The Green Man

IT MIGHT HAVE been only a few days ago that I found the first small shoot on my arm. Days? Perhaps a week, perhaps more—I’m not sure what numbers might mean now, what they ever meant. I remember it was just above the crook of the elbow. There must have been something there before, that seems likely, a bump, perhaps an irritation but no, I’d felt no irritation, and if my first response was surprise, and if this was mixed, I’ll try to be honest here, with a certain disgust, that’s only natural after all. A bump, then, or a vague sensation, as of a gathering force. In any case, there it was. Of course I didn’t know what it was at first, and I tried to brush it off, but my hand jerked back when I winced with the sudden pain. It was fixed, planted. Rooted to the spot. It was a growth, and an odd one at that. At the tip, when I looked more closely, I could just make out what looked like a single leaf, no bigger than the eye of a needle, a bay or laurel perhaps. I remember it swaying ever so slightly with the breeze that drifted in through the kitchen window—I had the wild thought, only for a moment, that it was waving to me. Below, a supple green gradually stiffened into a dark, encrusted brown, so that at my skin it didn’t appear a young seedling at all, but an ancient and venerable (if unaccountably tiny) trunk. It might have been a hallucination, or even the beginning of a nightmare, but it wasn’t. It seems now a kind of recognition, as if that single moment were the harvest of all that had come before, and the seed of all that had yet to come—all that has yet to come. At the time, though, I took it in stride. Having finished my inspection, I made a note to see a doctor, dressed (I chose a loose shirt and it was no real difficulty), and went about my usual business. If I felt some discomfort, it was only occasional, and quite mild—and in any case, one has to earn one’s living, after all.

It’s after that, I confess, that my memory becomes somewhat uncertain. Things sped up—or was I already slowing down? At any event, my habits were beginning to change. I began to avoid people as much as possible, and after a few especially awkward moments—I was certainly provoked, but I had always had great difficulty containing my contempt—I completely avoided all gatherings: parties and dinners and “occasions” of any sort. At work, too, I was different. We had just started up again, after the long winter doldrums, and usually I was not only eager but one of the liveliest talkers as we drove from one site to another. Now, though, it was as if l had lost all enthusiasm for the job. I sat quietly in the truck, scarcely responding to the others. Once at a site, I undertook the most remote and difficult jobs pruning tangled shrubbery, mowing steep slopes—anything that would keep me apart from the rest of the crew. And the more I stayed apart, the more I came to loathe my eventual return. The others took my withdrawal as a rebuke—as, no doubt, it was. I felt the others could do nothing but cut and slash their way through life. I don’t think I’d ever before felt it so intensely, or so persistently. I mean at moments, yes, I had despised people, but hasn’t everyone, at certain times, felt much the same way? But no, I feel I was different, even 10 then, that what for you, say, takes the form of an occasional fit of pique, was for me an underlying condition, almost a pathology. Can we really claim that such disgust is only another of love’s disguises? I don’t think so. I felt the same way about myself, too, to the extent that I was still one of them. And I suppose I was. Perhaps I’m still not all that different from the others, from you others.

In any case, I have difficulty recalling the exact sequence of events, the precise changes that were occurring. It was soon clear that it wasn’t just a matter of a single, external growth, but some deeper transformation. I began to examine myself for changes each morning, wondering whether my skin—1 was already beginning to think of it as an outer layer—had been quite so thick the day before, if this really was a new shoot, or merely an unusually bristly hair. For one thing, the skin on my legs—which, it’s true, had always been rather dry and rough—began to thicken and harden. It also began to itch, which made me very uncomfortable. Of course I began to scratch it, at first deliberately, then absentmindedly, but this brought no real relief. Then I noticed a faint pattern of lines across the surface. At first I assumed these were merely a side effect of my scratching, the kind of light surface markings anyone might get. But nothing about my body could be taken for granted any more. Instead of disappearing, the lines took on a life of their own, becoming deeper and wider as the skin thickened, like scars or cracks. There was also a general thickening, a matting and braiding, of the hair; it was difficult to comb through it in order to search for new shoots. (The armpits, I realized after a while, had been progressing unnoticed, but I shouldn’t let delicacy make me neglect to mention the pubes.) At some point I think this was after a while—1 realized that my limbs no longer bent very freely. My elbows and knees were the first, at least that I noticed, but soon enough the other joints were affected; now it seems simpler to speak of a general stiffening. Oh I can still move along, but it’s slow going, and it’s best to avoid any unnecessary motion. And I’d rather be still.

