Friday, November 20, 2015

Take A Picture Of This

Don Henley still delivers...

Henley's latest collection Cass County is clearly a country album.  Nothing at all wrong with that.  More than a few early Eagles tunes have been successfully covered by country bands.  Over the years many of Henley's ballads could easily have been crossover hits.  

If my adult life were a movie, Don Henley's songs could be used for pretty much the whole sound track.  Cass County expands on the narrative choices.  Along with That Old Flame, Words Can Break your Heart, Train in the Distance, and Where I Am Now, Take a Picture of This resonates exquisitely...

A long long time ago
When we were young and pretty
We ruled the world, we stopped the time, we knew it all, we owned this city
Running with the crowd, carefree and proud, I heard somebody say

Take a picture of this

The years went rushing by, in the twinkling of an eye, we rolled with the changes
The life we knew was gone
Our friends had all moved on, time rearranges
But on our wedding day, they all came back to say, congratulations

Take a picture of this

Then we raised a family of our own
We were so happy baby
But now those kids have grown and gone

I gave it everything I had, through the good times and the bad
But now I’m down here on the floor, cause I don’t know you anymore

Yeah, that’s a suitcase; yeah, that’s a ticket for a plane
There’s no one here to talk to, no reason to remain
When you spend all your time living in the past
With all those pictures that you took
Here’s one more for the book

Take a picture of this, this is me leaving
Take a picture of this, this is me walking away

Take a picture of this
Take a picture of this

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Zebra Stallion

My trophy is finally on display...

Haven't had anywhere appropriate to hang my zebra in all the years since I brought it home from the 1997 hunt in South Africa. Must say it fits right in on the largest wall of my cozy little log home man cave high the Prescott National Forest. Putting it up was a two man job. Erik and I celebrated the completion of this task with adult beverages. Seems as good a time as any for a reprint of an older post.

The Zebra Stallion

This little memoir was published in the Journal of the Thompson/Center Collector's Association...

Our original plan had been to drive to the mountain and spend the afternoon glassing for game. Then, shortly before sundown, we’d stake out a fence line where Marius Moolman, my professional hunter, had seen Kudu and Gemsbok spoor earlier in the day. We were three days into our ten day hunt with Bush Africa Safaris in the Republic of South Africa. Somewhere between the main house and the mountain the plan had changed. Jason, one of our guides, drove the Isuzu for about an hour as Marius; Philamon—our tracker; and I—their first handgun hunting client, looked for spoor. We saw Impala several times, but I had taken a nice ram on the first day and we saw none large enough to warrant bagging another.

Philamon signaled “halt” to Jason and spoke with Marius. “Philamon says there are some Blue Wildebeest just over there,” Marius translated. He pointed to a dense thicket to our left, about 20 yards off the road. We got out quietly and quickly and crept into the brush. After a few minutes of sneaking around Marius turned to me, “Zebra,” he whispered through a smile. He showed me their horse-like hoof prints in the soft, red earth. The hunt was on. We tiptoed after them slowly and quietly, but after a few minutes we heard them run off.

We went back to the truck and drove a bit further. Philamon got out to track the herd. Jason drove ahead a kilometer or so to a spot where we could watch them cross a road. Then we would pick up their trail and track them on foot. After a wait Philamon came to the road before the herd, or so it seemed. Philamon told Marius the zebra had crossed the road before we had even arrived.

Philamon, Marius, and I took up their trail. We crept at times, then walked easily, then slowed to a stop while Philamon pointed and signaled that he heard something. We moved on slowly, trying not to make any noise, trying to avoid the thorns—especially the wicked, little ones shaped like cat’s claws. All the while I was hoping it wouldn’t be a noise I made that would screw up the stalk. Of course I was only person making any noise. I had doffed the chest holster in which I had carried my Thompson/Center Contender hunting pistol the first few days of the hunt. It was fast enough and very comfortable, but it was the noisiest piece of leather I’ve ever owned. When I had told Marius at lunch that was giving up the holster he nodded and said, “Good idea.” As I was the last man in our group I carried my .44 Magnum single-shot with its ten inch barrel pointing backwards, grasping the barrel and fore end in my left hand. The sound of the thundering hooves told me, without need for translation, that the herd had moved away again. We continued after them.

The nearest town of any size in this part of the Northern Province—until recently referred to as the Northern Transvaal—is Ellisras. Bush Africa Safaris is located about an hour’s drive southeast of town. It is owned and operated by Schalk van Heerden and his lovely wife Terina. They hunt on his farm, his Uncle’s adjacent property, and at Schalk’s father’s place nearby. Schalk has arrangements to hunt at other properties in the Ellisras area, and south of Johannesburg, as well as a concession in Tanzania. The accommodations at Bush Africa Safaris are modern yet distinctly African. The meals are prepared by Terina and served family style. Anyone who has hunted with a friend at a family ranch would feel right at home. While there are wilder places to hunt in Africa, there is a lot to be said for a first time safari that offers electric lights and hot water showers.

Philamon hears the striped horses when I can hear nothing. Marius would tell me later that Philamon could hear their footsteps; I was not missing their unmistakable vocalizations. They run off again after making a racket. This time we run and quick march after them. Marius tells me, “Philamon knows a clearing they’ve likely made off to.”

We come round a thorn bush and there, finally, I can see zebra! Several of them are milling about, a hundred yards off or so. Philamon sets up the “sticks.” Shooting sticks are a tool I had not tried until hunting in Africa. They come in very handy when hunting on foot in the thornbush, as tall grass prevents shooting from prone, sitting, and frequently even kneeling positions, and most of the tree branches one might use as an improvised rest are routinely thick with thorns. I try sighting on the largest animal, but they’re standing in a cluster. I can’t make out a single target—and I suddenly understand that the zebra is as well camouflaged as any game animal in Africa—and even if I could pick one out I wouldn’t shoot as there is likely another animal behind it. “No shot!” I whisper. Marius agrees, “Don’t shoot.” The herd moves off and we creep after it. There’s a large zebra standing in an opening in the thick brush; the rest of the herd can be seen moving about nervously in a clearing behind it. Philamon sets the sticks again. I take the sticks in my left hand and rest the pistol. It’s still too far.

The herd moves again with the big one trailing behind; we move even closer this time. Philamon sets the sticks in the thigh high grass. I move behind the sticks and everything in the world disappears but the big zebra, my Contender pistol, and me. It is standing broadside, with its head turned toward me, straining to determine who we are and what we are up to. I cock the hammer and put my sights on the zebra’s left shoulder. There is nothing standing behind it. “Shoot it,” Marius says to me from somewhere else. He later estimated the range at about 90 yards. The sights are dancing as my chest heaves. Excitement? Exertion? Both. “Shoot it,” Marius urges “Now!” The sights are dancing, but they remain centered on the chest and shoulder of my target. I continue to press the trigger...BLAM! That was loud. Hit? “I heard the shot,” I thought to myself, “I shouldn’t have heard the shot if I was concentrating enough.” It’s hit! It staggers a few steps, but it does not fall down. One of its front legs is obviously broken. Which one? Why? “Please don’t let me have screwed up the shot!” I wish silently to myself.

“Shoot it again!” Marius orders as the rest of the world returns. He raises his rifle as he steps up beside me. “No, let me finish this!” I remember thinking; I do not remember if I spoke the words aloud. Philamon is running. I follow him at a sprint as I break the pistol’s action to reload. The zebra is trying to run, staggering, stopping, struggling to stand. We’re leaping through thornbrush that tears at my clothing and my skin as I pass, jumping over aardvark holes, all the while hoping not to loose sight of the badly wounded zebra. I put the empty cartridge case in my pocket. I swear I did. I still have it. That’s what a handloader’s concern for recovering cartridge cases at the range will do to you. Let your cases drop to the ground when you practice. I insert another round and snap the action shut. We close in on the zebra. “Shoot it again!” Marius yells from behind us. I stop, cock the pistol, and put my sights on the wounded animal. It’s quartering away, at a distance Marius later estimated was about 40 yards. It pauses, looking at me over its right shoulder. I aim for the left shoulder—it will have to pass through the paunch to get there—and press...Blam! A red spot appears on its belly. The zebra staggers, steps forward, and crashes heavily to the ground. I reload as I trot closer. I put the empty in my pocket again. No telling how long it will take to deprogram this nasty habit. The zebra butts the ground with its head, as though challenging me to come close enough for it to take one last crack at me. I warily approach the fallen beast and come too close. It struggles to its feet for a few more steps. It stumbles and falls. It’s all over, but I want it done, right now. I put my sights on its chest and press the trigger at a range of 20 yards...Blam. It shudders as another scarlet spot blossoms on its hide; this one just behind the shoulder. Then it slowly slumps over and finally expires.

