Temple of Mystic Gestures
The sprawl of shadow across the slope reminds me to lie down in the road to be run over at your convenience. Thank you for the tire tracks across my midsection. They didn’t hurt, but the weight of your little electric car softened some of my favorite organs. Don’t worry: they’ll heal. And if they don’t, I’ll self-refer to the neighborhood temple of mystic gestures, where strange gods deploy with little giggles and sneers.
Meanwhile gunshots riot in the forest as deer hunters plug each other. They laugh and smash beer cans on their foreheads. The beer is still in the cans, though, and the hunters knock themselves senseless. What a violent world we’ve created—my dented torso, the concave foreheads and shot-riddled carcasses of hunters, the shadows warping the hillside. You reverse your little car and back right over me again, hoping I’ll burst like a pinata. I won’t. I’ve toughened in the sloped November light, my skin tanned and fine-grained enough to contain and waterproof me against even your slyest intentions.
Incest of the Arts
You say that the orange and yellow forest resounds like Schubert. I say it tinkles like Bartok, or swings like Glen Miller. You’re angry that I take your metaphor-making so lightly. Maybe I’m too old to appreciate the incest of the arts. Maybe I’m too candid to deserve your sunrise smile. The day is passing like a kidney stone. You drive with determined focus, hoping to run me over although I’m in the passenger seat beside you. Look—a hieroglyphic of geese scratched in the slate of sky. Don’t try to count them as you drive. I’ll tell you if they have as many movements as a Schubert quartet or as Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. That has five movements, none of them as solemn as you are. Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, String Quartet Number Fourteen, has four movements. But there are at least a dozen geese in that shaky vee overhead. No, don’t look—you’ll run over that man walking his dog. He has named the dog Franz, or maybe Béla. Regardless, the dog is looking up at the geese and barking his little head off, lancing with sharp sounds the fragile autumn light.
On the Edge of Technology
Living on the edge of technology suits me. Only slightly wired in, I spark easily, drawing as little current as possible. You claim to be battery powered, but I detect a trail of sixteen-gauge wire leading somewhere. Oh, it stretches to the coffee shop. Regulars rehearse their digital careers on laptops while slurping coffee dispensed by women sporting aggressive but slightly misshapen bosoms. The men who dish the deli food are a little awry, too, angled to the south. Your tail of wire leads me to the long counter where the loneliest freelancers sniffle over apps they’ve designed but can’t get to work. “Let me try,” I tell one bearded young fellow. He casts a downcast while I fiddle with his code. A spark leaps from my left or negative paw to his right or positive paw. The app flames into being. Within a few seconds it has earned half a billion dollars in ad revenue. He thanks me by paying for my coffee. I’m touched. You’ve observed this male bonding from a safe distance. Now you coil up your wires and scuttle to the parking lot, weeping with either shame or joy.
Private and Public
The nineteenth century returns in a gasp of steam and trill of courtship. Passenger pigeons blacken the sky. Pleasure maximizes in a stutter of corsets and stays. Horsehair sofas groan with well-requited sex. Have you ever seen such public affection before? Pink and beige, brown and cream bodies flicker in sunlit rivers where everyone is private and public at once. Do I mean public privates? No, your humor is misplaced. No one laughed in the nineteenth century unless they meant it. You don’t mean it. You would never wear a corset. You would never frock yourself in clouds of drapery. Think of Emily Dickinson gardening in the deepest dark, long after the family has gone to bed. Think of Thoreau’s moonlit walks, manure squelching under his boots. Where did all those steam engines go? Scrap metal recast in the form of human figures that now dominate. No wonder we feel so tough. No wonder we rust so easily. No wonder no one needs corsets or stays.