He didn't like it all that much when he first came - all the rubbish and the rush - but it was growing on him, it wasn't half bad. Coming to the city was like entering a tunnel, he said, and finding to your surprise that the light at the end didn't matter; sometimes in fact the tunnel made the light tolerable.
One of those out-of-the-ordinary days that made sense of the slew of ordinary days. New York had a way of doing that. Every now and then the city shook its soul out. It assailed you with an image, or a day, or a crime, or a terror, or a beauty so difficult to wrap your mind around that you had to shake your head in disbelief.
We seldom know what we're hearing when we hear something for the first time, but one thing is certain: we hear as we will never hear it again. We return to the moment to experience it, I suppose, but we can never really find it, only its memory, the faintest imprint of what it really was, what it meant.
There are moments we return to, now and always. Family is like water-it has a memory of what it once filled, always trying to get back to the original stream. I was on the bottom bunk again, listening to his slumber verses. The flap of our childhood letter box opened. Opening the door to the spray of sea.
She wanted to tell him so much, on the tarmac, the day he left. The world is run by brutal men and the surest proof is their armies. If they ask you to stand still, you should dance. If they ask you to burn the flag, wave it. If they ask you to murder, re-create. Theorem, anti-theorem, corollary, anti-corollary. Underline it twice. It's all there in the numbers. Listen to your mother. Listen to me, Joshua. Look me in the eyes. I have something to tell you.
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I could tell from Anna's face that she had already told him about dancing in Saint Petersburg and that the memory weighed on her heavily. What monstrous things, our pasts, especially when they have been lovely. She had told a secret and now had the sadness of wondering how much deeper she might dig in order to keep the first secret fed.
No shame in saying that I felt a loneliness drifting through me. Funny how it was, everyone perched in their own little world with the deep need to talk, each person with their own tale, beginning in some strange middle point, then trying so hard to tell it all, to have it all make sense, logical and final.
Our father came to sleep in our house that night. He carried a small suitcase with a black mourning suit and a pair of polished shoes. Corrigan stopped him as he made his way up the stairs. 'Where d'you think you're going?'Our father gripped the bannister. His hands were liverspotted and I could see him trembling in his pause. 'That's not your room, ' sad Corrigan. Our father tottered on the stairs. He took another step up. 'Don't, ' said my brother. His voice was clear, full, confidant. Our father stood stunned. He climbed one more step and then turned, descended, looked around, lost. 'My own sons, ' he said. We made a bed for him on a sofa in the living room, but even then Corrigan refused to stay under the same roof; he went walking in the direction of the city center and I wondered what alley he might be found in later that night, what fist he might walk into, whose bottle he might climb down inside.
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The Irish were poor, but not enslaved. He had come here to hack away at the ropes that held American slavery in place. Sometimes it withered him just to keep his mind steady. He was aware that the essence of proper intelligence was the embrace of contradiction. And the recognition of complexity was to be balanced against the need for simplicity. He was still a slave. Fugitive. If he returned to Boston he could be kidnapped at any time, taken south, strapped to a tree, whipped. His owners. They would make a spectacle of his fame. They had tried to silence him for many years already. No longer. He had been given a chance to speak out against what had held him in chains. And he would continue to do so until the links lay in pieces at his feet.
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He's at ease, his body sculpted to the music, his shoulder searching the other shoulder, his right toe knowing the left knee, the height, the depth, the form, the control, the twist of his wrist, the bend of his elbow, the tilt of his neck, notes digging into arteries, and he is in the air now, forcing the legs up beyond muscular memory, one last press of the thighs, an elongation of form, a loosening of human contour, he goes higher and is skyheld.
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About 25 years ago, I took a bicycle across the United States. I soon found out that the greatest item of clothing was the trusty bandanna. There were dozens of uses for a bandanna - as a pot holder, a chain cleaner, a sun shield, a headband, a snot rag, a declaration of Kerouacian intent.
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I told him that I loved him and that I'd always love him and I felt like a child who throws a centavo into a fountain and then she has to tell someone her most extraordinary wish even though she knows that the wish should be kept secret and that, in telling it, she is quite probably losing it. He replied that I was not to worry, that the penny could come out of the fountain again and again and again.
Women get the short shrift in history. It's been largely written and dictated by men, or at least men believe that we own it, and women have really been in those quieter moments at the edge of history. But, really, they're the ones who are turning the cogs and the wheels and allowing things like the peace process to happen.
Whenever summer rolls around I begin to realize that I'm a complete and utter book snob. In relation to reading, I have absolutely no guilty pleasures at all. No graphic novels. No murder mysteries. My summer read is really no different from my winter read. I know many bookshops and magazines would have me believe that our summer forays are different, but literature is literature, and unfortunately snobbery is snobbery.
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Some people think love is the end of the road, and if you're lucky enough to find it, you stay there. Other people say it just becomes a cliff you drive off, but most people who've been around awhile know it's just a thing that changes day by day, and depending on how much you fight for it, you get it, or you hold on to it, or you lose it, but sometimes it's never even there in the first place.
We seldom know what we're hearing when we hear something for the first time, but one thing is certain: we hear it as we will never hear it again. We return to the moment to experience it, I suppose, but we can never really find it, only its memory, the faintest imprint of what really was, what it meant.
What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday...he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. He wanted, quite simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it.
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Stories are there to be told, and each story changes with the telling. Time changes them. Logic changes them. Grammar changes them. History changes them. Each story is shifted side-ways by each day that unfolds. Nothing ends. The only thing that matters, as Faulkner once put it, is the human heart in conflict with itself. At the heart of all this is the possibility, or desire, to create a piece of art that talks to the human instinct for recovery and joy.
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Goodness was more difficult than evil. Evil men knew that more than good men. That's why they became evil. That's why it stuck with them. Evil was for those who could never reach the truth. It was a mask for stupidity and lack of love. Even if people laughed at the notion of goodness, if they found it sentimental, or nostalgic, it didn't matter -- it was none of those things, he said, and it had to be fought for.
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That was the sort of everyday love I had to learn to contend with: if you grow up with it, it's hard to think you'll ever match it. I used to think it was difficult for children of folks who really loved each other, hard to get out from under that skin because sometimes it's just so comfortable you don't want to have to develop your own.
Corrigan told me once that Christ was quite easy to understand. He went where He was supposed to go. He stayed where He was needed. He took little or nothing along, a pair of sandals, a bit of a shirt, a few odds and ends to stave off the loneliness. He never rejected the world. If He had rejected it, He would have been rejecting mystery. And if He rejected mystery, He would have been rejecting faith.