Robert Sward

HALF A LIFE'S HISTORY

excerpted from The Jurassic Shales


        Scenario:  An amnesiac wakes one morning
        in London, England, in bed with two women.  In the
        process of recovering his memory, he goes back in
        time 160 million years to the Jurassic geological
        period to find his true original parents, the first
        of the flying dinosaurs.  The narrator is himself
        a flying dinosaur, and The Jurassic Shales ends
        with his being united with his father and mother.


Here I am writing to you
half a life's history
"A horse which throws the dreamer to the ground."
I am homesick and America has had a nervous breakdown.
I am taking shaman lessons and studying Karate.
My greatest complaint (you've offered to help) is amnesia.
Do you believe in transmigration of the soul?  Yes, I do too.
But what if it can happen not only when one dies, but
        several times in an afternoon?
And I'm sure it's not properly amnesia I am speaking of.
I go out of my body, I come back in.
I say amnesia because sometimes when this happens
        I forget just who I am.
I've been doing this, I believe, with some regularity for
         a quarter of a million years.  I'm doing it more
         and more frequently now because I'm unhappy.
          Even the light depresses me.  That is, the light
         on Oxford Street, 6 PM on a Sunday.  The light
        in Bloom's.  The light in Wimpy's.  I haven't seen
        light like this since the Middle Ages of the Animals.


We drink, we smoke, we go to parties.  Friday night
        we went to the dullest party in 3,000 years
        in Bayswater off the Moscow Road.
I thought the whole time of algae, worms,
        primitive brachiopods, molluscs, crustaceans,
I thought of my mother and those birds with the hollow
        bones.
I am in the library at Swiss Cottage
        eating chocolates in the children's room
What am I reading?  Probably I have gone mad.
I am reading up on the eohippus, the first true
        archaic horse.
I identify.  Those horses were no larger than dogs.
        I'm a dog and interested in horses
that were once my own size.
Why?  I don't know why.  Yes, I do.  It's because
        I feel I was once (also) a wooly rhinoceros.
That I am at this moment a wooly rhinoceros.
Anyway, I am no longer incapacitated by my erotic
        fantasies.
I am devoting my whole attention to insects, geology, etc.
Each morning I have friends come in to read me my
        biography and my passport.
Then I know who I am. Then I can pay attention
        to what needs to be done.

Who are these people anyway?  They think they speak English,
        but I don't understand a word they say.
My only reason for coming was to learn Karate with Kanazawa,
        who has left for Germany.
Oh, I've just gone out of my body and now I'm back.
What is happening in America where, I am convinced,
        in my previous existence, I was a Confederate
        soldier killed in action, 186-?
Well, it doesn't matter.  I'll find out soon enough and probably
        know anyway if I'd only think about it.


Before I was born, my mother who is the Mother of fire,
        gave birth to fire.  Then to the Sabine women
        and my sister.
My father, who has an upright tail, practices and earns his living
        in Chicago.  That he is a Rosicrucian and I am not
is no obstacle.  We have made our peace, and increasingly--
I might say this is a love poem for my father.  A love poem for
        the seven maidens with the heads of snakes.
Half a life's history.
Copyright CrossConnect, Inc. 1996


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