Tuesday, February 2, 2010

cleaving close

Speaking, we cleave close to ghosts. The secret wanderings of our words, the mingling of meanings and of tongues. Each breath exhales small histories, these exalted mysteries of culture and of kin. Each sentence both the inscription on a tomb and a marker towards tomorrow. Quicker than blood, our voices tell us of the inheritance we honor, and of all the intentions we leave behind.

Culture moves with Lamarckian speed, with the magic of the written word increasing the weight of old knowing we can hold. We write with-in the ley lines of knowledge, the collisions of cultures and of faiths. We write out the terms of conquest and the songs of surrender, the inevitable melding that translation takes as it's due. All a species, with tens of thousands of breeds and bands. The blood is slow, our ancestors a gathering legion.

I owe the glum worship of the Greeks and the Romans. I owe the varied Semites and the intense beacons of North Africa. I owe the ravenous drives of Viking and of Germanic freebooters, the iron of the Celts, and the mythologies of a dozen different tribes. I owe those earliest ancestral wanderings, crossing deserts and oceans 40,000 years ago. The civilizing press of the Mongols, who worried about goods and order, not about gods and temples. Then the brutal feudal wranglings of Europe, hungry for the wealth of the majesty of China, the silk road lavishings of work and want. The great scholarship of Islam, preserving those Romans and Greeks my illiterate and barbarous ancestors would have just as soon burned as read. And the blood debts of slavery and migrant exodus, the hope and lie at once of the American gamble. I haunt each page with multitudes, thinking I am speaking alone.

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