Monday, September 1, 2014

About the Birds in the Air

Jesse S. Mitchell

Nothing but the sounds of birds.
Nothing but the buzzing of the bees.

The glimmer glint of rebel-light, like steel in the sun.

The love of collapsing buildings
    And wayward planets that can support no life.
Escaping over sturdy fences into fields so close to barrenness
    That they are called barren, and you can see their barrenness
They are bare-exposed in their nakedness
Worthless except for the space.
The space that they inhabit.

But that is revolutionary
Living in full lux of time.
And when it is Sao Paulo or Sarajevo when we die
Vacant, all cauldron-eyed deep and hollow,
Nothing but a bunch of husk.
And me, as much as you, an uninvited guest,
I will say, the world has begun to turn without us.
Has begun to turn without us.

About the birds in the air…
Horseflies in a cluster on the screen. These are savage times.  It makes me wonder how there are so many of them, woven together, in insectual bunches, their little black legs twisted in with the vinyl string mesh of the storm door window.  It is a marvel to me that anything so small and soft and hopeless survives.  The secret is in their power of flight, or in their numbers, maybe their tenacity…
They usually only congregate like this before a storm.  They get all worked up together and swarm around in clouds.  And they bite.  Suck blood from cattle and horses and people.  Vampiric.  
Something about the change in barometric pressure or the humidity, incites them, drives them to this unholy madness.
The air before a storm is particularly sharp, very dynamic and I find that I myself am drawn to it.  I like to go out into it, walk around.  Feel the dark grey change of mist overhead, feel the deep dampening of the air around me, immersed.  
It is really the approach that is the magic.  For a while anything could happen, the sky could become anything, electricity everywhere, there is potential.  There is an energetic kind of potential.  And potential is the best thing ever.  The most alive thing ever.
A real thing.
And then the storm finally breaks, tears open that long grey sheet of heaven and bursts out.  The rain starts to fall, stinging and delicate at first., but it tires quickly and soon the long lethargic drops begin to splatter and drip over everything and all is set and all the questions answered.  This is the way things are going to be…and we all sink a little bit further down into the forgetful mud. 
The horseflies scatter.
And then an end comes to even that, and the bugs and flies flutter around, all funeral dirges and picking up the pieces.  But soon even all this woefulness ceases and the old moods return and cicadas chant out their mating hum and crickets and spiders nervously rub their legs.
The air gets thin again, lean and empty and clear as glass.  When all the blue finally fades back in, the birds return and begin circling and streaking, each depending on the breed and temperament.   
The sounds of the street begin to pop back out, more prominent now after the low droning hiss of rain.  The air conditioner kicks on, makes a clank in the vents and sends up the cold.  It isn’t really all that hot yet but the A/C unit is old and easily confused by the changes in humidity and evaporation.  A girl rides by on a bicycle, a slow repetitive squeak. Her hair, Scandinavian-straight, picks up the wind a bit as she passes a creeping police car and turns the corner.  She turns onto the road that leads to the western part of town, where they keep the industrial and commercial places. The few factories, a couple of mostly empty professional complexes, the stores, the green behind the community college where they are setting up an outside pavilion for a Tuesday Weld film fest, and finally the lake.  The lake is almost totally round.  And large.  And it was almost always glass-still.  Nothing disturbs the surface.  
The lake was also the spot where the last aboriginal peoples of this area stood some land for the final time and were then summarily slaughtered.  Gunned down and left to rot.  That blood is still there, as particularly iron rich soil that supports some of the tallest and sweetest water flowers and grasses anywhere.
The lake is now  a popular local week-end and holiday recreational area.  They have picnic shelters and camper hook-ups and extremely filthy trash cans chained to iron poles stuck in the ground, as if they were in some danger of being taken.  
The girl is most likely heading there.
It is depressing the way summer returns to the day after a storm.  It is a kind of boring-heaviness, a weight, a obnoxious mass, a crammed-wet-paper-bag-full kind of weight. A nuclear radiating kind of warm weight.  It is warm but a false warm.  Everything is too bright.  Everything is trying too hard.  But we’ll get over it. 
I wish I could write a book with a photo of Simone de Beauvoir on the cover.  I have no such book in mind.  I don’t even know what it could be about, could be about anything really, I just want to write something that would justify the use of such imagery.  
I look out the door for some sign of the horseflies.  I watch a few cars roll down the street.  Trees move slightly.  People getting their mail.  I lose focus.
These are the hot blasts of civilization that come creeping into my mind.  Totally unprovoked, I swear.  Uninvited.  Unwelcome.  And the biggest part of everyone of my days is spent running around this house and this life in general, sealing up all the cracks and patching all the holes.  But there is always that little draft.  I must avoid it.  
Here is my place in time.  How depressing.  So here I stand, my arms by my side, trapped by time, by gravity, by circumstances beyond my control, by science, by wild random science.  By events.  Best to get used to it.  Best to put the paper down and switch off the television.  Wait it out. 
