Friday, March 20, 2009

Here And There

Can I tell you how I came to be here, at the this time and this place, this point of convergence between dimensions that I imagine or experience or dream, this moment that I may not understand at all? If I tell you, swear to me by every hole in this cheese you hold so dear that you will accept every word I say as true and not press me on matters which seem questionable, for I fear that it will break my delicate grip with this reality if you prod it unnecessarily. These things are like fine webs made of spun sugar mounted one upon one another to form pink cloudy softness, webs that once touched with sweaty hands or a curious tongue merely melt into sticky sweetness, no more constant or fixed than human promises. I will tell you because you seem sincere and because you are here, an imaginary ear for my imaginary voice, so take an imaginary seat there by my imaginary hearth and I will tell you the story of the black man and the little bird.
First I will tell you about the black man. It does not matter which of these things I tell you about first as the events surrounding these two nouns; man and bird, occurred simultaneously, if they occurred at all. That is to say that sequence has everything to do with language in that the word is like a narrow doorway through which only one topic may pass at a time, like little drops of dewy spittle from my lip to your ear, a tiny packet of data about things which have been occurring in a world too vast to squeeze into dew drops or words or feathers that have been made into writing quills instead of the wings of flying birds. One comes before the other only because that is all that the doorway permits, all that that ungracious lord, THE WORD will allow, one at a time to visit the well of communion between souls.
So first the black man. Let me tell you this of him; he who is the cohort of countless witches condemned to burn as well as those that fly round secret fires in a whirlwind of ecstasy before they are discovered by the mob, he is not what you expect. He, as I have known him anyway, is always mild mannered, self composed and unassuming. He that knows so much will ask you what he well knows as though he never knew it and not to play a game with you, but just that the two of you shall partake of knowledge together in the renewed asking of a question. His hair flecked with grey, his posture stooped, he keeps trees that bear fruit, unusual trees and he will peel back the leathery skins of those fruits to reveal the strange delights held within and offer it to you as water to a parched man. He would withhold nothing, least of all that which grows from seed to meat. Should you wish to partake, he shares without reserve. What is his is yours while you are with him and again later if you choose. He is also a fisherman who draws great shy beast from the deep with lures unlike any used by ordinary men. He will draw up the arcatuthus for you and then you will see your greed for the catch dissolve into sympathy for the beast and you will see its children born and hope that it survives captivity and may return to the deep, but if not, then there are still the offspring in whom to invest this new found tenderness. He is a stranger, a lover, a father all in one, your oldest friend, a friend that you have forgotten. Never did he forget you. Never did he hold it against you that you would forget or swear that you are unacquainted with him. He has all the tenderness of an old grandfather, the wisdom of a priest of one of those true orders of mystic stewardship. That is the black man.
And then there is the bird. I met the bird in a parking lot looking for a crumb to nab. I was putting groceries into the back of the truck and I heard him say that he was hungry, so I broke off some bread and tossed it gently his way as I had been taught by the black man. The bird turned his head slightly to look me in the eye and thanked me very much for taking notice of him. I told him that it was my pleasure and I hoped he would enjoy the fare and as he went heartily to it I got into the truck and drove away. How did he look? Well he was small and sort of grayish brown, a sort of sparrow maybe. It is his little voice which was clearest to me both then and now. I heard his voice again this morning while I walked from school. He was singing gaily. You will tell me that sparrows don’t sing, but I must tell you that by today he was no longer a sparrow. His voice was very clear and bright and I listened to it as I walked, touched by its merriment. Then I noticed that he sang the song that cars sing when they are rubbed the wrong way by someone who cannot disarm the alarm. It was the song of that alarm which goes off in low class neighborhoods and runs through a series of different obnoxious tones and rhythms so that the offending car rubber will be dismayed by the shrill and clownish noises and depart in all due haste. Now my friend the bird repeated this same song in his lovely trill. I stopped beneath the tree laden with pink blossoms and listened to his heart bursting with joy through his rendering of this popular new song. The outward form mattered not at all. The lyric to the song, the tones, the rhythms, all were quite unimportant. What mattered so was the heart. That is what he administered liberally to that tired old alarm call. He made it a masterpiece.
“You should try it.” The black man said tasting a succulent gem from one of his trees. “That’s what we do. We take what they made and we remake it, we remake it with ourselves in it. It doesn’t matter at all what they meant for it to be in the first place. We make it alive.” He said this with a little flittering hand gesture that reminded me of the bird. His beard was short and sparse then, composed of short curled salt and pepper bristles. His skin looked like milk chocolate, soft and weathered with age. I say, sing on little bird, sing on and I will listen to you and to the black man too.
What about you friend? Are you listening to me now, telling you this story with gaps wide enough for us both to fall through? If you haven’t heard, then no matter and never mind, so long as you spare me your criticisms. I tell it to you the best way I can with this clumsy stuff, trying to wedge a leviathan through a hole made for a mouse. I could have just told you the story of Iron Hans, painting the forest in greens so deep they were almost black like the rotted underside of forgotten chard. I could have told you any story at all, an old, old story, one that you have heard a dozen times before and done as much if not more that I did here. It is not what I told you really that will profit you at all, but what I poured into every senseless syllable. It comes from the fount at the heart swelling over after the rains of winter, ready to feed all the spring grasses and from them, little lambs, and from them, hungry lions.
That is the story of how I came to be here, how we crossed here like roads running unknown courses, my imaginary voice and your imaginary ear, joined for a moment and now soon to part, for now I take my leave of you. I will never mind if you forget me. I will never mind if you claim that we never met.

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