Madonna and Petunia

Movement in the rearview mirror drew my attention.

Madonna and child in a minivan. Mom was driving, thankfully, and talking on her cell phone while waving her arms in the air like some crazed conductor. That was the movement that caught my eyes. The child, a little boy, was sitting in the passenger seat, head turned away from her and her opus, looking out the window, silently, quietly.

Seconds earlier I had been listening to Yo-Yo Ma suck the marrow out of some song via his Domenico Montagnana 1733 cello. Ma has nicknamed it Petunia. Aspen and Oak along the street were dropping their skirts of gold and red; they stood naked but unashamed. A dog was walking his man down the sidewalk. The man breathed in and out and I could see his effort, such was the temperature. They were seconds of being painfully aware of beauty, of life itself all around, of the world being shot straight through with the grandeur of God.

And then a red light and I stopped and saw them, harried Madonna and child.

Do you ever have that feeling where you just know what's going on? Not details, mind you, but a pretty good sense of the general state of affairs?

Yo-Yo Ma lovingly drew his bow across Petunia's belly as the last note raged against the dying of the light.

I was suddenly so goddamned mad. I don’t use the word in that last sentence lightly. I believe if there’s anything, anything at all, that God will damn us for one of these days then it will be our stiff-necked refusal to recognize the gifts he’s given, some of them sitting in the passenger seat beside us looking out the window, silently, quietly. We pray and ask and do not receive because we ask amiss. We’d be better off shutting up and shutting it down, whatever it may be, and glancing over just to the right at the handiwork of God looking longingly out the window.

We’d pay good money and give our eye teeth to actually be touched by an angel when there’s one in the backyard swinging who’s been created just a little lower than God himself, in the truest translation of that verse, and she’s flying higher and higher, all angel-like, and smiling and laughing and we, no I, refuse to hear the amazing grace how sweet the sound that drops from her blessed lips, distracted by the ten thousand things we, no I, just know are necessary for the world to keep a’spinnin’, turnin'. Merci. Merci, please on us, no me. No, us.

Back in the day, we'd eek through yellow lights, throwing pause to the wind. Now, such is our progress, we are not phased by yellow at all, caution-blind. We run, yes run, through red lights with millstones 'round our necks declaring the world must wait while we transgress, putting ourselves and others in danger, the least of which are those sitting in the passenger seats.

Green light. Petunia began to weep the theme from Once Upon A Time in the West. The dog and man were no more to be seen. My breathing slowed. And I, too, wept with Petunia. I wept for distracted Madonna and the little girl she used to be and the moments when she sat in the passenger seat, silently, quietly. I wept for the little boy not two feet from her, all buckled up and safe, yet quite possibly full of a fear that only a mother's words could calm. I wept for me and for all the moments that don't find their way to this blog site, moments when there are angels in my backyard or sitting on my lap and I'm off conducting my own goddamned private symphony. And I wept for us, for all of us, as we're barreling toward Babylon at the speed of distraction while Aspens drop their skirts and men obediently follow dogs and little boys dream of small talk with their mothers.



  1. how do we (no, i) face the desperation of another's poverty
    in the presence of our (no, my) own?

    when will we (no, i) face the desperation of our (no, my) own poverty in order to be present to another's?

    change i can believe in? it's no where in the rearview mirror of once upon a time nor is it in the dregs at the bottom of a teacup nor is it waiting for Carol Merrill to show me what's behind door #2.

    maybe it's in being caught by merc(i)y and surrendering to its grip. maybe it's in the weeping that my heart does ... the weeping that draws not only my eyes' but my very soul's attention until i'm mad as hell and i'm not going to take it any more.

  2. oh. my. goodness. quite a piece of writing there. devastating. convicting. inspiring. good grief.