Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Manifesto on Deep Adaptation

The children will play games with balls of tanned hide and sticks they carved themselves, on fields mown with a scythe. They will run along cliffs over ocean coves. Their schooling will be listening to acorns to know when they are ready to fall. Their work will be to pry mussels from the rocks, and to roll up plastic turf to reveal the soil beneath.

Our work will be breaking up the stone streets with rusted pick-axes. We will build the rubble into dry-stone shrines, beside the oak and laurel saplings we plant. We will imagine the trees aged to one hundred years and more. We will measure our age by the number of times our hearts have been broken.

When we grow old, our children will feed us boiled weeds and fish stock. Our gnarled hands will slowly form the most delicate arrowheads from broken glass. We will speak to herons as we used to in dreams when we were young.

Our children will look on us with loving derision. For what we allowed to occur, the things we each did, and because we carry the past into the now and cannot release it. We will carry the solipsism of an earlier age. We will mourn the things we used to hate – boxes of light that told us visions, incandescent sweetness, metal noise, easy power at the slightest touch. Our children will move around us while we sit steeped in memory, our hands working.

Our children’s children will sing a beautiful song when we die. They will remember the way we scythed in the early morning, mist on the meadow, the shrouded red sun, herons flapping to their hunt. Everywhere they look will be the decaying detritus of a former epoch. Their work will be tending a forest garden.

Our children’s work will be forgetting. Everything we passed on without knowing, isolation, self-involvement, comfort in captivity. They will recognize our failings, and try to hold them in their bodies like stone accretions, waiting for them to dissolve.

We will come to them and haunt their dreams, our ghosts hungry to know we did not fail them. They will have to sing quiet songs into the night, that houses the sound of ocean waves muffled by fog and terns startled from sleep. They will have to sing to sleep our moot fears, and their pains in tooth and heart, and the child who has woken, sing her to sleep, sing like wind through the oak, rub her swollen gums with the bark of the willow, and sing, sing her to sleep.

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