Having understood the process by which the people had been elected, I had long stood my ground. I would have given no quarter, I would have not flinched, I would not have stepped aside. Readers of the Ark, transcribers of the Infidels, methodologists of Unity, behold yourselves, I had exclaimed. And all, like wooly lovers, had bowed their necks, their heads hanging low near the ground where the trampled grass had once grown. Truly, my at times pilfered run down the cinder path had been stupendous, my knees scarred here and there from my having tripped and healed later on. Still, I could proclaim quite loudly: My votes had been cast for you and for you and for you. Ah, though my chiasmatic cynicism rang like silent bells in the stars, I had successfully enslaved the bright lights of their imagined moments of universal fame household by household by household, like starving potato eaters crumpled around a tabletop too poor to really think on their own beyond the next starvation-sized portion of comestibles, heaps and heaps and heaps of them well-deceived into the sodden belief that they themselves would become earls, dukes, princes, queens, and kings.
I had had no visible means of support. No web extended from corner to corner holding in place itself where I was crouching waiting for a kill. Not a bunch of leaves packed high up in a tree with all sorts of gathered autumnal debris between forked branches to keep my fur warm during the cold winter. Not a pyramid of gold on which to lay my body nightly and dream. Not even a mountaintop on which to rest my fog. Mine had been entirely invisible. It had been kept there deep inside my mind. It was a place that nobody saw, and nobody had ever seen. The blackness of space of holds itself forever there. And in between there nothing falls and nothing rises all the same. The closest I had felt this once before had been sitting in a yellow wooden chair in a room quietly by myself alone. My arms had been crossed, resting on my thighs. Even my shoulders had been slumped rolled forward just a bit. And my eyes had floated down. For some while of uncertainty all had been so easy. Like the rains of November, it had passed me by like sleep.
My reasons had been plentiful. If these had been any more than they were, I would have been lost among the reds of all the red poppies. I would have been more wings upon the backs of flying monkeys. The ubi sunt nomenclature of my clattering days would have been spent or ignored like bales of rolled hay along the countryside in autumn. And all that, like my namesake and my Latin verse, would have gone unanswered. So I may have been left darning my socks and time. I may have gone to seed and shower. I may, too, have as little sense left to my time as peas to the edge of a knife are falling, falling down. And all my frailties, beyond the wool-spinners of Sulpicia and maidens of Sappho are no less than unforthcoming. It had not been a reason to have been wroth. It had not been a destiny to go to the Aegean any more than to have traveled to New Alaska. And had I ever been asked, had I ever been put to, I would have answered quite the same, dressed in my gunny sack: snap snap snap. Like so, had I been pining by the fieldstone. Like so, had I been awaiting the brim-rock rains atop the bluestone quarry. Verily, I had known just as well that what had never been arrived before my mountaintop gaze had also never, like the barn swallow’s tail beneath its muddied nest below the wooden beams, departed.
I might as well as have been building tiny ships in tiny bottles. I might as well as have been filliping the tiny clippings of tiny fingernails clipped from tiny fingers the whole while. I might just as well have been pooling tiny frogs from a tiny pond into a tiny bucket all the time. And while I might as well as have been not doing or doing all these things, everyone else grew up. The boy had. The girl had. The father of the girl he got older. And the mother of the boy she got older. Both parents got older as did both of their children. And me, I might as just as well have been a shoebox of cedar shavings kept full of cedar shavings all the while, all the time. Oh, I had gotten older, too, but nobody it had seemed had seemed to notice. And, indeed, were I to have died while the boy and girl had grown up, I would have been interred off to a plot of the cemetery to the side of everything, to the side of everyone, somewhere over there, a spot in the green where neither unnamed paupers nor regal ancestors had ever belonged. And in that death, my wife would have glanced across her former husband, and their two children at both of them, from either side of my plot, and as the funeral party had walked away, the ground would have closed up forever upon me.
There had been men, cleaning men, janitors who had been clearing off a table that had had trash on it in the park. They were talking about and grumbling about taxes and money and the government. I sat down at the bench they were clearing off, and began talking to them about how this country had never been attacked, and how aside from 9/11, we in this country had always been safe. I had been thinking about other countries in Europe that were always more or less under or prone to being under attack. And I told the men, “There are three safe places in the world: here, the Arctic, and Antarctica.” At another table somewhat nearby, the Chairperson of the local university had overheard me talking, or lecturing to these men, these economic beliefs of mine as history to them. She called out to me. By then I had been flying in a loop over the park, an elliptically shaped, tilted loop over the park and trees and the benches. I was a little bit worried that if the soft pack that I had held between my ankles should slip out from there, that I would fall and die, but not overly so that it should happen. I was full of joy going around, flying like this, all around and over the park and benches and the Chairperson’s table with all the finely dressed professors and my table full of the janitors cleaning up the park. As I was coming ‘round in flight, traveling counter-clockwise, I saw standing on the ground my late friend, deceased thirty years ago. I was gladly surprised. Looking down I saw him glance up. His eyes were completely black, filled in with blackness. Maybe his mouth had been open and filled with the same complete blackness too. He, facing my direction, as I was flying above him, fell backwards to the ground buckling at the knees and died, and I woke up screaming at this horror.
