Thursday, May 16, 2013
Man with the Oxen
Port du Prince, Haiti, July 1986
Dark brown was the oxen heading down the brown road in Port du Prince, Haiti, by the orphanage (in July of 1986); and browner the hides on the oxen as it stretched backwards, but the long thick horns, pale white! Driven and toiled, tired and worn were the oxen, blending into the earthly browns! They blended into the earth, bleeding into the dark brown-black Ox-man’s flesh with pale rose cooled lips, drenched in sweat from the flames of the sun—his shoulders overcooked: charred! He walked alongside, beside them, behind them, in-between them, wherever he needed to be in the beaded sand, with his long brown crooked and reckoning tree branch he used as a whip ((oh how he looked, fantastic spirit! His brow burnt, slanted back, jaw hardened; with towers of corn rods in the fiery far distance, in a veiled phantasm) (and though I stood watching in solitary silence, he never once noticed my nobly etching and my livid yellow gleam on my face watching this scene of humanity, draped in the mid-afternoon heat, as it was all a bit warmer between eleven o’clock, and three): dark brown were his eyes, eyes with the light blown out; dark brown, with black splashes was his hair The wild tall rod looking corn in the adjacent farmland, was green, with some dowdy browns but neither black nor olive His oxcart—brown woodened framed, was filled with browns and greens towering over his head a pale brown straw-hat, as he walked in-between Old rubber tires, worn axle, dark blacks, blending into all the browns Bowls of brown air— twisted dust and earth, they came (the whole earth turning brown for them) The shinning gaze of the ox-man’s shirt was neither brown nor green, but bluish-green as the sea Over the stone brown road they came, and even the sea behind them—had, had he looked backwards—turned into a tint of brown (dust and dirt, soot and soil all blending into the atmosphere); it seemed at the time— his life, —would always unlatch for me, patches of browns and blacks and pale greens….
what breaches between him and the ox? Save he is made in God’s image He is no Plato nor Socrates, nor could he be— He is no rose from the rosebush neither: nor could he be He is if anything, time’s tragedy, betrayed by the world, by his own time, his own kind…
and I thought at the time: how close they are to life, how hard the life is, for the oxen and for the man—day after day after day: sun striking down upon their heads, their shoulders and hands, touching the body, the root of the soul, for the man the badly situated, and a near likeness to the broad back of the oxen And how the afternoon birds hid from the crude sunlight—but not him, them, not the man nor the oxen, and thus, sadness that is genuine falls over my face, because so lonely they seem, lonely in the soul, in my time— This thing in itself, created expressly for me by my soul, I could never follow those footsteps, all who have never known could not, all who have forgotten could not, only those who have loved all things for themselves In such cases the soul follows blindly, forever, evermore, in search, dreaming, as the body is left dreaming, of the other world, that also is not his, and surely not the oxen’s—
and so I thought at the time: ‘Where have they hidden all of nature’s bright colours in this land, other than browns and blacks, and watery greens, and greens from the sea? And even at sunset, nearly a gleam, more liken to a rusted-red-iron, with tints of yellowish brown, drab orange: nearly as the day was long, brown and black, with patches of green, no more (or perhaps, perchance, possible, I just did not see those gleaming bright colours, nature’s gift to humanity—I was looking too close at the man and his oxen)
this land then, was to me, an island, ideally alone, with a fountain of browns, timeless ecstasy, unending smiles among the people, tropical ashen like gardens, with vast indelible streams and mounds of moist manure, brown huge dug-heaps, flies sweeping around sugarcane, slices of food eaten here and there by brown and black strange faces, seemingly barely awake, in the crude evening moonlight, street lamps almost out, a strange collection of people! All day, leading into the colourless night, as black magic, hushed-up, inside those sounding voodoo drums, echoing alongside those Christian bells, always there is room for imprudent life
and I felt at the time, and time again, and I still feel at this time, let everyone leave me alone to write this poem, a poem I could never have written but now, before to-morrow’s sunrise, for my mind will never overflow, nor rain like this again—as it has now done for this land and for the Man with the Haitian oxen; hence, it has been an empty roof above, but not today, not today, today a dazzling light of bitter life I, oh yes I must remember the peace and the delicate tranquilities, the browns that fell like snow upon the ground that engulfed this island and me: this, if at all possible this world hidden from humanity, all alone.