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.
I have watched the black and white interviews with the poet on his ramshackle farm, quoting himself, word for word, his old muse near-suicidal, disposed to self-harm, and how dark are the later, silver years when the laurels clutter the poet’s head; it is enough to bring a man to tears, if only allergies when eyes are red. He writes so little verse, but acts a script writ daily, with what life he may muster, his mask such as is in a pharaoh’s crypt, sometimes lacquered, sometimes just lackluster.
O, I hear the bean sidhe—she is shrieking in schoolyard and school hall, the fell, bleak thing sounding an alarm for the many deaths when goodly youths shall draw their final breaths while old men diddle and dither, at odds with one another, and their bloodfed gods. The gruesome Redcaps dip their dripping hats into crimson puddles like vineyard vats and a murder of crows descends anon from the shoulders of grim-lipped Morrigan and all youth is squandered in misty vale, blooming anew with rot and maggots pale till the ancient echoes of pagan song be sated in surfeit of age-old wrong, the wrong of wrongs such were long forgotten when clans clashed fiercely, each chief besotten with the blood-debts accrued in times before, that fateful geas that binds forevermore. Do nought for the dead but ponder and pray and be grateful that the capricious Fae demand no more than the youths hereby piled for their burrows and mounds and woodlands wild, for the Land of Youth needs our youth to bleed ere Tir na nOg be a place old men heed when nodding at their thrones as if glamored and impotent, their weak hearts enamored of the Cailleach, that old baleful elf who enchants to think only of the self as the long winter of old age reigns on in those resentful of youth, their youth gone. O, our country is as the headless wraith, the Dullahan, that runs forth with a faith steeped in blood, cracking a whip made of spine as if backbone is enough to consign the peace hungered for in our times of grief, times when blood-stained blade oft slips from the sheath… but we’ve lost our heads, and the youth their lives, as old men nod, ignoring Elphame tithes.
Lingering ghost, wraith without a head, standing beside the four-poster bed, reminding us of the missteps made and things left undone, the bitter trade of thrills for comforts from a routine to thwart the unknown, the unforeseen so our lives are secured by the rite of habit, of caution, day and night. She stands there, as headless as our lives while steadfast in scheduled nine-to-fives, the ritual headless, saying nought, yet we know she would say that we ought to have done more when we had the chance, but each night we lament circumstance, for she attends us at our bedside— attends forever, our deathbed bride.