by Edgum Hoex
Deny me power, and all is for the flesh: the flesh I hold in subjection, the flesh that may not so much serve but dishonour the love that feeds it. In this place, things are done for love, and no longer in any of their abstract and diverse ways. From the vitals of the body, these wretched hosts shed out and pour into all things that they are: all things that they would be.CONTENTS
The rain makes these mornings worse.
This morning’s very particular afternoon, which you won’t know about till you meet me at the Amtrak station tonight, this one was another foggy vertical day, and it took a while, but Edgum’s a study in making the most of the evenings, the evenings he’s not too afraid to be alone in. Or one other good thing about the days, here, after eight or nine a.m. (He goes on in these sad afternoon times: “There’s not as much suffering, it’s a little like the world is cleansing itself.”) That same day — it was morning, he was half-awake and in the shower and he’d just rolled out of bed, the fog was sort of burning off, because the sun was rising and he’d been asleep, sort of, again, or still, at some unearthly hour, the sort of hour that makes you never want to get up again, except that you have to. And it was raining in the fog, and the four-car bum of a Metro Coach was crunching away, heading west out of the center of town, and Edgum stood by the window of the shower and thought he’d put away the news, his other obsession, and might see about eating a quick little box of bagels — all they did was give him indigestion, so anyway he’d gotten a little, anyway. And now he was out the window, shaking the water off himself, getting dressed. Only, it was raining hard now, and it was not just falling in a general way.
This was a specific sort of rain, with this particular kind of pastel mist, and Edgum knew it wouldn’t be a few more minutes before he had to go out into it. But maybe he’d have time for a latte. Now, however, that was a small object to hold up in front of his eyes. So he put on his suit and his shoes and his tie, and all he was thinking was that, you know, he couldn’t possibly face another day. Not one of these days, these days, with this stuff at home. And maybe, as he walked along the West Corridor, he’d talk to the first person he saw. Edgum liked to talk to people. He liked their attention and their warmth, their sincerity. They seemed to trust Edgum, and Edgum trusted them, and he said what he could, often. And most of them did it back to him. (“I never did get to the laundromat,” he’d say. “I thought it would be nice, but I have to come back tomorrow and I didn’t have a card.”) And Edgum understood that they didn’t realize what a thing he was.
But what Edgum did not understand was that, perhaps, the words didn’t matter, but that the time and place and manner in which they were said did. That the meaning of what he was saying — not just how he was saying it, but how it was meant to be said — mattered very much, or at least mattered enough. This, he had never, ever, in all these years of plying his medium of gift, resolved in his head. And he had recently been told by some trusted allies that he should probably be practicing humility. On this particular day he was headed downtown to the Andrew Mellon Auditorium, the headquarters of The Paul Quinn College Project, which was going to use the money from the Rockefeller Foundation to provide uniforms and free textbooks and new instruments and, what did Edgum know, scholarships, to the first 500 low-income students who were admitted. Edgum was going to be one of those 500 students. He would be getting free tuition and meals and room and board at the school, which was not even six years old, and, Edgum believed, would turn out many fine and honorable young men and women.
He walked into the auditorium and sat down at one of the few empty tables and ordered a double espresso. The other empty tables were near the front and the stage, and Edgum was thinking: They haven’t even seen this guy yet. It’s not even noon. The people were supposed to have been in the audience until at least noon. I mean, really. All I’ve been telling people is how I don’t care anymore. (Oh, now they’re coming up the walkway. The one by the baggage claim. Man, these people are full of food. My stomach is already full, full, full.) He looked at the people coming through the double doors. He noticed that most of them were tall and, obviously, very thin. Their clothing suggested — at least in Edgum’s mind — a kind of malnourishment, even hunger. Their faces were gaunt and they had bags under their eyes, they were dirty, their eyes looked vacant and dead, and they were walking in a line, because that was the only way to get there, with the hands of the one in front of them clasped tightly in front of him. He had no idea why they were doing this, but he realized that it was not the proper way to get on the platform. (He would know, by the end of the night, why they were doing this. For now, however, he would play along.)
The man in front of Edgum, he had a kind of clubfoot and short hair, and he wore two layers of long wool coats. There was something important about the coat that Edgum did not understand, and he tried to ask this man if he knew anything about this thing. This thing that seemed to be required of them. This thing that seemed to tie their hands behind their backs and make them, apparently, ready to lead armies to war. This thing that seemed to be heavy and dragging on the ground. This thing that looked like it weighed a ton. And what was that thing? He asked the man, because he was now truly curious about the man who was about to join him on the stage, if he knew what this thing was called. And the man didn’t know, because, obviously, it was not the proper thing to ask. Then he saw them all walking into the theater and he did not understand the symbolism of what was happening, but he could read what it was meant to mean. They were marching, they were being led by what he was sure was a soldier, and what he was even sure of, though he did not understand this in the slightest, was that the kind of person who would come to these sorts of ceremonies was one who was used to being led, and he knew that he was supposed to sit and listen. Somehow this vision of what was to come had arrived at its climax, and it filled Edgum with an intense excitement. He saw himself, at one moment, his face streaked with sweat, teeth chattering, covered in dirt and dust and sweat, and then he saw himself a few moments later, and it was no longer so terrifying. He wasn’t sure exactly how or when it happened, but suddenly he was not afraid. Not afraid of what was to come.
