The Weepers

How could they do it, as though a smoky wind had blasted their inflamed eyes or they sat in a shut cupboard dicing a basket of leeks, when they were not hurt and had hurt no one? Their tragedies were average. It was not the age of tears, yet often I saw them start, kneeling at plain altars or leaning over bars, their first glove-muffled sobs like the first tremors of an earthquake that heaves up cities or those first salty jars that prime the pump, promulgating the troughs, creeks, and rivers that fill the famous lakes and oceans of tears. How they shook then. In hiccuppy assaults. With the full mortal heart. They wept spasms.

They wept in great, undignified, blubbering fits, and what could we do to console them? How would we dry them out or pick them up who went to pieces, broke down, or burst out, invoking, in their sniffling, our own names, our bleak deeds, our most embarrassing dreams? Did they prefer things streaked and blurred, the colors of houses merging with the colors of trees, the lawns melting into the streets, the dun sky running and smearing the station where the vague buses were always going away? Pity was too common for them, and sympathy. Neither were they truly sad. They wept best when there was no legitimate reason for tears, no recent widow walking her mongoloid son, no deaf student sodomized behind the gym, no mendicant with his lyrics of a suicidal girl. They did not believe in despots or atomic bombs. They wept on celebration days, when picnics were spread by pretty lakes or bronze plaques were engraved with their names. They wept sagas and epics. It was their talent to weep. Their happiness was as fluent as their grief. And yet I did not like them. Their seriousness was exclusive and oppressive. I sat in the back with the stoics while they moved to the front in strict allegiance to the superiority of tears. I could not resist the temptation to test one with a practical joke, a dirge pitched off-key, an orange water pistol trained on lamentations, a Chaucerian fart let against momentousness. I hated those sycophants who followed them, porcupines of funeral homes, elderly senators with patriotic speeches, nostalgic Irish priests— those whores who knew all the tricks to arouse the prolonged and mystical coming of tears. But when I cried, all casket-rattling stopped, jokes withered, my own life rose like bread, and no one, not in the whole becalmed world of measured feeling, was so ripely green, freed in that compulsive, purblind, repetitious release.

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