February 3, 2018
Eclogue III: Catching the Ball Makes the Catcher Feel Good

Catching the ball
makes the catcher
feel good, but
what is it one has
caught? Dropping
one’s bags in
the street on a
sunny day in New York,
to get down
on all fours
to search for a missing
earring, encouraged
by passersby taking
the long way around,
people wanting to help,
but they don’t know
what the earring looks
like, one begins
to regard that earring
as a golden key
whose keyhole is
the logo for your future.
Of course it’s reasonable to
feel good when your
plans work out,
but if you don’t catch
the ball, you’re condemned
to lonely brooding.
Well, so what
are you saying?
It doesn’t matter
if you don’t catch it? You
gotta catch as many
as you can.
Actually, it doesn’t
matter if you don’t
catch even one.
The fact is, you die,
and dying gives
meaning to your
choice of mate.
If you lived
forever, even if you
chose a lover for a
very good reason, you’d
eventually choose
another, and so
what. Moreover, vanity
is pleased to have
a starring role in
death. Death is
famous, and
because you play
a part in it, you
smirk when it comes
close, and smirk on the
way to a street
demonstration, and feel
heroic, seated in
the exit row.
Catching the ball makes
the catcher feel
good, but who
acknowledges
the skill of the thrower?
That the straight
man endures a lifetime
of neglect is as
bad as the lies we
tell our grandparents.
We’ve thrown
them a hundred balls
of fat. We need a
new kind of
getting to know new
people. What
do you call those
hedges that look like
an animal? A unified
beast. The Romans
made statues of people
they actually
knew, but the Greeks
were only
interested in showing
the range of poses.
The Roman ones
are like death masks of
real people. I’ve
always regarded that
level of detail as a sign
of Roman inferiority. Just
like the realistic
novel is inferior
to Homer. If you
zoom in on that
level of detail you
deliver a room
or a face, but if
you back up, you
can show the whole
world. It’s just vanity
that has to get in that
level of detail.
Fine, so I surrender
in the dentist’s
chair, like a
brontosaurus
who doesn’t know what’s
happening for a while,
like a brontosaurus
who doesn’t know what’s
happening at the far
edges of the body. And
here I make waiting
out of sorrow, for
the stadium lights
are out, for the success
that reshuffles the past, or
a sound night of sleep that
converts good
luck into skill—
and your today is my
tomorrow. And
when I finally met
my beautiful, promised
friend, she blushed colors
like a Christmas-tree ball,
open face like a cut-open
apple, with bumblebee
eyes. Those bees
have stung the surface
of the earth. They
have stung the surface
of the water. And she
brushed my wet
tangles in the car on a
bumpy road. She was
attractive, out of
the ordinary, maybe
a little frantic, and our
small-town lake was
famous, deservedly
so. And I have met a
woman watching
a man watching a man
watching a woman. And if you
can envision a dapper
young woman journalist
in a fedora at the
bottom of a waterfall
rearranging the rocks like
typewriter keys, then
you yourself are that woman.
So, how did you know
you were friends? It was like,
together we shared
the tragedy of not
saying what one really
thinks to avoid its
destruction in mid-air.
As a pair of neon
arrows, everything
we happened upon was
a target. But if “catching
the ball makes
the catcher feel good,” what
makes any of this history?
Right before dying or
performance, one tends
to notice something that might
have been crucial. But if you
survive and tell
someone about it,
it’s history.
So, what happened
when you went off
to join the march?
When we arrived, there
was just empty ground, they
were already packing
up bungee cords after
the storm. But we hadn’t
missed anything, we
were told. All the speakers
had caused pain because
they had been boring and
known it, and their
solution had been
to keep on talking.
And having found all
the faults, what was
left to discover? That
the color wheel can’t
go on forever, including
the color wheel
from white to black,
with all the colors
of dissatisfaction in
between. It turned out
we were two snobs who
could no longer provide
the relief of the
doppelgänger. And there it is,
you’re no more safe
from your doppelgänger than
you are from yourself.
But now even those
days are gone. From
the stern of the ship,
we watched our waving
friends on shore, who
had arrived too late, and
who berated us later for
leaving, but we had
already climbed over
the horizon. Bucketing
that massive
ship had already
taken priority over
the concavities
of the Atlantic and the little
dwelling places of mud,
and all the beings of
our childhood drew
closer their invisible
hands, as we went
through the motions of
virtue, which at least
boosted our morale. What
would you have done
differently? I would have
granted everyone I knew
amnesty. Instead, I kept
track of whether they
deserved it. What
can’t be repeated can’t be
relevant to the future. What
mustn’t be rehearsed
must be a shameful tale.

About the Author

Nadya Pittendrigh lives in Victoria, Texas, where she teaches at the University of Houston-Victoria.


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