Archives for category: faith

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Cain Enabled

Genesis 4-5 (with guest appearances by Matthew 22, 27 and Leviticus 27 )

I am the donkey. I chant the lessons of the fathers. The chant is the lesson. Repeat, the chant is the lesson. The words are the rhizomes of the chant. The chant is the lesson. Repeat, the chant is the lesson. I have sinned. The sins are the rhizomes of the chant. The chant is the lesson. Repeat the chant. Repeat the lesson. I have been judged by commandment. Judgments are extensions of the lesson, the chant. Repeat the lesson. The chant is the lesson of the Father. Repeat, the chant is the lesson. Eve, Cain, Moses, Jesus. Repeat the judgments. Repeat. Begat begat the begat. Repeat. Names are the blocks of the chant of the repeat the lesson chant. There is no person. There is no person. The chant is the lesson. The center cannot hold. There is no center. Repeat. Repeat. Chant the lesson the chant. All chant. All rhizomes chant the lesson. Light is mass. Repeat. The chant. Mass is light. Repeat. Chant. Substance is nothingness. Repeat. Nothingness is substance. The chant. Begat. The chant. He begat He. She does not exist. Chant. Repeat. She is only He begetting. Repeat. She is half the judgment. Half the shekels. Chant the lesson. Seven seedless husbands. Chant. Repeat. They all had her, passed her on. Repeat. They all had her. Repeat. Ain’t no fun. Chant. If the homies can’t have none. Chant the lesson.
Whose shall she be? Chant the chant. Repeat the rape. Repeat the rape. The chant is the lesson. Teach her the lesson. Into her go. Repeat. Chant. She 30 shekels. He 50 shekels. Repeat. The chant. The lesson. The center cannot hold. Make it new. Genesis. Repeat. Cain. Repeat. The rock descends. The chant is the lesson. Jesus. Repeat. Why hast thou? Chant. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? The chant is the lesson. My punishment is greater than I can bear. The chant is the lesson. He is not the lesson. The word is not the Word. The chant begats the chant. In the beginning. As it was and ever shall be. The chant is the lesson. She has no value. Silence. She is not the lesson. World without end. Into her go. The chant is his chant. Know her hole. The chant of he. Not her whole. The chant is the lesson. He is a rhizome. He is not the lesson. Teach her the lesson. The chant. His profit is not the lesson. Do not see his profit. Chant. He is the prophet. His profit is not the lesson. Chant. Repeat. His profit is not the lesson. His begat is his alone. His profit is untouchable. Ye unclean repeat the chant. Profit is untouchable. Chant the lesson. The corporate body is a person. Repeat. The chant is the lesson. She does not profit. His profit is not the lesson. She is he and his profit. The corporate body is holy. Chant. The corporation is the chant. Repeat. The chant is the lesson. Repeat. Profit is holy. The person is not the lesson. Chant. Profit is holy. Chapter 11. Relief. Repeat the chant. Assets. Repeat. Her ass is an asset. Value and devalue. Chant. We all had her. Whose shall she be? The chant is the lesson. Reorganize the debt. Profit is his. Profit is holy. The corporation seeks relief. Relief. Repeat. Relieve the corporation. The CEO is holy. Do not touch his profits. Repeat. The chant is the lesson. Reality tv. Control the content. Words are rhizomes. Chant. Repeat. The profit is holy. Judgment is process. Cain is a rhizome. The people are rhizomes. Repeat. The rhizome is not the lesson. Our welfare is not the lesson. The chant is the lesson. Profit carries no flag. Repeat. The chant. No flags. No central state. It cannot hold. The chant is the lesson. The rulers rule the chant. Trod Nod. Repeat. The road is the path. The end is the beginning. Profit is holy. Fear the punished. Worship the punished. Repeat. Rule the chant. Never punish Corporate. The chant. The lesson. Nod is multinational. Eyes to the ground. Repeat. Eyes to the screen. Send. Friend. Delete. Chant. In the shadow of the Corporate. Profit soars above. Sores below. Trod. Chant. Share her. Shareholders. Shekels. Shhh. The chant is the lesson. His profit is not the lesson. I am the donkey. I chant the corporate lesson. Go ye now. Chant the lesson. As it was. The chant. As it shall be.

Still Genesis 4: 1- 25

Cain Destabled

“Nod” — a tuneless song (thanks, JC)

Well, you wonder why I’m marked and walk this way,
Why I never work a job more than a day,
And why my laughter sounds like someone else’s moan
Well, there’s a history to the scars that I have borne.

I wear my marks for the poor and beaten down,
Living in the hopeless, hungry victims’ side of town,
I have them for the prisoner who misunderstood her crime,
But stays because she’s a consort of her times.

I wear the mark for those who never read,
Or listened to the words the Maker said,
But I heard the words he spoke with love and charity,
Back then, you know, He was talking straight to me!

And I’m doing what I can in tattered clothes,
As I walk on rocks and feel them in my toes
Though I’m haunted by the wicked sound of skull bone being cracked
Every time a person shouts at me “Get back!”

I wonder if my questions will get old,
Unworthy me or a universe so cold?
I wander Nod just fixed on what there might have been
If a judgment never came to Mom or two young men.