Mostly, though, I kept a close and rather anxious watch on the original growth. You might think my anxiety, however useless, was perfectly natural under the circumstances. But I have to confess that there was already a certain solicitude involved. I felt protective, as if I ought to nurture it—it was, after all, a part of me, and no ordinary part at that. It may be this solicitude that accounts for my delay in calling a doctor, and for my confusion when finally I did. By that time the condition had made considerable progress—nothing compared to the present, of course, but it was quite something, nevertheless—and I wanted immediate treatment. But no one seemed concerned, not the receptionist, not the aid, not the doctor. They even became rude, suggesting that I was overly anxious, that I was exaggerating, they even hinted at hysteria, that it was all in my head. “You should calm down,” said the receptionist. “You should take it easy,” said the aid. “Try to relax,” said the doctor, “it’s probably a fungus, nothing serious.” A fungus! As if I couldn’t distinguish between a common fungus and this quite uncommon tree. They refused to treat it as an emergency. I pleaded; I called back later and pleaded again, but it was no use; I couldn’t get an immediate appointment. In truth, caught as I was between two worries, for myself and for what I felt within me, I probably was somewhat hysterical. And perhaps I’m exaggerating now, though I’m certainly not anxious. In the end, I accepted the time offered, but I didn’t keep the appointment. Or I’m not keeping it: I think the appointment was yesterday, but it might be tomorrow, it might even be today. At any event, my original complaint no longer concerns me; I’m well beyond that sort of thing now.

There was some compensation, though I was slow to realize this. At work, as I’ve said, I undertook the most difficult jobs—weeding patches of ground impossible to get at, pruning thick clumps of thorny bushes, raking a steep incline, or simply tackling an area so remote I could immerse myself in my work, in strict solitude. The others accused me of searching for the thickest clumps of bushes in order to hide in the shade and relax. No doubt they were trying to shame me into rejoining them. One—1 forget his name—claimed to have seen me “just standing there” in a clump of trees, immobile and oblivious. Of course I treated it as a joke and laughed it off, but even as he spoke I realized that there were periods I couldn’t account for, gaps in my sense of time. I became anxious about that, too, at first—it was bad enough that my body would revolt, now it seemed my mind was affected. But this, too, offered a compensation—even a kind of blessing. There’s a calm in these periods, as of a solitude that has nothing to do with being alone. Even now, I’m scarcely aware of their occurrence, of how long I may fall into a kind of waking sleep, and lose all notion of the human world. Yet it’s only in these interludes that I become my world. And I know they grow longer, and more frequent.

(And how many times, writing this, have I already slipped beyond reach of words? Will I ever achieve its end? But of course I can keep returning—until finally I’m somewhere else altogether.)

I was lucky the weather was still cold—I mean I am lucky, it wasn’t so long ago—so that I had an excuse for bundling up. I needed the protection. It wasn’t just my arm that was tender, not any more. I also wanted to shield myself from scrutiny, from all those concerned, intrusive gazes. My face, of course, presented the most difficulty, but I was lucky there too, I already had a beard, so people weren’t used to seeing that much of me. Before I ventured out into the streets I would turn my collar up, put on a peaked hat, and wrap myself in a scarf. As the weather improved, of course, this made me look increasingly eccentric, even freakish. At work they began to make pointed comments, to which I responded with silence, or clumsy attempts to change the topic. But my refusal to explain myself only increased their suspicions. They eventually assumed, I think, that I was embarrassed by some disfigurement—a disease or wound—though I occasionally overheard some remark directed at my sanity.

I’m not sure what else I ought to say here. Another day seems to have passed. I don’t mean immediately before this sentence could our time really break so conveniently—but somewhere, somewhere between there and here. With each one I feel more contented, more settled, as it were. I must be a remarkably adaptable specimen, everything seems so natural to me now. There are times only this writing feels strange, a foreign or forgotten habit. Yet it would be a mistake to underestimate the continuity, the tenacity, of habit, to say nothing of nostalgia. Or is there something else I mean to say? Am I, that is, moving, however slowly, toward a declaration—\ toward some word, some consummate word I feel compelled to utter? And then finally, when I come to stand amid the wind and rain and sun, I’ll do nothing but repeat that single word, over and over, until at last—

But perhaps I’m simply filling the blank pages, for lack of anything better.

I’ll tell some other events, in the meanwhile. Once when I was out a middle—aged woman with a young child bumped into me as I rounded a corner. As I apologized and tried to move aside my scarf fell open, and I heard two distinct gasps as they both looked away at once. They acted as if they’d seen nothing odd. I hadn’t realized how much you could count on people’s discretion, on people’s fear, on people’s ability to pretend you don’t exist. I quickly covered myself again, so that they wouldn’t take fright and run, but they were eager to get away, I could tell that, so that I was surprised, in fact, when the woman actually addressed me—something about my standing in the way. I assume the accident, compounded by the sight of me, had confused her. I was about to protest my innocence when I saw that it was too late, she had already vanished. But maybe I wasn’t so innocent in this case, either.

I suppose there were other encounters, but none of them hold much interest for me anymore. If I relate one here, it’s only in the interest of an imagined reader, a follower. Perhaps my attempt, however futile, to share this … this experience perhaps it may offer someone else some comfort. And let me tell you, my imagined reader, if you follow me you won’t have any choice in it, none at all, whatever you may think now. Try to relax, to savor the slow change—it’s fast enough. At times, to calm the nerves, I’ve imagined myself falling forward, as into a dream. It seems to help.

At first I scrutinized everyone’s reactions to me, trying to find out how far I had come, or gone. But that didn’t help much, and after a while I simply tried to avoid encounters.

I believe I’m getting the order of events confused here. Have I already spoken of this? No doubt if I have time, that sort of time, I’ll come back to it yet again.

For the most part I kept away from the busier streets, always looking for more secluded areas, as far as possible from asphalt and concrete. And I avoided areas that had only recently been planted or landscaped, areas that looked more like bland cemeteries than living gardens. Instead, I sought out the abandoned fields, old parks, overgrown lots.

It’s not that I’d ever been romantic about nature, you understand—far from it, in fact. I’d never been able to stomach those types, and even less after I became a gardener. At least until this season, though, I’d always been enthusiastic about my work. Had I had enough of it? Or was it just the opposite, that it wasn’t enough, that it would never be enough, all that pruning, and feeding, and weeding, and then on, always on, to another site, another job?

Whatever the cause, I now liked little more than walking around in crumbling buildings, ruined forms being reclaimed by a green world, a world of rustles and buzzes and of other, more secret signs. Such places seemed to invite me; sometimes I would stand still in some abandoned yard or field and quietly observe the life around me. On the job I had always fought against the mingling of species, cutting back and weeding out in order to keep each kind separate and distinct. Now, though, I saw slow struggles, strange dependencies, bonds of another order—intricate entwinings that only a few days before would have remained unseen, too slow for quick eyes.

It’s true that none of us can know where pleasure might lead.

Once I came across a clearing, a grassy oval that was evidently man—made, with only a single stump left in the center. I imagined it as an open wound, yet it seemed also a place of healing. The surrounding trees held and focused the sun’s warmth. I sat down on the stump as if before a hearth, and at once became absorbed in a quiet not even the faint sound of distant cars could disturb. Then the trees held me as well, so that I sat in silence, without motion, scarcely breathing, weighted into place: and it was place that showed itself there. After a while I could no longer distinguish the cars, only the dripping moisture, the oozing earth, the warming sun. Perhaps I sensed, somehow, the flutter of wings behind me; certainly I couldn’t have heard them, nor seen the blur circling around me. Nor did I move when they abruptly stopped and took form—a young blue jay—on my shoulder. But I don’t believe I recognized the bird as a blue jay either: if a name came to me then it was simply “the planter.”

If l can no longer see birds in flight, only feel the motion, until one appears, suddenly substantial, out of air—isn’t this the worst of my losses? I mean of those that have followed the slowing of my eyes. Now, where once the seasons seemed too slow, spring itself has become too rapid. But don’t I feel the rising spring even more deeply than before, as in one’s deepest fibers? And didn’t I feel the blue jay more than ever? Doesn’t all intimacy follow such loss, as a lark might rise into dazzle?

Yet there’s an excess that blurs the outlines, and with them the signs. I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen a lark, rising or falling, at least not to call it so. Yet there it is, the ready phrase. All these names—”lark,” “blue jay,” even the simplest—seem weighted with portent, in the absence of an object. Still their images are often with me now: a small form in gray and brown streaked with black, a patch of rust on the head, another form that shades from brown into dull red, on another a bright yellow flame sets crown and wing against silver, still others the heft of small animals, with strong claws and sharp eyes. Bearers of song, bearers of speech: bearers of souls. While I sat there time seemed to open: for me. I might have stayed for days, or hours, or only minutes. When I rose I had to brush dirt and flakes of wood from my trousers, while the stump, damp and rotten, now bore the imprint of my body. A column of ants continued its march, describing a nearly perfect arc up, across, and back down the stump. At the base another species was growing; without thinking this was no garden—I uprooted the plant and threw it onto the ground.

So the birds were the first to vanish. They weren’t the last. I like to think they disappeared in strict sequence, from smallest and quickest to largest and slowest. First birds, squirrels, dogs, children, then adults, now even the elders move too quickly for me. Oh, I make them out well enough when they stand dead still, only it’s a shock when someone gets up from a park bench and first blurs and then vanishes before my eyes. More than a shock, it’s bewildering. It’s not that I’m no longer aware of them at all, just that I can’t see them, I can’t keep up. The world, my world, grows emptier by the hour. I suppose I don’t mean empty, not exactly—there’s a certain sense of vague presences moving amid the still forms. Some days ago one of these paused and took shape before me; for a moment she looked at me strangely, then vanished into the surrounding air. I wonder now if I spoke at all. Do I still speak? I’ll ask it: “Do I still speak?” I can’t tell. I’ve even given up on the radio, it’s too hard to focus the noise, as if there were some impassable gulf between the sounds in air and the words still in my head.

I wonder, too, whether she wasn’t the mother that bumped into me, whether I’m not confusing those times as well. Did I say the boy kept eyeing me, and with evident malice? A small pen—knife glinted in his hand. Of course I may have misread the gleam in his eye; I believe I’ve already confessed to a certain suspicion of my fellow creatures. And it may be that the boy and his knife have nothing to do with the woman, or the girl, or whatever she was, he may well come from some other memory altogether. Wasn’t the face I saw my own, the glint some hint of recognition?

Another lapse—I mean here and now, not there and then. Yet the light seems unchanged. Has it been a whole day? I don’t think so, not yet, anyway. But always longer, always deeper, and always I care less and less to emerge.

No, I don’t believe I will have a declaration. I suppose I should talk about something else, I mean to keep the process moving along—as if, having begun without me, it weren’t now managing quite well of its own accord, as if it couldn’t manage entirely without my devoted attention. As if it weren’t always moving along, progressing within us, while we dream we lead another life entirely. Even these reflections, if you could call them that, are nothing more than an imagined refuge, an imagined freedom: of the troubled wanderer, of the prisoner in his cage. Could it matter which? The more you think about it, the more questionable it becomes. It may be better that way, at least the questions keep you moving. It’s only the answers that don’t matter, just as it doesn’t matter whether it’s punishment or reward, whether I’m chasing or fleeing, it’s the same blame, the same guilt. Still it would be good to think it one or the other, as long as one continues to think about it.

No, there’ll be no word, I’m only going in circles—which is worse, far worse, than not moving at all. I suppose I don’t exactly mean circles, either, it’s only that the image comes to mind. Or it’s by analogy, perhaps with the circulation of the blood. But is it certain my blood still circulates? That it remains blood? There are veins I would feel my way along. If only, I think, I still had my pocket—knife, so much could become so certain—though it may mean little enough in the face of what lies before me.

Veins that harden, as the leaf yellows: yearning for ground.

I’ll begin another story: the day he quit work. Actually he didn’t quit so much as walk off the job just before lunchtime and never return. He could never stomach our usual fare. They had arrived at a large estate, and he was to work the back, up against the steep slope that marked the property boundary. They wanted him to put in a flower bed in the form of a raised circle, angled to be visible from the back porch. It’s always the owners that linger on, to sip their drinks and admire their prospects. As he walked past the house, though, he could see that the grounds were already too well manicured; the estate already looked like some indoor artifice. When he reached the boundary he looked up at the slope beyond it, and he felt the wilder trees and bushes reaching toward him, drawing him onward. He didn’t even break his stride, but dropped the tools and started up the slope, using the branches and vines that dangled in front of him to pull himself up.

Someone called out to him as he reached the top—someone must have seen me—but he didn’t turn, he didn’t even pause. He would have heard only the wind, the birds, the soughing branches. And perhaps no one called—would anyone have recognized him by then? He was too far gone. And as he scrambled over he knew he would never return—not to that life.

I recall my feet sinking, as I walked, into the bed of wet brown leaves, and then through them, into the rich muck beneath. A few tender shoots, grasses and young saplings, were already rising into the world. I took off my shoes and socks, the better to feel. Was it then I found the clearing, and sat down on the rock that rose up in the middle? I wanted to lie down, to throw myself into it, to roll about in the mud and leaves, amid the patches of crisp snow, and here and there the sprouting grasses—intoxicated with the smell of mud and the rot of last year’s leaves and fruit and fallen timber. But I held back—somehow I didn’t feel ready for such pleasure, such pain—or something else, whatever had led me there, now pushed me away. I stumbled home, leaving the feet bare, and still feeling the suck of mud, the toes pressing into ooze. \ I passed no one on the way back, or at any event I saw no one, until I arrived home and came up against the hallway mirror. At first I saw nothing; I had trouble bringing it into focus, and when I did, the apparition that stared out at me was beyond recognition. On the forehead was a gash, already scabbing over, where the skin had split. The eyebrow below had merged into a crust of dried blood, mingled with layers of dirt and grime that seemed to exude from the face. And beneath that—there was an ooze I hadn’t seen before, and it came from me, and it was already hardening. It was overwhelming, revolting. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to wash straight away. Feeling suddenly exhausted, I threw myself onto the bed and fell into sleep.

It may have been then, in a dream, that I sat on the rock, the stump. Or was it in some other sleep? The images fold in on themselves, so that I can only tell their forms.

When I woke my skin had thickened greatly. I haven’t washed since, unless the rain counts.


I MUST HAVE QUIT answering, now I think of it, long before I quit work. I know the phone still rings occasionally; perhaps they’re concerned. Most likely it’s only for the job, if it is them calling. In any case it’s too late, even if I could answer it, which is by no means certain. Today, for instance, I’ve had no occasion to speak, I’ve gone days without speech, without that kind of speech. And I’ve gone days without laughing, too, without that kind of laughter. Is that what I’m moving toward? Not a word but a laugh, a single, prolonged, all—consuming, all—rending laugh? And my words here: don’t they already show that laugh pressing into them, bending them, readying to break them into a thousand jagged pieces?

It must be such a laugh that’s destroyed the names, as if I had to lose them just as I came to the verge of—I won’t say understanding—but something. Yet I seem to reflect, whatever it may be, in the sense that I still think laughter, think tears, think names: the chokecherry, the ginkgo, the gray birch, the white pine, the trembling aspen, and the birds among them, not just the jay, bur the sparrows, crows, hawks, the finches, cardinals, robins. To say nothing of the gray squirrel, the white—tailed deer, the raccoon. Once I saw a goat standing upright beside a tree, balancing against it with its front legs, tearing off and chewing clumps of leaves. What a wealth of knowledge. On the other hand, I no longer recall a thing about my work, just that I was skillful enough, then. The thing is, I have no image to connect to the name—is an image anything bur another name? And when I really see the thing, the way I sometimes do now, there’s no name for it. Names on this side, things on that, and I, for the moment, somewhere between.

Bur it won’t be much longer, now. Soon I’ll be out of it, I’ll find a peace unlike any word.

I doubt that’s quite right, but not much else comes to mind. Events, that’s what we want, what I want, to be done with. As if it weren’t already all too fast.

This morning, let’s say, my trunk was a mottled blotch of grays and browns.

Or the boy and girl. The face, though I can see but the gleam, may well have been my own. I seem to recall just such a pen-knife I once had, a birthday present, that I treasured, and carved my initials with, and then lost. Along the way, no doubt. It’s just as well, I couldn’t bear it now. I should have mentioned this earlier—no doubt. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve rambled along, careless of all around me. Perhaps that’s how I went wrong. Surely, though, it must have been something quite different, something all but forgotten: didn’t I strike the boy, treat him badly, deny him his desire? Or something involving a woman, really a lovely girl, whom I treated, I may as well admit it, even worse? In fact it’s she who calls me, I’m sure of it, until finally I quit answering, it was no use any more. But that’s no use, either, I can’t straighten it out. Not any of this. And even if I could, it couldn’t matter, not much. Surely my deeds, whatever they may be, are no worse than most.

Bur it feels too soon for such an elegiac note, it’s not over yet. I became confused, then, I mean about what was happening. But also that was what was happening, then, I mean confusion, and still is, and will be, I imagine, at least until you’re done with it. I mean me, until I’m done with it.

To establish something, some sort of basis, I compiled lists of my symptoms, writing out detailed descriptions of the latest features. For a while I searched through various textbooks and guides for corresponding specimens, trying to discover what I was, what I was becoming. I’ve mentioned the leaf looked like a bay, but it might have been an ash. I’d prefer an ash, I think. From water, through fire. Other shoots, though, bore quite different leaves—toothed or compound or both—suggesting any number of families. At first, as I say, I examined them minutely, even using a magnifying glass, but the effort got me nowhere, and I soon tired of it. Where did I think I might go? Especially given my legs, with their constantly shifting lines and furrows. They resembled different species at different times: in the morning the fine gray pocking of a beech, or the mottled peeling of a sycamore, in the afternoon the rougher brown of the ailanthus, at night the thick furrowing of a poplar.

It certainly wasn’t a question of attraction; I’ve never even liked the ailanthus; I’d much prefer something else, the quaking aspen, for example. I don’t suppose the preference signifies much. I’m well beyond any question of choice in the matter. So many names, to drift across the body. Doesn’t the matting of my hair call to mind a juniper or cedar? And it may be something unknown, from another part of the world. Am I to be out of place, even now? It wouldn’t surprise me. Perhaps it’s only just. All these forms—this bewildering proliferation—only to see what would survive, what would prove the case. At any event, I had great difficulty discovering what I was becoming. And now, of course, when it’s so much more definite, I can form no image, supply no name. Not for me, for what I’m becoming. Sui generis: there’s a name for you.

Another image, as from a dream. The body dissolves, and in its place a bird takes form. First gilded by the sun, then silvered by the moon, the bird quickens, becomes a flutter, a line, then a wind in the silence, and then it’s gone, and only the silence remains—the silence that splits a distant rock.

ONLY A FEW LAST ITEMS. The world in which I write seems ever less certain, ever more intermittent. I might have been asleep when the postman arrived. It’s difficult to make distinctions. Apparently I was already standing. I thought it would be a good idea to greet him, a fellow creature, to ask a last time about my progress. Without making any effort to hide my appearance, I shuffled over to the door and opened it wide. But where I remembered a postman, there now stood a woman. Before I could get a word out her eyes widened, she flinched, stepped back, then turned suddenly away and vanished into the sunlit street. I shrugged, or tried to, despite my shoulders, and lumbered back inside. She hadn’t left any mail, only an advertising circular—a waste of paper, and not even addressed to me. At least I’ll make up for that.

I must have been in a state, though. All this confusion, it serves so well to keep things moving along—but why keep moving? Soon I’ll no longer have need of such a world. It won’t be much longer now.

The rock. After sitting so long, I was startled by the sudden sight of a snake beside me. I jumped up, but it took no notice, lazing in the sun, coiled in on itself. Yet it must have known me there. Perhaps it knew me already.

Walking becomes steadily more awkward, accompanied by the faint creaking of joints, the cracking of roes. Already I find it more comfortable to stand, even for long periods. I think it was last night I spent standing at the window, and when the sun rose one of my vines had wrapped a tendril around a finger. I thought I could feel its own veins press against mine. And in some other language, a whisper of some other caress.

They aren’t easy to make out, my toes, a sort of thick fungus seems to have spread over them. At one time this would have bothered me no end, but I’m confident now it’s just another part of the process. It’s only natural.

I’m learning, slowly, not to worry.

My sight grows dimmer. I can’t speak of vision.

Things still happen, to be sure, but no longer one after another. Instead, it’s a slow accretion, as if around a center. To be sure. In the same way I feel motion now, not from place to place, but within, as if all movement were an unseen trembling.

Somewhere there are other scraps of paper, on which I’ve written whatever I could manage.

I’ve tried to record all this just as it came to me, without adornment and without omission.

Of course I haven’t succeeded, not yet. But in the end I’ll have been a natural, a naturalist. That’s what they’ll say.

It’s a singular place I’m drawn to. There’s a grove within the woods, and within the grove, a clearing. Among my own kind, as it were. The trees circle it like the hours themselves; within it the flowers might be seconds. One last walk, I imagine. It won’t be much longer. Perhaps tonight. There’ll be a bird, a family of birds, and perhaps bees, famous for industry, and certainly the sun, and the moon, and sun, and moon. And time. Time. To stand there, in the changing light. To feel the feet sink, the limbs spread: to feel that place, that wind, and the creak of age. To feel the soughing, the sighing. To feel the rhythm of years. Or to feel nothing at all. Simply to stand: there, beyond all question. Simply to stand.


“The Green Man” first appeared in Line of Flight (Buffalo: shuffaloff 1998). Reprinted with permission of the author