- God, God, and: Letter from Battle Creek, and: On a Day That Bombs
We dressed for church. I had a white hatand white gloves when I was fifteen, no joke.You had to do that to show God you cared.
God's eyes were stained glass, and his voicewas pipe organ. He was immortal, invisible,while my pantyhose itched and my atheist
father chewed his tongue and threatened to runout the door but didn't for my mother's sake,and she swallowed her fate, this marriage,
like a communion cracker, and my brain-damagedbrother lurched around the churchnursery, and my sweeter sister watched me
with huge brown eyes to see what I'd do next.My God, why did I turn my eyes upward whenwe were all there, then, in the flesh? I am so [End Page 84]
sorry about God, sorry we fastened that wordto the sky. God's not even legal in Hebrew.If you get the vowel caught between the two
consonants of your lips, it can carry youdangerously up like a balloon over what you'dgive anything to be in the middle of, now.
Letter from Battle Creek
It was the sickly smell of paint from the Chrysler plantI remember in that marriage. Now these tsunamis,tornadoes, floods, dead soldiers packaged like presentshome. I thought I would die from the paint, and the mist
of poison in my sprayer, the wind pushing it across my face.That nothing would be saved. Why is it we pick a cause:bagworms clinging for dear life to their cedar-y disguise,one of them oozing yellow between my fingers? So much
I could say about that marriage. And the way this springis coming on loose, as if it's forgetting the regulations.Not cruel, but raw, a splintered robin's egg. It's the oldsmell that comes to me walking along Battle Creek,
still flowing between its expensively manicured banksleft behind by the Kellogg Company when it movedto Brazil. Still flowing behind empty streets, hauntedby the ghost of commerce. Farther down, grocery bags [End Page 85] and beer cans collect in downed limbs. There's a manunder a tree drinking out of a paper bag. I recall the sweetchemical smell on my hands, how I was dead wrong, then,how things survive until they can't recognize themselves.
On a Day That Bombs
On a day that bombs were being dropped by drone aircraftin several regions of Libya, blowing apart fragile bodies,many of whom were living their sincere and momentary lives,it was a perfect day here except for the wind and the flies.The flies were too large to ignore. It was 73 degrees.The woods smelled of pine, and there were squirrels andchipmunks. A thousand mayflies that had died overnightwaved at me from the porch. I could hardly be presentfor both, could I?—the bombs and the mayflies. So I choseone, then the other, like closing one eye, then the other,watching the subtle shift from one side of the noseto the other, or you could shift a chair from one sideof the table to the other and make a whole different room.Both sides' urgent consequence. I think of the wordfragile: its dual syllables a form of concealment, bothhistory and mystery, sun and shade. I am writing this becauseI don't know what is appropriate in this world. The Jews mixbitter herbs with the Passover meal for the bitter livesof the slaves in Egypt. It strikes me how sane the Jews are,after all their abuse, their homelessness, and how intenselyinsane. I think of Philip Roth, Isaac Singer, Yehuda Amichai.Why do I always think of an irrational violin in a minorchord, not human, not even a bird-cry, more like the soundof nutrinos slipping through everything, grazing the edgesas they pass, just a small scratch, but adding up. [End Page 86]
Fleda Brown's memoir is Driving with Dvořák (U of...