The Give

As I sat in the plaza, a soul gestured with his hands an incomprehensible sign before he scampered off. Language happens in one’s head, I thought. I call him a soul in a line in a poem that happens in my head. No stranger to this strangeness, I was guilty before of having overseen his eccentricity. I’d noticed his unconscious look, his lonely pathetic innocence. Once I saw him staring, blank-eyed, into a huge man whose fat finger was pressed against his small chest at the edge of a wedding celebration under the trees. As I imagine I understand him, he dares the world he spurns to try to understand him. Like an escaped bird he hungers for the seed but fears the cage tries to squawk and flies away. Language doesn’t happen only in one’s head, I see. If it’s isolate it isn’t language, just as masturbation isn’t love. To give but not to yield or to take but not to accept doesn’t make a soul seem human. That is why I write this down, why I let you read this, and why I’ve tried to figure him out— to translate, make, a mirror for a soul who stares out in fear on the edge of a world of similar fear. We, too, would like to be part of the celebration, and to wander under the open trees.

7 July 1977, 23 April 1978, 14 June 1978