Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tableau vivant

I have a third eye that only sees faraway objects. It moves around my forehead, above my brow, around my temples, hot and raw at its nerve-ends. It is slightly bigger than my two normal eyes, its convexity bulging outward in low light as it tries to image the far contours of the known world. The iris is a reddish-yellow, much different than in my two gray-blue eyes. Quist used to call it my eagle eye. Sometimes I forget that it's up there and scratch it by mistake. God it stings. When the little blood vessels burst around the edges of the cornea, I try to lower its lid. I have to do that with my fingers. But my third eye never cries. It has no tears.

I never asked to have a third eye and really wish I didn't. It doesn't do my any good. It's like a gall bladder, or an extra nipple. Whatever it images, it turns into a tableau -- pathetic humans marching against a vast backdrop of sentimental scenery: purple mountains, golden fields, blue water, red and yellow flowers. Bees and hummingbirds, bluebirds and fox, puffy pure white clouds hanging there like little friends. And ordinary people, wrapped in rags, toiling on. Carrying their possessions with them, coming from the four corners of the earth -- Sudanese, Rwandans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Haitians, Chileans, Burmese, Mexicans, Nigerians, Turks, Pakistanis, the dispossessed, the refugees, Chechens, Senegalese, Inuit, Armenians, Fijians, Jews, Indians, farmers, laborers, the homeless, marching from south to north, from east to west, frozen in motion. My third eye sees this suffering. This effin aperture.

The visible world is too big to comprehend. I was comfortable here in my crib, sucking my thumb, watching the games, going out for brunch. Mimosas and hollandaise sauce. The sun out. Kids playing in the park. Dogs scratching themselves behind the ear. Hunters down at the rifle range firing away. My privileged world. My Maui Jim sunglasses worn just so, covering my two weak blue eyes.

My curious eagle eye doesn't want sunglasses, so I have to cover it when I go out, wearing a wide-brimmed cap down low over my forehead. Or a bandana tied loosely around. Even though it is painful to keep it in the dark for too long, I don't want others to see that I have this third eye, this hole in my head.

When I'm alone, it's fine, walking in the woods, or across one of the endless parking lots of northern New Jersey. That's when I let my third eye scan the far horizon, assembling scenes worthy of Bosch. German priests buggering German boys. It doesn't flinch, it simply stares, slightly amused. A fishing boat sinking in the stormy sea with five aboard. The eagle eye, the lizard eye, the stony stare. Bloodhounds scrambling over city rubble sniffing for bodies. It never cries, it has no tears. I want to rip it out but I can't stop looking at what it sees.

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