I broke my crow
R. is more beautiful by the day—this even though my own face is coded in hers. Everything that’s ill-proportioned and wrong when I look in the mirror is balanced and natural in her. A weekend in the woods taught her to ride a Razor scooter and she’s since been tearing up our block, to and from the school and the library, much faster than I can follow. I’ve been especially slow since last week, when she dared me to ride the scooter down a hill and I somehow thought the dare worth accepting. Now I have a clavicle broken into three pieces, a wrenched coracoclavicular ligament (it connects your collarbone to your crow) and an enormous yellow bruise over the front of my shoulder, as if a highlighter pen just exploded in my shirt pocket. I’m reading, learning to write by dictating into my phone, not good for much else.
By coincidence, The Life of Henry Brulard was next up on the stack. Stendhal turning fifty in a dreary government post is something like my bout of enforced idleness just shy of forty; in either case the active life is foreclosed (which must be more galling for Stendhal, poet of youthful energy) and one is thrown back on contemplation. Stendhal sketches the curve of his life: he’s on the downslope and wants to write about the period when he was still rising. The jerkiness of those contours reminds me of my own yellow shoulder in the mirror, which, having lost the support of its ligament, now drops precipitously from the bone.
The plot of childhood is an endless series of mistakes followed by endless corrections, and it would be unbearable without the plotless elements, those apparent encounters with human faculties in a ground state that, met unawares, seems to offer a brief for the religious idea that joy and beauty lie in the heart of things. R. has restored some of that ground state to the child self in my memory, and made it easier to forgive that child’s blunders. Likewise it becomes easier to understand life writing as a devotional practice, and not simply—by way of my jaundice toward American publishing—as something one falls back on for lack of other ideas.