Aslant His Gaze

Even in comfortable circumstances, [Robert Stone] lived hard; his disregard for his body probably shortened his life somewhat; and in art he took tremendous risks. He had an extraordinary ability to throw his whole being into theblood of eden writing of a novel. I once heard him say, responding to a slight to Outerbridge Reach, “I wrote that book with my blood.”

—Madison Bell

[H]is attention was distracted by the sight of a young penguin besieged by skuas. The penguin was alone within a circle of disaster ten feet in diameter. No other bird came nearer. It was eyeless although it stretched its neck and strained to face the sky. One leathery flipper was raised in comic rage at things. The other hung bloody and truncated at its side. Overhead, skua gulls were wheeling. Every minute or so, a skua would descend screaming from the wheel to tear flesh from the dying bird. Browne stopped for a while to watch, then turned away and put the back of his arm across his eyes to protect them from the glare. I want a missionary woman now, Browne thought, to make a story out of this. Mother Carey tending her chickens, God’s sparrows falling aslant his gaze. Creatures for sacred inscrutable reasons denied flight are brought piecemeal into the sky as meat.

—Robert Stone, Outerbridge Reach

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