in a hotel gift shop outside Phoenix, AZ,
a little girl stood by the postcard rack, turning it gently.
She considered a picture of the desert, then
looked around for her mother,
who was elsewhere.
She gave the rack a firm push so it spun
gently on its axle,
smiled, pushed it again,
and the postcard rack wobbled on spindly legs.
And soon she had it spinning
so quickly the cards
made long blurry streaks in their rotation, gasps of blue
yellow for sand, and then faster,
the girl slapping at it with her hand,
grinning at me,
and then a single postcard rose from the rack, spun in the air
and landed at my feet,
a picture of a yawning canyon,
and then another, handfuls of postcards
rising from the rack,
turning in the air
while the girl laughed
and her oblivious mother, at the other end
of the store, bought a map or a box of fudge,
and then the air was full of pictures,
all of them shouting
Phoenix, Phoenix, Phoenix,
twirling and falling
until the empty postcard rack
groaned once more, tipped,
and crashed through the window.
There ought to be a word
how we’re balanced at the very tip of history
and behind us
everything speeds irretrievably away.
“It’s called impermanence,”
the little girl said,
looking at the mess of postcards on the floor.
“It’s called transience,” she said,
gently touching the broken window.
“It’s called dying,” she said.
It was 1981
and the clerk ran from behind the counter
and stood before us.
The girl smiled sweetly.
The postcard rack glittered
in the sun and broken glass.
He turned to me and my face grew hot,
I couldn’t help it. I was blushing.
In 2009, my father lay in a hospital bed
gesturing sweepingly with his hands.
“What are you doing?”
I asked him. “I’m building a church,” he said.
“You’re making a church?” I said.
“Can’t you see?” he said.
He seemed to be patting something
in the air, sculpting something—a roof?—that floated above him.
The hospital room was quiet and white.
“What kind of church is it?” “I’m not finished.”
“Is it a church you remember?”
“Goddamn it,” he said. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”