Paulelmo's Blog

One more set of stitches on the walls of a collective heart

One More Set of Stitches

On the Walls of a Collective Heart

It was a bit of dramatic irony

that the family was brought together

not long after I’d had

one of my infrequent spells

of missing Dad.

Brought together by you, Michelle—

On a t.v. screen, you and the ice

and the bond between;

in a living room, five wills

with strong hope and slight prayer

that you wouldn’t break an ankle.

 

Dad would have said:

 

“You be careful; Lord knows

what you might do to yourself

on that sheet of ice.

And jumping around like that…,

Who do you think you are anyhow?

Liable to break a neck.”

 

Liable to indeed.

 

The bravery, due

to a lack of concern

for the consequences,

that is spoken of by the Ingush.

La intrépida, as the Spanish would say.

The intrepid woman.

Joyful.  Ethereal.  Elsewhere.

That Dionysian spirit,

That Apollian mind,

held aloft by Terpsichore and Calliope

That fall;

understood by Melponeme.

A collective gasp.

 

After all I’ve seen—seven state fairs and a cow tipping included—

you would think that

I would more easily understand

how quickly and totally

the mood of a room can change.

What I didn’t understand then

was that it wasn’t just the mood

of a room

that shifted so drastically;

it was the mood of a nation.

She didn’t miss a beat,

her smile got that much brighter,

and we saw the potential lie

of the gold

that we use to mark our champions.

 

We pick our stunned thoughts

from hard floors;

“Okay, Slutzkaya’s still to skate,

and Sarah was almost flawless.”

“But Sarah was in fourth.

“But Sarah was almost flawless.”

“True.  And the Russian girl.”

 

I have to remind them

that I didn’t see Sarah skate,

and I don’t know anything about

the Russian girl

except that her name begins

with that nice way

that I use to say “slut”

to a dear and long-acquainted friend

who holds my hand when I want

and knows how strong love is

in this sexually harassed world.

I tell them that the reason

that I said not to bother

me until Kwan came on

was because she was all I knew

of the whole situation.

I wouldn’t have even cared too much

about watching her,

if I hadn’t read about

her decision to coach herself

and the flak she is getting from experts

in fields whose experts supposedly know

how foolish such a move proves historically.

La mujer intrépida.  The fearless woman.

Historically.  Schmistorically.

 

And Slutzkaya skated and danced

With precision and confidence,

Not quite enough joy,

And a jer k  y  lan  ding

That I thought would give Kwan the gold.

 

“Yes, but Sarah.”

“She did skate well.”

We speak of them

as if they are cousins.

“Yes, but I didn’t see Sarah skate.”

“It was really nice.  You can watch the tape.”

 

Those folks who test such things

should do a psychological study

to see if a moment in sports suspense,

such as this was,

is heightened more,

which will make the moment

more memorable,

which will make the presentation

more successful,

which will make the producers

more money,

if the color commentators

don’t speak

and allow the tension

to build around the

 

 

silence.

 

Just thinking.

I’m sure some color commentators think

that I should put down my pen,

 

but I can’t,

because I have to tell you about

the divvying out of the medals.

Sarah got the gold.

The Russian girl, Irina—

I’ve learned her name by watching

the tape of Sarah’s performance

between the last stanza and this one—

received the silver.

Michelle took the bronze.

 

We let Michelle go off

to where she needed to go

and celebrated in the glow

Of a young girl’s

true and humble delight,

echoed and doubled by her coach.

We were proud that they were there

to represent a people

so recently torn,

who need to remember

that heroes don’t always

die with their deeds.

 

Lord, above all, thanks for

the graciousness and the humility

and the determination not to quit

when weaker ones might have quit

that spoke our collective being

on the t.v. screen this evening.

 

And I still hadn’t seen Sarah skate.

 

And then I saw Sarah skate.

With the same brother who had

come to tell me when Michelle was on,

I saw Sarah skate.

I knew it would happen,

had been told it would happen,

was ready for it to happen

before it happened.

Then it happened;

I couldn’t spell “ready.”

I’m sure that Dad would be pleased

to let her be

America for a night, despite

his repeated pleas that she be careful,

to which she wouldn’t have listened.

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