Saturday, December 11, 2010

i. Taza

(Lodged in the fading paragraphs of one of my seventh graders' stories was the first line of this story. We all liked it so much, we used it as a prompt for a whole series of stories, most of us incorporating it as our first line. A few, wonderfully, used it as their first and last lines. I didn't get a chance to play with it in class, but here's my take. Just a beginning; it ain't done.)

Heroically, they wandered off into the desert, wary of the unseen dangers of the terrain.

There were three of us. The man with the diamond eye, the beggar, and me. At times I felt them close by, at times I felt them as part of me; other times I felt the raging pain in my head as distance beyond compare.

We cared for each other: tended morning fires, listened for wind, caressed memories from depths long thought dead.

In this desert, to our surprise, there was no dead. The tangle was all ours, striated within our granite skulls.

I left to tend the wind. There were none who would find me. Those I left entirely. The ghosts of machines gone bad. Wisdom is disarray, my heart was challenged to return and exhume the rest.

The beggar lay face down in the sands. A crooked soul, ghastly beyond reason, positively radiant in his desolation. He offered the bread in his hand, as if I were the vagrant soul in our midst.

“What is food to me?” he said.

I had no answer.

Without invitation, he picked up his load and followed me. First at a distance, then the stench of him walked boldly beside me. He seemed oblivious to his hideousness.

In this, he was a thing—a man—of beauty.

The diamond was just that. The first time I met the other, he pulled it from his socket and handed it right to me. Bid me take it, keep it, even, though there was not the heart in me to keep another man’s treasure.

“More’s the pity,” he said. “What do I need of it?”

“And what need I?” I replied.

“It isn’t obvious to you?”

I felt a crawling in my gut, thinking,
Please don’t tell me

He showed me, instead. Early morning, leagues outside Taza, the Rif staggering in the morning light, I thought myself in the presence of All That is Holy. He laughed and stomped off into the dunes, kicked the beggar out of his meditations and ablutions. His was a cruelty not spared on either of us. He was not without compassion, but he seemed bent on passionate ridicule. I felt sure Life would harm him soon, if not either of us.

My mendicant was far more patient than I; in truth, it was only I raging: Fas—for that was his name—took his abuse in stride, as if the Diamond Man’s blows landed on an entirely different body, if any body at all.

I woke another morning with him seated on my chest. He stank of days without bathing, though we had in fact bathed just the day before.

“You dream of nothing,” he said. Spat the words out.

“I have not dreamt for years. They do not hold.”

“The sweet earth is wasted on you.”

“For this you sit on me, to stink into my morning light?”

"I sit on you, because you are rubbish.”

Days of this, ritual desecration. I was reduced to ashes, as daily he piled the brands upon me, burning through to my mind’s crust. In time, I could not lift myself beyond despair. This is when he laughed loudest, crushing in his derision.

“There is . . . no . . . beauty in you.”

“Why do you stay?”

“Foolish man.”


“I am your Angel of Death.”



Blogger anno said...

There is something of Rimbaud in this journey, even if Morocco is nearly a continent away from Ethiopia; and an interesting take, too, on that old admonition to let Death be your advisor. I have sympathy for those with granite skulls, suffering as I do with my own.

What makes this unfinished in your mind? Where would you take it?

11:08 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: Love the Rimbaud take; fan that I am, it never occurred. Our granite skulls: comes of our fixed sign, perhaps? Not sure why I thought / think it unfinished. I wrote it very late last night (early this morning) and was nodding as I came to the Angel's final line. I'm not sure the journey's finished for any of them, in my mind or theirs.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I was thinking science fiction or tribes of mind. It is definitely a powerful story. Maybe there will be more. Different from, yet sometimes similar to, your Scarred Angels. Perhaps the archetypes for the angels wandering in the desert of the psyche.

1:54 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Love your take on the story, too, Teresa. This was actually a writing exercise within a piece of journaling, wanting to shift some dialogue from left to right brain. There is much good reflection and life-changing going on right now, but some necessary realignment and soul-calibration. I don't mean that to sound alarming: these are good times.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

No one is alarmed. Every soul needs to be recalibrated like the suspension on a car. If you let it go too long, things can get really dicey.

4:33 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Teresa: Agreed. This new suspension's been long overdue. Been taking care of the outer worlds to the neglect of the inner.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Dee Martin said...

Inner worlds indeed. I could hear Viggo Mortenson narrating. I could envision strange landscapes. Almost a Stephen King feel. I have Rimbaud pulled up at because of Anno's comment. I like.

This blew me away. There is the Paschal I have come to know and love here but also something new. It just had this surreal feel, obviously - but a very earthiness too. This blew me away. I read it last night and then again this morning. It's almost as though you take the readers hand and move it along the surface. Then, pulled back, you tell them to close their eyes and tell you what they see. Mystical desert of granite-skulled stark desolate beauty. I have to go read again :)

9:13 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Dee: I like the Viggo; funny, I was just standing in line at the video store, reminding the woman in front of me of all the Viggo movies she loved, but couldn't remember the titles to. Funny, too, that I knew the all the titles, but had not seen a few of them.

I love Rimbaud, the phenomenon of the adolescent phenom who has rocked modern poetry all these years, but oddly enough, what I love most is the silence of his adult years when he disappeared into Abyssinia. The not-writing is very intriguing to me: one of my all-time favorite books is Rimbaud in Abyssinia, by Alain Borer, translated by Rosemary Waldrip. Even though the only poetry RW translates are excerpts, her translations are the best I've ever read of AR's.

And while we're on the subject of Viggo (my, chatty, aren't we), if anyone ever gets around to filming Rimbaud in Abyssinia, Viggo would be the perfect AR. Not DiCaprio in his foolish younger days. (All props to the man now.)

Best of all, though: I'm glad you liked . . .

2:25 PM  

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