book 5: wide walks, great landscape architects, sinuous paths and winding waterways


I walked out in the desert until I came upon a girl standing alone and looking at me. She nodded and turned around and began to walk away. I followed her. We came upon the foundation of a bridge. The remains were only ancient timbers that once bound the brickwork together. She was carrying a piece of petrified wood in her hand and she placed it on top of the timber and all of the petrified architecture went to immortal sleep. Next to the remnants of the bridge remains of a great palace were scattered around the desert. A complex foundation of courts and halls. We walked through it, touching each unpillar, each of the unmade walls.

I followed her as she left the ruins and the sky lightened as we entered morning. We walked through an animal market and I could see a city on the horizon, at the entrance of it stood a colossal statue of an ancient woman. We didn’t go to the city however. We continued to walk on the outskirts and eventually I saw what we were walking toward. Ahead of us there was a great river.  We were approaching The Nile. Just as the cemetary had prophesized to me, I was introduced to its blue blue.

We descended the bank and as soon as we were underneath the water, insects surrounded us. They latched onto the surface of our skin as we swam. They navigated us through the water. They steered us through the venomous stares of the black mamba, the saw scaled viper, the horned viper. They slipped us past the five hundred pound Nile crocodile carrying  foot long newborns in her mouth. We looked it right in the eye as we swam by, knowing the insects protected us. As we did, we opened our mouths and out of them floated water hyacinths that spelled, we are protected by the crocodiles’ closest living relative, the birds. We are protected by the sight of all of these eyes.

We swiftly passed the soft-shelled turtles and the lizards.  We slid through the hippopotamus’ twenty inch long teeth, denticulate cliffs we climbed because we were the size of words. We were followed by tiger fish, lungfish, catfish, and eels. We arrived safely to shore in a fleet of stripes and spots and they shed scales and covered us and let us slip into the grasses unnoticed. Transvestite snakes, water that passes as land, fish that pass as other, imbued with narrow eyes and venom to pass us safely through the tall grasses and the sinister stares of the wild. And we slithered back out to the desert, shedding our double skins along the way first, then our own until we were nearly bone. Then we pushed ourselves up onto our hands and knees and last to our feet. We stood a moment as our subcutaneous layer reformed. Then our dermis. Then our epidermis. With our new skin of knowing, we walked. On.

As we walked we picked up stones and twigs to eat but we began to notice everything we put in our mouth became metal. First, it caught fire, softening it so we could draw it out through our lips, the sturdiest thread. And nickel hardened in our throats and our body parts began to shine. We were no longer camouflaged and despite the weight of our armor, we could fly. We were the table silver, the gold coins, and aluminum pans. We were the tiny amount of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium necessary for animal life. We were the minute quantity of copper, aluminum, and manganese in our bodies. We needed nothing except wet dark earth to grow.





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