Elephants in the Sky
[1980s, Lee Evens in Mali, Timbuktu/Africa]
Advance: Lee was discharged from the Army in 1980, whereupon, he traveled the world, one of those locations was in Mali, by the legendary city of Timbuktu; whereupon he found himself in the middle of a plague, a plague of locust.
There were swarms of locust over the top of my car, in front of me, swarms, a dark shadow covering the sky, descending, descending onto the road-in front of me, behind me, it was locusts, locusts, locusts-locusts everywhere: so thick, thick as layers that my car was slipping and sliding as if on ice. My radiator was being blocked, plugged by these finger-sized carcasses. I had to pull over to the side of the road. It was but a moment thereafter when I saw some adolescents down the road a bit, not too far, just a little ways, three of them trying to beat them off with their belts, pants belts. Then one resorted to a stick, a stick I say, would you use a stick? To be honest, I'd run I think; anyhow, he took a stick to beating them off, while the other used their hats, hands; they were dropping down like hail onto them from all sides; down and sideways: bombarding them like creatures from outer space, like in the bible, where it mentions such things happening back in the days Moses: the plagues God bequeath upon the pharaoh. This was like that; they were in their hair, noses, ears, climbing up their pants legs, flying straight for their mouths.
The whole area was becoming infested with them [them: being, those locust creatures]. They were becoming as thick as the walls of Troy-twenty feet thick. I turned the engine of my rented car; it spit and sputtered a bit, then came to a dead stop, a burping stop. I could not see the boys, only a cocoon of these creatures several inches thick around them-like mummies; they now rolled about on the ground like dying lions, screaming.
For a hundred miles around I had heard they were eating up the crops before anyone had time to harvest them; catastrophic damage to all the crops, as the new generation of larvae appeared-thus widening the dimensions of the one-hundred mile radius to possibly two-hundred miles (soon). But now they were on top of my car: yes, yes, yes, on top of my car; under it, all over it, and in the fields beside me, on the road. I was but twenty-five miles outside of Timbuktu. Ah! what would you do?
As far as I knew, there was no means of spraying available to kill them, nor any other treatment, why that occurred to me, is beyond me, I mean who gives a shit, I'm in the middle of it; yes, yes, no equipment as supplies were of a minimum and vehicles were scarce-I was lucky to have secured a deal with this jeep. I was witnessing farmers beating the locust into trenches; what more could they do? Sweating them from all sides, and running, I mean running, like the boys should have done. Now I'm breathing in the hot air in the jeep, it seems to me I'm recycling my own air. In the five-mile area they covered most everything; there were at least, must have been at least, couldn't be less than 250-million locust I figured (insects); hoppers, yellow winged hoppers-crazy and manic hoppers, as if they were on a sugar high. That would be a weight volume of 5000-elephents dropping from the sky. I had a lot of time to figure that out, for the most part, let's say hours watching these hoppers fly and descend, trying to eat my tires-trying to get into the jeep and eat me. 'Try, try, try,' I said, '?fuck you all I said.'
"I was in Timbuktu a few days ago, on my way back to Timbuktu now, I had been in the countryside-where theses creatures were breeding, I am not sure where it was in particular, but it was in Mali where they had breed I do believe-first, someplace in Mali. I was doing what I love to do, checking out some old writings that were found in one of the old mud houses in Timbuktu; realizing at one time Timbuktu was a Mecca for learning for the Muslims, or better put, Islamic cultured; on the old Silk Road you could say. I was eager the phenomenon would move east, away from me, to Sudan or Chad, or all the way to Egypt; move away to anyplace, but out of Mali and for sure, away from Timbuktu in particular. I was surprised there was not a humanitarian crisis alert, or if there was it didn't look like it; where was the United Nation's vehicles?
The trick is to kill them before new generations developed, thus stopping them in their tracks from breaking into other places-countries, and a new cycle starting. The crops I knew would be gone soon in the south and now in this area as well, if they were not yet, and should they go east-well, let them worry about that."
