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A story by Jamie Quatro

Peter Davidson/Bridgeman Images

Peter Davidson: Towards the Hills, 1980

What if we invented the gods not out of fear, but because we had made works that warranted them, and needed an audience fit for our accomplishments? *

January. Upstairs the shower turns on—the youngest son, nearly a man, how diligently he makes ready, each day, for each day’s callings. Calc, AP Enviro, Gothic Lit, Spanish 3, morning-night-morning spinning him toward graduation and college and an empty shower upstairs. Pull on my sweatshirt, walk to kitchen (stairway balustrades still lit with twinkle strands woven into dead garlands), strike a match and light scented candle given by the friend eager to show her support. Cinnamon, fir, silver birch. If you need anything please reach out, Steve and I are always here. Something like nutmeg. The pure dog tail-thumps and rolls softly to her side, exposing swell of belly. Sit at table, open Bible, listen for the voice of God as we were taught the only voice you can trust at all times is the voice in these pages but this morning I read Better not to marry I read Do not deny one another except for a time and to devote yourselves to prayer—Paul, who sounds more and more like a politician or enraged prophet drunk on his visions, and here on the table is the salt and pepper cellar we bought in Tokyo, yin-yang bowls carved from white marble and ridged teak. Remember the tiny golden spoon balanced between sides? I placed the spoon with its bowl balanced over salt, handle over pepper. You did the opposite. I don’t think it meant anything. Anyhow the spoon is gone. Now the sun has risen, earnest light making a wavering disturbance of the air above this lit candle. I know the time it will take for light to fill kitchen, red to orange to yellow to—what is the color of daylight? Blank-light, nothing-light. The common light of day. Shower turns off, distantly. The blameless dog stretches. Somewhere a school bus exhales. The uncaring borrowed world beginning to rouse itself—for what?

The gods we made up. Audience for our spears and sonnets and symphonies. And this white ceramic mug with a tiny blue bottle painted on its side, the one I bought in Kyoto at the shop beside the Heian Shrine—same coffee chain as the one in Park Slope, where you’d been meeting her for a year, though I didn’t know it yet, that day in Japan. What a surprise! At the shrine we read the instructions posted for tourists. Poured water from a wooden ladle over our hands. Entered and stood solemn before the altar, clapping twice before we left, as if we’d understood.

*cf. C.K. Williams’s “Nature and Panic” and Christian Wiman’s He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art.

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