Monday, April 19, 2010
The Antler Never Given
Because there isn’t anything that doesn’t feel like fiction already, I am unsure how to proceed. All I have between myself and fiction is trust.
Because I love them, I don’t go visit them.
I was born on my grandfather’s birthday, also Lincoln, also Darwin.
My grandfather drinks. Heavily. In the garage, among the hounds and the old tools and cans of oil. The door is always open in any season, so he looks out into the fields and watches the weather come in. Sometimes he just drives around, drinking Natural Ice in cans, thinking behind the wheel. I was told that what he secretly thinks about is his other family, but something is crumbling in the edges of my mind. I’ll build the story out of his debts, and my splinters of memory.
My grandfather could out-drink a bear. I decided to ignore most of my debts in favor of getting on with my day, something I picked up from him.
The jaws of a bear catch the time again. There his face hung on an antler, rocking through the sleepy bar, echoing up from a glass of Bourbon. In the outside: Salted roads, salted eternal, preserving,
lasting through each season.
It was as though tomorrow night didn’t look black as a riding boot, twisted up in the trunk of a car. Me, I’m always riding around, two hounds in my palms, so when they called to tell me he died, I did what I knew best:
Tilted my snout toward the brothy scent of day to suss out a next move.
Night waiting, like boots.
Over and over in my rutted stomach I heard:
He: a grandfather. Mother’s father, little boy of all the older sisters that craned their buoyant chests in every direction, laughing or kissing.
She: a grandmother. Moth-like, chewing up her own closet until fluttering out crazily, always returning to the lamps he lit, always.
Because I love them, I seldom call.
They are the north-country, the tellers of that crumpled city, upon whose streets I fold my hands. Hounds know them, and the dead horses listen from their graves in the south fields. The life they once had is now fiction, as is the slippery vertical of lost architectures, upon whose cornices I hang tears.
They: the still-living ancestors.
They: the fiction with no pages.
They: beating and breathing, anchored to watchful fields
opening wide to welcome them, to welcome me, clutching antlers.
All my life now,
A funeral that hardly required embalming: a grandfather considering it a Polish courtesy to save the undertaker some extra work. He had started the job years prior, lighting the lamp of his policeman’s heart each morning for her.
A widow that hardly required comforting: years stacked on the bedside table like so many unread books. She had been alone anyways for so long, in a house of hounds calling him from the woods.
A granddaughter that came from the city they left behind, cedar swamp eyelids closing over something not yet gone, clutching the antler he never gave her. Black boots, tall, and so shined. Night twisting itself around the corners of her mouth, a car creeping in on the gravel driveway.
Out is the in beyond the river that keeps the city from being too ugly on one side. From there, I can perch and watch all the ancestors, dead and alive, as they disregard their debts to each other. The barn stands so alone now, with all the horses buried and the hounds interred in palms. Thinking I saw lights in the rafters, I pulled my leaden body up the hardly-there stairs to find a bear pelt, giant and mangy black, strung up wide across the beams. It reeked of old man, half drunk at noon.