(6)


Robert, I remember, used to love roses.  They were in fact his favorite flower.  Knowing this, people would sometimes make him a present of them, as I did myself once or twice back during the time when he and I were lovers.  Then, one day, as a kind of surprise, I gave him a sheet of paper upon which I had typed:




A



B      O      U      Q      U      E      T



o f



R      O      S      E      S




I'd wanted, you see, to give him something more "meaningful" than the usual mundane handful of flowers.  It was to be a sort of Platonic Ideal, the very "roseness" of roses, that I'd hoped he would perceive as existing between the letters, behind the words, which I had typed.  That was my intended gift.

He was not impressed.

Nowadays, it is not the ideal rose that I would wish to perceive.  Nor do I necessarily wish to "be" the rose, to "become" it.  Rather, it is the tangible rose that I want, the individual rose, in all its particular, peculiar singularity; and I want to be able to apprehend that individual, tangible specimen of the rose clearly, directly, with nothing standing between us.

I remember once describing to a friend of mine how I always felt as though some unseen barrier stood between me and everything I saw around me.  It was, I said, as if I were seeing the world through a sort of invisible pane of glass.  "Well," she replied, "you do wear glasses, you know."  I had to laugh, for what she'd said was true enough.  It was not, of course, what I'd meant – but I was sure she knew that too.  She was an unusual woman.  She had some rather unusual ideas.  For instance, she believed that there existed in nature a kind of intelligence – or rather, a kind of power, at once of nature and working through nature – that we humans could but obscurely comprehend.  She saw evidence of this power everywhere, and suspected that its designs might well be malignant to human life.  In the propagation of crops, for example – soybeans, let's say, or potatoes – she saw the signs not of our mastery over a species of plants, but the possibility that the plants were using humans to further their own chances of dominion over the earth.  In the rolling of a cow's eyes she saw not a dim-witted animal only rudimentarily conscious of its own captivity and aware not at all of its eventual slaughter, but the intimation of a prescient knowledge regarding our own potential doom.

Our relationship to plants and animals may, of course, be symbiotic to varying degrees, depending upon the particular species involved.  But humans come from the earth and must someday return to it, and foolish indeed is the man or woman who does not perceive how ready the earth is to receive us.  Our struggle is and ever has been since we first became creatures of self-consciousness one of finding something within – some spirit, some intelligence, some procreative power of sex, some creative drive – that will allow us to survive beyond our own physical demise.

But the earth is hungry.  And all it has to do is wait.



Today I decided to take another walk to the cemetery.  It was late afternoon as I started out, a cold day but windless, and bright with sun.  The snow alongside the sidewalks had melted down to a few icy clumps spattered with mud, but the sidewalks themselves remained slick and treacherous.  The streets however were busy with traffic, and I noticed that there were a lot more people about than there are earlier in the day, which is when I most often go out.

I turned one corner, then another, not paying attention to anything much but my own rambling thoughts.  Then I noticed an old man coming down the street towards me. He was tall and skinny, his jowls grizzled looking, his throat unshaven.  His grungy coat hung open to reveal a dingy plaid shirt, so worn and stained that it was hard to tell what its original colors might have been.  His chest looked sunken, his shoulders bony; lower down, his belly protruded like a hard, round ball.  As we were about to pass he slipped on a little patch of ice and had to lean backwards to catch himself; as he did so his shirt pulled open at the bottom, revealing a glimpse of brownish, mottled skin covered with a thin scattering of wiry black hairs.  Righting himself again and tugging at his shirt, he caught my glance and held it.  His eyes were gruesome:  they looked diseased.  Bloodshot and rheumy, rimmed round with red, they bulged from their sockets as if they were about to pop right out of his head.  I nodded stiffly in greeting.  He grunted back at me and, although I was already passing by him, I could feel him giving me a long, hard look with those infected eyes.  Resentment came off him in waves.  I wondered what he resented me for.  My lack of friendliness?  Of approval?  Respect?  Clearly he saw, or thought he saw, judgment in my eyes.  And he did not like it.

