PART SIX

Springtime's Fool


(1)


GLORY-OF-THE-SNOW


Stillness, well defined.
Existence, at the center of time.

Mythic sleep.
Poetry's core.
More than dead.
Less than alive.

Crouched, hidden, furled,
Fisted, unbidden, curled.
Why end?  Why begin?

Why ask?
No answer but the childish Because.

be/cause

Another universe explodes.
Propelled into the void;
No meaning.  No meaning
Except

Dirt
Transformed.

Nothing
Conscious.
Nothing
Known.

Nothing
Unknown.

Self

Defining

Self

With tenderest
Power

Through the coarse dark,
Against the clay roof,
Around the cruel stone.

Green spears
Crust of white;

Blue veils
Itself
In the clarifying
Light.

Sucking at the air.
Tugging at the world.
Why begin?  Why end?

Why ask?
No answer but the childish Because.

be/cause






"Goodbye!  Bye!  Happy birthday!"

"Thank you!  Thank you for all the presents!"

"You're welcome!  Thank you for the cake and ice cream!"

"You're welcome!  Goodbye!  Bye!"

My niece, whose birthday it is, stands on the front porch in the twilight, calling and waving.  One hand is stuffed deep into the pocket of her pants; her shoulders are hunched against the chill.  But her face is beaming, alight with the afterglow of her party, which has been a great success.  She grins at me, grins at her parents standing beside her, grins at her grandmother and grandfather as they slowly grope their way through the gathering darkness towards the car.  She grins and hunches her shoulders against the chill of the evening, standing as one with the adults to say the thank-you's and the goodbye's – for she is ten years old now, into the double digits, and old enough to begin taking her place beside the grown-ups in their grown-up world.  Old enough to someday remember this night not just as one of the many fragmented bits and pieces of a half-forgotten childhood, but as part of a greater whole.  Old enough to begin remembering her way into adulthood.  Will she turn this day's events over in her mind as she lies in bed waiting for sleep, reliving it, struggling to grasp its shape and meaning, trying to sort out the true natures of its players from her own egoistic intent, as I used to do when I was her age?  And, thus remembering, will she think only of the pleasure her presents gave her, of her pride at being the centerpiece of her family's celebration this night; or will her pleasure and her pride be tinged with a child's fear and sorrow at the memory of this goodbye?  For goodbyes must sooner or later always be said; and each goodbye, as every child must learn to recognize sometime, may just possibly be the last.

I get into my parent's car, shivering slightly.  The air smells damp, earthy, and of a stale coldness, for there are still some lingering patches of snow on the ground.  Spring has only just arrived.  We all begin to wave and call one last time; but now my niece, finally succumbing to a child's impatience, gives an exaggerated, exasperated sigh, flings herself round and darts off into the house – lured back, perhaps, by the thought of playing one of the new games she's been given with her younger sister.  The night's excitements aren't over yet!  Seeing her so taken, so suddenly overwhelmed with the spirit of rebelliousness in the face of the slow, formulaic rituals of which adults are so fond, I am reminded of how strong and fierce my own emotions ran when I was her age.  They swept through me in great waves then, possessing me entirely.  Anything might happen; at any moment anything might happen – didn't the grown-ups know?  But the grown-ups, it seemed to me, lived comparatively stunted lives:  they were almost always placid and bland and correct, smiling often but not laughing nearly so much.  How was it, I wondered, that they grew so tame?  I would never let that happen to me!  And yet, what did I feel this moment, tonight, as I rode in my parent's car down the dark drive and turned out onto the country road that would lead us home?  Contentment, merely:  a satisfying enough sensation but rather a dull one too; and was undisturbed by the knowledge that yes, this goodbye might just possibly be the last.  Probably it would not be – but then again, you never knew.

This is a knowledge I have grown used to.  It is a knowledge I accept.  Yet despite my calm assumption of its potential dangers, I will not even now permit myself to agree to the idea that the excitement and expectation with which I once greeted life has diminished to nothing more than a settled, routine complacency.  It's only that, somewhere along the way, I came to realize that the real excitement lay not so much in the risks that life might take with me, but in those risks that I was willing to take with life.  All I needed, I reminded myself as I rode along on down the road, was a little courage.  A little courage, and a great deal of patience.



"Careful!  Careful!" my mother cries, leaning forward in her seat.  "There – do you see?"  We've just reached the end of one country road and are making the turn out onto another.  Darkness lies dense and still over an empty field as the car's headlights sweep over it.

"Yeah – yeah, I do.  Geez, look at 'em all!" my father says.  A number of deer are standing in small groups scattered in the near distance; we can see their eyes glowing yellowly as the headlights catch them.  Their shadowy bulks move stealthily by, wading through clumps of withered grass.

"One, two, three . . ."

"And there's some more back towards the trees."

"And – oh, look!  There's two more of them, standing there along the edge of the road!  Careful they don't jump out in front of the car!"

My father slows to a halt and backs the car up, then gently rolls it forward again.  Again the headlights run over the length of the field and we take a quick count.  There are ten of them at least – no, twelve, thirteen – perhaps more.

"Think of that!" my mother says as the deer, having gazed at us for several long seconds, lower their heads and calmly begin grazing again.  "They aren't even afraid of us!"

"No-o," agrees my father, slowly, assessingly, "they aren't.  Well . . . they just don't know any better, I suppose."  Again he backs the car up and rolls it forward, allowing the headlights to sweep over the field.  I'm beginning to weary of this game.

