Monday, September 21, 2009
Weiser River Pillow Book #10
[Here's this month's installment of Eberle's Weiser River Pillow Book series. In case you've forgotten, Eberle wrote the Pillow Book in 2001, which will put these September musings in a larger context.]
CHILDREN OF A SUPERPOWER
What we are, I suppose, is inevitable: dull-witted, guilt-ridden, violent, joyless, smug masters of denial, good at video games.
Possessed by the remarkable ability to believe ourselves deserving of privilege.
Believing in the inherent goodness of the parent superpower, in spite of the continuing tradition of astounding brutality.
THINGS THAT RETURN
Strange to discover that fall is a time of things returning. Instead of counting off the disappearances—basil, plum tree leaves, marigolds--I watch for what returns: magpies, quails, owls. The pumpkins and acorn squash emerging all at once and abundant when their vines shrivel under frost.
WAITING FOR RAIN
The dryness of the leaves.
Then the insects come.
Dust pillowing the ground under wild apple trees where the cows take shelter.
Mice rustling loudly in the dry grasses.
Hawks circling overhead.
SLEEPLESS FULL MOON
The house is brimming with moonlight.
Wind rushing in the cottonwoods, the far roar of highway trucks.
WE CALL THE PLACE PLUM ALLEY
The curve in the road past the last trailer house, wild yellow plums and the rosy kind as well. Now the weather has turned and there are quail, wild turkeys sometimes. Cattails and rose-hips in the ditch. I’ve watched a large sunflower stay the same solid yellow as the fields behind it dry to brown. The No Hunting sign attached to the barbed wire fence with baling twine, a large rusted piece of farm machinery sticking up as if it had toppled, nose first, to the ground, a mastodon caught unawares by an Ice Age.
THINGS THAT SUSPEND TIME
Walking into the forest.
Drumming, especially outdoors.
Making love, especially in the afternoon.
SPENDING THE WHOLE DAY WRITING MUSIC
When it’s easy, it seems that the sounds are already there, all I have to do is listen. All it is, is suspending fear, listening past panic and sense.
Rapture is simple, but not comfortable.
That night, sleeplessness: the sound of rain dripping onto the straw bales unbearably loud, the moths crashing into the screen window.
THE BEST STATES OF MIND
THINGS ABOUT FLAGS
People have put up, everywhere, flags printed by the big city newspaper. But using colored pencils to make your own flag is apparently not as socially acceptable an option.
A lovely flag would be pink and green stripes, with an eggplant among the stars.
Re-reading May Sinclair’s description of the outbreak of flags before the declaration of Britain’s involvement in World War One—the same hysteria, the same blindness, the same rush to curtail civil liberties.
It’s the third time in twenty years this country has gone to war against people it empowered: Noriega, Hussein, Bin Laden.
The technological direction we have chosen creates the arsenal—sky-scrapers as weapons, DNA research enabling biological warfare.
IN SPITE OF LOGIC
In spite of logic, I feel so sick and depressed. Logic says terrorism is bound to become another part of life, and in fact it is no more brutal than all the other brutalities people have decided they can live with in this country. But it is sad.
ASHES ASHES WE ALL FALL DOWN
Not finding bodies, realizing that they were part of the ash cloud falling on the city.
Cats and dogs, dead in locked apartments whose owners never returned, where neighbors didn’t know each other well enough to do anything.
In Afghan refugee camps, millions facing death from starvation.
During the Taliban takeover, computers, videos, cassettes, nailed in masses to a pole; children vowing murder.
Giving Native Americans small-pox infested blankets as part of the genocide campaign.
Killing countless people to control oil, and enabling the Taliban to come to power.
Fearing Taliban-backed suicide artists infecting themselves with small-pox and walking among us.
Three sisters by a river, planting trees; twenty years.
Two friends, a ladder between them.
Four boxes of pears; the dehydrator.
Pear-shaped skin-thin slices, veined and grained with summer.
A leaf, colorless and dried where leaf-maggots have been.
Empty hay shelters.
Telephone poles along the treeless road, looking invertebrate after the fields have turned to a uniform khaki.
GOOD GIRL GOTHIC
Shirley Jackson. Rebecca West.
Anna Kavan. Jean Rhys.
Barbara Comyns. Stevie Smith.
Mary Shelley. May Sinclair.
Angela Carter. Lynda Barry.
The superpowers have to figure out that they can’t wantonly wreck people’s basic rights without eventual reprisal. This is not a moral premise, since a superpower, by definition, is incapable of thinking morally, but a matter of pragmatics. Eventually, people will fight back, and they will be able to do damage. Eventually, the smugness and self-encumberedness of a superpower means that is incapable of running a war against anything but another superpower competently. We ourselves created this mine-field.
Eberle Umbach, © 2001-2009