catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 16 :: 2007.09.07 — 2007.09.21



During class yesterday, a student of mine told me that he witnessed a hawk fall upon a murder of crows, take one up in its talons, and carry it to a nearby ledge. The other crows (also called, collectively, a “storytelling,” which I cannot resist) followed, cawing and calling, circling, rattling and barking hawkslaughter—all rhetoric, but what else could they do?

I tell my child stories, even now, only 23 weeks and still in its mother’s belly. I tend to keep the stories short, perhaps one or two sentences—there are so few stories in this world without violence, absurdity, scandal. At least the ones worth telling.

I told my student that he was lucky to have seen what he did, that very rarely do we have the opportunity to witness such shameless violence. I am thinking that through now: for me and you and my wife and our neighbor, is it possible to commit or experience violence without shame?

Last week, my wife and I went to the hospital for our (and our child’s) first ultrasound. We’d been so excited about finding out the gender that we forgot the other reason for our visit. Does he/she have two arms, an upper lip, a flexible spine, toes like mine capable of picking a pencil from the floor? The technician began looking for bones and brain and searching the heart, and I began asphyxiating almost, unprepared for the reality that our bodies so often betray each other. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” I told myself, if something’s wrong. I hoped my wife was thinking the same thing.

By the time we got to the pronouncing—“how about a son/daughter?”—we’d seen enough, anatomically speaking, though we would have stayed in that dark room all day if we could have, eyes voracious and calling out for The Feet Again! and More Knees! and Ribs Ribs! and Ventricles Once More! and Those Fingers! of this child of ours.

An Old Testament writer says that God “knits” a child in its mother’s womb. I’ve watched my wife knit enough to know that though they’re not camel-through-the-eye-of sharp, they’re still called knitting “needles,” and they can do damage.

I recently wrote my mentor, recounting this story to him. He responded, “[Though] you are not your father, . . . you may grow to love him more through being one. Certainly it shall affect your theology.” Part of me wishes that I could have reached across my wife’s belly and pushed a button on the sonogram machine that would magically send into my child my father’s generosity, meekness, and patience, which my dad has infinitely more of than I. To this day, he regrets many of the decisions he’s made as my father, but that’s because he’s a humble man, given more to sacrificing than burdening. I have never heard my father complain. I do not know what my father’s voice sounds like raised. I do not wish my child’s heart could beat more like anyone’s than my father’s. This is part of the reason I started crying in that dark room. To have a father who takes the burden and blame, even, and most especially, when it’s not his to take. My mentor is right.

When I see my child kicking against its world tonight, I'll tell another story. Something along these lines: “There is so much violence in the world. I can tell you now that I will, despite my desire to hover over and protect you, and despite myself, dig my talons in and inflict my share. I wish I could tell you that there are no bloodless paths in this world. I can’t. I won’t. And I’m sorry. But I can tell you that because my father has never been ashamed of me, neither am I ashamed of you. And this: Imagine a great cloud of crows following you around, telling you a story that won’t always make sense, especially in the midst of the violence, but at the end of that violent path, there is rest, there is no shame, and there is your name being raised to the ends of the universe: Hiro Clive Huggins, son of Jeremy Clive Huggins, son of Clive Timothy Huggins, son of Rayford Clive Huggins, Jr., son of Rayford Clive Huggins, son of man.”

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