The jungle floor undercut with gnarled twisting roots, ankle-snappers, watch your foot, through the verdant thick that’s only green with promise, and when the sun sets the dark is impassable – but there is no time to sleep, step by cautious step hands feeling along the jungle floor. Some days the sun’s high but the canopy’s a carpet, no light gets through, there is nothing above, no sky, and what you crawl through is a shadow swamp of muck; up mud hills, across ravines, through miles of hemlock you crawl. You have dengue, yellow fever, gangrenous extremities; day-long vomiting and dark shivers you sweat through for no reason you can find. But you continue to crawl, up on your legs, cut through the vines. This isn’t an illness you suffer, it is a circumstance of everyday, even when the body’s spent with dengue-sweat delirium, this is everyday. It only stops if you stop.
The jungle breaks on a cliff of foresight – a thousand miles of impenetrable endless thick, and the horizon propping up the promised land on a mountain pedestal: your Eden at the top veiled by thick humid cloud, never seen, not yet touched, illustrated by your obstinate dream. To crawl forward is now to climb down.
And all along the way have been the Exit Signs, posted to moss damp trees, stuck to rock faces, placed glowing in the deep crevasses formed by roots where you know you can climb in and find – annual vacations, financial security, suburban housing, carpeted floors, a family to love, clean cars (working cars), cures for your malignancies and melancholies and fantasies and obsessions; a big screen TV, watching Netflix from the couch comfort after a long day at the office desk giving you paychecks for stability and shelter and peace of mind.
The body hurts and the heart’s stuck in the hopelessness mire. You ignore this and you crawl. Wading through stagnant bog moving piece by piece the branches of overgrowth barbed-wired with thorns. The rains have come, covered in muck and shit that gets in the skin gashes and begins to infect, your sense of being sense of time – it has already been seven lonely years – mosquitoes molest your face, spiders feast on your back. Vines tangle for your neck, roots grab at your ankles, leeches bleed the stomach and parasites multiply in your genitals. And you are crawling.
You are crawling and your body is tearing into pieces. The mind is rejecting itself and the skin is suppurating from boils, gashes, abrasions, infections; melting away. To sweat all day and continue through the night, through the body aches-and-pains of a seven-year disease. You keep going because your skin and muscles will fall away, an exoskeleton you leave behind and feel refreshed – third fourth fifth wind this day – and the path behind you is littered with the selves you’ve shed, and you keep yourself from noticing how each skin is just a bit smaller than the previous, that you are in fact finite and running out of self and time. You keep yourself from noticing because it doesn’t matter: you will get there or you will (like a candle slowly extinguished in an opaque fog) fade into an obscure, meaningless death. It doesn’t matter.
you crawl on.