I thought I might be done writing. Maybe not, but I think I’ve gone as far as I care to go in the direction I’ve gone.
Besides I’d rather laugh than write. Although sometimes my sense of humor resembles a Holocaust documentary.
I just want to rest. I’ve wanted to rest since I was about 10 years old. I’m not the laziest person I’ve ever met, but only because I don’t have that much ambition.
I’m resting from the last four essays, one of which spoke vaguely of elephants. So here’s a happy little poem mentioning elephants I’d like to air out one more time. Unexpectedly, part of it was included a few years ago on Counterpunch. Unexpectedly, because I don’t usually bother trying to publish anything. But when I do try, I usually don’t even receive an acknowledgement of rejection.
Also, I don’t know why they didn’t include the whole thing. They either didn’t like the second half or they accidentally deleted it. I was too afraid to ask them, in case they discovered their error in publishing the thing. I happen to like the ending, damn it. I like thinking of that long line of beat-up trailers and houses along route 23 as a kind of terminal moraine. Erratic humans here and there.
The photographs are not mine. Maybe I’ll replace them with some I take. But I’m not exactly sure I like the idea of taking pictures of other people’s squalid living conditions. It’s a little too intrusive. And I’m afraid of getting shot. But these photographs look like Pharsalia, which is one of my favorite places.
Pharsalia, or Civil War, is also the title of a poem by Lucan, written sometime around the time of Christ — about the civil war between Julius Caesar and the Roman Senate. “All wars are civil wars.” All empires mark our own triumph and defeat. The footprints of all these triumphs and defeats can be seen in the land, in Pharsalia itself.
What I see in Pharsalia is the terminal moraine of a ruinous glacier of hyper-rational thinking that came from Europe. That witchery (as Leslie Marmon Silko uses the word) — that non-sacred vision of reality — has reached its apex and is melting away. It leaves behind a flattened landscape of political and social thought, of spiritual ruin. It becomes evident in places like Pharsalia first.
It’s a place near where I grew up. There’s a melancholy power here. Subdued, ancient, hard, desolate, beautiful. In this beauty there are seeds of renewal that will remove every last trace of witchery from our system. But first one has to appreciate the desolation of the place.
The Royal Elephant carcass of a bus lies mangled
among legions of Fords
and Chevrolets. From shrinking drifts
broken doors and mirrors reach out
like Chief Bigfoot in Death. All of Pharsalia
melts again into the stone boot-prints
of mile-heavy ice.
Here pool retreating forces.
Their triumph and defeat
merging and disappearing
in water, like elephant
Where Oneida once held
a feather dance, thanking Maples, now
Chevys and great yellow plows,
their wings rusted,
lie buried in snow.
In a paintless church, old
window frames lean
against the sills, thick
with flies, an inch deep, overhead
broken cobwebs swing.
Here and there
Slump on sofas
in aluminum encampments
piled along the highway
like a terminal moraine
Here are some actual photos of Pharsalia — thanks to whoever the hell took them: