God the Broken Lock
By David Rivard
I've died enough by now I trust
just what's imperfect or ruined. I mean God,
God who is in the stop sign
asking to be shotgunned, the ocean that evaporates even
as we float. God the bent nail & broken lock,
and God the hangnail. The hangnail.
And a million others might be like me, our hopes
a kind of illegal entry, a belief in smashed windows,
like breaking & entering into a concert hall,
the place my friend & I crawled into an air shaft, & later
fell asleep. After breakage
there is always sleep.
We woke to gospel hymns from the dressing room
below, songs commending
embrace to the fists, & return to the prodigal.
And hasn't my luck always been a shadow, stepping out, stretching?
I mean I trust what breaks.
A broken bone elicits condolence,
and the phone call sounds French if the transmission fritzes,
and our brains--our blessed, desirable brains--are composed
of infinitesimal magnets, millions of them
a billionth-of-a-milligram in weight, so
they make us knock our heads against hard walls.
When we pushed through the air vent,
the men singing seemed only a little surprised,
just slightly freaked,
three of them in black tuxes, & the fourth in red satin,
crimson, lit up like a furnace trimmed with paisley swirls,
the furnace of a planet, or of a fatalistic ocean liner
crisscrossing a planet we've not discovered yet,
a fire you might love to be thrown into.
That night they would perform the songs half
the country kept on its lips half of every day.
Songs mostly praising or lamenting or accusing some loved one
of some beautiful, horrendous betrayal or affection.
But dressing, between primping & joking about
their thinning afros, they sang of Jesus. Jesus,
who said, "Split a stick, & you shall find me inside."
It was the winter we put on asbestos gloves, & flameproof
stuck our hands in the fireplace, adjusting logs.
Jesus, we told them, left no proof of having sung a single note.
And that, said the lead singer, is why we are all sinners.
What he meant was
we are all like the saints on my neighbors' lawns--
whose plaster shoulders & noses,
chipped cloaks & tiaras, have to be bundled
in plastic sheets, each winter, blanketed
from the wind & the cold. That was what he meant,
though I couldn't know it then.
We had gorgeous weather on Sunday for the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park -- partly overcast so it didn't get too hot, a bit breezy, not too humid. Since we can rarely go both days due to the kids' schedules, we pick which day of the weekend to go based on when Ocean Orchestra is appearing. They came on stage at noon on Sunday, so we arrived a bit before eleven, went to the craft display in the Bumper Car Pavilion, and listened to Big Chimney doing their sound checks on the Cuddle-Up Stage before heading to the big tent to hear Ocean -- this year they did a couple of songs with Stephen Winick, one with Grace Griffith, and one with the Washington Revels who followed them on the Potomac Palisades Stage. I hadn't heard Grace sing in a couple of years and was delighted to see her. We sat with Cheryl Hurwitz's daughter and she shared our Mount Vernon peanuts.
Grace Griffith sang "Song for the Night Sea Journey" as she did on the group's first CD...
...and Steve Winick performed both in Manx Gaelic and as the Green Man, shaking his nuts. Er, acorns. Which he calls "shacorns."
The Washington Revels demonstrated various shipboard and shore activities to demonstrate how the rhythms of maritime music developed.
We only saw a couple of songs by other performers, though there are dozens over the two days of the festival.
There is also a large crafts sale in addition to the usual artisan displays in the yurts and onetime amusement park buildings.
In addition to the jewelry, my favorites were the Swedish crafts above, the clay flowers, and the tie-dyes here.
And here are myself, Paul, and older son in reflection in one of the mirrors on the carousel.
Adam rebelled after the Revels, who did a wonderful set acting out turning a capstan and heaving a line to demonstrate the rhythms of sea chanteys, so after sharing a funnel cake, we headed home so he could go to the pool before it got too late in the afternoon. Paul made black bean burritos for dinner and we all watched The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which is an enormously flawed film from the premise on down -- the racial stereotypes, the gender stereotypes, the cliches about magic, the Harry Potter ripoffs -- but it has a couple of delightful scenes, particularly the one with the concept swiped from Fantasia.