He Draws Near


There are landscapes not far from here, dusted with memories, haunted by murmurs like songs trapped in shells, that remind and foretell in the same breath. Decipher them. All things have life forces. Heed their advice. Only fools dwell apartsave for sages, hysterics, and mothers whose offspring are pried from their teats. Rebel, and the cost, though delayed, will be dear. Our Earth is a lender whose debts must be paid. And lastly respect that from which all are fashioned: the children their parents, the saplings their seed-bearers, lakes, streams, and rivers their rain-pregnant skies. Are not we one spirit, one air breathed in common, one sun-warmed and moon-chilled anatomy, one sphere?

Forgive an old woman her sparse ruminations. Life, come full term, can play tricks upon consciousness. We, who would 'think,' midst the process of being, are apt to pose questions that old age must solveelse give in to mocking oblivion. Better to share among tribesmen and relatives... successors in lieu of my son.


My son; boy, where are you? Your mother is waiting. Flesh of my flesh, I grow shriveled and bald. Our people have charged me to forbear your absence with patient good grace; I have tried. I am flawed. Release me from vigilance. Pity my shortcomings. Salvage what pride I have left; please, return! Come home, little man, little marvel. Console me; my labor-pained womb mourns its vacancy.


A young baboon, treed by a family of warthogs whose headlong charge scattered its troupe, eyes the Seer, perplexed by her calm in the face of such danger; the pigs might have gored with cruel their upturned tusks. And yet they had veered from the human's perimeter, left her unfazed by their snorts, sniffs, and grunts—electing to frighten the monkeys, instead, before trotting off briskly, single file, raising dust, their actions having nonplused the destitute simian, left high and dry by its out-of-sight peers who had dodged the acacia and scampered off elsewhere, abandoned their terrified sibling, left perched like some dispossessed owlet, on a tree limb, inert—save for unconscious flicks of its tail.


I do not pretend to know your Time, my listener. In seasons of humankind, mine is the Spring. While yours, like the shadow my feeble frame casts, precedes me at sunrise. At sunset, it follows, but proves no more lucid seen frontward or back. Except in my mind's eyeundaunted by agingwhich probes the opaqueness for insight, faint signs, of what will come after, of what went before, of patterns whose woof and warp weave past and future with fibers renowned for their strength here-and-now: to endure, to enjoy, to withstand, to prevail, to remember, look forward to, be in the present, since 'now' is the fabric into which we are woven. Now is the truth of all truths. Now is All. Are cycles of Time not All's measurement?


Warily, testing the branch to ensure its support, the monkey prepares to descend from its refuge, gauging the distance from tree trunk to earth. Its escape route will call for a switchback of jumps—plus the grit to accomplish them, grit yet un-mustered. Fear of the human—a dangerous species, its temperament far more malevolent than boar—petrifies leg muscles, saps them of energy. Poised on its haunches, the simian stalls.


Philosophy. What thoughts are yours; what are mine; are they similar? How can mere language make sense of our views? Are words how we understand Truth, Beauty, Justice, concepts made manifest by sounds in our throatsunlike earth, wind, and fire, which confront us with elements our senses once grasped when of simpler design, when we mimicked yon tremulous monkey?

I see her. Or smell her, I vouchsafemy nose steads my sight. Are beasts who walk upright more blessed by intelligence than cursed by its misuse? Are humans like Gods? It is this I would learn from my wandering offspring, whose setting, compared to mine own, is ahead, both in age and experiencethe emblems of wisdom. Minds, to attain their full worth, must evolve.

But what if my son were to outrun the seasons, return to his mother more wrinkled than I? This is not so implausible, given the circumstance. Time, like the path my child follows, may loop and deliver an elder so old he gains infancy. Some in our tribe have lived long lives, forsooththe seed, become plant, gone to seed again.


A streak of blond fur spells the baboon's departure. Its flight stirs up dust clouds, adrift in its wake, now settling on her who bears witness unflinchingly. Wrapped in her musings, the old woman sways like a reed bent by breaths of air risen from nowhere. Her to and fro motion seems tranquil, unchanged since the monkeys first gathered, encroached on her sanctum—respecting, however, the reach of her cane. Fearless, unflappable—alas, un-consoled—the lone crone continues her rocking.


He, if my instincts prove right, will be youthful, inclined to impart what the Gods have revealed, complex secrets beyond us whose outlook is primitive. Knowledge will lead us from dark into light. His tint is a harbinger; white skin succeeds us. Eyes blue as sky will foresee sights untold. And children, no more, will be snatched from their mothers; a pox on all kidnappers, righteous or no! Superstition condemned me to childlessness; bugbears; opinions of doddering old women and menas I myself dodder now, railing at phantoms, lamenting wrongs done unto me, unto him.

I must temper my bitterness; none judged with malice. Selfishness isolates; this I have learnt. The tribe, above all else, requires one's allegiance. Nature instructs with its harmonies. Hark. These circular scars on my belly are provident; flesh and blood birth, an inscription of Being, a signature carved to remind me, who bears it, that round is the ultimate shape of reality; all, to belong here, must curve.


Rocking ceased, the figure of Engeraloi Mwanyika suspends itself. Motionless, lungs fail to breathe, as vertebrae, dangling from either ear, hover, as armlets and anklets arrest their embrace, as her necklace resettles—the kid pouch recumbent—at rest on the bridge between breasts laxly splayed above sun-burnished skin turned to rawhide. Immutable, lines, like a petroglyph, nonetheless fade as the old woman's body blurs into extinction...


... imposed by her context's conversion to print; pinpoints of colored ink document imagery (minus the crone) reproducing one tree, its photograph hung on the wall of a kitchen to occupy space, to delineate Time, in divisions of days, weeks, months, years—two in total—recording a string of significant dates: interviews, articles, guest spots, advertisements, plotting the birth of a film from its spark, and charting the rise of its little-known lead to the heights of penultimate stardom.



previous page 
next page