So, I wander for the women who have died,
Believing that the Lord was on their side,
I wander for another hundred thousand castes who cry,
Never told or knowing why they’re cast aside.

But words won’t make things right, that much I know,
Like Mother’s ambushed innocence or Abel brought so low,
And not until I justify what is wrong and what is right
Will I ever see my shadow as my light.

Oh, I’d love to sing a rainbow every day,
And know that there’s a fairness to the game that’s being played,
‘Til then I’ll wander solo, scarred image on the sand,
‘Til God’s a little fairer, I’m the bitter, angry man.

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Still Genesis 4: 1- 25

Cain Destabled

“Nod” — a tuneless song (thanks, JC)

Well, you wonder why I’m marked and walk this way,
Why I never work a job more than a day,
And why my laughter sounds like someone else’s moan
Well, there’s a history to the scars that I have borne.

I wear my marks for the poor and beaten down,
Living in the hopeless, hungry victims’ side of town,
I have them for the prisoner who misunderstood her crime,
But stays because she’s a consort of her times.

I wear the mark for those who never read,
Or listened to the words the Maker said,
But I heard the words he spoke with love and charity,
Back then, you know, He was talking straight to me!

And I’m doing what I can in tattered clothes,
As I walk on rocks and feel them in my toes
Though I’m haunted by the wicked sound of skull bone being cracked
Every time a person shouts at me “Get back!”

I wonder if my questions will get old,
Unworthy me or a universe so cold?
I wander Nod just fixed on what there might have been
If a judgment never came to Mom or two young men.

So, I wander for the women who have died,
Believing that the Lord was on their side,
I wander for another hundred thousand castes who cry,
Never told or knowing why they’re cast aside.

But words won’t make things right, that much I know,
Like Mother’s ambushed innocence or Abel brought so low,
And not until I justify what is wrong and what is right
Will I ever see my shadow as my light.

Oh, I’d love to sing a rainbow every day,
And know that there’s a fairness to the game that’s being played,
‘Til then I’ll wander solo, scarred image on the sand,
‘Til God’s a little fairer, I’m the bitter, angry man.

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One day the next week, the dark-skinned Nicaraguan neighbor woman from down the hall stopped me on my way to work.

Senor Sorrow,” she said.  “My hija Mita cannot obtain an entry visa into the country.  I must bring her here.  In my country she will surely die.”

“Do you need money?” I said, reaching into my pocket.  “I’ve got some on me now.  And if you’ll give me an idea of how much…”

She smiled and put her brown hand on my wrist.  “You are a saint, Senor Sorrow.  No, I need no money.  My sister needs an American husband to gain entry, residency.  I need you to marry her.”

Now I smiled and almost laughed, except that I saw she was serious.  “But I’m a husband already,” I said.

“Yes, you have a lot of experience.  That’s what told me to come to you.  You have already got two wives, so why can’t you be a husband twice as well?”

Here was another of those simple truths as subtle as a flying mallet.

“But the government,” was all I could think to mumble at the moment.

“All they want is the name of an American citizen,” she said.  “In Florida, Immigration don’t spend much time on prosecuting bigamy.  That’s another agency.”

By the gods, she was serious!  And she knew how to get it done.

Within three weeks my new bride Mita was living with her sister down the hall.  She acquired a job somewhere quickly and gave me half her earnings bi-weekly, not that I asked for it, but her sister insisted.  I lived with Cordelia and the children.  Caramela and I were still meeting in unusual public places.  I don’t know what drove Caramela to surprise me in elevators and hallways.  Perhaps I was so willing.  Perhaps she was too wealthy and crazy with it.  Sometimes it seemed she was the man and I was the woman being chased; but I didn’t complain.  And Mita, though not a beauty, was ardent as any blushing bride.  We used her room in her sister’s apartment.  She would strip naked slowly before me with the most excruciating look of shyness on her face.  She took my breath away.  Sex was a feast of gluttony and spent energy.  Cordelia didn’t know about Caramela; she thought we had broken off completely.  And I hadn’t told either about Mita.  They were accustomed to my visiting neighbors.  I was content with the women’s ignorance.  Looking back I realize I was something of a predator in those days, disguising it as benevolence.  But can you blame a man for gorging?  Especially a man never too good looking at any stage in his life.

The next April Caramela caught Mita and me in the stairwell petting Mita’s swollen belly.  Caramela was haughty and indignant.  Mita kept her hand on mine on her firm round pregnancy.  She smiled at Caramela.  It was awkward and I felt a shiver for the future.

The following week I was out in the courtyard with my nine-year-old son.  He was taking in the wash.  He would unclip each piece of clothing and bring it to his nose and take a deep breath.

“Seagulls,” he would say, or “Geese,” naming the birds that had flown past overhead by their scent that had come down to settle on the fresh wash.

I was always astounded by his ability, though I secretly worried that this kind of talent could make no money.

“Bobwhite,” he said.  “Sparrow, Cordelia.”

I looked into the sky for this last bird.

“Look out for Cordelia, Dad!”

The stick end of a heavy broom caught the side of my neck and dropped me on the spot.  Cordelia stood over me waving the weapon.

“I just talked with the tax man, you cretin.  You stupid, lazy bastard come mierda.  He told me that your children aren’t yours.  You never filed for them.  They’re nobody’s tax credits!  What am I going to do if they audit me these last couple of years?  You son of a bitch,” she said in a sort of horrified whisper.  “You were supposed to be different.  But Caramela and that Nicaraguan puta.  You cheating, lying, lazy cara culo.  If I had a knife.  You were supposed to be good.”  She hurled the broom down at me and left the apartment, taking the twins with her, but leaving the cows and goats behind.

Mita’s baby was a boy, very dark, with pronounced almond-shaped eyes unlike both mine and Mita’s.  I asked her sister what Mita had done for a living back in their homeland.

“She was a prostitute,” her sister said.  “She still is.  You didn’t know, Senor Sorrow?  Oh, my, yes.  I taught her about you Americans, how you want power and you like subservience.”

“What are you talking about?”

“She makes good money,” she said.  “She makes a good wife.”

“But the baby isn’t mine,” I said.

“Practically none of your children are yours, are they, Senor Sorrow?” she said.  “Why don’t you ever see the obvious?”

“What do you mean by Americans?”

She smiled and walked back to her apartment.  I felt dizzy.  What my neighbor had said was true; most of my children weren’t mine.  No, none was.  What I think I had wanted was for my wife, one of them at least, to be mine.  The children would be then simply an inevitable consequence.  But, no.  My children were Oriental, dark, light, Latin, perhaps Australian, and more than I could have ever sired on my clumsy own.  Yet we all seemed the better for our family.  How does a person judge these things?  Where does one start and stop?

When she arrived home the next day, I told Mita not to give me any more of her money.

“But it is your money,” she said in English.  “You use it to do good.”

She handed me the Oriental baby.  It was small and squirmed in my arms and I loved it without questioning.

“You are my husband, Sorrow,” she said.  “You only I do not charge.  You only I care for.”

I took the baby to Cordelia’s abandoned apartment and my children.

When I got home from work a few days later there was a government notice on my door.  My children had been taken into custody of the State.  The paper declared me to have neither natural nor legal claim to half my children, and the heritages of several of the other half were undocumented enough to warrant an empowerment over the entire group under suspicion of my having broken some law or other.  It was true, as Cordelia had discovered, that I had never been able to complete all the legal paperwork involving my family.  There was just so much of it and it didn’t seem at all relevant to reality.  I pulled the notice from the door and stepped into the empty apartment.  One of Cordelia’s cows had broken into the patio door and was standing in the middle of the living room switching its long tail.  I sat in a chair and reread the government’s declaration.

“Mita was arrested,” my neighbor told me from the open doorway.  “She will be deported soon.”

I was stunned.  The children were gone in a new and brutal way.  I cringed that they were living beneath bureaucratic regulations.  They had become orphans right under my nose.  And Mita, who was not so different a wife than Cordelia after all, was now so much the worse for having known me.  I picked up the phone and called Caramela.

“It’s been quite a while, Sorrow.  You’ve changed,” my lawyer friend said the next day as Caramela and I settled in chairs before the big desk.  “You used to be giving all the time.  That was your trouble.”  He waved his big hand in front of his face like at a buzzing fly.  “But now you’ve changed.  Now you want things, eh?  What are you here for?” he asked.

“I want to get my children back,” I told him.

“You see?” he said.

Caramela rose from her chair and pulled on my shoulder.  “We can find a different counsel, Roberto.  You don’t have to take this.”

He pointed a finger like a gun at Caramela.  “This your wife?”

“No,” I said.  “Caramela, please sit.”  She settled into the chair again.  “My wife left me.”

“Yeah, I heard,” he said.  “She left you clobbered on the ground when she found out your kids weren’t legal deductions.  Nice parenting, Sorrow.  Broom fights and tax fraud don’t go over well in custody court.”

“But he has another wife he could use,” Caramela said.

The lawyer laughed loudly.  “That Mita woman?  I believe she’s already begun the outbound journey.  The INS is a vengeful group.”

“Please,” I said.  “I come to you for help.”

The lawyer stopped laughing.  His eyes rested on Caramela’s legs beneath her short suit skirt.  “Nice thighs,” he said.  Caramela shifted her position in the chair.  “Look, Sorrow, it’s like I already said.  You’ve changed.  You never asked nobody for no help or nothing.  People came to you for help.  That’s how you got those children.  You are like that children’s fairy tale character. He was a fool too. A big fool. But you, you are that guy cubed. What’s there to do about it?  That’s the world today. That’s your life.  You’ve already lived it.  You can’t get out of it all now.  Forget the children.  They’re gone into the system.  You took them as far as you could.  By the time a bigamist won a custody case in court those kids would be too old for college.”

Simple truths were falling all around me like light hammer taps.  I stood up with Caramela.

“We’ll contact another attorney,” she said.

“No,” I said quietly.  “He’s right.  There’s no use.”

The big man walked us to the door.  “That’s the spirit,” he said, smiling.  “Stop asking, Sorrow.  You’re a natural giver.  It’s not in you to take.”

“Forget him,” Caramela said as she tugged me out the office door.