They leaped like little elephants on the hood now, hood of, of my car; they looked, looked into my windows, deep into my windows, nose against the glass, as if I was eatable, somehow I got the sense (Note: they had the scent I suppose) they knew I was trapped in the car, for I was for sure. But I remember what Solomon told me in Egypt, Cairo a few months back, should something like this occur-so it was somewhat forecasted-and it was now developing: anyhow he said, "('?should this occur?') Try to make it till morning, when everything cools down." I figured the wingless 'hoppers' the new breed, were developing now in the fields around me as the adult yellow ones could be seen flying about eating, and killed by whomever (the farmers and gosh, that was about it for now).
[The Big Hopper: diary entry]
One big hopper gazed through my window, must be the size of a sparrow-(I'm writing this down as he's looking at me). At its sight I saw its milky eyes, they followed me, then I realized it was somewhat blind, I mean, its eyes gave out a yellowness to it, as if it had cataracts, its lips trembled from old age, it mumbled something, as if talking to itself, then it stood aside to let the younger ones peer in on me.
"Come?s?h!" (Note: the author translates for the bug) the big one said (smiling an amiable grin). Thus, with apprehensiveness my eyebrows were quivering with my nervous system was wacky. Panting like a dog, I was. I was so bewildered?! I ended up looking out the window for the longest time?blankly; then turning my head demurely to see if any of those hoppers where in back of me-sneaking up on me; were getting inside the jeep. My eyes could not relax from this insidious invading force, if anything was quite disarming?this was, but then what would you expect, harmony in the middle of an earthquake? What would you expect? I found myself drifting at times, but I knew I couldn't go to sleep. I mean who could?
There I sat behind the wheel, crouched forward to peer through the blinding storm of locust; these hoppers were like rain sheets hitting the windshield quicker than the wipers could fan it clean. My palm and forehead had a glossy mist to it.
It was now mid-afternoon, and they were hot, it was hot, I was hot, everything, even the car was hot, and thus, morning would be my best time to make my move, when they'd be cooled down, down in the crops around me-quiet. Hence, I had turned my car off and I'd leave my car off, the suspense would come in the morning when I'd have to try and start it again.
-[2:00 AM] I must had fallen to sleep, and an automatic clock in my head woke me up, it was inky dark out there, outside my windows, hence, I started my car up, it choked a bit, but it started, and I noticed my water gage going up, as if a water hose was plugged or ripped. I turned the car off. I didn't want to make too much noise, just get out of here and get back to Timbuktu: I figured they'd follow the crops, and bypass the city; oh possibly a few million might divert themselves to the city, but that is not bad; I mean, what is a million when you got 249-million more. I knew they were all on the cool ground and in a few hours they'd be in the air again-over me again; and should they decide to stick around I'd die of a heat stroke I figured, sooner than later that is, sooner than they'd get a chance to eat me. I opened my car door slowly, pacifying the moment; shinned a flashlight on the road beside me, there were many about-sleeping, quiet, almost stone-still-could I have hummed them to oblivion, I would have; but I could walk around them for the most part I figured, and I did, did just that, then I opened the hood of the car, slowly, quietly, with more gentleness then I ever knew I had, as if it was a woman, looked at the hose, and several hoppers flew in my face, I had glasses on, they poked at my eyes nonetheless, I said nothing, nothing at all, just swatted them away with the rag I had in my hand-and I didn't use much force in doing that. One hose had a small crack in it. I knew I'd lose water, all the water I had in the car in about five miles should I not prepare it, with twenty miles left to go should I not fix it-I'd be worse off than now, I'd be stranded right in their pathway. The engine was covered with the winged hoppers, I want to say answer swear word but I can't, I'd wake them creatures up surely; I had waked them up-a few of them up already, and they started to fly out and about clearing a passage to my hose.
