Lost and Found

By Michael Pikna

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He wakes to the assimilating weight of his wife on top of him and the sound of Portuguese blooming in his head, her lips feathering his ear, pouring in a steady stream of sinuous vowels and indulgent consonants.  They glide down his spine and enter her, creating an elliptical rhythm duplicated in every one of their cells.  He wonders how this woman can still surprise him after so many years and if it is a sin to be so happy before he has thanked God for another day.  What would his congregation think if they knew their minister’s faith, shaken by the absence of God in his daily rituals and devotions, is revived so readily by a conjugal act that, at this point in their marriage, has nothing to do with procreation?Perpetrated by his foreign wife, whose acceptance in the nave and the aisles was mimed but never realized.  Who still, after all these years in America, strangles every English word her Portuguese tongue wraps itself around.  Yet her occasional lapses into Portuguese require no interpretation, whether she is soothing an infant in the nursery, or consoling a bereaved parishioner, or coaxing her husband back from the eight-hour grave he inhabits every night, as she does now, the lines of her body bowed righteously with age, her mouth inciting vowels to arc toward each other in his ear, their collision bringing him closer to an understanding that goes deeper than a language he never learned, not wanting to encumber its beauty with meaning; to a place where his sense of himself is uncluttered and he is honest enough to confess that he does not love God more than his wife or his children or even his dog, and that what he says out loud is not what he knows but what he fears and is probably a lie, and that he’s a weak, fallible man, not fit to be any sort of conduit except for the one that now receives the grace of this small wonder.  He places his hands on the wheel of her hips, steering an almost forgotten course, while she speaks for their lives, for this old and creaky marriage bed, these fragrant bodies oiled with the residue of sleep, these close walls crowded with remembrances, these motes dancing through the morning light.  A prayer, of sorts.  Or simply a song for a new day, harking back to a time before the Fall, when the apple was still whole and giving voice to a desire did not raise the blush of perception.  His body hums in consort, existing now only as texture.  He gives up his need to know anything.  He simply listens and loses himself completely on the waves of falling diphthongs and rising trills.  It is here, without understanding it, or contemplating it, or even being aware of it, that he finds God.

Michael Pikna