The body, in its wisdom, carries the mind along. The mind carries the body. Each is in, and of, the other: the mind is in the body, the body is in the mind. When the mind falls to rust, the body becomes an historical monument, an old cracked liberty bell, venerable, purposeless, inspiring sympathy and awe. When the body falls to rust, the mind becomes a storyteller whose face is warm and red from being too near the fire. The little children of its memory worry the shadows, and make them do frightening, enchanting, mysterious, lovely, beautiful things.
He was like no one she had ever known. No one. When she heard his familiar knock on the door, she quickly let him in. With her hands upon his chest, she said in a whisper what she always said when he first arrived — that they must be very quiet, because her mother and father were asleep upstairs. Then they held each other in the dark, listening.
What did you bring me? she wanted to know. Another song?
Yes, he had brought her another song. It was on a piece of paper that he had in his pocket, still warm. The song was a poem written to a melody which for the moment lived only inside his head.
She told him she wanted to read it, to hear it, to know everything about it. Was it about them?
It was. It could not help being so. And yet it was about many other things as well, such as little children, and the wind, and stars, and moon. There were even footprints in the song — perfect, silent footprints in newly fallen snow. He told her he had no idea how they had come to be there, that he had been surprised to find them, and that he could only wonder where they led. The world is a funny place, he said, with many doors. And we are going to open them, one by one.
There were footsteps on the floor above. She held her breath. There were none upon the stairs. It’s my mother, she said. I hope nothing happens to her. I hope she doesn’t fall.
Your father is with her. Watching.
Yes. Poor man. He isn’t old, but he has become old.
We are all old, he thought. From the beginning. From the day we are born. It was something he had known for a long time. This, too, was in his song.
The footsteps stopped. But now there was sadness, and the sadness, too, was old. It found them in the dark, reached out, touched them with questioning fingers.
He felt inside his pocket, took out his song. It gave them answers neither understood. But they were beautiful. Beautiful, and good.
Songs and Letters, February 10, 2006