He was no longer afraid to die. Not afraid to die. And this might seem unbelievable to you, but it was true, and it was the most extraordinary thing that had ever happened to him, or at least that was the most extraordinary thing that had ever happened to him so far. It was so astounding to him that he felt an intense rush of emotion that almost seemed physical — a kind of spasm in his stomach, and then a rush of endorphins, and he was out of his chair. He ran to the door, up the stairs, and out into the street. He wanted to see the movie. He ran to the theater, and he made it just in time to find his seat in the movie theater. He sat down, and he watched the movie. He sat there, mesmerized, watching the flick that was sure to save his life. He watched the movie, and he was delighted. He was joyful. After the movie, he looked at his watch. He had a place to go. He made his way to the subway, and he made his way home, and he was grateful for all the times he had spent in the company of humorless, religion-maddened white folks. After Edgum was safe inside his room, the room where he would stay until his death, he began to hear something. He was startled, because this was not normal. He had lived alone for almost forty-seven years, and his life had been a kind of polite silence, but this was certainly not silence. It was a noise that was not human, but which Edgum could not place, and which he did not want to. He lay on his bed and tried to think, and he listened, and as he listened he became more afraid. He heard footsteps. He heard laughter. He heard barking dogs. He heard barks that were not like the ones that his dog, Selden, had ever given him, and he felt the beginnings of panic. He lay there motionless on his bed, and he kept his eyes closed, but he did not sleep. He was afraid of what would happen if he fell asleep. He was afraid that the noise would continue. He would never get back to sleep. It had been too long.
The Body of the Word
Oh, why couldn’t this idea have been born in the 1950s, or the 1960s, when it could have been a basis for radical political action rather than philosophical speculation. What goes on in these strange epiphanies seems like the impetus of a psychotic breakdown, the onset of madness. And I am left wondering how on earth the mystics and mystifical writers of my youth managed to stand by and read a full two centuries’ worth of pathetic nonsense? When this dismal tradition was ending, these poorly-attested speculations about gods giving us signals that help us into language, or about certain “lost” languages that predate ours, this occult nonsense was popularly propounded by a whole pantheon of writers, most of whom are now dead. Writers who were clearly already full of their own irrelevancies.
I remember being particularly repulsed by John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, a play of the Elizabethan era that began its life as a more serious piece of social realism. In it, a man falls in love with a woman who claims she is a princess of Atlantis, a woman who has been brought to life by an angelic figure.
“But God made her what she is, and if she be not what she ought, he made her what he would; and for her that is most of all.”
Filled with insight about how a fairytale would work in the age of Enlightenment, but where is the sense in something like this? This sort of thing just adds insult to injury: why can’t we have anything interesting to read?
We have these assertions that “God made her what she is, and if she be not what she ought, he made her what he would.” I can’t help but note that in Webster’s play, the angel who has created this creature explains that she was created so that her deformed parts might serve a greater purpose:
So thus be it made: a soul’s chastising of a soul’s heart; as her limbs be so employed in the making of the body, that they may be a god-sent counterweight to man’s brawn, and a glory to his point; which counterweight, in his body that sinke is in none; for how can it be if he were stouter than a horse?
The idea of the tortured body is frequently exploited in modern television drama. It was a motif of “The Sweeney”, a popular BBC television series of the 1970s.
The Sweeney is about the secret services, who are tasked with catching criminals. To do this, they use the extraordinary special methods of state surveillance, where they plant microphones, bugs and cameras in people’s homes. This way, they can gather evidence of their clients’ crimes without actually having to make physical contact with the criminals themselves. It is one of the few shows in television history to get away with depicting a spy with a working brain, rather than one of those slick Hollywood guys with a pocketful of sly quips. The group that runs the Sweeney includes a man named Frank Medina (Sean Pertwee) who is originally a private investigator, which is a profession that focuses on the psychology of those to be studied. He likes to work in a character that is of the sort we could describe as “complex”. The ordinary people of the world are often thought of as irrational, so we end up with images of eccentric clients and leading ladies who have mystical tendencies or hidden talents. Most of the characters in The Sweeney have multiple sides, and may be liked and even loved by one another in equal measure.
Medina was a man with psychological problems, who went through all sorts of crazy episodes. He would sometimes suffer delusions of grandeur and become convinced that he was some kind of wizard. But he could also be obsessive and violent. This is where I came across the idea of him getting shot in the eye with a diamond cross, but with the points on each side of the cross pointing inwards. This is one of the scenes in The Sweeney that I will always remember.
The story of the Duchess of Malfi begins in the present day, where, in the final scene of the play, a mortal woman, Morticia Addams, is born. Like her fellow players in the play, her birth is an act of murder, by her mother, Elizabeth, who kills her son when she sees him, as the child resembles a demon. Elizabeth dresses Morticia up in black and sends her into the world, where she is raised by the eldest of the Traddles family. The Traddles family are the proud parents of the Duchess of Malfi, who is the child born from the womb of the Antichrist.
Many people who have only seen the play have some issues with the way the Duchess of Malfi behaves towards her son, Claudius. She is described as a “mother”, but is often drunk and dismissive towards her son, treating him with contempt. This seems to suggest that motherhood is a less important thing in Shakespeare than it is in our world. But this is the other side of the coin. In a world in which female characters are cast as weak and disempowered, motherhood can have very different meanings and forms. In this way, female characters in Shakespeare’s plays can be seen as dangerous femmes fatales.
The Duchess of Malfi has four mother figures: her mother, her aunt, her older sister and her lover. To write a female character, Shakespeare took the strengths and weaknesses of the men he wrote about and turned them into female characters. The fact that he didn’t write a single female lead until after he had written the “five points of maidenhood” seems to indicate that he could see that women had a role to play in his plays.
Gertrude, as introduced in Hamlet, is a lovely, nurturing character. She is an object of maternal love and devotion to Hamlet, who is very young and probably never wanted anything but to go to sleep. And Then the Dead Rise and Aalk and the Darkness in the East is as Deep as the Dark of the ‘ight
And then the dead rise and walk and the darkness in the east is as deep as the dark of night. The dawn will be as black as the darkest night. We have the beginnings of a book here. The sort of beginning that would be a great starting point for a horror novel. I have been writing a series of short stories about a young man who is haunted by a mysterious figure. The first story, The Horror of it All, was published in The Otherworld Anthology. The second story, My Soul to Keep, was published in The Tales of Beedle the Bard: A Collection of Dark Fantasy and Horror Stories. The third story, A Tale of Three Cities, was published in a compilation of fantasy short stories called Tales of the Talisman. I have also been writing a series of novellas, and the third, A Shadow in Summer, was published in a short story collection called Shadow’s Edge. The first two novellas are called The Stranger and The Return. The third novella is called A Tale of Three Cities. The Stranger is a fantasy story about a young man who has a terrible secret. The Return is a horror story about a young man who is haunted by a mysterious figure. A Tale of Three Cities is a horror story about a young man who is haunted by a mysterious figure. The third novella is called A Shadow in Summer. The story is set in a world that is both familiar and strange. The story is about a young man who is haunted by a mysterious figure.
What will you do? You’ll need to decide. And then you’ll need to do it.
In this small game, the player will be faced with a number of options. The player will be able to move their hero to the front of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the rear of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the left or right of the battle. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to defend their hero. The player will be able to retreat. The player will be able to choose from one of the four hero classes. The player will be able to equip their hero with one of the many items. The player will be able to defend their hero from an attack. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to flee. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. The player will be able to move their hero to the front of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the rear of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the left or right of the battle. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to defend their hero. The player will be able to retreat. The player will be able to choose from one of the four hero classes. The player will be able to equip their hero with one of the many items. The player will be able to defend their hero from an attack. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to flee. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to move their hero to the front of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the rear of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the left or right of the battle. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to defend their hero. The player will be able to retreat. The player will be able to choose from one of the four hero classes. The player will be able to equip their hero with one of the many items. The player will be able to defend their hero from an attack. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to flee. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to move their hero to the front of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the rear of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the left or right of the battle. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to defend their hero. The player will be able to retreat. The player will be able to choose from one of the four hero classes. The player will be able to equip their hero with one of the many items. The player will be able to defend their hero from an attack. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to flee. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to move their hero to the front of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the rear of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the left or right of the battle. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to defend their hero. The player will be able to retreat. The player will be able to choose from one of the four hero classes. The player will be able to equip their hero with one of the many items. The player will be able to defend their hero from an attack. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to flee. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to move their hero to the front of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the rear of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the left or right of the battle. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to defend their hero. The player will be able to retreat. The player will be able to choose from one of the four hero classes. The player will be able to equip their hero with one of the many items. The player will be able to defend their hero from an attack. The player will be able to attack their enemy. The player will be able to flee. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to use the game’s various abilities. And the player will be able to move their hero to the front of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the rear of the battle. The player will be able to move their hero to the left or right.
