Justine van Praagh

old ruts in forest

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.

Oskar Levanti

red snow dusted barn

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.

Leftover Ancon Sheep Rocks

sheep rocks 1

These stones had been here for almost two hundred years, maybe more. Cleared by a farmer’s hand, he laid them atop another much larger one he could never move, to clear his pasture land for grazing Ancon sheep. These short-legged, wooly animals were a genetic aftermath of some Massachusetts mistake permitting low stone walls and shallow fences around the countryside to be built. These stones I had found here and there about these woods were leftover afterthoughts of some greater task. No Giza in the desert. No Chichen Itza. No Stonehenge. Just a practical doing away with a bit of solitary labor. For me their anonymity was a great relief. Unless some reckless body troops through these woods again long after I am gone, they were there. Unless a Wrecker of Mead Halls, some outlandish, wanton arm of purposeful carelessness comes by, these rocks must remain lovely and pointless as the backside of the illumined moon, dust upon some forgotten shelf of being, a pair of wings fallen off a nameless angel. Long after we ourselves had been allowed to fade away like nothing, like that hard-working farmer’s breed of sheep, all our sunken thoughts were still awaiting some rising of the great Ocean’s long forgotten seas.

Purple Mountain Wood Stove

mountains arizona

Already, my wood stove is burning. I stacked the cords myself. I fear six cords of wood may not be enough. Winter is long and full of deep snow. I had once had another pair of hands to help me. But they are gone. That was a time I do not regret, and have not seen that in a while, a life like that when the tandem knocking of each piece of wood laid against the growing long stack our wordless work kept the coldness of winter out. And I get on, je me débrouille, because I now must. That is the way with things, with spiders nested in the corners of bathroom shower stalls, soldiers stationed on a foreign front, or men and women somewhere listening to an easy-going book as they commute back and forth between their city office buildings and glass-lit evening houses lit up and down the streets. In any case, I’m not sure there’s enough wood to sustain me before the tubers in the ground have all grown (or rotted). I had better scour the deadfall with my saw and ax soon. The meager fronds of the ferns are already yellowing. The bears are circling wider and wider in these searching final days before they disappear until May. Cries of geese overhead, these are common. How with my jolly heart and glad-eyed ways I became myself here to be living at the foothills of the Rockies, it is no mystery to tell at all. It is only to be remarked upon, I think, that unexpectedly I made myself saddened by all the passing of everything that I had known and all there was standing once before such great purple majesty.

I Can Go On, I Must Go On

deer jawbone and leaves

Several years ago, or, as I’d say, a few years back, I had glanced upwards and saw a lone deer making its way down the steep half-wooded hill behind my house. It did so holding its broken left back leg up, the hoof never touching the ground. A pretty big animal, it slipped and skidded down the leaves and scattered snow there. Once I saw it had crossed my yard, I next saw it crossing the iced-over road, where it fell. It scrambled on the slippery asphalt before it rose. Lame, hobbled, damaged I watched it disappear into the forest on the other side. And I thought about this poor beast’s days being numbered. Despite pain, injury, and hopeless winter survival it did not give up. We of course do. And when we foresee coming despair, we sometimes do strange things. We have ourselves tied to ships’ masts lest singing voices carry us away. We have ourselves anesthetized lest we drive far off into the night and accuse our forsaken lovers of fistfuls of treacheries. We half-booze ourselves to death lest we feel the Earth’s own sorrow. But the will and pacing of this deer was something else. It was more than symbol, and more than sign. It was the very breath of life, whose only certain destiny was to one silent day stop somewhere in the woods alone.