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Laura Arciniega

Afternoon in the Seventh Dwelling Places

Look into this kaleidoscope. It has five glasses.

     The first glass, the newest, is Prunus ‘Kanzan.’ It’s the day I take my son to Plaque Park where Prunus ‘Kanzan’ comforts the Earth. We run in the grass and Mercedes Sosa pa-pa-pa-pas while hollow column petals snow down on us. My son’s laughter is the laughter of a psaltery speaking the words of Psalm 95 from the Nuevo Cancionero; his sweet face is just like the face of the child Jesus in Duccio’s Maestà. It’s an afternoon in the Seventh Dwelling Places. This is New Jersey.

     The next glass is Spanish blue Lake Michigan stretching into an infinity mirror. It’s the day Dom and I walk on the bluff. We laugh about how thick the pollen swam up the Mason Street bridge on May 18th, like marine snow floating down to heaven. I think of horses and mornings and clay and tomatoes, but especially I think of the little butterfly who is maybe dancing its body new in my belly: could be a Mary Margaret, could be a Joseph Luis. This is Wisconsin.

     Juicy, bottle green kudzu is the third glass, making me thirsty as it swims through the humidity up the trees and telephone poles. It’s the day I drive to Mary’s house on Birchwood, tò Pneûma tò Hágion through the open windows billowing and narrating, animating my soul. Fairytale grapes jounce in the wisteria, blooming like Southern ladies in the hot and hot moment of spring. Seeing them is my collect for the Cahaba. I learn to be married here. This is Alabama.

     The fourth glass is my Royal golden brown home desert: the dust of the transmontane chaparral under my sandals, oranges a cream tint lighter than the sand. It’s the day I come home. When the TSA invites my body into their millimeter wave scanners, it’s this color they see inside. My flesh, my spouse, and now my Joseph are from here.  This is where we’re silly and young and we say I LOVE YOU. Here I am again. This is California.

     The fifth glass is clear. It’s the glass against which all the other glasses jounce. What is it? That will come. In the meantime, you can think about why there are five glasses at all. The answer is that they are the five books and the five discourses.

     Now look around.

     You ask, “What am I even looking at here?”

     Over there is the five-time-photographed quagga mare, kidnapped to the London Zoo from the Karoo. There is the two-hundred-pound woolly mammoth calf whose milk tusks are still coming in and who has never tasted sedge. There is Raphus cucullatus from Mauritius, bulby-headed and bulby-beaked but smarter than we ever knew. Standing seventeen feet tall is someone you’re not sure of; you’ve only ever seen her nude skull, so I’ll help you. It’s the Paraceratherium transouralicum from Central Park West and 79th Street. Next to her is the Pampas beast, her shell arcing up like a rainbow over Calle México in Monserrat. Here is the giant swan from the Pleistocene, born in Sicily and raised in Malta; you knew she’d be kobicha because you read the story about her. Swimming in the fifth glass is that Canadian plesiosaur Albertonectes of the Bearpaw Shale, and because you need to expand your imagination, you can’t believe who else you see: standing on the fifth glass is Pakicetus, the elastically amphibious great-grandmother of cetaceans. And no kidding, there’s someone with an alicorn over there. Academics have written so much about her that I’ll say nothing. Best of all, Jessica is there!

     You sob. The words “I’m sorry” pilgrim up your throat, but the animals say, “We’re okay now.” Best of all, Jessica says it, too!

     Of course she does: the pink of the afternoon in Plaque Park swim-sings itself into all the other glasses. It’s translated us, it’s swum us through a kanzan. It’s even transfigured our birthstones into a New York pink garnet, a chromium apricot topaz; my precious little jewel baby is a rosa mexicano bougainvillea of an amethyst.

     We say to each other:

     “Are you okay?”

     “I’m just happy.”


     “I’m thinking about the love.”

     And when one of us asks “Can we put a fast dinosaur on it to hit away the lateness?” the answer is always “Yes!” and “Amen!”

     Our old friend who’d been asleep in the lithosphere is here; he is not the fifth glass, but he rides on it. Now that we’re at rest, he encourages us to dream and read books. He assures us that we’ll find gold.

     “Look for the color of Prunus ‘Kanzan.’ That’s what gold is like here,” he says. Now that we’re translated, now that we’ve undergone a kanzan, we move freely between the nave and the chancel. We find it! Turns out that gold is not just the color of the end.

     “I didn’t know,” you say.

     Now you know! The pink of the afternoon in Plaque Park is not one quick sunset. The pink of the afternoon is not like the green of the morning in Nathanael Greene Park. The pink of the afternoon in Plaque Park is one long afternoon in the Seventh Dwelling Places. It’s a May pneumatikós in which the laughter of a psaltery speaks the words “Deûte aristésate” from the Nuevo Cancionero. It’s one cosmic yom, one seventh day, one eternal Sabbath. It’s the final gloss on the text, the Today in which the presbúteroi cast down their Prunus ‘Kanzan’ crowns around the glass okeanós, the fifth glass.

     That’s who these extinct ones are: the living creatures around the throne. All afternoon they sing,  

“HOLY HOLY HOLY is the Lord, the Almighty God,

the one who was and the one who is and the one who is coming!”


all afternoon in Duccio’s Maestà, in a yom of the child Jesus dressed in the color of Japanese flowering cherry.


Laura Arciniega holds an MDiv from Beeson Divinity School. Her work has appeared in Rascal Journal, Saint Katherine Review, is this up, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, and elsewhere. Laura lives in Southern California with her husband and son. You can find her online at and on Twitter @LauraAArciniega.

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