I was thinking about what you can teach your boys, Tom. What language you can use for the love of boys driven by your voice across the grass you mowed yourself. When I saw you and your team win the first game, all the magic of sport came to me silver voiced, like whistles. There are no words to describe how beautiful you looked delivering urgent messages to quarterbacks, signalling for time-outs, pacing the green, unnaturally lit sidelines, loved by your sister for your unimaginable love of play, for the soft gauzy immensity of your love for all the boys and all the games of the world.
But there are some things only sisters can teach the coaches in their lives. Teach them this, Tom, and teach them very well: Teach them the quiet verbs of kindness, to live beyond themselves. Urge them toward excellence, drive them toward gentleness, pull them deep into yourself, pull them upward toward manhood, but softly like an angel arranging clouds, Let your spirit move through them softly, as your spirit moves through me.
I cried last night when I heard your voice above the crowd. I heard you cheering for the clumsy tackle, the slow-footed back, music of your sweet praise. But Tom, my brother, the lion, all golden and hurt: Teach them what you know the best. There is no poem and no letter that can pass your one ineffable gift to boys. I want them to take from you the knowledge of how to be the gentlest, the most perfect brother.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Occasional Literary Gem #3
And another gem. This is the letter Tom Wingo, the narrator of the novel, keeps in his wallet. It was written to him years ago by his sister, the famous poet Savannah Wingo, after she watched him coach a game of football. In this scene, he is prompted to take the letter out and read it again. The letter is a well-used device, a beautiful illustration of the unshakeable love that binds these two characters together. I found it inspirational, and I guess it would perhaps be more so to anyone who had sons.