In 1981 
          in a hotel gift shop outside Phoenix, AZ, 
a little girl stood by the postcard rack, turning it gently. 
It creaked. 
            She considered a picture of the desert, then 
looked around for her mother, 
                         who was elsewhere. 
She gave the rack a firm push so it spun 
gently on its axle, 
                                 smiled, pushed it again, 
and the postcard rack wobbled on spindly legs. 
And soon she had it spinning 
                                  so quickly the cards 
made long blurry streaks in their rotation, gasps of blue 
for sky, 
          yellow for sand, and then faster, 
the girl slapping at it with her hand, 
                                  grinning at me, 
and then a single postcard rose from the rack, spun in the air 
and landed at my feet, 
                     a picture of a yawning canyon, 
and then another, handfuls of postcards 
rising from the rack, 
                            turning in the air 
while the girl laughed 
                     and her oblivious mother, at the other end 
of the store, bought a map or a box of fudge, 
and then the air was full of pictures, 
                                           all of them shouting 
Phoenix, Phoenix, Phoenix, 
                   twirling and falling 
until the empty postcard rack 
groaned once more, tipped, 
and crashed through the window. 

There ought to be a word 
                           that suggests 
how we’re balanced at the very tip of history 
and behind us 
                      everything speeds irretrievably away. 
“It’s called impermanence,” 
                           the little girl said, 
looking at the mess of postcards on the floor. 
“It’s called transience,” she said, 
                                            gently touching the broken window.  
“It’s called dying,” she said. 
                            It was 1981 
and the clerk ran from behind the counter 
                                             and stood before us.          
The girl smiled sweetly. 
The postcard rack glittered 
                             in the sun and broken glass.  
He turned to me and my face grew hot, 
I couldn’t help it. I was blushing. 

In 2009, my father lay in a hospital bed 
gesturing sweepingly with his hands. 
                                  “What are you doing?” 
I asked him. “I’m building a church,” he said. 
“You’re making a church?” I said. 
                                  “Can’t you see?” he said. 
He seemed to be patting something 
in the air, sculpting something—a roof?—that floated above him. 
The hospital room was quiet and white. 
“What kind of church is it?” “I’m not finished.” 
“Is it a church you remember?” 
                                                    “Goddamn it,” he said. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”