“Will I always feel this way?
So empty, so estranged?”
– From the song “Empty” by Ray Lamontagne
Shadows spill in green tendrils across oiled waters. I probe the murky, moschate depths with a long, soggy stick. My hands are black and muddied. Reeds whistle beside me. A seagull mews somewhere far away. Minims of sweat glisten and drop from the end of my nose. I can taste the paracme, the tongue-slitting, nascent edge of the end.
A frog burbles to the vitreous surface. Two aurific eyes shimmer at me, bright as egg-yokes. With a gulp, they vanish. I can smell slime. My fingers balter through the mud. I am waiting. I am always waiting.
A mouse came in the night. He settled himself in a soft, grey ball beside my feet, nose nuzzling the coarse, back-door rug. I watched him take slow, solemn breaths, his sable eyes squinting, mordant. He died in the wash of a final sunrise that milked across a violescent sky, on the dawn of Halloween. Creatures come to me to die, sometimes.
The ants are burrowing into his raisin eyes, now. In a week or three, his tiny white mouse skull will be decoration on my desk.
“Walk on down the hill
Through the grass grown tall and brown
And still it’s hard somehow to let go of my pain
On past the busted back
Of that old and rusted Cadillac
That sinks into this field collecting rain”
– From the song “Empty” by Ray Lamontagne
A shiny-backed beetle
on a cold
then shuffles off
into a copper sea
A horse gallops by
bold and solid
his chestnut sides
He is followed
by the stab
of deer hooves
swift in flight.
I saw a coyote last night. There was a tattered hole in his left ear. I almost missed him, perched there on the porous sidewalk, his lemon eyes glazed in the orange glow of the streetlight, his tumbleweed tail thumping soundlessly.
I shuffled on, my shins swishing like plastic bags.
I noticed a glint of black blood on the pavement. Just a drop or two.
They shoveled up the rest of my remains, yesterday morning. I listened to profanities slung by the strident tongues of the Grey Men. They chipped at the concrete. I listened to their shovels scrape and scratch.
“Smells like hell but at least I’m not coughin’ up flies,” one said to the other, his shovel dripping.
“I ain’t seen a single maggot,” the other agreed, and nodded, digging back into the heap.
There was a groan and a metallic suction and crunch accompanied by the blinking back-up beeps of the garbage truck.
I felt a seizure welling up.
I once held a baby bird, a couple summers ago. The tiny creature, lighter than a fistful of sunflower seeds, quivered violently with life and burned my hand. I dropped it. Just before the cat pounced, I plucked it up again and set it in the sink.
Its eyes, like two drops of midnight, leered up at me, its pale neck of string nearly snapping- and with a peculiar rictus grin splitting its face apart, it commenced its screams for sustenance.
No harm done.
A slurry of vultures descended for inspection. They poked and rasped and then looked at each other in disgust.
I watched them shrug and mount the bilge-water sky in a flurry of razor-black wings. Even the scavengers reject my remains.
The sun is pooling on the horizon now, in the garden of ales. Bottles glitter, poking up from the mud like stakes. Another wistful twilight hanging, the air sharp with the scent of broken twigs. The faceless doll in the background keeps spinning, dangling from the thumb of a branch.
The moon sweeps over. Distant lights yawn. The clouds are shorn by a gust of oven wind. I see the coyote again, stretching in the middle of the road, his ear whistling. I whisper a muffled apology to him- though, I know not why.
He gives me a lopsided look, his lemon-ball eyes in slits. A carnivorous smile swims across his inky lips.
The ripples above never seem to end.
Ages ago, when I was wee, however, I fancied myself a micro David Attenborough and would wax on about all things Nature- to any poor sap that would listen. Happily, I quelled that odious impulse as a craggy old adult.
But I was rattled, recently. A rambunctious lad, the nephew of a friend, challenged my stance of stolid silence. Oh, he did all he could to crack through my laconic exterior. And now, since then, things have not been quite the same…
It had been another blazing day in the furnace, I mean Florida, when we picked up my chum and her nephew (an unexpected addition) for a jaunt down to the nearest freshwater spring for a swim in the scintillating, gemmy waters amongst the gars and the manatees.
The Lad, a boy of nine years, was quite a force to be reckoned with, and was also armed with a gargantuan bag of sweets…a child-shaped tornado, thus, swirled around in the backseat all the way to the spring.
Right away, I saw the child was bent on destruction and found imitating a demolition truck to be his favourite hobby. When released from the car, he immediately set out to ravage the local plant-life and spurt apple-piece projectiles at squirrels. Then the child became distracted by something shiny and sharp and moved on to that.
Well, I had to divert his attention, somehow. His auntie (my chum) was hopeless. And Sir was terrified of the child. Sir, wide-eyed and staring, quivered there like a soldier just returned from the trenches. Up to me.
The human-shaped tempest then plucked up a massive palm frond and began poking at people, plants and now insects. A palm frond is very stiff and sharp, I will have you know. It is a joy to be prodded by one.
“Right, time to go gator-hunting,” I said mildly, handing the lad my pack with two giant lemon-and-black flippers poking out.
“Wear this, it will make you look like a pro-snorkeler and very cool,” I said.
He put on the pack and applied the goggles I had handed to him and we trotted toward the aqueous solution up ahead.
He agreed and we lapsed into the refreshingly cool depths.
Of course, he picked up another, later…
After I inspected the fish-life darting about the shallow spring bed, I showed the lad how to get within a few inches of a massive, half-blind, leopard-banded gar fish. Then I showed him where gators had made depressions for sleeping and where a snapping turtle was most-likely to be found.
Then we swam to the spring-head, where the gurgling waters splashed the deep, crumbling sides of the blonde limestone surrounding us. I took him into a misty alcove where the walls of the limestone were black and especially dank and murky- and where the spiders loomed.
