Columns » Penny Post by Andrei Codrescu

What I Did on My Summer Vacation


For C.Y. Armand, author of "L'homme a venir," 1896*

City people are now returning from music fests, mountains dense with pines and saturated with violet, from communal rites of one kind or another. They are bringing back with them a tightening of the heart. Why can't the so-called real world be like a magical night of music moving the stars above a campfire in the sand? After surrendering one's self to a small and fragile band of humans brought together by yearning instead of profit, the workaday world is hard, like a construction site full of steel rods, a clockwork of stiff spines. I feel for us. Sure, there are people who've hardened into the shapes of the machine, but still their hearts flutter like sick birds inside the deepest cement cells. Unless the birds are dead in there and the news has not yet reached the surface. Fearful news! I hope no such memo ever reaches one. Hello, your heart is dead! Woe and betide. But if the birds are only sick there is still hope, there are still places to run to where people can take off their heavy armatures with help from friends and strangers. There are communities specializing in the blasting of cement and the freeing of sick birds. They call them "divines" or "vagabonds," but they are unshackled creatures scarred inside and outside, beginning to heal. There are also improvised, impromptu groupings encountering each other across burnt-out landscapes. There is music. There is a sky. There is an outside, still.

Small communities, wilful or not, can produce enough love to take one back to Bedlam to face the huge evil clockworks that cover every square inch where trees used to be. With enough love, one can soften the clockworks, if not rightdown melt them, and that's a blow for goodness. But maybe not. Love can be carried off by metaphors and guilt as much as by merciless ordering of inhuman hierarchies. Even the most efficient factory bears something of human origin, even if three times removed. And the origin, that's our small band wandering lost in an endless world gripped by terror and astonishment.

Somewhere in a dense forest hidden on the sunless side of an unknown mountain, there is a trembling blue egg still filled with the possible advent of human beings. It trembles to the sounds of aeolian musics and falling rocks. Here is where us Romantic poets, filled with awesomeness, found and then lost our way.

No, I will not get specific. This egg has no shell yet, humans aren't yet born.

* C.Y. Armand, little-read today, self-published three volumes of verse in Marseilles at the end of the 19th century. His long poem "L'homme a venir" is possibly the first literary example of the form tormenting schoolchildren for over a century now, namely, "What I did on my summer vacation." This homage to Armand is made entirely of words found in that poem.

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