Because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.
120 years tall, as you bore through growth rings while the Western red cedar still lives. But you cannot bore to the scar rings on my inside. Ever. Thuja plicata. Often called the “tree of life”—arbor-vitae.
chocolate colored Plott hound, sniffing, and black-and-tan miniature dachshund, burrowing.
The Plott hound
named Truffle is a professor emeritus of cedar smells, Grand fir root extraction, and lost friends.
The miniature dachshund
named Tootsie writes a bicontinental blog that reflects on the lump, called Europe, and on the über-fading country, called the United States of America.
The Swiss landlady
is the crazy woman in the attic. In those books. Where are the aurorean women?
has bones planted in Montagnola, Switzerland. Why his grave looks like Jim Morrison’s grave baffles. Bones becomes roots of chestnut trees. Two rows of cypress trees nearby. Big box Ikea nearby. Ikea used forced labor in East Germany. Buy your furniture! Is it from real trees?
The mother’s advice
“Butt on chair, paper on desk, pen in hand, write.”
The father’s advice
“Non illegitimi carborundum: don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
The brother’s X wife
is the navel-gazing woman in the attic, but she is not in the attic. All our friends agree: X is a bully. Her parents buy the grandsons lots of plastic guns. X says sons love guns because “they have penises. They will shoot anyway.”
The Swiss window
looks out on an old sanatorium remade into a four-star hotel. A clean window, as befits a clean country, and Monte Sassalto nearby. We are more than cheese, chocolate, and time. Cuckoo. Cuckoo.
walks around or up Monte Sassalto every day. Waddling. Smell paws of smoked dirt and dried lavender. Sweet beast, let me squiggle with you.
The Idaho window
looks out on grace and Bee Top Mountain. A pasture where buffalo never were and moose roam. To the Cabinet Wilderness, Yellowstone Park Rangers bring bad grizzlies. Bad grizzlies have almost killed someone. It’s what grizzlies do when you surprise them, Bozo.
The Umwelt performance
by Compagnie Maguy Marin takes place far upstage. Where are the trees?
The Umwelt memory in full
When I was a teenager, my older brother used to go to the dump on Friday afternoon. He’d take family trash with him and come back with stuff, which he sold for profit at a garage sale on Saturday morning.
In Maguy Marin’s Umwelt, the vast center stage is not reserved for dancing. It is a dump. Far upstage, the performers walk around rows of mirrors. This is the mundane repetition called living. We eat an apple, hug a teddy bear, take a piss. We put on a lab coat, put on a wedding dress, fasten blue coveralls. We do it all again. Life is a repetitive problem.
In Maguy Marin’s Umwelt, the first apple is eaten by a woman. Next, a man. The apple core is thrown into the dump. Where is the tree?
Far upstage, the performers walk around rows of mirrors. We deliver cake, slap a man, take a piss. We pull up our pants, put on a party dress, fasten blue coveralls. Such are the days of our lives.
Far downstage, three electric guitars flat on their backs. A taut rope stretched between two boxes. Rope winds between the two winches and across the guitar strings, causing sound, serving the same function as an hourglass. The end of the rope across the guitar is the last sound of Umwelt.
Mirrored panels far upstage become reflections of a wasteland. Dancers walk or run around those mirrors, performing daily actions, skewed rituals. Eating an apple takes a long time.
I feel numb
Until I see a performer carrying a tree.
I think that is the tree where the serpent lives.
I feel numb
Until I see three performers wearing bunny ears and chewing carrots.
I think I like the Burger King party hats better.
I feel numb
Until I catch myself praying.
I think the babies are already in the dump, but please don’t throw the teddy bears in there, too.
Man standing still.
Whooshing is a repetitive noise—the problem of the subway, the walking dead, the wind tunnel.
Far upstage, the performers run around rows of mirrors. They begin throwing gravel into the dump. Almost an afterthought of touch, there are twirling penises. Such are the shooting days of our lives.
An audience member scurries across the front of the theatre to the exit. Other audience members leave. Proves art still moves. We are the sitting dead.
Now we have soldiers dragging bodies. Trash is a repetitive problem.
My brother took the stuff he didn’t sell back to the dump on Friday.
I’ve become numb to death yet am still startled by stillness.