Dillard spends an entire chapter of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek talking about snakes and seals and mosquitoes and fleas. Predators and parasites. Victims and victimizers. The world is based on this dynamic: we are all part of a food chain. Mosquitoes feed on snakes (at least in Dillard's book). Spiders feed on mosquitoes. Birds feed on spiders. Bigger birds feed on smaller birds. You get the idea. We are all bound with cords to the horns of the rock altar, on our way to the worms.
I know that's not a very comforting thought. But I'm not going to reflect on death or mortality in this post. I have been in a strange melancholy state for most of this week. I sat at my desk in the medical office today, and I felt a little trapped. Not because of the job. Or my coworkers. It's the fact that I seem to be facing the same struggles every day of my life.
I wish I could be like Dillard at the end of the above passage. I want the cords to loose; I want to walk on my way. Those cords are pretty strong. I have a lot of people who depend on me. A wife and kids. Students. Family. I'm not able to simply chuck it all, quit my jobs, and say "I'm going to write the great American novel" or "I'm going to be the next David Foster Wallace" (without the suicidal tendencies). I can't do that.
I know people who have lived their dreams. My friend, Matt Gavin Frank, for instance. He left home at 17, traveled the world, from Alaska to Italy. Then he went to school and studied writing. Now, he's a famous writer. His books are reviewed in Entertainment Weekly and The Paris Review. This isn't envy I'm expressing. Matt works his ass off all the time. But he's doing exactly what he wants to do. What he's dreamed of doing.
Most days, Saint Marty is just too tired to even think about his dreams.
by: Matthew Gavin Frank
The mosquito wrinkles against the glass, bites
at its own reflection. My sister wonders
if it sees itself as the bear trapped in its blue
image, the bite of rusted aluminum at its ankles,
think as quicksand. My sister begins a story
about handcuffs and brass bedposts, then
remembers I'm her brother. I glance
at her wrists, looking for scars. Someone
should tell us not to think so much about
the mosquito, not to clap our hands on its flight,
igniting the small firecracker of God-knows-
whose blood onto our palms, not to close
our fronds over the wrists of another.
Sometimes, someone should tell us, the wrists
will maneuver a harmonica over a bearded
man's lip. Sometimes the sound of a harmonica
played by one's father is gargantuan, explosive
as a firecracker, especially if one's mother
has locked herself into the bedroom again,
threatening to burn all of the paperbacks.
He wouldn't care, but he needs to know
the endings. It is only the beginnings that matter
to her. Soon, they will put down their instruments,
find the time to make love six times before the last
few pages. A brother will hold his sister's hand
at their closed door, as I may hold my sister's,
wishing it was a book of matches. The air
will be heavy with trying rain, and we
will ask of it, before it falls: Tell us our names
will be carried on in the saliva of mosquitoes,
our holes will be mended with simple needle
and thread. And tell us also, that our parents
will never die.
|Sometimes it takes an act of God . . .|