Every day I went home to that empty apartment.  I milked the cows and goats and poured the milk down the toilet.  The ghosts of my children, of my wives, the ghosts of a family that would never again be together haunted the whole building.  The ghosts smothered me. To say nothing of the livestock.  It seemed I had hurt people my entire life, despite good intentions.  And there was no making any of it better.  I soon became desolate and depressed.

On the last night of June that year Caramela rolled over to face me after one of our lovemaking sessions.  She kissed me strong on the lips and said “Roberto, I’m a man, un macho.  I have wanted to tell you for a while now but I couldn’t.  Still, there it is.  I was a man.  I had myself surgically altered to be a woman.  But now I want to go back.  I want to take care of you as a man.”

“You’re a man?” I repeated.

“Yes, but I was altered into a woman.”

“But you’re beautiful,” I insisted.

“Thank you,” Caramela said.  “I was a handsome man as well.”

“You’re a man?” I repeated.

“You have been through a lot lately.  I can be stronger for both of us,” Caramela said, sitting up in bed.

The sheet fell from her, exposing her breasts.  She had beautiful breasts.  I told her as much.

“I could keep them for you if you’d like,” Caramela said.  “And just have the rest changed.  Would you like that, Robertico?”

I sat up and said “I’ve lost my children, and two wives.  And you want to be a man.  It was always my policy to build things on the square.  Build things to last.”  I flopped back as if I’d been smacked with a spanner.  “Join at right angles.”

In October, Caramela flew out of Ft. Lauderdale to Copenhagen to get strong.  I packed my things, left the animals, and moved into an unfurnished apartment.  I slept badly on a cot.  In the days I worked badly.  Frames didn’t plumb with doors.  Windows sat akimbo.  I didn’t care anymore about the perpendicular nature of my work.  All angles grew obtuse and acute at the same time.

One night a couple of weeks later as I lay on the wood floor, there came a knock on my door.

“Sorrow, what are you doing flat on your back?” a man’s voice called out.

“What should I be doing?  Somersaults?  How did you know I was on my back?”

“What other positions can you be in in an apartment with no furniture?”

“Standing.  Sitting.  I’ve lost my job,” I told him.  It was true.  I did bad work and the construction industry doesn’t lament the loss of a bad joiner.  “The door is open.”

It was the giant man, a constant drunk, who lived and raved upstairs.  He was holding a bottle.  “You’re a good man,” he said, “and you get nothing back.  Here, have a drink with me.  You should get back something, even if just once, as a symbol,” he said.  He raised the bottle to his mouth and swallowed until the liquid was all gone.  Then he dropped the empty bottle.  “After all, a moment and a life are not so distant cousins.  Doing a thing once isn’t so different from having done it all your life.  Go rob a shop.  It must be a large thing you do to cover a lifetime of charity and waste.”

“But what good would it be?”

“You need more drink,” he said, then turned on his giant heel and left.

My money went quickly on small favors to anyone who asked, and within three months I found myself in the street downtown near Bayside.  I had the clothes on my back and most of the week’s twenty dollars in my pocket.  I was not happy.

A voice from the alley called me over.

“Could you spare a dime?” the ragged man asked.

I was in no mood to give.  I pulled the money from my pocket and showed it to him.

“Get a job,” I told him, and pocketed the cash again.

“Give it up,” he said.

A shiver ran through me.  This shadow man had stabbed me with a knife.  I was stabbed twice in the chest but was still standing as though nothing had happened.  The man was staring into my eyes.  He was quiet a moment, frozen, the knife dripping with my blood.  Pain grew like a scream inside my chest.

“Here, take it,” I said, dropping the money at his feet.

He bent to snatch up the bills, then fled.  I took a few steps, and collapsed into a garbage can, pulling the contents down on me.  I fell asleep or unconscious and immediately saw Cordelia and Caramela standing over me.

“You dumb bastard. Bobo loco,” Cordelia said.  “The man asks for ten cents and you show him veinte pesos.  In Miami. It’s no wonder he has taken your life.”

“I got some bad advice from my neighbor,” I told her.

“You tried, Robertico.  At least you tried,” Caramela said, looking very mannish in a blue three-piece suit and tie.  Her blonde hair was now short and brushed to the side.  “You will be rewarded in heaven,” she added.

“It’s nice to hear you speak of heaven.  Is it good there?”

“How would we know?” Cordelia said.  “We’re still alive.”

“Am I really going to die now?  Here?  Talking to you two like this?  Am I going to become an angel with garbage all over me?”

Escuchame,” Cordelia said.  “When you die, now or later, the only thing you’re sure to become is a memory.”

“Your children will always remember you fondly,” Caramela said.

“Wherever they are,” Cordelia added.  “I guarantee I’ll never forget you.”

I felt like smiling but there was no physical sensation of muscles moving in my face.  “Am I dead already?” I asked.  “Is the suffering really over?”

“Suffering?” Cordelia repeated, her voice rising as when she has taken offense at a remark.  “You don’t know suffering, Sorrow.  Only a woman truly suffers.  You men bring misfortune on yourselves, then call it suffering. We women suffer your mistakes.  We’re not as big as you.  We menstruate.  We drag ourselves around pregnant for nine months after lovemaking you men consider no more than a good rut.  We give birth, bleeding screaming childbirth, only to see our children grow into their own private hell of suffering.  You men watch. . .”