There are backslaps and handshakes all around. The zebra was male, the herd stallion. I had not known that until now, and I am glad to hear it. He is in prime condition, a fine enough trophy for a rifle hunter, but all the more special for a handgun hunter. The hunt has lasted over an hour and a half and covered over two kilometers since we last left the truck. What a great day!

Philamon set off on foot to find Jason and the truck. They return, along with one of my hunting partners, Greg Clemmer, an hour or so later. Greg hands me a lukewarm Castle Lager. I’ve never had a better beer in my life. The electric winch is on the Land Cruiser, not the Isuzu, so it takes all five of us to wrestle my trophy into the bed of the pickup. Back at camp the stallion is cleaned up and Marius, and Philamon, and I pose for pictures. I look at the photographs now thinking “Was I really that tired? Was I really that happy?” Ice cold Castles are passed all round. We watch closely as Jason, Philamon, Waynand—another guide, and Jan—the camp skinner, dress my zebra. We confirm that the first of the three 320 grain hard lead bullets struck a fatal blow, entering through the left shoulder without hitting bones, punching through the ribs coming and going, striking the front lobes of the lungs, lacerating the heart, then shattering the humerus in the right shoulder. The stallion would have died, but maybe not quickly, and certainly not painlessly. The second shot also found its mark, penetrating the paunch, coursing through the length of the left lung, punching out of the rib cage, and lodging in the left shoulder. The last shot penetrated the ribs coming and going as it pulped a path through both lungs. Any one of the shots would have killed my trophy, but it took all three to make him lie down and give up.

I experienced that special sort of mixed emotions hunters sometimes feel when the gravity of taking another life for sport—for the sake of the hunt—sets in. I’ve felt compassion for other game, starting with that indestructible little Gadwall that was my first waterfowl kill so many years ago; and for most of the game I’ve taken since then. This Zebra stallion was different somehow. It evokes memories of visits to the zoo, the black and white plastic animal in the toy chest, and the last page of my alphabet primer. I think about not using the pistol any more this trip. It was a close thing out there—using an iron-sighted, single-shot pistol on a Zebra—though Marius and Schalk emphasize that hits from .300’s and .375’s have not always done better.

Marius and I had talked about hunting while we waited for the truck that evening, as the sun set and the stars came out. We agreed it was important to ask ourselves “Why do we hunt?” We agreed the answer is probably as simple as the notion that hunting is not just something we do, “Hunter” is something we are.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Son Has Come To Visit

Erik doesn't know when he's leaving, so I guess that makes him my roommate...

At first I wondered if all his stuff would fit in the loft.

Not to worry.

Now all he needs to do is put everything in its place.

At least his bookshelf has been loaded.  First things first!

The 43rd Chapter of the Book of Job

A Masque Of Reason, by Robert Frost...

One of my favorite Bible stories. It's been neatly deconstructed by Jung. At Frost's hands it receives the ending it deserved.

A FAIR oasis in the purest desert.
A man sits leaning back against a palm.
His wife lies by him looking at the sky.

MAN You’re not asleep?

WIFE No, I can hear you. Why?

MAN I said the incense tree’s on fire again.

WIFE You mean the Burning Bush?

MAN The Christmas Tree.

WIFE I shouldn’t be surprised.

MAN The strangest light!

WIFE There’s a strange light on everything today.

MAN The myrrh tree gives it. Smell the rosin burning?

The ornaments the Greek artificers
Made for the Emperor Alexius,
The Star of Bethlehem, the pomegranates,
The birds, seem all on fire with Paradise.
And hark, the gold enameled nightingales
Are singing. Yes, and look, the Tree is troubled.
Someone’s caught in the branches.

WIFE So there is.

He can’t get out.

MAN He’s loose! He’s out!

WIFE It’s God.

I’d know Him by Blake’s picture anywhere.
Now what’s He doing?

MAN Pitching throne, I guess.

Here by our atoll.

WIFE Something Byzantine.

(The throne’s a plywood flat, prefabricated.
That God pulls lightly upright on its hinges
And stands beside, supporting it in place.)

Perhaps for an Olympic Tournament,
Or Court of Love.

MAN More likely Royal Court—
Or Court of Law, and this is Judgment Day.
I trust it is. Here’s where I lay aside
My varying opinion of myself
And come to rest in an official verdict.
Suffer yourself to be admired, my love,
As Waller says.

