The Spark of Darkness

Dad and I at Ellis Island Museum, c. 1994

My father and I never talk. This is not an exaggeration. I have not heard his speaking voice in almost a decade. Why this is so is not the stuff of blogs– it’s the stuff of the book–but suffice it to say I always feel my father in the very early morning. He is the only person I know who rises as early as I do though we’ve never discussed that pleasure and perhaps never will.

What I love is not the quiet because early morning is not quiet at all. Not in the city and especially not in the country. When I lived in the mermaid woods the earth would stir long before the sun made an appearance. Birds, winds, crickets. Chipmunks, squirrels, foxes. The occasional coyote. I swear I could hear the trees growing. It was magic.

But early morning in the city confers a different sort of magic. The birds start in while the sky is barely awake and Grace starts in right after, pissed they’re uncowed by her existence. Over the years my once-sleepy section of Brooklyn has become sought-after and now a truck rumbles before 5am. So I rise and glide on that cool boggy air–at such hours I’m reminded New York is an island–and in the dark fumble for food and coffee. Loathe to turn on the light before the sun turns on hers.

Coffee in hand, permakitten fed, we settle at the window to watch the show, no less grand for its predictability. Round and proud she peeks above the horizon and then inches into the sky. Is it safe? Is it safe? Birds louder, air warmer, it’s all so good. That rosy orb expanding until it floods the whole horizon. And then–lately at least–a sadness replacing the glow.

For what am I to do now?

I’ve been hovering at the finish line of my book’s first draft for months now. Visiting with the Lisa who was still a daddy’s girl was sheer pleasure–hell was what followed. And now I’m knee-deep in the late-80s, seeking magic in the most dangerous woods. I’m that lost orphan every day now, method writer style, long-legged and pathetically pretty. Sure if she’s not nice to look at she won’t survive.

Yearbook entry, 1989

Not sure if she’ll survive anyway. Every day begins as it begins today. First a big burst of hope and then a bigger desperation. I couldn’t see past the horizon then and can’t see past it now. Can’t see how I’ll make money, find allies for this story, any loving arms. I worry daily that every cent will never be replaced.

The day’s getting noisier by the minute, parents scolding their kids, hipsters scolding their dogs. I look for the right album to mingle with the suddenly yeasty air and find it fast. James Brown and the Famous Flames’ Think! I heard it first with my father, who taught me to listen and look so close. Quiet together–music of the morning, always more music to hear. I tell that girl: Every spark returns to darkness, every night to light.

In some world I’m forever my father’s child. Safe and unsafe.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy