It was still as hot as the hinges of hell, October or not. The door to the exercise yard opened, letting in a flood of brilliant light and the biggest man I've ever seen, except for some of the basketball fellows they have on the TV down in the 'Resource Room' of this home for wayward droolers I've finished up in.
He wore chains on his arms and across his water-barrel of a chest; he wore legirons on his ankles and shuffled a chain between them that sounded like cascading coins as it ran along the lime—colored corridor between the cells. Percy Wetmore was on one side of him, skinny little Harry Terwilliger was on the other, and they looked like children walking along with a captured bear.
Even Brutus Howell looked like a kid next to Coffey, and Brutal was over six feet tall and broad as well, a football tackle who had gone on to play at LSU until he flunked out and came back home to the ridges. John Coffey was black, like most of the men who came to stay for awhile in E Block before dying in Old Sparky's lap, and he stood six feet, eight inches tall.
He wasn't all willowy like the TV basketball fellows, though—he was broad in the shoulders and deep through the chest, laced over with muscle in every direction. They'd put him in the biggest denims they could find in Stores, and still the cuffs of the pants rode halfway up on his bunched and scarred calves. The shirt was open to below his chest, and the sleeves stopped somewhere on his forearms. He was holding his cap in one huge hand, which was just as well; perched on his bald mahogany ball of a head, it would have looked like the kind of cap an organgrinder's monkey wears, only blue instead of red.
He looked like he could have snapped the chains that held him as easily as you might snap the ribbons on a Christmas present, but when you looked in his face, you knew he wasn't going to do anything like that. It wasn't dull-although that was what Percy thought, it wasn't long before Percy was calling him the ijit—but lost. He kept looking around as if to make out where he was. Maybe even who he was. My first thought was that he looked like a black Samson Harry didn't say anything, but he looked embarrassed. I was in what was going to be Coffey's cell, sitting on his bunk.
I'd known he was coming, of course, was there to welcome him and take charge of him, but had no idea of the man's pure size until I saw him. Percy gave me a look that said we all knew I was an asshole except for the big dummy, of course, who only knew how to rape and murder little girls , but he didn't say anything. The three of them stopped outside the cell door, which was standing open on its track.
I nodded to Harry, who said: 'Are you sure you want to be in there with him, boss? Coffey shook his head slowly—once to the left, once to the right, then back to dead center. Once his eyes found me, they never left me. Harry had a clipboard with Coffey's forms on it in one hand. He had to duck his head just to enter the cell. I looked up and down mostly to register his height as a fact and not an optical illusion.
It was real: six feet, eight inches. His weight was given as two-eighty, but I think that was only an estimate; he had to have been three hundred and twenty, maybe as much as three hundred and fifty pounds. Under the space for scars and identifying marks, one word had been blocked out in the laborious printing of Magnusson, the old trusty in Registration: Numerous.
I looked up. Coffey had shuffled a bit to one side and I could see Harry standing across the corridor in front of Delacroix's cell—he was our only other prisoner in E Block when Coffey came in. Del was a slight, balding man with the worried face of an accountant who knows his embezzlement will soon be discovered. His tame mouse was sitting on his shoulder. Percy Wetmore was leaning in the doorway of the cell which had just become John Coffey's. He had taken his hickory baton out of the custom-made holster he carried it in, and was tapping it against one palm the way a man does when he has a toy he wants to use.
And all at once I couldn't stand to have him there. Maybe it was the unseasonable heat, maybe it was the urinary infection heating up my groin and making the itch of my flannel underwear all but unbearable, maybe it was knowing that the state had sent me a black man next door to an idiot to execute, and Percy clearly wanted to hand-tool him a little first. Probably it was all those things. Whatever it was, I stopped caring about his political connections for a little while. He resented the big ones. He wasn't skinny, like Harry Terwilliger, but he was short.
A banty-rooster sort of guy, the kind that likes to pick fights, especially when the odds are all their way. And vain about his hair. Could hardly keep his hands off it. His lower lip pooched out. Bill Dodge and his men were moving boxes and stacks of sheets, even the beds; the whole infirmary was going to a new frame building over on the west side of the prison. Hot work, heavy lifting. Percy Wetmore wanted no part of either.
I saw Harry wince and paid no attention. If the governor ordered Warden Moores to fire me for ruffling the wrong set of feathers, who was Hal Moores going to put in my place? It was a joke. For a moment I thought he was going to stick and there'd be real trouble, with Coffey standing there the whole time like the world's biggest stopped clock. Then Percy rammed his billy back into its hand-tooled holster-foolish damned vanitorious thing—and went stalking up the corridor. I don't remember which guard was sitting at the duty desk that day—one of the floaters, I guess—but Percy must not have liked the way he looked, because he growled, 'You wipe that smirk off your shitepoke face or I'll wipe it off for you' as he went by.
There was a rattle of keys, a momentary blast of hot sunlight from the exercise yard, and then Percy Wetmore was gone, at least for the time being. Delacroix's mouse ran back and forth from one of the little Frenchman's shoulders to the other, his filament whiskers twitching. Jingles,' Delacroix said, and the mouse stopped on his left shoulder just as if he had understood. This is none of your business, either. He did as I said. He had raped a young girl and killed her, and had then dropped her body behind the apartment house where she lived, doused it with coal-oil, and then set it on fire, hoping in some muddled way to dispose of the evidence of his crime.
The fire had spread to the building itself, had engulfed it, and six more people had died, two of them children. It was the only crime he had in him, and now he was just a mild-mannered man with a worried face, a bald pate, and long hair straggling over the back of his shirt-collar.
He would sit down with Old Sparky in a little while, and Old Sparky would make an end to him In a way, that was the worst; Old Sparky never burned what was inside them, and the drugs they inject them with today don't put it to sleep. It vacates, jumps to someone else, and leaves us to kill husks that aren't really alive anyway. He nodded. It was like his head-shake: down, up, back to center. His strange eyes looked at me. There was a kind of peace in them, but not a kind I was sure I could trust.
I crooked a finger to Harry, who came in and unlocked the chains. He showed no fear now, even when he knelt between Coffey's treetrunk legs to unlock the ankle irons, and that eased me some. It was Percy who had made Harry nervous, and I trusted Harry's instincts. I trusted the instincts of all my day-to-day E Block men, except for Percy. I have a little set speech I make to men new on the block, but I hesitated with Coffey, because he seemed so abnormal, and not just in his size. When Harry stood back Coffey had remained motionless during the entire unlocking ceremony, as placid as a Percheron , I looked up at my new charge, tapping on the clipboard with my thumb, and said: 'Can you talk, big boy?
His voice was a deep and quiet rumble. It made me think of a freshly tuned tractor engine. He had no real Southern drawl—he said I, not Ah—but there was a kind of Southern construction to his speech that I noticed later. As if he was from the South, but not of it. He didn't sound illiterate, but he didn't sound educated. In his speech as in so many other things, he was a mystery. Mostly it was his eyes that troubled me—a kind of peaceful absence in them, as if he were floating far, far away. I sighed, then gave him a short version of my set speech. I'd already decided he wasn't going to be any trouble.
In that I was both right and wrong. You want something from me, ask for me by name. If I'm not here, ask this other, man—his name is Harry Terwilliger. Or you ask for Mr. Stanton or Mr. Do you understand that? Still with me? It's just you and Delacroix over there. You won't work; mostly you'll just sit. Give you a chance to think things over.
You like the radio? He nodded, but doubtfully, as if he wasn't sure what the radio was. I later found out that was true, in a way; Coffey knew things when he encountered them again, but in between he forgot. He knew the characters on Our Gal Sunday, but had only the haziest memory of what they'd been up to the last time.
You'll have two hours in the yard afternoons from four until six, except on Saturdays when the rest of the prison population has their flag football games. You'll have your visitors on Sunday afternoons, if you have someone who wants to visit you. Do you, Coffey? Don't believe he could find his way up here in the mountains. I looked at him closely to see if he might be trying a little joke, but he didn't seem to be. And I really hadn't expected any different. Appeals weren't for the likes of John Coffey, not back then; they had their day in court and then the world forgot them until they saw a squib in the paper saying a certain fellow had taken a little electricity along about midnight.
But a man with a wife, children, or friends to look forward to on Sunday afternoons was easier to control, if control looked to be a problem. Here it didn't, and that was good. Because he was so damned big. I shifted a little on the bunk, then decided I might feel a little more comfortable in my nether parts if I stood up, and so I did.
He backed away from me respectfully, and clasped his hands in front of him. I'm here to say you might as well make it easy on all of us, because it comes to the same in the end. We'll treat you as right as you deserve. Do you have any questions? I blinked at him. I had been asked a lot of strange questions by newcomers to E Block—once about the size of my wife's tits—but never that one. Coffey was smiling a trifle uneasily, as if he knew we would think him foolish but couldn't help himself.
I looked at him—the pure size of him—and felt strangely touched. They did touch you, you know; you didn't see them at their worst, hammering out their horrors like demons at a forge. He nodded, relieved. I'm not sure he knew what a corridor was, either, but he could see the watt bulbs in their wire cages. I did something I'd never done to a prisoner before, then—I offered him my hand.
Even now I don't know why.
Him asking about the lights, maybe. It made Harry Terwilliger blink, I can tell you that. Coffey took my hand with surprising gentleness, my hand all but disappearing into his, and that was all of it. I had another moth in my killing bottle. We were done. I stepped out of the cell. Harry pulled the door shut on its track and ran both locks. Coffey stood where he was a moment or two longer, as if he didn't know what to do next, and then he sat down on his bunk, clasped his giant's hands between his knees, and lowered his head like a man who grieves or prays.
He said something then in his strange, almost Southern voice. I heard it with perfect clarity, and although I didn't know much about what he'd done then—you don't need to know about what a man's done in order to feed him and groom him until it's time for him to pay off what he owes—it still gave me a chill. Dean Stanton, sort of my third in command—we didn't actually have such things, a situation Percy Wetmore would have fixed up in a flash—was sitting behind my desk, updating the files, a job I never seemed to get around to.
He barely looked up as we came in, just gave his little glasses a shove with the ball of his thumb and dived back into his paperwork. He drew a sheet of paper to him, held it up into the light so I could see there was a coffee-ring as well as typing on it, and then tossed it into the waste basket. And he probably had. There was a prison tale in every issue, it seemed, and Percy read them avidly, like a man doing research.
It was like he was trying to find out how to act, and thought the information was in those magazines. He'd come just after we did Anthony Ray, the hatchet-killer—and he hadn't actually participated in an execution yet, although he'd witnessed one from the switch-room. You'll have to answer for sending him off the block, and you'll have to answer even harder for expecting him to do some real work. Bill Dodge wasn't the sort to let a man just stand around and do the heavy looking-on.
Are we going to have trouble with him? He took his little rimless glasses off and began to polish them on his vest. That's a pun, son. I just hate letting Dean Stanton get the better of me. Dean pinched the sides of his nose, where there were a couple of angry red patches from his glasses, and nodded. I asked, 'Do either of you know where he came from before he showed up in It was Tefton, wasn't it?
Before he showed up there and did what he did, no one seems to know. He just drifted around, I guess. You might be able to find out a little more from the newspapers in the prison library, if you're really interested. They probably won't get around to moving those until next week. The prison library was in back of the building that was going to become the prison auto shop—at least that was the plan.
More pork in someone's pocket was what I thought, but the Depression was on, and I kept my opinions to myself—the way I should have kept my mouth shut about Percy, but sometimes a man just can't keep it clapped tight. A man's mouth gets him in more trouble than his pecker ever could, most of the time. And the auto shop never happened, anyway—the next spring, the prison moved sixty miles down the road to Brighton.
More backroom deals, I reckon. More barrels of pork. Wasn't nothing to me. Administration had gone to a new building on the east side of the yard; the infirmary was being moved whose country-bumpkin idea it had been to put an infirmary on the second floor in the first place was just another of life's mysteries ; the library was still partly stocked—not that it ever had much in it—and standing empty. The old building was a hot clapboard box kind of shouldered in between A and B Blocks.
Their bathrooms backed up on it and the whole building was always swimming with this vague pissy smell, which was probably the only good reason for the move. The library was L-shaped, and not much bigger than my office. I looked for a fan, but they were all gone. It must have been a hundred degrees in there, and I could feel that hot throb in my groin when I sat down. Sort of like an infected tooth. I know that's absurd, considering the region we're talking about here, but it's the only thing I could compare it to.
It got a lot worse during and just after taking a leak, which I had done just before walking over. There was one other fellow there after all—a scrawny old trusty named Gibbons dozing away in the corner with a Wild West novel in his lap and his hat pulled down over his eyes. The heat wasn't bothering him, nor were the grunts, thumps, and occasional curses from the infirmary upstairs where it had to be at least ten degrees hotter, and I hoped Percy Wetmore was enjoying it.
I didn't bother him, either, but went around to the short side of the L, where the newspapers were kept. I thought they might be gone along with the fans, in spite of what Dean had said. They weren't, though, and the business about the Detterick twins was easily enough looked out; it had been front-page news from the commission of the crime in June right through the trial in late August and September.
Soon I had forgotten the heat and the thumps from upstairs and old Gibbons's wheezy snores. The thought of those little nine-year-old girls—their fluffy heads of blonde hair and their engaging Bobbsey Twins smiles—in connection with Coffey's hulking darkness was unpleasant but impossible to ignore. Given his size, it was easy to imagine him actually eating them, like a giant in a fairy tale. What he had done was even worse, and it was a lucky thing for him that he hadn't just been lynched right there on the riverbank.
If, that was, you considered waiting to walk the Green Mile and sit in Old Sparky's lap lucky. King Cotton had been deposed in the South seventy years before all these things happened and would never be king again, but in those years of the thirties it had a little revival. There were no more cotton plantations, but there were forty or fifty prosperous cotton farms in the southern part of our state.
Klaus Detterick owned one of them. By the standards of the nineteen-fifties he would have been considered only a rung above shirttail poor, but by those of the thirties he was considered well-to-do because he actually paid his store bill in cash at the end of most months, and he could meet the bank president's eyes if they happened to pass on the street. The farmhouse was clean and commodious.
In addition to the cotton, there were the other two c's: chickens and a few cows. He and his wife had three children: Howard. Cora and Kathe. On a warm night in June of that year, the girls asked for and were given permission to sleep on the screen-enclosed side porch, which ran the length of the house. This was a great treat for them. Their mother kissed them goodnight just shy of nine, when the last light had gone out of the sky. It was the final time she saw either of them until they were in their coffins and the undertaker had repaired the worst of the damage. Country families went to bed early in those days—"soon as 'twas dark under the table," my own mother sometimes said—and slept soundly.
Certainly Klaus, Marjorie, and Howie Detterick did on the night the twins were taken. Klaus would almost certainly have been wakened by Bowser, the family's big old half-breed collie, if he had barked, but Bowser didn't. Not that night, not ever again. Klaus was up at first light to do the milking. The porch was on the side of the house away from the barn, and Klaus never thought to look in on the girls.
Bowser's failure to join him was no cause for alarm, either. The dog held the cows and the chickens alike in great disdain, and usually hid in his doghouse behind the barn when the chores were being performed, unless called Marjorie came downstairs fifteen minutes or so after her husband had pulled on his boots in the mudroom and tromped out to the barn. She started the coffee, then put bacon on to fry. The combined smells brought Howie down from his room under the eaves, but not the girls from the porch. She sent Howie out to fetch them as she cracked eggs into the bacon grease.
Klaus would want the girls out to get fresh ones as soon as breakfast was over. Except no breakfast was eaten in the Detterick house that morning. Howie came back from the porch, white around the gills and with his formerly sleep-puffy eyes now wide open. Marjorie went out onto the porch, at first more annoyed than alarmed.
She said later that she had supposed, if she had supposed anything, that the girls had decided to take a walk and pick flowers by the dawn's early light. That or some similar green-girl foolishness. One look, and she understood why Howie had been white. She screamed for Klaus—shrieked for him—and Klaus came on the dead run, his workboots whitened by the half-full pail of milk he had spilled on them. What he found on the porch would have jellied the legs of the most courageous parent.
The blankets in which the girls would have bundled themselves as the night drew on and grew colder had been cast into one comer. The screen door had been yanked off its upper hinge and hung drunkenly out into the dooryard. And on the boards of both the porch and the steps beyond the mutilated screen door, there were spatters of blood. Marjorie begged her husband not to go hunting after the girls alone, and not to take their son if he felt he had to go after them, but she could have saved her breath. He took the shotgun he kept mounted in the mudroom high out of the reach of little hands, and gave Howie the.
Then they went, neither of them paying the slightest attention to the shrieking, weeping woman who wanted to know what they would do if they met a gang of wandering hobos or a bunch of bad niggers escaped from the county farm over in Laduc. In this I think the men were right, you know. The blood was no longer runny, but it was only tacky yet, and still closer to true red than the maroon that comes when blood has well dried.
The abduction hadn't happened too long ago. Klaus must have reasoned that there was still a chance for his girls, and he meant to take it. Neither one of them could track worth a damn—they were gatherers, not hunters, men who went into the woods after coon and deer in their seasons not because they much wanted to, but because it was an expected thing.
And the dooryard around the house was a blighted patch of dirt with tracks all overlaid in a meaningless tangle. They went around the barn, and saw almost at once why Bowser, a bad biter but a good barker, hadn't sounded the alarm. He lay half in and half out of a doghouse which had been built of leftover barnboards there was a signboard with the word Bowser neatly printed on it over the curved hole in the front—I saw a photograph of it in one of the papers , his head turned most of the way around on his neck. It would have taken a man of enormous power to have done that to such a big animal, the prosecutor later told John Coffey's jury Beside the dog, Klaus and Howie found a scrap of cooked link sausage.
