‘Never Be Held’ – from Cormac McCarthy, ‘The Crossing’

  November 21st, 2007

“He squatted over the wolf and touched her fur. He touched the cold and perfect teeth. The eye turned to the fire gave back no light and he closed it with his thumb and sat by her and put his hand upon her bloodied forehead and closed his own eyes that he could see her running in the starlight where the grass was wet and the sun’s coming as yet had not undone the rich matrix of creatures passed in the night before her. Deer and hare and dove and groundvole all richly empaneled on the air for her delight, all nations of the possible world ordained by God of which she was one among and not separate from. Where she ran the cries of the coyotes clapped shut as if a door had closed upon them and all was fear and marvel. He took up her stiff head out of the leaves and held it or he reached to hold what cannot be held, what already ran among the mountains at once terrible and of a great beauty, like flowers that feed on flesh. What blood and bone are made of but can themselves not make on any altar nor by any wound of war. What we may well believe has power to cut and shape and hollow out the dark form of the world surely if wind can, if rain can. But which cannot be held never be held and is no flower but is swift and a huntress and the wind itself is in terror of it and the world cannot lose it.”

-Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing


A dead wolf is held by the boy who loved it.

This is worth our love. All that is fierce and snapping and hungry and wild in the world, which even wind shies from. Nothing that can be tamed, disneyfied and slapped on hallmark cards, nothing that can be atrophied and enervated by a desire to see nature harmless, easy and meek. Cannot be held, never be held.

McCarthy suggests the wolfspirit lives on in the world even as the creatures themselves are killed. That the world not only must not but cannot be bereft of wolf, that there is something in the skeleton, in the pattern of the world that has wolf burned into it, in the DNA of it, programmed and scripted. So that wolf would come out as air, stream, wind, fire, in the eyes of future beings and creatures to come.

I don’t know about that. I think the world could indeed lose the wolf, and will. But it must not, that I agree with. All the wild mad-flower sprinting rich-blooded marrow-loving among us must not be lost. All creatures which live with a snarled starving yelp in their throats must not be lost or the world is a flat and quiet and forsaken place fit only for sleeping.

[posted by C Way at 12:21 AM]


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