- 15. Idolatry
Death was entirely obsolete those nights we lay down in the fields and felt the sun's heat coming back out of the dark earth. There were so many stars we had to invent new constellations. God, too. And sin. One could discuss such things until the candles guttered and the darkness was complete. But if you noticed the scent rising from beneath her shirt, the unidentifiable finch in the mimosa, even the lean French hooligan zipping his moped back into town, and, of course, the flighty wind in the fig leaves—well, disbelief was not denial then, it was life. You could be forgiven anything merely for the slope between belly and pelvis, or for bringing out the next bottle of wine. And so we would lie on our backs in that glossy hay looking up into all those stars. We never knew what was going to happen next. We seemed so small, and the odor of rose—even when it was the soap— or the lacewings shuttling over the mown fields, or that glance you just couldn't make sense of— It was all what Simone Weil called prayer. Unconscious, but wholly sincere. The casual crushing of an ant. Gasp into a pillow. Sunlight in a water glass. Loneliness under the eaves. Shadows lunging under an orange sky. We gave our lives to it.
Stephen O’Connor has published three books: Rescue (fiction and poetry), Will My Name Be Shouted Out? (memoir) and Orphan Trains (history). He teaches in the writing MFA programs of Columbia and Sarah Lawrence.