I DON’T KNOW, CAN YOU? Mrs. Lewis would say whenever we asked, Can I use the restroom? in 7th grade math, forcing us to say may we, which we reenacted repeatedly, but never forgot. Aaron sat between Trish and me on the row closest to the door, with his shiny brown hair slicked back and wearing polyester plaid high-water pants. His job was as go-between for passing carefully folded notes, his low arm-swing casual but calculated. He took his job seriously, as we did ours; for most every class, while Mrs. Lewis stood at the board, he would begin an almost inaudible humming of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Sometimes, amid the din of passing Tyson Chicken trucks, she would turn. She would ask if someone said something, and we knew she had heard him. We always shook our heads no and shrugged. Our unspoken agreement held fast, balancing our young selves on the edges of how we can learn the rules, how we may break them, and how we could and might be heard. GOD COMES TO YOU disguised as your life, dressed in a heavy robe of red silk brocade with pockets, inside and out, filled with wine corks and old keys, your son’s baby teeth and your first engagement ring, your mom’s damp cocktail napkin, your dad’s 1972 McGovern pin, and a crumpled pack of Marlboro Lights, until the day comes you begin to empty every pocket piece by piece. You hold each in your palm, pausing before the clatter to the floor, before stopping to slide the silk robe off your shoulders, to realize you are left as you’ve always been, perfect. Holy.
About the Author
Ellis Elliott is a poet, writing group facilitator at bewildernesswriting.com, and ballet teacher. She has a blended family with six grown sons. She has an M.F.A. from Queens University, is a contributing writer for the Southern Review of Books, and section editor for The Dewdrop contemplative journal.
Feature image by Manuchi / Pixabay