is how the world
ends with a mask and a
whisper go home
is how the world
ends with a mask and a
whisper go home
Mmmm pretty good. My reheated stew got real hot too.
I was talking with Anne Elise yesterday about making beans and leftover chicken or meat into chili beans con carne yes. I have two kinds of dry beans, pinto and peruano, and a couple of jalapeños and a tomatoes and onions oh yes I am ready to make a pot of chili beans tomorrow. Eventually I have to deposit my covid check from the government but I think that I can do that by phone I think except my phone is a virgin. Never connected with the bank. Nor with my email. Go figure what a retro freak I am with my virgin phone LOL.
Gray grey clouds clouding the skies over my head. Faint hints of light tease themselves up there over our city, whispering one chance of peach orange and a thousand boring grey walls turning gray night and morning low clouds sometimes a bit of light peers through and then – it’s gone.
You said you studied the stars?
Only their names and places in the sky.
Oh. This is the first time you have traveled on a ship, with navigator or pilot?
Well. Then tell me, if you can, what is that spot hanging ahead of us, you see it there, slightly to starboard off the bow?
Yes. Ah… well, that is generally south, is it not?
And now, sir, in the last days of August, we are a little more than one hour into the night?
Yes, young man, we have passed into the second hour of night, I believe. You can see most, but not all, of the stars.
That is Antares, master pilot, sir. In the famous constellation of the Scorpion.
Yes. Good. Captain?
He answered the easy question. Shall I try something harder?
Be my guest, pilot.
Thank you, Captain. So. Nikodemos?
First, another easy question. What is that star over there.
The evening star, sir. The wandering star Venus. Sometimes it shines in the morning and sometimes it shines in the evening.
Yes. And now, the hard question, young man. Why?
Why? You mean, sir, why does it move around from morning to evening?
Yes. Tell me what your philosophy says of that errant fact.
I cannot, sir. My teacher says we humans may sometimes recognize the shape of things, but we cannot always say why they are that way.
Oh. Yes. The astrologer.
So you do not know why it, Venus, moves around while almost all the other stars are standing perfectly still… except for rotating around the Earth once a day, of course.
Yes, sir. And the other wanderers, the planets, who do not stand still. Jove and Kronos and Mars and the Moon. And Hermes, so very close to the Sun.
And the Sun itself, young man?
Oh yes, of course. It too moves steadily around the circle of heaven, once every year. The other planets all seem to slip forward or fall back, sometimes.
Hmmm. Can you do the mathematics of thirty and sixty and three hundred sixty?
You mean the degrees around a perfect circle?
Good. You know we navigators and sailors follow that great circle of stars around the Mediterranean. The height of that star, Antares, in the south, will tell us how far north or south we are from before.
But the sea is never perfect. It is always full of winds and waves.
Yes, sir. It is.
Has it made you sick yet?
Not much, sir. But we have had good weather so far.
I remember when he asked me to tell him the story. Before sleeping. In his bunk.
“Tell me the story, boy.”
What story, Captain?
About Achilles and Troy.
Oh. Yes. You like that one.
Tell me about the ships.
Yes. That is that part that you like best.
That’s true. It is. Here. Wait. Move your leg over a bit. My hip feels cramped.
You know more about ships than I do, my captain.
But you know the old stories from the books.
Some of them, yes.
Well, where you’re going you will be able to read many more. There, in Alexandria.
That’s what my master told me.
My teacher, I mean.
Not the emperor.
No. His… his friend.
Astrologer, you mean.
You asked the navigator good questions tonight.
Oh. Thank you. You mean about whether the stars in the south rise higher as we go south around the tip of Italy?
We move forward, careful with our steps.
Outdoors, another human comes close.
I nod, and step back to hope some
day we can shake hands again.
Are you familiar with the case, then?
If the praetor wishes, I could advise him about the Jewish religion. But…
The actual point of Roman law is yours to decide.
But you know these Jews, then? Do you speak their language?
Aramaic? Or their religious language, Hebrew?
I can read the Hebrew but I am better at speaking Aramaic.
Hmm. Where are you from, exactly?
Oh, but… look here, the boy who accused you, he… he said you were… you had been… one of Tiberius’… toys, on his island. You know what I mean?
