(Alashka, Part 2)
Nathaniel Tarn and Janet Rodney
Back from Europe: three days in Pennsylvania. Is this a home? Have we been to Alashka? Are we going? Count-down near one hundred degrees and humidity atrocious, twenty-four hours late to a bad start packing out the house packing in the world to the moving house the van becomes on its rubber wheels. Kitatinny Mountains: 15.20 hrs. Not certain whether ready for movement, or not -- moving again, we must accept movement as mind. We are not sure, it seems to us, of time, whether this is a night in the light of day, or one full of tomorrow, dreaming of yesterday. Travel unravels all. We come and go as we please in the green dusk of Pennsylvania. Tuscarora Mountain: 15.30 hrs. Asleep in the crook of Pennsylvania's arm (the old positions, familiar movements in the van), we can become one another's poem. Can we write letters to each other, sitting side by side like this, driving, lying side by side like this, dreaming? Allegheny Mountain: 16.30 hrs. Losing Pennsylvania, passing into Ohio. Ravenna, Ohio: 6.12.76, Campground as nighttime parking lot. Attention, Ladies & Gentlemen, we are back in the world of Nature! Thick people beaten down by children eating thick food, death already in their arteries- and this death clogging the veins of Europe also, homogenizing the world, There seemed moments to us when our cities could not breathe.) At least where we go we have space. Spots in which the leprosy may not have settled yet. Europe, she chokes. Later, a road-sign: SIRES FOR ALL DESIRES (American Breeders' Services) Wisconsin: 6.13.76 -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
On the first journey: gates of great country begun far back, gate after gate falling down. Massacred spring turned to scorched August in the weekend silence: Pennsylvania rush, Ohio gone by, Indiana gone by, Illinois -- the scramble of the skyway into Chicago. Second day. Dead pavements, wide roads, empty of traffic, riot of buildings looming in the mist of the crazed summer. The cranes at Sandhill, fifth day, refusing to rise on the wind (costly for flight) hidden in nesting coverts among the rushing waters at the far end of (invisible) Wisconsin infinity. Tornado, Madison, Wisconsin, as we pass by, roof torn off an apartment building, a northern English voice, soft in disaster: I don't want this again, I've seen it once, never want to again, don't like it here, I want to go back to England. We had always gone back to you, daughter of el gigante, dead swallow whipped across ten thousand lakes of forest Minnesota! Immensity of the Mississippi at Oresbach. Be one of the new Minutemen: join the National Guard! at Rochester. All Motels and Hotels adjacent to the Mayo as the hotels are adjacent to the gaming rooms you bet at Reno and Vegas. Gliders outside of Northfield, Minnesota, last intimation of soaring before we hit some rest. Could you hear us talking above the howling wind which has nothing to stop it between the frozen poles on the way to yet another thousand miles of heat and dust, of crushing air? The land unreeled from our fingers below the wheels like a green scarab inching along the chocolate prairies of Minnesota. the thinly peopled interminable acres. We had talked, in Northfield, of whether anyone was rooted in this land but had to know percents of rural to urban in order to decide. Memo: discuss with Gary in Northern California. Tenth day: pond every half minute in the Dakotas: each one its resident waterfowl. We thought we saw a Yellowheaded blackbird but it went by too fast, or we, and then we saw a harvest of Yellowheaded blackbirds. There were tornado watches, the skies became interesting for the first time during this trip which was already, it seemed to us, the most interminable. The girls at Skelly's truckers: Aw, I thought you only flew to Alaska! Envy gravelled their voices for the rig. Trucked on and came at last, after days of swaying, over the Plains, days of sweat heat, mirage and waterfowl, headwinds like walls -- more like sailing a boat or plane, swaying from side to side, bucking and slithering, dodging the giant rigs thru the deserted Republic on a Memorial Day no one remembered: to the spinal mountains. Down song of meadowlark over the rushing waves of Sakakawea. Meditation in the curtained rig. Marsh hawk, harried by smaller birds. Big sky over Montana harsh and louring. Our old Wyoming warming her tits to the south. Thirteenth day. Down from Glacier, Spruce grouse entering Alberta. Pintail everywhere. Waterfowl up like a tide from the south, homing into small waters. Tribes all over the map: what a reunion to be, in the fall, back to south! Suddenly, in the rig, half-dozen bulky Bloods, lead woman drunk a little, claiming us for tribes we had not heard of yet, marrying us to all her children one by one. We say: we were married once to these children, one by one, we knew the tribes: we were priests once and knew the rituals by heart -- tho not these skins, these pipes, but others -- south of here. Insisted on leaving us their names. each one by one, small parchment, treaty of some kindness, having taken