Cordelia kept speaking but her words faded with her image.  They were gone.

A deep pain gripped my chest.  Way up in the buildings’ corridor of sky there were angels circling.  I believe that almost every soul becomes an angel.  So much is twisted and diseased on this earth and the pressure of corruption is so insistent that it would take a miracle to pass through life unscathed.  In this wicked place a miracle like that appearing in public would be beaten quickly and nailed high to something as a warning to other miracles.  There are plenty of nails, nine inches long and three quarters thick, and a hammer on hand to drive them true.

People stepped past me on a sidewalk nearby.  They could see me prostrate there, but they couldn’t see themselves helping.  Why should they?  What kind of awful universe would demand that they go around helping the suffering?  They didn’t invent this pain.  How could they believe they could make it better?  More likely they would just be bringing horror upon themselves.

As it turned out, I survived the day on my own.  That night a fire truck nearly ran me over on its way to a three alarm blaze.  It was a long time before the stab wounds in my chest healed.  I spoke with a nurse who attended me, and told her my life story.  I saw her speaking with the head nurse later, looking my way, her index finger orbiting her right temple, the head nurse nodding sternly.  I was in the Jackson Memorial psych ward the next day, as much for my indigence as for my odd life.  I was an inmate for years.  I got to know the attendants well.  I did rounds with them, changing bed sheets and cleaning cells.  That’s how I found Caramela one day, strapped in, locked up, and alone.  Through the window I watched her, pale and shrunken, her eyes glassy and wild.

“What is she in for?” I asked the attendant.

“It doesn’t recognize itself,” he said.  “But then, what’s to recognize?  It’s a freak of science.  Tits and a cock.  I’d be confused too, feeling myself up all the time.  Does it fuck itself do you think?”

“No,” I said, walking away.

One day the head nurse came to me with the finance clerk beside her.  It seemed that I had accumulated at twenty dollars a week a sum exceeding several thousand dollars since entering the institution.  I was no longer indigent.  I was released.  I could go.

But I couldn’t go.  Not with Caramela inside.  I was hired as an attendant.  After many months I managed to work Caramela into my routine.

The first time I entered her cell she looked up at me and smiled, her eyes focused and not so blasted.

“Roberto,” she said.  “Por fin.  I’ve been waiting.  I knew you’d come.  I knew you wouldn’t abandon me.”

I sat down beside her and we talked.  I unbuckled and bathed her.  I combed her short hair.  I shaved a patch of her left cheek that grew whiskers.  Yes, she was a man again, with breasts.  Yet I continued to think of her as a she.

“I’m going to get you released,” I promised her.

“Good,” she said.  “I would like that.”

The next day as I entered her cell she looked up at me and smiled.

“Roberto,” she said.  “Por fin.  I’ve been waiting.”

“My rounds took a little longer today,” I said.

“I knew you’d come,” she continued.

My heart sank.

“I knew you wouldn’t abandon me.”

I unbuckled and bathed her.  I cried openly as she spoke from her delusions the same words as yesterday.  We were to have our happy reunion over and over and over again.

It had never occurred to me that I had abandoned her.  I hadn’t thought she could miss me.  Caramela’s did what she thought was best; but her plans wouldn’t have worked for me. I felt responsible for her condition nevertheless.  What was I to do but continue to care for her and the others locked behind those hard walls? Some did not respond any more than a plant responds to light.  Others, like Caramela, responded with hopeless enthusiasm.  All, including me, were lost.  I tried to make the time remaining something more than total desolation for each of us.  How do you judge the quality of people’s lives?  How does one gain such perspective to judge?

I lie on a bed beside an open window in the employees’ dormitory.  It is late afternoon.  A hot city wind passes by filled with the smell of concrete, the nearby river, and the coming rain.  I am bone tired.  All the years are behind me now.  They have hammered me down.  Caramela died of a virus last spring.  A young, yellow-skinned woman, her eyes large, restless and sorrowful, occupies Caramela’s cell.  The young woman makes no sound whatsoever except a soft mewling when she sleeps.

Outside, an autumn coolness rushes along the ground and into my window.  Water falls.  Like breathing, like a heartbeat, this rain is part of a progress that starts at birth.  We writhe, we twitch and laugh and bleed throughout the raw and savage unraveling.  In the end, having done what we thought best, orando por el momento siguiente and hoping forgiveness is near, we stiffen, losing our mass and gravity in the space of a blink and a sigh.

