Half a Life's History
(Excerpted from The Jurassic Shales)
Scenario: An amnesiac wakes one morning
Here I am writing to you
in London, England, in bed with two women. In the
process of recovering his memory, he goes back in
time 160 million years to the Jurassic geological
period to find his true original parents, the first
of the flying dinosaurs. The narrator is himself
a flying dinosaur, and The Jurassic Shales ends
with his being united with his father and mother.
half a life's history
"A horse which throws the dreamer to the ground."
I am homesick and America has had a nervous breakdown.
I am taking shaman lessons and studying Karate.
My greatest complaint (you've offered to help) is amnesia.
Do you believe in transmigration of the soul? Yes, I do too.
But what if it can happen not only when one dies, but
And I'm sure it's not properly amnesia I am speaking of.
several times in an afternoon?
I go out of my body, I come back in.
I say amnesia because sometimes when this happens
I've been doing this, I believe, with some regularity for
We drink, we smoke, we go to parties. Friday night
a quarter of a million years. I'm doing it more
and more frequently now because I'm unhappy.
Even the light depresses me. That is, the light
on Oxford Street, 6 PM on a Sunday. The light
in Bloom's. The light in Wimpy's. I haven't seen
light like this since the Middle Ages of the Animals.
I thought the whole time of algae, worms,
we went to the dullest party in 3,000 years
in Bayswater off the Moscow Road.
I thought of my mother and those birds with the hollow
primitive brachiopods, molluscs, crustaceans,
I am in the library at Swiss Cottage
What am I reading? Probably I have gone mad.
eating chocolates in the children's room
I am reading up on the eohippus, the first true
I identify. Those horses were no larger than dogs.
that were once my own size.
I'm a dog and interested in horses
Why? I don't know why. Yes, I do. It's because
That I am at this moment a wooly rhinoceros.
I feel I was once (also) a wooly rhinoceros.
Anyway, I am no longer incapacitated by my erotic
I am devoting my whole attention to insects, geology, etc.
Each morning I have friends come in to read me my
Then I know who I am. Then I can pay attention
biography and my passport
Who are these people anyway? They think they speak English,
to what needs to be done.
My only reason for coming was to learn Karate with Kanazawa,
but I don't understand a word they say.
Oh, I've just gone out of my body and now I'm back.
who has left for Germany.
What is happening in America where, I am convinced,
Well, it doesn't matter. I'll find out soon enough and probably
in my previous existence, I was a Confederate
soldier killed in action, 186-?
Before I was born, my mother who is the Mother of fire,
know anyway if I'd only think about it.
My father, who has an upright tail, practices and earns his living
gave birth to fire. Then to the Sabine women
and my sister.
is no obstacle. We have made our peace, and increasingly--
in Chicago. That he is a Rosicrucian and I am not
I might say this is a love poem for my father. A love poem for
Half a life's history.
the seven maidens with the heads of snakes.
Copyright © 1995
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