Have any of you ever read Ambrose Bierce’s “An Inhabitant of Carcosa“? In it, the narrator wanders out of his own time, lost in thought, and a sudden chilly wind awakens him to the fact that he is suddenly in a completely unfamiliar place, where he recognizes nothing:
“Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest) and questioning their full meaning, as one who, having an intimation, yet doubts if there be not something behind, other than that which he has discerned, I noted not whither I had strayed until a sudden chill wind striking my face revived in me a sense of my surroundings. I observed with astonishment that everything seemed unfamiliar. On every side of me stretched a bleak and desolate expanse of plain, covered with a tall overgrowth of sere grass, which rustled and whistled in the autumn wind with heaven knows what mysterious and disquieting suggestion. Protruded at long intervals above it, stood strangely shaped and somber- colored rocks, which seemed to have an understanding with one another and to exchange looks of uncomfortable significance, as if they had reared their heads to watch the issue of some foreseen event. A few blasted trees here and there appeared as leaders in this malevolent conspiracy of silent expectation.”
“Malevolent conspiracy of silent expectation”. That, I think, is somewhat close to what’s going on with me today. In my journal today, the only line I have written down is “nothing grows here”. I’m in a funk, that’s for sure. It’s partly the result of my body getting used to the HRT, and equal parts burnout and head cold and genetics and depression and blahhhhhh. I came across a reference to the Bierce story earlier today, and it fits so perfectly with my mood. There’s a strong literary mythology that’s grown around Carcosa, one I just learned about in this ThinkProgress piece about the HBO Show True Detectives. I’ve never seen the show, but I love some noir, and it seems worth checking out. The piece introduced me to the knowledge that there are poems and stories a play that intertwine around the idea of this fictional wasteland, going back about one hundred and twenty years, and that’s just cool.
What I like most about the Carcosa idea is that the unfamiliar place is in fact the town the narrator seeks, but he just can’t recognize it. This is very similar to how I feel in these days of melancholy. Everything good is still here, so many wonderful things, such weighty blessings, but I can’t see them. It’s crumby. But, I know that I’m not the only one to know “the awful repose of that dismal place”, and no one gets better by keeping quiet about it. Tonight I’m going to join the Carcosa conversation, because no one can tell me not to, and because it’s all I’ve got from this lame-o day.
A surprising thought,
when I was alive I loved
A surprising wind, cold,
tilts and I’ve walked,
into intolerable bareness.
Nothing grows here,
but skeleton trees.
Nothing breathes here,
not even the wind, which has stopped.
In its awful repose, known objects,
like rocks, are stranger artifacts.
I have been here before
but how is it possible? In the bare plain,
there are no steps to retrace.
It is as though all spirits have long fled,
and not even their homes remain.
The land screams in a secret dialect,
that no sense can translate.
The ground is cracked. It has been a long time since rain.
I am far from my ancient and famous cities
I have felt this groping fear at night, in blind darkness, but never in the daylight.
Dark and low-slung clouds have gagged,
the small sounds,
all but my own broken beat.
Recognition. This was the bustling city, there was the fountain where children laughed,
There were the hopeful streets and alleys,
the the familiar hearths,
now grown over with limp grey grass.
There’s no way through, that much is clear. Carcosa is lost for the distant fog. The only way is to face sky-turned,
hoping relief will fall,
enough to voice a complete ripple.
Hmm. There’s more to this idea. Luckily (?) I seem to have enough of these days lately to explore it further. I’m okay, though, concerned poemies. Just grouchy today. Tomorrow it will be all unicorns and puppies and rainbows, promise. Happy Sunday!