Said the Forest to the Fox

The fox-who-was-a-boy fled the wilderness into the wood, where forgetting has no place, into the wood that remembers every facet of the world, where all of history and knowledge flourish, where every tree tells a story made of words solid unspoken, as textured as bark. The boy-fox sought sanctuary in the thick, wrinkled skin of the forest, in its many branches of possibility, in its leaves that touch the wind and the sun’s golden gaze, in the rings of its ever-growing interior.

Deep in the forest, the boy-fox climbed up into a tree he found to his liking, a tree to represent all trees, a tall banyan that was itself a forest of trees, thick with roots and trunks and branches and leaves reaching up forever into the night sky, as if to touch the very moon and stars, where memory and knowledge dream.

In the arms of the tree, the boy-fox curled up to slumber, hugging his foxtail for warmth.  The boy-fox dreamt himself a gray fox, chased by hounds and nobles on horseback.  The hounds he alluded by scampering up a tree, not towering but squat, big around, and foreboding, not a banyan or any other sort of tree he’d ever seen before in any forest.  Its roots struck into the earth and rock like the giant hands of old witches.  Its branches spread like long, crooked gallows, and from them hung gray leaves like damp rags from men whose necks had long ago snapped.  The strange tree stood reminiscent of a swamp, though the earth all around was dry as dust.

Continue reading “Said the Forest to the Fox”

The Forgetter and the Fox

The Forgetter walked, wearing the clothes of the host and carrying the work of the poet in a pack on his back.  In his right hand, he held an empty cup, and in his left, a letter.  Or rather, not a letter so much as an envelope.

The Forgetter was also once someone else (as were the others), but he remembers not who he was or the names of those before him.  It has become his habit and his duty, as enemy and husband, to protect the present by forgetting the past.  In her one-room fortress, the Duchess waits for him, to forget, so she might continue preparing her dinner party.

But the Forgetter forgot his way home (to the house of the host), and instead found his way into the wilderness where he crossed paths with a gray fox who was a boy.  The fox-who-was-a-boy said to the Forgetter,

“When will the storms come?  When will you open the letter?  When will the Duchess throw her party?  All the guests were scheduled to arrive, but your dark cloak lingers longer than usual and your shield is wide.”

To this, the Forgetter replied, “Open the letter yourself.  I do not know its contents, or if I did, I’ve surely forgotten.”

And so the boy-fox snatched the envelope with his teeth and tore it open.  The fox looked to the cloaked figure who had held the envelope and beheld the Forgetter-as-Death, with sockets for eyes and gumless teeth.  The fox shrieked and fled from the Forgetter’s vacant gaze and bony fingers, but it was the Forgetter who feared most the envelope’s contents.

The Forgetter drew from the envelope, not words on pages, but only the letter F.  “What have I done?  How far have I gone, that I’ve reduced all words to this single letter?”

The Forgetter ran after the fox, but the fox was not to be found, so as not to be forgotten.

The Tall Tale Boy, Part III – “Birth of a Bean”

We tell lies to tell truth.  Let me first tell you the truth.  The greatest year of anyone’s life arrives at age 19.  I anticipated 19 throughout high school then treasured it many years after.  I wrote poetry, loved heedlessly, lived shamelessly.  At 19, one thrusts themselves into the world with pith and lightning, with newfound freedom to explore and grasp the world, yet unladen by the shackles of adulthood.

At 19, I began to grasp mortality.  My winter birthday followed the fall of my great grandmother’s death.  It wasn’t the first death I’d known, but it was the first to capture the passage of time, the end of an era; my mother’s family fractured with my great grandmother’s passing.  I mourned the loss of history and knew life would continue, irrevocably altered.

I also journeyed the furthest I’d ever been from home.  I flew to San Francisco to meet an older man with whom (I thought) I’d fallen in love.  Alas, I arrived and did not live happily ever after; in fact, I didn’t even get naked with the guy.  But I did stumble upon a Hare Krishna Parade in Golden Gate Park, watch the very first episode of South Park while sitting on Bob’s couch (yes, his name was Bob)—and also suffered such an intense loneliness and desire for another that I felt as if I’d conjured a ghost from his third floor bay windows.

