The Heaven of Animals
Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.
Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.
To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.
For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect
More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey
May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk
Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain
At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.
On the wall opposite above the sideboard was an oil painting of horses. There were half a dozen of them breaking through a pole corral and their manes were long and blowing and their eyes wild. They’d been copied out of a book. They had the long Andalusian nose and the bones of their faces showed Barb blood. You could see the hindquarters of the foremost few, good hindquarters and heavy enough to make a cutting horse. As if maybe they had Steeldust in their blood. But nothing else matched and no such horse ever was that he had seen and he’d once asked his grandfather what kind of horses they were and his grandfather looked up from his plate at the painting as if he’d never seen it before and he said those are picture book horses and went on eating.
All the Pretty Horses
This Is Not a Drill
Some stories, like this one, you hear the general outline and think you pretty much know the story. But when you learn the details, you realize you hadn’t imagined the half of it. Mark Farmer, 56, Rick Fox, 56, and Tripp Miller, 49, lived together in a small group home for the developmentally disabled in Joplin, Mo. Each man had Down syndrome.
Mark Lindquist was one of their caretakers. On Sunday, May 22, he had an evening shift with them. He told the reporter Charles Wilson that he met Mark Farmer while working at a larger group home.
Mark Farmer (b. 1955), he was the reason I actually took the job — to be around him. When he was at the bigger group home, he’d go with me to take Meals on Wheels, and I would take him to like, oh, visit his mother’s grave and things like that. We were just pretty good buddies, and he’s a real good guy.
Ricky (b. 1954) was real quiet, but he loved music. He tried to do an Elvis impersonation and a Michael Jackson moonwalk. Tripp (b. 1961) was just a sports nut. He loved anything Missouri.
They were good boys. All they wanted to be is normal. And they just wanted to be treated normal and fit into society as normal as they could.
So it was a Sunday. I was at the house. I was cooking supper, actually. It was between 5 and 6, and the tornado siren went off. So I shoved my macaroni and cheese and stuff down on the stove and went back and started herding the guys toward the utility room. We had just had a tornado drill a week before and went over what we had to do. It was protocol to go in the utility room because there were no windows and it was a smaller room.
I actually think I might have fibbed to them a little bit. I didn’t want to scare them and told them it was a tornado drill. Of course, I looked out the window at the sky, and the sky, it looked black, and by the time the second siren went off, you could hear the tornado. I had already dragged one mattress in there, so I went to Ricky’s room and dragged his mattress too, and by the time I got that mattress in, my co-worker, Ryan, had come in. I told Ryan, I said, “Ryan, if you ever prayed, now’s the time.” So I laid across two of the boys, Rick and Mark, and the one mattress pretty much covered them. I stuck my head underneath the mattress where the other two, Ryan and the other boy, were lying. And the sound of the destruction was incredible. I remember the guys kind of yelling. Mark was scared. The others — the others were just kind of in shock, and I don’t think they realized what was going on. And Tripp was calming them down, saying, “You’re all right, Mark Farmer, you’re all right.” I remember the house kind of exploding. I think it must have knocked the roof in and sucked me out of there or something, because I do remember — I mean I don’t remember details — but I do remember flying uncontrollably and being hit by things and thinking I was probably dead.
When they found me, I was two houses south of the group home — impaled on metal and metal sticking clear through me.
They said it looked like “Night of the Living Dead,” because my hair was longer then, and I had bloody limbs sticking up, and I looked like a zombie because I’d lost so much blood. At the hospital they gave me a 2 percent chance to live. You know, 2 out of 100 is not very good.
And that was May 22, and I really did not know anything until the first week of August. I was in a coma pretty much for two and a half months.
The coma was almost like a dream. I haven’t tried to describe it before. I never felt like I was in heaven or hell or anything like that. I was aware of a few things going on around me, but not really. I do remember it was my main thing to get up and know what happened to my boys. I loved them. They were like my family. That’s what I was worried about in the coma the whole time.
When they told me all three of them died, I was devastated, you know? I was devastated that I lived, too. They were such good boys. I’m not a bad boy, but they were such good boys. They went to church, and they always saw the good parts, and I couldn’t understand why I was spared and they weren’t.
My psychiatrist and my head doctor at the hospital thought it might help me to go visit the house. ’Cause I was having a little bit of guilt and trouble dealing with it. I had seen the pictures and the videos on the Internet, but I didn’t realize the total devastation and how helpless I was. The whole neighborhood was just leveled. I kind of realized I did what I could, what I was trained to do. I don’t think I could have prayed any harder. Or covered them up any better. And I don’t want to sound like a Bible thumper, but — I watched over them, and I really feel like they’re watching over me now. I feel like I have three angels watching over me. It’s weird, but I do.
So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.
Moby-Dick Herman Melville
Stampede (2011) Norbert Bisky