Thursday, January 29, 2015                                                        Dreadful Joy

Dreaming Tortoise

Here is the Dreaming Tortoise. She is very old. To her, life is a slow dream, an endless blue summer evening. You know this the instant you meet her wet eyes watching you from inside her mossy shell on a stone shelf of the riverbank.

She touches you with her luminous telepathy, which shines a light down the long tunnel of your body. She sees all the thoughts that suture the feelings that rise in the heat haze of your flesh. She sees all of you.

And you see her. You see all the seasons of humanity in her memory: our African womb time that delivered us to Ice Age winter, then a river delta spring, the giddy summer of Enlightenment that eventually followed, and now the fall of our manufactured world.

And there you are in the Dreaming Tortoise’s mind, tucked in the events of your life. There you are, oblique with ignorance. What do you know of the dead? You know little enough of the living.

Not to worry. Your brain may continue to sleep in its mysteries. She will waken your heart with her radiant telepathy.

Weightless omniscience lifts you to falcon heights above the Ghost River. Down you gaze upon the milling animal-souls on the shore of wandering. You see the ponderous slow drift of their sorrow, surging like the sea and as deep.

Upon the far shore, a circular glow shudders against the dark. A night fire? No. Your heart feels something stronger yet. Something untranslatable. This is the Sunstone. It is the little house of rock where the Sun retires at night.

Cross the Ghost River. Claim the Sunstone and carry it to the exiled ghosts of the abattoir animals on the shore of wandering. Do this, and those souls taken by people without thanks shall enter heaven. The Sunstone is the gateway.

But you must cross the Ghost River without a boat. The Sunstone will not abide made things. The door to heaven will never open to made things.

Can this be true? Are you the one to end the long suffering of the stolen souls? The very question returns you to the long tunnel of your body. You stare out at the wet, unblinking eyes of the Dreaming Tortoise.

And you know.


Blogger Jaime said...

Very vivid piece, Al. It strongly evoked in me your comments (from what seems so very, very long ago) in response to Gregory Colbert's ASHES AND SNOW - "Sapiens made a ladder of the stacked bones of animals to climb toward unreachable salvation", with the Sunstone our instrument of atonement. A genuinely moving conceit,sir.
On a lighter note, the tortoise as a kind of Immortal Witness reminds me of a beloved book from childhood: Holling Clancy Holling's MINN OF THE MISSISSIPPI, a charming biological and cultural history of North America told through the eyes of a very long-lived turtle. Holling's recreation of the Mound Builder culture in particular is a fanciful delight.

February 1, 2015 at 7:47 AM  
Blogger A. A. Attanasio said...

Civilization is a burst habitat. And each of us a scissored part of the universe. You fetch my mind far back, Jaime, and I thank you for reminding me of this deep sympathy for the deaths that feed desire. Hey, I will find Holling's "Minn" and connect deeper with the Dreaming Tortoise!

February 2, 2015 at 5:35 PM  

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