If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.


"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Friday, October 31, 2008

Chapter IV.6


Long Hard Road Out of Hell


The Last Time

I didn’t know to ask
is this the last time
I will ever see you again?
I didn’t see
what was hidden
in your eyes
that said no more—
leave me to my lies!
I was too fucking stupid
blinded by my fears
not hearing
the words within the words
or the non-existent tears.
That was the last time
I ever saw you
sad eyes in the snow
the very last memory
sad ties growing cold
and now I see the mountain
that used to remind me of you
silent and so far away
far as yesterday
and what would I say
say if I could
how would I ask
without being rude
will I
ever see you again?


25APR00
I don’t know if I will ever be able to do enough to call myself a man. My father never bequeathed me with that. He has stolen that from me and I believe that he will take it to his grave with him. I don’t know if he ever himself felt that he was a man. He may have spent his whole life running from the fact that he did not think that he was— though I think it was less that and more other things (the non-journey of the anti-hero).

So I join a thousand, a million other “Cains’”— forced to wander the earth, untouchable, carrying the burden of what we are not.


Drifter

Cloaked in the sweet perfume
of time
a thousand years melancholy—
Cain passed this way.


Leave it to Beaver

Jump-started a one-eyed Ford
headed for the Promised Land.
Got to move, get outta here—
beat My Death to Home Plate.
To stay
is to sit, think
trying to figure out
who are Fathers were
trying to do
the things they done
knowing somehow
deep
that they were
MEN
and knowing even deeper
that
their pastimes
will not make it so with us
and the booze and drugs can only blank out
so much pain and emptiness.
Desperately seeking
the Holy Grail
the thing that will say
I know you—
in your innermost!
Following footsteps
only leads to
noissergeR,
the known,
the past—
so richly undeserved,
unwanted,
and yearned for.
To have come so far
so deep—
a lifetime beyond
cut to the bone
and still so far to go
the Demons terrifying
in their darkness
and hunger
has it always been this way?
Will I beat my Wife
Leave my Children
Fuck Strangers to fill the hole in my soul
Die Empty, Alone, Unknown, and Unsung?
A Prophet sings,
“Once a Man and
Twice a Child
and Everything is just for a While…”
And so It Is.


Divorced

Sunday’s fathers
slowly fading
back into Monday’s morning
mists.




2000 Trip
Sat up late that second night in Canyonlands— after everyone else had gone to bed— drinking, listening to music, writing…mind just unhinged by a beauty so perfect and deep that it hurt. We made some good karma that night.

I knew that Tom and Rube were going to leave the next day but it seemed so far off, like it would never happen. The reality of it started to sink in when we finally made it to the next campsite, had lunch and started to divide the gear and supplies. Suddenly I was terribly sad and there was a huge weight on my chest that made it hard to breathe. I didn’t want them to go. The feeling of loss was so great that I just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep and not wake up till it was all over.

We actually split up at the trailhead for the Anasazi ruins. I remember having made it around the hill and coming back out to where we could see where they had gone— watching as the white speck of Tom’s Jeep slowly made its way down the trail towards the Green River, pausing for a minute and then jetting off behind the high river brush and trees. It felt like my world had ended, that something so bad had happened that my life, my world would never be the same. Rob and I turned and headed on towards the ruins; he was excited about the prospects of what we might find, but there was no joy in it for me.

Even the mood of the trail had changed, slowly metamorphosing as the miles rolled under the BFG All Terrain T/As. No longer were we on top looking out over everything but slowly falling down into the canyons; constrained, boxed in, fallen. The weather had also changed with dark, ominous storm clouds crushing in from the east, pushed by a hard, cutting wind. An onslaught of torrential rain seemed imminent— a reflection of my dark mood.

The rain only threatened though the wind did not relent. Atop the small mesa we found the ruin, much to Rob’s delight. But somehow it seemed hollow to me. In the .30 cal ammo can that held a paper about the ruin and a place to sign your name I wrote, “For Tom and Rube— who came so far but couldn’t make it.”

Others will follow and make the two-something mile trek there and read that. They will probably think that Tom and Rube had always wanted to come there but had died before they could. I didn’t mean it that way though. But anytime you honor the past or a memory, you honor the death, the passing of that, even though the people involved may still be very much alive.

