The Founder Effect – no. 7


In the morning I awaken, face down, bent kneed, open mouthed, fully clothed, with each of my fingers wedged stuck in the neck of an empty bottle of beer. Electra insisted on celebrating and coaxed me into the lion’s share. I do not remember how it ended.

I kick off my boots one after the other and try to rub my face but the bottles tinkle and clack and alarm me.

Raat! “…Warriorrrrrs! Come out to pla-ayyyy!”

Eve slinks over to inspect the scent of my boots. Her balance has improved, grown into positive gracefulness.

I have to squeeze like vices both armpits to pluck the spent twelve-pack off my hands. Electra mimics each windy pop.

The desk in my bedroom is that of an architect, wide, minimal, clean lines, of manmade material. The shelves in the wall are wood painted white. Books have spilled off of them onto the desk, a single thought having yanked each volume from its perch into a pile or a space of its own, and the books have papers tucked into them, some messily so, signs of having been used. Books scattered, referenced, some even on the floor. There are pens and pencils dropped on the desk mid-idea and ashtrays full with crushed filters and soot.

The whistles and throatings of Electra in the next room fade from my attention. There’s an air of passive voice that absorbs me. The hole in my memory of last night has me wondering. There are signs I did things, thought thoughts, was preoccupied with matters that required reading.

There is no word for how I feel. Somewhere between intrigued, curious, unsettled, and attuned, suspended within this invisible web of definition like a tiny fetal mass of long dead, sucked clean, brittle limbs.

What did I do? What was I doing? What was I trying to do? The aftermath of books and pens and paper carelessly shuffled about smacks of a crime scene, and I am compelled to be detective.

I inch toward the desk, taking it all in, hesitant and deliberate in choosing what I touch. There is a harmony to the chaos of the mess of books I cannot yet decipher. Swirls and eddies of a process.

One stack stands apart from the rest. Five books winged open to specific pages, piled inside down one on top of another like a pagoda.

From beyond the doorway, Electra screams, Raat! “I’ma get medieval on yo ass.”

I turn over the first book. A box is drawn around these lines:

Of beasts unclean two and two,

Male and female, without more; (moe)

Of clean fowls seven also,

The he and she together;

Of fowls unclean two and no more,

As I of beasts said before;

That shall be saved through my lore,

Against I send the weather.

The next is Utopia:

They say any animal can fight with its body – bears, lions, boars, wolves, dogs can all do it, and most of them are stronger and fiercer than we are – but what raises us above them is our reason and intelligence.

The third:

A powerful monster, living down

In the darkness, growled in pain, impatient

As day after day the music rang

Loud in that hall, the harp’s rejoicing

Call and the poet’s clear songs, sung

Of the ancient beginnings of us all, recalling

The Almighty making the earth, shaping

These beautiful plains marked off by oceans,

Then proudly setting the sun and moon

To glow across the land and light it;

The corners of the earth were made lovely with trees

And leaves, made quick with life, with each

Of the nations who now move on its face. And then

As now warriors sang of their pleasure:

So Hrothgar’s men lived happily in his hall

Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend,

Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild

Marshes, and made his home in a hell

Not hell but earth. He was spawned in that slime,

Conceived by a pair of those monsters born

Of Cain, murderous creatures banished

By God, punished forever for the crime

Of Abel’s death, The Almighty drove

Those demons out, and their exile was bitter,

Shut away from men; they split

Into a thousand forms of evil – spirits

And fiends, goblins, monsters, giants,

A brood forever opposing the Lord’s

Will, and again and again defeated.

The fourth, with “Hope” scribbled in the margin:

There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.

Now the things within our power are by nature free, unrestricted, unhindered; but those beyond our power are weak, dependent, restricted, alien. Remember, then, that if you attribute freedom to things by nature dependent and take what belongs to others for your own, you will be hindered, you will lament, you will be disturbed, you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you take for your own only that which is your own and view what belongs to others just as it really is, then no one will ever compel you, no one will restrict you; you will find fault with no one, you will accuse no one, you will do nothing against your will; no one will hurt you, you will not have an enemy, nor will you suffer any harm.

The last is open to three lines of verse, the pages a translation en face:

Abeja blanca, ausente, aún zumbas en mi alma.

Revives en el tiempo, delgada y silenciosa.

Ah silenciosa!

White bee, even when you are gone you buzz in my soul

You live again in time, slender and silent.

Ah you who are silent!

I close this one, too. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.

So this is how it feels to forget.