There is a dragon within the wind whose bite cuts straight to the trembling bone, and though no wounds remain aft to mend, the bite lingers, still, like seeds deep sown. The dragon seeks with its pallid eye heartbeats by hearth, by fire, those warm lives that flee from it as it roams nearby, its keen unseen teeth like icy knives.
The backcloth sky is but harsh white wool through which the bleak, blank sun often glows cold, far-off, like a corpselight of Yule when the biting air swells up and blows. We are scorned by that distant-drawn sun for yesterday’s oft ungrateful cheer, our Summer arrogance now undone by the Yule dragon’s icicle sneer.
Elder-aged, now, I lay all alone in this Yuletide season of the cold and try to sleep, but I toss and groan, wondering how I became so old. The dragon snorts, then groans, too, and sighs, and licks at me through a frosted crack; will I survive till the dragon dies, just long enough for Spring to come back?
This Winter passes on without a snow, yet is cold as a corpse drained of its hues, all is either black or brown or sallow; a fell tumescence festers in its views. Snowfall no longer drapes this scabrous land like the white sheet spread with grief and pity, nor is a shroud laid by a loving hand— all is laid bare in Death’s indignity.
In such a car wreck as mine you have no say-so, no line to draw between what is now and what will be, no know-how or power will save you then, nor have you say how or when; nothing obeys your dire voice and you truly have no choice, but to accept what’s to come in a state of peace, or numb, or fearing it all, to fear and to scream, though none will hear whom may change what will be next, what comes at the final text. This is total acceptance, this is mortality’s sense. You cannot simply say “No” when it is your time to go.
I see it clear in my duskdreams, a small house in a rural field, gilt in Late Summer’s thinning beams; atop rolling land, smoothly hilled. There is no driveway to divide the flowing billows of that place, nor a house on any side; nothing impugns that airy space. A few trees may stand, here and there, and creeks may trickle down below, but that green-crested hill is bare of all but the soft winds that blow. A tomb-quiet cottage whereby a man may retire in life’s Fall, a refuge of silence where I may enfold my heart, like a pall and hear the voice of what may come, that quiet herald of the dusk: the shroud-shadows that may benumb the mind and heart and earthly husk. All around shall lay hills aflow like the waves of a golden sea, the descending hills all I’ll know before the Winter comes for me.
For weeks the widower next door has been blowing piles of leaves, fresh-fallen leaves heavy with last night’s rains, his leafblower like the dull bellow of an imbecile giant echoing through the woods that surround his house. Before Autumn he was cutting down dead ash trees with a high-pitched, bewailing chainsaw all day, every day, and using a hydraulic splitter to create pagan mounds of split wood for a fireplace he did not have. At night I can see a flashlight spearing the darkness as he leads his yappy little dog out for midnight potty, the widower following the dog stiffly as if half-embalmed in his old age; or I hear his grunts and groans as he climbs a ladder in the blind, moonless night to pull leaves out of his gutters and toss them into the shadows. Every day. Every night. The woods resound with his tearless sorrow.
My grandfather once told me that I needed to “grow up”; an old man obsessed with money, obsessed with little slips of green-colored paper, with numbers in a computer on a flickering screen at the bank, obsessed with stock market reports scrolling across the bottom of a television feed while chattering heads speak of market volatility, capital infusion, inflation, recession; he said I needed to “grow up” because make-believe slips of paper were more important than anything else. Humans do not shed delusions as we get older, we only prioritize them, organize them into concerted conceits to make us seem “grown up”, to make ourselves believe that the numbers are as substantial as a brick to the face; and not only does the emperor wear no clothes, but he is not really an emperor, no more than the little germ is that he inhales into his lungs to grow sick and die while shamans from all over the country sing prayers and dance and wail and the decimal point moves left or right like a marble between two children who make-believe the marble to be the earth rolling between the stars.
A circle of black buzzards in a yellow roadside field, a coven speaking no words round a rabbit that was killed by the combine’s heedless path when the farmer reaped his corn; behold the bleak aftermath: a stark contrast in the morn. Black-winged priests bow wrinkled heads in a sallow field of waste, the leaves fall—browns, silvers, reds; death-borne colors that they taste in the sacrament enjoined in this season hued with death, in the innocence purloined, and the wind’s husk-rustling breath.
Unsuspected, the blade sheathed in soft silk, as we blindfold ourselves with the attire of kinder roles, as if kin to the ilk of angels whose white wings often aspire toward toplofty clouds, though we steal from the calf its milk, or the lambkin its veal, to render the comforts of our kingdom; the wool, the cream, the calfskin, each filling meal.
How stained are our hands with the coins we snatch from the pouch we slit in a neighbor’s throat, that crimson pouch without zipper or patch, which, once opened, now gapes as the scapegoat sacrificed to devils for devotions while we bleat like innocent lambs lined up for slaughter—Bravo! Our martyr notions would have us, shameless, on such scapegoats sup!
But lo! The blade betrays its brutal truth, reflecting killer in a crimson sheen, the guilty stained with victim blood, forsooth, and not so easy a thing to scrub clean, nor does silk conceal the guilt wrought therefrom, but bleeds through, leaking for all to see lest the witness make blindfold wherefrom anointed he, too, is likewise guilty.
Shun the shade! Forfeit the silk! Forsake yet the dagger and rending the bloody purse! Abandon evil, its comforts, forget aught else lest you reap the tannery’s curse! Such a world is for scapegraces alone and its light illumes by human tallow while the eyes flinch from what is thereby shown, sheathed in silk alike to Justice, fallow.