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How History Would Have It, and: Redemption, and: Arcadia, and: Watershed

From: The Missouri Review
Volume 36, Number 3, 2013
pp. 27-33 | 10.1353/mis.2013.0063

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

How History Would Have It, and: Redemption, and: Arcadia, and: Watershed
How History Would Have It

History was once written to instruct orpersuade. The church has taught us well.This is how to be a good king. And an ars historicais what two friends speak, over wine. So let usdescribe this evening in a constructive style.The man was happy with how the womanlistened and the closeness between them wasenough. Now you can take from this a lessonon how to be a good woman. Love one manwholly and learn not to grieve over what you cannever give others. We will leave the friendunnamed. After all, who wants sources? No oneliked the first cited history, unoriginal, uninterpretedand lacking in purpose to color the facts. It was grayoutside, cold, and the friend went away. She stayed,facing the café window a while. Here’s howto see it: All the people out there, heads bowedinto the winter, did not look at what they passedbecause they had already determined the conclusionat which they wanted to arrive. The way it shouldappear, as it is depicted, is that all of us noware heading toward something better. Is that nothow history would have it? We will illustratethe walkers’ forward strides. We will excisethe way the woman glances at a new face,then grooms her hair, that gesture of pausingand pushing back. [End Page 29]


A skinned bear looks like a human. A shot bearalways falls on his back, like he’s lookingat heaven. Human bodies are also like another’s—made in his image, it is said, by those who can believethat after this world we will go on to another.Making symbols, comparing one thing to the next,then another, in all this familiar, comforting likeningI can forget where I began. That skinned body,limbs spread for cutting, can I say now it looks likeit is ready for an angel’s flight?         But if we want allegory,         what of this finish?

When bears grow old and their teeth wear downtoo far to tear, they come out of deep woodsinto orchards to feed on apples, reaching upfor soft fruit with heavy paws. They standlike humans. Are bears like humans, hauntedby deaths or the less definite and so ceaseless lossesthat are love? Do bears too imagine understandingthat comes at the end, hope for redemption?Now, in the orchards, in the open—this is the timewhen it is easiest to see the bears, to get themin the rifle’s sights. [End Page 30]

I tried to leave behindeverything that could make meburn, to evade the urgesof change, by shutting myself up

in the country. I live apart,I stay in and spend eveningson quiet pursuits, studyinghistory. What I’ve learned

is that the old house I chosefor its worn, creaking woodwas built after a womantorched her first home,

that desperate for somethingnew. It’s to the house of herwanting, her flame azaleasall around, growing in closer,

that I have come to simplifymy desires. I wade in the creek,collecting from the water, piecesof china, edges charred. [End Page 31]


You claim the clear water in wilderness on the far coastis better because streams are filtered by mosses and lichensof forests never logged, and the lakes are filled by snowpack,white that has only ever touched white, melting to make water.A fallen leaf can be seen over 100 feet below the surface of a lake—such precision. An argument for purity. But is that what you wantto argue for, stranger? You’re leaning closer. Waters here are murky.It’s an ancient, worn landscape with slow moving rivers that lethundreds of kinds of life evolve...