them to Fort McLeod where they wished to go. Consumer madhouse at Calgary. Population of goods, a birthday sale: these goods buy men, The wind was saying among the mountain pines beautiful things in its own name. Trails led off into the wild. Dared not quite go. The sun beckoned our feet to Sundance Canyon. Pine smells, almost to sickness. Twittering juncos softly among the pines. Rumor of grizzly, very far up. Priesthood on high where even the wind stopped singing. Now: Banff, Louise and Jasper. This is all one land, borders are meaningless Country to country; state to state: meaningless. The animals begin to reign. Idiots rush at them, gaping, clutching cameras, hands held out, offering bread. The animals are invisible. Riding invisible Indians, invisible national parks, invisible eclipses. Moon over Sakakawea, in full eclipse: behind cloud, Sunrise, over Lake Louise: invisible, behind cloud. The people: invisible. Louise, the fourteenth day. Eleven more days to Anchorage. Were we really going to the great land? Would we ever see the ice? Would there be freshness? Eagles? Would our souls fuck with it? Would there be polar bears, body to body? Which was which now, would there be whales? Which would be the faces we would have to speak to on pain of dying perhaps? Held the wheel north -- the wheel unwilling, hours bending it to north. Her name: all that was left of her sound. We would be old when we got to the sea, old, smelly, unrecognizable, she would have nothing to do with us. When we got to the sea, would she touch us? -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
We're finally getting back to everything that matters: reality of Western rivers jerking seaward that grind us like the dead, our silence below the ripples, another world flowing thru ours as we drive past our own shades, a woman and man receding in the mirror, we watch them look back at us and suddenly the rain falls like arrows aiming gleams & notes into the moving fields and piercing us we fall too, grafted together, one body taking root and trying to remember with all the senses what we only see. Dandelion flowers in British Columbia become Provincial Flower for the spring on a patch of ground out of Prince George's city become our home for three days as we waited for summer to come out of the ground: the raving sunburst of the flower when queen of all it surveys -- there must be a lesson in weed-triumph, "ugliness," as it turns to imperial beauty. Quiet conversation among quiet people ready to go along with summer wherever it goes: not force it -- don't push the river, it flows, all by itself. The cat at our thighs choosing us as all cats do, this one actually looking over our shoulders as we wrote. Ah! sexual cat, let's say, without verbiage: pussy in the face. Summer long days which never ended, flowers and humming wires: they were bulldozing down small towns as we drove in, you could buy a town for a song: fifty years from now they'd be spending a fortune building their replicas. Photograph the wood, windows, doors, get the details down before they go down. In the Canadian Legion, bulldozer men stamped like bulls on the night of our party, turning women to cows, bringing them down with hot leers. Years of concerted insult paid off as old world courtesy. Prince George, B.C., pines, birches and space seeping in, time occupied the path we followed, the river running with us, & dandelions burst into small suns, at mile zero, Dawson Creek, a boy arched in, overfriendly, at the window: spent my first twenty-four years in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, now live in Alaska, I see you have Penn plates, you wouldn't be heading that way? -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
Driving around the gods' peninsula Olympic, rimmed with dereliction. The mind like a pet wild on its leash running around the circles of its privileged places remembering the loci of its treasure hoards: an art (unspoken) of memory... The message goes from me to you, now I carry the words in my mouth now you carry them, the poem runs between us like an invisible animal thru forest trees leaving wild wakes ferns lying low glazed with the sweat of its passing. We are among the trees suspecting this is the blending place. Blake sd. city, Olson sd. city and city is no doubt man's nature work's crown, yet we wd. have the forests with a thousand hands engulf the city not to strangle it altogether but to purify the buildings of all base proportions, weed out all those not fit to live with trees. Rain all day. After a walk, after brief sleep, sunlight: we might see the mountains. The sun shines the white daisy smiles in answer every creature has its right to life, the mountains appear from their cloud capes like brides at a mass wedding with the sun, pine and fern turn from grey to green those who spoke of light remember us as stars their thoughts falling on us in benedictions as we exchange our sexes with each other, the day is saved from ghosts and darkness it is set in the books of record forthwith and the bird rises to become an angel of our joint lives. Waktikeh Creek: 14.00 hrs. 