WIFE Or not admired. Go over

And speak to Him before the others come.
Tell Him He may remember you: you’re Job.

GOD Oh, I remember well: you’re Job, my Patient.

How are you now? I trust you’re quite recovered,
And feel no ill effects from what I gave you.

JOB Gave me in truth: I like the frank admission.

I am a name for being put upon.
But, yes, I’m fine, except for now and then
A reminiscent twinge of rheumatism.
The let-up’s heavenly. You perhaps will tell us
If that is all there is to be of Heaven,
Escape from so great pains of life on earth
It gives a sense of let-up calculated
To last a fellow to Eternity.

GOD Yes, by and by. But first a larger matter.

I’ve had you on my mind a thousand years
To thank you someday for the way you helped me
Establish once for all the principle
There’s no connection man can reason out
Between his just deserts and what he gets.
Virtue may fail and wickedness succeed.
‘Twas a great demonstration we put on.
I should have spoken sooner had I found
The word I wanted. You would have supposed
One who in the beginning was the Word
Would be in a position to command it.
I have to wait for words like anyone.
Too long I’ve owed you this apology
For the apparently unmeaning sorrow
You were afflicted with in those old days.
But it was of the essence of the trial
You shouldn’t understand it at the time.
It had to seem unmeaning to have meaning.
And it came out all right. I have no doubt
You realize by now the part you played
To stultify the Deuteronomist
And change the tenor of religious thought.
My thanks are to you for releasing me
From moral bondage to the human race.
The only free will there at first was man’s,
Who could do good or evil as he chose.
I had no choice but I must follow him
With forfeits and rewards he understood—
Unless I like to suffer loss of worship.
I had to prosper good and punish evil.
You changed all that. You set me free to reign.
You are the Emancipator of your God,
And as such I promote you to a saint.

JOB You hear him, Thyatira: we’re a saint.

Salvation in our case is retroactive.
We’re saved, we’re saved, whatever else it means.

JOBS’S WIFE Well, after all these years!

JOB This is my wife.

JOB’S WIFE If You’re the deity I assume You are—

(I’d know You by Blake’s picture anywhere)—

GOD The best, I’m told, I ever have had taken.

JOB’S WIFE—I have a protest I would lodge with You.

I want to ask You if it stands to reason
That women prophets should be burned as witches
Whereas men prophets are received with honor.

JOB Except in their own country, Thyatira.

GOD You’re not a witch?


GOD Have you ever been one?

JOB Sometimes she thinks she has and gets herself

Worked up about it. But she really hasn’t—
Not in the sense of having to my knowledge
Predicted anything that came to pass.

JOB’S WIFE The witch of Endor was a friend of mine.

GOD You wouldn’t say she fared so very badly.

I noticed when she called up Samuel
His spirit had to come. Apparently
A witch was stronger than a prophet there.

JOB’S WIFE But she was burned for witchcraft.

GOD That is not

Of record in my Note Book.

JOB’S WIFE Well, she was.

And I should like to know the reason why.

GOD There you go asking for the very thing

We’ve just agreed I didn’t have to give.

(The throne collapses. But He picks it up
And this time locks it up and leaves it.)

Where has she been the last half hour or so?

She wants to know why there is still injustice.
I answer flatly: That’s the way it is,
And bid my will avouch it like Macbeth.
We may as well go back to the beginning
And look for justice in the case of Segue.

JOB Oh, Lord, let’s not go back to anything.

GOD Because your wife’s past won’t bear looking into?

In our great moment what did you do, Madam?
What did you try to make your husband say?

JOB’S WIFE No, let’s not live things over. I don’t care.

I stood by Job. I may have turned on You.
Job scratched his boils and tried to think what he
Had done or not done to or for the poor.
The test is always how we treat the poor.
It’s time the poor were treated by the state
In some way not so penal as the poorhouse.
That’s one thing more to put on Your agenda.
Job hadn’t done a thing, poor innocent.
I told him not to scratch: it made it worse.
If I said once I said a thousand times,
Don’t scratch! And when, as rotten as his skin,
His tents blew all to pieces, I picked up
Enough to build him every night a pup tent
Around him so it wouldn’t touch and hurt him.
I did my wifely duty. I should tremble!
All You can seem to do is lose Your temper
When reason-hungry mortals ask for reasons.
Of course, in the abstract high singular
There isn’t any universal reason:
And no one but a man would think there was.
You don’t catch women trying to be Plato.
Still there must be lots of unsystematic
Stray scraps of palliative reason
It wouldn’t hurt You to vouchsafe the faithful.
You thought it was agreed You needn’t give them.
You thought to suit Yourself. I’ve not agreed
To anything with anyone.

