the fare that we offer on them, the fellowship and deep truth which the things we partake there deposit into us. It reminded me of thoughts I started to chase as Karen made biscuits for me yesterday morning. I love biscuits – they are the comfort food I most crave. As I cannot seem to make them, my sister got all the biscuit making genes, I usually settle for my other favorite when I need some warmth or comfort – grits. Anyway, Karen got the genes from her mama/Granny and so has always made biscuits for me and all those she loves best. It’s been 20 years since I last ate her biscuits. She, of course, as all biscuit makers, was not pleased with the perfectly risen, golden brown glories she pulled from the oven. They were great. But, for me, greater than the actual biscuit is the act of biscuit making. Though I cannot work the magic myself, I have watched the conjuring a thousand times as the makers talked to me while the biscuits came to be under their touch. I first realized what she was going to do for me as I saw her haul the particular brand of flour down, pull the buttermilk – which had meandered to the back of the fridge free and heave down the Crisco can. I watched her hands, as I always have, bead the flour with the shortening and baptize it with the sweet-smelling milk, and then mix – not too much, the dough. She seemed to pay little attention, the whole for her muscle memory. I focused hard on love’s labor, through always near tears that come to be when I am with her. The biscuits were perfect, if by her standards, slightly tanned, like our sun-aged skin. Her’s less than mine, as her regimen has served her better than the absence of my own. We moved to the table, she serving my deepest hunger for sustenance that sticks, holds, and proves even in wilderness and before enemies that goodness is indeed my portion.
Tag Archives: friendship
I gathered myself and walked “my land,” once more, the soil giving tenderly beneath my boots. I listened, spoke out a few words I heard, then bowed my head and blessed back.
I drove out the drive full and free. But, I waited at the gate, I would not leave out first. I waited for her, probably making calls to encourage or in some way organize one of hers. She soon drew up beside me. I glanced through the western glare on her glass. I couldn’t see her behind it. But, I could still feel her fingers entwined in mine as we prayed, smell her lotion on my shirt. I knew how very much there she has always been.
She headed east and I back west, away from every stretch of soil I could ever call home.
I have a few more years here. Mine are not grown or gone, just yet. Bama children cannot imagine better. But, the time will come, soon enough, and my hands will again dig deep in that clay that stains me so…
We set out under quiet clouds, the rain light – gentle, a sacred circuit before us. We drove the carless roads, not alone. And all seemed slow and sweet and suspended. We moved down the mountain and worshipped awhile before the ancient and true…watching fins swim and whispering of earlier walks aside the water.
Littles climbed and squealed on rails while mammas held shirts fast, as our mammas had held ours, and we our children’s. This secret space we had found separately spread out before us, its stump buildings and signs government green, the most comforting color. It meant my Daddy was home, with me.
I stared at that space my little eyes had longed for, my older eyes still held as dear, and wondered that my friend, who never knew me little, had come to love this nearly unnamed place, 100 miles away, as well.
We turned south and rolled toward banks which built me, formed much of what named me, proper. The White house, not Little, or so colored, sat abreast the property. No one ruled from it, but its place was surely preeminent. I searched the gray ground for things I had unknowingly offered to St. Augustine and for my lure that fell into the concrete cracked across the spillway. I saw no mark of me, for the million miles I walked round and round, my rod in my hand. All left now were the memories I had sloughed off, like sunburned skin, hoping in vain, for no scarring.
As we started to leave, I saw my baby sister rubbing enchanting chub fingers over her “hand warmers.” We collected hundreds but forgot most of the smooth, pocket-sized alluvial stones. I leapt from the car to where she often sat gathering, and I stood scattering them against the smooth surface of our shallow pond. I bent down and put one in my pocket. I would not leave this one behind.
We turned west past all that had been my Pop’s land, the railway now a road-race practice place, and the neighborhood of my friend Stacey, whose pre-wedding antics still bring us great glee.
One more turn and we were headed back north to our temporary tabernacle. On my right lay the low smooth rocks and fat leeches of Flat Rock Park, where we played with underwear-only clad little crackers like us. We drove on, willing the wheels slower and slower, Quiet our companion. As we climbed, the music of our journey, seemingly made before the foundation…, softly speaking all into being, played soft. I reminded her of a drive we took, twenty-five years ago…and of songs she sang for me.
I could not stop the sun, I would have stilled it in such a moment forever…left my portion of more willingly. We sat silent as the engine ran against the now breaking sun, listening to music that sang my sufferings. She listened hard as the beauty blended with imagery of binds and blood. My shoulders and heart open to her…my tears sliding free, I let her look on, catch and chronicle each one.
The circle we traveled was like so many circles that had come to be in our lives. How many times had we returned to just where we started, the same and not so. All good stories circle back on themselves…
“And I fell heavy into your arms…”
We watched our team scrape by those hillbillies. We wear me out, scratch and scar my allegiance, every time. We didn’t move to eat. My posture was easing with the hour. I reclined upon her bed, eating what we used to: m&m’s by the big bag.
My stories all pulled free, there was nothing left to speak of save what mattered most: the “I can’t’s” and “I won’t’s.” In the quiet she offered me, the spillway ran free. Her hand upon my arm, my heart could hear the prayers she prayed for the dam to give way. And surely, at her silent words, the earthen/stoney wall started to shake. She purposefully, plainly, pulled me over to her, lifted me unto her, the way she might have her now 16-year-old son, who favors me. I almost protested…but stopped myself. The words met my heart before my ear, “I can hold you, all of you. I’ve always been able …I will always be able.”
Truth is, she bore me, same as that 6’2″ fella who will sling his own stones. She has held our fragile souls along our rough and sometimes stoney paths. She has rocked us each, smoothed our often crumpled brows and soothed us with her songs. She has been God to me: His hands upon me, His arms around me, His breast upon which I bellow what I cannot yet bring to words.
I relented, from my each and every effort, fell full against her.
I try to make you laugh – circling you with tales, like some jester.
You are waiting patiently for me to settle, secure.
It takes a while…you pour and sit me outside, I do me better there.
The air is still warm, summer’s sun hangs on long this far south.
My stories slow and enter valley places.
Your eyes never leave mine in doubt or distraction.
My voice breaks during a tiny scene of redemption in a drama of debt and death.
You ask me questions, eager to know more, this is a CSI case, not my confession of ineptitude and disgrace.
And suddenly, it seems to me, mine is story in search of a telling…a yarn of wonder, not a noose.
I have always eaten off of your table, chips and Cokes you never drank, before – but kept for me. I drove your car for us, kept mine gassed. I slept sound in your bed, mine settled across the road, in a crypt, where ghosts shook my sleep.
From day one, you took me up…an orphan. yours.
I stepped under shelter, you just before me, holding a door…tables turned back on me – the now mama to so many – back again – under your name, fed at your table, come to slumber aside you.
What little I know of this grace, I gained from you.
A simple plea flashed, “Come with me.”
The sky broke and I began to.
I drove in on roads that ran the backside of what I know, deeply know. All the same landforms seen from another side, I was home and at once abroad.
Gathering clouds whispered, “I will cover you.”
Goldenrod, Now’s scepter, roared with their liony heads, “Relent.”
Spiced straw, rust red and leggy, carpeted my entrance.