Farther down the street another, younger man was making his way along the walk that led from his house; when he reached the end he turned out and began to come my way.  I focused my gaze on him.  His khaki pants, slung low on his hips, were smeared with long greasy streaks, as was the flannel jacket he wore.  His hair was palely red; he had no hat on.  I could see that he was holding something in his hand, but couldn't make out through the distance what it might be.  "Da-a-ad!  Da-a-addy!" a child called out from the doorway of the house he'd just left.  "Da-a-addy!  Da-a-ad!"  The man stopped, his shoulders hunched; he turned half-round and scowled back at the house.  "What!" he hollered, his voice flat and gruff.  "Whad'ya want!"  By now I had come close enough to see his face.  It was a sullen face, the ears gone pink with cold but the cheeks and nose as yellow and pasty looking as old cheese.  His lips twisted sourly.  I could see now what it was he held:  a can of beer.  "Da-a-ad!  Da-a-addy!" the child hollered again.  The man suddenly became aware of me.  He gave me a look across his shoulder as I walked by him, fixing me in place with his eyes.  "Christ!" he muttered.  "Can you believe it?"  I grimaced a smile at him, trying to show that I sympathized – that I understood.  But I didn't understand, not really.  The man's eyes turned to slits.  He tilted his head back and gulped greedily at his beer.  I hurried on.

Turning a corner I began to head up the incline that led to the cemetery; on the other side of the street yet another man was trudging along.  I saw that he was wearing an old grey raincoat that was much too big for him; it flapped about his legs absurdly and a thick coating of mud had gathered at the bottom where it dragged about his feet.  He had on a pair of green rubber boots, thick blue mittens and a matching blue knit hat.  In one hand he held a metal lunchbox of the kind factory employees and machine-shop workers sometimes use.  He looked extremely tired.  His shoulders were sagging and his head hung so low that his nose was parallel to the ground.  Feeling my gaze upon him he slowly lifted his face.  I saw that he was a young man and that he appeared, much to my surprise, to be almost frightened at the sight of me.  "Hello!" I called, trying to sound cheerful – or at any rate harmless.  His face slackened in response, his jaw falling open; then it just hung there.  I could see from the vacuousness of his expression, the blankness in his eyes, that he was mentally retarded.

I hastened on into the cemetery.  Patches of icy snow crunched beneath my boots; the grass where it showed through was a wilted looking yellowy-brown.  The gravestones all tilted this way and that, as if the frozen, muddy earth were heaving them up, squeezing them out, like loose teeth.  Where flowers once stood there were only dried-up sticks and gummy brown stumps.  The branches of the trees and bushes looked gnarled and wizened and brittle, like old, arthritic fingers grasping with futile fury at the empty air.  Yet none of this, neither the three men I had seen previously nor the landscape of the cemetery now, affected me adversely, though the words I have used to describe them make it sound as if they had.  The day was sunny; the air cold and crisp; the light of such a dry, sharp clarity that it gave to my surroundings no dismal aspect but rather, a singular sense of brightness.  And yet, along with this – or because of it, perhaps – everything I saw seemed to have taken on a curiously illusory aspect.  The world continued to look three dimensional, was indisputably tangible; but it also had, to my eyes, the appearance of a mirage.  It was as if it were no more than a sort of canvas or skin that could be peeled away, were it possible for me to find some edge with which to grab hold and pull.

I am the dreamer; I am the dream.  I am powerful; I am powerless.  I am the product of all that is and ever was; I am ever new.  I tried to understand this, to make it real.  "All this before me," I said to myself, "right here, right now, is who and what I am:  this is what it means to be human."  I am the product of nature; I am nature's fulfillment.  It did not, somehow, seem enough.  Did I believe then that there was something more to me than what nature had given?  Did I believe that I contained within me something "divine"?  No.  Then I must believe – or rather, I somehow now sensed with a sensibility born out of the totality of who and what I am – that I had the capacity within me, as endowed by nature, to evolve into something greater, something more.  The capacity that most differentiates humans from the other animals is our ability for self-reflection.  Yet it was this same ability that created a sort of gap, a gulf, a chasm, which I seemed now to perceive as standing between me and the rest of the world.  It stood between me and myself as well.  And I wondered:  This gap of emptiness, this gulf of nothingness, this chasm of void – could it be that this was what was meant by "death"?






