For The Ones Who Look Back
God once said, “Let the dead bury their dead,” and now the righteous man takes up his wife on the black day of destruction to depart the urban streets of his youth. The dark road rolls out beyond the glow of headlights, while spinning wheels scratch hatch marks in the stretching gravel, a measuring tape pulled taut. The righteous man peers through the windshield to the promise of a soon-light horizon and leaves his past in the rearview.
The wicked woman knows that if the dead could bury themselves, they wouldn’t be dead. She knows the contradicting nonsense of the recently departed who weave their shrouds, who dig their graves, knows the meaning of burying dearly beloveds who never could have buried themselves. The wicked woman questions senseless dictates of old world gods, but nonetheless feels dread in pending disobedience. The road may be a measure of the space between her breaths, or the rising temperature of anxiety, or the falling barometer of an approaching storm. Still the Studebaker bumps along the banks of the Hudson.
The wicked woman knows the river flows both ways: backward to the north, to its source; forward to the south, to its end. She knows we nearly always beat our oars against the pull of future, draw of past, just to stay in an ephemeral present. She sees the wisdom floating in the driftwood from either direction, and has no shame in gathering her flotsam.
The righteous man pulls into a filling station near the river’s edge as the sun crests the eastern trees. The wicked woman walks the length of the nearby meadow and admires, across the water, dramatic bluffs – pillars of basalt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul. The wicked woman is moved for a moment by undercurrents of grief and briefly remembers how to pray. Before her the river, behind her gentle hills, the wicked woman clasps her hands to pleadwith God on the fate of all she’s ever known.
God once said, “Look not behind you, neither stay you in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed,” but now God is silent.
The righteous man would lead his dearly beloved from the tombs of the underworld to the broad gamble of the future and never once throw a glance over his shoulder. He never was cut out to be an undertaker. He believes the past belongs in the past, believes those who forget history are blessed to imagine a better tomorrow. The righteous man pumps his gasoline with unmeasured nonchalance.
The wicked woman, hands still clasped, counts the tempo of the wind. To the south lies a metropolis in its prime days earlier, now caught in the fire and brimstone of economic collapse. The wicked woman believes in remembering and turns her discontented gaze to a fading skyline once more. Then she returns to the man carefree in his ignorance, itself a kind of unhappiness.