The theory—a sound one, I have no doubt—was that Coffey had first charmed the dog with treats, and then, as Bowser began to eat the last one, had reached out his hands and broken its neck with one mighty snap of his wrists. Beyond the barn was Detterick's north pasture, where no cows would graze that day. It was drenched with morning dew, and leading off through it, cutting on a diagonal to the northwest and plain as day, was the beaten track of a man's passage. Even in his state of near-hysteria, Klaus Detterick hesitated at first to follow it.
It wasn't fear of the man or men who had taken his daughters; it was fear of following the abductor's backtrail Howie solved that dilemma by plucking a shred of yellow cotton cloth from a bush growing just beyond the edge of the dooryard. Klaus was shown this same scrap of cloth as he sat on the witness stand, and began to weep as he identified it as a piece of his daughter Kathe's sleeping-shorts. Twenty yards beyond it, hanging from the jutting finger of a juniper shrub, they found a piece of faded green cloth that matched the nightie Cora had been wearing when she kissed her ma and pa goodnight.
The Dettericks, father and son, set off at a near-run with their guns held in front of them, as soldiers do when crossing contested ground under heavy fire. If I wonder at anything that happened that day, it is that the boy, chasing desperately after his father and often in danger of being left behind completely , never fell and put a bullet in Klaus Detterick's back. The farmhouse was on the exchange—another sign to the neighbors that the Dettericks were prospering, at least moderately, in disastrous times—and Marjorie used Central to call as many of her neighbors that were also on the exchange as she could, telling them of the disaster which had fallen like a lightning-stroke out of a clear sky, knowing that each call would produce overlapping ripples, like pebbles tossed rapidly into a stilly pond.
Then she lifted the handset one last time, and spoke those words that were almost a trademark of the early telephone systems of that time, at least in the rural South: 'Hello, Central, are you on the line? Central was, but for a moment could say nothing, that worthy woman was all agog. At last she managed, 'Yes, ma'am. Detterick, I sure am, oh dear sweet blessed Jesus, I'm a-prayin right now that your little girls are all right—'. The Trapingus County high sheriff was a whiskeynosed old boy with a gut like a washtub and a head of white hair so fine it looked like pipe-cleaner fuzz.
I knew him well; he'd been up to Cold Mountain plenty of times to see what he called 'his boys' off into the great beyond. Execution witnesses sat in the same folding chairs you've probably sat in yourself a time or two, at funerals or church suppers or Grange bingo in fact, we borrowed ours from the Mystic Tie No. I dreaded that day and hoped for it, both at the same time, but it was a day that never came. Not long after—couldn't have been more than one summer after the Detterick girls were abducted—he had a heart attack in his office, apparently while screwing a seventeen year-old black girl named Daphne Shurtleff.
There was a lot of talk about that, with him always sporting his wife and six boys around so prominent come election time—those were the days when, if you wanted to run for something, the saying used to be "Be Baptist or be gone. Besides being a hypocrite, he was incompetent, the kind of fellow who'd get himself photographed petting some lady's cat when it was someone else—Deputy Rob McGee, for instance—who'd actually risked a broken collarbone by going up the tree where Mistress Pussycat was and bringing her down.
McGee listened to Marjorie Detterick babble for maybe two minutes, then cut her off with four or five questions—quick and curt, like a trained fighter's flicking little jabs to the face, the kind of punches that are so small and so hard that the blood comes before the sting. When he had answers to these, he said: 'I'll call Bobo Marchant. He's got dogs. You stay put, Miz Detterick. If your man and your boy come back, make them stay put, too. Try, anyway.
Her man and her boy had, meanwhile, followed the track of the abductor three miles to the northwest, but when his trail ran out of open fields and into piney woods, they lost it. They were farmers, not hunters, as I have said, and by then they knew it was an animal they were after. Along the way they had found the yellow top that matched Kathe's shorts, and another piece of Cora's nightie. Both items were drenched with blood, and neither Klaus nor Howie was in as much of a hurry as they had been at the start; a certain cold certainty must have been filtering into their hot hopes by then, working its way downward the way cold water does, sinking because it is heavier.
They cast into the woods, looking for signs, found none, cast in a second place with similar lack of result, then in a third. This time they found a fantail of blood splashed across the needles of a loblolly pine. They went in the direction it seemed to point for a little way, then began the casting-about process again. It was by then nine o'clock in the morning, and from behind them they began to hear shouting men and baying dogs. Rob McGee had put together a jackleg posse in the time it would have taken Sheriff Cribus to finish his first brandy-sweetened cup of coffee, and by quarter past the hour they reached Klaus and Howie Detterick, the two of them stumbling desperately around on the edge of the woods.
Soon the men were moving again, with Bobo's dogs leading the way. McGee let Klaus and Howie go on with them—they wouldn't have gone back if he'd ordered them, no matter how much they dreaded the outcome, and McGee must have seen that—but he made them unload their weapons. The others had done the same, McGee said; it was safer. What he didn't tell them nor did anyone else was that the Dettericks were the only ones who had been asked to turn their loads over to the deputy. Half-distracted and wanting only to go through to the end of the nightmare and be done with it, they did as he asked.
When Rob McGee got the Dettericks to unload their guns and give him their loads, he probably saved John Coffey's miserable excuse for a life. The baying, yawping dogs pulled them through two miles of scrub pine, always on that same rough northwest heading. Then they came out on the edge of the Trapingus River, which is wide and slow at that point, running southeast through low, wooded hills where families named Cray and Robinette and Duplissey still made their own mandolins and often spat out their own rotted teeth as they plowed; deep countryside where men were apt to handle snakes on Sunday morning and lie down in carnal embrace with their daughters on Sunday night.
I knew their families; most of them had sent Sparky a meal from time to time. On the far side of the river, the members of the posse could see the June sun glinting off the steel rails of a Great Southern branch line. About a mile downstream to their right, a trestle crossed toward the coal-fields of West Green.
Here they found a wide trampled patch in the grass and low bushes, a patch so bloody that many of the men had to sprint back into the woods and relieve themselves of their breakfasts. They also found the rest of Cora's nightgown lying in this bloody patch, and Howie, who had held up admirably until then, reeled back against his father and nearly fainted.