The paper wasps’ home was shredded. And my love affair with life had ended, crumpled up in tiny spheres on the ledge of my piano. I did not know where I had put last month’s bills that had not been paid whose fines I had weaseled out of again. Dissolute and empty-bottled, I knew that Spring would greet the morning soon enough. Though cameras strapped in the trees had watched my antics and peccadilloes, I had been innocent as any pauper accused of public hoarding. Rooting through my neighbors’ bins, I had found the twine-bundled news retelling the stories of last century’s politics that really, in the end of days, meant a straw to the passing wind and me. I continued to decline the several invitations I had had—and continued to receive—to play my mandolin, which joy I had once known, and time ago had been well-known for, locally and elsewhere abroad. Who could now subscribe to such vanity? As for my relentless, unrelenting sweet tooth, such a habit I kept almost like a practiced virtue unto myself exclusively, and had chosen not to share the faintest fingertip of my thinking—or any other thought—which I might have had with another living anywhere. My pulse, my blood, it was—it had become—like a private magic that I was holding within, that I could not explain, like a walk I had had to take to the end of my snow-bedusted driveway, having risen from my warmed bed sleeping, just to go there in the middle of the late blackened night, emptied of the heavens’ own eyeless stars.
Most often I had been subordinated by my Dinkelacker. It had been one too many at the fair. My English was very good by this point in time, and my voice had still sustained an excellent baritone in manner. However little the folk coming knew well the Müllerin and its subversive themes of love and the hard lives of such a young man apprenticing, I sang out my heart from the bandstand. I did catch the eyebrows of a woman twice to my count. I sang even louder. There had been plenty of bratwurst and garlic and onions and sauerkraut for all to share if that had been the calling of the people. My overall girth I could see in her eyes was not a thing to spurn me for but spoke well of my success and overall self-comfort. In my homeland I had once been a professional. I had sung there Brahms and Schubert at taverns that had permitted such besides a spinet piano. Here, there had not been the same spirit naturally. And I had already become a curio if not without some original talent. The one who had seen me with her glances walked to another area of the fairgrounds with I believe another. And I continued to sing my heart out over the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to her where for decades I had resided now alone and personally willing.
I had lain in bed junked up on as much legal pharmaceutical junk available at any hip enough health food store to warrant any legitimate FDA investigation for days on end stuck in a hopeless rondo of Netflixable fixes to quell the fine and delicate balance I held onto between heartbreak and the sort of rage that would kneecap an entire band of innocents just for crossing my path by accident. That I could almost embrace the world in my arms and feel its immutable torque was like the torture of misapprehensions that I had continued to endure and could not pull myself eventually away from even as I felt myself being pulled repeatedly into the lowest and worst bardos of human existence deserving of the worst of mortals having made the most grievous missteps in life and definitely not fit for those whose footsteps were still being made somewhere above ground in the veldt, the tundra, the desert, or upon the soft blue shores of North Africa. I was like Hamlet who only he himself self-reflexively seeing his own madness self-contrived, self-invented, self-made, self-anointed, self-mocking, even he now cannot walk away from his poetical celestial prison of self—his peerless mind, so noble so true, now murderess. Instead, I had had to drowse myself to death, to Lethe onwards, into the good night, into the good morn, into the good empty day at hand like another and another and another, stultified like a poisoned man whose only final utterance will be to write the words neurasthenic cow, neurasthenic cow, neurasthenic cow over and over until he has stuffed his sweet American conscience into a thimble that sinks, when his good arm will have tossed it into the great ocean’s sublime embrace of nothingness.
I had been lying in bed blue and depressed. Even the pills did nothing. They didn’t make me sleep. Just even more immobilized. And that had made things even worse. The ruffled hawk feather from the dirt hills of Arizona. The bar of hand-poured silver from Eureka. The smooth Petoskey stone from the shore of Lake Michigan. Stashed away. In a shoebox. In another shoebox. All the other shoeboxes. I had had an entire row once that had been thrown away. Automatically. Even those. Hopeless. And even his colorful striped woolen blanket. Folded and dumped in the curbside dumpster. Even my notebooks. Dumped out in the same dumpster. Even there I could not bear witness to, bear to read my own testimonies. My self-deception. Amazing! The one! In love! At last! The same thing. Ad nauseam. Depressing. Even my own confidences with myself had been wistful inventions of the imagination mostly. Mostly like pretty, colorful decals a little girl had once pressed onto square glass bedroom windowpanes to make herself feel better about her grimly lived life—there’s a rainbow! there’s a unicorn! there’s a windmill! there’s a four leaf clover! there’s a smiling sun! Imagined. Made up. Pretty. Make believe. I had disconnected the landline, blocked my cell, same for any messages. I had lain in the lavender oil bathwater and had remembered how beastly he had been, crouching on his elbows lapping up water with his tongue by the lake, who had, it seemed, completely loved me from his ruined castle which love I had not I felt, dozing eventually into oblivion, nor had I accepted had been my own before I had completely slipped away myself.
Most of the cost had been passed on to others. A few shekels here, a few there. No one had argued otherwise—that it was an atrocity. All the villages and all the people in the villages had been wiped out completely. No one could even buy bread, let alone any grain to make a loaf themselves of it with. The Superpowers at hand had continued their embargoes to no avail anyway as usual but not to any extent that was newsworthy. What becomes that is always what crashes on the tarmac at international airports, not the day-in and day-out of people going about living their lives, as is the general wont of most of the planet’s 10 billion. The unimportant folk who, generally speaking live side by side each other, regardless of religion or race or their weird personal habits, had continued not to matter. Only when these had amounted to groupings that were populations of over 10,000 persons attacked by warplanes at the foothills, like massive bacteria cultures growing in agar in some backroom Petri plate, was there the chance of any possible notice. Neither the local news nor the big thumb of the Internet could until then have taken notice. It couldn’t and didn’t have to. That I had traveled onwards with my shaggy goats was just as well. Mine were as unimportant as any other goatherd’s flock. By the grace of Allah, I had had enough meat and cheese with me in my sack to last me a while.