what would you do if a god came
A warm early-summer evening, when the robins are loud in our woods and the hummingbirds visit the hanging baskets on the deck where we had our supper of leftovers. A friend came yesterday for dinner and an evening of good food (lamb stuffed with walnuts and green olives, tiny potatoes roasted in duck fat, garden salad, and pannacotta flecked with vanilla beans and topped with roasted rhubarb compote). He brought a huge bag of mixed bitter greens from his father’s farm and because they were absolutely beautiful, I made them into a pie late this afternoon.
Evenings like this (especially after a glass or two of wine) make me think of the Odyssey, the expectation and arrival of guests, the spoon of jam to greet them (we had jelly made from Harold Rhenisch’s Himrod grapes, gifted last August, with lime and rosemary), the bed made up with fresh sheets and starry quilts, and windows open to Altan and the Gypsy Kings. What would you do if a god came? (Offer a slice of green pie, a glass of Soave.) What if the god was closer than you imagined?
What shall I do with this body they gave me,
so much my own, so intimate with me?
For being alive, for the joy of calm breath,
tell me, who should I bless?
I am the flower, and the gardener as well,
and am not solitary, in earth’s cell.
My living warmth, exhaled, you can see,
on the clear glass of eternity.
A pattern set down,
until now, unknown.
Breath evaporates without trace,
but form no one can deface.
— Osip Mandelstam, trans. A.S. Kline