And it was here that Bobo Marchant's dogs had their first and only disagreement of the day. There were six in all, two bloodhounds, two bluetick hounds, and a couple of those terrierlike mongrels border Southerners call coon hounds. The coonies wanted to go northwest, upstream along the Trapingus; the rest wanted to go in the other direction, southeast.
They got all tangled in their leads, and although the papers said nothing about this part, I could imagine the horrible curses Bobo must have rained down on them as he used his hands—surely the most educated part of him—to get them straightened around again. I have known a few hound-dog men in my time, and it's been my experience that, as a class, they run remarkably true to type. Bobo shortleashed them into a pack, then ran Cora Detterick's torn nightgown under their noses, to kind of remind them what they were doing out on a day when the temperature would be in the mid-nineties by noon and the noseeums were already circling the heads of the possemen in clouds.
The coonies took another sniff, decided to vote the straight ticket, and off they all went downstream, in full cry. It wasn't but ten minutes later when the men stopped, realizing they could hear more than just the dogs. It was a howling rather than a baying, and a sound no dog had ever made, not even in its dying extremities.
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It was a sound none of them had ever heard anything make, but they knew right away, all of them, that it was a man. So they said, and I believed them. I think I would have recognized it, too. I have heard men scream just that way, I think, on their way to the electric chair. Not a lot—most button themselves up and go either quiet or joking, like it was the class picnic—but a few. Usually the ones who believe in hell as a real place, and know it is waiting for them at the end of the Green Mile.
Bobo shortleashed his dogs again. They were valuable, and he had no intention of losing them to the psychopath howling and gibbering just down yonder. The other men reloaded their guns and snapped them closed. That howling had chilled them all, and made the sweat under their arms and running down their backs feel like icewater. When men take a chill like that, they need a leader if they are to go on, and Deputy McGee led them. He got out in front and walked briskly I bet he didn't feel very brisk right then, though to a stand of alders that jutted out of the woods on the right, with the rest of them trundling along nervously about five paces behind.
He paused just once, and that was to motion the biggest man among them—Sam Hollis—to keep near Klaus Detterick. On the other side of the alders there was more open ground stretching back to the woods on the right. On the left was the long, gentle slope of the riverbank. They all stopped where they were, thunderstruck. I think they would have given a good deal to unsee what was before them, and none of them would ever forget it—it was the sort of nightmare, bald and almost smoking in the sun, that lies beyond the drapes and furnishings of good and ordinary lives—church suppers, walks along country lanes, honest work, love-kisses in bed.
There is a skull in every man, and I tell you there is a skull in the lives of all men. They saw it that day, those men—they saw what sometimes grins behind the smile. Sitting on the riverbank in a faded, bloodstained jumper was the biggest man any of them had ever seen—John Coffey. His enormous, splay-toed feet were bare. On his head he wore a faded red bandanna, the way a country woman would wear a kerchief into church.
Gnats circled him in a black cloud. Curled in each arm was the body of a naked girl. Their blonde hair, once curly and light as milkweed fluff, was now matted to their heads and streaked red. The man holding them sat bawling up at the sky like a moonstruck calf, his dark brown cheeks slicked with tears, his face twisted in a monstrous cramp of grief He drew breath in hitches, his chest rising until the snaps holding the straps of his jumper were strained, and then let that vast catch of air out in another of those howls.
So often you read in the paper that "the killer showed no remorse," but that wasn't the case here. John Coffey was torn open by what he had done The girls would not. They had been torn open in a more fundamental way. No one seemed to know how long they stood there, looking at the howling man who was, in his turn, looking across the great still plate of the river at a train on the other side, storming down the tracks toward the trestle that crossed the river. It seemed they looked for an hour or for forever, and yet the train got no farther along, it seemed to storm only in one place, like a child doing a tantrum, and the sun did not go behind a cloud, and the sight was not blotted from their eyes.
It was there before them, as real as a dogbite. I hear the train'd soprano what work with hers is this? The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies, It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess'd them, It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent waves, I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,. Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death, At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles, And that we call Being. Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither, If nothing lay more develop'd the quahaug in its callous shell were enough.
Mine is no callous shell, I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop, They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me. I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy, To touch my person to some one else's is about as much as I can stand. The sentries desert every other part of me, They have left me helpless to a red marauder, They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me.
I am given up by traitors, I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody else am the greatest traitor,. I went myself first to the headland, my own hands carried me there. You villain touch! Did it make you ache so, leaving me? Parting track'd by arriving, perpetual payment of perpetual loan, Rich showering rain, and recompense richer afterward. Sprouts take and accumulate, stand by the curb prolific and vital, Landscapes projected masculine, full-sized and golden.
Logic and sermons never convince, The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul. Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so, Only what nobody denies is so. A minute and a drop of me settle my brain, I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps, And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman, And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each other, And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it becomes omnific, And until one and all shall delight us, and we them.
And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest, And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven, And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery, And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue, And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.
I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits, grains, esculent roots, And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over, And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons, But call any thing back again when I desire it. In vain the speeding or shyness, In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach, In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd bones, In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes, In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying low, In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky, In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs, In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods, In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador, I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth. So they show their relations to me and I accept them, They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession. I wonder where they get those tokens, Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?
Myself moving forward then and now and forever, Gathering and showing more always and with velocity, Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them, Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers, Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.
A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses, Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears, Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground, Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving. His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him, His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return. I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion, Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you. My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps, I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents, I am afoot with my vision. By the city's quadrangular houses- in log huts, camping with lumber-men, Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed, Weeding my onion-patch or hosing rows of carrots and parsnips, crossing savannas, trailing in forests, Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a new purchase, Scorch'd ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my boat down the shallow river, Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where the buck turns furiously at the hunter, Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the otter is feeding on fish, Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,.
I visit the orchards of spheres and look at the product, And look at quintillions ripen'd and look at quintillions green. I fly those flights of a fluid and swallowing soul, My course runs below the soundings of plummets. I help myself to material and immaterial, No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me. I anchor my ship for a little while only, My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me.
