I approach the world as I would face a tribe of cannibals clad in armour and warpaint: with courage enough and a readiness to trade my shirt, trade my pants for dear life and stand buck naked in the back-bush of New Guinea, the Amazon and Africa, exposed to every death, knocking at the door of the earth as if to say, Here I am. Infest me: let your parasites crawl under my skin and feast awhile, for I belong to the earth. Thus I cast myself into her deepest jungles seeking her secrets in silt and stone: where her copper veins, where the laces of silver and gold, in which pipes her diamonds lie. Either she will tolerate my prying, my staking claims, or she’ll absorb and knead me back into herself; but I’ll be damned if I peter and play it safe—subsist to die of nothing.
I crossed the Sahara on foot and camel-back. No kind of living could knock the sand out of me after. I put civilisation behind me, spent ten years with that year, cutting and splicing, viewing and reviewing the miles of footage I’d snatched from that country of death. I should have died there. It is there I was forged. Seven camels dropped, but I, despite all the signs, survived. Having endured Hades, no greater crossing remains. The eye of the Sahara still grips me in its blue whorl. Though such beauty will not abide us long, yet I will have her, and she, with her fire, will cure me the way she cured this ancient sea.
The Great Wallenda
I keep revisiting this tightrope walk across a gaping chasm. The tense cable is familiar: taut, stretched thin as hope. I amble out and hang with God. You might think I’ve taken these thousand careful steps a thousand times before, and like a seasoned driver, I can glide along whilst eating and talking on the phone. Perhaps you surmise it’s all practice: maybe the secret’s to imagine you’re just a few safe feet above ground. But I assure you, I indulge no illusion. Do you really think I’d turn my mind to football at such a sublime, ecstatic moment in the evolutionary march? Death is not a lady I aim to please. Why would I walk this narrow path if not for the crashing rush, the gnashing, slavering jaws of Niagara Falls, if not to peer down the throat of Grand Canyon? The trick’s to take in the beauty, to throb with the thrill but to take it in stride, to let it ride over you, around you, but never through you like a chill. Be alert and beware your instincts. Your every reflex works against you when you’re teetering at the verge of the void. I aim to overcome the vertiginous awe, aware that should my ear twitch too curiously toward some unexpected sound, or should a peripheral shadow cause my eye to jitter and that jitter trip a quake, why, I should surely pivot and fall. Until then, I must mind each step. Where I stand is too profound to pretend I’m somewhere else.
I plunged just as deep into myself as into the swaying sea and freed the dolphin sleeping there under chains of memory. But I sensed I was mere fathoms away from some lordlier creature that kept the key to endless breath. I longed to possess that gift, enough to feel inklings of metamorphosis tingle through my limbs; not that any webbing ever grew between my toes, but tired of relentless gravity, fed up with the terrestrial plod, I dreamt such changes. I felt I had my finger on an evolutionary trigger, that one day I’d inhale and have all I’d ever need of this world.
Asa Boxer’s poetry has garnered several prizes and is included in various anthologies around the world. His books are The Mechanical Bird (Signal, 2007), Skullduggery (Signal, 2011), Friar Biard’s Primer to the New World (Frog Hollow Press, 2013), Etymologies (Anstruther Press, 2016), and Field Notes from the Undead (Interludes Press, 2018). Boxer is also a founder of and editor at The Secular Heretic.