raceway2

While tilapia have been raised in pond cultures for millennia, it was only in the last few decades that raceway culture began to be attempted and perfected.  The difference between ponds and raceways were first and foremost control of population and the relative ease of harvesting from a raceway as opposed to a pond.  Ponds often had to be drained completely through large holes built into the walls or dikes of the pond.  These holes held valves, called monks, for ease of operation.  Still, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand the mess that thousands often millions of gallons of water pouring from a pond through a monk into some form of collection ditch or nearby pond can create.  The fish which thrashed into awaiting nets as the water passed through had to be removed quickly in order for the harvest to continue smoothly.  Further, ponds which are not lined with plastic liners offer tilapia an opportunity to display one of their unique and amazing qualities.  An unlined pond drained completely to the mud line is not an empty pond.  In developing countries, these ponds are often drained and the villagers permitted to walk in and gather all the remaining visible fish for cooking and salting, smoking or preserving in some other way.  However, with the next rain, or the opening of a valve to refill the pond, tilapia will appear as if by miracle.  Yet, the miracle is in God’s design.  The tilapia are capable of burrowing into wet mud and breathing, literally extracting oxygen from the moisture in the mud, for great lengths of time.  Fry and fingerlings can survive the longest as their oxygen requirements are the least.  But even larger tilapia will hold out an unbelievably long time.  Thus, if a farmer wants to control his or her pond population (and this is a critical element of being able to supply sufficient feed in an artificial environment), the draining of an unlined pond must be followed by weeks of striving to ensure the death of all remaining tilapia, or a chemical treatment to kill off those remaining in the wet bottom.  Neither option is efficient, and chemical treatment is simply undesirable. A raceway provides a much more controlled format for fish removal, from the top and sides, without the deluge.

Additionally, control of fish population has another aspect as well.  Tilapia mature sexually at a very early age.  Females can begin egg production as small as five inches in length, far below eating size.  Unfortunately, the beginning of sexuality in females marks a strong slowing of growth in size.  Thus, once females have mated, they are all but runts as far as profitable production goes.  Certainly they will eventually grow out, but this process will take four and five times longer than in a male.  Thus, in raceways, it is common to introduce only males, separating out the females before they enter the closed system.  This can be done in one of three ways.  First, hand-sexing is the most traditional and most time-consuming of the three.  Each fish must be individually handled and inspected before being placed in the raceway.  A female can be identified by a half moon shaped opening between the anus hole and the urine hole.  The male does not have this extra opening.  It takes a trained eye and a large enough fish to sex out the females quickly to keep the fish out of water the least amount of time.  A swabbing of food coloring on the area can help bring out the female qualities, but this is an extra step and an extra cost.  Hand sexing is labor intensive and as such is relegated to countries whose workers are paid little and worked hard. Still, poorly paid veteran hand=sexers can separate hundreds of fish an hour. The second and third ways to ensure a male population in the raceway are to simply buy male tilapia fry.  These males are created in one of two ways: chemically or genetically.  The chemical treatment involves introducing a hormone to the fish when they are very young to induce the population to become all male.  This hormonal treatment is legal, but is not, in my opinion, desirable, as no hormone treatment is fully beyond my suspicion as to its human ingestion without repercussions.  Further, some females who flip with the treatment, flip back during growth.  Nature will out.  However, scientists have found a way to genetically produce offspring which are 99% YY males.  These YY males are super males, without a speck of femininity to them.  The YY male’s characteristic was first discovered in prisons where ultra-violent men raged beyond the pale of any angry convict.  These berserkers where tested and found to be dominated by a YY syndrome.  They were brutes, the alpha male of alpha males, and were often killers without conscience.  You can imagine how aggressive YY tilapia are in their schools.  At high densities, they will fight tirelessly for territory, stressing the entire school.  And God help any female in the system.  YY males are not interested in mating.  They seem to literally loathe sex and feel compelled to simply kill any female they come across.  In fact, in a pond environment, YY males have been known to hunt down every last female in the pond, leaving none alive.  A raceway full of YY males is a lively place, filled with full throated males hungry for the food and hungry to grow.  At optimal conditions, YY males will reach market size within six to seven months in the raceway.  That is as fast a dollar a farmer can make from selling a source of protein.

Early raceways were operated on a flow-through system wherein the water was always moving from one end pumped from a well, river or other natural source and out the other end back into the surrounding waters.  This provided clean water for the fish, but added often unwanted nutrients to the surrounding waters. Additionally, the effluent water carried the potential for fish release into the wild. Tilapia eggs are as small as tomato seeds, and tilapia fry are not much bigger than a human eyelash, so even the thinnest of screening capture systems could not ensure zero release of stock with the outgoing water.  As tilapia are not native to any part of the United States, although some species have become naturalized (a term of bio-resignation in the face of control failure—man, that silly being always out to control), release of the fish is strictly prohibited and licensing is required to allow for inspections to ensure Best Management One carp farm years ago suffered an uncontrolled release and now carp are terrorizing natural species across the United States. Soe fish hunts drive the carp up rivers for relatively ineffective capture and the fish, larger than watermelons, fly from the water in dozens over the prows of the boats battering the occupants continuously and painfully. Practices are in place and followed in the handling and containment of the tilapia.  Keep in mind that exotics, especially invasive exotics with powerful survival skills and top of the chart reproductivity aided by mouth-brooding, are considered rightfully a threat to the local flora and fauna and must be controlled aggressively.  Enter Dr. D, a genius on several levels including science and marketing.  After an aquaculture conference held in Virginia in the 1980’s, Dr. D envisioned a raceway system that was closed, that recirculated the same water, and treated it naturally to remove toxins harmful to the fish.  This system was not only a water saver, but an environment saver as well.

