Images the Size of Pink Palms

From Fanny Howe’s The Sparkling Stone:

I remember miles of bewildered children filtered towards some bricks in knitted caps and mittens. The snow was attaching itself to smoke stacks and branches, wires. Each one had a bone to pick with G-d. And meanwhile the cruelties made logs for cabins twelve to fifteen feet long and notched. These would store the children. Later the animals  left their roomy forest, those animals whose paws dapple the snow. They are always going or have departed. I was called Paul.

Rising by plane from the Netherlands, we children turned gray over Luxemburg. Snow in the spruce trees below flaked into handbills and pamphlets. Even the cinema system took part in the campaign to color the world gray. In that war each baby weighed a boot and bricked up, during those years, the good men’s power dried up and their foreskin shriveled.

Trains were heading in all directions grinding over weeds on ice cold tracks. The wheels at 5am bore down with the force of seventy men on a muddy woman. Snow whirled airily against each brick entrance where humans tried to get warm from smoke and confetti. The litter in the trees was sometimes white and on the sides of streets it was thick and grey. The city was an oyster inside a pearl.

Can we avoid dying by making a plan for others to die ahead? Send them before us ruthlessly to scout out the territory? Or fill it? A hutch stuffed with woodcutters and chicken-killers was my birth place. I know it. I feel it . I remember it at the level of bone. Grass ate up through the foundations of barracks and community graves. In stone rectangular caves, potatoes were the food of starvation and baked in ovens with those who would eat them.

I did my research and found out that in May of that year there was rain in the ash trees. One interim peace agreement was complete while another country pulled its forces in and out of a hellish corridor. I felt like a toy doll while all this was going on. The radio warmed and cash registers rang in the season of The Dissembler. And images the size of my pink palms were lowered up and down before my eyes: St. Francis holding a lamp, a bleeding heart, and Joseph with the Child Jesus in the crook of his arm.


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