This elemental historicity of being-there can remain concealed from it. But it can also, in a certain way, be uncovered and undergo a cultivation of its own. Being-there can uncover, preserve, and explicitly track down tradition. The discovery of tradition, and the disclosure of what and how it “transmits,” can be undertaken as a task in its own right. In this way, being-there moves into the mode of being proper to historiographical questioning and researching. However, as a manner in which being-there poses questions, historiography — better, engagement in the telling of history — is only possible because being-there is in the ground of its being determined by historicity. If and as long as historicity remains concealed from being-there, the possibility of historiographical questioning and discovering of history is withheld from it. The absence of historiography is no evidence against the historicity of being-there; rather, as a deficient mode of the constitution of its being, such absence is evidence for it. An epoch can only be unhistoriographical because it is “historical.”
My father spoke the name of the dead girl in an accent stronger than mine. How she went to her grave with her baby brother in her belly. My father told me he wished he’d been there to see it, had seen the baby spout its first wail from its mother’s stilling body. And I had not thought how the day and the name should sink, dig into my skin, stain it black, harden to ice, a legacy to see me all my life.
Back in Meridian, little more than a camp, I brought the couple back to the house. The girl, she said, she’d wanted to go but her mother would not let her. And she sat outside in a poncho and straw hat, scouring flies with her hands and weeping, weeping and wept. This was the first time she had spoken to me. This was the first time she’d spoken to me. This was the first time she’d spoken to me. I cannot remember what the husband said but I know his wife’s reaction was to be angry and to smack him. “So? Why didn’t you stop her?” And so it goes. “Why didn’t you stop her?”
This is their first child. Here was his sister in the morning. My sister is still alive. I cannot tell them this. What will they do with the baby? How will they care for him? Will he be able to read? Will he be able to write? Will he be able to read and write?
What will they do with the baby? How will they care for him? Will he be able to read? Will he be able to write? Will he be able to read and write?
What will they do with the baby? How will they care for him? Will he be able to read? Will he be able to write? Will he be able to read and write?
The boy. Come out to breakfast. My house and my chair. I am naked save for a singlet.
The boy. Come out to breakfast. My house and my chair. I am naked save for a singlet.
He was born with spina bifida. Blind in one eye. He sat between them on the bench, bright and happy, chubby and pink.
A week ago I was teaching at UM. Twenty-three. My sister was twenty-three, was she not?
Now he remembered the swampy night of the same day when he had first come to El Paso. It was after his marriage to the widow Juana Maria González and she, in her quiet dignity, had waited patiently as he slowly fingered her small pink teeth and looked for his mother’s bridal ring. His father had bought him a simple mule and a large sack and with this they trudged west, like the dogs of a man who sees too many northern lights. He remembered the nights that he had waited for nightfall and then strapped the wooden leg to the mule’s right front leg and left the bastard to graze among the thorny mesquites and checked himself into the frontiersmen’s hotel and ordered hot salt-of-the-earth soup and black coffee.
Pushing the pile of tents together, he saw they were largely packed by Navajos from the mine. The Indian soldiers guarded the entrance to the barracks, asleep with their wives and children. He had no trouble driving his own men past. The Navajos, lying on the trail between the tents, rose on their bare feet when they heard the mule’s hooves.
He climbed out of the back of the mule and kicked away the horseshoe of broken wood. It struck a Navajo on the head. The man fell, his skull splitting open. A second Navajo leaped on the Indian’s chest and fell back with a prayer. The Pawnee circled down the trail to cut off escape.
The Indians had a catechism of killing. You knifed the human eye, so it squirted out. You cut off the left arm, so the soldier could not pick it up. You shot the jawbone off a skull, so the Indian could not sing, and you broke the bones between his toes, so he could not work his horses.
When the Pawnee had checked the whole town, they took what there was of the grain and canned goods from the warehouses. They went to the mining houses and stole boots and clothing. Then they went to the saloons, where the three Mexicans were still drinking.
He ignored his men. They could have taken the women, he supposed, but the Mexicans were better shot and better swimmers. He paused over a drinking hole at the center of the town and saw the broken butt of a white seagoing pinnace sticking out of the mud by the bar. He smiled. A better prize might be out there in the water.
That night he and his men drank heavily. They laughed and cursed and got into a fight with a group of Mexicans and threw up on each other’s clothes. A Navajo jumped on him, tried to bite his ears, and the man pulled a rock from his belt and bashed the Navajo in the face, bloodying it.
Sitting up in his bedroll, waiting for his men to fall asleep, Jack grinned and thought of Pecos, the town in the Texas Panhandle where he had spent his boyhood. The old Pawnee widow’s house sat on a high bluff overlooking the range.
