Russell Shorto

One Hundred Thousand Clockticks

If your back continues to act up I think it’s about time you took the advice prescribed and reclimbed the trees of your youth and young adulthood. Idea Two: Flatter yourself with perfume and stand hunched for missiles from children and pebble rain in the form of newsprint (Iraq and all the rest): main point, don’t let me preclude you from the path.  The truckdriver advises panic to get you

into the heart, a highway

to the center of

everyone’s “Old

Town,” free

of traffic. He should know his wife is a dental hygienist. And their daughter is best friends with ours. I refuse to let this get bogged down by truth. Yet my ghosts—those sitting in council around the wide oak table in my mind—will only speak or vanish if their upside-down quote wisdom gets playback in this the real and bethinged world. I won’t know the outcome until I have aged well past it by which time the earth will be all quiet shudders with a sky shading lemon-umber to gray.

So let us all press forefinger to thumb and seek dust motes as crystal balls and trust the vacancy that might be one name for the soul.  Let’s dwell on the good that you very well trust exists in our lies and tell each other nobody knows though that of course is a lie. Anyway,

the sun is shining on the snow

and the bright face of it makes me stupid

which is a great relief and limits nothing more than my comprehension of my dogged self which barks intermittently by night and wants feeding at odd hours and bays for what it knows but doesn’t see and stands suddenly stubborn teeth set, hair raised, hind stanced, howling at it cares not who knows what and as for how long: This is for all the rest a pole or vista passed as their train speeds by, but I find inescapable the fact that for me it holds a broad bowl filled with heavy liquid in which are immulsed all the days I ever have spent and the minutes and seconds to come the dreams deferred by none other than me the eggs forgotten on some back burner leaking brown smoke upward, the future that somehow lies in the past.  If there is a roar in your ears it may be the turbine of your own conviction. Birds die every day in midair yet for a while they fly.


About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar