Looking Back

Where do you envision yourself in fifty years?

Please describe yourself/your goals/your aspirations.

The man wonders why he has not always thought of himself in the third person, for each day is but a death and a subsequent rebirth. Although disdainful of dramatics, he exudes a talent for tragedy. Upon reflection, however, the incongruity is not so strange: poets, after all, have a special kind of destiny. He is amused remembering the things onto which he projected such significance, the circumstances that caused him to sacrifice a life. For as long as he could remember, the old man had wanted nothing more than to become a writer. Recollections are dulled to mere generalities, but the images created by his encounters with words remain fresh and vivid. A child devours the mysteries contained within sentences, exploring universes of anthropoid wildlife and colorful illustrations. Later, a boy revels in worlds of his own creation; the enchantment derived not so much from the process of scribbling itself as from the ethereal wakefulness of invention. With each year, his content and presentation become increasingly sophisticated, and he delivers pieces on a variety of topics throughout elementary school. Adolescence is a period of silence: the uniqueness of a voice assimilated by political necessity into the collective tense of conformity. But though there are difficulties, assurance comes with growth, and the young man returns to what he knows to be his beginning, and to what will surely be his end. Reminiscences are limited; thus, the septuagenarian rediscovers the potency of photographs and documents. There is abundant evidence of his heritage, that most defining aspect of his identity. Conjuring the senses of childhood summers, the author can see the mainstays of place and time, permanent in blood and ceremony: the sun-dappled gold of the morning and the grizzled dryness of the plains surrounding the teepee; the smoky interior of the structure, suffocating the visitor with the rich odor of cedar; the jangle of decorative dress, and above all that company, the voice of his grandfather, the song and recitations practically visible against the fluid air. The man is amazed by the testaments to his youth, his astonished hand trailing the paragraphs of the yellowed papers. Touch confirms the reality of these artifacts of so long ago. Aged to a dusty fragility, the delicate leaves exhibit the endurance of scrip that details the weight of flight and the breathless abandon with which he thundered down tracks, amassing a collection of metallic glint in the wake of victory. In that distant era, the youth believed everything to be possible and entertained the vision of a grand and classical future. If he has not achieved perfection in its entirety, he is satisfied. He has loved, he has hated, and in the duration, he has done many things. There are regrets, of course, and contrary to what is uttered aloud, there are numerous actions that he would retract if he could. Ultimately, though, it is enough to simply be here, alive. Nothing can be any different from the way that it is. The experience of life has not disappointed him, and he remains convinced of its beauty, romancing a vision of a clear and beautiful earth.

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