Missive the Fiftieth
Down the Tower
And toward Hiroshima.
DATELINE: Wednesday, January 17, 2001, at 0145 hours CDT.
Conway, Arkansas, USA
By D. Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
CornDancer & Company
I'll drift in January. Always do. My least favorite of the twelve months lulls me to dreamy distraction. I am like a fatted cow with a sour cud. I am always recovering from some Holiday horror.
My pal Joseph penned a nice randomizer last Saturday, but he hasn't returned my subsequent entreaties. He's probably too busy being productive. Surely I didn't edit any appreciable errors into his narrative. He's ignoring me; I just know it. I'm crushed.
Joseph employed this mysteriously grand word, sforzando, in his chilling description of a tree's loss of limb. I spied it there, thrust into the sentence like a severe baton, and puzzled about it. I had to look it up, ponder its context. Nice.
"Then the crack builds in intensity, pulsating with the destruction of a living thing until in a sforzando of terror, a limb separates from its parent tree with a final snap that sends chills up your bloody spine — it feels like a bone being crushed."
Flat on His Back with Gout for All I Know.
My pal Mickey Miles is too distracted by his high-stakes corporate maneuverings, too devoured by young lions, too bent on beating the game to rouse his psyche into action and pen another of his sterling Dispatches from London. He would tell me otherwise, kindly tell me the real reason, and might be telling it like it is; he's too unconventional and forgiving to interpret with any consistency. Mickey might be flat on his back with gout for all I know, but I doubt it. He's a stout old hillbilly.
Do you miss Mickey's weekly commentary as much as I do? I want to read more about London, Paris, Amsterdam, and other urban meccas of Europa the Eltern. I want to see more characters and situations through the expat's wizened eyes. (If only you knew the stories he could tell about the motivations and foibles of men and women in the fast lanes.) I hope you are well, Mickey Miles.
Do any of you suffer from exposure to mixed messages, too?
Which Language Are We Speaking Now?
The mistress of the hacienda teaches a class, "Level Three Reading," for speakers of native languages other than English. That doesn't sound right, does it? Maybe I misplaced the adjective. The Academy has several terms for her discipline, each with an acronym, but I'm too stubborn to use one of them. Let's just say that English is the second language, or third language, of her students, and that they seek to attain a certain level of academic proficiency in my native language before plunging deeper into university. Something like that.
A highlight of the spring term will be the reading and study of a book. The Level Three class was asked to select their reading assignment by majority vote from a list of five:
- Elie Wiesel's Night
- John Hersey's Hiroshima
- Liu Zongren's Two Years in the Melting Pot
- Mark Salzman's Iron and Silk
- William H. Armstrong's Sounder
Students from Senegal, Niger, the Dominican Republic, China, Russia, Korea, Mongolia, and another distant land or two voted for their favorite. Hiroshima won with seven votes out of fourteen.
A Bomb Dropped on the Spirit of Humanity.
Of the five, Hiroshima is the only one I've read, three or four times since Mrs. Herrin put it on the reading list of her eleventh-grade literature class in 1965. I've a tattered first edition, 1946; my true love was reading it tonight, I think, before she drifted into sleep. Number One Son read it last year in one of his senior classes at high school. It cannot be read enough.
Mr. Hersey's narrative was published as the sole entry of an issue of the New Yorker magazine a few months after the Japanese city was attacked with the bomb from U.S.A. Strangely dispassionate in style, Hiroshima reads like a novel. Who could imagine otherwise; it must be fiction and not an actual historic event. Don't tell me this is real life.
I would not have wanted to be there, stunned and wandering through the fire and the rubble, searching for mother, a drink of water, or some place to sleep. I would rather drown, be shot, fall from a cliff face, or be eaten by alligators than burn.
My friend Neda, a lithe and fiery Arab woman, a teenaged refugee from one of the Middle East wars, told me at a Paris café in 1976 about one of her dreams. She was standing next to father on her front porch in Beirut, listening to air raid sirens. High in the sky she saw huge aircraft. They were dropping atomic bombs. They were from America.
I had similar dreams in my ill-begotten youth. The bombers were from the U.S.S.R. When I told Neda my dream between sips of beer, we both marveled at the twist. We drank deeply and condemned imperialism.
Into what part of the spectrum do you gaze? Do you stop to gaze?
Standing on the Proving Ground
'Tween Good and Evil.
My pal Reverend Bingham's Encounter with a Drug Abuser, published by corndancer.com on Sunday, was his eleventh A Memphis Epistle. It was the worldliest of the eleven — and the one that roused, by far, the most vigorous response from readers. Any tale with the underpinnings of mystery and the face of the devil, a naked temptress, illicit drugs, and a pious man of the cloth standing on the proving ground between good and evil is bound to get our attention.
Thoughtful and reasoned essays about the finer points of scripture have a rightful place in the canon, especially when they arrive on the fresh winds that Rev. Bingham always manages to navigate on our behalf. Most of us enjoy, or at the least appreciate a good homily. Then the Spirit cries out: Come down from the lofty heights for a season.
The air's not as fresh at the base of the tower, but its odor and its swirling patterns tell us something we might need to know. Rev. Bingham's stroll on the dark side followed a grounded path on the universal journey through faith and reached, unexpectedly, an eyeball-to-eyeball grit and desperado face-off with the familiars, an episode of life on the level, a where-we-live tale of the fall and redemption.
Back in November my pal Joseph told me with a special gusto about the intellectual pleasure he gained from his reading of The Third Epistle. He also said how much he liked Mickey's tales from Europe, that he would print them at the office and carry the pages home to his beloved.
"As for your stuff, Ebenezer," the good Major said with the full privilege of a friend (the frank and loyal firebrand of lifelong pal you'd want standing beside you at the last stand), "I have to burrow through it. Too dense at times. Downright obscure. Now Mickey Miles, he knows how to write!"
Cut like a cold wind, like iron sharpening iron.
Have you visited the web site lately? http://www.corndancer.com/
WATCH FOR MISSIVE THE FIFTY-FIRST
on Friday, January 19, 2001.
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