I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping chasms with a pike-pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue. I ascend to the foretruck,. I take my place late at night in the crow's-nest, We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough, Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful beauty, The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is plain in all directions, The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my fancies toward them, We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon to be engaged, We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with still feet and caution, Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin'd city, The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities of the globe.
I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading watchfires, I turn the bridgroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself, I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips. My voice is the wife's voice, the screech by the rail of the stairs, They fetch my man's body up dripping and drown'd. I understand the large hearts of heroes, The courage of present times and all times, How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the steamship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm, How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faithful of days and faithful of nights, And chalk'd in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we will not desert you; How he follow'd with them and tack'd with them three days and would not give it up, How he saved the drifting company at last, How the lank loose-gown'd women look'd when boated from the side of their prepared graves, How the silent old-faced infants and the lifted sick, and the sharp-lipp'd unshaved men; All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine, I am the man, I suffer'd, I was there.
The disdain and calmness of martyrs, The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her children gazing on, The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence, blowing, cover'd with sweat,. The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous buckshot and the bullets, All these I feel or am. I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs, Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen, I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn'd with the ooze of my skin, I fall on the weeds and stones, The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close, Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with whip-stocks.
The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark/Book 2
Agonies are one of my changes of garments, I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person, My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe. I am the mash'd fireman with breast-bone broken, Tumbling walls buried me in their debris, Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades, I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels, They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.
I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is for my sake, Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy, White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared of their fire-caps, The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches. Distant and dead resuscitate, They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock myself. I am an old artillerist, I tell of my fort's bombardment, I am there again. Again the long roll of the drummers, Again the attacking cannon, mortars, Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive.
I take part, I see and hear the whole,. The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aim'd shots, The ambulanza slowly passing trailing its red drip, Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable repairs, The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the fan-shaped explosion, The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air. Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously waves with his hand, He gasps through the clot Mind not me- mind- the entrenchments.
Retreating they had form'd in a hollow square with their baggage for breastworks, Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemies, nine times their number, was the price they took in advance, Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone, They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv'd writing and seal, gave up their arms and march'd back prisoners of war. They were the glory of the race of rangers, Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship, Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate, Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters, Not a single one over thirty years of age.
The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads and massacred, it was beautiful early summer, The work commenced about five o'clock and was over by eight. None obey'd the command to kneel, Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and straight, A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead lay together, The maim'd and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw them there,. Some half-kill'd attempted to crawl away, These were despatch'd with bayonets or batter'd with the blunts of muskets, A youth not seventeen years old seiz'd his assassin till two more came to release him, The three were all torn and cover'd with the boy's blood.
At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies; That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young men. Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars? List to the yarn, as my grandmother's father the sailor told it to me.
Our foe was no sulk in his ship I tell you, said he, His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer, and never was, and never will be; Along the lower'd eve he came horribly raking us. We closed with him, the yards entangled, the cannon touch'd, My captain lash'd fast with his own hands. We had receiv'd some eighteen pound shots under the water, On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire, killing all around and blowing up overhead. Fighting at sun-down, fighting at dark, Ten o'clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain, and five feet of water reported, The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold to give them a chance for themselves.
The transit to and from the magazine is now stopt by the sentinels, They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust. Our frigate takes fire, The other asks if we demand quarter? If our colors are struck and the fighting done? Now I laugh content, for I hear the voice of my little captain, We have not struck , he composedly cries, we have just begun our part of the fighting. Only three guns are in use, One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy's main-mast, Two well serv'd with grape and canister silence his musketry and clear his decks.
The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially the main-top, They hold out bravely during the whole of the action.
Not a moment's cease, The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the powder-magazine. One of the pumps has been shot away, it is generally thought we are sinking. Serene stands the little captain, He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low, His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns. Toward twelve there in the beams of the moon they surrender to us.
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long, dull, tapering groan, These so, these irretrievable. In at the conquer'd doors they crowd! I am possess'd! Embody all presences outlaw'd or suffering, See myself in prison shaped like another man, And feel the dull unintermitted pain. For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep watch, It is I let out in the morning and barr'd at night. Not a mutineer walks handcuff'd to jail but I am handcuff'd to him and walk by his side, I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat on my twitching lips.
Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am tried and sentenced. Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp but I also lie at the last gasp, My face is ash-color'd, my sinews gnarl, away from me people retreat. Askers embody themselves in me and I am embodied in them, I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg. Somehow I have been stunn'd. Stand back! Give me a little time beyond my cuff'd head, slumbers, dreams, gaping, I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. That I could forget the mockers and insults! That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and bloody crowning. I remember now, I resume the overstaid fraction, The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves, Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me. I troop forth replenish'd with supreme power, one of an average unending procession, Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines, Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth, The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of years. Eleves, I salute you! Continue your annotations, continue your questionings.
Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it? Is he some Southwesterner rais'd out-doors? Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, California? The mountains? Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him, They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay with them. Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncomb'd head, laughter, and naivete, Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations, They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers, They are waited with the odor of his body or breath, they fly out of the glance of his eyes.
You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also. Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot, And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot,. And might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and days. Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself. You there, impotent, loose in the knees, Open your scarf'd chops till I blow grit within you, Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets, I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare, And any thing I have I bestow. I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me, You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you.
To cotton-field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean, On his right cheek I put the family kiss, And in my soul I swear I never will deny him. On women fit for conception I start bigger and nimbler babes. This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics. To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the door. Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed, Let the physician and the priest go home.
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I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will, O despairer, here is my neck, By God, you shall not go down! I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up, Every room of the house do I fill with an arm'd force, Lovers of me, bafflers of graves. Sleep- I and they keep guard all night, Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you, I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself, And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so.
I heard what was said of the universe, Heard it and heard it of several thousand years; It is middling well as far as it goes- but is that all? By my life-lumps! Come my children, Come my boys and girls, my women, household and intimates, Now the performer launches his nerve, he has pass'd his prelude on the reeds within. Easily written loose-finger'd chords- I feel the thrum of your climax and close. My head slues round on my neck, Music rolls, but not from the organ, Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine. Ever the hard unsunk ground, Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, ever the air and the ceaseless tides, Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real, Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn'd thumb, that breath of itches and thirsts, Ever the vexer's hoot!
Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking, To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally spooning, Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast never once going, Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then the chaff for payment receiving, A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming. This is the city and I am one of the citizens, Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets, newspapers, schools, The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate.
The little plentiful manikins skipping around in collars and tail'd coats,. I am aware who they are, they are positively not worms or fleas, I acknowledge the duplicates of myself, the weakest and shallowest is deathless with me, What I do and say the same waits for them, Every thought that flounders in me the same flounders in them.
I know perfectly well my own egotism, Know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less, And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself. Not words of routine this song of mine, But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring; This printed and bound book- but the printer and the printing-office boy? The well-taken photographs- but your wife or friend close and solid in your arms? The black ship mail'd with iron, her mighty guns in her turrets- but the pluck of the captain and engineers?
In the houses the dishes and fare and furniture- but the host and hostess, and the look out of their eyes? The sky up there- yet here or next door, or across the way? The saints and sages in history- but you yourself? Sermons, creeds, theology- but the fathomless human brain, And what is reason? To the mass kneeling or the puritan's prayer rising, or sitting patiently in a pew, Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting dead-like till my spirit arouses me, Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of pavement and land, Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.
One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang I turn and talk like man leaving charges before a journey. Down-hearted doubters dull and excluded, Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dishearten'd, atheistical, I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair and unbelief. How the flukes splash! How they contort rapid as lightning, with spasms and spouts of blood! Be at peace bloody flukes of doubters and sullen mopers, I take my place among you as much as among any, The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the same, And what is yet untried and afterward is for you, me, all, precisely the same.
I do not know what is untried and afterward, But I know it will in its turn prove sufficient, and cannot fail. Each who passes is consider'd, each who stops is consider'd, not single one can it fall. It cannot fall the young man who died and was buried, Nor the young woman who died and was put by his side, Nor the little child that peep'd in at the door, and then drew back and was never seen again, Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and feels it with bitterness worse than gall, Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and the bad disorder, Nor the numberless slaughter'd and wreck'd, nor the brutish koboo call'd the ordure of humanity, Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths for food to slip in, Nor any thing in the earth, or down in the oldest graves of the earth,.
Nor any thing in the myriads of spheres, nor the myriads of myriads that inhabit them, Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known. What is known I strip away, I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown. The clock indicates the moment- but what does eternity indicate? We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers, There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them. Births have brought us richness and variety, And other births will bring us richness and variety.
I do not call one greater and one smaller, That which fills its period and place is equal to any. Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother, my sister? I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me, All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation, What have I to do with lamentation? I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I an encloser of things to be.
My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs, On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps, All below duly travel'd, and still I mount and mount. Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me, Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there, I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist, And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon. Long I was hugg'd close- long and long. Immense have been the preparations for me, Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd me.
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen, For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings, They sent influences to look after what was to hold me. Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me, My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it. For it the nebula cohered to an orb, The long slow strata piled to rest it on, Vast vegetables gave it sustenance, Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it with care.
All forces have been steadily employ'd to complete and delight me, Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul. O manhood, balanced, florid and full. My lovers suffocate me, Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin, Jostling me through streets and public halls, coming naked to me at night, Crying by day, Ahoy! Old age superbly rising! O welcome, ineffable grace of dying days! Every condition promulges not only itself, it promulges what grows after and out of itself, And the dark hush promulges as much as any.
The Green Mile
I open my scuttle at night and see the far-sprinkled systems, And all I see multiplied as high as I can cipher edge but the rim of the farther systems. Wider and wider they spread, expanding, always expanding, Outward and outward and forever outward. My sun has his sun and round him obediently wheels, He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit, And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest inside them.
There is no stoppage and never can be stoppage, If I, you, and the worlds, and all beneath or upon their surfaces, were this moment reduced back to a pallid float, it would not avail the long run, We should surely bring up again where we now stand, And surely go as much farther, and then farther and farther. A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of cubic leagues, do not hazard the span or make it impatient, They are but parts, any thing is but a part. See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of that, Count ever so much, there is limitless time around that.
My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain, The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms, The great Camerado, the lover true for whom I pine will be there. I tramp a perpetual journey, come listen all! My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods, No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair, I have no chair, no church, no philosophy, I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange, But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll, My left hand hooking you round the waist, My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.
Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself. It is not far, it is within reach, Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know, Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land. Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth, Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go. If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip, And in due time you shall repay the same service to me, For after we start we never lie by again.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look'd at the crowded heaven, And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them, shall we be fill'd and satisfied then? And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond.
You are also asking me questions and I hear you, I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself. Sit a while dear son, Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink, But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I kiss you with a good-by kiss and open the gate for your egress hence. Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams, Now I wash the gum from your eyes, You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life. Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore, Now I will you to be a bold swimmer, To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.
The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived power, but in his own right,. Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear, Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak, Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than sharp steel cuts, First-rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a skiff, to sing a song or play on the banjo, Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with small-pox over all latherers, And those well-tann'd to those that keep out of the sun. I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?
I follow you whoever you are from the present hour, My words itch at your ears till you understand them. I do not say these things for a dollar or to fill up the time while I wait for a boat, It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as the tongue of you, Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosen'd. I swear I will never again mention love or death inside a house, And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or her who privately stays with me in the open air. If you would understand me go to the heights or water-shore, The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves key, The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words.
No shutter'd room or school can commune with me, But roughs and little children better than they. The young mechanic is closest to me, he knows me well, The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take me with him all day, The farm-boy ploughing in the field feels good at the sound of my voice, In vessels that sail my words sail, I go with fishermen and seamen and love them. The soldier camp'd or upon the march is mine, On the night ere the pending battle many seek me, and I do not fail them, On that solemn night it may be their last those that know me seek me. My face rubs to the hunter's face when he lies down alone in his blanket, The driver thinking of me does not mind the jolt of his wagon, The young mother and old mother comprehend me, The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget where they are, They and all would resume what I have told them.
