Monday, September 16, 2013

Greatness: A Poem

Here's what I was learning: there was no such thing as greatness. I sat content enough with Crime and Punishment in my hand in the back seat with a beautiful person. She looked so small and perfect, her seatbelt crossed her chest, her toes floated above the floor. She was timeless. That spark, that delightful glint of something secret had never left. I was a part of her. I was a part of her dark eyes, the soft wrinkles dancing on her face, part of her shoulders, the way she laid her hands...those were my hands. A man was driving, wrinkles graced his face too, and his hair was touched with gray strands. He held the steering wheel; I saw a part of me in his hands, too.

These two people sitting with me had been everything--and in an instant they could be gone. One wrong move would send us rolling, weightless, into the ditch, the unforgiving lawn. And as I sat there, I had to put the book down. From the book's topic, I looked outside and wondered how anyone like them could die. No one could take such lives away, I would do anything to preserve them. But soon I was far away, in another life already. I had dreams to chase and memories, and something important and steady. God only knew I'd have bills to pay and a real job and more schedules and somehow less time and the rent overdue.

I was looking out the window and thinking how glad I was to be moving...anything that wouldn't keep me still. I would do anything to preserve them. But if there's no such thing as greatness, even great acts of saving lives is nothing. Is it anything to die for someone? For her? To die, no. She lived. She lived and breathed...for me...for all of us. How is it that I could die for her, but I couldn't call her on a Sunday afternoon? Or write her something; tell her yes, I would be coming home to visit soon? How is it that I could die for her? A great act? Hardly. To die is nothing new. She lived...for me. The desire to preserve her was real sincere, but the desire to push away was too.

And then the man, humming quietly to an old song I didn't know, was a whole world within another world, like a book of answers to so many questions never written down. And underneath my apprehension, I could never write those questions. I'd die for this man, but I think I was more afraid of the rest. Fear of what? Of what? I wouldn't say out loud, I certainly could never write it down. Only, I thought it was best to keep the distance long, the conversations short. For years I wouldn't come around. But with time, with how it just keeps on going, never stoping once for me to catch my breath, I realized I don't have many answers. And maybe dad does, he knows an awful lot.

Here is what I was learning: there was no such thing as greatness. Greatness distinguishes and promotes; it makes one famous. Isn't it obvious? Repute, high standing...none of those things are truly greatness. If greatness existed, it would be only in the anonymous, in the faceless. It would exist in waking up one day at a time for other human beings: people perhaps incapable of seeing any greatness at all, who couldn't understand such meanings. It would exist in small, unnoticed things, in being ignored, overlooked, and disregarded for a lifetime; and it would be timeless. It would be that spark, that delightful glint of something secret that had never left.


September 16, 2013