"The stars are threshed, and the souls are threshed from their husks."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The leaves outside my window of a thorny bush into which I regularly empty my mop bucket full of olive oil, shoe dirt, beer, the slug trails left by dropped slices of avocado, and bleach are curved, cupped like hands to receive the light of the sun. The paper of the leaves are made to burn like lanterns. They collect light like taxmen.

The light speeds them towards seed then redeems them. This is the merchandise of redemption.

I almost let noon pass before having a drink. Then I caught myself.

The backsides of our apartments are old-earth flat. The walls are an adobe brown that seems hard and white when in full sun but mottled like the face of the moon. The sun on the building is as the sun on a sword.

A thorn bush that scratches my window is making lanterns of its leaves. The bush is hateful to me, but I see that in this moment, seen from the dark place in which I sit, it is beautiful. When I wash the floors of my kitchen I take great pleasure in pouring the black alchemy of exhausted bleach water into it. The bush will not die. The inherited rosebush in back is turning into its own husk. A lesson, perhaps. My desire to set a boot on the throat of my own evil does not nourish the good. Perhaps that is how we know evil. Evil is that which will not die.

The leaves collect light like taxmen.

A taxman is a New Testament truth to me. He comes to the door, snarling like a dog, a ruined soul branded by the distant, indifferent Romans. His stink confounded luxury and sweat. No one told Christ that he could not raise the dead. Indeed, it was demanded of him and he performed the feat casually on his way to other places. He invited only disapproval when he staunched the stoning of Magdalene.

But Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree to see what he could see.

Redeeming the taxman was the unthinkable. And how odd, that the foundation of the discontent that shaped our nation was themed thus: not that we paid a taxman. That we paid someone else's taxman. Democracy has, apparently, redeemed the beast, and taken him, somehow, from us, by bringing him back into the fold-or by leading us to him.

There is honey in the scent of the fig tree.

There is honey in the scent of the fig tree.

When a child-- in childhood-- in the wilderness of youth--

I was a child. I fashioned boats from leaves. The cupping they performed for the sun made of them, in death, vessels impervious to water. I took seeds of wheat and promoted them to captain and crew. They sailed the round moss-islanded waters of our horse tank. The only solid land was a two by four thrown in so the occasional squirrel or raccon would not drown. I stoned the ships until they sank. Dried parchment-white gourds, halved, were superior ships to leaves. They would bear a twig mast and I lashed oak leaves to the twig, though the innovation was more sculpture than sail. Cottonwood leaves sailed better than any other leaf, and pleased with the elegance of their fatness. These ships might survive for half an hour or more.

There is a Merwin poem that begins: I have been cruel to a fat pigeon. I will give you the poem whole.

I have been cruel to a fat pigeon
Because he would not fly
All he wanted was to live like a friendly old man

He had let himself become a wreck filthy and confiding
Wild for his food beating the cat off the garbage
Ignoring his mate perpetually snotty at the beak
Smelling waddling having to be
Carried up the ladder at night content

Fly I said throwing him into the air
But he would drop and run back expecting to be fed
I said it again and again throwing him up
As he got worse
He let himself be picked up every time
Until I found him in the dovecote dead
Of the needless efforts

So that is what I am

Pondering his eye that could not
Conceive that I was a creature to run from

I who have always believed too much in words

—W. S. Merwin

The sun has not gone away as I thought it would. I believed it would dry up as soon as my little letters appeared on the screen. Vanity of vanities.

What then am I? A leaf to the sun a bell a hand a curled tongue? The sun is on me as the sun is on a sword. But is it peace or resignation that inevitability satisfies?


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