The History of
amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.
To try for timelessness in writing, though the most
“timeless” writing is the writing in which words have accrued most
history, as do ancient ruins.
To write with the acute awareness of the history of each
To write out of love for the words, which is to love
And where was the love of words most sustained? The absolute
non-believer in the Ultimate Divine must admit: in prayer.
And to write
he came to me smiling
as a prayer.
held out his arms to me
as a prayer.
as a prayer.
As he spoke, holding up what he called a jar as if in
salutation, I noted a scar on his jaw. The jar was half-filled. We
were in the midst of standing men, mostly aged, some old, and some
young men, all holding what he called jars, all of us in dim light.
I was holding an empty jar. He asked me if I would like a refill,
and smiled, a spirited smile, when I thanked him. He hurriedly drank
his jar down and took mine from my hand, touching my fingers with
the tips of his fingers.
I invited him home.
was thirty five and I sixty five.
In my bed, to hold him, naked, was for me to be
thirty five, to be thirty five and to have a tight scalp of short
soft hair, to have a brow, cheek bones, nose, lips, jaw, neck,
clavicle clearly and beautifully defined (oh, and all the more
clearly and beautifully defined in the almost dark of the room, his
scar gone) was to have a long, lean body, smoothly curving at the
shoulders, the thighs, the buttocks.
He pulled back, perhaps suddenly seeing me as I was, which made me see
myself as I was, and I thought: I should never
have invited him here, he can only be with me
because he wants something from me, will demand something from me and will become violent
if I can’t give him what he demands. His eyes shone
in the darkness of their hollows.
said, ‘I must tell you—,’
and he lay still.
the pre-Socratic philosopher wrote:
That all be reunited into one
by an act of Love.
Now that he is dead, I try to
understand, or at least magnify my sense of, the altogether sudden
love that came to me when he told me, before we made love, that he
was dying, that love making with him could be dangerous for me,
could end in my dying too. This love came to me as a ‘sense’ with all the
multiple levels that that word raises: from ‘sense’ as sensation, a
feeling that I was in my body pulled towards him more than ever by
the pull of his body’s dark gravity, to ‘sense’ as an implied
meanging, to ‘sense’ as some strange apprehension beyond meaning,
the very strange apprehension of an all uniting one in Love. And
there was in the Love a flash of joy.
Our love-making was
He spent the night, cuddled to
We slept together until late
in the morning.
In the wan light, he looked
wan, and said little.
At our late breakfast, both
bathed and he in clean underclothes I gave him, he told me he didn’t
have enough money to return to where he lived.
Trying to make a joke, I asked
him what he would have done if I had not taken him home? His smile was
He did not look well. He did
not look well.
In his pale face, the scar
appeared recent, red.
But he must keep up, for
appreciation, some conversation. He spoke well, and I was more
attentive to the individual words than his general topic, wondering
how, through him, this still young man, should be articulated such
ancient words as: I,
you, us, essentially.
I said, ‘You’re not
‘What do you want that I can
He lowered his head and said,
‘I want to believe everyone’s death is
‘And I want to believe in life
And I, the absolute non-believer in the Divine
One, said, ‘There is.’
I gave him money and made him
swear he would contact me when he was back to wherever he lived.
‘Goodbye,’ he said, and,
I was away for months, in
another city, in another country. Returned, I heard that he had
Make this the center of all
writing: a prayer to the dead, a prayer to the dead, a prayer in
thanksgiving for all the words the dead have left
I love, you love, he/she
loves, we love, you love, they love.
He and his college roommate became lovers. After graduation, they separated and he did not see his
former lover in forty years, or hear from him in thirty. When he learned that
his former lover, whom he had loved and who had loved him, was dead, the
immediate image that came to him was:
sheets of both their beds, stripped from their separate beds and piled in a
tangled heap between the beds, the sunlight through the room’s window shining on
He remembered the courses in philosophy they had taken together.
