Nothing Serves to Further

Dry the hills and dry the lakes; bone dry.

The old ways work no longer: we have hung the statues of the saints facedown in the wells, but the wells are dry and still the rains do not come. We have prayed and fasted and beaten our children and still the rains do not come. We built fires in the high places, slaughter sheep and cows and goats and burn them there, fat and bones and organs all, and still the rains do not come.

Older methods and new: you cannot seed clouds that are not there, cannot pull moisture from a sky dry as an old bone. We have cast our strongest from the planes, our finest, straight of limb and sound of mind, loaded them down with letters, offerings, icons, charms, sent them tumbling from sky to earth to carry our message to the gods, and still the rains do not come.

The ferns have withered in the forests, the grass has bleached upon the hills. Our cities bake as the shoreline recedes. We turn to god with the carrot and the stick, praise in one hand, torment in the other, and still the rains do not come.

We topple the statues and the lords, set the rich to the sword and fire to the corporations, and still the rains do not come.

No Roads Lead to the Northern Sea

inability hides behind spite

Our richest men made their fortunes in lumber and the railroad, taking the forest giants and stripping and planing them and sending them south along the coast, to the soft and indolent vintners, or east to the wild prairies, where the plainsmen hold council with spirits. We, being of hardier stock, and coarser, laugh at their delicacies and their decadence, and bow our heads on the roads, avert our eyes from the coiling fiddle-shapes of ferns — cautious, yes. The boom has wrought havoc with our shadows; our own success has brought us blinking and suspicious into the sunlight; our foresight replants, but our carefully erratic trees are short and slight and unnatural looking.

But far from the towns, and past the hopeful saplings, where the old trees still stand, and where the grey and immemorial moss hangs over the road (and there is not a one of us who does not carry some in his pocket, for luck), where the road turns backward along itself, where smooth asphalt becomes rutted gravel, or sucking mud, you may see the ocean, and stretch your eyes westward, and stretch your eyes northward, over the edge of the world, to the vastness beyond…