6.19.76. A moment later, overcast again. The tilt of the earth blessed us with long days, signs welcomed us to Taylor, mile thirty-six, gateway to the land beyond the River Peace, Route 97, B.C. In tranquillity this trip could have been inside but now the road commanded an outer cartography, the Alkane Highway's, from the vision van we rode in, filling with dust, the road changing its skin: under the vault of the sky, snow veins shot along the mountains, a fire had left charred trees, in the distance a man with a flag waved and as we closed, became a woman, an orange vest speaking to us, one breast east, the other west, herself a flag pointing us North, all boundaries an allegory now, as was this last frontier we chased northward thru snakeloops to where land's head lies breathing in slow gasps of sleep. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
We carry as many people within as places as outer masks of past lives on the edge of definition gesture/intonation as inner marks like bells at night tolling unheard by sleepers each quarter hour eyelids move fast as lightning, closed, dreaming. Watching the living ferried from Seattle to Bremerton and Bremerton to Seattle while the sun goes down over the Olympics and we wait to be ferried to Alashka: where are the dead being ferried to in our minds or those so far from us under the sea they are assimilated to the dead in every element of their bodies except that of fire? Fire spreads over the water as the ferries ply over Puget Sound and the dead come close to mind restless and unforgiving. The cities of the dead. Death ploughing thru the middle of them sinking our families in its wake. Leaving a furrow thru the middle of the living cities, (everyone dancing around it) over which the darkness settled, in the middle of which our families lay down. Our families like broken trees, like scattered armies, fallen giants on Olympus flanks, and we: still too young to carry the burden of their speech of fire ... In a dream of limbs floating in hot sulphur springs our bodies boiled to the caw of gulls bringing inland sounds of the sea as the sun gleamed thru willows & minnows shone, small flints of light under the boardwalk. Our cock nudged into swamplands & we wriggled around, opening our mouth wide like a crocodile: let's fish we said, & swim in this bayou forever! That very morning we consented by being silent as it rained over Liard River, B.C., mile four nine six to shake out our mind-made body, the track it made the track it made unfathomable as birds in flight, the shell that contained the genitals was the blue of turquoise & somebody else, we imagined, was bringing a mind set on gnosis. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
Woken at four abruptly by the ship's loudspeaker we are ejected into the world as if Haines really existed -- as if there were houses to be seen and streets to drive thru and people living there in terminal city -- (but not with terror now since we know terror is buried below Klukwan & that the treasures are underneath. Two eagles over the bay. We go in dream quiet thru the vegetation saluting the mountains crossing the Chilkat and where the treasure village smokes in the early light we make no attempt to enter desiring nothing more by way of a deposit than understanding. Mosquito lake, the magic place. Later we will breakfast among enduring trees loud with mosquitos before driving back into the Yukon skylight. For now, we fall asleep in the sound of raven and warbler, clatter of earth, whispers of heaven. Getting van & body on the road sometimes makes you want out of the periplum vitae, what in Hell were we doing here? Inasmuch as for a time it preserves us from tedium, the Yukon Motel, mile eight zero four: pubescent trees, jittering with warblers, the road-skin tight, a banality of names, each once a discovery throbbing by: Dead Man, Lone Tree, Wolf & Cracker Creeks. Keep the Yukon Green. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
We wonder sometimes about all this travel, fear blurr of images yet the boat creaks shadow passing over shells our forms on the floor, waiting for sleep silence in our bones waiting to grow larger than the sea or mountains that meet the sky around us, waiting for it to happen like the crack of ice breaking us. almost touching here on the floor between the seats, rolled in down, our body-bags waiting for something like the hail that fell that evening in Ohio, small eggs outside our door and we held them an instant their perfect shapes melting in the hand. What we touch, it appears, is doomed with neither world quite enough by itself like a pair of loons at Mosquito Lake, where we headed on arrival the two traveling together, real and reflected birds marrying into water and sky & the rain that fell as drops of light, shattering the illusion. Mosquitoes take our blood carrying us to forest & lake, to live under water as worms maybe or to fly, as blood no longer, in wing or leg, tiny thorax, or energy of flight. Mile ten five nine: Kluane Lake, Dall sheep in motion on the mountain, white specks among conifers, intelligence on the rock high above; Horseshoe Bay frozen by morning, winds galloping around the van, our human module parked under pines, the mind taking nature's shape again, record of icefields advance/retreat: tide of an ancient music, sound of topography, clash of crystals on the beach. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
