My other occupations had been less salubrious. I had meant to say ‘salutary,’ but memory device had already been in play, so that was what what had become recorded. There. Then. It had been once a taxidermist’s workplace time ago, as the phrase is wrought. Like cast iron. Sheet metal. Silversmith. Filigree of horses mated with each other over great green meadows tromping about until the penned in moment with such stallion blind to his own mandated purpose. Anyway, (effective enough segue into the next non-related segment due to similarity of sounds but not perhaps necessarily meaning or meanings) I had not been aware, or made, or made to be aware, that my little log cabin office’s pedigree had been in the recent or in the distant even faraway past ever been used to disembowel and stitch up hunted animals, hunted for their to-be on plaque mounted heads, or whole body’s glass-eyed standing in some mock in situ pose. Fair place to offer my own journeying services of soul, of psyche, of etymological butterfly dreams of the nonce. Like starlight I suppose stuffed inside Cassiopeia, a real-life constellation of another’s myth, and myth-making, co-opted to be our own. Like Heidegger’s Third Reich, if he had ever had one…even yet encore autrefois, etc., I had slightly suspected his little Bavarian shack on the hillside had not been dreamed of like that, when pondering van Gogh’s boots. And a day’s bricklayer. And even a supermarket cashier. Once. And only once. “Ein Mal jedes, nur ein Mal.” And so forth, beaded and threaded. Here. Now. And of all I had preferred ditch-diggers at the foothills of these sedimentary precipitously slung mountains for planting small trees, butternuts, doomed ashes, hemlock which had once, alongside the great Eastern Pines, populated the Earth. Where, spaciously, I had best been, O Best Beloved: woodcutter, steadfast and sure, trim and full of the day’s finely drawn muscle, hewn, with the fine sinew of slack-limbed Prince Achilles.
I had come from a family of ironists. I was the only three-leaf clover in it. The rest of them were off on some exploration, either to find or to lose themselves. They would travel. To Madagascar. To South Korea. To Denmark. To California. To Alberta. To the Galapagos. To Lhasa. To Nova Scotia. To the Yucatan. It was all some sort of clover-pulling, a worldwide hunt for something a little different, a little vain, a little less known. It was some sort of pretend game of Marco Polo that I never bought into. So I was never the same. I was, as they said, “born without shoes,” which meant that I did not go, I did not travel, I was not fit to travel or go anywhere because, as the idiom goes, I had no leather shoes upon my feet to protect them and to be able to do so. So I stayed at home and was considered by my immediate kind unworldly and provincial. I had been the kind of person who marked time by an ax. By this I had meant only that I followed the natural course of the seasons. There were seasons to chop wood. There were seasons to chop down a tree. There were seasons to lay the blade into a stump. There were seasons to lay it in the corner of the shed. That’s what I meant. The way it worked—irony—was to pretend either in person or in letter that you were just a bit dumber or a bit more stupid than you were in actual life; or, if nobody around could guess it, then just you yourself in your inner, personal life would do it. Only you would know. And most of the time that’s how they were. Once, after a minor operation, when I went to visit my own father in the hospital, he lay with his hands clasped together around a rose in the middle of his chest with his eyes closed in his bed. Then opened them and spoke to me. Like that. I had always been the “I can go on, I must go on” type; they were the “I can’t go on, I’ll go on type.” I was as dumb or as smart as my thumbprint on a Coke bottle. My breath was the fog blown on a bathroom mirror. My very first metaphor was seeing my own image of myself looking back up at me in a clear lake. My last inhalation in life will be the word Allah, and the last exhalation in life will be the word Love.
Little known thieves had stolen all my papers. I saw them yesterday, and the day before that. I hadn’t minded so much, not since Munich, not since Lake Placid. All the tiny photographs of me were gone. They had been used once as bookmarks placed in all the books I read which, too, had been tossed in the thieves’ sacks scurrying up along the goat path on which they had planned their escape, toiling with the most precious of my belongings. To this there wasn’t any merit anyway. These items held no further value to anyone, and to me, they were like stamps fluttering away from a long held collection, whose little, hinged gummed tabs holding them there in places on so many album’s pages had given way to the wind and ages. So had flown my many identities: shoemaker, critic, purveyor of bath soaps, scrupulous lover, Thucydides quoting high-rolling banker, plastic goods recycler, snow drifter, cruise boat crooner, elk hunter, paint peeler, bird seed filler, tin soldier melter, English Channel swimmer, North African sun bather, crossword doodler, morphine addict, coffee grinder, hustling dance boy, seafaring stowaway mapmaker, computer flunky renegade matchmaker, sugar frosted cake maker, blood red bugle blower, forest pine cone bagger, catnip planting gardener. I really didn’t mind this. It was a great relief, as I watched them besmirched with time, pulling the heft over the topmost ridge to the other side where they all but disappeared together into the sudden extinction of longing below the brightening winter clouds.