Today we have a deeply touching short story, “A Letter From Orpheus,” from David Tucker, the Poet Laureate of the Quantum Revolution.
A Vermont-based poet, David is an insightful commentator on our internal and external cultural, spiritual and political milieu.
A Letter From Orpheus
After the poetry reading our three cars drove the Vermont forest…almost dark. At the reading there were words. Lots of words but very little music from the great world we all secretly long for…so seldom experience.
A friend had invited us for a glass of wine. We drove. Tired. Nine thirty and still the sunlight held onto a corner of the sky refusing to die.
And then the cars began pulling over. I saw emergency flashers go on. Something was lying in the road. It looked like a tall dark man stretched across the pavement. I followed the car in front of me. We drove past the man then pulled to the side of the road. It was a moose. Young. Adolescent.
It looked like a tall, gawky New Englander. Big adams apple and knobby arms and legs stretched out in his own blood, urine and feces.
We got out of the cars. People were walking about asking questions. The car that hit the moose was pulled to the side of the road. No one was in the car. No one knew where the driver had gone.
I opened the trunk. Took out flares. Pulled off the top and scratched. Put one lighted flare toward the feet of the moose. One toward the head. I looked at the moose. He did not move. In his eyes a look of fear and of peaceful resignation.
Isn’t that too close to his head. I think you’re scaring him.
Brad was right. I moved the flare further up the road from the moose’s head. Brad knew there was music. He wasn’t sure how to find it. Inside he ran here and there, looking, listening. His inner movement was so fast…so desperate. His teachers labeled him ADHD. They couldn’t see the little boy frantically searching for the music barely audible beyond the far hills.
I put a reflector in the road to protect the moose’s foot which stuck far into the traffic lane. I walked back to the car that hit him. There were two cracks in the windshield. The side of the car was splattered with blood and feces.
Kira joined Loni. Stroked the Moose. She could hear the music, but she was tough. She was rich. Her family was rich. She had learned that most people believe the music is in the riches. She knew better, but was confused by the constant entreaties of everyone trying to get a piece of the money music. She didn’t know who loved her for her. Who loved her for her money. She was kind, accepting but underneath she was tough and protective. She sang her experience of the music to the moose.
She was sure he would accept it.
Jason walked by. Jason seemed so mellow. His words surprised me.
No one has a gun. This is Vermont and no one has a gun.
I asked, already knowing, why he needed a gun.
To shot the moose. We need to shoot the moose.
I knew Jason could hear the music, but something in him…some deep wound refused to listen. He’d rather find a gun.
There were now several cars parked. Ten or twelve people, curious, wandered about, looked at the moose. Talked.
I walked back toward the damaged car. A police SUV drove up, lights flashing. They got out. Took charge. They were not looking for music.
I heard, Were you the driver? Come over here. I’ll take your statement. A woman followed the cop. She looked stunned. The cop yelled to a younger cop, Get the 12 gauge. I went back to the moose. Checked that I still had time on my flares. Kira had left the side of the moose. Loni remained. Talking. Humming. Praying.
What’s that women doing? She’d better get away from that moose.
I walked toward the police car. A man stood with the driver of the damaged car. He looked angry. He turned to me.
Why’s that woman like that? What’s she doing? That’s so stupid, petting that dumb animal.
I looked at him: What about compassion? My words made him angry: She’d better be careful. She’s gonna get hurt.
That’s so stupid.
Why did he not care about the music? Had he ever heard it? Did the music make him angry?
The young cop walked by me with the shotgun in his hands. He was intent. He was pleased. There was a hard shell around him. It was built of his youth and his good looks. It was built of his sense of duty…honor…integrity. Faint music from the wide spaces could never penetrate that shell.
I walked up to the older cop: Do you have to shot it? Can’t we call someone to look at it? A vet?
He looked uncomfortable: Our orders are to kill the animal. That’s what we do. I looked into his eyes: So, if you are lying wounded on the road, I have permission to shot you. He looked at me. There was pain in his eyes. I have my job to do.
He knew there was music. He had a job to do. He had no tools to reconcile the competition between those two worlds.
Helen walked up to me. Let’s get out of here. I can’t stand this. Let’s go. Helen was just learning about the music. She loved dresses and jewelry and trips to the Caribbean. She always believed if she got enough of those things she would be happy. But she kept hearing the music. She wasn’t happy. She was confused.
Please let’s get out of here. The older cop spoke to the younger. Wait until these people are gone.
We got into our cars. We pulled away. Kira stayed. She said she had to watch them kill the moose. She wasn’t sure why.
We drove half a mile. Loni suddenly gasped. They just shot it. I felt it.
And, for a minute, even the last of the summer sky was afraid to sing.
And, then…the beat returned. From the very core of creation where spreads the ground of being on which we all walk, the music again filled the summer sky, the plants, the water, the animals, every cell of every organism. Some would hear it. Some would not.