GARDEN OF THE HESPERIDES
Story by Allan Graubard
Collages by Gregg Simpson
One warm evening after falling asleep early he had a dream that stayed with him for the next several days. It wasn't so much that
he remembered the dream in its entirety, something he could rarely do, but one sequence remained.
He was on a bus in a foreign city en route to a boat that would take him home. Enrapt in a book of poems he had lost sense
of where he was. As the bus slowed around a curve, he gazed up. This was his stop, the top level of the boat visible above
a warehouse roof.
He put the book down, grabbed his hat and bag and made for the door. Half way out he realized he had forgotten the book.
There it was, its red cover on the stained brown leather of the seat.
It was always like
this, revivifying at the last moment a sense of knowing what to do and
then came laughter, an
difficult because of his opacities, the forgetfulness that stalked him,
failures that diminished him,
Where would the boat take him? What would he do when he arrived? Would he once again disembark without understanding
what it was that drove him from place to place, and which had... But enough.
The open circular bay that worked as a harbor slowly diminished as the roll of the waves and the pitch of the prow touched the horizon…
His cabin was small: a bed, a functional desk and chair above which were two portholes, and a closet.
The toilet and shower were down the hall. He unpacked, laying the book on the bed, and went up on deck.
Passengers were strolling about, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the brine of the sea spray. Two gulls circled, a frail, faded,
crescent moon above them in the glare.
He found two empty
deck chairs and sat down. Next
to him, as if resolving in a developing tray
an image gathered into itself a
Without the usual hesitations and their customary veneer, they found in each other an inviolable confirmation of what it was
that drove their solitude, and how the largess of an embrace comforted and inspired them. Her warm, moist eyes as if primed
by a source deep in her body, and the thirst it compelled from him.
He gave in to the cutting wash of the waves and the oiled thrum of the engines
it just a mirror he couldn’t pierce, an exacting rectangle of glass in
his thoughts and emotions circled each other,
On the evening of
the second day, reading on his cabin bed, distant shore lights
through the heat haze played faintly over
A few disembarked.
The walled town, an old harbor, its stone streets were empty but for
the odd delivery truck.
"Something quiet in the back.” "Number 3, on the second floor then. It’s large. A new bed. Good light.” The fellow was
right. Sun poured through three windows, one of which was open to the brutal rise of a massive cliff that gave onto a
higher mountain some distance behind it.
the sheer mass of the rock did. He stood there for a long while in the warmth of the light, its ephemeral promise fixed to this
archaic, inhuman density.
After breakfast the next morning he walked
over to the taxi stand in the central square and hired a
car to take him over
"Half way to the
peak is an empty monastery with a well,” the driver told him. “The
it once a month and keep it clean.
drive was over an hour. After the town and several tiny hamlets
ledges where goats and sheep grazed,
up, the hot sun and a stunted wind-blown
forest; its peeling branches bunched together in a kind of paralytic
was exhausted when he reached the monastery. He shouldn’t have been. He
climbed more difficult heights, rested
was one room constructed from crudely cut stones held in place by
mortar and straw. The well,
with its bucket and rope, was to the right of the entrance.
took some water and drank it, the iron aftertaste lingering on his
Inside, before a low wooden tabernacle
A glimmering orange light shot through with inky strands of green and blue… The room suffused with this deliquescence,
and because of its chaotic undertones seemed weightless, tethered to the earth by his presence alone.
a darker chiaroscuro absorbing the lucent display...Further ascent was
impossible. He would make do with what he had.
slept deeply, more deeply than in a long while, an unconscious healing
passivity emptied of hope, passion or despair.
when he woke and time returned, this kingdom where he wove his life
affairs and projects, he knew that
He reached the peak before day turned oppressive. The town below him, an after thought clinging to its terrace, and
the sea with small islands and thin white froth lines; ferries carrying produce and passengers.
him stretched an elevated valley patch-worked with vineyards and
rose to a plateau perhaps
half as high as where he was, and at its utmost elevation a swathe of green, so green with brief glinting gold, an
aerial tidal spawn. Was this the place the poems in the book referred to, or had he infused its metaphors in what he saw,
creating it by half?
Destiny was not something he thought about much but the effort of gaining ground, stopping to eat black berries
in buzzing thickets…On that height were the golden apples of the Hesperides; whose pulp gave immortality.
in the myth of the apples. The daughters of Atlas had long since
dust; so too
had not freed
Prometheus from his torture, chained to that rock where an eagle ate at
liver by day,
closer he came to the grove, the more certain he was of reaching it.
had he to lose? And when he arrived the green of the grass enfolded
him, as if
he were part of it, a human plant
were gold, not metallic as we commonly take gold, but of a soft slick
luster that mirrored perfectly
delirious and complete, and all the more poignant for having been given and taken and returned.
slightly parted, day just beginning…He realized that the dream, and what he remembered of it, this journey he took in sleep,
would elude him.
that she, though not present within it, at least as far as he could
presence, was in this bed, its own
golden apples that grew in the myth and the fantastical immortality
offered were signs of the trust and passion they
shared. No more, no less...