The Inhuman Speech of a Barn

indexWhite barn. Black shingled roof. Morning light. Dust gathers on the lower clapboards. The soil is dry, dusty. Wind eddies the dust, whisking it up against the barn. It’s unreal. There’s a glow about it. Doesn’t look like it’s just the morning sun. The barn is haloed, shrouded. There’s no mist. The day is bright as an unshaded lamp. The sky is blue. It’s all perfect but not real, like something out of Plato’s world of ideals. Maybe its more real. Who knows?

Wisps of straw float past the barn door, bolted tight. No sound of the life behind it. It’s unreal – no, surreal. Looking at the front of it, you could imagine it’s just a facade, a wall with a picture of a barn painted on. White, pure like a virgin, like it never knew anything wrong, never did anything wrong. Just standing there aloof. Around to the side, the windows are dark, unreadable. The barn’s trying to say something. What? It speaks another language. A language of wood, cut, killed, painted, renewed, peeling, scraped, sanded, and painted again. Whipped by the wind, lashed by the rains, the dust of generations has been hurled at it. It stands dead, renewed.

Around back, you begin to feel the dimensionality of it, but it still reveals nothing. The eaves are speckled with spider webs, clinging dirt, shivering dew. A swallow sits nearby, peaking out. Quiet. Vigilant. Waiting. For what? Back toward the front, the grass is not shy, boldly going right up to the barn’s foundation. It whispers to the barn. The barn doesn’t understand. It doesn’t speak the same language of roots and water and the times without water when roots need to reach down with everything they’ve got to the dark soil deep down where the scant water barely kisses the dry earth.

Round the front again, new shadows fall on dry grass. Not a cloud around. The sun throws shadows, casts images created by some unseen puppet master in Plato’s Cave. Back around the side again, the wood siding heats up in the morning sun. Dry wood and dry rot, unseen beneath the lovely white paint, pure, antiseptic. The window still holds its secret not telling the wood. They speak different languages. The east side and the north side. They speak different languages, too. The bird swoops down to the waiting worm. Worm must be happy now, mustn’t it? It fulfilled its purpose in the gullet of the swallow.

Round the side again in a perambulation,circles, dizzy. One after another they pass – first front, then side, then back, then another side. The barn becomes a whir of white on brown on blue on gold. The sides begin to speak the same language, the window, too, and the grass. Cover your ears. Don’t want to hear what their saying. The whisper becomes a shout becomes a scream. Run. Outrun the barn. It can’t talk to you of things human, the things you need to hear right now. It’s white sides, black top, rough hewn brown ribs, spiders, birds, dirt come crashing down in front of the door. Above the sound of breathing, it speaks. It rings like a church bell. It preaches like a minister. Its message is in the grain of the wood cut down before its time, the static vigilance of the windows, the creatures within, the worm in the gullet.