When I returned from the West Coast, with months of 19 yet to enjoy, I remembered the bean Harmony Rae had given me the summer before.  I’d never really forgotten; I’d simply been unsure what to do with it.  But when I returned to Ohio, full of disappointment, I knew the bean must hold some secret!  I began carrying it in my pocket and sleeping with it under my pillow.  On moonlit nights, I would gaze obsessively into the bean’s uncanny sheen, its reflective texture reminiscent of both the veins of flesh and fissures of a gem.  All my dreams of love, all youthful aspirations, creative verve, and my deepest, darkest, subconscious wickedness bombarded the bean with intense curiosity and desire.

But years then passed.  I thought less and less about the bean.  It didn’t changed, though I did.  I took it with me after I graduated college, and as I moved from state to state.  I kept it—never anything more than a bean—with other keepsakes, sometimes on display with my knickknacks, but more and more often, I stored it in a box.

When Harmony called almost fifteen years later, I had completely forgotten about the bean, so buried it had become with the material remnants of history we squirrel away, only to remember when we go digging again.

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The Tall Tale Boy, Part II – “The Sun and Moon”

After three days of business meetings and tireless socializing, I fled Ko Olina to spend a day in Honolulu.  I planned to meet my cousin for dinner, but arrived in the city midday and so decided to wander Waikiki for a few hours in search of souvenirs.

Mark and I had exchanged several emails over the course of the week.  He feared I’d forget him while basking in Hawaii’s beauty; I assured him this was not the case.  He seemed taken with me after only a few weeks of online correspondence.  I, in turn, became taken with the idea of dating a kindhearted, submissive young man.  After three years chasing Portland kinksters for casual sex, it felt an appropriate change of pace to exchange sweet nothings with a romantic.

My thoughts of the Cuban reflected in the sun’s brilliance and warmth.  I welcomed the heat as a foreign, complementary element, a relief from the dreary coolness I’d come to expect.  Never before had I been to Hawaii, nor would I have planned such a destination for myself.  But fortune had smiled and brought me here for business.  I also felt as though fortune had brought a prospective love into my life.  I wanted to return to Portland with a token of my hope for a new beginning—and to let Mark know that I thought of him here, under this auspicious tropical sun.

silver sun necklaceI found a shop that sold jewelry handmade by Native artists, both of Hawaiian descent and otherwise.  I decided—a necklace was the perfect gift—and after perusing, found a pendant that suited my aesthetics.  When I asked a sales clerk about it, she replied in broken English that it was a symbol of the rising sun, renewal and rebirth.

I didn’t buy the necklace until the following morning, after debating the purchase with my cousin.  She advised,

—Buy what you would wear, just in case.

Indeed, like so many Portland men I’ve met, Mark disappeared after our first date.  I sometimes wonder if he were, in some way, my Rosaline.

Continue reading “The Tall Tale Boy, Part II – “The Sun and Moon””

The Tall Tale Boy, Part I – “A Herring Heart”

Sunday, February 26th, I stood naked in a large dark hotel room, at the JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort in Oahu.  I’d just arrived on the island that morning, spent the day with a cousin and her husband who live in Honolulu, visited Kailua beach, then traveled across the island to check into my hotel as dark clouds began to downpour.  The heavy rain was rare but welcome here.  For me, it eased the transition from Portland winter to tropical island warmth.

I opened the sliding balcony shudders which spanned the length of my room, then the balcony doors.  The comfortably humid air somehow explained my decision to disrobe.  Behind me were two queen sized beds, an office desk, entertainment center, armchair, then spacious separate bathroom:  altogether, larger than my studio apartment in Southeast Portland.  I had arranged my few humble belongings and hung dress shirts on one side of the double closet to prepare myself for the week.  Tomorrow would begin three days of business meetings, obligatory dinners, and late night schmoozing over cocktails.

My balcony overlooked the Pacific Ocean to the left, facing northwest.  To the right, due north, I could hear but not see the theatrics of a luau through a thick of tress.  Drums and a loudspeaker gave me the impression of a tourist trap where fat white people ate and drank to excess while they gawked at performers of mixed ethnicity mimicking traditions not necessarily their own.

From my sixth story room, I felt distant from the world below, new to me but less than exotic.  After one becomes accustomed to travel, few sights and spectacles offer otherness, especially attractions groomed for tourists and business conferences.  I heightened my appreciation for the moment by beholding my nakedness in a too large room, then gazing into the evening sky.  The sun had set.  Over ocean waves, I found Jupiter then Venus.  Last night, the two aligned with Mercury (hidden below the horizon) and now waited to form a triangle with the crescent moon.

blue butterfly over starfishJust then, as if responding to the promise of planetary alignment, a tiny blue butterfly flit from the darkness beyond my balcony to float only a few feet in front of me.  How and why had a butterfly flown to this height?  It hung there, as if to catch my attention, then faltered to return to the ponds filled with black starfish below.

