I’d bicycle home after teaching, pumping the pedals so hard I hoped the blurred street would crack beneath them. I’d learned early how to leap—from hotel maid to fine dining server, student to teacher, dying desert town to rain-drenched city. So I left. I filled out applications, fielded phone interviews, signed a contract and flew to Hanoi, sight unseen.
We talked about light and dark, how to render it in paintings and drawings, and how it connects to spirit. We talked about Emerson and Thoreau. They connected their faiths to mine, to the pantheism I developed out there in the woods, and to art as faith. As I worked with artists in prison over the next couple of decades, I continued to see this transcendental connection to light and dark through their eyes.
St. Christopher strides across the river. Both hands grip a walking staff bracing him against the current, his calf muscles flexing as fish swirl about his legs. He is looking up at the infant Christ perched birdlike on his right shoulder. This is perhaps the moment in which the Saint, who does not yet know the identity of the child, is said to ask Him, “Why are you so heavy?” and Christ answers, “Because I bear on my shoulders the weight of the world.”
Was that season artery or vein? when the days stretched like Broadway, & the nights undid our shirts – the temperature so slight you could raise your arms in flight & feel nothing, the body as air. But there was also the need for hurt. And dusk: a ghost of a boy tempted to feel his weight, to put his palm to the depth, touch the pupil, the dead turbine of god’s one good cataracted eye.