The night fully settles
over northern Minnesota
in the sky grows dark
as the stars make
their reluctant appearance.
Peering through the tall grasses
of the wetlands abutting the road
1000 stars are born
and die in an instant
only to be reborn again
they are replaced by
the beetles that accompany
the slowly rising sun.
Cheever was having a bad day, that much was immediately obvious. Perhaps it was the two martini’s in town before lunch, but he says it only made him giddy. We all know better and by late afternoon his mood has soured completely, his emotions have slipped back into turmoil. He says a few cocktails will cure him, or at least make him bearable. He will soon consider AA again, drinking dry the liquor cabinet in the consideration. Elsewhere and in another time, Borges reminds us, an Irish poet, held prisoner in the last days of the Irish civil war, knows he will be executed in the morning, and so slips out of the house that serves as his prison, and into the water icy, frigid, now hating the Barrow river. He swims as best he can, promising that if the river god allows him to live he will present her with two swans. He does live, he does place two swans onto the river the following spring, and he dreams one day of visiting Coole.
Only in a French movie does a girl stand on a bridge threatening to jump or not and weave a story that so draws us in that by the end, when the couple is together, she now pulling him from the same brink we almost forget that the movie was in a language neither of us speak.
Watching French movies you know why Hollywood seems less real than the giant letters stuck like pushpins into a hillside. Even in translation laughter remains universal but you begin to think in word pictures that have utterly no meaning le neige gris la belle chat la lumiere fantastique and you imagine dreaming in a tongue you have never spoken.
I have no reason to venture to Tahiti for Gaugin took me there years ago, and again on a visit to Chicago and one to New York, or was it Cleveland, it hardly matters, for I know that the Tahiti of my experience no longer exists, touristed to death, itself at constant risk of drowning.
I did have reason to go to Arles, and there searched far and wide for the sky that Vincent promised, or the flowers, but the few stars visible through the lights and pollution of the city were pale imitations of the brilliant lights I know were there aj century ago.
Now I sit in my yard and watch the comings and goings of a thousand birds who deserve to be painted and not captured merely in pixels, for memory, human and electronic, fades with time, while art if not artists can be immortal.
The night is that bitter cold that slices easily through nylon and Polartec, makes child’s play of fleece and denim. The small rooms glow in the dim radiance of propane lights and heaters as the silver is carefully packed away in plastic tool boxes. The pinyon wood is neatly stacked in forty pyres, some little taller than the white children clinging to their parents’ legs, some reaching twenty-five feet, frozen sentinels against the star gorged sky. The fires are slowly lighted from the top, the green wood slowly creeps to flame as its sap drips fire until the pile is consumed. Half frozen we step away from the sudden oven heat. The smoke climbs obliterating the stars as the procession snakes from the small, adobe church, the men at its head firing rifles into the scowling smoke cloud. A sheet is draped over the four poles a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother remarried to her people. She weaves through the crowd, gringos, Indians, looking always upward, beyond the smoke the clouds against which it nestles, beyond all, for another faint glimpse of her Son.