Someday I'll run away. I can still bite. The mountains
will help me. I was there once. As a souvenir of those
times man traced my ancestors' shadow with red zigzags
on a curved wall, as one by one, without fear, they
approached an underground stream and drank from it..
The forest gave birth to me. Sometimes I think I
remember scorched earth and with a human I'm sowing
grain into the ash — or rather I'm dragging behind me a
sleeping forest, and I'm its last hope — its prodigal son? I
love to stand under the alder tree, as its sap drips one me —
we share a similar fate, dark and fragile — a few more
millennia and the alder will disappear — in the meantime
only thanks to the gift of transformation can the alder
pretend to be like the pine, domesticated, although
actually the alder is related to the ichthyosaur.. When
I'm exhausted by the sun, I know how to crawl under
a jagged pile of sedge in the wetlands and from there let my
sad eyes take in a tree: from the very top down the trunk
winds a black line, no thicker than a snake — a silent,
dark river that flows down between the branches.. and
continues down my spine.. Sometimes, some spirit
wanders too far and the bright moss pulls it to the bottom —
but suddenly in front of it, something emerges out of
the strewn fragrant sedge — you guessed it — it's me, who
was waiting for the sun to crawl behind the clouds — and
I stir and silently lead the lost spirit down the safe path
through the swamp.. The lost one often assumes that
the lonely soul that emerged from the forgotten pile of sedge,
bleached chalk-white and hard as ash, must be even more
lost than it is.. But who knows what the poor soul is? My
brother the hornbeam (birch, but it can't be a tree) — does
he know? Secretive, and wild, he runs in a pack, his thin
cold-blooded body, looks snakebiten, twitching from head
to toe, covered in cold sweat — what is he afraid of? What
forces him to gather into smoky steel-gray clouds? Does
he know? Or does the wild bison — also my brother? —
his red shadow has flaked off the wall of the cave and he
is gone.. They say, his hooves were recently heard
pounding under ground.. But someone dug a tunnel and
poured metal into the tracks — and now you can hear his
roar only in your heart, and his pounding hooves —
behind your back.. Someday I'll figure out whose fault it is..
Really, I'm grateful that someone traced our shadows
ith red clay, probably adding his own blood to make
the scene before him more beautiful. But it isn't only
gratefulness that keeps me in the stall — and it's certainly
not the wound, which hasn't healed since he stepped back
from the shadows he outlines on the wall, pleased and
dabbing his palm in the bloody clay, he realized that
the small herd of bay horses on the arced wall of the cave was
receding from him forever — he became deeply frightened —
couldn't help it and stuck my shadow with something sharp —
maybe, he thought the others would return seeing that
I was wounded? And they did. The enflamed wound burns
at night.. Makes me plan my escape..
But how can I leave him here alone?
On the mountain, wet with overripe blackberry,
His dwelling darkens..
With what force a man clenches the sharpened stake
Till at the end of some stony burrow
A hunter draws the rush, the blood from the throat,
From the reared-up shadow of a great ancestor..
Yet besides his being skinned,
Besides his cut-off paw —
Where his strength might be grasped
Alongside the smell of wild garlic —
The signs remain, drawn by claws
Around the stony pit:
He used to sharpen them there..
And a hand just memorizes them for later..
Of course, when a hand gathered mushrooms,
Or fumbled for trout between stones —
That knowledge was of no use..
But later, tired from forming nets
For a bigger, much bigger catch —
The tedious job led to simpler work:
Signs — they were able in some way
To justify the rough slaughter..
Rather, it was an easy occupation —
Just to plunge one’s finger in blood
Or slash with some sharpened thing
On a bone or bark, or later, on paper:
Signs in some order..
But what is it — paper?
Does a hand know it? That it
Is barren land, hewed wood, mines crumbling?
Perhaps the hand doesn’t want to know
Because all the while
It strikes to bleach itself of dung and smoke,
To become more delicate,
A possession of itself,
The perfect instrument no one else possesses..
And how pitiful to find out
That the other, almost same hand
Was shaping, days and nights, the iron chain for a young bear,
To teach him to dance
On a hot tin plate..
Nearly the same hand puts wood gingerly into the fire,
Sharpens the pencil —
Indeed, a perfect instrument —
Just to emaciate the hand,
To press it closely to the heart..
What pain the heart must suffer —
To return again to the oil and salt,
To the native and stony ground,
Where each stone or juniper leaf
With each touch bleeds an acrid drop,
To be immersed in it,
To find a little easer life
Than wandering Arabian deserts —
The mountain is so close,
Dark with sweet blackberry.
Yet even a quick bird perched on thorny twig
Can’t peck the whole berry,
But tortures it, sprinkles the ground with juice,
And hungry still, flies on.
After dining in the moonlight,
He sorted the bones —
The small and the larger separated accurately
On ground that was still warm —
What if someone should come along and decide
To carve a hole in one
And make a flute..
To greet the dawn..
Otherwise things were the same —
The wild garlic was growing darker, the blackberries were filling out..
And his paw was still strong enough,
To protect the night..