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God, For I who am curious about each am not curious about God, No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death. I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself. Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then, In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go, Others will punctually come for ever and ever. To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes, I see the elder-hand pressing receiving supporting, I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors, And mark the outlet, and mark the relief and escape.
And as to you Corpse I think you are good manure, but that does not offend me, I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing, I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polish'd breasts of melons. And as to you Life I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths, No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before. I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven, O suns- O grass of graves- O perpetual transfers and promotions, If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing? Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest, Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing twilight, Toss, sparkles of day and dusk- toss on the black stems that decay in the muck, Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs.
I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night, I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected, And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring great or small. Wrench'd and sweaty- calm and cool then my body becomes, I sleep- I sleep long. I do not know it- it is without name- it is a word unsaid, It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on, To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me. Perhaps I might tell more. I plead for my brothers and sisters. Do you see O my brothers and sisters? It is not chaos or death- it is form, union, plan- it is eternal life- it is Happiness. And proceed to fill my next fold of the future. Listener up there! Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening, Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer. Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab. Who has done his day's work? Who wishes to walk with me? Will you speak before I am gone? I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yaws over the roofs of the world. The last scud of day holds back for me, It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds, It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun, I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags. I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles. You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, And filter and fibre your blood. Nothing to discuss.
No breathing room. No smoking room. They've already tried everything we have to offer, and found it wanting. Other side is offering Paradise, now! Thats game over. We've only ever been able to offer a better version of Purgatory: waiting. Waiting, and smoking, and The last episode of TINKER focussed in bleak, limping anti-crescendo all the previous episodes' suspended, clammy, spectral movement and counterpoint.
Betrayal, you couldnt help but think, was the human God that came through in the breach, in the absence of any ideological God that worked. Betrayal didnt let anyone down. Everyone got their own special lick of betrayal, at the end. Even if, as with Control, it was your own body that betrayed you. The episode ended in a double echo - Prideaux and the old friend who betrayed him; and Smiley and the spectral Anne.
I dont know if it was deliberate, but there seemed to be an echo set up between the wily feminine nomens of "Anne" and "Karla", made concrete by - what else? Another easily missed detail: the traitor, "Gerald the Mole", is double in another sense: he sleeps, guiltlessly, with both boys and girls. Betrayal is something that these characters both understand, inherently, as brual fact, but cannot process, completely, as emotional truth. I think this is probably the third time I've seen this Le Carre adaptation - and like some of the best popular art, it has had a different flavour at each different point in my life.
It ages with you. Each re view reveals more about you, as much as it. I can actually remember vividly the last time I saw the last episode. I was drinking whisky, alone, on New Years Eve. There was a telephone call. I suspect that the rhapsodic unveiling of Anne, post climactic coda, literally right at the end, outdoors, away from London - away from the smoke of the Smoke - is meant to signal a return to 'normality', to Life lived without fear, to womanly warm blood and Anne's "truer" reading of men and men's silly games of betrayal and duplicity and sneak.
But last night I suddenly thought: she's an idiot. She doesnt get any of it any clearer or better at all. Especially Smiley her ex husband , who she quite possibly mis reads entirely Maybe there's a lesson there - although whether it applies, outside the confines of a certain public school and Oxbridge educated man of a certain generation, a now dead or dying breed, gone like smoke BUT: there might be a whole subtext developed here on different modes of education, on how the Russians were taught to 'interpret' texts, and what texts, and by whom, and ditto the English.
Formalists vs Leavisites, say. The weakness of the English, ultimately being NOT - as the silly feather headed Anne thinks - that they are "puzzled by Life", that they are joyless tacticians or technicians, interested only in the echo of the trace of the secret motive, as dry and concentrated as a double martini barely even stirred, never mind shaken , unable to jump in to or embrace Life, all those cliches The flaw in the English 'Circus', is that they continue to read everyone by their own light, which is, in fact, all too fatally human. They can't go over to any dry, scientific formalism or structuralism or Marxism; they can't even believe that the other side really believes in all that nonsense.
Surely we're all human in the end, old boy And therefore they can only conceive of compromised human motives, never truly ideological ones. Humanism is the cigarette everyone ultimately shares - that is the hope that is, hopelessly, clung on to. Down to the last phlegmy breath. You can see that in the tears starting to form in Jim Prideaux's eyes in his final scene: returned to 'normal' life and job, but still haunted, still wracked. The flaw is not, as the cliche goes, that all these all too proper chaps can only live life at one or two removes - no.
Rather, the all too English "flaw" is that there is this persistent, stubborn, ineradicable haunting belief, somewhere in the back of the mind or the depths of the heart, in, as Greene put it, the Human Factor. They refuse to give in entirely to ideology - the unhealthy transgression being that they continue to read the Other Side by this measure too. They would prefer human weakness to ideological strength - a strange sort of nostalgia, but at least it is identifiably human.
At least you can sit down and have a few night cap drinks with it, and know that it will share its last cigarette with you That show's running jumping Clinique-faced "agents" wouldnt know what to do with a cigarette. They'd be frightened they might get sued by some secreatary for secondary smoke inhalation. They are avatars of Zizeks low tar, decaffeinated, fat free new world: agents without ideology. No smoke in your "I", no ideological mirror stage.
The well tailored tinkers of Le Carre's 'Circus' appeared to have no 'home life' whatsoever.
Smiley's London flat was the nearest we got to any such thing, and that was haunted by the absence of the fragrant Anne, now elsewhere. Indeed, the repetition across episodes, in different tones of voice and insinuendo, of the word "Anne", turned it into something like a code word for "elsewhere" or what was or might have been. It was, in its own way, a remarkably UN-sentimental piece of television, undeviating, monotone, but depthlessly rich. At times it felt something like a Noel Coward script, being played by a Pinter cast; or, maybe, vice versa.
The old Game of spying was all about memory; in the new world, nothing ever disappears, so you will never be able to forget anything long enough to have the pleasure of trying to foggily remember it, later on.