The concept depends upon a pump to draw the water from one end of the raceway to the other, and up into a denitrification tank.  The tank being on a platform above the surface level of the raceway allows the pumped water to be gravity fed back to the far end of the raceway with no significant water loss or additional energy usage. Think of the raceway as an eighty foot long rectangle, four feet high, filled to just above two feet its entire length (with some slight change if a slope is engineered into the bottom to encourage movement of solids along the raceway floor toward the far end where they can be vacuumed out of the system). The water circulates within the system constantly.  Thus the term recirculation. The denitrification tank is filled with material that would allow certain bacteria to grow on its surface.  This bacteria, in God’s perfect plan, breaks down the ammonia and then the toxic bi-product, nitrites, into safe nitrates that are not only harmless to the fish but also a wonderful source of nitrogen energy for plants.  What substance supplies the ideal surface for the miracle bacteria? Plastic. Thus, by cutting up plastic soda bottles, the tank can be filled inexpensively and made ready for use in no time and at little expense. It is, in fact, recycling at its finest.  The plastic is USDA approved and the reuse keeps the trash mountains from filling that much more rapidly.  Every environmental savings is a savings and not a cost.  A totality of small savings, on a wide scale, can have powerful environmental benefits, or cause less environmental damage at the least.

This system works to control toxins as long as the flow is maintained and the plastic is kept clear of the clogging effects of fish detritus.  This clogging requires additional thought as feeding of the fish is a critical element in their rapid growth.  And the more feed fed, the more detritus is produced.  Thus what we call the dead zone.  The concept of a dead zone or still water section is not new.  It has been used in water and sewage treatment for many years.  The theory is that almost any particulate or solid matter floating in water stays suspended in the water generally because of the water’s motion or current.  The dead zone, through the use of partitions and other turbidity disruptors, slows the water movement down enough so that the solid particles in the water bouncing against the designed barriers move at an ever more declining speed, moving more slowly than the water current and losing height in the water to eventually fall to and remain on the bottom.  This way, by the time the recycled water reaches the uptake pipe to be pumped into the bio-reactor tank and recirculated, most of the particulate matter that would foul the denitrification process has fallen out of circulation and the return water cleansed of suspended solids.  The dead zone becomes a collector for the fallen fish detritus, which is then vacuumed out of the raceway and into the nearby detritus pond.  This represents almost the entire loss of system water daily, less than one percent, and is easily replaced by fresh well water in a few minutes of pumping.  The detritus pond itself, rather than being a waste collection unit, becomes a golden pond for growing ornamental fish like black mollies, a hydroponics farm for growing fresh tomatoes and herbs, a source of rich irrigation water for in-ground row crops and trees and flowers, and a producer of some of the most valuable fertilizer on the planet.  We grow papyrus in the pond and then move it to the raceway where it aids in ammonia removal while the fish nibble away at the succulent roots.  The papyrus is a hardy plant and grows rapidly, almost enough to out grow the feeding fish.  When the fish have eaten away all the roots, the stalks are removed, mulched, and new plants are introduced. Further, with the modern awareness of the need to mitigate half a century of wetland destruction, the detritus pond is an ideal wetland plant propagule nursery media. In effect, the dead zone of the raceway becomes a revival zone for transformed materials and nothing is wasted. In fact, as Dr. D has developed it, a series of shallow ponds fed from the raceway filled with wetland propagules such as native mangroves can become an ultimate water revivifier.  The detritus itself serves as a fine planting media in which to set the wetland propagules in nursery pots.  Once the propagules are potted, they simply sit in the detritus ponds and thrive on the nutrient-rich water. As water trickles from detritus pond to detritus pond, the propagules use the ammonia and nitrates in their growth.  The dissolved solids, trickling along with the water, tumbling against the nursery pots and pond walls, gently settle to the pond floor.  At the far end of the last pond, a small motor pumps the water back into the fish raceway.  That water has been clarified of solids and denitrified naturally by the plants.  The system becomes practically 100% self-sustaining.  Only evaporation in this system needs to be replaced and this natural process of course varies with surface exposure of water, wind speed and fetch, and air temperature. If the only element of water loss is evaporation, the farm has approached a perfect environmental system.  It uses nature to purify the water for reuse and sacrifices a little evaporation.  Within the closed hoop house, the evaporation appears like incense rising up in some mystic ritual in praise of God’s occult genius and His bestowal of an aching curiosity and process of logic and trial and error which comprise mankind’s only potential for social and personal advancement.  The water will evaporate, though even that can be reduced with a capture method. The entire process deserves a “hallelujah” of psalm and praise to the Great Designer.

One caveat must be addressed with slow-moving water such as found in the detritus pond system: mosquitoes.  Mosquito larvae cannot swim but rather only wriggle to the surface and back down a few inches in their larval state.  Thus, mosquito larvae do not do well in running water such a streams and rivers.  But still water and slow-moving water can be ideal for larval growth.  In fact, even some air plants, such as bromeliads,

which are designed to collect rainwater at the wide base of their leaves may become mosquito nurseries during the warm and rainy season. In the detritus pond, this threat  can be addressed with fish, not tilapia, but ornamentals.  Small aquarium fish, such as mollies and fancy guppies do very well in the slightly saline water and will be happy to feed on the protein rich mosquito larva.  They will gobble up frog tadpoles as well and live strong and produce many young.  These ornamentals, after they have multiplied sufficiently, can become a supplemental source of farm income once removed from the ponds, treated for ick and other natural diseases which no aquarium aficionado wants introduced into her home tank, bagged and sold to local pet stores or flea markets. In this way, once again, a need in the system can be addresses with a natural solution which in itself becomes a cottage industry.

