It begins with a joke. The Yiddish phrase ‘Ikh hob fargessen’—I forgot!—uttered in panic to an immigration official, turns the hapless Isaac Reznikoff into Ichabod Ferguson.
Bindweed in the hedge, / Nasturtium on the leaf pile, / Owl glides on soft wing, / Am I—I ask a stranger— / On the way for The Ostrich?
The rock-hound’s use of the word Indian, rather than Mexican, opens fertile ground. A different idea of territory, of legitimacy, of history, of boundary, of intersecting identities. Who then the interloper? Who the immigrant? The undocumented?
Once in a summer at haying time, / My uncle Dave and the neighbour— / A coarse fellow in bib overalls / Who shat in the barnyard among his beeves / Whenever the urge took him— / Gave me a pitchfork and said to come along.
Nothing is spared and nothing is explained. No motive, no reason. Eventually we will get there but not now, and anyway these are not really very important. What is important is that we are pitched headlong into the story. Propelled by pity and terror.
There was no time when one might not freely solicit custom, while the sounds of the healing business somewhere in the brightly lit centre wafted out inconsequentially. “Heal!” would come. A hush. Groans and cries. Applause. A refrain struck up. More quiet. “Heal!”
“To be honourable and courteous and brave,” he says. What is wrong with that? Why is that useless? Perhaps because Lewis does not wish to persuade us to be gentlemen; he wishes to persuade us to be Christians.
It is snowing and the streets are busy. The driver navigates with a fair bit of dash. We lurch forward when she makes a quick stop, from side to side when she veers around obstacles—not at all unpleasantly.
Carhops on roller skates, occupying the precarious outer porches of respectibility defined by divorce, childlessness, dyed hair and lipstick.
Is Donald Trump the Antichrist? A quaint sort of question in these days of general Biblical illiteracy. But I am reading Denis de Rougemont’s Talk of the Devil, written in 1945, and I am up to the section called “Is Hitler the Antichrist.”