Saturday, February 17, 2007

speaking to the deaf

my deaf uncle though, he speaks in tangles of flesh: kind of. hands that are naked and used for the purpose of speaking-- this just complicates things though. he had my aunt try and translate literally from the american sign language into english and twisted from her tongue came this and that, confounded strings of sentences: inelegant. he laughed at me, because he could see in my eyes a confusion that only his hands could unknot. once, while he was fixing a butane barbecue grill, his right arm caught fire in a freak accident and he had to be rushed to the hospital. his arms and shoulders were covered in second and third degree burns, and he was red with both arms elevated, like in the first moves of the YMCA dance.

and when i looked at him, into his eyes, i felt him say to me, "to know true silence, to live wordlessly we must endure pain not unlike this."

and his arms remind me of my baptism. if the water rises up, if the banks of the river recede, my uncle will notice. he squats beside the river, spits into the sand, and we both remember the day i came to know christ.

carried on the shoudlers of church men, their strange hands against my elbows and the back of my neck, the women clapping their hands, my brother, my friend in the white linen suit. there is the frail, breaking light, the blank undersides of leaves, the river rushing ahead, babbling. and there is the song, the singing voices loud under me, to the side, leading the way.

and my uncle in silence, a deep kind of languagelessness that years later, now even, i wish to endure with him.