Breezy golden light on the mountain. Breath by breath,you climb the rope of listening and vision down into the valley, where the pine-tree people have already slipped into a tall, swaying sleep, while (in their slim shadows) the grass people lean, whispering their most sacred story: how bleak this valley was before their ancestors sailed an ocean of wind into its barren folds. * Your ancestors came from Germany via Ukraine, from Ireland and Scotland. Dirt farmers, mostly, mostly half-assed about it, buying rocky ground (sight unseen, but cheap), then trundling west in Conestogas, iron-jawed women birthing and burying along the trail. Wherever they settled, they’d one day head to town and glare into a lens for a family portrait. What can you buy with joy, their lampblack eyes would ask, on this enemy Earth? * Here where Arapaho and Ute hunted deer in summer, cut poles for tents, told sacred stories—here your people platted cramped parcels, hammered cabins out of scabrous pine logs, so that moneyed types could flee the flatland swelter and odious foreign laborers. Then: 1929. At big desks of burnished oak, ruined men pressed pistol barrels to their heads, leaving only a stench of saltpeter and scorched pomade. Soon the elite sanctuary’s gates were flung wide to almost anyone with cash. If not for those shattered Easy Street fortunes, there’d be no you pondering these pines, that grass, that ginger-furred fox, that Taoist flash of a magpie into the leafy brush. Why this melancholy, then? You grasp the meaning of your past, the present with its evening sun bleeding down beyond the ridge. No stories here mention you. But true to your class, you keep on dreaming of being let in.
Despite its swiftness, the current’s clear. Grass weaves and unravels under the water. Fish congregate among cottonwood roots along the bank, swapping ancient tales of Heraclitus as a boy—how he liked to splash all alone in the murky shallows. Out toward the middle, insect shadows flicker over sunken plazas of sand. How refreshing to walk there! But don’t step in unless you mean to get soaked: the creek floor’s further down than it looks. Besides, big stones have shouldered up here and there, sturdy enough to cross over on. Instead, you linger. The interplay of shade and sun-gleam’s mesmerizing, and you love how the water seems to share the secrets you need at this very moment, while saving the rest to tell further on.
Field Notes Concerning the Bomb
The bald, jug-eared foreign policy expert advocates bombing Tehran. The ex-Director of Mossad wants to bomb Beirut or Damascus, or both. The CEO of Raytheon aims to grow the lucrative cluster bomb market.
The audience enjoys hooting and jeering when the stand-up comic bombs. The gamer whoops when the dusky bomber explodes in a cloud of red pixels. When Wile E. Coyote gets bombed to ash, the toddler cries, “Beep beep!”
The Sudanese med student wants to bomb the arrogant Danish cartoonist. The talk radio fanatic suspects his neighbor’s gardener of planting a bomb. The born-again President dreams of cramming a bomb up the Devil’s ass.
The émigré poet begs Jesus to bomb the dictator who raped her voice. The pilot bombs a mud-brick hovel, then flies off above the ascending dust. Glimpsing himself in a lobby mirror, the Jakarta Hilton bomber hesitates.
Its builders, dealers, devotees and victims mean nothing to the bomb. The bomb needs nothing and desires nothing—not even to explode. Anti-Buddhas: each bomb’s awakening makes even emptiness suffer.