Yesterday morning, I woke up and decided it was time to search for peace. It had to be somewhere. I started in the kitchen, looking inside jars and bottles, under the table, in the cabinets and down the drain. I didn’t find peace, but I found some leftover pizza. Yum. I went to the backyard and looked through the grass, in the spaces between fence boards, under the steps, inside the lawnmower’s gas tank, in a deserted robin’s nest and under the eaves. Where was this stubborn thing called peace? I went through the house, stopping to look inside the umbrella holder, and into the street, looking inside garbage cans, on the sunny side of telephone poles, between the lines of advertisements on passing buses and trucks and in the sound of a dog barking from somebody’s basement. Where are you peace? Come out! Come out! I walked into the city, checking freeways and ditches along the way, and a pond in a small plot of farmland trapped between housing developments and a mall. In the city I checked out two blocks of sewer and questioned a family of rats who suggested I Google it. Which I did. Lots of confusion, but no peace. I took the elevator up to the top of the tallest building and climbed to the top of the spire and though the view was impressive, I couldn’t see peace anywhere…not in the banking district in the threads of thousand dollar suits and imported high heels, not in the cardboard beds in the slums, not in the exhaust of an eternity of cars, buses and trucks, not in a sliver of light on a mountain top about a thousand miles away. So I went to the ocean and looked under seashells and into the eyes of sharks and cod and things so deep in the ocean they lived on the absence of light and none of them could tell me where peace was. I walked into the middle of a battlefield carrying a white flag and spent a horrifying hour ducking bullets and shrapnel and I asked one of those passing bullets where peace was and it said, “Ask the guy who’s trying to kill you.” So I asked him and he said, “Go to that place where they have all those poppies on graves. Now…before I kill you.” So I went to Flanders Fields and yelled, “WHERE CAN I FIND PEACE?” About a thousand voices whispered, “We fought for it, but this was the only peace we found. Good luck.” So I went to a farm. I mean, where else? But the farm turned out to be thousands of cows in cages with tubes embedded in their bodies and they said as one, “As long as you can find us, you’ll never find peace.” But this wasn’t going to stop my search for peace…no matter how true their voice was. Peace had to be somewhere, ready to come forth and be seen. WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU PEACE? Just on a hunch, I checked under my finger nails. Nope. So I went into the jungle where I’ve been writing a poem about for about two years and it was just as scary as the poem so far…where everything is food to something else and I asked this presence with “fur-lined mandibles thrashing in the hot monoxide air covering the jungle’s plastic-littered hide as hooded shadows with earphones and guns glided over clenched fronds and mushrooms with poisonous colors” and it said, “C’mon, man, look at these shadows. You won’t find peace here.” But I knew it was there somewhere. It had to be. It was a word. It existed. But where? I jumped up into a cloud and talked to a goose heading south. We had a great conversation about all its friends who’d been shot out of the air while flying away from the cold. “My friend,” said the goose, “you’ll have to look deeper than the surface.” And it flew away. Yeah…needed that. I mean, I just looked under my finger nails. Where is this thing called peace? I jumped clouds for a while, looking for peace in contaminated water droplets but found only another reason to use my bike more often. So I jumped onto a train rumbling through a lonely stretch of prairie and asked fields of wheat if they knew where peace was but they just rustled in the wind waiting to become bread. I talked to a prairie dog and really wasn’t satisfied with anything it said, stuff about underground tunnels being the way to go because there was lots of peace down there and I don’t thinking he quite got it. But I checked it out anyway. It was dark and peaceful, but really confining and the peace I was looking for wasn’t anywhere to be found. Even if I could have seen it in all that darkness. I thought, maybe I’m doing this all wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t be looking for peace…maybe I should just wait for peace to come to me. So I went to that sliver of light on the mountain top and waited for peace. It was cold, but the view was nice. I waited a long time, about a hundred years while war after war raged all around the beautiful view from the mountain top. It raged in ruined cities, scorched farmlands, in the poisoned wells of schools where women’s eyes cannot be seen in public, in heads falling from the shoulders of innocent people, in the factories pumping out a continuous stream of food for the beast, in the dark heart of everyone’s failure. What could I do? I checked my fingernails again. Nothing new there. I tried reading great books. Watching great movies. Attending great plays. Listening to great music. Lurking around great paintings. But the loneliness of their message broke my heart and I still hadn’t found peace. I jumped off a bridge straight into the River Styx and it reminded me of a story I started once and never finished that went like this: In the old days, there was a river called Styx with a ferry that carried the dead from the horrors of life to the horrors of death. I read somewhere that the sheer volume of dead from astronomical population growth in recent times led to impossible line-ups at the ferry, forcing many of the dead to turn back. They were the ones who, through some misplacement of heart, had not been given tickets for the ferry and would have spent the duration of their afterlives trying to argue their way aboard. On their journey back, they learned how to dance. So I tried dancing.
(To be continued.)
“What?” said the fox. “How does this story end?”
“Well, fox,” I said. “I’ll just have to dance a little more until I find that ending.”
And I will.
(NOTE: I want to dance with someone by this door. In winter.)