Thursday, October 11, 2012

An ice giant finds its visage under the noisy blade of a chain saw, its creator meticulous and clothed only in burlap and cured hides. Spectators arrive, some of them by bus, but mostly on foot on unseen trails through the forest thick on either side of the highway here like insulation. Their eyes are wide and their faces drawn, the wind whipping through them like rumors, and the Styrofoam containers, crushed and angular, tumble past their feet in threes and fours. All along the highway I kick the cairns over when I find them, scatter the bits and pieces with the toe of my boot. Vengeance, I’m sure, for something I can’t remember, an insult delivered via pigeon, a deep recess in the center of my person filled almost entirely now by shadows and bone spurs, by the physical remnants of whoever else I was supposed to be. Later, at taverns with names lifted wholesale from some earlier century and some other continent, I’ll explain it with my finger cocked sideways, nearly dislocated, and the froth on my lips redoubling itself every tenth syllable as if it had been given directives. As if it were the portion of the soul that insists on visibility despite a very long tradition to the contrary. I recall a time when everyone was attempting to compose an epic with giants at the center, when they compared notes and studied at the trade school library which was the best in the vicinity then and allowed you to smoke inside provided you kept your distance from those who registered their displeasure with an audible clearing of the throat or a glance cast in your direction so full of menace there could be no mistaking it. There was a great deal of debate then concerning how much pride was too much pride as represented in these figures with their molars like mahogany tables and their eyes squinted shut, and there was a great deal of debate concerning what was the best way to depict all this without succumbing yourself to the vice in question. Immanuel was lucid then, a man with a nose like a rivet and a deep and abiding love for the female form in all its manifestations -- even the stone columns at the edge of town referred to as the sisters and featured in more than one young adult novel of the time in which someone disappears and then reappears again but is not the same person. We would scale the sisters come midnight, Immanuel reciting verses of his own invention or those of Auden having to do with the impenetrability of time. I’ve looked for them since, tried to unearth them so as to bring him back with their recitation, at least for a moment, to make him hear and acknowledge them (and me) from the other side, but I can’t find them. Perhaps they were never by Auden in the first place, or Stevens or Ahkmatova in translation. Maybe they were bits and fragments of a recipe he was trying to memorize for reasons of his own or directions to the post office the next town over and his saying them out loud settled in my head as verse simply because everything then was verse, because the world itself had yet to solidify, and it still hasn’t; it still squirms around beneath my feet like nominative accusatives or squid.

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