Photograph by Emma Perrone
Leviathan A neighbor is pulling down his barn, and at the point where the road I hadn’t walked since snowmelt gravels over the crest, I have a hawk’s-eye view into the deconstruction below, the oxide-red-stained siding flayed back to expose timbered bones and gabled stories of structure— a stolid box core, then the haphazard geometries of addition: sheds and chutes and cellar bulkheads tacked on over decades as dairy prices rose and fell on tidal surges of the economy. It’s a snapshot moment on a plaintive spring morning where the air is earthy and fecund with pollen, and far hills beyond the pastures brush a faint wash of hopeful pastel against their forested slopes: billions of buds swelling through cautionary sheaths. A crew of five is reclaiming weathered lengths of intact lumber, sorting clapboards and joists into neat piles on the concrete calf pen floor, and as I stand at the verge and attune to the rhythms of sledge and saw and clank and surrender, it dawns on me: this is writing made physical, the same determined work of demolition you must bring to the weathered narrative storehouse you have pegged and stanchioned together over the years, stocked with festering provisions and implements gathering rust. You wanted to expose the bare foundation of yourself again, curl up into its sunken form, and now you must devise a re-engineering plan to assemble scaffolding, plot the courses of termite and rot, sort the good wood from bad, sweep splinters and detritus clear down to the floor. To work apart an old barn is leviathan in scale: the creak and swell and pitch of it underfoot, the stenches, the greasy rituals of flensing, of rendering, the latitudes you must navigate to return to port leaving a tatter of picked-over skeleton to drift into the deep. Night falls across your desk, and you rearrange your charts again, scratching away at that salvaged manuscript beneath a sputtering haloed lamp, a fluke of resolution.
What a Roof Means Terror is not just beyond the horizon. You must take some responsibility for decay. The sheep in the orchard, they graze this way and that. The rains come, or they do not come. No one remains comfortable forever.