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Latter Days

“Only those who know the glory of violent battle and are not impressed by it can truly bring about a new dispensation on the other side of heroic individualism. This requires a more concrete sense of the unity of being than traditional Western heroics allows, or the ascending new barbarisms deconstruct.” (The Ignorant Perfection of Ordinary People, by Robert Inchausti, SUNY press, Albany, 1991, p. 88)


In those latter days, when the cities began to burn, we heard tales of the monsters human beings had made of themselves there, and of the atrocities they comitted. Sometimes we harbored the refugees, when we had enough food. They were a risk, but not to take them in was a greater one.

Ero came to us with scars all over his body, slash marks from razor blades. It was late spring, greens were lush in the garden, and he wandered between the rows in a daze when we told him he could pick as much as he wanted to eat. I don’t think he’d ever eaten fresh greens.

He was a husky young man. Who had tortured him? He didn’t talk, mostly. What he said when he arrived was simply, “Help?”

We explained we were a cooperative, that everyone worked so that everyone could eat and have shelter. He nodded, with his shoulders hunched.

At first he was a great asset, so big and strong. But as summer came in he started spending long hours lying by the brook, and sometimes he persuaded one of the girls to join him. Everyone needs time to rest and play, we said, we all need to do our share of the work so everyone can have time off. He hunched his shoulders and nodded and mumbled, ok. And for a few days he would be one of the best hoers, or splitters of wood.

But then he would be slacking again. What should we do, or say? This is the risk. If we can’t truly communicate to him the great unity of being, we may be hurt by him, and he may lose his only chance to find it.

Then he raped Alyssa. And slashed his own face. His upper lip was cut so badly he could only drink liquid food for a week. He cringed when we gathered in a circle to talk. We would wait til his lip healed, we said, and then he must tell us how this had happened.

Alyssa decided he should not be left alone; she and two other young people were with him the whole week. They didn’t talk much, because he couldn’t talk. But they sang a lot, the three of them. He looked like he had never heard such a thing.

At the end of the week, we circled again. He told us how his father hurt him, for years, and we wept. He told us he was evil, and we should throw him out — and as he said this, he wept. Then we all sat looking at each other in silence, for a long time.

Can we retrain his damaged mind? Who are we, if we do not try?

© Copyright 1998 Catherine Holmes Clark