from the collection of: d. heidel
artwork from the collection of: w. blake (public domain)
There was a movie once in which the nearly-dead fell in love with Death and wanted all of those who were around them to join them in the glory of Death’s arms.
In the movie, you didn’t see Death’s arms. You couldn’t tell if they shimmered or if they were cloaked or if they were long and skeletal. And there was no way to know if they in fact moved with the practiced exactitude of a day laborer’s as he placed the harvest into the basket.
Day laborers, though, gather peaches; Death gathers wilting bodies.
There was a movie in which the nearly-dead loved their Death and helped to speed the process of the apocalypse by doing the work of their Beloved.
I don’t know how to say this, but this is nonfiction. My fingers type letters. I write in the quiet of morning before my children need the things that they need from me (count the specific number of my children and, too, of their needs and you know that I am speaking only fact right now).
The morning has always been quiet. And my mind is happily fresh. Like a peach dangling from a tree. Untasted, untested. Ready to germinate. Not yet masticated and chemically ordered and sorted into useful and useless by the blind gut of an animal.
And now, in this nonfiction world, the tendrils of useful and useless have crept even into the dark sanctuary of my morning.
I awake with a sore throat. And I wonder about the people I’ve met over the last day or two or three. And I wonder which of those are so in love with the shimmering and long, skeletal ideas of their own invention. Who, of those I’ve met, are filled with ideas as strange-fruited and as pregnant with dark potential as others in the past such as:
Theorem 1: The moon and the planets and the sun itself revolve around the earth, which is as God intended it.
Theorem 2: Man was made to dominate the earth and his wife and his children.
Theorem 3: Good will prevail when all people are given the opportunity to freely and willfully scramble after every ounce of shimmering wealth.
All that glitters…
Death stalks the land. Death has inebriated my neighbors so deeply that they no longer trust their healers, their teachers, their caregivers.
And those of us left scrabbling against the night, setting up lean-tos against the storm are growing tired and tired and tired.
This is not a movie.
This is nonfiction.
The morning was a place of refuge for me before I began waking up exhausted from dreams about my teeth falling in twos and threes from my gums.
This is nonfiction. And my own kind of Death has begun to grip even me with its own arms, its own skeletal wrists bejeweled with anger and contempt. Disgust even.
And so let me now focus on my body. On my own sore throat. Let me focus on my own throat and forget about the unknown individual in the last day or two or three who may have been the womb of the sickness. Let my focus move along my throat, along my shoulders (tired even after my sleep), along my torso (tired but still breathing – deep, long breaths), along my legs (sore, but still moving with the muscle that is left to me). Let me think not of Death but instead about my own personal death – a slow, warm thing wherein each day a piece of me comes undone so that I might help my children (count my children again – each of them); let me think of my own personal death and how, during the decades-long process of it, I learn to detach myself from my own legs, torso, arms, and voice, how I learn to allow those things to drop away and make rich the land upon which my children will grow.
And I breathe and still, I breathe. And Death be not proud. But my death will glorious be. And so I forget about the ones who cling to their shimmering jeweled tyrant-king and, in so doing, I forget about myself. And, rather, I see the morning rising. The grass and the dew that jewels its leaves would enamor the Transcendentalists. (Allons!) And in this new day, I see the aged trees rising over the land and I see, too, their shadows (long but growing shorter); I see the saplings with leaves quivering in the breeze; I see the deer who, themselves, watch me; I watch the moth and dragonfly move from leaf to shadow to new light and back to leaf; and, amidst all that is seen, I smell the dirt which is wet with potential and rich with the memory of all that has come before. I smell the soil, thick with dreams and pregnant with next year’s young (still lying in the thrum of its mother-earth). I crouch now and my fingers twine with that soil, probe the soil, know the soil, and become the soil.
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