Et in Arcadia Ego

Poetry is an art of imitation... that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth--to speak metaphorically,
a speaking picture...
--Sir Philip Sidney, The Defence of Poesie



Cross had crossed over. He wasn’t sure what the Brooklyn initiation rite consisted of—a slice of overpriced cheesecake at Junior’s? But he was content with the move. He was more content that he had crossed over from a year of sorrow and confusion to a year full of promise and... well, confusion, he supposed. Cross sought to maintain a sanguine attitude, but it was difficult, especially as the Great Recession seemed to deepen with every passing day, like white cotton infused with a dark, purpling dye.

But there will always be woe and worry of woe, thought Cross. The new year was a fresh page—or, to be current, a blank screen; a blank screen that wasn’t an arbitrary division of seasons and revolutions around the sun. It was waiting, in the hum of light from his laptop, waiting to be inscribed with whatever light managed to slip through the cracks of his mundane concerns (though how to survive the spiraling downturn didn’t seem so mundane to Cross). Cross also had the suspicion that precisely those concerns would soon eclipse what really mattered, and that he was going to have to fight for the light.

And here it was, Twelfth Night, the Feast of Epiphany (how Cross loved those words, even though he wouldn’t have known the proper Christian rituals that went with them even if the epiphany itself had smacked his leaden brow), the new year nearly a week gone, and Cross was on some level exhausted. He felt exhausted by all he needed to do, all he planned to do, all he wanted. He might chalk it up to winter ennui, but he knew it was more than that, though how much more he didn’t want to guess.

It was the enormity of the task—the enormity of analyzing, revisiting, investigating what had happened to him during his long spell in limbo. Thoughts of it consumed him, especially while he explored his new neighborhood’s cold, trash-strewn streets—consumed him, that is, until he felt his chest tighten and he filed them away. Save it for when you’re at your desk, he told himself. But at his desk he only stared numbly at his memories.

There were new and marvelous diversions, of course, and Cross was very grateful for them. But he wondered how and when he would get down to work before his paying work began and drained some of his energies. Perhaps he was being too hard on himself; after all, he thought, you don’t fully recover on any timetable but Time’s. But so much of it had already been lost...

When Cross was eight or so, he’d gone away not to summer camp but to a winter camp, somewhere in Michigan. It was a collection of musty cabins in snowy clearing, high up in the hills. His father had volunteered to be one of the camp counselors, but Cross had dodged the bullet of being assigned to his father’s cabin. There were hikes and winter sports, and a memorable afternoon spent in a dry lake called the Devil’s Bowl, whose sides were smooth with packed snow, and no sled was needed to slide right to the bottom, dodging stray, straggly trees all the way down.

There was also a day allotted to cross-country skiing. Cross was unathletic, and hopelessly uncoordinated, but there was no way out of it. He strapped on the skis and grabbed hold of each pole as if they were levers to some invisible machine that needed constant stoking. But Cross’ movements were so ungainly that he moved like a long distance runner going all out at the bottom of a pool. Within minutes, he had fallen far behind the others; soon, he couldn’t see them at all. Breathing hard, frustrated, Cross might as well have been Sisyphus, rolling his rock endlessly up the mountain—except that Cross himself, his body that was not trained to respond like this, that never failed to betray him in physical exertion, was the rock.

By the time he’d reached the camp, the jokes were waiting: Cross can’t cross, Cross can’t cross. His anger at having to participate in something he cared nothing for and had no talent in was acute.

That’s how Cross sometimes felt these days—not angry, no... But he felt as if his limbs were encased in a snowsuit, his feet strapped to devices that made it hard to move, his arms working grimly and futilely at trying to move himself forward, to steer himself through the white expanse of bare trees that was the winter of his mind.

A dear friend of his had recently asked him what was it he wished for, what was it he wanted... Cross was at a loss. His wish list ran to several heavy volumes, each without an index. As for what he wanted... well, he wanted what he always wanted: to step upon the stage and play the part that he had been born (and so long understudied) to play... whatever that part was. And he wanted to come to the last act and find Viola, her disguise cast aside. But no one ever sees the day to day of the happy marriages that Shakespeare contrives to resolve each comedy. Like an old-fashioned movie, there is always a fade-out after the kiss... Cross suspected that he needed to play his part, now that the pandemonium shadow show of his long limbo had closed, and just let the kisses and the fade-outs sort themselves out.




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Reader Comments (2)


January 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpancakeslim

I have read this several times and each time I want to be dramatically dipped and kissed at the end.I keep giving up on love and then desperately wanting it... it changes by the hour!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

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