“Considering the Trebonites” by Dick Allen

Dick Allen


The world grew stranger…he had almost lost the feeling of
being on a strange planet; here it returned upon him with
desolating force. It was no longer ‘the world,’ scarcely even ‘a
world’: it was a planet, a star, a waste place in the universe,
millions of miles from the world of men…”
—C.S. Lewis

When we interviewed them, we found they had no insurance
and believed in great acts of page turning.
“The heavens are filled with dead end runs,” they said,
“angel-headed hipsters, old washing machines.
Sometimes you can see the outline of a woman’s elbow
and sometimes you can’t.” They greeted our arrival
with bemused tolerance. “Box Watchers,” they called us,
and “People Who Hold Metal to Their Ears,”
“Roller Coasters” and “Replacement Parts”
and “Crazy Mothers.” In their dimension
four hundred plus five hundred equals one gold tooth,
the moon is shaped like a half-eaten tuna fish sandwich.
“What is so funny as a tuna fish sandwich?”
is one of their sayings. Also,
“Rain always falls on the feet of goats”
and “Once in danger, always in danger” and
“Too many poems can spoil a mountain picnic.”
It was observed by C.S. Lewis
that one of humanity’s main problems is its lack
of other sentient beings to bounce off of,
thus we fail to have a much needed sense of perspective
and that’s why we sometimes call our children
“little monsters” and our wives “cows” or “shrews”
and our husbands “pigs” or “brutes” or “Dagwoods.”
… They procreated, we found out, only in public places
such as football stadiums and shopping malls and historical mansions
and always in broad daylight, watched by thousands
whenever possible. Food was their secret thing,
always to be eaten in silence and solitude
and never with neckties.
Also, they forever turned their backs on each other
whenever they drank, during which time they rolled their eyes
and twitched their eyebrows. What they found beautiful
were exceptions to rules, undersides of bridges,
all kinds of clattering sounds, and most especially
paintings of fire escapes. Hundreds of articles have been published
about the symbolism of fire escapes, their vine-like clingings,
their amounts of rust, how they looked in sunlight
or shadow, whether they should be lined with flower pots or not
and huge books about fire escapes also, amply illustrated.
One evening
we asked them if it was true their lives were governed
only by signs and they told us it was so. A tree branch falling
meant you should go home and speak with your cat.
An itch in the right shoulder blade
indicated you should not trust your best friend
further than the nearest gravy boat. If you came upon
three descended fire escapes in one day
you should hide under a water tower, but if it was five
plus a cracked window,
tomorrow would be filled with endives,
trestles and historical mansions … We left them
by their side of the portal, their small fingers
still holding it open for a while
and when we went back home to our boxes and our wheels,
our cell phones and our wild variety
of clothes beneath our clothes, our darknesses
and gods and landscapes stretching out to rain-swept horizons,
taking with us a bottle of the Trebonites’ fantastic rum
from their Valley of the Stinking Life,
that lies just beyond Hey, There
(those wonderful translated names similar to those of our racehorses),
carrying with us a few bite marks, some images of bridges,
and several regrets, but none we could not shake.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008


Dick Allen: “The Chronicles of Narnia movie led me to Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which led me back to his SF novel, Out of the Silent Planet, which deranged my mind enough for the Trebonites. As is often noted, all SF descriptions of alien culture are really commentaries on Earth life.”

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