I FOOL I SNEAK . . . I TWIST I CHASE



I FOOL I SNEAK I STUFF I TWITCH I DOUBT I SQUIRM I KID I RUN I BULGE I SCOOP I BLIND I FLASH I STALL I SMILE I SLICE I TRUDGE I WRAP I REEK I CAST I DAUNT I BURST I CHARM I HELP I LET I TIP I SKIM I GRACE I TRUMP I BELCH I TREAT I HUG I PALE I PREACH I PEEP I SHUCK I SHARE I FLUB I VEER I SAIL I PEG I SLINK I THIRST I BRING I FUME I SCOLD I POACH I SCRATCH I SCRAPE I LIGHT I SQUAWK I THROW I POUND I FEAST I SMELL I FLUNK I MOLD I GAB I SHRINK I KISS I TIE I COUGH I PEN I SOW I SCRUNCH I DIVE I STRETCH I SHUT I FUND I CRINGE I MOCK I SPITE I SLASH I SHOUT I RID I BUCK I SAVE I BOLT I URGE I SLUMP I LINE I PIT I SLOUCH I GRUB I CASH I SHELVE I STRAP I DRIVE I CRY I KNEEL I SLEEP I WALK I VEX I STRIDE I GNAW I GLANCE I FIGHT I LEER I WHIP I DO I KNIFE I DRAG I CHANT I GRIEVE I FIB I KICK I SHOO I STEER I LOOM I STAY I SPURN I WHORE I CHARGE I SWEAR I BUILD I RIDE I DIM I SKIP I SHINE I CRAFT I THREAD I SQUEAL I HOPE I GLIDE I SPIT I POUNCE I SMART I FEED I VOW I PLEDGE I SET I LUG I BOMB I MAR I HOIST I CHECK I SHEATHE I CHEW I JUMP I STALK I WAG I CURB I SNATCH I SLING I SNOOP I FLIP I GRASP I FLAG I CHART I SHRED I BLAB I MUST I NIP I STRAIN I SKULK I TRAIL I CRUNCH I DAMN I BACK I GNASH I TINGE I GAIN I PIN I NAP I SCREEN I SURGE I STATE I TERM I THROB I SLUR I BRAY I DRINK I SULK I TEND I CHEAT I SCREAM I WHACK I MOON I PULL I HINT I TWIRL I PRY I PEER I GORE I RAP I BARE I RAID I RACE I WEAR I HEAR I BAIT I GAS I AM I CROAK I TAINT I LEAP I GUIDE I SPEAK I FAULT I THANK I CRUSH I REAP I SEE I LIVE I ASK I WAIT I REACH I HUFF I ZAP I VIEW I BASK I SACK I CLIMB I WEED I PAW I SCRIMP I PITCH I EAT I TROOP I SLOP I RAGE I PRINT I SPRING I SLAP I POP I JUDGE I STOOP I GUSH I PROBE I THINK I SHIT I WORK I DOG I SHAM I BOOZE I PILE I HEED I WAKE I SIGN I PERCH I DRAIN I ROB I PLEASE I SHELL I DRONE I SWIRL I SELL I SCREW I SPY I BET I LIST I FRISK I POOP I PULSE I DROOP I CLONE I HAVE I SCRAWL I HUSK I MINCE I CODE I STITCH I DREAM I THRASH I RAM I KILL I FAINT I HOARD I RAISE I SIFT I CLEAN I STEM I BOX I SPOOF I SAP I CAUSE I SMASH I HEFT I SWIPE I YAWN I LOAD I FREEZE I LOVE I SING I WHEEL I SNIFF I PIMP I SCALE I BRAG I JOLT I IRK I TRAMP I SWOOP I MAIM I CLEAR I FORGE I TOTE I FLIT I LOOT I KNOCK I PLANT I CAN I RINSE I BAKE I SHOP I ROCK I CURL I FLING I INCH I CLUTCH I BID I SQUELCH I SIP I STAMP I BAND I BEAM I LONG I YAK I FRY I MASH I BOW I ADD I BLURT I VOICE I STRAY I VEIL I WASTE I TIME I PICK I PREEN I SCREECH I OWN I SPRAWL I WISH I YOWL I TRICK I TREK I CLUMP I SWIM I SCHEME I SWEAT I BED I WAIL I MEAN I SHOW I SLAVE I SNAP I TUCK I CALL I SUE I THRILL I SENSE I FEUD I BRAVE I ROT I FLOW I SQUEEZE I LOAN I TONGUE I SWAY I CHEER I MAN I BUM I GAUGE I SHOOT I PISS I BOOST I