Supreme Sleep

The routine demands of life consume me. I clean my body, stretch tired muscles and prepare for a day of competition and constant combat in seeking out whatever scraps of food others have thrown away.

My tale is one of lifetimes too long and wearisome to tell, but this I can say: My humanity slipped from me as I walked through life dumb and unaware. I will admit to you that once I was addicted to the fault of feeling superior to other forms of living beings. Now, having felt the pain of pride, my soul is free of countless conceits. Even now, though wracked by mange, body sores, parasites and a host of unattended ailments I am at peace, for I am immune to the diseases of the soul from which you who read this suffer.

I have been lying on the shoulder of this dusty road throughout the night. The unadorned feet of men and women pass by. Their feet are swollen and cracked. Water, soil and sun have callused and hardened their soles.

This day, as did every day, began with the cackles of chickens making their way to the coop door. The air was filled with the smoke scent of burning wood and charcoal. Sapor approached the coop carrying a pail, its contents of grain ground to a nourishing but not very palatable powder.

Such an ordinary man this chicken-keeper Sapor. His humility and kindness were legendary in this village of Attasri, yet one could see in him the capacity for cruelty that one sees in all men.

Nosing the earth where some grain had fallen the day before, I was startled to come upon the sharply etched face of the old weather-beaten man staring at me. I expected a threatening gesture. I froze, then lowered my head and arched my brows into a look of helplessness and submission. He smiled, accentuating the vertical lines etched in his hollow cheeks.

"You are either very brave or very stupid little one, or perhaps your hunger drives you," he said softly as he threw some grain in front of me.

It was my way to be daring, to take chances to live out this miserable existence. Others fear the risk and in the end are overcome by the stupor of hunger— too weak to acknowledge their folly and the wisdom that sustenance is life.

I ate what Sapor had thrown to me and cautiously walked toward him as he put down his pail and held out a handful of grain. I ate as he began to stroked my neck and back.

I couldn’t breathe; I was choking. His hand had closed on my neck. I panicked then jerked and contorted my body in all directions, desperately trying to escape. He pressed with the strength of both hands. I bared my fangs. What I had intended to be a blood-curdling snarl was instead a feeble yelp. Sapor’s eyes were wide and vacant, his face somewhere between a grimace and a grin.

There was darkness now as there was before—and as there will be again. Memories, reality, consciousness, unconsciousness. I last remember my body going limp.

Let my bleached bones waste in the Sun
Let my carcass replenish the Earth
My Soul sings its song of Release
I am nearing the Supreme Sleep

Stephen Landau
Khukhan and Bangkok, Thailand, 1969-1970