Vo l . 7 N o . 1 holes in silk pockets. Dry. Like. Dry like Echo’s tongue mined of its glands, thick with unspoken longing for her mountain home, even the baldness of it, where just last summer we could lap the peaks like popsicles. Now we can only lick gravel and dirt. Dry like tongues shredded from telling harsh stories that taste of bootstraps and chains. Dry like tongues forked by love for Narcissus, who seeks only to reproduce himself, at any cost, regardless of alternative. How many people go hungry to feed his nest egg. Remember that in the end he himself starved. Echo the mute nymph deceived Hera, protected Zeus, loved Narcissus. Eco, I mean Echo, the 4-story sentinel bears witness, hopes for freedom from this curse. She is tired of echoes, tired of dominoes, tired of the N that dominates the L and the bubbles that burst. She wants dandelions. She wants alternative cycles of dissemination, re-creation. Closed loops that somehow lead to better places. The ability to seed the new rather than to reap what has already passed. How can I explain this to my baby? Better to just blow bubbles that burst? Maybe we can begin here: with the origins of our world and the lesson that all that’s old must become new again. Metamorphoses. Transformation. New stories of creation. After all, years ago it was written, as Ovid knew, that everything - even Rome - must give way to change.
Break Shack Steve Garvey and I are best climbing partners, but somehow we’re working together at Big Bend. Big Bend is a wildcat exploratory oil well along the Colville River on the North Slope of the Brooks Range twenty miles south of the Arctic Ocean. Everything here is temporary. The ice roads and airstrip are made by water trucks. The half square mile drill pad sits on large mats to protect the frozen tundra and maybe there are ten buildings here. The camp sleeps 48 men and sits on the west edge of the pad and the drill rig is dead center. Today, the wind blows forty miles an hour and temperature forty-two below zero. I walk up the steps into the arctic entry of the camp. The break shack is on the left. The dressing room is on the right and work clothes aren’t allowed past here. The break shack is sixteen feet wide and thirty-two feet long. Along one side of the room is a table with donuts, cookies and coffee plus a soda pop machine. On the opposite side are tables and chairs seating fifteen rednecks. This ugly mass of humanity hunkers inside because the weather is too bad to work outside. Hardened, bitter, nasty and mean each has a cigarette between his lip, a cup of coffee in the hand and a four letter word on his tongue—and they’re all sneering at me. Many are missing fingers and teeth. I have never experienced anything like Big Bend. Garvey’s not in the break shack. The one-eyed mechanic throws a vulgar snarl my way. I hear words and turn away.