Our Hybrid Nature
Axiom: the energy one expends in practicing arithmetic
always equals or surpasses that expended in the pursuit of ducklings in their
pen. You can't expect to figure out the one without taming the other. Though,
of course, in this, as in so many situations defined by the witnesses who
describe it, the reverse does not necessarily hold true. You can pick up the
scattered bits of porcelain. You can stack them up together on a shelf. Nothing
is going to make the object that wasn't an object before you set eyes on it
turn back into what it was before. The universe just doesn't operate that way.
And for good and proper reasons. Can you imagine being stuck in a place where
the blueprint is always in reach of someone whose mind didn't form properly?
Whose fingers are of no use for pointing? I'd rather be somewhere else, myself.
Even if that person is tagging along. Even if he is saying things in his sleep
that make such perfect and obvious sense, we are afraid to repeat them.
Through the Funeral
Mountains on a Burro
Strange, how we assume the world will find its consolation
without us. Like that hunchback Leopardi, convinced illusion is the only
substantial thing. But where do we go when the illusion itself starts to
unwind? Begins to seem as flimsy as a paper boat of the sort we used to float
on the stream that passed behind the hog pens. The water foul and dark and
making the banks unusually verdant. Unusual for that place, at any rate, and
time, when sepia seemed to hang in the air itself and we thought in terms of
flashback from one moment to the next. Never certain that we would be allowed
to continue into the future by virtue of there being no real future to speak
of. It was the sort of thing other people had because they could imagine it.
They could form it in the mind and shape it the way you might shape a piece of
granite. Even if you had no tools. Of course, the wear and tear on the fingers
would be discouraging. The propellers too are in a perpetual state of disrepair.
Flaking paint. Blades bent at an angle not efficient for propulsion. Still, the
weather hasn't become so disagreeable the terns are tempted to begin their
migration early. They construct their rookeries on floating mats of vegetation.
And I ask the ranger why they have been scratching at the feathers on their
heads recently. Why they seem intent on making the rest of us feel smarter than
we actually are. He doesn't have an answer. But really, the only observation
necessary is that our descendents won't care what we found once we got here. Just
that we got here on time.
When You Want to Build and Prosper in This World
Eulalie thinks the trick lies in the admission that it is a
trick. That what happens is not nearly as important as what could have
happened, but didn't. The dropping of folding chairs from the rafters. The
appearance of oddly-shaped doves. There are at least two million possible variations,
each of which is determined by examining a handful of bones kept in a bag with
certain letters stitched into its side. And the guidebook is not essential; you
can still perform the procedure without it. But there is some information in
the appendix that can prove invaluable, especially when the results are in
dispute. When the man who stands to lose the most insists the interpretation
should not be left up to just anyone. It should be gleaned from the heavens
because that is where everything originates. His reasoning makes the others
nauseous and they rewind their tape recorders in hopes of discovering exactly
where he has repeated himself needlessly. And where he might have let drop the
post office box where he receives his mail. Eulalie checks off each compliment
on a sheet of paper that has them all listed ahead of time. Or at least those
she was reasonably certain would crop up some time in the conversation. Those
that ring out in the shuttle now like musical notes. If only she knew what to do
with such things once they have settled to Earth again. Once they have
abandoned their assault on the ears and feel their own oppressive weight for
the first time, struggle against it momentarily and then accept the inevitable.
Should you offer succor, or is that what the weak themselves do? Is there any
discernible difference between one's instincts and one's inclinations if the
latter are somehow beyond description, beyond even a simple mathematical
Does Not Console or Respond
Where will they begin? And where will they just pretend to
begin and then stop again suddenly without anyone's noticing? The hesitation
will give your analyst fits of laughter. Like those that plague the people
huddled together under a bridge. They encourage even the reticent to speak
their minds with enough force to carry the voice halfway up the hill. And
around the bend. Where it will die like a Persian soldier unsure of his
location. And then the speed bumps. The allegories taking on the
characteristics of straightforward declarative statements. And causing Eulalie
nights when she isn't sure what she told Squid. And what he believes. And if
there is a chance she might have let too much information escape. She puts the
list in her pocket and checks, with her fingertips, at least once every twenty
minutes or so, that it is still there. But theres no escaping the impression
that the windows might have been contaminated. That the memories she retains of
that evening are somehow more impressive than they should have been. Like
receiving an honorary degree. The kind someone hangs about your neck, the kind
with Latin inscriptions on it. And no one can be found to translate. Meanwhile,
something skitters about in the kitchen. Pretending to be absorbed by the
contents of the pantry. And when cornered, it emits a strange, small barking
sound not unlike that produced by a vole. In times of grave danger. Or when the
day just seems to stretch away into infinity.
Breughel with his Peasant
Squids umbrella hangs on the back of a womans chair; it is
visible from the street through a window tinted so as to discourage such
revelations. But it is there! Eulalie recognizes the colors, the bits of tin
sticking out between the holes in the fabric. Each one of which she knows the
story behind by heart. And if they are trying to conceal their presence, trying
to act as if the aromas of the meal they are sharing are partly culpable, that
they have been driven to their decisions by certain combinations of seared meat
and ginger, she knows she is incapable of contradicting them. She has come to
believe that absolutely anything anyone says is true. And why shouldn't I? she
tells herself, as she saunters down the side street as confident as someone in
a suit of armor. They are only saying what it has occurred to them to say for
one reason or another. And that should be sufficient in itself. After all, it
must be true somewhere. On the way home from visiting the former convent. With
the villanelles still ringing in your ears. And the taste of oats clinging to
the tongue like castaways to the sides of their yellow rafts.
Ah, if only she knew what to call
this feeling of suitcases being unlatched at the center of her body. The
exploring their recesses with little more than swollen fingers. And a penlight
borrowed for this express purpose from a man who had no idea there was serious
anthropological work underway. He had simply come to the neighborhood for a
donut. And been halted in his tracks by the sound of people chanting in unison.
As if trying to dislodge something unusually heavy. And then rolling it toward
the street where some others were waiting to hoist it skyward on a crane.