Had I had an eye on my nostalgic marble, I would have parlayed my objections to the other fellow. But I forgot the shimmering tiger’s eye tucked safely in my left, front pocket. Oh, it had been there a year, eight, decades before. It had watched Juan go tumbling off over the bump on my second-hand bicycle flying with his hands spread out about to crash over the low wall into the garden below. It had cooked his hot spicy, Harlem beans for years without him, it appears. And where had the north star of Tunisia gotten us? The lost Arab Spring. The army of tanks stopped by a single man in Beijing. The stem of a white daisy stuck in the long thin barrel of a gun by a peaceful young woman. The glass marbles of the past, these have all rolled away, been swept away by a blind, invisible hand. The coarse, spent, gritty thing called democracy in America was rooted out of the world the way pigs’ snouts dig through the easy dirt looking for a dead man’s finger, a dead man’s hand, and the lost golden ring upon it ingested, too, anything at all there to mounch and mounch and mounch, to eat, to consume, to use up as though the good earth were only their own. Since Bobby died in ’68 it had been gone.
That it had been a little step away from where I had been and what I had seen was obvious and clear. There had been no steel girder pulled up from a cable from a crane’s boom in Portland overhanging a dry poured cement pad. There hadn’t been a nuclear waste zone clean up gang either somewhere in Central Asia that had never been reported, too small to have been picked up by sensors anywhere anyway. Nor a contributor to gut bacteria research and the effect of human health overall on the biome. No, I had side-stepped, side-swept it all. Had emptied my front pockets left and right of this week’s lint and last year’s recollections and memories and just gone out. Had gone out for a while, over last year’s leaves, last fall’s crash out. There was a little bit of bright fluttering divinity out there, too, as usual. And these angels, if rather poisonous, I had also skipped past.
It really had not been that difficult to forget, so difficult. It really wasn’t. If, when reading the newspaper or paying attention to a plane crash elsewhere, or some presidential wrangling, oh, then it was. Then it was impossible. Then it was like being not much different from a brightly colored gumball, a red or yellow or green or blue or white or purple ball being carried along on a conveyor belt. It was like that, then. Being part of the scrabble and the rabble of the news and the news industry and all the industry’s sundry entailments.
However, had I just wandered off, just a little bit, just off the double-yellow painted road stripes which had insisted no passing everywhere, for as long as they ran, then, when I did, once I had, the world was completely, the world was wholly different. Really, so much of the world is silent, quite silent. And in this silence there really are the velvet points of growing antlers to be shed and shed again, brown leaves from last autumn, and orange mushrooms decaying after rainfall.
The quiet end of everything just became quiet. The quiet of the snowflake fallen just became quiet. And the quiet crack of the limb cracking in the forest, too, just became quiet. The quiet of the stars elsewhere exploding became quite quiet. The girl who had a single match, she became quiet. And the boy with a single toy was quiet as well. Inside my paper house, it has always been this way. My paper plates and paper bowls, they both have always been so quiet to me. My paper cat and paper robe, washing in paper water, everything is so quiet here! Before even the paper sun had risen and shone its paper light across the valley, I am looking forward with my paper eyes at paper life and death. I cannot imagine what is written there, nor guess what has been perhaps before my time rubbed out. There are some terrible smudges here and there, somewhere far ahead, lost in the horizon of ‘tomorrow.’ Everything had been so very quiet, I was sure that I had begun my end. But I’m afraid right now I can’t replace such paper love with cashmere, poetry, and lace. At last, I am so oppressed by all the paper. The great heaviness of my solitude is like the silence of a gun, or the flexing of a bow, or the latches in an aeroplane cradling a silent bomb. I know the quietness must break up. Quietly, in space there is no papery sound—just space. And the flashes of God’s light spanning the breadth of entire galaxies bursting forth, is no more than a simple campfire ember burning out, after the campers have gone.
Winter is coming, and my tires are very thin. Lincoln’s bushy hairline barely clears the tread when I push a penny in. The cloves I planted on Columbus Day, the scapes they might by springtime’s greening be trimmed back, and grown to bulbs of garlic by July. So much is uncertain, while others are too clear: through ignorance, malice, and folly I lost the woman I love.
Through hours of stacking and tarping down, I ought to have enough wood to last me, to be just warm enough. I know for some there are the famed Snows of Kilimanjaro. But for me, I had just as soon be lost in an Irish public house, drinking and muting myself, guilty as a Christmas ghost. What it were to be a little kinder in my past. We, too, had quarreled though it never made time pass. It only made me brutal, recalcitrant, and increasingly deaf.
It made me care more and more about the fistful of coins I had left in my glove-box, and whichever rows I had of withering corn to get me through it. I became rustic against my own good and yours. O, these things, this blank apostrophe, are far from me now, and just like all the light, carefree change I once had tossed into the great River Danube, today’s lost treasure is become a heavy sunken thing to me.
The golden coy fish I have seen a-swimming in the bluestone opening in the hidden woods, to know their muddy bodies are safe there later on throughout the coldest months ahead is no little human comfort. And if I am graced to make it ‘round the snowy corners for the getting of a loaf of bread and chicken, and you are blessed with enough darkened morning peace without me, may it all to have been plenty.
There are so many things when I am walking that I no longer touch. I may see a leaf or I may see a stone, and these objects in the woods are so lovely I want to take them home. But I have learned to keep my hands still at my side. I have learned to see with my mind better, and look with my eyes. Even dead forked sticks that have fallen from far above, once I had sought to clean them up as I might clean up debris. But these suspended branches are really just hanging there in balance for a time. Nobody could position them as they are. Human hands are really no good for this. Instead, how long will this be so? Instead, what breeze is that? Instead, what life will bring a man at times to walk like this, and what events befallen him just as softly, gently sometimes to his knees?