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from Essays in Idleness: a zuihitsu

— Eric Pankey


A mirror cannot affix the fleeting, cannot conjoin temporalities in complex narratives. Its only art is mimicry. Assisted by another mirror, a mirror performs the trick of infinite repetitions, constructs a corridor of receding echoes. Although one stands ruthlessly naked before it, the mirror sees as if for the first time.


Snow drifts against the wall of a ruined corncrib. The remains of dried vines seem to hold the whole thing up. The slatted wall provides little shelter from the wind. You are hitchhiking. Waiting is always longer when your task is waiting. And it is winter. Hard not to envy the dead, who travel light, and have a destination in mind, which is just up the road a spell, a day or two’s walk at most.


As I come out of the glare into the shade of the canyon’s circumambient walls, the cool, hewn from rock, startles me. The only petroglyph I find: Mark & Denise 1979 and two rough-drawn interlocking hearts scraped onto rock with rock. Above the dry cobbled creek: silver-leaf flash of dragonflies. Raw caws of ravens. Skitter of rock and gravel over the bank. Once, not far from here, an angel guided a plow and rain followed like seed from a sower’s hand. I have assumed the drawing is of hearts, but one could see a Venn diagram, say, or two apples, one slightly in front of the other, to render the impression of perspective.


The boy is not lost but looks for something lost. On each floor: a corridor of numbered doors accessed by a stairwell. There are no stairs. The boy must rig a rope. Sisal rubs and burns his hands as he climbs. No. Not something lost but rather left behind. Something far too heavy, far too cumbersome with which to shimmy down the length of the rope, which of course will be cut down when he returns burdened to the stairwell with whatever it is he came to reclaim. His flight left a half-hour ago with a single empty seat. It is after checkout time. He’ll be charged for another night.


This far north, the sky descends below the water’s surface, and water itself—gray basalt—solidifies as depth, as darkness. Although it’s summer, daybreak is not enkindled, but leaks like snowmelt, fills in the shallows.

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