Another experimental advancement which aids the bioreactor tank in the denitrification process is the biowheel.  Our biowheel might be created from an empty plastic fifty five gallon drum. Sections of aluminum gutter cut the length of the drum are screwed into the drum’s sides in five equal sections using stainless steel screws to prevent rust deterioration. These serve somewhat as paddle wheels. The entire drum is wrapped in heavy plastic netting creating pockets from gutter to gutter.  These pockets are filled with plastic which will become the media for denitrifying bacteria growth (held on the wheel by the netting).  The drum’s top and bottom become its sides when laid horizontally and are cut through so that a four inch pvc pipe can be inserted and run through and out like an axle.  This pvc pipe extends all the way across the raceway as much as ten feet from side to side and rests on the upper raceway rail.  The gravity fed water returning from the bioreactor is piped across the raceway a few feet from the biowheel.  Half inch holes drilled into this return pipe direct a water spray from the return pressure up into the air (oxygenating the water) and against the side of the biowheel, splashing through the mesh sides, onto the plastic (thus further denitrifying the water and further oxygenating the water) to fill the gutters.  As the gutter fills, the weight on that side of the biowheel increases and the wheel turns to spill out the collected water.  With the turn, the next gutter is exposed to the return water and it fills and weighs down and turns.  In this way, the biowheel is in constant motion, turning simply through the energy of the gravity fed water.  The advantage of the turning wheel is that no solids can collect on the plastic and foul the denitrification process.  It is a self-cleaning system which requires no energy to run, something of a mega version found in some home aquarium filters.

So, the raceway, a closed recirculating system which uses a minimum of water, and re-uses even that water, produces fish efficiently, and provides fertilizer for crops and mangroves, an environment for ornamental fish, and sustains itself on a small amount of electricity. The theory of the closed system is similar to that of an aquarium in your living room, without the need for charcoal and cloth filters which clog rapidly. So, the theory works from very small to very large.  This means that anyone with interest can set up a system to suit her whims, raising her own tilapia for the family in a backyard above-ground pool for example, while growing the lettuce and tomatoes for the night’s dinner salad from the water in which the fish are growing.  What safer food source can you have than food grown yourself?

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Peace to you, Brother.

These simple words between us

Equal, proud, strong, free.

Thanks to http://chevrefeuillescarpediem.blogspot.se for the challenging prompt.

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A few weeks after Easter we awoke to our youngest daughter scrabbling around in Carmen’s make up bag for eye liner.  She was late for work and ornery.  We were tired from grading fish Saturday night.  We’d gone through maybe fifty-sixty fish and moved half over to the sale section, big, beautiful blues like red snappers only close-up more richly colored, deep blue and red tails and fins.  At our age labor like this is wearying. Awakened to a snarling teenager was startling. An argument ensued.

A day that starts like that is ominous.  We worked the farm, watering, cleaning, feeding, and I graded papers, final exams, very terminal outcomes, high anxiety.  For a break we set up the ride-on to mow the drought driven grass, long rod-like growths resembling nothing like grass but rather untamed stalks needing cutting.  Carmen drove while I walked ahead for obstacles and clutter hidden in the weeds.  One of the farm dogs, a black stray ran alongside. City folk tired of their pets will drop them off in farm areas– probably explaining to their grieving children that the beloved pet had run off– and drive away in the delusion that domestic animals do fine in agricultural areas.  Not so. Wild packs will kill them for food. Sometimes I can hear the snarls and howls of the night dogs feeding. Large farmers will poison them along with raccoons and possums. Many become infected or rabid and die horribly. We take them in, treat and tag and feed them.  Their eyes often never lose a certain sad or tentative expression bred from suffering.

Carmen mowed, I walked the point and the black dog frolicked in the heat and sun. Then, quick as a photo, the dog bolted like a greyhound.  I followed thinking it was chasing a poison toad.  When I caught up it was a bunny the dog had snatched, probably jumped from its nest alarmed by our mower’s motor noise.  The bunny wasn’t bleeding and had some kick left to it but not much and not for long.  It was a beautiful wild thing gray and black markings like tattoos, already dead by the time Carmen and I laid it in a box with a small towel to perhaps recover.

Off in the distance the black dog now had something else down on the ground.  I chased the dog off to find another dead baby bunny.  The dog looked at me as if confused.  I didn’t yell at the canine doing what its blood had told it to do, but neither did I praise the dog for following its instincts.  We put the dog inside and buried the bunnies.

Two dead baby bunnies and a family squabble make for a bad day.  When I mounted the mower to drive it into the barn, one of its big rear tires was flat.  It wouldn’t pump up.  I rolled the mower to shelter and covered it over with a tarp.  I‘d fix it tomorrow.

Gibran tells us that our children come through us but not from us, that they represent Life’s longing for itself and that their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow where we can never visit, not even in our dreams. Life, he says, goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. Our daughters will have breakfast with us in the morning. The bunnies will be forgotten. It’s best to recognize a bad day, survive it, and start again in the morning if the Good Lord allows.