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The Damned

ISSUE:  Summer 2005

With an ease considerably past what even we’d expected,
the brush took fire. The birds unhid themselves, flew
abruptly elsewhere, like shame when, from the wrong end
of a foundering argument, it at last lets go. Is it risk, for
example, if what gets lost goes unregretted? Or if there
is any risk, then where, except awhile in the head? It all
keeps feeling far, and then farther away,
he said—meaning,
I think, that part of him that not only, once, could have
picked the one crow out in a cast of ravens, but had parsed,
with no apparent effort, distinctions more difficult than that,
because ever-shifting: belief, and the will to believe, and
superstition . . . It was a bit like that moment when the energy
required to keep a life from faltering starts to outweigh
the desire to, and now slowly descends—like being able
to watch that: the fire; and him, not exactly not talking, just
untalkative, and as if vestigial—to himself, the rest of us—
also very small. A plane flew by, and I tried to guess at what
the flames must look like, in the dark, so far from the ground,
thought of those catastrophes, small and otherwise, that
stand out especially for their prismatic effect: shipwreck in
a sunset whose light makes everything look wrecked, and
lovely; the shot deer that keeps running, uselessly, October
and death breaking in front of and closing shut behind her.
Fullness. Emptiness. Violence. Calm. Turn it off, turn it
a voice was shouting: And the fire burning, like fire.


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