Everyone loves a sunset. The ribbons of lavender, peach, orange, and purple in the eyes. It could be off the coast of Costa Rica. It could be seen across the Promenade of Brooklyn Heights. It could be remembered caught along a little, pleasant street in Hammam-Lif. It could have been St. Petersberg, Tallinn, Brno, New Delhi, or Kalamazoo. It doesn’t matter where, or from what mountaintop we have seen them. Over chemical wastelands or the most poetic climes of England, sunsets are beautiful. They restore the daylong soul and bring the tiring body a welcome touch of sightful peace. As for the moon, the moon, I’m afraid, is full of heartbreak. Its borrowed rays scatter across the darkened water like frightened fish. The fuller the face the deeper the woe. In the middle of night, like the saddest dream I ever dreamt, I wandered out upon an empty golf course one time to see the shining full moon myself. I was with a lovely young lady who did not love me an inch back. But to have been with her there this once, stranded in the middle of those acres of softly groomed grass, I could only imagine that—were we seen from afar standing so close in the sweet radiant vacancy of Earth by that all-seeing midnight moon herself—she would have exclaimed, “Look! A human treasure to behold!”
Once before I had had a lover. And I used to send her notes by the only carrier pigeons left alive on Earth. And she used to write me notes back herself, flown across the river dividing us. At times my language had been haughty and grim. Mostly, however, it was pleasant and nimble and full of grace. For I am mostly pleasant, nimble, and full of grace. The river over which these precious birds once flew was fast-flowing and dangerous, especially during the storms of late summer. To this end, I flew her a note that said, “Let us write each other no more, lest our meaning drown.” And by this I meant that until the whitecaps and the tall waves upon the raging river abated, we should cease our correspondence. This last missive of mine, I learned, once the river was calm and smooth again, was understood quite differently by her. The bird whose note from her I read delivered this: she took me and my meaning quite abruptly and altogether harshly. In short, her note revealed she pictured me to be a hard and dark and embittered man. For some time after this, the pigeons flew across the river back and forth. All our meaning, whatever it had been, was completely wasted now. The last carrier pigeon alive has drowned. My final note I’ve got, I’m rolling that back and forth between my fingertips now. As there is no way ever to send it, to ever get across my sorrow and my love for her, my words are just as soon drawn upon the blowing sands of Arabia as one whose name is writ upon water.
We had always meant these things to be fun. And we had always meant these things to be extravagant. After all, we ourselves were fun and we were extravagant. If there had been fools to give our money to, we would have given our money to all the fools. And if we had been princesses, we would have given them all our jewels. There was nothing we would hide, and nothing we would not disclose. We went to market with our wallets open, our purses unstrung. One time, an archer among us, he had a quiver full of one thousand arrows, and he shot one thousand arrows directly into the heart of the Sun. The entire time he laughed, and was laughing. One of us, a dreamer, woke up laughing. “I dreamt a dream,” he said, upon waking, and then went back to sleep forever. The bankers banked. The looters looted. These were glorious times, and everyone did as he did. And everyone, too, did as she did. A seamstress among us, she sewed seams by night and day. The proprietor of a butcher shop, she cut with an ax bones and meat all day. Ah, these were glorious times indeed! Sometime a hard rain fell, and it was just that, nothing more: a hard rain. Since then, everything was mixed up. Since then, everything has been mixed up. Times and tenses askew, awry. . . .The pickpockets sell candy and trinkets on the corner place. The realtors herd sheep in the meadow. The priests sells bonds to large companies. The newspaper carriers collect extinct passenger pigeons in glass boxes, or pin the wings of butterflies back on white framing paper. The teachers peddle marbles and board games which of course nobody thinks of ever buying. The dancers fish coins out of wishing wells in this or that piazza. Some of us, who were the loners, we harken back in our minds to simpler times which we all still sometimes remember, chatting now about the old days gone, around campfires to our new found friends crouching with us there in the glowing dark.
The painted stone reliefs of Arcadia will already have been vanished. Whatever had looked upon these walls will have long disappeared. Still, the lichen will grow and exist as it did. And somewhere else, the horseshoe crab, with its strange bluish blood, will crawl upon the sea floor. And somewhere else, too, the louse. And somewhere a beetle. Adamantine reality will not call to us. Though another had once said that the stars are there because they needed us to see them. And still another yet because we had imagined them to be. But we can see today that these boldings are over. It is not very difficult to see that now. Whatever was our tenancy here, it was had briefly. At times it was most spectacular. And glorious. At others, not so much. From a leftover bluestone quarry that was completely abandoned 150 years ago, it is still important for the few passersby who come here to walk through last season’s fallen leaves along the footpath and pass by this silent, earthly beauty.
His friend had once declared that he had had the fantasy to remove by his death any evidence that he had ever existed. Imagine, the friend had once said, how in the past people strove for immortality. Now, he insisted, everybody—from the day people are born—they are followed by and create strings of numbers, identifications, and identities by which they will be known down through the ages. Poets, politicians, philosophers, the people who live next door, everybody who’s moved away! The whole world! Everybody’s immortal! What everybody used to strive for today is unavoidable. And the friend’s laughing friend would say to whomever he had managed to collar when the two friends bumped into each other in public: My friend here wants to erase every trace of his existence! Then, he would kiss his embarrassed friend on the cheek, and wander off, still laughing.