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To read the preceding chapters, please start with the Prologue
Dust hovered around fence posts, cattle,
clumps of palmetto like the rings of Saturn,
grass withered into loose strings
and small animals crept from one prison
of shade to another
Frogs crouched by rivulets of water,
lungs beating hard, when Mira came to the river,
stepping over fallen columns of reeds;
she sheltered in charcoal shade to peer
into the glare above an eroded gully
The lone elm stood sentinel over the elusive river,
and she folded herself beneath the tree,
and became aware of an overwhelming silence
that created its own noise, a humming that came
and went, as if she were dozing and waking
Heat beat with miniature propeller blades,
spun away to slice tall grass, lop off cows’ ears,
chop down trees; in this swept and desolate place
Mira was a singular wheel turning on her own axis,
strong as oak, flexible as palm
The solitude drew her farther into the wild,
and with Solis beside her, inseparable,
they followed every sound, lifting their heads
to a bird’s long note, registering each change
in light, of its shift across their eyes
There were no paths;
Mira climbed rail fences thinned to the point
of breaking, and crossed cattle guards
of loose and weathered wood;
she had never been this far out
She spotted a red-shouldered hawk
on a pine branch surveying the fields;
Solis trotted sideways ahead of her
A piece of pine bark at her feet unfolded,
revealing two green luminous streaks
that hopped away, making her laugh,
watching it plunge into a swamp
rimmed by palmetto’s armadillo-like trunks
Mid-day she and Solis entered a savannah
and her hands brushed clusters of tiny white flowers
atop waist-high stems: Osceola’s plume:
native people and pioneers pounded its roots
to produce crow-poison
She walked through blue-eyed grass,
its petite flowers massing for effect;
her father told her a medicinal tea
was made by boiling the plant and roots,
giving it the name fever grass
A stream drifted down to the river;
snowy egrets, once hunted to near extinction
for their flowing silk-white feathers
to adorn ladies’ hats and dresses,
rose to fly to a distant maze of mudflats
In a central glade, among downed trees
and mushrooms as large as waffles
perched on rotting logs,
her feet sank into rich earth,
pushing into a piece of wood
She picked it up, turned it in her hands:
it had an odd shape, larger at one end
with several knobs: a bone, she realized,
wrapped it in leaves, put it in her knapsack
and retraced her way home
On the dusty driveway she waved
to her father; and he greeted her:
Mira, where’ve you been?
She answered, undoing her knapsack:
Way out. In the swamp.
I found something; a bone, big enough
to be a cow or a bear.
She held it for him to inspect
Her father flinched, his face riddled
with recognition and terror:
That’s human, he said, and large enough
to be an adult; his voice choked:
we have to call the Sheriff.
Mira stared at her father’s stricken face,
searching for his usual calm:
I can take you to the place I found it,
she offered, but he nodded no:
Wait until I talk to the police.
Sheriff, deputy sheriffs, met them
a half hour later; and she set off with the posse
through the woods, trying to recall her steps
but afraid to stop too long to let any confusion
set in, following her intuition
She saw the marsh and the path
she made before; sunlight shafted
into the glade: there was a frame of sorts,
collapsed and rotting and odd shapes,
which at first could be taken for roots
Forming a circle around the spot
several deputies pushed aside detritus
and slowly revealed another bone and
then another; a skull began to appear,
and the circle tightened, voices raised
Mira felt a hand on her shoulder
guiding her away; she stumbled up the slope
from the deep moist shade:
all she could think about, all she could see,
were the corroded bones
Evening came, fireflies sizzled from the grass;
Mira waited for her father late into the night
but he never came home
In the morning she read the headline:
Woman’s Body Found in A Swamp;
and the heat was a living being moping by,
pickled with alcohol, an odor
that filled into the home and yard
A single engine plane humming overhead
drew Mira out of the house
and across the amputated road’s end,
into the fields, dreaming into the sky,
just as her father drove up
Mira joined him on the porch;
he lit a cigarette, saying:
I know Blanca Cors. A beautiful woman,
and a kind person. And this woman they’ve found,
who would do something like that?
He exhaled a plume of smoke:
After her husband died, Blanca was alone;
their only child disappeared years ago;
I used to stop by her house after work
to talk and tend her roses.
Mira was surprised, and he said:
The Royal Poinciana in her yard
have sturdy trunks, delicate leaves, bold flowers.
She asked me to plant them as markers
for her lost son and husband.
Leaves slithering in wind at the edge
of the yard seized Mira’s eye;
heat lightning flickered in the distance;
cigarette smoke wreathed his face:
I thought they might suspect me in her attack.
