730: Borderland Apocrypha

730: Borderland Apocrypha

730: Borderland Apocrypha


I’m Nate Marshall and this is The Slowdown.

One of the only forms of exercise that I love, I mean really love, is riding a bicycle. As a child I loved riding on my training wheels, but took two tries six months apart to muster the courage for two wheels. By middle school my friends and I would ride miles across our far South Side neighborhoods adventuring and misadventuring with our mountain bikes ridden in the mostly flat midwestern city. In one graduate school summer I rediscovered my love of riding, and bought a bike using a friend’s employee discount at a sporting goods store. After that it was not uncommon for me to ride the 20 plus miles from my mother’s house to where I was working across town, just for fun.

The thing I think I love about bike riding is the meditative nature of it. It’s repetitive, but not so much that you can zone out completely. You can really see a place at a pace that your mind can process, which is not always the case in cars. It feels strenuous, but usually not so much that you must succumb to the discomfort, but the pain is lovely information. You are alive. You are alive. You are present and you have muscles and limbs that work and tire and recover.

Today’s poem similarly delights in the fact of our existence, even where it is strenuous, even, where it is painful.

Borderland Apocrypha
by Anthony Cody

If your father tells you, and your teacher tells 
                     You, and the pastor at your family’s church tells

You to perceive breath for existing, heart for source,
                     Grave as final, voice as kingdom, and the shaking

As the escape of the earth’s heat: you believe
                     The repetition. But don’t. Believe that earthquakes

Are fed by the buried, shoulders leaning in and sinewed
                     By the unseen, combative to covert. Recall that beneath

You, nothing is still. Recall that beneath you, are the others.
                     Know there is no such thing as living. Living is a birth

To control you, to fear no longer being present, to fear this,
                     Whatever your this is, can leave you. The night’s knuckle

On your door is not consent, but a decay of the ego,
                     Unheard. A nearness unknown until an apnea arrives, 

Tearing you from bed for the noose, the blade, the bullet,
                     The fingers forcing the larynx. You were never living.

Your father will never tell you. The priest and prophet,
                     And the succulent on the windowsill will not stop you, and

Say, you are not living. You are present. Some tomorrow,
                     There will be no sunrise. None will say, where is?, where is?,

Where is?. They will believe you are no longer. Your blood
                     Will mourn. The other will gather to publicly demonstrate, 

Life is proprietary. Do not listen. Join the present at the tectonic
                     And continue to be. Push. Press your ear against the mantle

To hear the sound of the pavement’s rupture. Push. The city
                     Will not sleep. Push. The flora fauna stone nod, you have

Always been present. Push. A valley is quiet whether cradling
                     Or culling. Push. The television and the paper will say the fault

Is active. Push. The scientists will diagram the earth, halved, 
                     And demonstrate why nothing remains static. Push. The present

Remain, here. Push. Here. Push. Here. Push. Leave. Return.
                     You exist. Push. You are present. Push. Swallow them into quiet.

"Borderland Apocrypha" by Anthony Cody, from BORDERLAND APOCRYPHA copyright © 2020 Anthony Cody. Used by permission of Omnidawn Publishing.