Last week (or perhaps it was the week before? This month, overheated and damp, has been one in which the days have melted heavily into one another) I found on my red-slated back patio the fragile feathered body of a small bird. It was a limp thing, abandoned both by the cat and whatever little animal spirit had once animated it, and I prodded it dirtward off the stone with a sneakered toe.
This morning (such a still morning, such calm air), looking out through the window, I saw a flutter ripple across the forgotten wings. Oh! Outside I go, curious, to peer more closely.
The bird was dead, of course, still. Its feathers had already begun to grow into the ground; its breast had already opened to and connected with the earth below; still, its small carcass, horribly and wonderfully, was moving– maggot-fat and warmer than when I’d found it.
What is terrifying about death is not that it is an end, nor that it ends, but rather that life, thoughtless and unstoppable, continues, and continues, and continues, hungrily devouring the emptiness.
Until just recently I struggled to understand those who claimed to be born into the wrong era. I am sure you know them, or even count yourself among them: those occasional sorts who’ll wishfully imagine a Victorian upbringing, or one that bore witness to the turn of an earlier century, or (most frequently) one of a simpler era, of prairie, perhaps, or a pre-industrial home. The past has never appealed comfortably to me; the foreign country of the present–the unnavigated, unmapped mess of question and groping prediction–though foreign, has always to me like home, and I’ve liked the danger and frustration of it all. Or, at least, I’ve liked it in the past.
But that was then.
These days the present feels wrong. These days I feel wistful for the future, for moments of greater chaos when either we or our chlidren’s children will look back and laugh aghast at what we chose today to dramatize, at our naive concerns about the world, at our tragicomic headlines (so quaint! so misguided!) and fears. I feel wistful for a future as distant as we are from the ancients, one in which all that we consider known and true is wrong. i feel wistful for a future that contains nobody.
I want to invent some way of erasure, some clean means of not a cruel destroying, but a blanking out and clearing out and getting rid and removing, or of creating space, and nothingness.
If I were an artist I would be an artist of emptiness only, of barren galleries and blank crevasses; if I were an architect I would buy buildings only to raze them, to put up nothing in their place; if I were I writer I would publish books that were not just blank but pageless; if I were a musician I would be mute. The world feels too full already, and yet everyone seems to be seeking means for more novelty, more energy, and more.
I seek instead for the lacuna. I could gracefully erase, or be erased, what a blessing that would be. Nothing can be undone, nothing, and this is horrible and fascinating and oh, thank God, a truth.