The Lampposts 

On a street of copenhagen and prussian blue, a lawyer walked briskly, followed by a doctor, coroner, judge, pastor, chemist, philosopher, landlord, coachman, and numerous other shadows and trades. Some were carrying crosses, some not. What is that—a pilgrimage? asked a foreign visitor. No, said the lamplighter, that’s a man. The lamplighter thought about it for a moment, and added that with the current inflation and depression, it was actually one third of a man, possibly even a fourth or fifth. The foreigner shook his head sadly. After some moments, the street was empty and quiet for a while until a soft glow emerged from behind a tall, narrow building. It was a tall man in a black coat with a head and face resembling a round of camembert and the eyes of a byzantine icon. Now who is that? asked the foreigner. Having lit his last lamp, the lamplighter looked back at the street and laughed gently. That’s the moon in the man, he said. They watched the moon pass down the street and take the same left turn the first procession had taken. The lampposts were beautiful. 

The Playground 

The mother took her son to the playground. It had a lime-green hill of new grass, a blueberry sky, a lemon sun, cherry-red monkey bars, a marmalade merry-go-round, and a raspberry jungle gym. A brawny youth with bad hair was pushing a bloodless face into the sand below the monkey bars while others cheered in ecstasy. Not long after he was chasing a girl and lifting up her skirt to the sound of more cheers. What is this? the little boy asked, feeling cold as if gravity itself had run away. That, my son, is the organizing principle of the world. It will be like that where you work, where you play, where you vote, and where you pray, the mother explained. When she looked over, her son was taller, maybe even stronger, but it did not matter, for it lasted but a second. She was walking away. The youth gazed at the brawling and shouting, at the radiant machinery of play, chewing a piece of straw, whispering one question to nobody in particular. Where should I go? The wind and the emptiness heard him. They spoke of other places. Rusted old libraries. Museums of copper sulfate. The tarnished squares. The ashen junkyard. The black woods and fields. 

The Lily 

The lily was mostly silent. Sometimes it judged the other lily who took smoke breaks. Otherwise, the other lily was fairly quiet and obedient as well. For the most part, the first lily maintained its strong silence, its perfect silence, its godly silence. And then it somehow ended up in a parable, and that is not really silence. 

The Metal Flower 

The saint was not perfect. No saint is. As he struggled through the barbed wire wasteland, skirting a darkness of tar and empty thoughts, he sometimes dropped a cigarette butt here, an empty soda can there. Once in a while, he crouched beneath the moon above the sand and gave thanks that he was not a fanatic, that he had embraced everyone, that he was just. And he wept holy tears before the sparkling host of heaven. Sometimes he regretted littering, but promised to make it up one day. One has to travel light in the deserts of uncertainty and mirage. Later, the renegades passed through with their armaments and infidel captives. They built a fire beneath the moon and listened to the sand. They found half-smoked cigarettes and dusty soda cans. They stretched out one of the pale captives beneath the moon and burned her with their scavenged cigarettes, while one of the captains fashioned a soda can into a strange device of pointed aluminum shards. It looked like a crown of sorts or a metal flower. 

The Last Caravan 

In the time of plague, many tribes warred with each other. A once great tribe found itself in ruins, many of its people enslaved by wealthy herdsmen, many of its herdsmen dying, the sheep, cattle and camels often stolen or owned by outsiders. The prince of the tribe invoked the sacred name and the name of a prophet, and asked his sons and daughters for counsel. One son promised to release all the cattle to the poor, but had little to say about the wars or the plague. One daughter advised that nothing change, lest the tribe sink into deeper ruin, while attempting to get cures from the enemy, which she thought would fetch a fair price from their own thralls. A second son said that he would give the thralls what they needed, and lead the tribe in a holy war to suppress the other tribes. A third son advised silent strength and cautious trade with the other tribes. The prince decided to follow the advice of the second son, and holy war was unleashed. The second son led the thralls from victory to victory to victory. At last the armies returned. The thralls possessed their own cattle, and the land was at peace, but men and women still suffered from the great blight. At last, the prince called his third son, begging him to go forth in silent strength and peacefully trade with the other tribes. The third son prayed, and led one hundred camels forth into the great wastes to trade for a cure, but there were no more tribes left, only fields of bones, and nobody who remained, few that they were, knew anything of a cure. 

The Trail 

In the switchgrass, they roamed like hollow, square buffalo and rectangular bronze horses, hunting by starlight. They came across an old iron bed with a shredded mattress. For a quarter of an hour, they gazed at it, but the irritant stars forced them onward. Later, after traveling through the nude white landscape of early morning, they found an enamel bathtub filled with dust. The light played in the black ironwoods. They wandered as bronze buffalos and rectangular horses. In the end, when they saw the indigo of the distant sawtoothed mountains, they completed the puzzle and made a fire to brew some dark coffee.