JOB There, there,
You go to sleep. God must await events
As well as words.

JOB’S WIFE I’m serious. God’s had

Aeons of time and still it’s mostly women
Get burned for prophecy, men almost never.

JOB God needs time just as much as you or I

To get things done. Reformers fail to see that.
She’ll go to sleep. Nothing keeps her awake
But physical activity, I find.
Try to read to her and she drops right off.

GOD She’s beautiful.

JOB Yes, she was just remarking

She now felt younger by a thousand years
Than the day she was born.
That’s about right,
I should have said. You got your age reversed.
When time was found to be a space dimension
That could, like any space, be turned around in?

JOB Yes, both of us: we saw to that at once.

But, God, I have a question to raise.
(My wife gets in ahead of me with hers.)
I need some help about this reason problem
Before I am too late to be got right
As to what reasons I agree to waive.
I’m apt to string along with Thyatira.
God knows—or rather, You know (God forgive me)
I waived the reason for my ordeal—but—
I have a question even there to ask—
In confidence. There’s no one here but her,
And she’s a woman: she’s not interested
In general ideas and principles.

GOD What are her interests, Job?

JOB Witch-women’s rights.

Humor her there or she will be confirmed
In her suspicion You’re no feminist.
You have it in for women, she believes.
Kipling invokes You as Lord God of Hosts.
She’d like to know how You would take a prayer
That started off Lord God of Hostesses.

GOD I’m charmed by her.

JOB Yes, I could see You were.

But to my question. I am much impressed
With what You say we have established.
Between us, You and I.

GOD I make you see?

It would be too bad if Columbus-like
You failed to see the worth of your achievement.

JOB You call it mine.

GOD We groped it out together.

Any originality it showed
I give you credit for. My forte is truth,
Or metaphysics, long the world’s reproach
For standing still in one place true forever;
While science goes self-superseding on.
Look at how far we’ve left the current science
Of Genesis behind. The wisdom there though,
Is just as good as when I uttered it.
Still, novelty has doubtless an attraction.

JOB So it’s important who first thinks of things?

GOD I’m a great stickler for the author’s name.

By proper names I find I do my thinking.

JOB’S WIFE God, who invented earth?

JOB What, still awake?

GOD Any originality it showed

Was of the Devil. He invented Hell,
False premises that are the original
Of all originality, the sin
That felled the angels, Wolsey should have said.
As for the earth, we groped that out together,
Much as your husband Job and I together
Found out the discipline man needed most
Was to learn his submission to unreason;
And that for man’s own sake as well as mine,
So he won’t find it hard to take his orders
From his inferiors in intelligence
In peace and war—especially in war.

JOB So he won’t find it hard to take his war.

GOD You have the idea. There’s not much I can tell you.

JOB All very splendid. I am flattered proud

To have been in on anything with You.
‘Twas a great demonstration if You say so.
Though incidentally I sometimes wonder
Why it had to be at my expense.

GOD It had to be at somebody’s expense.

Society can never think things out:
It has to see them acted out by actors,
Devoted actors at a sacrifice—
The ablest actors I can lay my hands on.
Is that your answer?

JOB No, for I have yet

To ask my question. We disparage reason.
But all the time it’s what we’re most concerned with.
There’s will as motor and there’s will as brakes.
Reason is, I suppose, the steering gear.
The will as brakes can’t stop the will as motor
For very long. We’re plainly made to go.
We’re going anyway and may as well
Have some say as to where we’re headed for;
Just as we will be talking anyway
And may as well throw in a little sense.
Let’s do so now. Because I let You off
From telling me Your reason, don’t assume
I thought You had none. Somewhere back
I knew You had one. But this isn’t it
You’re giving me. You say we groped this out.
But if You will forgive me the irreverence,
It sounds to me as if You thought it out,
And took Your time to it. It seems to me
An afterthought, a long long afterthought.
I’d give more for one least beforehand reason
Than all the justifying ex-post-facto
Excuses trumped up by You for theologists.
The front of being answerable to no one
I’m with You in maintaining to the public.
But Lord, we showed them that. The audience
Has all gone home to bed. The play’s played out.
Come, after all these years—to satisfy me.
I’m curious. And I’m a grown-up man:
I’m not a child for You to put me off
And tantalize me with another “Oh, because.”
You’d be the last to want me to believe
All Your effects were merely lucky blunders.
That would be unbelief and atheism.
The artist in me cries out for design.
Such devilish ingenuity of torture.
Did seem unlike You, and I tried to think
The reason might have been some other person’s.
But there is nothing You are not behind.
I did not ask then, but it seems as if
Now after all these years You might indulge me.
Why did You hurt me so? I am reduced
To asking flatly for a reason—outright.

