The Purpose

You lock the door after you leave and try the knob again to be safe, wondering who invented locks in the first place and the purpose for having one on a door nobody opens or tries to open but you.  Now, what if at your car the keypad on the door failed to take the numbers in correctly and would not open, would you bash in the window or unlock your front door and call the Ford Dealership garage and ask for Eddie who changes your oil every three months to see about what could be done?  But the combination does work and you glide into the seat and slide into reverse and float back out of the drive to the iron gates on wheels into your private community.

            How about now if you had clipped on your sun visor the wrong remote control?

            Then when you pressed the button the door on your garage, the one that rolls up now instead of swinging out, the one with three tinted windows across the top and craftsman style trims, that door would roll up instead of the gated community’s gate rolling open.

            You study the remote on the visor, try to decide if to press it will leave your house open to intruders or open your way to take to the boulevard.  “If the gate doesn’t open,” you tell yourself, “then the garage surely has, and, in any event, if the gate doesn’t open, I should have to turn the Escape around and return for the right remote so that the gate will open then.”

            It’s true, the remote on the visor is the wrong remote for the gate doesn’t budge.

            Then it does.

            What if you hadn’t pressed that button a second time, given it that one extra try, gone back to find the garage door still closed, found that it would not open at all with the damned stupid remote?

            But you did.  And now the gated community gate has finished its retreat to the right and you have changed gears out of reverse to roll through.

            “There is a whole wide world waiting for us,” you say to no one in particular, unsure about what you mean by “us” but unwilling to correct yourself.  At least not out loud with the car windows down when cruising out on the boulevard.  There would be no good purpose in that.  None at all.  But you do wish you’d brought the list to remind you where you were going.  Was it the store?  And if so, what exactly was it you needed to pick up?

wc 406

[after W.S. Merwin, “The Answer” from The Book of Fables]


When One Cicada Stopped Singing (Imitating Ernest H.)

One rainy afternoon in Lisbon there were male cicadas in the weeds.  Within seven minutes it got loud and the thunderclouds went in, and the long humans with wide feet in protective shells on the bottom opened single wings over their heads and abandoned the street.  Two stayed near and made mud-women like snowmen with their top feet unprotected and pink.  She and Buz could see them above on the ditch lip.  Buz sat on a rock.  He was stiff and green in the cold ditch.

Buz sang with dual tymbals in his abdomen for one reason.  She was happy to let him.  When he performed for her he elevated her with the cicada rhythm; and they had songs, amazing-fine songs.  She succumbed, quivering lightly upon a cattail so she would not click-clicky about things during the noisy, mating moment.  Before she learned to cling to cattails she used to make a racket and Buz would have to get back on the rock.  There were many other cicadas, and they all knew about it.  Not one envied Buz. 

Before she left for the ponds they hid under a Ford and played.  It was slick and oily, and there were other cicadas click-clicking.  They wanted to stay monogamous, but their genes might not allow – both had other instincts.  They saw through monogamy, for they witnessed human failures, and because of this they tried it.

Buz drummed her many songs that she never got until after her season.  Ninety came on the wind to the ponds and she picked through the clicks and sat quiet straight through.  They were all about the ditch, and how little he missed her and how it was lovely to sing along without her and how beautifully all the males click-clicked in the night.

Before her season they fought about her move to the River to lay eggs.  Buz would not join her until she had laid several thousand down the cattail stems and could come to the aqueduct to meet him.  It was understood she would not eat the eggs, and she would not give them to any frogs or fish in the River.  Only to lay the future larvae and be monogamous.  In the air between Lisbon and Mill Pond they agreed about him not becoming monogamous at once.  Not until when they rubbed hello, in the wild iris at Mill Pond, would he sing only her song.  This they swore in agreement.  She felt pink with envy about his singing to others like that.

She came to the River upon a leaf via the Aqueduct.  Buz went back to sit in a ditch on the outskirts of Lisbon.  It was raucous and noisy there, and a swarm of homopteran insects whirred near the water.  Loitering on the dry bank in the sun, the females of the swarm asked Buz not to sing, and he had never known mute mating before, and finally sent a relayed song to the River that theirs had been only an incomplete metamorphosing relationship.  He was glad, and he knew she would be too, and would soon thank him, and be envious of him, and he believed, without question, he would never want to sing again or be monogamous in his life.  He would mate her as before, but he knew now theirs was only a fragmentary union.  He wished her success with the thousands of eggs, but had doubts about her leaving them to drop and burrow.  He sang his one last note.

These females did not have seasons, and mated him in the winter, and all other times.  Buz heard a song, relayed from the River about her.  A short song about the long line of larvae she ate before they could burrow while celebrating his silence, which bloated her thorax until she exploded while clinging to milkweed beside the sewer.

[word count 653] [from the old files, May 1998, imitating Ernest H. style]