We got down to the river— cool water at last— after the hike back to the Jeep but it just wasn’t the same as the first day. We didn’t spend long there and set about setting up camp and getting some dinner.

Chili was on the menu for the night but we had run out of Tabasco and I forgot to get the ketchup from the cooler in Tom’s Jeep so the only thing to put in it was seasoning salt and Castillo’s rum— neither of which did anything for the flavor. As I’m stirring up the chili the wind begins to blow something fierce— before things calmed down I’m sure there were gusts that topped 80 mph. I look down the canyon and it was all blacked out and I can’t tell if it’s flying dust or a black wall of rain; either way, things are about to get cataclysmic.

Rob and I run around with our plates in one hand and knocking stuff down with the other, trying to get stuff on the ground and under the Jeep so it won’t blow away. Finally, even though we had his tent tied down to about seven good-sized rocks, Rob had to jump in it to keep it from blowing away.

The black wall is dirt kicked up by the screaming wind and visibility drops to about thirty feet. My eyes feel like I’ve had them stapled open and handfuls of sand thrown in them. Then the rain comes. I hide out at first under the tarp I had put up ‘cause I want to keep an eye on things which I can’t do in the tent. I try to eat some chili but it is now intensely gritty, which does nothing to add to its already bland taste. We are actually fortunate, for the moment, because it is raining on us and downstream, not upstream. I start contingency planning for a flashflood in my mind anyway. Eventually I climb in the tent with Rob as the rain worsens.

It probably rained good and hard for only ten to fifteen minutes. I remember looking at my watch. It let up shortly and Rob immediately begins securing the tent with all the rocks he can find— no rock within a hundred feet is left untouched, if it’s too small to tie a line to, it’s big enough to stack on top of other rocks. I dig a trench around the tent with my e-tool; begin cleaning up from dinner and packing everything that we don’t need at hand, in case we have to leave fast.

The rain comes again but not like before. We again retreat into the tent. By this time I am just exhausted— probably from staying up the night before and the excitement of the storm, but mostly the toll Tom and Rube’s departure’s taken on me.

Rob pulls out a deck of cards and we play some form of gin; think I won once out of about five or so hands. The biggest decision was whether to open the doors of the tent so we don’t sweat to death or keep ‘em closed and therefore foil the fucking mosquitoes. We finally decide on fresh air.

Once again it doesn’t rain for long and we walk back up the trail we had driven down earlier, partly for something to do and partly to try to escape the fucking mosquitoes and no-see-ums, which we manage to do for a while. We see a rabbit and throw some rocks down into the gullies, but it’s not quite the same as the two days before. It’s just too quiet with only the two of us. I realize that I am a force of nature with a predilection for grand vistas and sheer drops.

We walk back down to the campsite. The sun hasn’t even set yet, though it has dropped beyond the west canyon walls and our view. I go to bed. I’d like to watch the moon rise but we’re so deep in the canyon that it’d be hours before I ever saw it— a silver cool white light reassuring and bathing my parched and lonely soul— and I can’t stand to be conscious anymore, not even long enough to try and get drunk; never a sure thing. Rob climbs into his tent and reads some of the book of Indian myths I gave him.

It’s a restless night, the worst I’ve had since we got here. It rains a little. The wind blows, strange noises. I toss and turn a lot— restless, nervous, hoping the fucking night will hurry up and end, as if tomorrow holds some unseen promise for me.

Woke up early the next morning, breaking the cycle of sleeping in later each day. I don’t know how Tom and Rube’s departure effected Rob but we were both ready to get out as soon as we got up. Maybe it was the fucking mosquitoes, which didn’t seem to sleep at all, but I don’t think so. We were packed and on the trail by 0800. By 1030 we were in Moab at Denny’s ordering Shamrock Slams though the corn-beef hash wasn’t as good as it had been that first morning. What did Ruby say before his tent almost blew off the 1,500-foot cliff, hunger is the best condiment?

It started to rain on us before we cleared the canyon on I-128 and pretty much rained up till past Rifle— fucking cold, wet and miserable. I had originally planned on driving back through Aspen like I had in ’98 but both Rob and I were ready to be done, to be home. It was snowing, for christ-sakes, above us as we crossed the pass at Breckenridge, but I still wouldn’t have brought the doors for anything. It was fucking cold though.