GOD I’d tell you, Job—

JOB All right, don’t tell me then

If you don’t want to. I don’t want to know.
But what is all this secrecy about?
I fail to see what fun, what satisfaction
A God can find in laughing at how badly
Men fumble at the possibilities
When left to guess forever for themselves.
The chances are when there’s so much pretense
Of metaphysical profundity
The obscurity’s a fraud to cover nothing.
I’ve come to think no so-called hidden value’s
Worth going after. Get down into things
It will be found there’s no more given there
Than on the surface. If there ever was,
The crypt was long since rifled by the Greeks.
We don’t know where we are, or who we are.
We don’t know one another; don’t know You;
Don’t know what time it is. We don’t know, don’t we?
Who says we don’t? Who got up these misgivings?
Oh, we know well enough to go ahead with.
I mean we seem to know enough to act on.
It comes down to a doubt about the wisdom
Of having children—after having had them,
So there is nothing we can do about it
But warn the children they perhaps should have none.
You could end this by simply coming out
And saying plainly and unequivocally
Whether there’s any part of man immortal.
Yet You don’t speak. Let fools bemuse themselves
By being baffled for the sake of being.
I’m sick of the whole artificial puzzle.

JOB’S WIFE You won’t get any answers out of God.

GOD My kingdom, what an outbreak!

JOB’S WIFE Job is right.

Your kingdom, yes, Your kingdom come on earth.
Pray tell me what does that mean. Anything?
Perhaps that earth is going to crack someday
Like a big egg and hatch a heaven out
Of all the dead and buried from their graves.
One simple little statement from the throne
Would put an end to such fantastic nonsense;
And, too, take care of twenty of the four
And twenty freedoms on the party docket.
Or is it only four? My extra twenty
Are freedoms from the need of asking questions.
(I hope You know the game called twenty questions.)
For instance, is there such a thing as Progress?
Job says there’s no such thing as Earth’s becoming
An easier place for man to save his soul in.
Except as a hard place to save his soul in,
A trial ground where he can try himself
And find out whether he is any good,
It would be meaningless. It might as well
Be Heaven at once and have it over with.

GOD Two pitching on like this tend to confuse me.

One at a time, please. I will answer Job first.
I’m going to tell Job why I tortured him
And trust it won’t be adding to the torture.
I was just showing off to the Devil, Job,
As is set forth in chapters One and Two.
(Job takes a few steps pacing.) Do you mind?
(God eyes him anxiously.)

JOB No. No. I mustn’t.

‘Twas human of You. I expected more
Than I could understand and what I get
Is almost less than I can understand.
But I don’t mind. Let’s leave it as it stood.
The point was it was none of my concern.
I stick to that. But talk about confusion!
How is that for a mix-up, Thyatira?
Yet I suppose what seems to us confusion
Is not confusion, but the form of forms,
The serpent’s tail stuck down the serpent’s throat,
Which is the symbol of eternity
And also of the way all things come round,
Or of how rays return upon themselves,
To quote the greatest Western poem yet.
Though I hold rays deteriorate to nothing,
First white, then red, then ultra red, then out.

GOD Job, you must understand my provocation.

The tempter comes to me and I am tempted.
I’d had about enough of his derision
Of what I valued most in human nature.
He thinks he’s smart. He thinks he can convince me
It is no different with my followers
From what it is with his. Both serve for pay.
Disinterestedness never did exist
And if it did, it wouldn’t be a virtue.
Neither would fairness. You have heard the doctrine.
It’s on the increase. He could count on no one:
That was his look out. I could count on you.
I wanted him forced to acknowledge so much.
I gave you over to him, but with safeguards.
I took care of you. And before you died
I trust I made it clear I took your side
Against your comforters in their contention
You must be wicked to deserve such pain.
That’s Browning and sheer Chapel Non-conformism.

