Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
I’m trying to follow the letters my brother’s toe outlines
in the air as he twitches through an invisible
alphabet to rehab the frayed ligaments. Pointe work penance
for a former fútbol player, as he describes the gentle
donkeys last year in Red Rock Canyon, how they nosed
his hand, nuzzled his backpack, in the middle
of nowhere, wild donkeys living in the jags & furrowed
ridges of sandstone, scrub pine & deadfall. A pine & cedar
scent of a new rain envelops us as we talk. He showed
me the news clipping in the car on the way over here,
one that ties Adelson, the owner of the Hebrew school
where Jesse teaches, to money laundering by a cartel member
in Mexico & to gangsters in Macau. And today the presidential
bid of Newt Gingrich received a ten million dollar
donation from Adelson as well. Jesse looks at the rusted shell
of his old Hyundai. I summon my best Bogart: you’re
a long way from Canaan, kid. The unlikely continues
to dovetail with the present, strange world getting stranger.
Vegas was underwater once, these desert rocks tell us,
which means we’re standing on ancient shores—
the lifeline of the sea stretching farther back than our histories.
There have been people who have owned more
than Adelson. Think of Job. Think of the most frightening
line in scripture, where God seems to become the devil’s spotter:
Have you considered my servant Job? It’s said that everything
was restored to him, but I don’t know how you restore
the kids. Twenty years ago, Jesse would stare off & sing
into an unfocused distance, sing into another seizure.
He’ll have to take these the rest of his days, the doctor said
of the red hydra-marked pills. Then, a miracle of prayer
or carbamazepine, the seizures stopped. If the meds
had no power to knit the frayed back together, what healed
him? I still watch him too closely when he looks off, afraid
he’s gone again. But no, he’s watching the sun-reeled
cloud shadows stipple the saw-toothed hills, as the day’s
light is buried like an unnamable jade statue beneath a field
of violets. Was it a miracle? Or simply one of the small graces
we’re given to press on? If immanent, God’s the marrow
& distances in our bones, even the doubt-lines on our faces.
If omnipresent, an unknowable alphabet on the air, each shadow
between us, every lost language. What would Job say?
Thank Him even in your need. Praise Him in your sorrow.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.