cold mountain (31)

what does he have at home
a shelf full of nothing but books

Never try to do two things at once. Like hold a hand-made oatmeal raisin cookie while setting a book, open, on the bookstand and maneuvering the page-holders into place: recipe for disaster. Sensing that to keep both would be to lose both (the stand teetered, the book tipped forward, the cookie threatened to crumble) I gave up on the cookie for just a moment, and got the book on the stand, pages pinned, with no harm done to the taste of the cookie. Amazing how difficult that was, to retreat from the child-like desire to hold everything in my hands at once. When I was about four (the story goes) I was at the zoo with my parents. I wanted to hold both my ice-cream and my balloon at the same time. My father, convinced I would let go of the balloon while eating the ice-cream, wouldn’t give me one or the other, I forget now which one I held in my hand and which one he held in his, but: hot, frustrated, certain in my young and unexperienced and stubborn mind I was right and he was wrong (the story goes) I sank my teeth into his thigh. No one remembers what happened to the ice-cream, to the balloon. I don’t remember the bite, personally, but my father does. It seems I have always wanted two things at once. It is the same right now, tonight. The cookie-and-book problem? A small sample. How I reach out, trying to hold work, grasping toward prayer, wistfully gazing after friends, worrying about the future. Not even a Hindu goddess could hold all the balloons and dripping ice-creams of my desirous and thirsty heart.

Chinese and English pp. 56-57 here.

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