I filled up the tub after dropping Rob off and unpacking most of my kit. I remember leaving the TV on for company, The Truth About Cats and Dogs I think, as I climbed into the tub to try and warm up, because all of sudden it seemed so damned lonely. In spite of how it ended, this has truly been a great expedition.

And I don’t know when I started thinking about this exactly, the day Tom and Rube left or the next. I had felt the same sense of hopelessness and loss before. And then it hits me— this was how you felt that Saturday afternoon, the day after Christmas…the closet to your right, the kitchen and your parents in front of you, and your sister to your rear and left (right?)— this was how you felt when your fucking parents told you they were getting divorced.

And all of a sudden, I want to hit the wall and keep hitting it till my fist or the wall breaks, screaming. I can’t ever remember being pissed about this till now. The past year has seen so much anger physically pouring out of me and I don’t really know if it’s really easing the pressures within or if I’m trying to drink the ocean with a thimble.

I remember telling my parents…christ, the day after Christmas, the fucking day after Christmas…I remember telling them that my sister didn’t understand what they were saying, that they’d have to explain it to her again. I could see it and they couldn’t. And then I remember being up on the hill behind the campus at La Sierra, Mt. Evans I think it was.

I rode my brand new ten-speed that I had got the day before, think I left it at the slides near the day care center and climbed the hill alone. I remember sitting up there and looking down, thinking how small the dumpsters behind Caulkin’s Hall looked. I don’t remember the ride from our house there or the climb up. All I remember is sitting up there alone and looking at the dumpsters. I don’t remember the ride back or how I got through the following days, weeks, months, or years. And I’m sitting there in Canyonlands watching Tom and Rube leave and it’s the same thing, feels the same only I couldn’t put a name, an explanation on it.

I’ve felt so strongly the last two years that I let my sister down somehow, that I didn’t protect her from something I should have. And I don’t know, maybe this was it. I couldn’t stop it, all I could do was say that I knew that she didn’t understand what they were implying, I couldn’t take her with me, I couldn’t stay. They didn’t stop me. No one came after me. And maybe it just wasn’t my sister I couldn’t save, maybe it was me.


Blindsided

You didn’t see it
coming to this
did you,
didn’t see the death
lurking behind tomorrow’s door?
I wonder if I
even suspected
myself
though
in the back of my mind
I
think I always knew.
I have
felt pain like this before
like the day
you
sat in the rain
shaking
body knotted up in rage and pain
trying to get
it
out, terrified that
it would
consume you.
Trying to remember
that thing
too terrible to sea.
I tried to tell
you
tried to keep it away from
you
and somehow
I failed
at both.
And so it goes
I guess.


138 Gr. SJHP— A
James Brown is Dead— LA Style
(Rock Radio Mix feat Chris Randall)
I Sit on Acid— Lords of Acid
????? — Rave Generation
Busy Child— The Crystal Method
Take the Long Way Home— Faithless
Smiles— Atomic Babies
What Time is Love? (LP Mix)— The KLF
Roses are Red— Aqua
Herewecome— ME PHI ME/Jeriko One

138 Gr. SJHP— B
No Good (Start the Dance)— The Prodigy
Song to the Siren— The Chemical Brothers
Time to Get Up— ?????
God is a DJ— Faithless
Missing— Everything but the Girl
X-Rated Movie— Sister Machine Gun
Mercy Killing— The Dream Academy
Flaming June— BT
Rhythm of Time— Front 242
(victor the cleaner mix by The Orb)
Alive Alone— The Chemical Brothers


04JUN00
Lying in bed several weeks ago, half asleep, half daydreaming…and maybe, in a split second of extreme insight I wondered why all my daydreams of reconciliation with Gwen almost never seemed to work, to play out, to end happily; why there always seemed to be that one hurdle too big to climb— to unconditionally trust, love, open myself, to forgive?

All of that, in a second split second of insight, made me think that I was replaying, trying to solve something with my mother; but what I do not yet know.


