From the archive
By Mary Ruefle, from Issue 13 of Ecotone. Madness, Rack, and Honey, a collection of Ruefle’s writings on poetry, will be published next month by Wave Books.
At headquarters they asked me for something dry and understated. Mary, they said, it’s called a statement. They took me out back to a courtyard where they always ate lunch and showed me a little tree that was, sadly, dying. Something with four legs had eaten it rather badly. Don’t overemote, they said. I promised I wouldn’t, but I was thinking to myself that the something-with-four-legs had certainly overemoted and that the tree, in response, was overemoting now, being in the strange little position of dying. All the cops were sitting around eating sandwich halves, and they offered me one. This one’s delicious, said a lieutenant, my wife made it. Seeing as it was peanut butter and jelly I thought he was overemoting, but I didn’t say anything. I just sat looking at the tree and eating my sandwich half. When I was ready I asked for a pencil and they gave me one of those little golf pencils. I didn’t say anything about that either. I just wrote my statement and handed it over—it was a description of the tree, which they intended to give to their captain as a Christmas present—I mean my description—because the captain, well, he loved that tree and he loved my writing and every one of the cops hoped to be promoted in the captain’s heart and, who knows, maybe get a raise. Still, after all that sitting around in the courtyard eating sandwich halves, I had a nice feeling of sharing, so when they asked me if I had anything else to say I told them that in the beginning you understand the world but not yourself, and when you finally understand yourself you no longer understand the world. They seemed satisfied with that. Cops, they’re all so young.