On Cabbages & Other Traits of Patriarchal Life (by Alex Peters, as performed for Quiet Lightning)

Unsent Letter to a Parallel Universe

I.

Most days I wake up and forget my dreams on purpose. Not that they haunt me or anything. I just don’t think they’re very important.

II.

There is a tribe of Borneo Hunters who practice black magic whenever they want to get rid of an enemy or an old lover who still disturbs their spirits. 

They will take a block of wood fashioned from their enemy’s liking, and they will leave it out in the middle of the forest where it slowly deteriorates, unobserved. Meanwhile it is believed that the enemy, where ever she may be, deteriorates along with it.

III.

I lay with myself a while in bed a lot of the time, wondering if the earth will finally fulfill itself and vanish. 

And I know I’m not alone. My typewriter whispers from the far reaches of the bedroom that I am too serious. I avoid the gaze of my Goethe in the corner, of my Rimbaud in the original that I have never read, of a busted record player languishing beneath the cloying odor of dust. 

IV.

What if the story of the world is no more than a tablet dropped in a glass of water?

V.

I used to wake up to the sound of children playing in fields. I would run away as fast as I could, off each day to some dim region of coffee and neck-ties, whatever the fuck the opposite of Elysian fields is. 

(Remember when we made snow-angels with a ceramic rooster on somebody’s roof in Utah? When we danced all night on a stripper pole in somebody’s party van?)*

VI.
Today I wake up and wonder what time it is instead, even or especially when there is no place for me to be.

VII.

It’s true, I probably indulge in myself too often. Laying bed like a spoiled child, ignoring the responsibility of last night’s dreams. I do not read my Goethe, it’s true. There are no clocks in the house where I live. I do not reach for my phone or worry whether so and so has called today. 

But it happens sometimes that a nursery rhyme or a tango will take shape out of the silence. It never makes much sense, not even to me, and they are not very original lyrics. Still, it always reminds me that there is maybe no such thing as tomorrow, and as long as my heart is going to behave like a sick child I better give it everything it asks for.

VIII.

What I want to send you is too big for the postman. (I would love to visit you in Brooklyn.)


*Originally there was a phrase in this that was cribbed from Goethe’s Werther – making a liar out of me in stanzas III and VI. But now I can’t remember what phrase it was that may have drove me to this entire madness to begin with. So here is another phrase or two from my Goethe, taken at random:

…There are times where I feel so vividly how Penelope’s impudent suitors slaughter oxen and swine, cut them up, and roast them. There is nothing that could fill me so completely with a quiet, genuine feeling as those traits of patriarchal life which I, thank God, can weave into my kind of life without affectation.

How fortunate it is for me that my heart can feel the plain, naive delight of the man who puts on the table a cabbage that he has grown himself, and for whom it is not merely the vegetable, but all the good days, the fine morning when he planted it, the pleasant evenings when he watered it, taking his pleasure in its thriving growth–that he enjoys again in one comprehensive moment.

IX. *The Great Salt Lake in Utah is only thirteen feet deep. 

(In my heart of hearts, I still believe that one day a cabbage can be more than a cabbage.)

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