Saturday, May 26, 2007

Crossing the River

Across the street, behind the salmon-brown stone of the "Family Health Center," a tree's leaves are trembling, roiling. Its branches shift uncertainly. It draws my eye, over and over.

Sixty-two. A dangerous age, I recall, with some amusement. I am only forty-nine, but that, apparently, is a dangerous age too.

That secret, exulting ferocity has been visiting me again. The certainty that all bets are off, that they've always been off. Something feral uncoils in me.

The leaves draw my eye again. Yeats saw them, just this way. The Madness of King Goll, is it? The intolerable fluttering of the leaves. We see them, as any predator sees a shivering tethered thing. I have been watching a tiny six-week-old kitten play with a mouse-toy. Like that.

What does it all add up to, anyway? Christianity tells us we'll get a grade at the end of term, pass or fail. But there is no grade, and there is no term. There is only the fluttering of the leaves.

Some people drink, to retrieve this state. I used to, myself. But not now. It will not last, and nothing will make it last. Nothing will make it stay away, either.

Strange things begin to happen, when you wind your mind too tight for too long. It can spring suddenly back into forgotten pasts, or forward into unexpected emptinesses. I think of poor old Wordsworth. "Was it for this?" he kept wondering. The leaves trembled, and his eyes went there again. "Was it for this?"

But listen. Listen. And wait until you hear. There is only one thing you can do wrong, really, and that's to stop listening: to decide there's not going to be any answer, and try to make one up. Some things you can fake -- some things you even have to fake -- but this isn't one of them.

There. The tree has gone still. Already it is fading, changing. I am back in the ordinary world, an ordinary man. The lines above read like a coded message. I no longer know what I meant. Epileptics are tired when they come out of a seizure, though they don't know what they've been doing.

I keep trying to make the pieces all fit together. Like Wordsworth, again; poor old Wordsworth. It tails away into repetitions, feebler and feebler echoes. ("I, too, have written some books," murmured Swift, humbly, in the madhouse.)

A shirtless man walks by the window. His eyes are downward; his shoulders canted over. He carries his left arm high, as though it were a rifle and he was crossing a river; the fingers of that lifted hand wriggle and grasp at space.

No comments: