I run to remember. I run for order. I run because I fear disorder. I run because the folds of my belly say run. I run because wolves run. I run towards. I run away. I run to feel, to feel, to feel. I run because it’s free, because it’s egalitarian, because it’s subversive, because people tell me I shouldn’t. I run because there aren’t memberships or green fees. I run because 4.5 billion years of evolution watch me and wonder if I’ll keep using these legs. I run to thank heart and lungs. I run to praise gravity. I run for those who can’t. I run to feel strong. I run until I’m weak.
In many ways, the family house by the sea was the house time forgot. We felt ageless there; time stood still even as the waves kept coming, beating a steady path to our door. As a child I was haunted by images of the hurricane of 1938, shaky black and white footage of entire families on the roofs of their homes as thunderous waves came and washed them all away. Ours never washed away, though it disappeared nonetheless. As was the case with many houses founded on the notion of family legacy in the 19th and 20th century, economics and other exigencies conspired so that when both my parents died the house by the sea fell to us to sell. As perhaps my father should have realized, you can’t sink roots in sand….
.….On the last day of the year we sold the house, I ventured back at sunset. Walking along the beach I found it under demolition, the windows blown out, the frames charred black. In the few fragments of broken glass still clinging to the sills, the last light of the day reflected red. When I was young and the windows were enflamed by the setting sun, it appeared to my naively intoxicated imagination as if the house was filled to the brim with roses.
— from an essay soon to be published in Argonite *Jeanne McCulloch bio
Gordon Chaplin (from his latest novel Paraìso)
For an hour or forever the car has been rocketing along in the tunnel made by its own headlights in the desert night. The thorny scrub beside the road is as undifferentiated as a wall. The road is flat, straight, and empty.
The lady is alone in the backseat with a lot of baggage. Two boys from San Diego are in the front seat.
They pass a road sign for a place called El Zorro y la Peña. The boy in the passenger seat takes a roadmap from the glove compartment and turns on the overhead light. “It’s the only sign we’ve seen for hours, and it’s not on here. It gives me the creeps. Where are we, anyway?”
“In the middle of nowhere,” the driver says in an Orson Welles voice. “I mean, if we broke down out here, for Christ sake.”
“They’d find our bleached bones in a year or so,” the driver says. “And they’d laugh and say ‘Three less gringos.’”
“We’re not going to break down,” the lady says. “I know this car. The older it gets, the better it runs.” She puts out a hand and massages the base of the driver’s neck.
“They don’t make them like this anymore,” the driver says, grinning and hunching his shoulders.
The boy in the passenger seat just shakes his head. The car is a 1956 Mercedes Benz 220S convertible, dark green with cracked beige leather seats, peeling walnut trim, and rusty landau irons. They rocket along in silence for a while. Suddenly, there is a man standing beside the road waving to them. They are past him before they can see him clearly. Looking back through the rear window, all they can see is darkness.
“Holy shit,” the driver says. “Trying to get himself killed.”
“Maybe he’s trying to warn us about something up ahead,” the lady says. “A herd of wild ass stampeding across the road. We’re in a strange land here, don’t you think? Anything could happen.”
Lines at Tongdosa Temple
for Brother Anthony
Rain, and a fallen pine at Mountain Gate, And soy bean paste fermenting in brown pots— I bow to the monk surrounded by his work.
Halfway across the Bridge of Liberation I lose my footing on the slickened stairs And nearly fall… How to regain my balance?
Sound of the origin, Heaven and Hell: The drummers summoning the monks to prayer— And then the wooden fish, the cloud-shaped gong, the bell.
Tea and rice fields, a pond of lotuses Past blossoming, new friends in an old place: The trees spared by the occupying army.
Lightning, thunder, and rain in Paradise Hermitage, where the master taught. Idle The earth mover by the new dormitory.
Enter the labyrinth of sutras carved Into ceramic tiles and stacked on shelves Behind thick glass, and you may never leave.
Persimmons ripen in the orchard, chickens Cluck in the mud, green tea leaves steep in glass— So many gifts from the venerable monk!
The water wheel turns in the driving rain, In the empty courtyard high up on the mountain. Did I hear it right? This work is never done.
Make It New
One century after Frederick Jackson Turner
Dismantled our frontier, a balding man
Across the aisle on a coast-to-coast flight
Pulled some papers from his calfskin briefcase,
Scanned them in the laser of his seatlight,
Ripped them in half, then in quarters, and stuffed
Them into a plastic bag. When I returned
To my magazine, he promptly fetched some more,
Held them to the beam and calmly tore,
Dismissing the cart of drinks. Over the Catskills,
Lake Erie, the Mississippi, steadily
Westering, he shed a fine thin scrawl
That documented, I decided, life
Up to here, arid jobs and botched relations,
Marriages and most of all the kids
Who dropped him first and whom he now dismembered
And crammed into the plastic oubliette
He would let fall forever into the first
Receptacle on deplaning. Setting back
His watch and striding toward ground transportation
With a lightened carry-on, he would assume
More challenging positions, unentangling
Alliances and roads not previously
Taken, meanwhile pledging to resist
Atlantic urges to turn present joys
Into the tonnage of the written past
Except, perhaps, to let some foster self
Dash off, quixotically, the truly new
On onionskin in calligraphic haiku
To slip between the dense and still inflating
Volumes of our other coastal shelf.
(first published in The Hudson Review)