I should be working on my second (or third) book. I should have read Anna Karenina
by now. I should be able to make it through one day without snapping at my kids.
I should pray more.
He shouldn’t have had sex with her. She should have tried another treatment. They should stay married. They should stay married.
These are easy to see—these clear, smooth planes. These fixed glass gates. These pop-up bastions. The crystalline palace of “should.”
For some of us it’s a palace of ideals: set on a mountaintop, scraping the clouds, the glittering pinnacle we strive to reach as we thrash through the vale.
For some of us it’s a palace of points: sharp towers of regret (some slicing the horizon over decades), endless punishing reflections, splinters of insufficiency, edges so sharp the cut takes time to bleed.
We can see right through it, right? We can see this palace is no shelter: that glass has no foundation, can’t be bolted to bedrock.
There’s no place for a hearth in there. You see that, right? There aren’t any shadows—the light does cut right through—but there’s nothing to hold heat. Touching just a single wall sucks the warmth from the body.
There’s no place to hang pictures.
We worship this crystalline palace of should, seek it compulsively, run its mantra, dance the ritual, flagellate before its demands. But is it beautiful? True? This brittle, floating palace marred by fingerprints?
What do they make, the subjects of that kingdom? Milk and honey?
What adorns them? Quiet, gentle spirits?
What ruler sits in such a palace?
April Vinding is the author of Triptych, a spiritual memoir, and teaches writing at Bethel University. She received an MFA from Hamline University and lives with her family in leafy, literary Minnesota. More at www.april-vinding.com.
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I should get out of bed and go to church this morning. This post should have been submitted to Renee (our Blog editor) last week. I should have begun with an image and a non-SVO sentence.