Letters From The Edge

JT Ellison

I’m in New York today on a research trip. It’s my first real trip to the city, a brief two day affair, and I’ll report back on all the excitement next week. In the meantime, here’s something a little different from the email files, from my guest blogger Robert Fate. Beautiful…

JT —

Ran into something interesting. A poem by Jim Harrison. You know how we were discussing Neal Barrett, Jr., the Wiley Moss Mystery Skinny Annie Blues guy? Well, this is his favorite poem. Can’€™t divulge how I got this, but you’€™re going to want to read it. I’€™ll send it along.

Robert Fate

The Old Days

In the old days it stayed light until midnight and rain and snow came up from the ground rather than down from the sky. Women were easy. Every time you’€™d see one, two more would appear, walking toward you backwards as their clothes dropped. Money didn’€™t grow in the leaves of trees but around the trunks in calf’€™s leather money belts though you could only take twenty bucks a day. Certain men flew as well as crows while others ran up trees like chipmunks. Seven Nebraska women were clocked swimming upstream in the Missouri faster than the local spotted dolphins.  Basenjis could talk Spanish but all of them chose not to.

A few political leaders were executed for betraying the public trust and poets were rationed a gallon of Burgundy a day. People only died on one day a year and lovely choruses funneled out of hospital chimneys where every room had a field stone fireplace. Some fishermen learned to walk on water and as a boy I trotted down rivers, my fly rod at the ready. Women who wanted love needed only to wear pig’€™s ear slippers or garlic earrings. All dogs and people in free concourse became medium sized and brown, and on Christmas everyone won the hundred-dollar lottery. God and Jesus didn’€™t need to come down to earth because they were already here riding wild horses every night and the children were allowed to stay up late to hear them galloping by. 

The best restaurants were churches with Episcopalians serving Provencal, the Methodists Tuscan, and so on. In those days the country was an extra two thousand miles wider, and an additional thousand miles deep. There were many undiscovered valleys to walk in where Indian tribes lived undisturbed though some tribes chose to found new nations in the heretofore unknown areas between the black boundary cracks between states. I was married to a Pawnee girl in a ceremony behind the usual waterfall. Courts were manned by sleeping bears and birds sang lucid tales of ancient bird ancestors who now fly in other worlds. Certain rivers ran too fast to be usable but were allowed to do so when they consented not to flood at the Des Moines Conference. Airliners were similar to airborne ships with multiple fluttering wings that played a kind of chamber music in the sky. Pistol barrels grew delphiniums and everyone was able to select seven days a year they were free to repeat but this wasn’€™t a popular program.

In those days the void whirled with flowers and unknown wild animals attended country funerals.  All the rooftops in cities were flower and vegetable gardens. The Hudson River was drinkable and a humpback whale was seen near the 42nd Street pier, its head full of the blue blood of the sea, its voice lifting the steps of the people in their traditional anti-march, their harmless disarray. I could go on but I won’€™t. All my evidence was lost in a fire but not before it was chewed on by all the dogs that inhabit memory. One by one they bark at the sun, moon and stars trying to draw them closer again.

by Jim Harrison

My favorite part is where he marries the Pawnee girl behind the waterfall. The whole thing is visual, but that’s special.

Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark
Robert Fate Bealmear

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