Clean Air

There was a time when Amber and I tried our best to undo our vows. We were young and headstrong, the sorts of kids who had loved like roman candles on the fourth of July--hot; bright; fast. For those of you who met and married in 'round about a year's time, you know how this sort of whirlwind romance feels, and how that whirlwind seems to continue well into your marriage. You also know that whirlwinds have a tendency to upend your fancy place settings and well-hung family photographs. It's just the way it is.

In any event, I penned the below poem for Amber a while back and stumbled across it last week. Though it tells a cryptic sort of story, allow me to unpack it. During the Christmas season of 2007, I visited a dear friend in Mozambique. The trip was an undoing of sorts, a course correction, if you will. I returned to the States, where things in our house began to change. Marriage secrets were exposed, forgiveness was extended, and the healing process began.

For the full story, visit Amber's place. Otherwise, enjoy my poem, "Clean Air."

(Note: This piece was first published on February 11, 2011. The below is a revised version.)

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"Clean Air"

Nuclear winter only lasts for a season. After watching the meltdown, we tried on lead sweaters hoping they would shield us from each others’ radiation. No matter how much you layer, though, a little skin is always left exposed. Skin has to breathe.

I left for Mozambique to find clean air. There was a boy there like the one Samuel Gray sketched in charcoal. He spoke to me, said “you can wipe a canvas clean if you rub hard enough, but you’ll lose the life in the eyes.” Then he smiled, picked up his soccer ball from the weeds, and ran back to the goal slung with bed nets.

I stood on the hill and watched him. He kicked the ball time and again into that net, the one some missionary gave him so he wouldn’t die of malaria. Following the leader, I shed my lead sweater (boy was it heavy) and stood as tall as the Portuguese pines that lined the village.

Epiphany, You promised a miracle. That day, on that Holy Hill, I knew You’d un-spin her sweater too, knew You’d sum us up proper.