- Working on his sermon
He always said Shhhhhhhhhh to keep us out of the room. Herding the children into the hall, beyond the shut door or the door ajar, on his tall cluttered study, lamp casting a soft yellow funnel over the desk, and we were not invited in, to spin our words or blue-eyed marbles on the floor, to help him see the grit of religion come to life. A stern man, handsome in photographs but disinclined to emotion, he forbade us to grieve at his wife's funeral, our poor grandmother, he said, Shhhhhhh, if I find you crying, you will be in trouble with me. But we were already in trouble, being already born, born to a sadness larger than one family, one straight-talking no-nonsense family, a legacy of secret tears and silence, keeping it in and keeping it out. Shhhhhhhh, he was working on a paragraph, a closing, he was trying out forgiveness, slipping his hand into the coarse sleeve of sympathy, grappling with the other cheek. And the congregation was critical, bickering behind his back, sending a stream of letters, wishing he had said it differently, said it only in German, why didn't he like their clubs and sociability? And every single week [End Page 206] had a sermon in it, for years and years. It was hard to be so earnest and grim in any language, to do the Lord's work so long before going into hiding himself, closing the shades, sending his son Theo to the pulpit in his place.
Naomi Shihab Nye lives in San Antonio, Texas. Her most recent children’s book is Baby Radar and most recent poetry anthology Is This Forever, or What? Poems & Paintings from Texas. Two new books of poems, A Maze Me (Greenwillow Books) and You and Yours (BOA Editions Ltd.) are forthcoming in 2005. email@example.com