After the cusp and the toppling off, the regime lies upended. Ruins further ruined by decades of infighting, there is a sense of desolation that can be heard in the distant howls: we imagine knotted trees and a hundred cowled monkeys, but the perpetrators remain too far, too unseen. But wait, here now, the hunter strays into an unfriendly jungle; in the dense undergrowth of vines, he confronts himself. He encounters the gradual depression in terrain that marks his disillusionment. He searches for wisdom as if it were something to be found. But there is very little to find, not with all the time. And so, we are the hunter. The years that pass beneath our feet, how we glean through the screen of webs for our fabled quarry, and at night when we sleep atop the fallen leaves, we have felt its breath upon our skin. It is always one branch away.
In the green days of youth, I or someone else thought about the world and never questioned whether one belonged in it. We walked to the park at the top of the hill every night to listen to the whippoorwills cry, and we’d point out the city lights. That’s us over there, we’d say. We thought maybe over there we’d find ourselves sitting in a park like this one, and maybe the whippoorwills — though we love them dearly — wouldn’t be our closest friends. For awhile, it was a worthwhile dream. But always, in the back of our hearts there were the howls that kept us adrift and apart, the jungle rises everywhere and we wonder how or when it separated from the buildings and entered our minds. I know the ache too, the one that takes root when you realize you are not meant to be anywhere, and it is a terrible ache that starts not in the chest but from the crook of your back. This will spread, to your neck, to the joints of your knees, hips; it will find a way to your fingers and the top of your hand will cramp in the cold as if it were cheap copper. It becomes a bird’s claw.
When it reaches your chest finally, you howl; it roils and churns and bubbles from your mouth. Only the wolves in the city can hear it; their howls sweep into the clouds, the weary secret is divvied amongst the pack. Now, the hunt is on. Now, we give chase. It echoes in the hollow bones of your thigh with a slavering to bite. Some nights: a solitary jogger seeking the moon’s solipsist vision might hear this unearthly cry and she will think of monkeys swinging through an ancient jungle. She is young. But she will feel aged and the latent seed has been planted to sprout the decay from which the wise men had warned us against. The husks of men swinging through the trees and when they fall, they land on the damp dirt curled dead as birds. There is never enough time. The lake that becomes a hand mirror: you see what time takes away. The one branch away that you reach for and miss: it has always been there. And now, we come crashing through the vines.
We find the regime upended, our world upturned. Our breath spirals away.