The things we leave behind us: ancestral moneys, stored in banks, no more than excrement, forefathers' words -- little more than sperm wd. have served better elsewhere, Lord knows: our own poems even locked in their selfhood, too loud in the chorus. but this adventure now, work / working the mind set in motion not by wheels only but by reunion of primacies divided: ANDRO / GUNE pure, alchemical water to save the planet from mental garbage (polluted airwaves) --not cities of the mind. Our body risen shown on the radar: AND THE CITY HERE out of our bones: as child, as new moon, as ice-bow along sea-front: the city here, old/new Atlantis. Bah! world is tired, city chokes. The forest is no model for habitation, but a barrier hacked into. Raven flies further on the ice, forgets the cities he has never seen, forgets the ice he sees now, which is the same as the ice he will see soon, remembers only dimly where trees and towers met in an idyllic setting Cook might have stumbled into or Fuca. or Vancouver. Meantime, the latest bank branch raises its buildings in bids to make our money happy, stuffs the city's throat with bank notes sends Androgune on her way with nothing for food or gas EAT / FILL UP / SLEEP because they don't cash out of State checks in Alashka . . . At four o'clock, mile one two two one point three, we crossed a boundary, moved an hour back as we drove forward into Alashka, the ghost of Mount Sanford soon floated towards Gulkana & Anchorage: on the road above Matanuska a glacier's snout pushed thru gravel as far as the eye could see, mountains, and moonlike scars, and long waters flowed far beneath the ice, cooling the waters of the mind. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
We think we hear but noise blocks out the half-sounds seeping thru the ticking of a clock, like a bomb carried these past weeks only now, three thousand miles later, it comes to our attention that having crossed four time zones we're ready to aim for another, like spruce time or ice heaving down the mountain time or, in brutality of silence, the wearing down of rock time. We have to know how to slow down enough to imagine what we know is happening: we become a glacier, withdraw & break out as spruce at the bottom of the sea we watch the ridges form on our backs, our mind carving its way thru the block. We listen to the deep tones of voices spinning cedar into wool, the warp of time winding thru index & thumb, & knowledge of silence flows from behind the scheme of things, the sutures of our passage thru a gunsight where the birth waters break from behind our mouths inevitably made to eat this earth some day, & we give birth that morning in complicity with all the elements, becoming the many faces of the land this moment of our re-entry. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
Head into the wind, hit the road again, swing round the pocks, there are many to catch a wheel upon and only two of us. Go, and there is no spare to put in your stead we didn't foresee what would happen if I should unbolt: you would inherit backpacks, sleeping bags portable stove, tent, you'd drive on to new lands holding to the fantasy of discovery while I bounced thru a lunar landscape, unbidden as the blast of a fallen star, one more crater for you to cross. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
For architecture to be beautiful, a people has to believe in duration. A city is designed to stand for a thousand years, perhaps for all time. The buildings also have to suit -- in shape, size, materials -- the prevailing climate, tame it to man's needs. When technology is "instant" and when the future is seen as uncertain or uninteresting, there is no need for architecture. Provided it is warm, or cool, a house, a senate, a cathedral, can all look like, or be, quonset huts. The destruction of the Californian coast is ac- complished. A leprosy spreads from San Diego to the Oregon border, or will spread as soon as the pressure gets strong enough. Wherever oases have not been es- tablished, the coast from Oregon to Alashka will suffer likewise. It is a matter of greed and time, both of which are plentiful when time means nothing. The Native habitat was an adequate response to the Alashkan environment. So was the homesteader's hut. As things are now, nothing between that and a visionary architecture is an adequate response. Anchorage and Fairbanks have sites fit for angels to live in but los angeles have already been shipped or airlifted up the coast. The great land can only hope that it will defeat man yet by being so great that it can never be found. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
from Atitlan/Alashka, published by Brillig Works, and now out of print.
Go to White / Out, Part 3 of Alashka
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