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It’s a flagrantly irreverent kite, as it dances a silly jig back and forth, fancy-free and a mile high in the gray sky. Shadows of swallows and swifts dart all around, you can’t much see them but can feel them hurling by just inches away.  All this high above a green river, slicing through a narrow forest, carving into the dead center of city. Just a concrete bridge, an updraft, and an insect haven for the evening hunger.

Yes but I’m not happy, he says in broken English, laughing only a little. Because even though it is a plastic-blue-Walmart-superhero kite, this is serious.

You have eagle eyes, he adds, as I point out to him where in the forest the string has hitched itself. Although I side with the runaway kite, mocking his owner, finding communion with the disinterested birds.

His little boy is concerned as his father sternly reels the string in, the father with one eye on his little boy “Vincent!” who might at any moment fall off the unrailed bridge to the rocky riverbed below.

A gray hawk does some stoic surveillance and disappears. Then a noisy plane above it.

He pulls the string harder and the place in the tree where it is stuck is made clear, revealing our finite and diminished existence. Now caught, the kite flails against certain death, surrounding leaves torn away and falling. It occurs to me this $20 kite battle means something to this man, when my kids lose toys daily without notice. And how this battle now means the world to me.

Suddenly one of the yanks frees the kite from the branches and it soars up again into the sky. He releases a shout of victory like a knight who has slayed the dragon. He retreats back into the city with his child, kite following closely like a dog with a tail between the legs. I laugh.

Then just when the whole sky seemed too vast to embrace our little drama, tiny stabs of rain give their acknowledgement and I start to cry. A mote of beauty in this world. Yet under the same sky where children were torn apart in their school bus by our bomb. The same day the sky gathered the river, made a clearing, and uttered our silently grateful birds.

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(Detail from Lorenzo di Credi, The Virgin Adoring the Child, 1490. British National Gallery)
——
Love by Czesław Miłosz

 

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills.

A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:

Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

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(Detail, Follower of Joos Van Cleve, St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, 1530. SF Legion of Honor)
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