Mira saw her father’s cigarette flare:
I have to go, Mira. I can’t stay here anymore;
you’re almost grown and can take care of yourself;
whenever you need advice, you can always go
to your grandmother and her family.
The jeep swept around the track,
red taillights winked behind a screen
of tangled oak, grapevine,
pop ash and pine;
and then silence
In Miami Will sank into the city’s tropical soul,
savoring the cultural and culinary flavors,
but before long he took to the open sea,
sailing to ports in South America, Africa,
Asia, India, China and Malaysia
He heard the songs of genesis, exodus
and revelation in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian,
Caribbean, Mediterranean, and the Persian,
South China, Arctic, Caspian
and the Black, Red and Dead Sea
On returning to Miami, he joined a crew
treasure hunting; the captain said:
there’s treasure down below, down below
in vaults, from pirate ships,
man o’ war, and Spanish galleons
Will and the other divers donned their gear
and fell into the sea’s salty embrace:
another world opened before them
In the beguiling hold of the sea,
Will explored a ridge of storm-swept sand,
and spotted the glitter of gold and silver coins
large as his hands; he scooped them up
and clutched them to his beating heart
Rising to the surface he felt a surge
of exhilaration, for the first time
since his brother’s sentencing,
and he thought, this is what life should be,
this is what can heal me.
He broke the surface, gasping for air
and rejoicing in the freedom of breathing,
he cupped his hands to hold the coins
to the sun, with a cry of elation,
ready to be amazed
In the full wash of daylight he saw
twisted bits of metal, wave-broken shells
and small change
On board he saw others with the same debris,
picking out coin-shaped metal;
when he challenged them, they shrugged
and sneered with a pirate’s wink:
If people believe it’s valuable, what harm?
The captain called Will aside:
You are causing disruption, undermining
the others’ belief, and we all need to believe;
behind Will’s back he whispered:
I think he’s stealing. Watch him.
Will packed his things to leave,
while only one man came to say goodbye:
an old treasure hunter, a grizzled veteran
who had once discovered treasure
that was real and knew the difference
He sighed as he told Will:
The dance of illusion will last as long as the truth
is hidden, as long as it is in our interest to comply,
deny and lie; but you have re-opened my eyes;
he shook Will’s hand: Go now, my headstrong friend.
Will fell into a stupor: everything was the same;
but change was all around him;
he breathed the sulfur of igniting despair,
and guilt was the thing that burned:
I am betraying Sandy by being away.
On her bunk bed Mira lay in oceanic darkness,
outside, wet black paws of rain fell,
scrabbling at the side of the house
The only light a single candle burning
beneath the windowsill, tight as infection;
with anguish and pride interweaving,
the way she braided her younger sister’s hair,
she thought of her dreams and her sister’s dreams
In her hand she held a postcard from Will:
a harbor city crouched by emerald water,
heat-blanched sky and lofty linen white clouds;
a sea change: she felt Will sequencing
away from her, away from love
Her father sat with her on the front porch
after the rainstorm had trooped away:
Remember, he said, Apaksi means hope;
and she nodded, and said she would,
but she felt the world drifting away
In the morning, Laurel and Mira waited
by Morris Rubra’s swinging gate,
fresh dew stinging their tense faces
He strode up to them, his gait light
and his face a landscape of relief,
his hands shaped like mittens
I’m trying to get Sandy’s sentence overturned,
he told them, and see if he will be released
or given a new trial.
Their voices sounded like bells, chiming
in unison: Do you think it’s possible?
Yes. He smiled. It’s a life-saving mission.
To read the Prologue, click here. You can follow the chapters from there.
To begin reading Children of the Moon, see the Prologue.
Laurel visited her grandmother:
Why didn’t I go with him that day?
Grandma Wing waved her hand:
How could you know what would happen?
But, Laurel said: I can’t help him.
The old woman snapped back:
Stand by him if you believe he’s innocent,
and you can overcome this;
you are farther rooted in the source
of all things than you can ever imagine.
Grandma Wing gives her a letter:
Your mother wrote this poem when young;
she called it “Sowing The Field.”
Bands of wheat fields flow gold and red
on a low road where clouds sweep overhead;
I walk among mountains steep and high
to catch spear-stalks of wheat as they fly
Reaching I grasp fleet arrows of wheat
as day yields to low clouds gold and red;
I watch each seed as it falls to my feet
through the reaping beat of my hands
Will wondered, too, why few believed
in his brother’s innocence;
he felt betrayed by friends and neighbors;
only a few said Sandy was the last person
they thought capable of violence
With most the rumors went viral:
he was always so quiet, so polite,
they had been fooled, or he was odd,
often alone, walking about
in a world of his own
Morris Rubra investigated and found:
There have been other incidents in the area,
and even several deaths that are unsolved.
In the ensuing hysteria the trial began;
Sandy’s guileless demeanor isolated him
and alienated the jury and the press;
he asked Morris Rubra if he seemed arrogant;
the lawyer replied: You appear to be too innocent.
With his family and handful of friends
in the courtroom, the judge sentenced Sandy
to prison; he turned to look at his parents:
his father’s face was granite,
his mother’s expression a frieze of grief
Morris Rubra began his appeal:
Never give in to despair,
I’ll do everything I can to see you free again.
A prison guard greeted him:
I have more respect for a man who comes clean
than one like you who never owns up.
You’re a coward, the guard said,
and probably feel like a genius
for getting away with other killings;
we know we’re putting an end to a lot
of suffering if we put an end to you.
The moon’s pale engravings on the cell wall
wove a pattern of loss and sorrow
as the knowledge of evil streamed in,
and this revelation caused the greatest pain
of all, and Sandy wept for the human condition
Not far away, in another town, a man
only a few years older than Sandy,
was arrested for the murder of a teen-aged girl;
he was convicted, sentenced to life in prison
and brought to a cell next to Sandy’s
He watched Sandy suffer with pleasure:
in a corrupt world there was no justice,
he thought in gratification of his cynicism;
better to embrace the chaos
and take whatever you can.
Blanca Cors recovered from her injuries
but was unable to identify her attacker;
Will’s anger erupted with Morris Rubra:
I can’t help my brother, or save him,
and I hate everybody who’s turned against him.
The older man counseled him:
Don’t let this make you bitter,
or lose your trust in people.
The wind in the pines was a fugue,
and in the sky and river a tomblike gloom;
Mira tried in vain to comfort Will,
and Morris Rubra to give him hope,
but Will was inconsolable
When Will fled to the coastal solitude
of Casey Key, he found brief respite;
on the beach he saw a group of teens his age,
threatening to rupture the amniotic sac
of light and wind that enwombed him
They waved to him, and he recognized each
one just as they closed in,
casting tall shadows on the sand;
the Gulf galloped over rocks and moss
glistened like sweat on horses’ flanks
Voices broke the hypnotic pulse of surf,
reverberating around him
and riding roughshod into his brain:
Hey, Will. We’re going to the rodeo.
He tried to smile:
Yes, I’m coming to the rodeo; I’ll be there;
he knew he should be grateful for their loyalty,
for their attempted normalcy,
but these people belonged to a past illusion
Will told his father and added, my world
before god turned away;
his father threw up his hands: God?
We people bind our innocence in fear and lies,
and trot out the worst in ourselves with pride.
But doesn’t god give us that ability?
His father reflected a moment:
It doesn’t mean we have to use or develop it;
we can be the way Sandy is, so much like my parents,
and your grandparents, in kindness and humility
They were such good people, so decent
it makes me cry to remember them,
and they not only existed — they flourished.
Will was no longer listening;
his grandparents were killed in a highway accident,
on their way home from visiting the family;
there was no justice, no reward for being good,
and happiness was an illusion
Will dropped out of school, taking odd jobs
and one day hit the road; he was riding through
the Everglades when the moon’s sudden reflection
in a pond fired off a thought;
the marsh whisked by and the thought was lost
PJ produced a new piece about intuition. “As you know, I’ve made a study in quest of the meaning of the word: intuition. And I came to understand that it begins in childhood unconsciously, and it is a totally unconscious process; nobody knows anything about it. In other words you’re in a situation and the issue is stated and right away your reaction is instant, and positive. But people can spend the rest of their lives trying to rationalize what they did. Did I explain that clearly?”
“You do,” I said. “Very well.”
PJ’s new definition of “intuition” as integral to human motivation and behavior interested me. He showed its operation in his own life in The Writer.
At thirty one, the young artist made a decision, known to him at the time but unknown during an interim of years until the writer reminded him of it. At that early age, when most young men are seeking a profession which will pay them well, the young man determined that he would never again work for money.
He lived by that resolution, too, while in the competitive society in which he found himself. He did later work on salary. But that was for bread, the landlord and the utilities. He lived to learn that there is no money in living “for the joy of it.”
Then youth to old age, with intuitive perception, he lived for the experience of being alive.
“This phrase, intuitive perception,” I said to PJ, “how can that work with your new concept of intuition?”
In the church’s front office, I picked up a book, Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker. He summarized Kierkegaard’s “lie of character” as being “built up because the child needs to adjust to the world, to the parents, and to his own existential dilemmas.”
Not very specific, but it was a summary after all. Becker went on, “It is built up before the child has a chance to learn about himself in an open or free way, and thus character defenses are automatic and unconscious.” Then the person “becomes dependent on them and comes to be encased in his own prison, and into himself … and the defenses he is using, the things that are determining his unfreedom.”
Isak Dinesen, though, said there are ways to escape this prison, this slavery to the accreted self, and create one’s self anew and form new identities at will.
PJ felt he had been forced to create new identities. In each identity he found “a clean slate.” Studying his own identity, he began to think about the adjustments children make.
“Now, presume that a child begins life innocent and amiable and feels no guilt,” he said, “until the first time someone punishes him. Then the child feels anger and guilt. Although later, he may learn to mask hostility with an amiable appearance, there will never be a time of complete amiability again. The hostility may be disguised so well that the person does not know he experiences it himself.”
“So the cause of hostility,” I said, “is that rebuke to your innocence.”
Yes, he nodded.
“Isn’t there one more ‘station’ between impulse and action?” I quoted Voltaire: “’I believe that with the slightest shift in my character, there is no crime I could not commit.’”
He smiled. There was a last stage one’s reactions go through, he said. “You see, character gives a temper point, having something to think about, argue about.”
I liked the way PJ’s theories were specific and not sterile, incorporating emotions such as love and anger, and the palpable senses of guilt and innocence.
In the morning police cars pulled up
to the ranch house door;
an officer spoke to Will and Sandy’s parents:
We need to ask your son, the oldest one,
Sandy? About what?
The officer replied: The assault on Blanca Cors;
he was seen near her home that day.
His mother cried out when Sandy was led
to the patrol car; as his father ran for his car,
she leaned down by the window
to look Sandy in the eye:
We’ll be right there.
In the interview, Sandy was asked:
What were you doing in the area?
and he reflected:
Just walking, hiking, looking at things
and . . . Sandy hesitated
He could not mention visiting Primitivo
and so he fell silent, protecting a friend
many would be too willing to sacrifice
The interrogator moved in:
You’re hiding something. What is it?
Sandy shook this off:
I was out walking; I didn’t hear
or see anything.
The man retorted: Nothing?
and then Sandy remembered:
There was a man; I think it was a man,
in a field; when I looked again
he was gone.
The officer’s voice turned sharp:
So you saw a man?
Or did you see her and want her?
Sandy bowed his head, folding his arms
across his chest, surprised at the rage
in his questioner’s voice
The man leaned in to bleat into Sandy’s ear:
She was beautiful, and you couldn’t help yourself.
What did you do to her?
Sandy’s silence was his answer,
as he began to understand his innocence,
all innocence is beyond proof by reason,
and cannot be revealed in words,
no matter how clear and eloquent
His brother and parents arrived at the station
and are informed of Sandy’s arrest for assault
on the wealthy widow, Blanca Cors
Sandy? His mother cried in disbelief:
Everyone who knows him knows
he is gentle and caring;
but the sergeant answered her:
We have reason to believe differently.
Sandy was brought into the hallway, handcuffed
and flanked by officers; his father spoke to him:
Sandy, we’ll fight this. Don’t give up.
At the arraignment, Morris Rubra argued for bail,
but the judge said:
Juveniles are the most dangerous.
The prosecutor pressed his case:
There is evidence of malice and depravity
and although he is 16, we ask he be tried
as an adult; Blanca Cors is fighting for her life,
so charges may be upgraded.
In his cell, Sandy told Morris Rubra:
I was leaving Mulberry Ranch
and saw Primitivo; it was neither of us.
The lawyer said he believed him, but:
We must respond to the accusations;
and Sandy mused:
Why do people assume the worst
about others and so quickly?
Morris Rubra’s reply echoed in the cell:
They don’t want to look too closely
into their own hearts.
After a moment the lawyer commented:
You give people the benefit of the doubt;
many, however, feel that others
have let them down, deceived them
or forsaken them for no good reason
But, he said, I’ve found the reason
for assuming the worst is often for power
and he asked Sandy:
Don‘t you feel the need to dominate?
I feel the need to escape from domination,
Sandy said, and he opened his hands:
Why can’t people see that I’m innocent?
Morris Rubra said, with a wry laugh:
It’s hard to know who’s innocent
by looking at them or watching them;
I’ve known people who smile and charm,
but by gumbo, were the most guilty.
So how can I defend myself, or be defended,
when any defense opens the door to guilt,
and any defense can be seen as a pretense?
The lawyer said:
That’s a good question,
and one I’ve tangled with a long time.
Sandy paced the cell:
In defending myself I’ll become self-righteous;
and he was surprised at Morris Rubra’s response:
You leave the self-righteousness to me;
I excel at it.
Sandy saw the irony:
Aren’t you sacrificing part of your better self
when you do that?
Morris Rubra raised his brows:
Yes; but I’ve chosen to make that sacrifice.
To read the Prologue, click here. You can read the following chapters from there.
To read The Prologue, click here. You can read all the following chapters starting there.
On the weather-cured porch Mira’s father said:
A woman was attacked last night; blood all over
the home; her name was Blanca Cors, a widow.
Mira held her breath until her father told her:
She’s alive and they think she’ll recover.
Mira ran to the ranch, calling for Will and Sandy;
they had heard the news, and she told Sandy:
We saw Primitivo running from the home of Blanca Cors.
Primitivo was not at his cabin, but under the elm,
arms and legs sprawling like roots;
What happened? Will asked him.
Primitivo gathered himself:
I heard a signal of distress and ran toward it;
a woman’s scream;
and he lowered his head:
I turned and ran away.
We heard it too, Will told him,
But when we came to the house
it was too late.
Primitivo took recognizable shape:
I thought of the price of cowardice
and came back; he had carried her away
into the swamp, and so I followed with a howl
that came from my pain.
I thought I saw someone, Sandy said,
a stranger, but I did not see his face;
come back to the cabin with us.
Will told Primitivo:
They will suspect you;
but Primitivo was making another connection:
The woman’s voice was like music,
music I’ve heard before.
On the way it began to rain
and at the cabin Morris Rubra was pacing
in the oak hammock’s shelter;
Mira’s knees shook as she ran to him:
We’re afraid they’ll think Primitivo did it.
Morris Rubra nodded and took Primitivo aside;
they spoke in spiked tones;
Go on home, Morris Rubra said to the children,
his hands prayer-gripped together:
I’ll see what I can do.
Hours later, Mira’s father called to her:
Come with me;
she hopped into the jeep; at the airport,
a scar of concrete and a hangar in a fallow field,
Morris Rubra’s plane was on the runway
Mira gasped, recognizing the hulking figure
in the back seat: Shadow!
and then she whispered: Primitivo.
The plane flew over plains and chains of lakes;
at the end of a circuitous river launching
over a great expanse of water:
Lake Okeechobee, corralled by levees,
drowned in polluted sediment
Dipping down they landed on an airstrip
plowed into wetlands, edged by dunes,
near the Seminole reservation
Primitivo familiarized himself with his new home:
Black-calabash, dwarf cypress, everglades
and rough leaf velvet seed, and silver palm
On the flight home the moonlight was beaten silver
on the lake, and streams shimmered through grass
and sandy runes, taking their breath away
To read the Prologue, click here.
Laurel moved through her grandmother’s home,
through her creation with its sense and sensibility
and memories of a life worth living;
Grandma Wing reigned sovereign over this world
and gave it a special radiance
Aunt Ida bowed her head to whisper:
She’s our Mae West, our Madonna;
a shocking, fearless adventuress
Grandma Wing told Laurel of her travels
with her husband, in the short span
between retirement and his death
Laurel was intrigued: All over the world?
Yes, all over the world; but I know I can’t have
that back again; so I might as well enjoy myself.
A smoking roast simmered in the oven
and fresh green beans in summer savory,
and a sauce only her grandmother knew;
Laurel set the table:
But what if you fall in love again?
Grandma Wing smiled:
I doubt that will happen, and anyway
it’s much too much trouble at my age;
The old woman faced Laurel:
Did you fall in love?
No, Laurel blushed,
and Grandma Wing laughed:
On the river, Mira looked to the western sky:
It’s late, she said: Wait, did you hear that?
Will listened; a whistling sound dropped
and spiked again:
They ran up the boat ramp near Mulberry Ranch
where killdeer whirred over a sandy field
shrieking kee – kee – keee
Another scream mingled with the wild abandon
of river, birds and wildlife;
Mira and Will walked towards the piercing cry
to see a man bolt from a manor house
on the neighboring ranch
Will turned with widened eyes to Mira:
Yes, yes, I think so, she replied;
They raced to follow him, calling his new name,
but Primitivo slipped away into darkness
They turned toward the house,
a sour taste of dread in their mouths
to the open front door
From the threshold they peered inside;
the house was quiet, crimson light pooled
on the floor, streaked the walls
Will broke the silence: No one’s here.
They ran with arms and legs at odds
back to the boat, and rode the river home;
an alligator glided by, watching them
with one red eye
The swamp’s mouth opened wide
and a silhouette of a man ripped at a woman
as if he could carve his name in her flesh
A corona of sun rested on every flower,
detailed every spike of tall grass;
a figure crashed into the swamp
and fox and deer went slinking away
in the bug-in-amber spell
On Border Road, Sandy saw a man kneeling,
tending to his crop; a sphinx moth whirled
its turbine wings,
and the breeze shifted into high gear;
but when he looked back no one was there
With Uncle Joe driving and Aunt Ida in the front seat,
crossing Border Road Laurel thought she saw Sandy
and started to wave, but he was walking away
To read Chapter 7, click here
Sandy heard only the sound of his footsteps
as he ran along the roads and through woods;
he ran until the motion carried him
ecstatically, heroically forward; hours passed
when he thought of nothing
But an occasional calculation of direction
and time of day; he drifted along to sounds
without known sources, some near
and some too far away
to know if they were real or imagined
A symphony of random music;
this is the wilderness song:
A yellow carpet of bur marigold swept down
to the riverbank where the river’s current
sang the name Macaco
All along the border, river and streams
interlocked to nurture a living body;
Sandy rested in a cup of royal fern, his face
appearing in the foliage, and from his forehead
sprang a fountain of fruiting branches
He came in from the border to join his family,
helping to set out large plank tables
by the ranch house and load them with food,
while fresh steaks simmered
over an open pit fire
Downwind, behind a stand of trees
a vat of skunk cabbage was boiling;
Laurel and Will went to investigate
and Laurel asked the boys’ mother:
Where do you get these?
In the spring, she answered, orange-colored pods
burst out of the ground in the pinewoods,
and then these tender coils; all summer they grow.
But, she told Laurel, if a branch falls or an animal
brushes them, they give off a rotten aroma.
Will interjected: It smells like skunk spray
when you cook it, but it tastes okay,
he added quickly, like store-bought cabbage.
Chicken and hot dogs roasted on a grill
and baked beans, Bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes.
Vidalia onions, corn on the cob,
three bean salad, green beans,
hot sauce, jam and pies were piled on the tables
The women wore jeans and crisp shirts
and the men brown or blue pants
with slanted western-style pockets
and embossed leather belts with large buckles
and lariats with turquoise or silver
The boys and girls in blue jeans
and tees took off their cowboy hats
to sit with their families and friends
among the enormous oaks
as the day’s shadows gathered
When evening came, moonflowers expanded
in a dream on a web of vines;
Will drifted off to sleep in a comforting beam
of light, the sun’s belated gift:
a lightning stroke slowed down
A bird balanced on a branch, and while he watched,
the bird went through transmutations
of colors and shapes and attitudes,
crossfading from one into another;
Mira, he said, waking up
Banners of light drifted above all sound and reflection;
as the four explored Shadow’s garden,
Laurel cradled a welter of leaves:
He’s growing vegetables. Lettuce, radish
and tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes.
Shadow emerged from the pine forest;
Sandy’s eyes mirrored the changing scene:
It’s like a cloud the way he moves, filled with light.
But, Will pointed out, a shadow follows him;
I wish we could help him more;
and Mira said: It’s up to him now.
Shadow came to them:
I am rare and threatened, I am native and strange,
I move slowly among all things, I am these and more.
Shadow stood still, looking at the children:
I am a man in the prime of my life just awakening.
Sandy’s eyes swam with light; and Will exclaimed:
Primitivo! We’ll call you Primitivo;
Shadow considered this: That may be.
Mira’s father drove to Casey Key the next day;
pulling off on a road’s scattershot shoulder,
she watched him climb out to talk to fishermen,
inspecting the catch, trading stories:
Snook are good today.
They headed straight for the Gulf of Mexico,
the white lip of the beach blazing in the same sun
that had bleached the Calusa shell mounds,
the same sun that scorched
the Spanish conquistadors
Her father said:
Ponce de León saw Florida on Easter Day,
and named it Pascua Florida: the feast of flowers
Years later, a new expedition sailed from Cadiz;
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés with a thousand people;
in 1565 he landed on Florida’s northeast coast,
not far away from a settlement of French Huguenots;
he had orders to cast them out.
The French were here first?
He answered her surprise:
Up near St. Mary’s, but in two years the Spanish
had driven out the French
and built the city of St. Augustine
Menéndez set up seven garrisons on Florida’s coasts,
one of them here at Charlotte Harbor;
Did they really think there was gold here?
Her father responded with a laugh:
Menéndez had bigger plans
He believed Florida could be conquered,
both physically and spiritually;
he thought diplomacy would convert the native people.
But his soldiers attacked native villages,
and Spanish priests ridiculed native religious beliefs
When one of his forts was destroyed
Menéndez changed his mind;
he proclaimed the natives were savages,
and he asked the Spanish king to allow:
“that war be made upon them with all vigor,
a war of fire and blood,
and that those taken alive shall be sold as slaves
removing them from the country
and taking them to neighboring islands.”
You know those words from memory?
He sighed: I know those words by heart;
Menéndez died in 1574.
Everything he did was in vain.
Only St. Augustine remains.
And the Calusa? she asked him;
With a sigh he answered:
By the mid-1700s the tribe was gone,
devastated by war and disease,
leaving ragged scars on the human spirit.
Chapter 10 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, published by All Things That Matter Press
PJ was wearing a tan turtleneck sweater and peaked white hat, álà Vincent Van Gogh. We seized an empty bench in Washington Square Park. Nearby, a woman had spread a blanket. Her older son was playing at the fountain’s edge and the younger one was crawling on the blanket toward him. The little one reached out and picked up a piece of broken glass.
His mother grabbed him and slapped his hand. The glass fell to the sidewalk and the boy screamed with rage as she placed him back on the blanket.
PJ acted as if he had seen nothing, but I felt him recoil when the child screamed. “That child was amiable when he was born,” PJ said after a moment. “He felt no guilt. Until someone slapped his hand and said, No, don’t do that. And he felt hostility for the first time.”
“He is angry,” I replied. “But he shouldn’t pick up glass.”
“Better that he is angry at the glass if he gets cut.”
The older boy came running to see what happened. He taunted his screaming brother and gave him a shove.
“You sit down,” the mother shouted. “Both of you behave.”
“Hostility is punished,” PJ observed. “He will learn to mask it with amiability. A laugh or a smile, a joke or a flattering word. After this, there will never be a time of complete amiability again.”
The mother and children were leaving and we watched them pass by the bench.
“The little one is beginning to make up his own intuitive program. He builds up an unconscious memory bank of positive and negative experiences. You see, now that we have computers, it can be compared to a computer, because the programmer puts in what can be taken out. And soon, we act and react with either amiability or hostility to any situation. It’s just—” He snapped his fingers, “yes or no, pro or con.”
“We react positively or negatively,” I said.
“If a child’s experiences evoke hostility and guilt for the most part, then the intuitive actions and reactions may become more often hostile than amiable.”
“I can see that.” And vice versa. Amiability: that was a desirable goal.
“And it’s already done before we know it. Most of us rationalize it afterward, even if it’s not necessary.” He smiled. “We may even come up with the right reason.” Then, reflectively, “We can’t bear the possibility of guilt, or we have so much built up, we respond with rationalization.”
PJ stood up slowly, steadying himself, and we walked back to his abode. In the following days I asked more about the “building of the intuition.”
“The cause of hostility is guilt,” he said. “And guilt is the absence of innocence, the feeling of being wrong. This sense of not being innocent is, for a reason I’ve not been able to discover, unacceptable to human beings. A person must perceive himself as innocent. He can do no wrong.”
“In The Fall,” I recalled, “Camus wrote that the ‘idea that comes most naturally to man, as if from his very nature, is the idea of his innocence.’ He said we insist on being innocent at all cost, even if we have to ‘accuse the whole human race and heaven itself.’”
“And so, Erin, we must believe our intentions are never hostile. The motives and consequences of our behavior are explained away, rationalized away in painstaking detail. Guilt is never allowed to remain in the consciousness.”
“I think you can admit you’ve done something wrong.”
“Nobody can admit to himself that he is wrong, ever. And I’ll tell you why. As you said, it’s because a human being cannot survive, I don’t know why, but he cannot survive without perceiving himself as completely innocent.”
He was sitting by his desk, the bright sun misting the ancient window and his white hair. “You see, the first compromise, a rational compromise, a child makes with what he knows is wrong—if there is such a thing as right and wrong—is not a very violent one. He doesn’t have to make a violent compromise because all he has to do is get around one contradiction. But as the contradictions of life pile up, he has to make more rationalizations.”
He elaborated, “What he learns about harming himself or other people, he may build up to a justification of harming other people, or he builds up a defense of it and a pretense of amiability. So when it comes to action and reaction, he has no moral control of what he does or says. Because it’s always done before he knows it and he has to rationalize it afterward.”
PJ picked up his glasses and shuffled through some papers. “You see, it’s rationalizing guilt that takes so much time out of most people’s lives. Because guilt has to be rationalized, it has to be put away, it has to be quieted down meticulously.”
“It’s an interesting idea …”
“When justifications and rationalizations have gone so far by the time a person reaches age twenty, he begins to wonder if he couldn’t be wrong.”
I smiled, remembering PJ had come to the Village at that age.
“But nevertheless, he’s got to be right. So then he begins twisting, he will switch around and hop around and do anything to keep from knowing he really is hostile.”
“We become conscious of our guilt.”
“No, conscience is a conscious matter, but guilt … the point is there is no guilt in the consciousness of the average person. They are saturated with repressed guilt. Until a person’s intuition becomes overloaded with guilt and hostility. In this case rationalizing becomes necessary, a way of life.”
I told him he was using words that needed to be defined.
He thought their definition was clear, but was now trying to clarify them. “To define intuition is difficult,” he answered. “The intuition’s fragments of memory and images never become conscious.”
“And what is rationalization?”
“Rationalization is the use of reason to make one seem innocent to oneself. Actually, rationalization distorts motives and behavior to make them seem innocent to the rationalizer. You see, no one knows, or can admit, that one’s intent is but good, and we lose as we rationalize any sense of what we’re doing. We lose this sense because we reverse hostility to a pretense of amiability. Many people have laid lie upon lie, compromise upon compromise, so they no longer know whether their motives are amiable or hostile.”
What a horror. Are we this imprisoned? “But is rationalization the only way to deal with guilt?”
Laurel visited her Grandmother Wing
in Nokomis, a town with several bays
and three bridges; the house two stories
with wide windows on a concrete road
and a fountain in the circle
On the front porch her grandmother waited
stooped but keen-eyed;
Laurel felt her cool arthritic palm
As sunlight blazed beyond Venetian blinds
highlighting antiques and Oriental rugs
to match the tapestry of her exotic garden;
crystal and china shone in measured light;
and overhead fans kept the rooms cool
Aunt Ida fussed about the house:
Do you get bored here alone all day?
With an enigmatic smile Grandma Wing said:
Oh no, I read my books and newspapers;
I think and I daydream.
At my age those are the things I do best;
and in the evenings my neighbors
come over to play bridge; Grandma Wing
picked up a travel book: My next trip;
and sometimes, you know, I stay at my beach bungalow.
Laurel saw the joys and sorrows of a long life
imprinted on her grandmother’s face
when she sat by a window’s sunspot;
and Laurel settled in with her for a game
of double solitaire
Grandma Wing asked her:
Why don’t you stay for the weekend?
I would like to have you here.
Laurel sighed: I have to get home;
I have to do my homework.
Can’t you bring it here?
Laurel nodded yes, and the old woman rose
from her wing chair, striding to the door:
Help me in the garden; a delicate aroma
of tropical flowers washed over them
I want to stay with you, Laurel thought of days
in this garden; backlit by water-dappled clouds
Grandma Wing said: You keep saying,
you have to do this, you have to do that;
listen: the only thing you have to do is die.
On Mulberry Ranch, Will and Sandy tossed a ball
back and forth outside Shadow’s cabin
while Mira gathered wildflowers
Will held the ball a moment:
I was thinking how Shadow healed himself
and became meek.
Sandy smiled, but before he could answer
a blue plane with white markings flew above them,
circled the cabin and landed on a dirt strip;
Mira read the name written on the fuselage:
Morris Rubra climbed from the pilot’s seat
and Sandy ran his hands along the plane:
Mira joined them and said to Morris Rubra:
I want to fly; and Morris Rubra nodded his assent:
I’ll take you up if your father says it‘s all right.
Two days later, with her father next to Morris Rubra,
Mira strapped into the back seat
and held on as the plane taxied down a runway,
floated toward banks of clouds, surged up
and roared into sun-washed sky
She looked down to see mats of rain-fed forest
and pointillist fields interlaced with ranches,
citrus groves and small towns
The Gulf of Mexico telescoped in;
Mira saw sea melding seamlessly into sky:
Do you ever want to come down?
Morris Rubra admitted: I live to fly, day or night,
and often at night I’m alone in the sky;
and then I feel I’m flying through a divine mind.
Mira pointed to a wide glaze of water
spilling from the horizon: What’s that?
Morris Rubra banked the plane:
Tampa Bay. A fellow here was the first
to fly at night in 1911
There’s been a lot of changes since then;
Morris Rubra righted the plane: Like the Cubans;
he glanced at Mira’s father:
The Cubans are fiercely independent;
they fought Spain for their country.
When the bay city rolled into view
he pointed as Mira craned her neck:
Do you see that old fort? Osceola was there;
some of my people fought him;
And lost, her father replied
Morris Rubra laughed and Mira blurted out:
I’d like to learn to fly;
The pilot began the turn for home:
You come back when you’re 14;
I want you to see what’s out here.
To read Children of the Moon, The Prologue, click here
From there you can read the following chapters.