I am a continent: joining sunrise and sunset. I am a river: home of three thousand nymphs. I am a bird: a shadow against the moon. I am a hill: the tomb of kings. I am a sea: of waves and years. I am a serif: the crown of alphabets. I am the wind: breath of the taciturn. I am the senses: who but I Can sharpen the pencils for skilled hands. So much melodrama… Hah! I am drunk as a Mick in March: Who but I… Oh, let it drop. It’s best to leave Ireland to the Irish. But I have to wonder, now that I’m on the subject, how many aspects we have sober and how many others we have drunk? Don’t underestimate the power of fuzzy thinking. Some cultures consider the insane to be touched by divinity. Perhaps we can extend that grace to drunks. Still, don’t stay in the question too long; it’s muddy ground that confounds one’s balance.
Perhaps that’s the touch of divinity. Catastrophes and good fortunes fall like sparks and embers on normal lives heaped like so much kindling. The yin and yang, earth and heaven, the accident and the insurance settlement, et cetera—it really doesn’t matter in the end—all of it falls, the bad and the good, or so I’d say it. Whoosh, the wood burns, a pyre of so many stable souls. It’s the blessing given a drunk to be so unsteady as to make it difficult for a spark to land squarely. On the other hand, maybe drunks aren’t graced by divinity after all; it’s just that drunks make such bad targets.
Perhaps I’m being silly; maybe it doesn’t make any difference. I see you’ve already identified the problem with my rationale: even a drunk’s pinned to a planet owing its very existence to a very large spark. What can one do but sigh and hope for the best?
A bit of a shaky start, don’t you think? And perhaps it’s a bit down in the mouth. Let me dress it up. How can there be anything more uplifting than one’s first love?
Her name was Kyrie Ellison, at least that’s the name I gave her at first. Ages after we first met, she corrected me: Call me Sophia, she said.
We were strolling in the Garden of Cyrus discussing Hermeticism at the time. I admit the conversation was tedious to say the least. But the mysteries of the Above and the Below were eclipsed by her mystery and my eagerness to be more acquainted with her. Idle chit-chat and the offering of a name was a good start. And, oh, how beautiful she was.
Her eyes were titanium white, their pupils were mars black surrounded by a marbled star burst of glazed, olive green. That’s how I would’ve painted her. Sadly, the terms of artistic expression were strict in those earlier days. All that Byzantine stodginess, you know. It was considered unholy to paint symbolic images in three dimensions then.
Do not demean the depth of a symbol by making it a likeness of reality, they’d scold. It’s not easy to dismiss blasphemy in favor of a flat plane warped into the likeness of life. But dismiss it I did.
I dared to walk on God’s heels, they said.
Even at the risk of divine anger, beauty shouldn’t be denied, I replied.
I’m sure they thought I was mad.
It’s the license of a drunk to ignore the subtleties of regulations. Besides, it’s unnatural for anything to be flat, unholy or not, which is to say that drunks can be critics as well as louts. So what to do, what to do?
The issue is skirted, taken from my hands by sculptors who carve her likeness in wood, imposing dimensions on her like it or not. A lovely and permissibly formed likeness adorned in white and cerulean blue robes, glowing with gold leaf. Hodegetria or Theotokos were names they gave her, particularly when she was paraded back and forth along the parapet of Constantinople. Such a changeable woman, Sophia could turn her eyes away with a whim. Ah, that sad parade a day before the city became Istanbul. Such a changeable woman…
But still, she was my first love. It was all too obvious I overreached. Nothing more than trivial words passed between us… at least none I hoped for, not then or since she was first carved in stone, ages before Constantinople, ages before guttural sounds became language. Sophia could be aloof.
And yet I could hear her sing…
Yes, I swear you could’ve heard her sing down in the Doth dome and the catacombs beneath the sod. It’s a whispery sound; you have to strain to hear it.
Shhh, she’d sing.
Perhaps I’m not right in the head after all: a lonely heart can make anything a love song if it’s lonely enough.
I asked her to marry me. I know how silly that was.
Shhh, she sang. I think she sang it to the sea. So sad it wasn’t sung to me.
The Twelfth of Never, I’d have picked for our wedding song, I think. Hah, The Twelfth of Never, could there be a thirteenth? Surely there was an eleventh. Don’t laugh, it’s a good question. But, before that song there, was The Riddle Song:
I gave my love a cherry that had no stone. I gave my love a chicken that had no bone…
—and on it goes, but I’ll spare you the pain of my singing. Still, the point remains: one song does bring us back to another doesn’t it? Just so, back and back, and rest assured, back it goes to the hushing lips of Sophia. All along the way there are all those songs and all those poets influenced by a motherly finger brought to motherly lips breathing out a calming breath. Sophia, mother of song…
Give me a moment. I hear the liquor talking. I do understand that my Sophia isn’t an actual woman. She couldn’t be any one woman. She’s my Goddess in White. She taught Orpheus how to sing, a muse demanding epics with the morning paper and ridiculing them by lunch. Her breath cooled a burning ball of stone and nurtured it into a stew of living things. Loving her can drive you mad. Perhaps there was some truth hiding in that Byzantine stodginess.
I can see your eyes drift away. They tell me you’re sorry you came to visit your dad. Don’t be so dismissive. I’ve questioned too much to be a family man I suppose. There go those eyes again. I confess. I’m a lousy drunk as well. Give me a chance to be a normal host. I can be if I try hard enough.