The plates shift in the sink, startling her out of her daydream. Her thoughts had lingered away into thoughts of autumns gone by. She resumes her circular repetition, her hands enjoying the warmth of the water as a cold body enjoys the comfort of bed. The suds feel like velvet across her skin, and as she scratches an itch on her face, it leaves a little tuft of bubbles on her cheek. She feels the pops and tingles, causing her to leave them there for a moment longer than she normally would.
The tomato sauce wipes cleanly from the plate, making this an act of leisure and not a chore. The morning stresses of dressing kids follow the tomato sauce down the drain, leaving only a porcelain plate in porcelain hands. She imagines her heart as porcelain as well.
Porcelain? Yes. Broken? No.
She looks out the window in front of her to see them. The boy is a Cowboy-King, switching between an invisible pistol with bshew-bshew bullets and an invisible sword going swoosh with every swing. He’s protecting his sister, the reluctant princess, from the coming dragon. She did not ask for this title of honor; it was, rather, bestowed upon her. She blithely sits, playing with her dolls in the grass, having learned to ignore the loud war cries of her Protector. She occasionally pays him mind with a quick glance of incredulity, but always returns to her dolls and grass and ever-growing dirt-stains on her dress. She sits in the apparent midst of hundreds of thousands of dragons coming at her from every side. The boy fights and fights, sweat breaking under his cowboy hat-crown, falling down every few swings and getting another war boo-boo on his knee. And yet he still fights.
The woman examines the girl’s face. Anyone else looking at this girl would perceive a weight of sadness about her countenance, but the woman knows better. Instead, she sees in those eyes a similar look she’s seen in mirrors for decades. It’s the look of burgeoning femininity: itself a weight, and yet the source of life in every way.
Porcelain? Yes. Broken? No.
The kettle reaches its temperature. The coffee is ground. The coffee is smelt. The mug is covered. The dripper and filter are placed and filled. The water strikes the grounds like a shovel in dirt. They get caught up in the wake and swim and tumble and expand. Today, more than ever, the bloom looks like a flower in spring. She watches the little bubbles rise through the mud, audibly leaving with little pops. The woman remembers her cheek and feels the phantom tingles dance on her face.
She resumes her pour, mesmerized by the circular liturgy by which this beauty is made. For a moment, she saddens a little as she imagines the coffee drowning, dying–life leaving the beans. But the coffee seems to answer her concern and cry out, “Weep not! Drowning is neither our wish nor our lot. Instead, it is freedom that you have happily bestowed upon us; freedom unto life! For if we were dead when you imbibed, would your body not feel the weight of that Death within your bones? Instead, what is it that you feel when we dance within your heart?”
“Life”, she whispers in her trance.
The kettle runs outs, and she watches the last of the water settle its way through the grounds. She lifts the porcelain dripper off her mug and releases the smell, intoxicating her. She closes her eyes and lifts the cup, feeling the blackened waves crash against her lips.
She picks up her mother’s old and worn Book of Common Prayer and walks out onto the back porch. High-pitched Kingly and Princess-ly greetings meet her ears, and the cool autumn breeze meets her arms and face. This stops her mid-step, spilling a few drops of coffee on her porch, one more stain upon the wood. She closes her eyes again, taking in the gentle push against her face, the trembling of her arm hairs, and the dance of skirt around her calves. She notices the spots of warmth filtering through the tree leaves and meeting her body, suspending her in autumnal nipping-cold, yet velvety-warm bliss.
She sits in her chair, and opens the Psalm reading for the day.
We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks,
calling upon your Name and declaring all your
She lifts her head and sits back, warmed by these words. Her soul leaps within her even as she silently takes in her surroundings. She feels–for this moment, at least–she truly understands what the word “extol” means.
“I will appoint a time,” says God;
“I will judge with equity.
Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking,
I will make its pillars fast”
She stops reading, her eyes looking through the page, into infinity. On this particularly day, very little seems worthy of judgment.
“I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not speak with a proud neck.'”
It is God who judges;
he puts down one and lifts another.
At this, she feels a sting in her heart. She looks up, still staring into eternity, feeling the weight of Adam sink into her bones. The words of the Sin Confession she had read earlier flick through her mind: “Almighty and merciful Father, we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not have done. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us” Indeed, have mercy upon us.
For in the LORD’s hand there is a cup,
full of spiced and foaming wine, which he pours out,
and all the wicked of the earth shall drink and
drain the dregs.
Her eye darts to her coffee. She thinks of “foaming wine” and stares at the foam at the edges of her own cup. It exists right at that place of transformation–not progression–where the black drink meets the white mug; where the liquid becomes solid; where the consumed becomes the container. It is here that the foam of judgment lay. The next lines then begin to make sense.
But I will rejoice forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
He shall break off the horns of the wicked;
but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
She centers her coffee in her sight and imagines it in the hand of God. A cup of java judgment. She laughs at herself, and this laugh breaks the melancholy such that light begins to form in her heart. She imagines this cup as wrath, except to her, it is life; it is goodness; it is beauty; it is truth; it is innocence and purity. It is one cup for all, yet different lips for each.
Porcelain? Yes. Broken? No.
Today is a good day.
This work by Paul Burkhart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.