Albeit of Salt
Seth and Abigail were a young couple who had run away from their Amish community in Ohio. They wanted to get married and start a new life. After stopping in a number of cities, some big and some small, they found themselves in San Francisco on a Sunday morning in July after riding many a Greyhound bus.
Seth and Abigail had some legitimate concerns about starting a new life among the English, as the Amish call Americans who are not Amish. They both were still very spiritual but they had decided they would like to strike out on their own. They wouldn't be the first Amish couple to leave the community. Some Amish leave and do very well among the English and others have to turn around and go back home.
Down deep, the young couple thought they could make it once they solved a couple of immediate needs- namely, find jobs and a place to live because otherwise their money would run out soon. Once they had jobs and an apartment they could get married. At least that was their plan.
San Francisco, they agreed, was a beautiful city, much nicer than some of the other cities they had seen between Greyhound bus stops. And it was especially bright and sunny on this particular Sunday morning. It looked like the kind of place they'd like to live.
Walking around, trying to figure out what to do next, they came upon a large park and noticed the start of what appeared to be a big celebration. They saw maybe 200 people, young and old, in tuxedoes and wedding gowns gathered on the grass as if they were waiting for something to happen. There was a big stage in front of the people but no one was on the stage.
'Looks like a big wedding, ' Seth said. 'If we were dressed the right way, we might be able to join in.' But that was not the case. Although Seth had left his black hat at home in Ohio and Abigail her bonnet, they still looked very much like a rural couple, not at all like anyone seen very often in San Francisco. But they had heard the city was open to everyone. It would be expensive to live there but they hoped they would eventually become part of the community.
Then Seth noticed something about the big gathering in the park. The men in tuxedoes were holding hands with each other and the women in wedding gowns were also holding hands with each other. Seth didn't understand exactly what was going on but he realized it was something different, probably, even for the English, many of whose customs confused the Amish back home.
'Abigail, even if we were all dressed up, I don't think we'd fit in.'
Abigail, however, was truly entranced by the gathering. She knew less than Seth about how the English lived but she knew the people in the park were in a very good mood. She smiled and waved to them a couple of times and they all waved back. She even waved to the minister who walked onto the big stage. He was wearing a dark suit and tie and appeared to be holding a bible.
Seth was getting antsy. He figured they ought to be moving on so they could find a place to stay for the night and then get ready to look for work on Monday morning. He figured he could handle the grill in a diner and Abigail would make a good waitress, what with all her experience feeding long tables of Amish men after their day in the fields harvesting crops.
'C'mon, Abigail. Let's get going. We've got things to do.'
Abigail started walking with Seth, even though she really wanted to stay and watch the people in the park get married if that indeed was what they were going to do. She and Seth had walked about half a block when Abigail stopped and let go of Seth's hand. She turned around and looked back at the people in the park. She had never seen anything like it. She just stood there, immobile and mesmerized.
Seth figured if he kept walking eventually Abigail would catch up with him. She knew less about life in a big city than he did and he didn't know all that much. But Abigail never caught up with him. At the end of the block Seth turned around and saw that she was still in the same spot, with her back turned, watching the ceremonies in the park. She looked frozen in time.
It's a long story, all that happened that day and afterwards, with Abigail and Seth. And some people have a hard time believing how it all worked out.
About a week later Seth got on a Greyhound bus and went back to Ohio alone. He hadn't been able to find a job and ran out of money. He had never talked to Abigail again after she had stayed to watch the people in the park. Eventually, two men and two women had come out of the park and had carried Abigail back with them into the park so she could be part of the fun.
Unlike Seth, Abigail never went back to Ohio. In fact, she is still in San Francisco and can be found every day in that park. There is no question she is now a pillar of the community, albeit of salt.
Donal Mahoney's Other Poems
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William Butler Yeats
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