The paper held a passage, John 3:16, I’d never read it,
but understood that in a baptism of Budweiser
wrestling fans scrawled it onto placards before entering
a crowded arena. This venue held only a dozen, a few
white grad students smattered between ESL learners,
and a Japanese kindergarten teacher. Around her neck
hung white blocks with black letters, her savior’s name in Aramaic.
The paper held a passage, translated in triplicate. Korean, Japanese,
and Chinese hieroglyphs were nurtured into noises by petite travelers.
Their alien characters pile like bricks with unspoken thoughts as plaster,
and in my ignorance I find perfection, until the spell is broken
by their broken English. Psalms are slowly spoken into the crowd,
articulated with great pain, wrecking balls swung into a fog,
waiting for the sound of collision. The white lighthouse keepers
hold fast in their towers, thumbing the curled leather around
pocket bibles, their eyes circle like those blue beams,
veering the lambs from the jagged blasphemy of my thoughts.
Everyone stumbles over words, and we build bridges in a drought,
between shores of our mother tongues. As they bounced
from language to language, I watched the itineraries
of missionaries, their ships and pack mules treading
on question marks, holding their hourglass of faith,
when God was a business, profit was followers.
The markets walked on every corner of the Earth,
and now they walk back. Into trust falls, rigid bodies
floating through the air, bare feet slap against Berber
as if it was the sea that tossed them from front to back.
But the only real foreigner to this gathering is me,
walled away in cryptic scribbles, with metaphors as disciples
and vague images as testament. Though they may not understand
what they read, they know what they want. Atsuko tells us
she was afraid of death, that our path beyond the grave
was an endless journey, floating through the stars,
like jellyfish, until she found that black book. I thought
that hope misplaced is still hope, and if the fall, an instant
of vivid colors, or a dark race through the black reaches of space
Is final, than what quarrels could I have with the first moment
a scared girl’s eyes rise to the night sky, and her face
finds room for a smile?