They were not jumping on me, just a few, trying to crawl up my pants legs-tickling me here and there: attacking my glasses though; I think they like glass, but just a few, nothing to get alarmed about I told myself. I tried not to open my mouth, a few seemed to spot it when I took in a deep breath of air-as if they had radar, consequently, they zoomed right at it, I had to spit them out as when they hit my face their legs seemed to have found their way into the crevice of my mouth. Then I got an idea, I opened my trunk up, took out a five gallon can of gasoline, in this country you always carry extra gas, water and food, always lest you find yourself in some deserted location, as I have at this very moment; I poured it on the side of the road, up about two-hundred-feet leading into the fields, then on my way back I took my first aid kit, put the white tape-normally used for bandaging wounds-put it around the hole in the hose (not making a sound), and started my car up, at the same time I lit the gasoline by throwing a match out of the window onto the road, and I hit the accelerator to fifty-miles an hour (its as fast as my jeep would go ((it was an old US Army jeep they must had purchased it from some Army surplus garage)) and I watched the road and fields explode with lightening-like fire behind me.
Yes, yes, yes, behind me was a windless fire breeding into the fields, eating hoppers while sleeping, roasted grasshoppers: yes, yes, yes they woke up, this horde of hoppers woke up to a French-fired position I'm sure; to them I expect it was their 'Pompeii,' and shall talk about it for a thousand years to come in this region of the world; to me it was salvation; oh yes, it is what legends are made out of in the hopper-world, I'm sure-I got a mouth full of toxic fumes which was the only curse of the predicament for me, and a bonfire galore as I raced to Timbuktu.
When I got to the city, it was locked up tight, everyone afraid to come out of their mud huts. I knew I couldn't tell them I had lit the fire-for my sake; they'd make me pay for the corps I suppose (after the crisis was over I'm sure; for humanity has a short memory when it comes to thank-you's and money). But I think they were happy to see it was all over, and a few heard my jeep motor, for slowly one by one, a few came out of their shops until the whole main street was out looking about with their doors open, ready to run back in a moments notice. I had expected them to invade the city somewhat-somewhat expected to, as did the residents, but none did; and they did head east. Hence, had I told them about me lighting the fire, they'd have roasted me in it, so my silence, or intuition was right on.
Four Poems by D.L. Siluk
Just a quick word on the poetry you are about to read: sounds and images appeal to the mind, they have overtones. As every poem I do believe is a short story, and every short story is a novel, and every novel has a song to it, these you are no different here. The other good thing about poetry, I do believe is, is that it is personal, so you get to know the author a little. Extract the poetry you extort the heart, mind and soul of the author. Each idea within the poem, is in essence, an experience.
Sinking to the Ground
I became like a bird
crouched in the grass
I became part of the loneliness
of the trees
and thick bushes
growing out of the ground
I became part of the sky;
part of the wind passing by
When it rained, I became
When it thundered, I became
a trembling light
That is the path one takes
when your lover-
no longer loves?
Slowly one sinks into
As you wait, and wait
and you wait, and wait-foolishly
wait, and foolishly wait!...
Drinking is the subject.
While drinking is my subject
Drinking is not her subject.
I drank two pitchers and a cup.
That is during one sitting.
She didn't drink at all.
I mean, she didn't drink alcohol
I mean she drink coke.
That was on another evening.
The first evening she didn't drink at all.
I drank every day back then.
I drank quite a lot.
She drank coke.
I drank it cold
She drank it hot!
Let me recite that over?
When the mind has no discipline
No discipline at all, the mind?has
Freedom to be naked at will
No limits at all for the mind?
It will rape and moan, all day long
As if it is starving for more?
[So Plato referred to once
in his ?Republic]
With no limits, no discipline at all
The Mind will moan for more-:
Even rape your neighbor next door.
[So Plato referred to once
Satan understands this poem
Quite well, real well, so well he
Will take good children to hell.
The Mind will moan for more
As if it is starving for limits?
Only to fine, discipline was not given.
He cries for rage to be free
For frustration to be bled into
Passivity?like Ginsberg's sense;
He will claim, this is true
Cars rust, building decay, roads break,
The city fades;
The land remains.
People starve the world round
Die in their beds and in war
In the cities intensifying lust?
That's just the way it is for us.
Look how the birds, deer live
The stillness of the forest, 's the secret-
Keeping balance with the sky.
This story and these poems will be featured in future books of the author; this is the first time seeing them in print. Dennis Siluk lives with his wife Rosa in Minnesota, and Peru. His website is: http://dennissiluk.tripod.com. His books can be seen on amazon.com, bn.com abe.com Alibris.com etc.