They intensify my thinking. They look prehistoric, pieced together, concerned. I might simply say I feel closer to them — always have — and proceed. A buzzard is expected at the table. The rush would be over by the time I got there and I, my lateness sanctioned, might rightfully slip in.
Without a chance to walk away from abundance, thus proving their wealth, none of the first eaters would be content with their portion. I make their bestowing upon the least of us possible. With me around, mishaps — side of the highway, over a cliff, more slowly dispensed by poison — do not have to be turned to a higher purpose. I step in.
I make use of. Things go on, in their way. Rain scours and sun burns away excesses of form. And rain also seeds, and sun urges forth fuses of green.
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Yes, it looks like I hover, and the hovering, I know, suggests a discomfiting eagerness. Why is that? Right and deserved. Proper and lawful. Thus butchers have their neat diagrams. One knows to call for chop, loin, shank, rump. This would mark me: foreigner. Stubborn lover of scraps and dark meat. Trained on want and come to love piecemeal offerings — the shreds and overlooked tendernesses too small for a meal, but carefully, singularly gathered — like brief moments that burst: isolate beams of sun in truck fumes, underside of wrist against wrist, sudden cool from a sewer grate rising.
If the road is a plate, then the outskirts of fields and settlements where piles are heaped are plates, too. And the gullies, the ditches, the alleys — all plates. To reconfer notions of milk and honey, and how to approach the unbidden.
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I resemble, as I suppose we all do, the things I consume: bent to those raw flaps of meat, red, torn, cast aside, my head also looks like a leftover thing, chewed. I have my ways of avoiding attention: vomit to turn away predators. Shit, like the elegant stork, on my legs to cool off, to disinfect the swarming microbes I tread daily.
I am gentle. And cautious.
I ride the thermals and flap very little conserve, conserve and locate food by smell. A group of us on the ground is a venue. A simple word, aftermath , structures my day. Things are made daily again. The first eaters are furiously driven — by hunger, and brute need releasing trap doors in the brain. Such push and ambition! On my plate, choice reduces. Time pinned open, like the core of a long summer afternoon.
Am I happy? Yes, in momentary ways. Which I think is a good way to feel about things that come when they will, and not when you will them. If I bounce just a little, they shiver and fall, and my weight calls more pearls to me.
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Light through drops of fresh resin on pine limbs, light on ditchwater neverminding the murk. I get fixed by spoors of light, silver shine on silks and tassels, light choosing the lowliest, palest blue gristle for lavishing. I wait at a height and from afar, with what looks like a hunch-shouldered burden. Below, the red coils of spilled guts gather dust on the ground. Such a red and its steam in the cold gets to be shock — and riches. Not a mess. Plump entrails crusting with sage and dirt tighten in sun: piercing that is an undersung moment, filled with a tender resistance, a sweetness, slick curves and tangles to dip into, tear, stretch, snap, and swallow.
Sure, I play the dinnertime game, everyone identifying their animal-soul, the one they choose to reveal their best depth, the one, when the time comes, they hope fate will award them: strong eagle! As soon as I imagine returning anew brave-stallion reward, dung-beetle reproach I lose heart. So much feels hosted — and fleet. Lots of buzzards in my neck of the sagebrush near the Snake River in south central Idaho.
I often seen four or five circling, riding the canyon thermals. It lasted fifteen or twenty minutes, nary a wing flapped, up and down. Because it uses the overall narrative structure of the pilgrimage to hold all of the individual tales together, The Canterbury Tales is also considered to be the first English novel, with sharply defined characters that remain consistent throughout.
Over time, thousands of essays have been written about Chaucer, but, as Thomas C. Sometimes he is patted on the head like a child because all our other poets are his children.
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Sometimes he is treated as the Oldest Inhabitant, partially demented and practically dead, because he was alive before anybody else in Europe to certain revolutions of the European mind. Sometimes, he is treated as entirely dead; a bag of dry bones to be dissected by antiquarians, interested only in matters of detail. Kelly is an instructor of creative writing and literature at Oakton Community College in Illinois and is currently working on a book about comedy in twentieth century America.
The entire tradition of English literature , therefore, points back to Chaucer. He deserves respect, but, unfortunately, respect too often makes readers feel that they have to be reverential and solemn when considering The Canterbury Tales. Over the centuries, Chaucer scholars have attempted to show that the book is not just a dry textbook and is actually quite a lot of fun, but their attempts consistently fall on deaf ears.
It is hard to think of the father of English poetry as working for attention because he had to. But The Canterbury Tales is all about the struggle to keep audiences entertained. The central conceit is that a group of pilgrims enter into a storytelling competition to take their minds off the labor and monotony of their journey.
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They are not competing to see who will tell the most uplifting story or the most intellectually enriching; they are each trying to be the most entertaining although some do abuse their forum and sneak in moral tales about spiritual correctness. Chaucer was a raconteur, a teller of amusing stories, and he did whatever he had to do to keep audiences interested. He was an attendant to royalty throughout his adult years, starting in the house of Elizabeth of Ulster and rising to be the valet to the King himself.
In later years, he left domestic service and was given political responsibilities that were better suited for his intelligence. By all accounts, and as evinced by his poetry, Chaucer was a man of incredible intellect. His intellect alone could have accounted for his fortune in government matters, but there are and always have been bland functionaries who understood issues but cannot draw enough attention to let their knowledge be known.
Chaucer was lucky enough to be a true Renaissance man, talented in several fields, with each feeding the other.
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The stories and poems that he wrote and recited assured that the rulers of England knew who Geoffrey Chaucer was. Historically, the English government had been mobile, not only to deal with matters of law in different parts of the kingdom at a time when there was no reliable system of communications, but for the very practical reason that there were few places that could provide for all of the government functionaries for any length of time. The court had to move about the country so as to spread the burden of its maintenance.