Wednesday, May 1, 2013

First Word: Larissa Higgins: Leather

Hang it high.  And dry.

My Uncle Sandy spent his life on the water.  His leather skin was tough, baked deep by the water sun, dug deep by a lifetime's worth of voyages.  Out there, and back again, were written on his face.  For me, back here, where he started, writing even these few words about him turns my mind to wondering how, and why he did all of the things he did-
            I stop.  And hold. I don't want to disturb the fresh, fragile skin of my own equanimity, the perilous balance that I've bought and held through days now - my skin is new, and finely stretched.  It hold no elasticity as yet, knows no capacity for absorption and recoil, runs thin as a sheen of water on a glass, a skin of plastic wrap across a cup of tea - put it in the microwave if you must, and threaten it, but do not heat -
It may explode.  Like a baby it needs nursing, tender words - All births hurt.

            Sandy spent a lifetime on the ocean learning to wear himself.  Give me a week or two, a month, to grow calluses, dig grooves that will stretch and bend -

A sailor went to sea - sea - sea
And there he carried me.
In a sack made of leather strung with feathers and shells

All hanging down his back in a rattle and a clatter
Tangled up with the sound of the little silver bells
That he wore in his hair
Down his stiff and tarry neck
And the cats that came twining all around his horny feet
Did call and protest at every rattling step -
How they purred when he buttered, how they wailed when he'd call
What a clinging clanging jingling jangling howling caterwaul!

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