Published on: 1/6/2010
An Atheist in Narnia
Yesterday I fell into the muddy fissure
between this yawning awning of space-time and my maple
tree. I was raking leaves in a cocoon of gossamer weather
with the coming rain snagging on my argyle sweater, and then
I found myself sunk in someone else's sunlight
with a mouthful of seashore sand.
I said bet this planet goes in elliptical orbit. My shadow
is my friend. If I had a compass
and a firm mathematical education, I could find someplace
with a payphone, a train schedule, or a registered nurse.
These satyrs staggered up to me or maybe they were fauns.
I couldn't understand their language but
they didn't look drunk on anything
at all. I said is one of you Tumnus, do you have steam power?
I bet you decline your nouns like the Paternoster, except
Lewis was Anglican, right?
Off to the right I saw some kind of light. It didn't flicker
so I guessed it was a herald of civilization,
not just the saintly mirages that prick at troubled
sailors' eyes. Some beavers saw me. I said thought you
were freshwater creatures, let me see your engineering.
They hissed witch, but my skin is ruddy and not
at all beautiful. I uncurled my hands to show
they were empty of curses, weapons, and ill
intent. They weren't convinced
but instead of decapitating me,
they joined paws adorably and tried
to sing me clean.
I asked is that fire on the cliffside there the castle
called Cair Paravel, trying to sound like a feudal petitioner.
Take me to Peter the High King, no wait
unless he's dead. Then take me to his successor,
I'm an unwilling ambassador and I don't belong.
Which way is Lantern Waste?
If I walk west through there, could I end up
in the estate of an aging academic, listening
on ham radio to the Battle for Britain?
Maybe it's too cold there
for these Michelle D sandals or it's been sealed
by executive order, ever since you lost
those kings and queen to World War II.
I moved on until the sea blurred to meadow. I said
the wind here tastes different, like honeysuckle,
what? I guess the geography's unruly
in a dead man's imagination, I wonder what
their system of longitude looks like.
But it was growing dark and I was getting worried
about bands of marauders, this wasn't any golden age.
And anyway I've never shot an arrow and
I'd be useless in a fight, modern ingenuity
notwithstanding, unless these people were constructed
on a delicate medieval scale. I knew I come from
a post-pasteurization generation but
I haven't been immunized against their plagues.
If I die here, do I wake up back in Oakland
or do my bones start to gel and decompose
until I'm left an emulsion on their forest floor
with the twilight streaming through soggy eye sockets?
If I die here would a baby lantern sprout
to mark my burial ground, would some knight
ride by and cry original sin?
That's when the lion slipped out gold
between the shadows, grander than that moody pride
leader from the San Francisco zoo. I didn't scream
because he was cleaning himself without
looking at me and it was the wrong biome,
but I stalked up to him and stuttered
I know what your name is, you don't
work miracles in my world anymore!
He bared his teeth, but I couldn't tell what
that was supposed to mean: hunger or vegetarianism
or a carnivore's truce or
ego-te-absolvo or I-told-you-so.
I fell to my knees and crawled away backwards, but then
I bumped against the blood brick side
of my bungalow, was rocked by
the green-gray anthems of the new rain.
You know I can't even say now
I've been to Narnia and all I got
was this King James Bible.
Anyway I prefer the NIV, sorry.