Myth of the Given

by C. Dylan Basset Issue: Spring 2016

                            After the Legend of Saint Eustace 

I one morning (late night) left, never arriving, a final time, taking up my horse like it was 
             language and, cloaked in hyperbolic glow, my lantern. I struggled between light and the 
             force of the body that was light. 

I recall an experience, unsure whether I lived it. 

A stag frantically and in circles with the will of human insistence ran. Or there were many stags, 
             many circles. 

The morning (night) was a soundless downpour, nothing by nothing marked. 

Fog canceled the town behind me, the valley. 

I followed the stag, or it led me, though what I pursued exactly, I could not see to say it now. The 
             dogs barked at something that never came, incapable of it.

To see is to begin is to begin again. 

Time trespassed into vision. 

I said time when I meant memory. 

Let me begin saying: sentence by sentence the landscape enters the eye. The geese rose, were 
             rising, a single body of wings. The world was farther and farther away. 

Or let me begin saying god was driven into the trees, god took shelter in the stag’s antlers. The 
             stag was wasn’t running but changing form. An explanation of internal topography. 

I wanted a word for it.

I said the world was farther and farther away when I meant to say is. 

Further, I was looking for something to look for. My eyes hurt in dumb looking. I mean, in hurt 
              they looked and saw the stag. 

Saw and were seen. 

There was no other witness. 

Let me begin here. Many years ago, I was told in learning to hunt I’d learn to feed myself 
              whenever I wanted to be fed. 

Saying many years ago is not the same as saying I remember.

I remember it, the stag carrying itself like a torch, so as not to be consumed, as my horse carried

              —like a body out of context, pulling itself slowly if the ending point is unknown, does 
              tremblingly—me. 

Let me begin again: the eyes do not wait, trying to figure flesh. The fog tumbled around me and I 
              beheld within the stag, held between its antlers something like—but less recognizably 
              —god. 

The eye is what swallows itself, the stag a perpetual window. 

To see is to see one’s own reflection. I realized this when, reaching out to touch the figure’s face 
              touched my own. Myself a shadow of another self, or another. 

What I saw, the stag saw. A fixed point around whose image collected time, my lantern’s light not 
              gone but relocated. 

Again I’ve said time. 

I had to remind myself I was a hunter, stags wandered daily around me. 

Let me begin there. The morning was a terrible reversal like flipping a coin. And from the edge 
              of a clearing, a stag haloed in green, whose stature seized in me a hunter’s hunger, looking 
              over before leaping into the forest, lured and I attended.
I have a memory of an echo of clattering hooves. 

To call the stag a fact, as I have done, would be wrong. 

Have I no other, if only one, conversion left in me? 

When I finally spoke or tried to, my grammar quick with hesitation, I was delayed by heavy 
               breathing, my body fighting against itself. 

I pursued the stag and because, despite the danger I posed to it (or, now remembering, it to me), 
               the stag stopped, I stopped. 

I have known transcendence, but briefly. 

The fog was my eye. Or as the eye consists of what it beholds (is beholden to) I could see as far as 
               I could touch (was permitted to). And since then I have this, like a moth of light passing, 
               memory—barely one. 

The stag, when I looked a second time, was a bolt. I mean it blotted, as if to paper. 

I pretended to believe, and so believed. 

Or else the stag’s mute stare was nothing else. 

Sight is not the same as seeing. 

One mistake replaces another—where was I? 

Let me begin again. I was a hunter, I thought I was. The stars in the sky became the sky: a definition 
               of lost. Fog was rising, it continued to rise. Where was I?


C. Dylan Bassett is a post-graduate teaching fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is the author of The Invention of Monsters / Plays for the Theater (Plays Inverse, 2015), and four chapbooks. His recent poems are published or forthcoming in Boston Review, Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, Washington Square and elsewhere.