In The Beautiful Story, Heavily Edited, we learn of skeletons that never tire; we learn stories that we cannot unfold like our fortune-telling paper cootie catchers which delight in their proclamations of You have a secret admirer, Something you have long wished for will soon come true; we learn of those who rejoice with loaves of bread and two cakes, and those who rejoice by releasing one prisoner and hanging another. We dream of rain on the roof of a cottage chamber bed, of a blanket of air woofed and woven. We’re not sure if scourge is a whip or some plague, but know that both cause suffering, as do questions about grammar. We learn that although gleaning sounds so beautiful, sounds like flowing gowns and listening intently, it has, mostly, in the telling of the Beautiful Story, to do with wheat which, although in illustration itself looks like the folds of a dress bending in a gentle breeze, means work under sun and we already know what that is like from the time we uproared about why Jesus cursed the fig tree and were told to weed St. Francis’s garden which was planted but not tended by the 2nd grade CCD class. We learn how to interpret the dream in which your own heart is replaced with that of a beast of the field and we know silence before news suggests its import. We learn that even though the Beautiful Story entails famines and horrible punishment and revolt and battles and slavery and sin and sin and sin—we are supposed to be interested in the parts about the dedication of the temple and forgiveness and Jesus preaching by the seaside and when he finally turns the water into wine we’ve already been ourselves, corrupted a bit, and we’re looking for patterns in the heavy ornamentation of the once gilded, now faded, golden and red designs on the sides of each page and we think we see the word Beelzebub hidden in the scrollwork of the title page and are thinking of what type of raiment we would wear if at Halloween we could go as Esther and how it would feel to be a sheep when the angel comes to tell the shepherds that Jesus is born and how it would feel to be the water under the feet of a man who can walk on it without sinking. How it would feel to be water.
Karen Carcia is the author of On Subjects of Which We Know Nothing (New Michigan Press 2011). She is currently a Research Assistant at the University of Iowa Center for the Book.