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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
128 pages
May 2004

a delicate fade

by Ben DeVries

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one: between.


not to take them out of the world, but they do not belong to this world. (1.1)

some days I feel completely incapable of processing life, and most likely I am. acknowledging this doesnít help as much as I thought it would.

Iíve felt this way more often than I wanted the past few months, and it probably goes back much farther than that except I thought I had a better handle on things then. maybe I did, or maybe I didnít know as much as I do now, which is a funny thought because I still donít know enough to make that much of.

life comes in bits and pieces to me. I wrote my thoughts on little slips of paper when I began this so that I wouldnít get confused. I thought I would remember them that way and could put them together when they made more sense.

I put the good ones in the middle and arranged the others on both sides where they seemed to fit, all in a way that resembled balance. but together they seemed so much smaller and more confusing, and I threw most of them away because they werenít at all what I wanted to say.

I donít know what that was or if Iím doing any better now, but at least this is more than I said the last time. (mostly that I feel incomplete.)

I used to see every part of life as a separate incident, even the past and what I remembered as good. sometimes I would string parts together in a chain to see where the most recent one should fit, but it was always broken and awkward like the rest and I would always be disappointed when it couldnít.

once in a while I opened up a little more to see if something new and whole could fit inside whatís left of myself. I wondered if it could make it better or make up for everything I missed, and I hate it when I think like this because I know it never can. the hole inside of me is too big to be filled, at least by something here, but sometimes I forget this because I need too much.

disappointment feels just like the first time every time, like getting used to emptiness but never being without the feeling of hurt. and before the new thing leaves, to try to make room for itself it makes the hole a little bigger until I donít think I could feel any more, until the next time. and then itís gone.

some days I feel life all at once, as if it was just waiting for me to come to in order to let me know that it was never life that hurt me but only something vaguely resembling that, something much smaller and incomplete. and if I should be afraid it should be now that I have wondered if I ever knew at all, or if this has all just been pretend.

maybe Iíve opened only little boxes of life and the smallest of them is me. maybe I didnít even open them so much as shake them gently to see if I could guess what was inside, and if the packaging tore at all I quickly wrapped them back up to put them safely on the shelf where they belong, or maybe to give them away.

the ones Iím not completely afraid to open I unwrap cautiously and stare at for a while, but with my eyes half closed because thereís too much to see and Iím afraid of what it all might mean. and then I put them with the others.

I drew a picture of myself once. I erased it and then drew another of a boy in the shadow with a tear in his eye and something like the weight of the world on his shoulders. it seemed so sad and sometimes more than that, but I think I drew it because that was all I knew at the time and I couldnít look anymore.

I didnít know yet that the shadow was from the curtains around me and that the hurt I felt was as much from what I couldnít remember or understand as anything from the outside. I donít know quite what to make of this except that the picture is still a safer place than any other I know. and I should try to draw another of the place between where I am and where I used to be and hope itís not as dark as the last one.

I couldnít take another one of those.

I think thatís what Iíve been feeling lately, an overwhelming whole and one so much heavier than I ever thought it could be. I thought it would be easier to manage by now, but itís still only a part that I see and not the whole. and I thought I held it for a moment, but it was only a moment.

even the pieces have become indistinct and more distant from each other. and I know this some days but I feel it more than anything else.

there is a field I pass by on my way home from work. itís not the field I will remember so much as thinking I could lie there one day where the corn used to grow and feel nothing but peace.

I would lie there with my arms and legs spread out in the mud and stare at the sky with only a few clouds to catch my interest. but mostly I would look in a calm sort of way unafraid of being interrupted and not think about anything at all, especially those things Iíve always wanted to let go.

I am so tired and so unable to handle all of this, but for one moment itís gone and all I know is happiness and something of peace. and it washes over me in a way that I never want to let it go and I wonder if I could take it with me when life moves on.

but itís just a moment after all, and soon it passes by like the field.

I thought I took a little more of it with me, but itís leaving thatís always so difficult, and turning away. I wish I could hold it a little longer this time.

there are no words to describe feeling except the ones that come afterward, and they never really add up. I feel almost ashamed that all I can do now is tell how I wasnít able to hold on to the one thing that I needed to the most, or even keep it close. it must be difficult to explain why anyone would allow it to slip away, but I tried so hard to make it stay and I wish it would, but it doesnít.

itís so easy to get lost in words when there is so much more that needs to be said. some days I feel like Iím just rambling off the most basic thoughts because everything Iíve held to myself is everything I canít get out. it all seems so featureless and so far away, and all I can do is piece together the thoughts I can remember only separately. and this never amounts to what I needed it to be.