There is no greater joy than scaring innocent children.
I rambled on and on, by that point, about the flora and fauna of the spring, not realising that I had not blathered that.much with another human being in years.
It was in that moment that I noticed something was different- the tempest child was no more. He had been replaced by a polite, soft-voiced micro-scientist. He was transfixed by my babbling nature lecture and was not only respectful and courteous, but absolutely fascinated with the wonders surrounding us.
In that moment of realization, I was reminded of a quote from David Attenborough-
“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”
– David Attenborough
My chum and Sir were long abandoned by this point, unable to keep up with the two science-heads conducting their research up and down the spring, as it bled into the tea-stained river at one end, and gurgled up, fresh and clear, from the inner depths at the other.
We chattered incessantly, analysing and absorbing every detail of our surroundings, until a coy mist swathed the now chilly waters. The solemn light slipped away and we were forced to clamber up out of the watery wonderland before a canoeing ranger could pummel us.
As we dripped back toward the exit, the young scientist suddenly stopped and turned to look up at me and said something quite disturbing.
I stood agog.
“What, not even your teachers?”
“No, they hardly teach anything about it, and no one thinks it’s cool. But I think science and math are awesome!”
And that is what left me rattled.
My thoughts recently turned back to those words when I was reading the blog of a blogging chum, Rebecca Budd, and I came across a tribute she wrote to a pioneer of animal rights- Humanity Dick & The Donkey
I found the article affecting and enthralling and wrote a comment to Rebecca, to which she left me this grand reply-
“What I found most interesting was that Richard Martin’s determination to fight for animal rights had its genesis in his childhood. His mother’s love of animals ignited the spark of compassion in a small boy. It is a reminder that one generation transfers ideas, values, dreams to the next. Our actions and conversations DO make a difference now and in the future yet to be formed.”
“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”
– David Attenborough
Time to escape.
Pompous, highfalutin windbag…
Another dull interplay as Traffic Light refuses to change.
“You see, this is known as the arrow of time, which describes the asymmetrical nature of Time, and…”
Bunched traffic left in a puddle, behind.
What am I doing? What have I been doing all these years?
Unraveling like an old sweater.
All my life, pushing quaint little notes under the slouching fence. But I see no familiar, vibrant-faced recipient peeping back at me through the shadowy gap in the moldered boards. I only see darkness.
She must have grown up and moved away.
The other day, I noticed that I was missing another tooth.
I scuffle away, lutose and mildly bemused. The usual state.
Back to Entropy.
Fade to grain.
(Some experimental refractions. Thank you for drizzling by.)
The clattering waves. The intractable sky. Mute again, with gloomy grey eyes. A bit of bone cuts into my thumb. A touch of wind whispers through decaying feathers. I do not remember the last thing I felt before the embalming.
My mind is fossilized. As lively as the oldest stone. I lean back on the retracting cushion of Entropy, and gaze blankly toward the heavens. How dazzling is this thatch of scattering sparrows; how enchanting their dance of dewdrop shadows.
Thorny bliss is this mindlessness, oblique amongst the dried thistle and snapping bramble. I can vaguely hear it, somewhere wrapped in gauze; a little Life fizzing at the bottom of the quiet stream, beyond.
Like a mosquito, I insert a needle into it, now and then.
He rang the other night. I could hear that his lips were cracked and bleeding. He wept and begged forgiveness, but I had never felt slighted to begin with. Yet, my response was blank-eyed silence. There was only the sound of the restive wind moaning through the eaves to answer for me.
How stealthy a foe is this stifling captor; like a cashmere cloud, its downy coolness yawned over me. Its strangeness seemed safe, nestled inside its gossamer embrace, bound in a world without senses or thought. I am far too gone to feel alarm, now.
Regaining a pulse requires resurfacing. To drag the bloated body from the turgid depths. To pry open its chalky eyes, exposing them to the bone light of the wild ocean sky, above. To kiss its mucid, slimy visage and blow through its cold stringy-white lips.
“If reality fails to fill us with wonder, it is because we have fallen into the habit of seeing it as ordinary.”
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”
– Albert Einstein
I loomed beneath a dark feathering of sea-oats, pointed tips glazed with recent rain. I listened to the subdued murmur of little waves. The fetid and russet beds of sea-wrack had been washed away, leaving the sand barren and strange. A forlorn gull loitered at the swash line, analyzing the crinkling water as it fizzed in and out.
Distant lightning lazily branched from the moody-blue squall-lines and spidered across a sullen sea of herbal green. Coy ghost crabs emerged, removing dark masses of dripping sand from drowned burrows. They built little, lumpy mounds around the entrances to their small, black holes.
The storm was leaving me. How I longed for it to stay.
I was tortured the other night, seized with the memory of my little Siamese cat squeezing her eyes tightly shut for the last time. How swiftly she was gone, her soft, cinnamon cheek resting upon a colorful, flowing blanket that masked the metal slab beneath. I had never seen an animal euthanized, before. I understood, logically, that it ended the physical misery of her little, bony body.
Yet, how troubled I am by that last image of peace…of life tenderly released.
My mum died of a similar ravenous kind of disease. I remember that final image. Her face waxen and unreal, her mouth a small, black hole. She did not tightly close her eyes. She was not escorted quietly, through a warm wash of sleep, into the darkness beyond. Yet, I was not so disturbed by her image in death. And how vividly there lacked any look of peace…
But I wish the storm would never leave. I want, forever, to hear its screams over this cold and fleeting sea of herbal green. How I wish there were no end to rain. Just as there seems to be no end to Grief.
“Darkness settles on the ground
Leaves the day stumbling blind,
Coming to a quiet close
And maybe just in time”
– From the song God Only Knows by Joe Henry