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
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.
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
which will make the presentation
which will make the producers
if the color commentators
and allow the tension
to build around the
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.