A Hundred Gourds 5:2 March 2016

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Steven Carter – USA

the hills have—

A friend tells you: “While you’re there, you should visit the town next door where I grew up . . .”

So dear—

So you go. Why do you go?

. . . Well, the countryside is beautiful—the hills (which resemble “yours,” down to the live-oaks and a small cliff (no white horse however!)

Predictably, this pleases you. —Or does it?

This is where your friend went hiking during childhood, as you did the hills of Alto more or less at the same time, the early fifties.

Feelings of jealousy don’t show up, even though you thought they might.

And yet—

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us—

We do?

. . . Anyway, as you gaze at these hills, foreign but also familiar, you are seized by the usual mixed emotions, including a wicked irrational urge to obliterate your friend’s memories of this place.

The urge passes to be replaced by guilt. But how to expiate it, as if guilt were not a proxy for expiation!

. . . It’s a dog in the manger thing—you don’t really covet the live-oaks and golden curves of hill and dale shimmering a little bit in your gaze (it’s a hot day). And yet—

You’d rather think of what’s gazing at you ( “The hills have I’s” ) as pristine, cleansed of memory—all memory, Native Americans included; as if you’d plopped down on another planet.

Again, guilt—and, of all people, Nietzsche: The man who despises himself nevertheless esteems himself as a self-despiser.

What were your friend’s feelings when he tramped this country as a boy?

Suppose you could distill two sets of emotions: a) ones mimicking yours, or the ones that yours mimic, from b) the different set of emotions unique to your friend’s private world.

In the end, which “set” would you truly covet?

You can’t have both, warns your conscience, if that’s what it is.

Clearly things have gotten a bit complicated.

. . . Yes, the similar emotions are redundant; but what of the others? Are they private to the stranger disguised with your face in the mirror? Does the “stranger” bear a startling resemblance to your friend?

Is that why you hesitated to come here and why you decided to come?

And . . . Is this why you feel a sudden chill, now, as the sun makes its long, boring arc of lamentation down the sky, and you drive on beyond the town, keeping your gaze straight ahead: out of the rear-view mirror?

No man is an island.

Blonde on
                        On blonde—

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