I am a hurricane.  A hurricane is defined by the Oxford Dictionary of English as ‘a strong violent wind of with at least level 12 Beaufort scale force’ and the word comes from the Taino word for their god of the storms, Hurakan.  But that’s me, a swirling mass of appendages, mad tentacles of anxiety drunk numb fingers and toes, a clumsy destructive mess.  With an extremely calm core.  Not a thing moves, total stillness.
I am also a misanthrope.  I do not like people.  I think what I dislike most about them is their laziness.  I don’t mean physical laziness, I don’t care how many bales you tote, or hours in your day, I don’t give a shit about so-called ’work’.  I mean, our all over laziness.  How we allow the awfulness of this world to persist and even increase.  How we still perpetuate evil and violence on each other.  How we continue to allow some to go without and how we permit so many to die.  All before our very eyes.  
If I ever state this, I usually hear the old line ’but we don’t know any better. ’  But we do.  Have you ever  read a book, watched a film, studied religion, mythology?  We know exactly how to be.  The human story is beautiful.  It is rich and warm and so full of mercy and advancement, it draws even the iron tear.  There is such a promise, such a possibility of what our future could be, as to be so wonderful that it reduce any legend of heaven or hell a dull glint lost in the overgrown weeds.  The end.  We could be so much, it courses through our blood, it invades our imaginations (obliviously) , we breathe its air…but we won’t do it.
But we won’t do it.
And we will blame it on something else.
And we will avoid it and we won’t even talk about it and we will try to never ever think about it
And we certainly won’t look at it or deal with it.
But me either.  I’m not better. I’m no better.
Robert Heinlein said that ‘Sin lies only in the harming of others unnecessarily and all other sins are invented nonsense’.  Yes.  I agree with that.  But we won’t even follow just that one rule.  We cannot stop ourselves.  All we really need do, is never intentionally or  needlessly harm another living thing and we would be golden.  Humankind I could love you again.  I could live side by side with you again.  I could write your stories again.  I would grant you any reputation you wished.  Because we all want reputations.  Saviors. Heroes.  Don’t speak ill of the dead.  Dictators holding whole herds of scholars, dacha bound and restless, with cold gun pressed to warm throat, all to rewrite a little history.  Who is a liberator?  Who is an oppressor?  No one goes to the grave a villain.  
Just don’t kill.  Just don’t maim.  Don’t torture.  And don’t let it happen.  Let us move on.  Move us on.  Be happy.  Let everyone born on your watch go to the grave in their natural time and in one piece.  And I will grant you any reputation you desire.  Go out under the stars and breathe your saintly hymns to the moon.  Into churches or alleyways or caves or temples and do your things, I do not care.
But I’m no better of course, of course of course, of course I’m no better either. 
I’m no better.
I need to get myself together.
Walk into the other room, turn the computer on, pull open all the curtains. Let a lot of sunlight in.  oddly enough as reclusive as I am, I cannot stand the blinds drawn. I must have the sun. Electric lights are hideous yellow and they buzz.  I can hear the noise everywhere.  I feel it.  Echoing around inside my bony porous skull-head.  It is unnerving.  It reminds me of my cadaverous nature.  I am just a dead body tossed on earth alone for long enough for me to realize it on my own.  
I sit down to type.  I wait.  I think in my mind of my characters.  I visualize them.  I put them in situations and I wait.  I wait for them to react, to respond and when they do, I smile because their reply pleases me.  But then it does not.  Because it is not real.  They have done what I wished them to do and not what they would have done.  It is not honest.  
My universe is filled with deep thinking individuals in so far as their deep thoughts could only be as deep as mine, with all my limitations but then again, within my world, my thoughts are the deepest thoughts that can be thought.  Yes, they are conscientious, profound beings.  And they are hardly never wrong.  They kill me.  
You may say ’why bother?  What from Swann’s Way to Infinite Jest, there is nothing left to say in Modern literature.’  You many say that, and I might even agree.  But I don’t think we are still in the ‘Modern’, ‘post-Modern’, ‘Contemporary’ days.  That all ready happened and our out right refusal to move on is one of the biggest causes our recent malfunctions. 
    And then come those moments of perfect stillness.  Too introspective, pushing the brain too far. And our eyes go empty blank and it pours over you like water threatening to drown.  But you don’t, you hover on the verge of breathlessness and compulsion.  Compulsion to gasp for air.  We realize we are alive, we are life, this is life…
And we seem insignificant and we seem sad and we seem lost.  But we get over it, as is our nature, our nature is to survive, to surmount.  We get over it and we move to the next phase, pure delirium.  We shake overtaken with joy and we realize we are alive, we are life, all of this is life and everything is beautiful and wonderful no matter who you are or what you believe.  And there is where the real madness lies, because as it is beautiful and grand, it is also so fleeting and it is so quick and  the rapture pulls away from you, and you find yourself unable to stand it, the quick obliteration and the fading of all the light.
My fingers in front of me, all flesh and bone.  They tremble.  They shake.  
It is dangerous to think of characters this way.  
And we go rampaging towards an end.
And we go rampaging…
The birds swoop between the power lines outside the house and go streaming up over the neighbor’s roof.  

And the horseflies buzz hover in mid-air with the blood lust on their lips.   

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