Donkey Derby
Usually all we have to do when we go a-conquering is build a boat, find a benefactress, recruit a ribald crew, and wear radiant glinting helmets, with these four easy steps my kind has conquered faraway lands, and seas and moons and molecules, however, even after thousands of years, we have had no luck conquering tomorrow. Over and over again, we have set sail in pursuit of tomorrow only to discover tomorrow's antecedents. it is a recurring disappointment, like never leaving Spain.

Perhaps with some things, the only way to conquer them is to abolish them. If only the Earth didn't turn there would be no tomorrow to confound us, there would just be today and tonight, and they would hold still like Peru; they would be clearly marked on the atlas. We could build colonies in each of them and travel back and forth at will; days and nights wouldn't come upon us we would come upon them.

How do you stop a thing from spinning? To stop a prayer wheel from spinning you take it away from the practitioner. Once he is no longer rhythmically twitching his wrist it will slow down and stop. But if the earth is prayer wheel it's a prayer wheel we're glued to like miniature symbols. What can we do but yell at the practitioner to please stop spinning it and generating all of those chancy tomorrows.

But while we have yelling moods, and imperial moods, we also have guessing moods. Even with our fine record of conquests, there remain a few things we do not have atlases for, like tomorrow and the rain and the gods and donkeys. This is the sweet stuff of gambling --- the chancier the better. Betting on wild donkeys at the Kentucky Derby is even more fun than betting on thoroughbreds: with wild donkeys from the salt flats there are no tired conventions like "early moderate tempo" or "tactical speed" or even "forward progression." A donkey derby is nothing but upsets, from start to finish. and betting on the gods is better still; it feels like placings bets on Thelonius Monk's ten fingers --- which finger will play what key next!

Tonight, on this the latest antecedent to tomorrow, it is starry out and I am not in a conquering mood. Come and miss the boat with me. Come and play some guessing games. We'll read aloud the illegible electric green script of the northern lights; we'll speculate about which star in the next ten thousand years is going to go supernova. Then we'll listen to a recording of "Epistrophy." I'll wager on his left thumb, you take whichever finger you want, and with the mad currency we collect from each other I'll buy you rain, you buy me snow, and we'll go in together for sunshine for the grass and the clover and the delicious prickly thistles.

--- From Things that Are
Amy Leach
©2012 Milkweed Editions
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