The sun was soft but the wind was warm and the air was full of dust. He walked up to the dam that had been his winter refuge. The window of the roofless palace stood open and the room inside was sunless. The wind was coming in at the edge of the window, cold and strong and in a wild mood, giving his bones a shudder, and the bones shook and creaked. The cats and dogs that had inhabited the house lay dead on the sand or burrowed into the desolation of the streets. There was no rancher in evidence. A churchmouse crawled through the debris. And the kennels. There were only a few houndstooth harnesses among the rubble and nails. The chickens and chickens’ feathers had been blown to bits. A fawn’s bones lay in a corner. The war had been terrible. Scores of people were dead and hundreds had vanished, more buried in the low mound of dust and stones than he could possibly have counted. They had been put to work, the natives, the men and the women, to make the bridge, to build the railroad, to do all the other tasks to which the Americans wanted them. Hundreds were lying in the streets dead from starvation and the heat. The churches had been turned into hospitals. In the west, the great Texas Panhandle lay covered with the rich American soil which made up the blood of the nation and the bread of the people. The Indians were gone and the bison had been driven back to the Rocky Mountains. But they had not been driven back far. There were more cattle on the range now than before the war and the ranchers were feeding them. And so were the Indians. The battle, called the Chisholm Trail, was four days gone. They would be crossing the border very soon and they would be south of the Canadian Mountains by nightfall. And soon they would come to the original Indian camp where the white men had slaughtered the natives. His herd of eighty or more horses and mules moved steadily northward. The wind drove the dust up in little columns and the sunset was bright and full. It was full summer now and his ears were hurting from the noise of the herd. His watch was broken and he was out of ammunition. They had started at dawn from the river crossing and they were half a mile from the camp. They came over the levee and entered the camp grounds and picked up their gear. He and two others climbed up on the wall of the large wooden corral which had been the rendezvous place. He was not to ride the mules that day and he was to get the Indians across at daylight. The vaquero on the wall was saying that he had been the high school champion of the state. He was not to ride the mules that day and he was to get the Indians across at daylight. And they rode past him. The mule herd was large. But the whole of it was the only Mexican herd on the range and the Mexicans were all men. They were all dying. He remembered that he had seen three dead Indians at the camp gate. That was before. He saw now they were the herd. There were many more than before. The whites were breaking out the hogs and the cattle from the corrals. And they were selling them to the Indians who kept them for food. They were hungry and they could not kill their own cattle and pigs. He remembered that he had seen three dead Indians at the camp gate. That was before. He saw now they were the herd. There were many more than before. The whites were breaking out the hogs and the cattle from the corrals. And they were selling them to the Indians who kept them for food. He was not to ride the mules today and he was to stay out of the saddle. He would go up on the wall and stand in the corner of the corral. The horse herd moved on to the other side of the levee. The mule herd was not moving at all. They were sitting on their haunches. The herd were all dead. They were white men like himself, like the men who were in the corral. They had died of hunger and thirst and they were covered with flies and the dust and the sand, and their eyes were glazed. The men and women had been picked up and driven by wagon train over to the rock city of Bozeman. There they were boarded up and left to die. The children were separated and put in homes and the girls were adopted out as nurses by European families in New York and the boys were sold to Indians in the Great Plains. They were all dead. There were thousands of dead along the Oregon trail and the Santa Fe trail and the trail to California.
The crowd stopped, looked, and made a way for the men to pass. The corpse had a brown seaman’s tan. Brown hair. The fisherman saw it wasn’t the dead man’s face that they were looking at, but the boy with the dirty white bandage knotted up in his hair, reaching up to get a glimpse of the dead man’s face. The dead man’s friend was talking about the last time he’d seen the dead man, trying to find words. The dead man was a fisherman, had gone out and caught three snapper, the last day. They’d set it out in the sun to cook, but they hadn’t been home when the sun was low enough to bring the birds down. When they came in they looked in the living room and saw the light was on, and at first they couldn’t tell if anyone was there or not. The boys thought maybe the wife had put them up and was living at their house, but they couldn’t go in. They stood there looking at the dark place and finally they realized there was someone there, a person, lying there, and then they went inside and looked. They found the dead man. They looked out the window and saw his ship still sitting in the slip. The old man with the blue bandage asked them what they thought of the boy.
“That man has been a good fisherman all his life,” the old man said. “What he can’t catch, he brings in.”
“No, he hasn’t. He left me. Left me for a younger man.”
“The other man, that’s the one that did him in.”
“We should do something.”
“That man’s going to be dead forever, but it doesn’t matter.” The old man went out and got an axe. He went out in the rain and chopped off the dead man’s arm. “It doesn’t matter,” he said to the boys. They decided to build a cross, to mark the grave of the dead man’s arm, to make a manger out of it. They worked for three days and three nights. They gathered driftwood and stacked it up, then dragged it out to where they’d tied their boat. The old man said it was a terrible place. The boys found a shovel, not many words passed between them. They knew what they had to do. They dug the grave. They made the cross. They laid the arm there. They covered the grave. It was a sad time. The boy’s mother came from Honolulu. The old man’s wife came from Boston. The dead man’s father came from Washington.
At sea it’s dead calm. They run the boats, moving with the sea, not much sound from the outside, the silence less than the day they buried the arm. The man was young and tall. Thin. His cheeks had been sun-scorched and red from the blast of the sun, but he still had a scruff of dark hair on his neck. The old man puffed out his cheeks and breathed deep. They were out about a hundred yards from the land, in a deep channel where the blue line of the horizon would not show. From this point you could stand in the middle of the channel, standing on the broad white sand at low tide and not see the boat. The night before there was a storm and a flash in the ocean that lit up the sky and went on until dawn. In the fog the next morning the waves were low, but they were running along, the boat drifting almost a hundred feet out from the men in the rowboat. There was a great deal of white water from the waves striking the hull. The men had to keep their attention on the horizon, not only for navigation, but also because once the boat settled in the trough of the wave there was no way to tell what direction it was headed. The captain was facing west and there was a low gray cloud hanging over the water in front of him. He signaled to the other men to pass the glasses around so he could check the radar. The screen showed a big red circle and little numbers that could mean one of two things, neither of which was good. They were going a few knots over the horizon, with no way to adjust. They couldn’t see how they’d missed it. He asked them what they thought. They asked him what he thought. Then he told them they had been miles off course and he was going to have to pull the engines in, turn around and go back. The captain is afraid, but the others aren’t.
The man with the blue bandage says, “What we’re doing, if we make it back, is we’re going to catch us all. And then we’re going to have to be kind to each other.” They are silent a long time.
The captain says, “Look around.” They do. The crew is tired, wet, and angry, but it doesn’t matter. The dead man’s father wants to go back, wants to be all right, but the man with the blue bandage says,
“No. We have to try to fix it. We have to make it right. This is our chance.” The captain asks the man with the blue bandage to write down the position of the dead man’s body. The man with the blue bandage wants to help, but it’s too dangerous, so he watches from the side and listens from the back. He leans over the side. He talks to his friend and tells him he’ll be back soon. He steps out of the boat. He hangs on to the side and hangs on to the arm of the dead man and waits. There is nothing for a long time. The waves are only a few feet high. The fog is thick. He starts to worry.
Then they went to Europe for real. If any had been through the war, their destination was obvious. If not, they’d stop in Paris. Their Dôme in Europe, as I understood it, was more appropriate to such an undertaking, situated in a sunny boulevard on the Ile de la Cite, more than thirty steps from St. Jacques, so that you could walk along one of Paris’s most beautiful avenues with a bottle of Péché, to drink, but not to talk, because someone would always start shouting some slovenly French insult at someone else.
The people I saw after I had left, some of them married with children and jobs—many of them salespeople—said things to me like “You missed a terrific time” or “This was really our honeymoon.” Or, in the case of someone I worked with at a bookstore, “I never got this much French reading time before.”
But I didn’t miss it. I hadn’t wanted it at all. “No touching. No touching,” I would warn. In Paris they would take your card away from you, or whatever, and then, in any case, you couldn’t buy a book in a bookstore, but you could look at books. It was hard to imagine much in life that could have been worse.
After I got back from Europe, I went to work in a bookstore, on Connecticut Avenue. It was the last time in my life I thought I was living the life I really wanted to be living, or anything I even imagined I would want to be doing. As soon as I got there, I realized that the life I wanted to be living was precisely the life I had just left. I didn’t miss it in the slightest. I didn’t miss the life I had been doing, either, for the most part. The people I worked with there, the ones who later became my best friends, were old and middle class and often just plain boring. They thought the reading or whatever it was we did, a lot of which I found to be tedious, when it was done in a bookstore or a library, was a kind of cultural persecution. They found it tragic that their own people, for whom they worked, had been sold out by their government in favor of something like the French Gaullisme. They loved the John Wayne movies with the names like “How the West Was Won” or “Rio Conchos” or “The Man with No Name.” They were stolid and humorless, but there were pleasures to be had, they said, in drinking themselves into a stupor and then fixing themselves a bowl of white sugar mixed with real vanilla and then taking a big dump in the toilet and then putting the bowl of vanilla ice cream with the lid on the toilet lid in the refrigerator and just going on and on and on about the size and style of their yards, the happiness they would have if their husbands would just say, “There,” and then just go out and cut the goddamn grass.
I was an outsider, as they knew. I had gone to college. I worked at a bookstore. The job sucked. They thought they were being funny. But then I also found myself becoming accustomed to having absolutely nothing to do but hang around the building reading and listening to the Frank Sinatra record in my truck. I also began to realize I couldn’t wait to get home and start writing—but that I had a publishing deal in New York, and I wouldn’t be able to start writing for months or maybe years.
They couldn’t understand why I had gone off to Europe for a couple of weeks, especially given the fact that it was pretty much all my mother’s idea, and I was the one who was supposed to be going off to college. But I had never wanted to go to college, and she had kept bringing it up, and all I knew was that it was a good time to be young and European. I didn’t know that Europe was still there. I didn’t know that reading, which I had liked to do since I was old enough to be reading, was not in Europe. I thought I would have been fine if the country I lived in wasn’t the country I lived in, if it could have been any country I liked. It was, for me, a startling experience to have to accept—and actually begin to find some value in—the idea that the man who drove the truck didn’t have anything to do but sit around in the morning, read, play golf, drink beer, and wait until lunchtime so he could go to work, and then after work he would come back and read, until it was time to play another round of golf, or have another beer. I had spent a couple of weeks in Europe without having to do any of that. I didn’t get the full effect until it was happening in America. It was strange to have to really get out and see the sights—to understand what was still out there.
Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You
You can’t even remember the silly little things like colds and sinus infections. In that way we are all caught up in the air. Perhaps we are not so different from any flock of birds that escapes from the oppression of the arctic. We may escape the snow and wind, but we remain dependent on some nebulous power to sustain us. So maybe it is only the human animal that escapes from winter, because in the human animal, in me, there is no air, and if I are conscious of anything it is what happens outside, for it is there that the true art lies. We have come to that phase of the story of Abraham (I’m choosing to see him as historical), a sentence which some other characters, because they are distant and predictable, are unable to understand. They are all waiting, you see, as it were, for the man with a sword. Finally, he arrives, shouting, the sword in his hand. I mean, as someone once said, the thing just comes right up to the front of your line and it scares the shit out of you. Abraham’s ascent to power was a one-man democratic revolt in the Americas, a kind of emancipatory Transcendentalist revolution. For no one had ever heard of a democracy in the Old World, and this was considered a miracle. The response of some was no doubt the English saying, “This country may be the same as always, but we have never seen anything like this country.” But after that one brave person, there are no more men like Abraham. You can see this in the story: after Abraham triumphs, when all the other people have been killed by the soldiers, and they are having their faces cut and being called out by name, there is only Abraham. All the people are merely numbers. Abraham rises to the occasion in a way which no one else can, because he is a new kind of man: here is a man who is not only indestructible, but he is incorruptible. Of course, the poet doesn’t make his allegory more complicated by positing a love affair in which Abraham is representing a woman, because this is all too obvious. Instead, for instance, you might take this passage: Then she is happy; she is ravished by love, and she is happy, though with her clothes on, and she does not know that the days are very short and that nights are much longer than the days, but in her despair and anguish she continues to imagine that the good winds of love still blow, and she believes in them, that is, that no darkness can touch her, and she is so blind that she does not see the sword in his hand. To my mind the problem of Abraham lies in the fact that he is willing to live the life of a foreigner: he is willing to do everything Abraham-like: to become a samurai (in which, for him, means becoming a Jew) and then become a Christian (in which he means becoming a Jew again) and then—what he needs most—a pagan. A pagan who, like Oedipus, does not fall down and scrape his face on the rocks. A pagan who is not crazy about the drinking, but a pagan who is able to put up with it because he wants, in the end, to marry his beloved Deborah, and thereby beget, in this world of sin and death, an eternal paradise. The Israelites have been around, apparently, in one form or another, for 3,000 years. It is through the eyes of a woman, Deborah, that the reader sees what is going on. Deborah is a warrior, yet she is always wondering whether she is a woman or a man: a little bit of both? A woman who has seen battle, but is as afraid of men as she is of her enemies? The people Deborah leads are sent out to battle and then told to return: Deborah is a shepherdess. They say she is too beautiful, but she is also too wise, and wise she is, and she knows that if she allows herself to be beautiful, she is neither strong nor intelligent. You might think that it’s all about a sense of proportion, but Deborah would not have it so. There is a reason for the call to arms, because the Lord is threatening to kill off the land itself, that is, the Jews. This is not the first time it has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last: here the truth is. The Jews have always been threatened by their own annihilation, and the truth is that they have not yet received from God what he promised, that is, the place where they would live as a nation in peace and harmony. This means not that they are not in peace now, but that the promise was a promise to those who had not yet been born, who were sent out to fight with the armies of the Lord. Now the gentiles, the Israelites’ conquerors, are the ones who are threatened by destruction: first, because they have not yet met God’s demands, and secondly because the Lord has asked of them what they want most, and the thing they want most is to return home. Therefore the Lord will send his armies into the land to take over their wealth and land, because he has sent men, Alexander the Great and others, to defeat them and take away their land. But the gentiles want to go back, and so they make a treaty with the Jews: if they leave their land for ten years, they will be spared from war and armed conflict. And if they refuse to go, and refuse to part from their own land for ten years, they are to be destroyed, and not just because they are wicked people, but because they do not believe in the one true God, Yahweh, and have never worshipped him, and therefore have never felt his hand on their shoulder, and therefore have never seen his greatness. This, I think, is what the struggle is about, and it is in the story of Deborah that the reader gets a glimpse of the struggle. The Jewish people are terrified of the land. It is not only a desert that they know nothing of, but a land of rebels and outlaws, of magicians and sorcerers, of drugged spirits. It is a land that has never given them a king. But the gentiles want the land, because they know nothing of the culture, tradition and spiritual belief of the Jews, and they know even less of the culture, tradition and spiritual belief of the Arabs, and therefore there is room for a little bit of both. Both sides can have their land. “How do I know the Lord?” the people of Israel ask. “Tell us of the Lord.” But the Lord is cruel and talks only of coming armies and destruction: not a word of life and hope. And as the story develops, the people of Israel are determined to kill their enemies, and to drive them out of the land, even if they must kill their own children in the process, and in the midst of all of this Deborah is trying to reason with the Lord, who is indifferent to her pleas and his promises to the gentiles, as he is indifferent to the command of his name, whom he has just destroyed, and whose cause he has just betrayed. It seems that no one is listened to: the only way that Deborah can reach the Lord is through the power of love. This is the second part of a two-part article by David Harry Jones, discussing the events in the Book of Judges which are given great importance in Christian terms as a summary of the history of the covenant of grace. For Part 1 click here.
Theme from Julia Roberts via Press Junket for Sleeping with the Enemy ca. Spring 1991
~ Mark Strand, “The Metamorphosis of the American Dream”
Phantom Cartridges On Mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found signs of the simplest of molecules known in the martian atmosphere, key evidence that life could have evolved there in the distant past.
Using a process called “metabolism,” organic molecules may have been delivered to the Martian surface via water. The form of organic molecules found on Mars have been identified as acetylene and methane.
Some scientists think this discovery is a major step toward the ultimate goal of finding actual evidence of past or present life on Mars.
~ Energy and Environment (The Nation)
Climate Change, Hidden Even From Nation’s Flagship Agency
Does the nation’s power grid really rely on nuclear power to power the lights?
Does the nation’s military depend on imported oil and gas to power the jets that drop bombs on terrorist suspects?
Does the nation’s transportation system rely on imported oil and gas to power the supertankers and rail cars that deliver goods from coast to coast?
~ Wall Street Journal (Wall Street Journal on Google News)
Mankind’s Incredible Undeclared Climate Crime
This video shows and explains just how dangerous the climate criminals are.
The environmental crime wave doesn’t come out of the blue or from an alien race of green aliens determined to exterminate the earth.
It comes out of the evidence of evolution of climate change. The fact is, it’s just so damned obvious to scientists that climate change is happening. For some reason, however, the real evil can’t be exposed for fear of destroying civilization and the economy, which are precisely the outcomes of giving credence to the facts.
~ Thomas Lovejoy, “The Natural Science of Climate Change Is Clear and Definitive”
The Astounding Chemistry of Sulfur Sulfate
Piles of silicate, polystyrene and small pellets of manganese dioxide are piled up like snowdrifts near the giant Celesta mine in Portugal. The slurry is bound to a liner and hauled out of the mine, sealed and moved into a chemical plant.
This is waste from the vast world of steelmaking. And every year about a billion tons of this sludge is pumped into the ocean and dumped on the seabed in a process called bottom trawling, a technique of spearing fish that looks like a cross between Soviet gill nets and chewed-up bubble gum.
~ Post Carbon Institute
The Most Important Bad News
The Indian Government is sending in the army to tame the Naxalites, militant left wing groups that are agitating against the government’s democratic liberalization program. According to the “Guardian”, they are being called India’s Vietcong.
While the heart of Indian democracy, Delhi, has been abuzz with speculation about who will become India’s next prime minister after Congress Party’s Manmohan Singh’s retirement, the actual fight for power is taking place 300 miles north of the capital in the village of Sukma.
It has taken 18 months for the army to secure this little village in the impoverished heart of the country, on the edge of the jungle in Chhattisgarh.
~ The Independent
New Hope For Ebola Virus Research
A new study suggests that viruses in West Africa can infect non-human primates and spread within the species. They are now proposing a “broad taxonomic approach” to studying the outbreaks.
Researchers at Imperial College London have found that Ebola virus infected human beings is capable of spreading from non-human primates (monkeys, gorillas and other apes) to humans.
I was involved with one of these investigations in Guinea. In October 2013, I returned to the Region with representatives of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and the Wellcome Trust, where we built a network of local epidemiologists, medical and veterinary health professionals, doctors, and religious and community leaders. The aim was to identify the major risk factors for Ebola and to test new tools to prevent and treat the disease.
~ Dr. Jeanine Gibson,