Saturday, May 9, 2009
Tobias Says Goodbye to his Father
I remember I had read something from Tobit,
But the last line was missing from the text.
I had not realized it until, staring down,
I knew the script was missing something important.
So I read it with a cadence that would make it seem complete.
It seemed at the moment quite like life.
Here I was, an honored man, asked to read a bit of Old Testament
Scripture during a wedding in Atlanta.
And, lo, a line was missing.
I thought for a moment that I might make something up.
But what could a jester add to the comedy of Tobit?
So, I read the last line and emphasized the wrong words,
Paused, said something about the Word of the Lord
And exited the stage--just shy of Fortinbras' entrance
Demanding the disaster be covered o'er with a pomp and circumstance
My rented tuxedo belied..
Being with child, and wanting my wife, for once, to enjoy
The joy that attends a wedding,
I took my youngest, restless, curious, and full of life,
There, at the bottom of the steps I witnessed something singular:
Looking up to street-level I saw a man, in a long coat I something envied
Deposited from a fat yellow cab upon a rain-slicked walk.
He wore also a hat and scarf, the colors of which were dark and tasteful--
I could tell even from where I was below.
He paid the driver, had some talk, turned, and, straightening his hat,
Walked to the grand doors of the Cathedral.
I thought then that Coleridge's Mariner might accost him, but no-one appeared.
He paused, and then opened gently the door--and light spilled from within,
Illuminating briefly an infinite triangle (in all dimensions a kind of diamond) of grey
Speckled with rain and fluffy cotton-balls of snow.
Before he entered I noted he removed his hat
And the expiration of his breath reminded me briefly of mortality.
His hair was a silver-white in that seeming late-night light
And I thought: How I hope to be so distinguished someday.
Perhaps I will wear eye-glasses like that too.
Perhaps I shall live so long.
And then he disappeared.
Presumably, he went to join the wedding feast.
The Bride and Bride-Groom rosy in the rush of nuptial ceremony
Would later lead us to a reception where they did not fail to offer
The best wine first, second, and last.
I asked someone who had also seen him,
This distinguished man,
Entering stealthily into a marriage-vow
Just before the seal was sealed, and I discovered
I knew him:
His name was Peter, and he came because he knew them--
The Bride and Groom.
This Fisherman, lover, husband, founder--his orphans spread far and wide--
It was rumored, would never miss a wedding:
But had never seen a birth.
(Image: Tobias Saying Good-Bye to his Father. Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau