There is no end to pleasure. Our flesh, how its tastes change.
You barely pause to wonder how we end up in the garden. Crepe-skinned crones in sun hats, we busy ourselves with one of the few benign industries left to us in our diminished worlds. We cannot captain the ships, you reason. Cannot write the laws. We must see life backward now as our children and their children take the keys and set the route.
In your haste to cover the stretch of highway still spooling out ahead, you don’t waste attention on what occupies the roadside. We bend there, indistinguishable from scarecrows. From garden gnomes. It stands to reason (if anyone were to ask) that we surrender to these tiny corners of the world. Our puttering a last gasp at creation. Bygone artists, barren makers. Do you see us deflating into bodies long past their use-by date? Do you see us at all?
Invisibility is a curse for certain, though one we have a hand in casting.
We have lowered the cloak ourselves, having finally spurned the burden of your gaze. We work in tandem to maintain the illusion that our fullness is yours to grant. Disinterest protects us from your meddling. Hubris strengthens the spell.
Don’t fret. I didn’t know either. Succession happens at a pace beyond the range of the untrained eye. The initiators, embodying the rites of the ancients, operate under the radar.
As for me, this breath has only just begun to move in sync with cycles of the sun. I’m still learning to feel the tumblers slip when all that’s jostled is one thin strand of spider silk. Soon, soon, I might stir what’s simmering in the bowl of my belly. Might summon the courage to extend my stay. To set down roots, as they say.
It may hold a place for you too, this society whose number only grows by the seasons. Of course, it might be a while before you are ready. Before we are ready for you.
Look closely and you might notice a recent arrival. She turns her head that vital degree, enough to hear the moan coursing across wind-bent stalks. Something chitinous plucks at thorns, releases the chorus, activates the song. Watch her savor a line of poetry as if roasted flesh in her mouth. She laughs deep and long recalling in verse the grip of a man’s arms. She was married or wasn’t, grew a child or didn’t, but oh, how well she carries those ghosts. The grasp, the lift, the release.
Falling still, she plunges into soil. Urging up row upon row of flowers, she laces the beds coaxed into undulant formation one year then the next. Prayer flags dyed by hand flap like veined wings. Prying stones from just above the frostline, she marks a curving border between the small countries she is drawing to life from wild terrain. Hostas, bachelor buttons, lilies striped with flames of orange exploding from the muck.
In just a few years – most hours of which you and I have spent in bruising battle with the hustle, here on the outside – her own elemental makeup nears that of her blooms. Like them, she drinks the downpour. She lets them rise, reach, spindly leaf and leg finally outgrowing her, finally arcing over her so she has to look up as they fold open towards light. A rank silver milk climbs up through stem to fill out pink-bellied petals holding her in a grip of shade and stink.
She meets them, distilling herself into their growth. Her pores stretch open, thirsty, the last of her boundaries splitting like a milkweed pod. It’s in the ever-longer stretches of contortion that pain recedes. Synovial fluid mingles with whatever leeches up through snaking root. Through her joints scud the same worm and grub that aerate the loam, loosing the long knotted places, making room.
You barely see her, see any of them, gathered here on this jostling side, as they plot the map of their return. Of your arrival too. Having glimpsed the tilting marvel of the world their hands conjure, now I see them everywhere. Or rather, I see us. See the way we lean in. Chatter, chuckle, long gazes reserved for each other. Do you notice yet? Those of us slow to turn when you interrupt? We pause a beat to clear the shining from our eyes. The mask needs a moment to settle.
I have caught just the first glimmer of how vast this secret, how wicked the magic. Can you fathom the generations of power roiling here among these rattlebones? Or do you still think the body is wasting? That these lines deepening around our eyes have happened to us, the sorry fate of the walking dead?
You have not yet caught a shiver of the efflorescence of our alchemy. We’ve found ways to make our flesh the flesh of everything. We tuck a part of ourselves into every seed dropped into the furrow. When they crack open and release their thread of roots, we follow, tracing our own stories deeper into the earth. Now we belong to the unfurling trumpets of foxglove and rosemallow as much as we ever have to our fecund human channels.
As if there was every any separation.
If you are lucky, if you check your pace and adjust your angle to make out our edges, you may find this terrain of barely contained eruption creeping towards your own feet. It may even tumble you through the crystallizing prism. In that glimpse – one that comes both too late and exactly at the right time – you begin to grasp the nature of your march across the teeming planet, against a merciless clock. It was always a migration after all. You have crossed the threshold of one hidden passage then the next. Bedroom to classroom to time clock to crosswalk. Deeper then to root cellar, then archive, then laboratory, then vault. Even further in to dungeon. Then crypt. Always to emerge, finally, in the garden.
If only it were possible to press against the invisible seam until it reveals itself, until something gives way. Of course, that’s how you crush a thing. Shortcuts are just another word for death. It lives here too, of course, one shadow in the verdure of these softening folds, in this place where body and foliage coalesce. All you can know now is that there is no separate place where you end and the world begins. No matter how many miles you cover, you are always only returning.
When at first you kneel down on the damp prayer blanket of earth, it feels so like interment. Trust this is a planting. Trust that this is when you begin again towards your next true birth.
The Diggers (“True Levellers”) were a radical movement of agrarian socialists who rose in England in 1649-50 after the civil wars. Organizing into egalitarian farm communities, they called for communal land ownership and an end to the monarchy. Needless to say, the local lords and gentry saw them as a threat and used the power of their positions to eliminate them, primarily through violence. More from the BCWProject here.