Monday, January 16, 2012


Hopping on One Foot

...planxty (an ancient Celtic music form) is not suitable for either singing or dancing, due to its erratic sequencing...the conclusion of a phrase is so framed as to produce the idea of a beginning; and again, the beginning or middle of a phrase so constructed as to seem for a moment the notes of a passage about to close.
---Tom Cowan
Fire in the Head

My new student is on fire, willing to face that she doesn’t know everything. She’s the keeper of a remarkable story. The only glitch is that her favorite slogan is “Get ‘er Done!’ Aside from the hee haw, let’s git that snow cannon up on the mountain and fire some frozen pee at the slopes nature of the phrase, the one work ethic a novel will resist is “Get ‘er done!” It’s a lot more like “’Er gets the writer done!”
The writer doesn’t dance in lockstep. We dance to a choreography that makes us as we go. Here is how it works. When it works:
Ravens dance on the snow in front of my little apartment. It’s not a vision. It’s not a surprise. This morning I scattered corn chips to the four directions: North for the Old Ones, East for Light and Burning, South for a little girl, humming to herself, playing hop-scotch alone every day through a long, hot, wet summer; West for She Who Rules, the Dark shining Lady of Take and Give-Away, the implacable Mistress of Time.
Corn chips on snow in an apartment complex. Cats asleep in the living room. No speed limit. No white line. No danger. No trucks looming around the curve.
“Too easy,” my friend, the planxty, would say. “Never move road-kill off the road. It takes away all the fun.”
Ducking and dodging, running the knife edge, off balance, in. Either way, we’re gonna die. Either way, this may be the last day we have, the last moment, the last breath. The way the ravens see it, so what. This could be the last corn chip and that would be the real tragedy.
One of my students writes about wild turkey. She says they have no vacations. We humans only believe we do. From the edge of the blade, there are no holidays. We step out, and out, and, past a certain point on that shining, we look back.
To a time we could close our eyes and pull our history and fear around us and imagine that, for an instant, we were safe. And, safe moment by safe moment, we died. I am one of you. I look back.
Look back.
Remember when you were safe. You knew the dance. The music was easy. One, two three, one, two three. Moving hand in hand in a straight line. Patterns droning. The first step leads to this one, this one to the next, the middle, the closing, the end. Pause. Breathe. Change partners perhaps. And begin again. One, two, three, one, two, three, in endless circles, moving out, around, coming back, again and again, to the same place. No drums. No back beat. No voice, no harp rising like a clear wild scream. When the ravens hear this same old same old notmusic, they fly away.
Somewhere up north, they know, there’s a two-lane highway so far out the cops forget it. Kids in Cannibal Corpse t-shirts are eating french fries and drinking sweet wine. They have their hands on each others’ thighs and J.R. is driving. There is no sun. Orion rises in the east. Somebody screams. Laughs. J.R. throws his empty out the truck window, grabs Leeanne’s french fries and gives them to the wind. Your raven heart jumps in your gleaming breast like a drum. Starlight glitters off shattered glass. You hop. You scream. You call the others in and, YOU EAT.
Lugh, before battle, hops on one foot and screams. His arms stretch out from east to west. Blue-black feathers. Bright eye. His shining. Hopping on one foot to a tune that has no pattern. Only endings held in beginnings and beginning rising from the end. Screaming. Out of balance and in.
The only safety is the edge. Heading east to the unknown west. Till we meet again.