Morning of the Fictive Funeral
by Doug Ramspeck
It was Zeno who said that the goal of life
is to live in agreement with nature,
but I have never understood how to take a single step
beyond the syllable. It sits there before you
like a great root. The tongue grows weary of it.
I know this because the woods are still this morning,
like someone has taken them down from an old shelf,
has dusted them off, and has left them
like a child's plaything in the back yard. I want to walk
amid the loblolly pines and the blackjack oaks
and so become them, but that's not how it works,
and everybody knows it. Mostly you just end up arguing
with your wife or your child or yourself while looking out
the window at the distant woods. If something is
going to get up off its sorry ass and actually get around
to walking into those blasted trees, it will just be
another phoneme. But even the spent word is fictive, of course.
It slithers out of the great river, trembles a little
in the baking sun, and dies. Which is why I know to knot
my tie so carefully at my throat. I suppose I could say
we were bickering a little this morning while getting ready
to head off to the funeral. That would give everything
a little arc on which to hang a few consonants and vowels.
But the slash pines and the hawthorns won't hear of it.
They aren't much interested in storytelling. They aren't even
interested in my agreement. I can tell by the way
they don't see the need to ponder me on this side
of the window. It was Wallace Stevens who said
that we must have the mind of winter to regard the frost
and the boughs, but all I've ever needed
was to stand there, the glass in between us, and a tongue.
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