♠  Scroll 1


After all the lights have been turned off I watch shafts of moonlight shooting in through the blinds. The bare room starts to reverberate with film-noir certainty. Tonight the moving is finished. All the pictures and photos have been removed from the walls and all the drawers and closets emptied, and only the laptop on the table remains to remind me of what I had formerly considered important. No more ordering the world, and no more maps and calculations. Only some strawberries are left in the empty refrigerator, and tomorrow waiting in a car across the street.

When will I ever learn why I must keep on moving? The road ahead seems like the only real thing. The rearview mirror scrolls out like a dream behind me, and a long train of cars is closing in like a persistent malady. Looking for a bypath is like looking for a cure. The next time I take this road I hope to see again the deer's family I glimpsed in the bush by the roadside. The mother and her fawn disappeared into the woods as the car approached—I could see only their white tails bounding through the trees, long after the other shapes had merged. Without nature the road ahead is a fleeting mirage.

The moment the car reaches the bridge the moon appears behind the pine trees. Is there ever a moment when, upon meeting the moon, white cranes take wing one by one and fly across her luminous face? I wish I could forget the possibility of forgiveness—it would make distance and asphalt and night easier than watching the edges of wings. Where is it that I hid my yearning—in the backseat there is only a dog-eared atlas of the USA and an expensive bottle of wine. It is easy to get lost when you have a wrong map. Especially after midnight when the road is in complete darkness and the cats are out hunting. Their eyes shine like alarms set off.

I hear a siren wailing in the distance and ignore it—disaster comes and goes and has nothing to do with this world. When I was young even a pimple on my face was a disaster. Let alone this. Call it calm after the storm, but the combination of tires and lives turning on the road at night is like a flight from ever-chasing hunters. No sanctuary ahead unless you count the all-night diners. But even there is only pie and stale beer. When will I ever be able to sit in an outdoor cafe again, spreading thick butter on crunchy baguette, in the middle of the afternoon? These images only drive me to blissful distraction.

I can't get off the highway now if I wanted to. I drive until I know my destination. I have a plenty of time, and even space, and as long as there is a radio station I will keep moving towards the desert heat. In heat there is a castle wavering, towers flickering, loopholes blinking in the walls. And I can hear the guard dogs barking already. Soon there will be only animal instinct and cunning left anyway, when the engine stops and the machine comes to a halt. The moon shines over the dune of clouds as if waiting for me to arrive. I flick on the turning signal, slow down, and look around. She is chasing me as ever.

(Photo by James C. Hopkins: Moon over Siberia)



Jean Emerson wrote:
Oh, I love the scroll, and the picture, and the way the words coil down the page and connect with odd scraps of neglected memories in the corners of my mind. When I got to the part of the scroll that mentioned the mother dear and the baby by the roadside, I was reminded of a fall morning long ago. Once we owned an apple orchard in Aptos, which is across the Coastal Range of Mountains South of San Jose. One early morning we went down to check on the crops. A deer was walking on his back legs from one tree to the next...taking one bite out of every apple that hung low enough for him to reach.