The lure of abandoned places: asylums, vacant lots, winter fields. Places surrendered to time and the elements. Places relinquished as too far gone evenby the legions of painters, contractors, gardeners, and landscapers, happy Pelagians usually hell bent on refurbishing everything into profitable condominiums or civically beneficial recreational parks. No, these are places given over to rust and deer ticks, poison ivy, brambles and rot.
Given over, given up, relinquished, surrendered: these are the XXX theme parks of the post-apocalypse, anathema to children and most adults. The price of admission is, well, everything you have. Group rates ? Ask that and you'll be turned away. This is the world of the singleton, of parallel play, of the quick nod and quickly averted gaze.
These are the edges, the interzones, the deserts visible only to the invisible.
Wait, wait: but what about the crystalline water of life, flowing down the middle of the city street ? What about the trees of life with their twelve fruits and healing leaves ? Isn't that the landscape of the post-apocalypse, and not this blighted domain of staghorn, bittersweet, and brackish, iced-over inlets jutted with rusty cans and discarded TVs ? Where on the scale of already-and-not-quite-yet does this louche kingdom belong ?
Listen closely, now, and look. We've been through this before.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish ? ...
...I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
Well, yes, ahem. Death by water ? That sounds familiar. And what incomprehending hand wrote water is important in this poem in the margins -- this one ? This very one, admittedly more translucent now, or one wholly other, haunted by the first ?
These (but you knew that already) are the places into which we have asked not to be led, but into which we are led, inevitably. These are the places into which some of us, wordless, headlong, rush.
Surrender. Relinquish. Give up. Give over.
Lead us not.
Instruction follows petition, subtle, open-ended, infuriating. Surrender ? To what, then ? And then what ?
Even in midwinter, in places that could not be more abandoned, you will see things wool-white, upraised, bridal, nearly bodiless, balancing, tranquil, in icy air. Angels ? Spectres ? Fingernail clips, precise as the newest moon ?
What is this desert's particular temptation, then ? Here the heart, so poor at love, loves; it surrenders; it lets and is let be. And is this a trial, a temptation, then ?
A riddle ?
Stay ? Leave ?
All of the above ?