LOPE I PIERCE I DRENCH I SNUB I PROVE I EARN I CHAFE I BRIDGE I QUEST I BAR I FLY I FOUL I BAN I DRUG I FREE I ZOOM I LURE I STAND I PET I BLANCH I DIP I DUPE I GROAN I BLESS I MUSE I RANK I PLAGUE I LICK I TASTE I SERVE I PAVE I SHOCK I HARM I CLING I OUGHT I MIME I DROWSE I MOPE I WATCH I STORM I GREET I NAME I GRAB I STOP I GAZE I GRIND I HEDGE I BOSS I SINK I HURT I CHOOSE I SNITCH I LACK I SWEEP I CROON I SOB I SQUAT I GORGE I PRAISE I DIE I CHOP I SPIN I STEW I CROW I LOOK I GOUGE I SLOSH I PLUMB I RAZE I FLAUNT I JOG I DINE I SPOUT I MOUTH I MATE I STASH I BLOAT I PINE I ROLL I PLY I NET I CROSS I QUIZ I STRESS I MILL I STACK I MOVE I SCULPT I BLOT I DRAFT I SCROLL I GRADE I RANT I SOAR I PRIME I SMOOTH I GASH I STROKE I BUG I SPAWN I CRASH I FLINCH I STINT I WAVE I BOARD I SHALL I WET I BUNCH I DELVE I ERR I HITCH I WRENCH I KNOT I SPURT I FLEX I SCRUB I GROOM I FLOUNCE I HISS I SCAM I GROUP I JILT I TROT I SAY I SCORE I PROMPT I HALVE I CROOK I PALM I FETCH I NOTE I FORM I DITCH I BARGE I SKID I CHANGE I LACE I FLAY I FLOUT I BREAK I COACH I SHEER I WOUND I SWING I CLASP I PROWL I TWEAK I COO I SHAVE I BRAND I BASH I SWIG I SORT I CLAW I BORE I BREACH I CRUISE I SCRAP I RUE I BRAWL I BITCH I RIGHT I LURK I BRIBE I GYP I BLUR I GALL I MARK I HEAVE I LIFT I DRILL I HOSE I GAPE I MIND I CLASS I LAY I TOUCH I SCAN I BLAME I LEAVE I MESS I FILL I CATCH I HOP I SLAM I MAY I VAMP I SWAP I HOUND I BEST I PLOP I STEAL I FIX I RATE I SHROUD I KEEP I TRY I LUST I BAWL I HIDE I PAY I SHAKE I GROPE I REAR I SKIRT I CLOAK I SCENT I SLIGHT I LASH I PROP I RISK I LINK I TURN I CEASE I QUIP I MARCH I GASP I SCRAM I SWERVE I JOIN I MOURN I SIGHT I SASS I BUTT I GROUSE I SHOULD I BLUFF I PLUNGE I GIVE I THRUST I DANCE I BRUISE I PATCH I SCOFF I PLAIT I FUSE I SEEM I BURP I SEND I JAIL I GLOAT I AIM I CURSE I SOLVE I GROW I STONE I BUY I PURGE I EDGE I COURSE I GRATE I REEL I HAUNT I TAME I CROWD I HAIL I LOB I CLOCK I CLAIM I READ I HACK I GAG I CLAMP I COUNT I MISS I FALL I NAB I MELT I SLAY I MAIL I CUSS I FOLD I CLASH I SMUDGE I SHOVE I YEARN I CUT I COULD I SUIT I SCORCH I CUE I NOD I CITE I DRUM I BLOW I CLEAVE I BLUNT I SLIDE I HOCK I DRESS I BEG I TEASE I DIG I CLOT I PEE I SPONGE I HIT I CREST I PRANCE I JOKE I JEER I HATE I CRAWL I VOUCH I LUMP I NOTCH I PLOD I BOTCH I SUCK I TRAIN I HALT I NURSE I GRIPE I COURT I TEMPT I TUNE I POST I PURR I RUB I CROWN I PLAY I LAUD I WEIGH I HUMP I BLINK I MATCH I TRUST I CRAB I QUIT I ACT I GRAFT I COME I LAUNCH I GRANT I PROD I LOAF I TRAP I GLIMPSE I PUKE I PUNCH I SPREAD I WREATHE I ACHE I DROWN I GRUDGE I STAIN I DART I WHINE I YELL I LEARN I THUMP I SHRUG I WAGE I WOULD I DROOL I CURVE I LOATHE I WINK I FLUSH I SNACK I PLEAT I SHAME I CARE I SWAT I SWILL I MAKE I CREAK I COMB I BOAST I TRACK I FREAK I RAVE I TAX I BRAID I SPLICE I FLOAT I RAIL I BUMP I LORD I PEEK I HAND I PECK I LODGE I BOND I SPLURGE I CHOMP I GUARD I MERGE I LOCK I LEAN I TOP I ITCH I GLOW I HAUL I PEAK I BILL I BAIL I BUST I COW I HEAP I POSE I JAB I WHEEZE I WASH I CAGE I CHAT I PLEAD I SHIFT I DOUSE I QUELL I VIE I WHIRL I DAB I BANK I GLEAN I STRIKE I AIR I BROWSE I FIND I SCOWL I USE I CLAP I CURE I POINT I CHUCK I TENSE I DROP I SWISH I SQUASH I GROOVE I TREAD I PAINT I TRIP I SHED I ROAR I HEAD I DOZE I WARN I NAIL I STRIP I CHILL I LAG I HOOK I OWE I GUESS I ARM I HANG I SPOOK I VOID I FAST I YIELD I LEAD I DODGE I WEEP I PLUMP I SCOPE I COP I BARF I DREAD I BALK I PACK I MISS I SNEER I OPT I DWELL I BANG I GRUNT I GET I TAKE I BRUSH I REND I RIP I LANCE I BROACH I SPORT I GOAD I CRAP I STUN I BIDE I COPE I YAP I CLUB I PHRASE I WANT I PRIMP I COAST I LIKE I AID I SLURP I HONE I AGE I RULE I HOUSE I PLACE I PASTE I SNEEZE I SPELL I RAKE I DUMP I WILL I PELT I GRIP I BREED I BREATHE I CLEANSE I NOSE I LUNGE I QUOTE I SNORE I FUSS I SWOON I SPLIT I COAX I PAD I PRUNE I MIX I SPILL I BEND I GAWK I CREEP I PUMP I SEETHE I HUSH I TRACE I PUT I LOOP I JEST I CLOWN I FORCE I SIT I BELT I PASS I BLOCK I FUCK I COIN I SPAN I POUR I BRAKE I TRIM I CRAM I RAPE I TOSS I SKIN I FLAIL I BINGE I CHIP I SHIRK I WHOOP I SCAR I DRAWL I BATHE I YOKE I KNOW I PLUCK I SCOOT I BRACE I BAT I FAKE I YELP I FLAP I FEEL I STRUT I START I PEEL I QUENCH I LAND I PRIZE I JINX I SMACK I SCALD I SNORT I DRAPE I VENT I CLOG I PLAN I HURL I STORE I HOWL I FIT I FADE I LIE I STOMP I BIND I CHANCE I STUMP I BLEED I MEET I FLOP I BEAR I RIM I BURN I STINK I BASE I DOSE I REST I GO I WRONG I DULL I DASH I RIG I COOL I FRET I BREW I BLUSH I POKE I LAPSE I MESH I SPRINT I TOY I TELL I RING I PRICE I NEAR I BRIM I BARK I BLEAT I NUDGE I FACE I HOLD I GRIN I CUFF I LIMP I FEAR I DWARF I SQUISH I PINCH I SQUINT I DUCK I DENT I RISE I STROLL I SIGH I SLIP I WOO I STARE I DUNK I HUM I WIPE I AIL I CRACK I DOTE I SCORN I BOUNCE I CLENCH I LISP I CON I NAG I QUAKE I FRONT I NEED I DREDGE I END I SEIZE I CRAMP I CHAIN I LAUGH I SHRIEK I PUFF I STEP I BLAST I SKIMP I KNIT I MELD I CHURN I CLOSE I FAIL I FART I DEAL I PLOT I JERK I PIECE I LEASE I FAWN I CARVE I SCARE I CRAVE I JAM I SCAB I PAT I SWITCH I TEST I WRITE I FLEE I PART I TALK I LURCH I FROWN I PACE I CRANK I CHOKE I SWAB I CALM I OOZE I DARE I MEND I CLIP I PLUG I BAG I STRIVE I FARE I CINCH I SPANK I ROUTE I SNARL I BROOD I SLIT I FAN I LOSE I BOUND I SPEW I SWELL I WRING I SMIRK I BITE I EASE I FLIRT I SAG I SNAG I SMEAR I PRESS I ROUND I CARP I QUAIL I TRADE I BEAT I STAB I PLOW I MUNCH I FRAME I FUDGE I PRICK I BREEZE I CREASE I TWIST I CHASE








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