No. It is true, I was a captive there, and it is also true that I was raped, when I was… there. Twice. But not on a regular basis. He had slaves who let him do those things.
How long were you there?
The soldiers kidnapped me when I was fifteen. I was sent to Alexandria three years later.
What was the problem… were you too old for him?
My lord, please…
Ahem, well, yes. But try to see my position, young man. A servant in my house has falsely accused you of several… crimes. And he seems to know something about your past. Says he heard it from some sailors in Caesaria harbor.
You are worried that I might report this to the emperor.
Sir, if he asks me, I am bound to answer him honestly.
And me, a lowly provincial officer – will you answer my questions, honestly?
Of course, yes. But my lord governor is hardly a lowly officer, no, you are the chosen man to rule this province for Rome.
Thank you. Sometimes I think I have died and gone to Hades, rather than be the chosen man to rule this stiff-necked nation of Jews on behalf of Rome.
Chosen man, that is serendipitous, my lord, considering these people think they are chosen people, chosen by God.
Yes, they do, don’t they. And they practically kill each other arguing about what their God wants to do, or not do.
Yes, except they don’t call him “their god,” no, for them there is only one true Creator God who made everything in the universe.
Oh, yes, that too, I have heard. At least it sounds like you have heard the same stories. But tell me then, while we have a moment to eat, tell me what they really believe.
They believe that there is only one God. Everything else we humans call the gods, they say are only devils or sometimes angel messengers from the true Creator, king of the Universe.
King? Like the Greek word, too?
Not exactly, but… well, honorifically, I suppose. Yes.
You studied it. Don’t you know?
No, because they have so many different opinions about the details.
Oh. But tell me this, young Roman Greek from Campania, do they have kings at all?
No. I mean there was a king of the Jews. But now only prophets speak for God, really.
Is that who he is? A prophet?
Is my lord governor referring to the Nazarean?
Yes. This man I have to give a hearing for. The temple priests tell me he is a rebel, and that he wants the people to rise up against Rome. Start riots during the holy days. Terrible threat to peace and safety of Rome.
Yes. That is exactly what they would say.
What do you think?
Ah… again, I am not sure. That is, I believe he would not start a riot. He would rather preach and pray. No fighting.
But if a riot started, would he stop it?
Or maybe not.
No. I mean yes, my lord governor.
Do you know him, young man?
I have heard him preaching in the temple this week.
Yes. We have heard about him making fun of the temple priests and teachers.
Uh… my lord has touched on the real danger here.
Danger not to you, but to the temple rulers.
Oh. Yes. But I knew that already. You know that I knew that already.
I just wanted to remind you of the truth here.
Truth, young man? The truth is we must keep peace and order here. Both. The order we keep with our fortress, our prison, and above all our soldiers. The peace we must keep by sharing this… religious landscape, for want of a better word, sharing this holy landscape, this stretch of hills which this stiff-necked nation of Jews has decided is the center of the universe or some such thing. What do they call it, young man, or didn’t you learn that.
Yes, lord, they call it the holy mountain, or Zion.
Oh. You know, I think I have heard this before. Yes. What else can you tell me about them? Will they riot if I kill this prophet from nowhere?
No. It will take more than killing an accused rebel to make them rebel.
Witty young dog.
Your honor is too kind.
Ah but we know it well – we who were weaned
upon the automobile.
balanced on a pile of letters, the squiggly subject rebels
B a l a n c e d o n
p i l e o f
Yes. Today it begins. The year we name Twenty-Twenty.
There remain sixty days until I am scheduled to move out.
A mountain of sorting and storage awaits my elbow grease and sweat and blood and toil and tears, as the saying goes.
Some of it has been greased already, and sits in boxes, waiting to be moved down the hill into freeway valley, where I pay four hundred and twenty-two dollars a month for a rather large storage unit.
Much more of it waits to be arranged and put into boxes. I linger over old photographs of my grandmother. My father when he was a young boy. Me when I was a young boy.
Into the box. Lable the box. Put the small boxes into a larger box. Lable the larger box. Pile it in the room where we are putting everything we will take away to storage. I, we, they, us, me.
This is the first day. Sixty days remain. Or is it already fifty-nine?
. . .