I’ve declined help, leaving it to the lingering green of the nearby landscape, removed as I am from any reliance on others that might prompt them to throw sand across my decisions and desires. Years at a time have gone by before any mothers get a real chance to dole out the nourishment that filters down, as eager as they are to preserve choice goods for their own children, but almost as concerned for their neighbors’ comfort. Learning passes from soul to soul, generation to generation, and it’s inevitable that all the hard facts jumble together with all the vital myths. What’s left to me is a handful or two of dry dirt and barely enough moisture to form clods out of it, and seeds I could count on one hand if they weren’t scattered just beyond my flagging grasp.
To the subdued melody of morning my footsteps cross ashy tiles under sunrays dampened by a filter of industrial ugliness—this brightness still seems, even when nuclear physics explains it as fusion on a cosmic scale, like something divine, the furnace of the world’s first creatures. In the nooks of my brain the light powers up memories of zealous forebears, creating the chiaroscuro effect of strict judgment on the tiles’ surface, once rough but over the years smoother and smoother as feet keep passing. Along the walkway tendrils and vines twist their way between evenly laid stones, poking into the corral where cattle and pigs nibble on them, the butcher’s axe looming above. It’s a food chain that my political appetites have hammered into a tight chain of command. I can walk these grounds as countless forebears have, I can tend to the plants and animals, make sure every part is in order and in place, but none of it offers guarantees against the brisk spawning of a virus.
The Need for a Break
In the field where livestock grazes I’m digging rocks from the ground, the right sizes and shapes for a wall along the garden path to mark off which part of the land is mine for leisure and which I’ll share for work, and then which part to reserve for future underlings. If this patch ever takes off I’ll hire a team of chroniclers who decades after I’m gone might concoct the story of my she-wolf stepmother and the power her milk drove into my limbs, which citizens’ll repeat until they’ve worn it thin and no one believes it anymore and they realize how much profit I made from the flesh of their ancestors and they tear down every statue of me. The ragged fate of a founder is to be turned into a god, and since it’s my nature to flounder that’s the last thing I want. My goals remain modest: while daylight holds out I’ll stack the rocks in a straight line like straight-backed soldiers giving an impression of force to passersby. The cattle and pigs watch me with no thoughts yet of the butcher’s axe, animals are so lucky they can pack a moment with the fullness of a lifetime and I’ll do the same once I sit under those huge white magnolia flowers.
©2023 Hassan Melehy
All rights reserved
…is a writer and teacher living in North Carolina, USA. In addition to books and essays in literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism, he has written scenarios for several short films. His verse has appeared in Prelude, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Hat, and BlazeVOX Journal, among other venues.