Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Time's Appetite: A Reading Struggle #SOL18

Growing up out here in the country taught me things. Taught me that after the first fat flush of life, time eats away at things: it rusts machinery, it matures animals to become hairless and featherless, and it withers plants...since Mama got sick, I learned pain can do that too. Can eat a person until there's nothing but bone and skin and a thin layer of blood left. How it can eat your insides and swell you in wrong ways.  ---Jesmyn Ward Sing, Unburied, Sing

There's a bible verse often used to rationalize inexplicable pain and suffering. 

There hath no temptation taken hold of you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful; He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which ye are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13

As a child I heard this verse twisted to explain and justify my father's diabetes and the myriad illnesses, including blindness, that accompanied it. So desperate for relief from his physical pain was my father that he attended a tent revival with a so-called faith healer preaching and passing the plate. 

This charlatan placed his palm on my father's head and commanded him to see. He didn't. My father stretched his white, red-tipped cane in front of him like a diviner of water, his faith visibly shattered, and allowed his friend to guide him back to his pew. 

I shared my my father's sorrow. We cried alone in the crowded tent. His anguish seared my heart and gave rise to my own pain. Some blamed my father for his failure to regain his sight. He must not have had faith of a mustard seed. Others chided him to trust God not to give him more than he could handle with God's help. "It must be God's will," they said. 

Time has given way to new pains and deepened old ones. It's not aging, the graying hair, the wrinkling skin, the sagging body parts, or the failing organs that ravages a life. It's pain. Pain associated with time. Pain that heals a little, a healing that offers a false sense of security and relief. Then one day that pain has stripped away the emotional skin to expose and twist a person from the inside out. 

Reading Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing resurrected pain I knew as a child and magnified new  pain. I think that's why I've struggled with this haunting novel. I think that's why I have not yet finished reading it. My own empathetic imagination has made the pain JoJo, Kayla, and River experience unbearable when combined with my own raw feelings.

Sorrow and sadness permeate much of Jesmyn Ward's novel. 

Sorrow is food swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe. 

Sometimes we struggle not to choke. Sometimes life is that painful. 

The Slice of Life Story Challenge happens each
Tuesday courtesy of the team at Two Writing Teachers. 


  1. Ohhhh, thank you for this exquisite and moving post. I felt as I read: anger at the charlatans, recognition at the different kinds of pain that come with aging, with life. Sometimes a book can be critically acclaimed and I know I will not read it. I've wondered if I could bear Ward's book. Now I know.

  2. YES, what a wonderful slice, so raw. You dug deep into your childhood and revealed the pain that hits many of us at different times. Keep digging deep Glenda. I am so glad that you referenced this post in today's slice.