A morning-glory at my windows satisfies me more than the
metaphysics of book.
–Walt Whitman, from “Song of Myself”
A huge slimy slug, he crosses the floor
leaving slobber trails for the unsuspecting
barefoot traveler, constantly grinning
as if he already knows the joy of
a well-planned practical joke. How can this
wriggling bundle of spit and skin provoke
such profound love in me, bringing me
out of myself? He can’t even say my name,
yet I know him and he knows me, and the
bond of our souls is beyond speech. As I
lean close to his dimpled face all heaven
breaks loose; like the chorus of a thousand
angels his smile drowns out all chaos, and every
gloomy thought vanishes is the radiance
of breathtaking innocence and beauty.
Whatever one may think about Thomas Wolfe’s overall quality as a writer, his descriptive ability is extraordinary. This depiction of the wicked Judge Rumford Bland from his novel You Can’t Go Home Again is chilling, vivid–a word painting if I’ve ever seen one. I give the passage here in its versified form, as found in A Stone, A Leaf, A Door.
But he was stained with evil.
There was something genuinely old and corrupt
At the sources of his life and spirit.
It had got into his blood,
His bone, his flesh.
It was palpable in the touch
Of his thin, frail hand when he greeted you,
It was present in the deadly weariness
Of his tone of voice,
In the dead-white texture
Of his emaciated face,
In his lank and lusterless auburn hair,
And, most of all,
In his sunken mouth,
Around which there hovered constantly
The ghost of a smile.
It could only be called the ghost of a smile,
And yet, really, it was no smile at all.
It was, if anything, only a shadow
At the corners of the mouth.
When one looked closely,
It was gone.
But one knew
That it was always there–
Lewd, evil, mocking,
And suggesting a limitless vitality
Akin to the humor of death,
Which welled up from some secret spring
In his dark soul.
The boys and I were in the backyard yesterday trying to catch up on some yard work. Well, I and my oldest son Jeff were working, while the younger guys were catching bugs. All of us like bugs and other critters and we are always on the lookout for some exciting new find.
We have a large, rotting tree in the backyard that will come down soon, and as we were determining the best way to cut and land it we noticed a large skink living inside. I have observed some big skinks in my time (Jeff caught a 6 or 7 incher a few weeks ago), but this is really big–I would guess a good 11, maybe 12 inches long, and fat as a garden hose. I’m not scared of snakes or lizards, but this fella gave me pause. I put my finger right next to his head, and he didn’t even flinch; in fact, it looked like he was contemplating whether he was hungry enough to attack this strange worm suddenly thrust in his face. He certainly wasn’t scared, so I backed off. Very cool. If you’re interested, the particular skink is known as a Broadhead skink (Eumeces laticeps)–well, you can check it out for yourself here.
The kids were enjoying fish fillets for supper. Alexander (age 7) said, “Hey, I think I got the tail. Sure looks like it.” Andrew (age 4), not to be outdone, exclaimed, “I think I got the leg!”