If the shoe fell from the other footwho would hear? If the dooropened onto a pure darknessand it was no dream? If your lifeended the way a book endswith half a blank page and the survivorsgone off to Africa or madness?If my life ended in late springof 1964 while I walked aloneback down the mountain road?I sing an old song to myself. I studythe way the snow remains, grayand damp, in the deep shadows of the firs.I wonder if the bike is safe hiddenjust off the highway. Up aheadthe road, black and winding, fallsaway, and there is the valley whereI lived half of my life, spectraland calm. I sigh with gratitude,and then I feel an odd pain risingthrough the back of my head,and my eyes go dark. I bend forwardand place my palms on something rough,the black asphalt or a field of stubble,and the movement is that of the penitentjust before he stands to his full heightwith the knowledge of his enormity.For that moment which will survivethe burning of all the small pocketsof fat and oil that are the soul,I am the soul stretching intothe furthest reaches of my fingersand beyond, glowing like ten candlesin the vault of night for anyonewho could see, even though it is12:40 in the afternoon and Ihave passed from darkness into sunlightso fierce the sweat streams downinto my eyes. I did not rise.A wind or a stray animal or a groupof kids dragged me to the sideof the road and turned me overso that my open eyes could flood heaven.My clothes went skittering downthe road without me, ballooningout into any shape, giddywith release. My coins, my rings,the keys to my house shatteredlike ice and fell into the mountainthorns and grasses, little bright pointsthat make you think there is magicin everything you see. No, it can'tbe, you say, for someone is speakingcalmly to you in a voice you know.Someone alive and confident has puteach of these words down exactlyas he wants them on the page.You have lived through yearsof denial, of public lies, of deathfalling like snow on any headit chooses. You're not a child.You know the real thing. I amhere, as I always was, faithfulto a need to speak even when allyou hear is a light current of airtickling your ear. Perhaps.But what if that dried bundleof leaves and dirt were not dirtand leaves but the spent waferof a desire to be human? Stop the car,turn off the engine, and standin the silence above your life. Seehow the grass mirrors fire, howa wind rides up the hillsidesteadily toward you until it surgesinto your ears like breath comingand going, released from its bondageto blood or speech and denying nothing.
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