I used to love writing songs because it seemed so simple. find a chorus and a verse and give them a melody and a bridge. I could pick a line out of thin air, like the one that surprised me that I could think of it, or even the one that was more of dull aching than anything specific. and in the space of a few words I could find the perfect expression for something I could never have spoken out loud. and whatever was left unsaid was wrapped up somewhere in the harmony or in the way the lyrics were sung, and it was all somehow so much bigger than the song itself, which seemed so small.

I never knew that a book could be so big or have so much to say and still be so clumsy and so hopelessly inadequate. (but maybe itís just me.) there is so much room that Iím afraid I could never fill it with anything meaningful past my own assumptions and insecurities and the extremes on either side of them that might give some definition and stability.

I expected something of a mess and more bends in the path than I would know how to take. itís so hard to reach outside yourself and come back to the place you started from. itís not the same all of a sudden, and not the way you wanted to remember it.

but I never expected to be lost in the truth itself. I was looking for it, or something as close to it as I could manage, but it was as if the luxury of curiosity was ripped away before it was even allowed to exist and all that was left was something much more urgent.

I thought I had left this feeling of insecurity behind before I began, but I didnít. there is so much more to being hurt than I thought and more to being incomplete. I thought I was strong enough to reach past them and hold on to the reasons I had for believing that life is made of more. sometimes I think I was cursed for all the hell Iíve gone through just to reach for them.

my professor dr. Pate said that paradox is just a ďstudy in contrastsĒ (1.2). every semester he scribbled his thesis on the board and it was almost as if a simple recognition of this could be the cure-all to difficulty. the paradox of the kingdom could be a kind of science with problems and equations, and an answer or a balance if you knew the right questions to ask.

we would have asked so much more if weíd known at the time, but it didnít seem so important then. I think he taught us mostly what was expected of a theology teacher at our school, with the conclusion before the question is even asked or felt, which is about as much as any of us can handle anymore. but it was never that simple for him.

sometimes he allowed himself to teach beyond what we could copy down and what could never be whole but only partial and broken because it touched his own life. and I found myself slowly for the first time and the world that I belong to and the part of truth that somehow might be able to hold me.

not that it was too fragile or too small to hold me before, but it was always me that was too simple and life that was too small.

ďthe poet has to work by analogies. all of the subtler states of emotion ... necessarily demand metaphor for their expression.... metaphors do not lie in the same plane or fit neatly edge to edge. there is a continual tilting of the planes; necessary overlappings, discrepancies, contradictions. even the most direct and simple poet is forced into paradoxes far more often than we think, if we are sufficiently alive to what he is doingĒ (1.3, Brooks).

Aquinas said that nothing that implies contradiction could fall under the sovereignty of God (1.4). but I donít believe this. it might be the right thing to say if it werenít that implies is such a big word and contradiction didnít depend so much on it.

I donít think anyone would want tension, not when there is so much at stake. itís at least a discomfort and sometimes much worse, but I think weíre more worried about contradiction in itself than whether itís any real challenge to God. I donít believe he is ever forced into or trapped by anything, but I donít think heís without the means to allow or to create curiosity either.

this must be one of the most human tendencies, to forget complexity or to make it go away because itís more than I can handle right now.

but sometimes it takes me when Iím not watching or ready to explain it away, and it wraps around me more than I can ever manage or want to admit, and almost as if it always was.

maybe Aquinas would have been surprised or maybe he meant something different, because I know Iíve always been within the reach of God but the consequences of these inconsistencies still wonít leave me. and even paradox must be lost in the hands I can feel but donít always see, because it was me who implied there was a contradiction to begin with.

the only sense I ever made out of life was when a man told me the kingdom of God is placed between this world and the one to come. he said it hangs like a curtain between what I can see and feel (everything fragile and fading, like me) and everything whole.

as weak as I am and as blind, itís here waiting to show itself. and someday with or without me it will be complete.

and today as far as I will ever know it is perfect but not yet (1.5, Cullmann). and all I ever wanted was to hold this for a moment and know that I was home.

there is a picture in the window, a faded image in the half-glow

and I can see through this night line to the world outside

but first this quiet falling on my mind, and a display of empty things

I think I have forgotten how to dream

and hope, maybe I remember what that means.


there is a story in the white book, a vague memory in my notebook

and I can see through the dead lines to the tears inside

but first this silence pounding on my eyes, and

a cascade of simple things

I think I have forgotten what that means        

(maybe I remembered how to dream).


a lifetime and I saw you, I can see you change

I remember everything (except what I am now)

I remember how I spent all this time looking

a lifetime watching, but I lost myself somewhere

I found myself between what is and what was meant to be. (1.6)