Sad Songs and Waltzes Aren’t Selling This Year

London Moon

I dreamt of you
under a London sky
the wind gently running
leaves along the Thames
rippling under a half-silverfish moon
your gaze
somewhere far off
where I can never follow.
I think of all the things
I meant
to say to you
and never did—
a seemingly endless chain of words
linked together in purpose
that would magically explain
how I felt
somehow explain me
but just didn’t seem right.
Now I fear
that there will never be words to repair
the silence
to bridge the gap
I left between us.
And even now,
in the darkest corners of my dreams
I still feel your absence
like the pull
of the half-silverfish moon
on the rolling, sleeping ocean
tossing and turning
waking alone
in anguished silence.


Hey…

My friend
it has been such a very long time
I have wanted to write, to know
but somehow the distance
seems to have grown insurmountable
and I worry that more words
will only widen it the more.
Your absence has torn at me just so—
a little a day
a little a year—
and I don’t even know that I know
how to bridge the gap
the misunderstanding.
Sometimes, I wonder,
if I were Sherman
(but maybe a little better looking)
would Mr. Peabody and his WayBack Machine
be able to set everything aright?
But in the morning
there’s just me—
the wrong parts
of all the right things…
and so it goes.
I sat in Wash Park
and watched the moon
rippling in the pond.
It was late that night
and I thought of you
thought of fading away
thought of letting go
and it might be the right
thing to do
but I couldn’t without
one final Hello.
It has been such a long time
my friend,
I just wanted to write,
wanted to know.


From: "Gwen"
Subject:

Date: 09 Aug 2000



Well, shit, Racer X. How the hell are you?


I figured I'd just write you back immediately, even if I say all the wrong stuff for picking at, because if I wait for trying to think of the right thing to say and the right way to say it, it just takes me years. Plus- I just couldn't compose such a nice poem about it anyway.


Time goes by then, doesn't it? Whether you mean for it to, or not. I keep all your emails on my list; they're the 3 I never delete. I keep thinking I'll answer them, but then I read them and think about what to say, and then I put it off, and then there's another day. It’s gone on 500 times or so.


We miss you. We keep a lizard on our couch for you. It’s terrible to know you're so close and we haven’t met to throw Chipotles on the floor or have a drink or come for dinner or anything. Okay. Well, none of us are actually close anymore. We got about 2 weeks notice before they sent Ivan to Saudi. He has been busy as hell. He was working a second job and taking classes. He was on a 7-day rotation work schedule with night shifts and everything forever. He could never get a normal routine together, get a normal amount of sleep, he was always trying to catch up with everything and never quite got there. He felt bad about not being able to meet you when you two were supposed to get together. He's really been pretty stressed out and distant lately. He's not quite himself, and like me, I'm not sure he knows what to say, but I know he'd feel a lot better if it were sorted out.


Pathology kicked my ass last year. It took me forever to study for that stuff, plus with the lab and the commute, I've been putting in long hours too. We got Ivan off, and I finished my finals and exams in time to leave for England, I've been in London since June. When I think about it, the last two years have been a whirlwind. Really. We don't know what end's up or down.


You should stay out of Wash Park at night. You're likely to get yourself killed. Or flashed. By answering immediately, I've cut myself short of time. I'm scheduled for the microscope and am late for it, so I need to go. To put things blankly and clearly, we miss you a lot and wish things weren't so funny. Let’s talk this out if we can, alright? Let’s not point fingers and be angry about it. No one is angry here, not at you. We were frustrated with you, and you ended up being right about you being too much for me to deal with. I told you I'd take it on, and then couldn't, so you were right about it. But no one ever meant for years to go by and things to be out of sorts like this. We should be home mid September or October, Ivan will get there before I will. You should email him, if you want. I don't have time to figure out how to say this right-way-round, but it would help his issues if the conversations weren't just between you and me, right?


I really have to get going. My email address has changed. I'm checking both of them several times a day from here. We may be able to work out a chat time; I've got a chat room on msn network somewhere. Okay. Thanks for the note, it was really lovely (my british) and I'm really very touched and really very sorry. We need to get this sorted, it’s important to me.


