I have long known the Sermon on the Mount by heart, well, not the whole thing, just the first part, which is of course the nugget. But that’s not the point—the point I’m coming to is that often when I can’t sleep I begin to recite as much as I can remember and by the time I get to “Blessed are the peacemakers”—which is pretty early in the sermon—I’m back under.
But last night—dawn, to be accurate, which at this time of year is still technically sleep time—there were seagulls across the alley on the flat roof of Map Town. I’m thinking three, at least, going at it, over, I suppose one French fry. I reason that they are not fighting over a half-eaten burger, because that would have come apart and each gull would have taken a piece and the racket would have stopped; at least until one gull was left with an unconsumed bit. And so by careful deduction, I concluded a French fry. Although, who knows about these inland rakers. I’ve seen them throw back everything from small roadkill to popsicle wrappers. And that’s a damn shame.
But as I was saying, even the Sermon on the Mount couldn’t put these birds to bay. I liken them to rabid children, shrieking rabid, Lord-of-the-Fly children. And don’t get me wrong, I like children, I have children, but that’s what they sounded like, as best I can describe. Although if I lived by the sea, I suppose I could imagine something like, well I don’t know anything that would make that sound, I just imagine the sea would have creatures that shriek like that. Closer to home, out in the woods, I heard a fox scream once, I didn’t know it was a fox at the time, but looking it up I found out they are known to scream, chillingly, like a small child.
How long have I been telling you all this?…and they are still screeching. Maybe it’s the short, compacted distance, the air between tall buildings, echoing, embellishing, adding…I know cats in heat can come close to this kind of shrieking, and who hit on the idea that catgut would work for the strings of lutes, harps, violins? Someone lying awake listening to alley cats in their fertile swing? And now I can see these gulls in the string section of a chamber orchestra. Tuning, tuning, tuning, and I’m waiting, hoping for the hush, the soft click of baton on music stand, and the slow melodic crescendo and calando of cello and viola and violin…but it’s all tuning, tuning, forever and ever.
Well, by now I’m on my way through the sermon several times, you know, the parts that I remember, but then, even as they squawk-yawl into this rag-breached dawn, I settle on this:
Blessed are ye, when gulls shall revile you, and persecute you, and shriek all manner of evil against you…rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.