Tuesday, January 20, 2009


the lives and times of archy and mehitabel
by don marquis

"i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i can't eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have removed
she nearly ate me the other night why dont she catch rats that is what she is supposed to be for there is a rat here she should get without delay"

archy is a reincarnated bard who came back as a cockroach.
Being a cockroach he cannot make capital letters or punctuation, hence the total absence of them in his poetry. He climbs above an old typewriter and flings himself at the keys. That is how he types.

archy has always been one of my favorite characters, perhaps because I choose to look at life from different angles. When I was a kid I used to lay on my bed and pretend I was on the ceiling and looking at my world upside down; then I would walk across--so adventurous!--and leap over the doorjam and walk into the next room and peruse the world next door from up rather than down. Life is very different when you're looking at it from a ceiling.

What do you see from the ceiling of a bedroom? The bed comes at you from a different angle, as does the bedside lamp and table but you can still identify them. What does a window look like from straight above? Very strange, although if you're an architect or an architect's child you're used to looking at things from different angles. All of this would rather be like taking the top off a doll house and looking down.

If you choose to look at the topside of the ceiling itself you see very interesting stuff--especially if you're on the ceiling of the kitchen, especially over the kitchen table. You might see the remains of a dinner--ah there's a glob from yesterday's meatloaf and weird--the desiccated remains of an insect caught in a spider web. Walk over above the stove and what is this? Yuk! Grease! Actually, if you didn't mind getting getting grease on you, you could slide across the ceiling and that would be dangerous--and fun, something like sliding down a bannister.

Another place I love to explore is under the ground--especially what it would be like to come out into a world you had never seen. I wrote a story about a baby mole that accidentally comes out one of his tunnels and into the night of a full moon. He is thunderstruck by the light from above and when he sees lights on the sidewalk he is awestruck. They are dancing! He is seeing a snail trail but he doesn't know it. A snail trail is magic. Look at one in the light of the moon and you'll see what I mean.

What would a baby mole have to have in his tunnel to see where he was going? Moles are nearly blind, and after all, he's a baby and babies love to explore. I decided Mother Mole would drag flower pots in from outside and fill them with lightning bugs; then he could explore the tunnels to his heart's content.

Looking at the world from different angles, to a photographer, can show you things you've never seen and because you've never seen them quite that way before, they become magic. Think of the photographs in the movie "Three Days of the Condor": a picnic bench in stark black and white seems like something from a different world, perhaps because it's seen in stark isolation, apart from it's usual location, in a park.

Having faith is seeing something from a different angle. I never had much faith--being more inclined to only believe things I could see. I have grappled with faith a lot since my brother's death. I'd like to believe his spirit lives on. I'd like to believe he's in a better place.

My sister, trying to convince me to have faith, wrote this beautiful piece of poetry, which I will quote:

When you look out your windows, and see the leaves of the trees, blowing, and the branches, bending, you believe it because of the wind. You obviously believe in the wind, well, being on the other side, is like the wind. God doesn’t destroy something; it just changes shape. Think of water--water—like rain. When the weather gets colder, rain comes as snow. Colder yet, it becomes ice. Hotter, it becomes steam. God is not wasteful, especially with the spirit. After all we learned down here, do you think he would throw it all away, after the spirit has had a long and useful life, wouldn’t that be wasteful? God is the biggest example of recycling, look at what He does with rain.

I am just about convinced. Thank you, Joyce. You've made me cry.


Heidi said...

Your sister is very wise! And what a beautiful way to put it.

Marsh said...

Wiseness (is this a word? No matter) comes in a lot of different guises, but yes, she is wise, and I'm just beginning to see it.

This is HW, right? You would know wise when you see it!

I so appreciated your wonderful response to my email. It's helping me in getting through my grief. I am now beginning to believe there's something out there after death and it's helping.

Kerri said...

That can fit into so many parts of life. Beautifully said and written.

marsh to the fore said...

Thanks Kerri. I'm assuming your speaking about my sister's poetry. I will pass this along.

I'm glad you were able to post. I've tweaked and hope everybody will now be able to.