That winter the cows would surround us
in the darkness, feeling like omens
against our fearful skins, fat tongues unrolling
to taste us, fermented straw-mist on their breaths
and ours, them coming through the thick mists
on our hillside, us across fields returning
to the cottage from drowning our terror.
Sometimes on no-moon nights the jigsaws
of their hides appeared so quietly from the dark
there was almost no time to scream and scream
as they bumped and pushed us from their peace.
Now they are long dead. Still their generations
do the same. Their children know us, harry us.
Questionnaire — Wendell Berry
1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.
2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.
3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy
4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.
5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security;
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.
A confession at line 16
Maybe that’s when you know you’re old,
when they turn to you when another kid
goes missing, and they turn to you
when the manhunt is on the tv news
and you see the hedges being beaten and
parted with long sticks and you look intently
at everyone you can see at the scene, and everyone
in all the photos they show of all the other scenes
in the missing girl’s or boy’s life, and maybe
there’s a fat guy or a tall guy or a woman smoking
a cigarette so hungrily, and people say to me
“do you think they did it?” and sometimes I do
or sometimes I don’t or someone else in the montage
of scenes appears more than once and even
on a still photo has an air about them
above and beyond that of mere pose.
The intensity of what it is to be human is somehow
evidently leaking from them, something
has become disabled, some protective function,
and despite the voluntary unspoken pact never
to speak of such things – for what good would it do –
medical treatments get sold. But all that aside,
that trait didn’t make someone guilty of visiting
an ultimate brutality on another and anyway
my success rate from the armchair was pretty good,
I’d say. No character type is immune
from exercising savagery. And with suspicions
comes discussion, extrapolation, escalation.
It could be that I felt weary because as I watched the sticks
beating the bushes I just didn’t care who did it. I was doing
my best not to think about it at all. I no longer wanted
to discuss stuff like this, no more than I wanted
to make a case for Easton Ellis having surely had
to retreat into an intense interior life for quite some time
in order to bring back what Bateman liked to do in detail
and questions of whether this interior would have been
hugely sexual, or anyway masturbatory. I’m not a theorist.
But you, reader, know how this is. You have found yourself
talking about Neruda again. You are hoping by the end
she will love If You Forget Me but know too that she
will forget you and you will forget her.
You will heal of each other and recede
to scar tissue which is fine and pale and still
even after the sun. No one has a body
like hers, her map of psychic wounds. Crossed swords
everywhere, the arrowheads to the heart, the broken snapped
arrow shafts like porcupine spears. She may know
you are plotting again when you
hear your own voice asking her if
she’s read him, that man, Neruda.
We’ve all done it, surely, lived these odes
where the thing is one day, two things.
I forgot where I lived, even the name of the town.
Maybe that’s when you know you’re old,
even when they are looking for missing people,
even when she rang and talked about her boyfriend,
even when there were cities I wanted to see
for some sort of beauty I imagined existed there,
even when those intelligent guessers say that they
have discovered the start of something,
even with my knuckles white on the steering wheel,
I would go to the woods and stand naked and still
among the trees, hoping someone would see me
Eufemiano Delgado Brakes.