blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Noah Studies

Noah is almost happy waiting for rain. He knows that he’ll be happy when it finally starts, as it’ll be the only way to prove he isn’t mad; he also knows that when it starts everyone dies and so guilt masters him. Noah knows too that during the rain he will be both expecting it to stop anytime and go on forever, wanted and cursed, an unsafe circuit.

Birds flew by at dusk and Noah’s up nine hours, can’t sleep with nervous wondering about whether he has two of them already; they were the size of several he’d caged, but the markings, dark arrows buried in feather, looked different; the colors—iridescent, ultramarine—seemed unusual. From the earth he was too distant to make out their species—desert sparrows? Byzantine grackles? And he wonders about the armies of spiders marching into the hold now, hundreds and hundreds of species, thousands of legs scrabbling against wood.

Raining fourteen days and the noise is enough that he communicates only in gesture with his family, the same way he motions to the confused cattle that mill in their holds, waking from dreams of riverbed and thistle; to the rhinoceri, the bullfrogs, the mambas; to the gorillas, dark hummocks shot with silver, glowering; to the giraffes and koalas and cicadas; to the varieties of hornet and wasp and yellow-jacket and bee nest spackling one treacherous, humming wall; the language of the adrift stunning the wood to infinite echo in Noah’s head, enduring God’s endless bounty.

Jug of wine and time thinking about choices: eat the goat cheese, whose scent troubles the coyotes, or thin the potato hoard?  Round up the ants, who’ve escaped their pen and are carting away the grain? Re-pitch the cracked cypress shelves and braces in the lower hold? Burn for heat the sketches he’d tried of the stranger animals, beyond his crude art to depict? He drinks his wine and watches the junk littering the water sink and questions come like heavy raindrops, like cats batting at fluttering moths, like a chorus of disconcerted angels praising the mystery of doubt.

What’s it like when the dove returns, olive leaf caught in its beak?

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