"They're just ignoring us!  They aren't afraid of us at all. . . ." my mother murmurs; and I sense in her a growing wonderment not unmixed with pity.  "Goodbye, deer!" she calls out softly as we pull away.  "Don't get hit by any cars!"

"Lucky it's not hunting season," my father comments.

"Yes."

"Of course, if they weren't hunted . . ."

"There'd be too many of them and they'd starve to death.  I know."  We are all familiar with the litany of this rationalization.  "Poor things.  Seems like they were just made to be killed."

We fall into silence.  There's little else to be said on the subject.  Deer have become, for us as for many of the people who live around here, a symbol of all that humanity has lost on its obsessive trek towards civilization:  their twisted carcasses at the side of the road bear ample testimony to that.  To some, the fragility of their existence represents all the beauty – and all the futility – of nature; to others, it merely provides testament to a sort of excessive bounty.  It would be too much, I suppose, to ascribe to the deer – not to mention the opossums, skunks, raccoons, hedgehogs, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds whose bodies litter the roadside – a certain bravery, as that of fearless soldiers fallen at the front.  I myself have learned to view these corpses with a certain coldness.  It's not that I have grown callous, but rather that I sense an injustice here so profound it has turned me bitter, my helplessness in the face of it freezing my capacity for response and giving me the facade of neutrality.  I am, I suppose, like the deer in a way, for I too have run out of choices.  But how, I wonder as we continue careening down the road, did it ever come to this?  How has it come to be that the only options left for the deer to take – that of being hunted down with rifles, starving to death, or being struck by a speeding truck or car – are likewise the only options we have left to offer?



No one, of course, hits a deer because they want to.  Apart from anything else, they cause too much damage to the car.  It's only that, when they come leaping out of the darkness and catapulting into the road with such unexpected suddenness, there is not time enough to avoid a collision.  I remember one day driving out along some country road – it must be some ten years ago now – and coming upon a recently hit deer.  The car that had struck it had pulled over just a little ways beyond; several people had gotten out of the car and were standing around looking into the ditch where the stricken animal lay.

It was not dead.

As I drove slowly by, studying the accident scene and not quite knowing at first what it was that I saw, I noticed the deer – a buck – flailing his long, spindly legs and rocking his body forward as if trying to stand.  As he did so I saw that he had a great gash running vertically down his chest, a long, deep crevice that gaped open to reveal thick tendrils of bleeding muscle within.  The deer fell back, his legs again flailing wildly; rocked himself forward and again tried to stand . . .

What must it be like, I wondered, to have some great ferocious beast with savage metal teeth bring you down, deliver a mortal blow – and then, not finish the task, but simply settle itself nearby and wait?  What must it be like to see that beast disengorge itself of some sort of apparently parasitical creatures living within it, who likewise did nothing, made no effort to finish the kill, but simply stood to one side, watching and waiting?

I confess that scenes such as this do more than "haunt my memory," or "wring my heart with pity."  They twist and squeeze my heart until it is left feeling ragged and sore.  They deliver, into the body of my spirit as definitively as into the chest of that deer, a mortal wound.  Something profoundly wrong is happening here.

The human species is, at this moment of history at least (for I like to hold to the possibility, for the sake of my emotional well-being if nothing else, that it's our relative place in evolutionary time rather than some more fundamental lack that has brought us to our present crisis), constituted of profoundly perverted creatures.  We have extended our physical prowess in ways that are, quite literally, beyond our control.  Products of the Industrial Age, the Computer Age, the Age of Technology, we watch the havoc we wreak without much sense of personal responsibility.  We have become as mere spectators, paralyzed by the power we have been given but have not earned, to the acts we commit.  Will we outgrow this historical moment successfully?  Will we be able to suffer within our hearts, within our minds, within our bodies and our souls, the damage we have inflicted upon the earth?  For, sooner or later, I think we must prepare to do just that, or else perish from those wounds which, being rendered upon nature, are likewise rendered upon ourselves, who are also nature's children.

My head pounds furiously with the knowledge of our ignorance.  My heart races with rage over the many injustices we cannot seem to stop ourselves from committing.  We have, I believe, no hope at present for gaining control over our destiny; as a species we are simply being borne along with the tide of events.  Yet we are loathe to acknowledge the limitations of our understanding, and are eager to endorse the biases of a human-centered perspective.  Thus it is that we become the servants of selfishness.

And thus it is that I come to a point at which I feel I have no other choice but to turn my back on what I see human beings doing to this world.  I turn my back not with the helpless, hopeless despair of the victim, but with the righteous anger of one who sees the limitations of the era in which he lives as having resulted from the ignorance, and the arrogance, of both the masses and their leaders in the face of what they are doing, of what they have done.  It leaves me with but one conviction:  that the problems we face are so large, and our capacity to solve them so inherently limited, that there is no help for me to give, unless I be willing to sacrifice myself to what appears to be a futile cause.  And this I am not willing to do.

Still, if I determine that society's governing systems are antagonistic to the health of this member, if I find its operational mechanisms to be so complex, interwoven, and interdependent that all attempts to change them lack efficacy, do I not then become morally free to exert upon society whatever pressures it takes to release me from its grasp?

I am become a lawless creature – yet I am also bound by unseen chains.  And still I refuse to acknowledge that I owe moral servitude to anything but that which serves the highest purpose to which nature may put me.  I am the Watcher.  I am the Witness.  And in this record of what I see, I take my stand.






UNTITLED


A world that's filled with injustice –
Everywhere I look, there is no escape.
And this anger that's burning inside me
Has dried all my tears








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