A friend said to him, “When you try to be metaphysical, you become
pretentious.” And he sensed in that accusation all the learning he had had in
logic, in epistemology, in ontology become suddenly an affectation, the learning
of his years in a Jesuit college, as if his desire to answer the questions,
“What is reasoning?” or “What is apprehension and how does one see the universal
in the particular?” or “what is the essence of being?” had no relevance, were
questions that had no meaningful answers, so, being meaningless, must not be
But as a student he believed in philosophy, which belief he had shared
with his roommate even before they became lovers; believed that philosophy’s
ultimate meaning was proof of the existence of God. He had followed the reasoning from
causality, followed, as if up a long, long ladder, the reasoning from causality
up the to the top of the ladder to the Uncaused Causer, the One God in whom all
originated and all was, up to where—faith required a leap higher than the
ladder, a leap higher than reason, a leap into the unknown.
He leapt and
roommate, his former lover caught him in his arms.
In The Summa
Theologica, Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote: “Incorporeal things, of which there are
no images, are known to us by means of their relation to sensible bodies of
which there are images. And so when we understand something about incorporeal
things, we have recourse to the images of bodies, although there are no images
of incorporeal things themselves.”
roommate, his former lover gave him faith
beyond reason: in the miraculous occurrence, beyond reason, of Everything
All Together, which apprehension could not come from experience, for no one had
the experience of everything, but had a “sense” of everything.
this “sense” of everything as proof
of Divinity, a Loving Divinity who inspires in us the “sense” of Everything
Loving Divinity, Loving the World, gives us the vital “sense” of the World, and
in that “sense” inspires in us Love for the World.
the Love, by keeping the Love centered in an image:
body of his lover, the naked body of his young and beautiful and haloed lover,
within a sphere, a celestial sphere, a
Divine Sphere, ordered by the gentle immortal impulse of blameless
together about the old part of the city, once a walled-in city, the walls mostly
He said to me, “No, I can’t believe in God, I can’t. Over the centuries,
an untold, a truly untold number of prayers have been said to God for God’s
help, and I can’t understand why God hasn’t answered every single one if God is
a loving God. If God has answered some, they’re very few compared to those
untold number of prayers that were not answered, prayers cried out by the
desperate for God’s help, whole walled-in cities crying out for God to deliver
them from massacre. And I won’t accept that God is testing our faith. The test
is unreasonable, and if there is a God, God is supposed to be a reasonable as
well as a loving God. No, no.”
I asked him, “Did you once believe?”
And he answered, “I once believed.”
“And you stopped believing.”
“I more than said a prayer, I implored in prayer for God’s help, and God
didn’t help.” He laughed. “I needed God’s help as a matter of life and
“Someone else’s life or death.”
“And this someone else died.”
I said, “The streets of this city once ran with blood, rivulets of blood
along the gutters.”
He was insistent: “And God did not help not even one prayer by one old
woman hiding in a doorway to be saved.”
He stopped to study the old worn stone paving.
“I’m very tired,” he said.
“You’re in mourning.”
“If only God had saved him,” he said. “If only God had shown proof—what I
would have taken as proof—of God’s existence by answering my fervent prayer. I
so wanted him to live. I so needed
him to live. I felt the world, the
whole world, needed him to live for proof of God’s existence for the world. I would have let the world know, God
exists, God answered my prayer, I would have gone around the world,
gone around with him, alive, to every city, to let everyone know that I had
proof, that God saved my loved one, there beside me.” He asked, “Do I sound
I wondered if he was, but I answered, “No.”
“The vast, vast number, the untold number of those who, over centuries
and centuries, of all religions, all, pleaded in prayer for God to help, and God
didn’t. And I’m among them now, I’m one with them.”
I thought: I
can’t help him.
“Thank you,” he said, “thank you for
listening to me. Thank you.”
He said, “You
see, he believed in prayer. Up until the end, he prayed. He prayed and prayed. You should have seen him in the end, as
thin as a saint in the highest state of grace, shining, yes, shining right
through his bones and skin, and smiling as he prayed. And up until the end I
thought that the miracle might happen, that he would be restored to the
full-bodied beauty he was, my Love, my Love, restored to his great beauty, my
Love, restored to in his great beauty back into my arms, and I, I would love him
all the more, my Love, because I
would believe that God saved him, that he was proof that there was a God.”
I reached out
a hand to shake his before leaving him.
He said, “And
now I want to tell everyone, tell the whole world, that there is no God.”