The force of the long prose section (#5) of "Route," detailing the sufferings of resistance fighters in Alsace, which culminates with a story of suicide, comes from just such a non-reflexive consciousness, although in this case the imagined absence of self-awareness is a result of a heightened consciousness rather than of a reduction into a sea-anemone's dream-life. This is to say, the experience of awareness remains a form of consciousness. But the heightened consciousness Oppen looks for is not limited by the endless game of involuted rationality. Oppen's prose is spare and emotional, void of repetition or extravagance; it seems almost unfair to excerpt from it. Nonetheless the following paragraphs tell of the route one Alsatian chose instead of going into hiding, which might have resulted in the destruction of his family:
There was an escape from that dilemma, as, in a way, there always is. Pierre told me of a man who, receiving the notification that he was to report to the German army, called a celebration and farewell at his home. Nothing was said at that party that was not jovial. They drank and sang. At the proper time, the host got his bicycle and waved goodbye. The house stood at the top of a hill and, still waving and calling farewells, he rode with great energy and as fast as he could down the hill, and, at the bottom, drove into a tree.
It must be hard to do. Probably easier in an automobile. There is, in an automobile, a considerable time during which you cannot change your mind. Riding a bicycle, since in those woods it is impossible that the tree should be a redwood, it must be necessary to continue aiming at the tree right up to the moment of impact. Undoubtedly difficult to do. And, of course, the children had no father. Thereafter.
The act of courage--which is another way of talking about the issues Oppen has been dealing with--is an act in which self is put out of consideration. But what gives it courage is not its selflessness but its devotion to an ideal. Even more to the point, perhaps, is the fact that Oppen too fears not-being. This passage has especial significance for him because it manifests that fear and dramatizes circumstances under which at least one man was able to free himself from it. Whenever possible Oppen sees his job as poet to be to loosen the hold of fear and guilt.