Monday, September 16, 2013

16 September 2013

Tom Andrews [Blackbird]

The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle
by Tom Andrews

                   For the sin against the HOLY GHOST is INGRATITUDE.
                   — Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless the hemophiliacs motorcycle, the
     smell of knobby tires,
Bel-Ray oil mixed with gasoline, new brake and clutch cables and
     handlebar grips,
the whole bike smothered in WD40 (to prevent rust, and to make
     the bike shine),
may He divine that the complex smell that simplified my life was
     performing the work of the spirit,
a window into the net of gems, linkages below and behind the given
     material world,
my little corner of the worlds danger and sweet risk, a hemophiliac
     dicing on motocross tracks
in Pennsylvania and Ohio and West Virginia each Sunday from April
     through November,
the raceway names to my mind then a perfect sensual music, Hidden
     Hills, Rocky Fork, Mt. Morris, Salt Creek,
and the tracks themselves part of that music, the double jumps and
     off-camber turns, whoop-de-doos and fifth-gear downhills,
and me with my jersey proclaiming my awkward faith — “Powered
     By Christ,” it said above a silk-screened picture of a rider in a
     radical cross-up,
the bike flying sideways off a jump like a ramp, the rider leaning his
     whole body into a left-hand corner
may He find His name glorified in such places and smells,
and in the people, Mike Bias, Charles Godby, Tracy Woods, David and
     Tommy Hill, Bill Schultz
their names and faces snowing down to me now as I look upward to
     the past
friends who taught me to look at the world luminously in front of
     my eyes,
to find for myself the right rhythm of wildness and precision, when
     to hold back and when to let go,
each of them with a style, a thumbprint, a way of tilting the bike this
     way or that out of a berm shot, or braking heavily into a corner,
may He hear a listening to the sure song of His will in those years,
for they flooded me with gratitude that His informing breath was
     breathed into me,
gratitude that His silence was the silence of all things, His presence
     palpable everywhere in His absence,
gratitude that the sun flashed on the Kanawha River, making it
     shimmer and wink,
gratitude that the river twisted like a wrist in its socket of
     bottomland, its water part of our speech
as my brother and I drifted in inner tubes fishing the Great
     White Carp,
gratitude that plump squirrels tight-walked telephone lines and
     trellises of honeysuckle vines
and swallows dove and banked through the limbs of sycamore trees,
     word-perfect and sun-stunned
in the middle of the afternoon, my infusion of factor VIII sucked in
     and my brothers dialysis sucked in and out
both of us bewildered by the body's deep swells and currents and
     eerie backwaters,
our eyes widening at the white bursts on the mountain ash, at
     earthworms inching into oil-rainbowed roads
gratitude that the oak tops on the high hills beyond the lawns
     fingered the denim sky
as cicadas drilled a shrill voice into the roadside sumac
     and peppergrass,
gratitude that after a rain catbirds crowded the damp air, bees
     spiraling from one exploding blossom to another,
gratitude that at night the star clusters were like nun buoys moored
     to a second sky, where God made room for us all,
may He adore each moment alive in the whirring world,
as now sitting up in this hospital bed brings a bright gladness for the
     human body, membrane of web and dew
I want to hymn and abide by, splendor of tissue, splendor of cartilage
     and bone,
splendor of the taillike spine's desire to stretch as it fills with blood
after a mundane backward plunge on an iced sidewalk in Ann Arbor,
splendor of fibrinogen and cryoprecipitate, loosening the blood
     pooled in the stiffened joints
so I can sit up oh sit up in radiance, like speech after eight weeks
     of silence,
and listen for Him in the blood-rush and clairvoyance of the
     healing body,
in the sweet impersonal luck that keeps me now
from bleeding into the kidney or liver, or further into the spine,
listen for Him in the sound of my wife and my father weeping
     and rejoicing,
listen as my mother kneels down on the tiled floor like Christopher
praying with strangers on a cobbled London street, kneels here in
     broad daylight
singing a glorious hosanna from the den
as nurses and orderlies and patients rolling their IV stands behind
     them like luggage
stall and stare into the room and smile finally and shuffle off, having
     heard God's great goodness lifted up
on my mothers tongue, each face transformed for a moment by
or sympathy before disappearing into the shunt-light of the hallway,
listen for Him in the snap and jerk of my roommate’s curtain as he
     draws it open
to look and look at my singing mother and her silent choir
and to wink at me with an understanding that passeth peace, this
     kind, skeletal man
suffering from end-stage heart disease who loves science fiction
     and okra,
who on my first night here read aloud his grandsons bar mitzvah
     speech to me,
“. . . In my haftorah portion, the Lord takes Ezekiel to a valley full
     of bones,
the Lord commands him to to prophesy over the bones so they will
     become people . . . ,”
and solemnly recited the entire text of the candlelighting ceremony,
“I would like to light the first candle in memory of Grandma Ruth,
     for whom I was named,
I would like Grandma Dot and Grandpa Dan to come up and light
     the second candle,
I would like Aunt Mary Ann and my Albuquerque cousins Alanna
     and Susanna to come up and light the third candle . . . ,”
his voice rising steadily through the vinegary smell and brutal hush
     in the room,
may the Lord hear our listening, His word like matchlight cupped to
     a cigarette
the instant before the intake of breath, like the smoke clouds pooled
     in the lit tobacco
before flooding the lungs and bloodstream, filtering into pith
     and marrow,
may He see Himself again in the hemophiliacs motorcycle
on a certain Sunday in 1975-Hidden Hills Raceway, Gallipolis, Ohio,
a first moto holeshot and wire-to-wire win, a miraculously benign
     sideswipe early on in the second moto
bending the handlebars and front brake lever before the possessed
     rocketing up through the pack
to finish third after passing Brian Kloser on his tricked-out
     Suzuki RM125
midair over the grandstand double jump —
may His absence arrive like that again here in this hygienic room,
not with the rush of a peaked power band and big air over the jumps
but with the strange intuitive calm of that race, a stillness
     somehow poised
in the body even as it pounded and blasted and held its line across
     the washboard track,
may His silence plague us like that again,
may He bless our listening and our homely tongues.

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