JOB God, please, enough for now. I’m in no mood

For more excuses.

GOD What I meant to say:

Your comforters were wrong.

JOB Oh, that committee!

GOD I saw you had no fondness for committees.

Next time you find yourself pressed on to one
For the revision of the Book of Prayer
Put that in if it isn’t in already:
Deliver us from committees. ‘Twill remind me.
I would do anything for you in reason.

JOB Yes, yes.

GOD You don’t seem satisfied.

JOB I am.

GOD You’re pensive.

JOB Oh, I’m thinking of the Devil.

You must remember he was in on this.
We can’t leave him out.

GOD No. No, we don’t need to.

We’re too well off.

JOB Someday we three should have

A good old get-together celebration.

GOD Why not right now?

JOB We can’t without the Devil.

GOD The Devil’s never very far away.

He too is pretty circumambient.
He has but to appear. He’ll come for me,
Precipitated from the desert air.
Show yourself, son. I’ll get back on my throne
For this I think. I find it always best
To be upon my dignity with him.

(The Devil enters like a sapphire wasp
That flickers mica wings. He lifts a hand
To brush away a disrespectful smile.
Job’s wife sits up.)

JOB’S WIFE Well, if we aren’t all here,
Including me, the only Dramatis
Personae needed to enact the problem.

JOB We’ve waked her up.

JOB’S WIFE I haven’t been asleep.

I’ve heard what you were saying—every word.

JOB What did we say?

JOB’S WIFE You said the Devil’s in it.

JOB She always claims she hasn’t been asleep.

And what else did we say?

JOB’S WIFE Well, what led up—

Something about—(The Three men laugh.)
— The Devil’s being God’s best inspiration.

JOB Good, pretty good.

JOB’S WIFE Wait till I get my Kodak.
Would you two please draw in a little closer?
No—no, that’s not a smile. That’s a grin.
Satan, what ails you? Where’s the famous tongue,
Thou, onetime Prince of Conversationists?
This is polite society you’re in
Where good and bad are mingled everywhichway,
And ears are lent to any sophistry
Just as if nothing mattered but our manners.
You look as if you either hoped or feared
You were more guilty of mischief than you are.
Nothing has been brought out that for my part
I’m not prepared for or that Job himself
Won’t find a formula for taking care of.

SATAN Like the one Milton founded to fool himself

About his blindness.

JOB’S WIFE Oh, he speaks! He can speak!

That strain again! Give me excess of it!
As dulcet as a pagan temple gong!
He’s twitting us. Oh, by the way, you haven’t
By any chance a Lady Apple on you?
I saw a boxful in the Christmas market.
How I should prize one personally from you.

GOD Don’t you twit. He’s unhappy. Church neglect

And figurative use have pretty well
Reduced him to a shadow of himself.

JOB’S WIFE That explains why he’s so diaphanous

And easy to see through. But where’s he off to?
I thought there were to be festivities
Of some kind. We could have charades.

GOD He has his business he must be about.

Job mentioned him and so I brought him in
More to give his reality its due
Than anything.

JOB’S WIFE He’s very real to me

And always will be. Please don’t go. Stay, stay
Together we will go with you along.
There are who won’t have enough of you
If you go now. Look how he takes no steps!
He isn’t really going, yet he’s leaving.

JOB (Who has been standing dazed with new ideas)

He’s on that tendency that like the Gulf Stream,
Only of sand not water, runs through here.
It has a rate distinctly different
From the surrounding desert; just today
I stumbled over it and got tripped up.

JOB’S WIFE Oh, yes, that tendency! Oh, do come off it.
Don’t let it carry you away. I hate
A tendency. The minute you get on one
It seems to start right off accelerating.
Here, take my hand.
(He takes it and alights
In three quick steps as off an escalator.
The tendency, a long, long narrow strip
Of middle-aisle church carpet, sisal hemp,
Is worked by hands invisible off stage.)
I want you in my group beside the throne—
Must have you. There, that’s just the right arrangement.
Now someone can light up the Burning Bush
And turn the gold enameled artificial birds on.
I recognize them. Greek artificers
Devised them for Alexius Commenus.
They won’t show in the picture. That’s too bad.
Neither will I show. That’s too bad moreover.
Now if you three have settled anything
You’d as well smile as frown on the occasion.

(Here endeth chapter forty-three of Job.)