Dead Horse Lear: After the Storm

[Cross-posted from
2016-09-19-18-58-32What if, after the world ends, all that’s left is beauty?

Not decoration, or symmetry, or even geometric regularity, but a broken and fragmentary scattering of things that aren’t any more what they once were, objects that don’t quite fit, refuse that refuses to go away. What if these sorts of things turn out to have an enduring and alluring beauty, inviting us out into places that aren’t easy to get to?

I was thinking about the gorgeousness of the fractured world yesterday after the rainstorm as we gathered on Dead Horse Beach to talk about Posthuman Lear with Craig Dionne. The sand fleas pinched my neck as he described Utopia, animal bodies, and human desires. Plus King Lear, and science fiction.

Beach reading

Beach reading

Thou art the thing itself… (3.4)

The day started wet. A 5:30 am I was piloting the good ship Subaru down the highway, worried about getting everyone out to the beach. I spent the morning hitting refresh on the Weather Channel. Would the storm pass in time?

What is the cause of thunder? (3.4)

Intermittent clearing kept us on tenterhooks, but Craig and I convinced ourselves after a dry (damp) run out to the beach that we’d be OK in a light drizzle. The forecast rolled ambivalently through an early afternoon downpour into a clearing projection. Our collaborators from elected, quite sensibly, to stay dry. But we still wanted to go.

Written in stone

Written in stone

Festina lente: “Make haste slowly” (Erasmus)

So we went. Four cars navigated the van Wyck, Jackie Robinson, Belt, and other traffic-clogged expressways. The path for our ten minute hike out to the beach had some standing water, but was negotiable even in my non-hiking shoes. The clouds pressed low and traffic hummed on the Marine Parkway Bridge behind us as we wandered the beach just after low tide, looking at glass, leather, plastic, the refuse of industrial modernity. It was beautiful, in a pained way.

Is this the promised end? (5.2) 2016-09-19-14-17-44

We leaned against a graffiti-painted fiberglass boat for Craig’s talk. As he ranged from sci fi to Shakespeare’s father’s illegal trade practices to “unaccommodated man,” his talk rippled over the beach. Counterpoint was provided by some Canada geese overhead, the cries of gulls, hum of automobile traffic, and the slow changing of the light at day’s end.

The talk ended precisely at sunset (6:58 pm, according to the Weather Channel), but in a few unrepeatable minutes before that, the drooping sun peaked below the daylong clouds and flamed rose-pink transcendence out across sand and sky. The light caught Craig’s hair and glinted across the shallow ripples of the incoming tide.

It’s a silly thing to say about a sunset, but in that moment I felt I’d never seen anything quite like it before. Roses, after the storm.

See better, Lear! (1.1) 2016-09-19-18-53-22

The day ended with lobster tacos atClemente’s in Sheepshead Bay, and then a long drive through the wilds of Brooklyn and Queens dropping off the remaining Dead Horsers before I pointed my prow north toward home. What a day!

Thanks to all who came out, or followed along!


About Steve Mentz 1264 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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