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  • Heterodox, and: The Inverted World, and: Pallid
  • Sydney Lea (bio)


But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore. . . .

—Luke 12:7

A and B would scarcely rememberWhen they weren't friends A knows BOnce had cancer His hair came backAfter the grim course of chemo His doctorsWere all persuaded they'd licked B's disease

B's tall and A sufficiently shorterThat not until lately has he noticed B's roundOf pattern baldness B's hair is backBut out of sight A kneels on the ground

The cancer's back too God if you're thereA whispers and truly know how to work wondersLet B's hair again grow normal naturalLet it naturally come that shininessLike mine This is no conventional prayer

Is it wrong A wonders as ever conventionalTo beg with his being's every fiberThat B may be thus strangely blessedPlain baldness now and so suddenly crucial [End Page 425]

The Inverted World

So there I was, just ducking under a wire—harmless, a telephone wire—that last night's stormhad slung low over our driveway. I caught my wheelsdownside of a bank I couldn't even seebecause of the brush, which by now had gone withered, brown.There wasn't a thing I could do. It felt so slow,that rolling over. I watched a small bird flitacross the road ahead, backlit by sun.

One mammoth oak must once have been struck by lightning,to judge by the flare of scar just under the crown,bright orange, but ringed with black by shock and heat.I'd never noticed before, and then againI'd never looked upward through a windshield that way.Of course I had plenty of time as well to cursemyself for being stupid. And yet I didn't.I heard another voice—no, I can't say

a voice, but something (don't ask me what or why)insisted right along on something else.My garage friend Cory came with wrecker and cable,put my wheels back under, and set things right.Soon I detected some lack, some hunger, it seemed.What may it have been? Much later, it's hard to tell,and if I try, no doubt I'll tell it wrong,the whole affair still strange as the strangest dream.

Did I fleetingly disremember what age must bring?Did I really lose sight of friends who'd either diedor were on their way to dying? Could I have watchedthat bird or that evening sun, which floated in [End Page 426] to soften the woods? I think I pictured my wedding,so lucky but decades old, as if it were now.The world in those instants appeared somehow to get betterby way of concurrent vision, recall, and forgetting,

and of being, however briefly, upside down. [End Page 427]


for my wife, from Lake Bled

Yesterday my Slovene friend,dear Marjan, took me out in the countryto an amphitheater fashioned by naturefrom palest marble. He wanted to show mea second-century petroglyphicRoman rendition of Mithras's bull.The monument gleamed, a sensation no doubt.But I looked on listless, as a lilac dovehopped stone to stone, each one as white

as this page I ponder. Now coasting swanson the lake below show a different pallorfrom paper or boulder or alpine snow.I can't even render absence of color.Blank? Clean? Ivory? Wan?My words are black. It's all I can make them.What value in them if we're not togetherwith these sights and bird-sounds and countless greensof mountain spring? My banalities gather.

It's such a waste, I whisper, and flinchas a brown kite skims, all wing and talon,across the water, its shadow a menacethat flushes some ducks. Their feathers rattle.My wasted witness. I'll soon be home,but no account of mine will makethe things I saw and heard seem true,or what on sensing them I felt,any more than these forced...


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