Sunday, November 7, 2010

Isn't a Man Sad?

But when he came home there was no one to tell what he had seen --and if he picked the flowers and brought them home in his hands, there was no one to give them to. And when at evening, past the dark blue shape of a far-off island, the sun sank under the edge of the sea like a red world vanishing, the hunter saw it all, but there was no one to tell what he had seen.
--Randall Jarrell, The Animal Family 

Is anything sadder than a train
That leaves when it's supposed to,
That has only one voice,
Only one route?
There's nothing sadder.

Except perhaps a cart horse,
Shut between two shafts
And unable even to look sideways.
Its whole life is walking.

And a man? Isn't a man sad?
If he lives in solitude a long time,
If he believes time has run its course,
A man is a sad thing too.

--Primo Levi, "Monday"

A man went out to his car one night, started the ignition, inserted a Chuck Berry disc into the CD player, and drove off into the darkness in search of space. He wanted to get out from under the street lights and the general overglow of the city, out beyond the tangle of freeways and the noise of rising and falling jets.

It was an old habit of his, to just pack his bags and go off in search of the unfamiliar. He'd been running from things most of his life, and had become expert in the art of retreat. He could by this time find the dead spots all over the country without an atlas. He knew how to follow rivers and find large bodies of dark water. He could feel the darkness drawing him like a magnet, and knew that where there was darkness there would be silence and space and, eventually, light.

There would be little towns thrown down in the middle of nowhere, towns where every home and business shut up early for the night. He'd roll down his windows and any music at all --Hank Snow, the Four Tops, Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed-- would sound like the most abrasive punk rock washing out into those dark and empty streets. There were forlorn motels in such places, motels where he'd have to rouse the owner and could pull his car right up to the door of his room.

On such nights and in such places he was almost capable of believing that he could still be anyone or anything, and that was a feeling he was trying to hold onto for dear life.


  1. And the International Sad Man (wholly ineffectual) cartel/cabal hearts you, Alec. Don't know how to do that heart thing on the computerized machinery, or I surely would.

  2. With all due respect, sir, perhaps the sad men might more modestly style themselves as a club or a consortium.

  3. I have been looking for you my whole life.