I obeyed what felt like a beckoning, put on clothes, and left my room to find my way to the resort grounds below.  Disoriented at first, it took me a moment—passing an outdoor pool and restaurant patio—to find the landscaped pond I’d seen from above.  I looked up to where I believed my room to be, then all around in search of a butterfly.

Continue reading “The Tall Tale Boy, Part I – “A Herring Heart””

The Duchess and the Pen

In the cellar of the stunted tree met those two yet without names, the beast which changes form and the entity without form.  They descended into the cellar from different doors and met there beside a channel of water.  The beast took the form of a calico cat—orange, black and white—if only to provide some continuity with its earlier encounter with the poet.  The formless remained as it always was, never to speak or to solidify, but nonetheless potent with intention.

And so the calico mewed for them both:

“We need the Duchess as an Empire needs its Emperor, as the sea needs a Captain and the wind a pilot.  But the Duchess is also a torment.  She has caged us in the one-room house of the host and threatens all that may be with pins and needles.  The poet no longer writes and the diver hasn’t the oxygen for the deepest of dives.  I, myself, forget myself.  And your war with the Morcant stumbles over definition and particularization.

“We forget to gaze upon the face of Narcissus,” spoke the calico to its own reflection, “for we’ve spent too long in our beds, gazing upon the ceiling.

“The Duchess is our key and also our downfall.  We need her but must limit her power.”

To this, the entity without form did an impossible thing and nodded, if ever so slightly, so that the calico could perceive with certainty its silent agreement.

“Then it’s agreed.  The Duchess must part ways with the pen.  She will bark as she must, but she must not write.  The pen must return to the hand of the poet, and the storms must return to the skies.”

The Cellar of the Stunted Tree

Beneath the mind of the host (in a dark forest far from the house of the host) dwells a room that lies subterranean, just beneath the forest floor. In its center, growing from a platform: an old tree, thick around and squat. It appears as a dwarf tree in this room but corresponds to another on the forest floor, a mirror image, as if the two were one, the trunk rising through the center of the room to emerge above.

In this room, on either side of the tree, run man-made, shallow channels of water fed from a nearby river. These channels run parallel through the room, from one side to the other, dividing the room in half (in some conceptualizations of this room, only one channel runs through the center of the room, with an island in the middle from which grows the tree). Near where these channels enter and exit are doors on either side, four in total, high in the room near ground level, and stairs carved from the walls that descend from each of the four doors to the floor of the room.

The room is both grand and suffocating; tall of ceiling and enclosed like a cellar; constructed, square in shape but caked with mud, carved from stone. It is a room of dark dreams and earthly comforts, from where life roots, flows, and dreams.

It is the room of the squat and gnarled tree, both stunted and eternal. The Duchess refers to the room as the Cellar and does not go here; its structure can only be known in dreaming.

The Blind Poet

The diver stood where the bed had been, and so the Duchess demanded, where would she rest her head in the house of the host?

“Here,” spoke a man with dark spectacles.

“Here, on this side of the white curtains,” he tapped his hand to the hardwood floor, beside where he sat.

“Here, make this one room home smaller. Here, where you can see yourself sleep and hear yourself mumble, where all the doors will surround you.”

The man with dark spectacles stood, opened the front door, and walked out into the courtyard.

“The blind poet speaks,” said the diver of the man with dark spectacles.

“Yes,” the Duchess understood, “His spectacles were once storms, but lightning struck glass so often, they’ve burned black. He was the one whom the host knew as Storm Keeper, but his storms became poems and his poems became words. And now, as we know, even words have grown scarce. He writes with his tongue and speaks seldom.”

In the courtyard, the blind poet did not look to the sky. In a land without storms, rain meant nothing, and the cool air loved him as a ghost. An orange tabby purred at his ankles, and so he knelt and caressed behind its ears. Whenever he pet a cat, he worried it might bite. A cat only gives subtle clues about its intentions, clues one can spot but not hear or touch. And so the blind poet kept his distance from the arrival of the fourth.

Soon the small room would become crowded.