Once upon a time, back when I thought ‘muscat’ was what lived in the river behind the fields behind the house, there was a future that beckoned as only futures can. This particular future was mine, and I looked forward to it. Analysis would come later, with growing up and marrying and a vengeance. Now there was just the future.
The present, I got that for my birthday, didn’t fit anymore. Someone close had died and I thought it was my fault though it happened far away. I didn’t, really. Think about it. But I knew.
The sun shone anyway and right way through the forest edge where we kept losing the ball. The larger dog always found the ball and brought it back, sometimes days later, always wet. The sun burned the dew from the weeds and in April and September, sometimes October, we would tie our sweaters around our waists and go looking for nuts and birds and animals. We found muscat tracks in the mud, and travels and futures in all the house’s books, futures written so they flew past every time we looked in: Defoe, Carroll, Dickens; Dumas, Voltaire, Anna Sewell (lady authors had first names). Forests and books full of black bears seldom seen.
I met China, a missionary lady from there who came to visit one of my aunts, and didn’t think to ask her which part. ‘China’ was enough to know. Still is, although I’m conditioned now to think I should think it shouldn’t be.
I thought that I learned early that real life wouldn’t teach me much. That’s what I thought it taught me until real life intruded. Burst in. The beauty I found and find every day comes from nature itself and also as distilled into books and paintings and music. We are the distillers, we think.
We are the distillers, we think. We wonder why it is not ‘sometimes’ but ‘every time’ and think that’s thought. Like others, I turn my ‘thoughts’ to provenance and teleology, and, like them, achieve nothing that affects berries, birds, animals, or China; achieve only long tortuous sentences. Maybe China is affected, but where in China?
The stillness of Jeanne d’Arc as she lies in Rouen. That’s a future. They burned her. I know that. Usually I don’t think to ask who burned her. ‘They’ is enough to know. They used up their futures. A cloud of meaty smoke.
When the wind comes down from Normandy and the leaves turn tail and it’s impossible even for the larger dog to find the wet ball, we jump into our sweaters and think of futures in which we migrate to places we would sweat in our jumpers. Endless sand beaches occupy us but not really, considering how triste the tourists look doing the Sanibel shuffle in perfect weather all the daze of their unoccupied lives. They don’t think about it, but they know.
We turn our faces to the autumn wind. We sing of futures, and wonder why mayonnaise here, unlike back when, leaves an aftertaste that muscatel only dissipates, not kills.
The silly burgers loll at ease
upon the fading flora.
They fondly think that fauna extinct
is adorable in photos.
They read that their actions blight the earth
with heat and the proverbial ill wind.
They say they’ll solve the problems by
having fewer new grandchildren.
Of course there are naked ladies in the garden.
The gorgon guards them as he has half the summer.
And we, sighting them, bicycle by as if,
if we keep our eyes averted, he will harden
till his menace, veiled, a cryptic, scary mummer,
gets mooted, and – the way icicles stiff
with frost will fracture when struck from the side –
then we pop him with our handlebars and ride
unscathed through the garden gates and, once inside,
acquaint ourselves at leisure with the ladies.
We listen, as the prettiest and the smallest
of them (she’s pleased we ogle her) explains
the rules – which are, when each of us has made his
peace, the one of us left standing tallest
may banish all the others to the plains
where they’ll monkey round to grind the gypsy organ
while he, new Zola, like the pirate Morgan
gets crowned the garden’s statutory gorgon.
P.S. It is sexist to depict the hideous gorgon
as usually or especially a female.
The reigning Morgan Zola’s from Glamorgan
and’s for a male a very hot tamale
We don’t want facts and thought. We want a story
we believe in and can use to justify our killing
the planet while imagining we are safe.
Here’s one candidate story: soon the elite will live on Mars
and we will be among that proud elite.
(Fantasies compounded must come true.)
Here’s one candidate story: we are successfully inventing
ways to vaporise the poor and breathe the air
this releases to live forever and to fly.
I asked the wild Crow who is visiting from the forest near the sea
which of all the things we hear are true for eternity.
I needed to know to save my soul which edicts are divine.
The Crow eyed me sadly as she cawed, ‘Your myth is as good as mine.’
He slept a while and when they called his name
he slept some more. The coach to Heaven left.
He woke prodded by the anti-celestial tines
of a pitchfork which he reckoned, by its heft,
was being wielded by a devil of large size.
‘You’re a big devil, aren’t you?’ he said. He tried to smile.
The devil flung him hindmost into a haystack
which needled him. This was no way to while
away the aeons he knew he’d be waiting
his turn for yet another reincarnating.