Take care of you,
Gwen

(Beatrice) Wandering

I followed her North
up King Street.
It was a sultry summer
Charlestonian night
and the breeze felt cool
on my troubled brow
as she made a right in the alley
before the King Street Station
where I lost her in the shadows.
Years later
I learned
(from an old friend
who’d run into her at a bullfight
in Barcelona)
that she’d stepped from that alley
into The Land of the Buddha
beyond the mountains of Burma
where lightning bugs
dug their own
phosphorescent graves
in the rusty-melancholic evenings
of early autumn
and the children were both wise and sad
beyond their years.
She had said that,
five years later,
she stepped out of a utility closet
in London, near the Thames
on a gray, rainy Wednesday evening
in late February
with a crazy taste
for quantum physics
and Tango’s.
My degree in accounting
held my belief in
upper-middle-class-suburbia-corporate-american
check
and I felt terribly sorry
for whatever dementia had claimed
such a young, beautiful, and vivacious mind.
But, somewhere deep down,
and very far away
I wished that I had
followed her
into those shadows
all those years ago.
And when I wasn’t looking,
the regret
hurt like hell.


Knew You When

There is a weathered old man here
with wrinkles around his eyes
and a half smoked cigar
who claims
he knew you when
you used to drink
cold gin and tonics
in the labyrinth of narrow
streets, shops and bars
in the shadow of
the Garrison of Lost Companions
or walked barefoot
in the sun
along the beaches of Majorca
smiling face to the wind,
stride long and sure.
He tried to tell me
of balmy, Mediterranean, candle-lit nights
and a smile that made him feel
years younger
and his heart race—
dangerously so
till he thought it might burst.
He asks about you now
where you are,
what you are doing…
and lost
in the heart of Alicante
I haven’t the spirit
to tell him—
as if he might suspect my desperation
and blackness—
that I too
am looking
for some kind of answer
that I don’t have
to give him.
So I lie—
it tasting like much bitter ash
in my mouth
my spirit—
and he smiles
laughing and nodding
unlit cigar wobbling
between his brown teeth
pumping my hand up and down in his
in gratitude
and patting me on the back.
Yeah,
I met a weathered old man here
who claims he knew you when
before you became
a ghost to me


16OCT00
Weekend after the 4th of July was the party at Jeff Burton’s place. That was the day I broke my left pinky toe and smashed up my windshield again. The toe breaking was an accident and I was so ripped that it didn’t hurt nearly as much as it did the next day, not by a long shot.

Anyway, as the afternoon had worn on and after I had broken my toe, a little kid, probably about five, came to the pool with his dad. I really don’t remember anything about the dad except that I thought he was a fat shit-bag. But a certain sense of poignancy hits me ‘cause he sat there and watched his son like I know my dad must have done, especially that time he came and got me one Saturday when I was a kid and we went to the beach.

I could have only been about four at the time and we were living in Yucaipa. Dad had moved out and was living in some apartment, where the bed folded up into the wall, with bimbo of the hour. He came without warning one Saturday morning and got me— saving me from having to go to church. I remember praying, holding my mom and sister’s hands, that the Holy Spirit would bring dad back and wondering what the hell the holy spirit was. We drove out to the ocean somewhere. There was a street behind us that was about 6-8’ higher than the level of the beach and to the right, when looking out at the ocean, was a pier. I remember wearing some horrible (polyester?) pea-green shorts which make me think of the name “Phillip”, though for the life of me I don’t know why.

I played in the surf alone. I had a green stick about two feet long and had broken off of something bigger. It was very thin, only about a ¼ inch in diameter or so. Anyway, I would stick it in the sand and then see how much sea grass I could trap on it as the surf came up and then receded. That is the only thing I remember of the day, except that till even now I have always felt that dad just sat and watched me, feeling both happy and sad.

So anyway, this kid and his dad show up. The kid gets into the pool wearing water wings and starts talking to me. I don’t remember anything we talked about— being just incredibly fucked up— except that he wanted to start going underwater.

I sat there in the shallow end for at least half an hour going underwater with this kid; yelling underwater to him, and throwing pennies or something on the steps for him to dive and get. I would have stayed there forever with that kid.

Everyone was leaving and Wendy was yelling at me ‘cause she was going to drive me home in my Jeep. I didn’t want to go but somehow they all talked me into going, which was probably a good thing since I would have ended up dead or in jail if I had driven.

So we’re driving back and I’m sitting in the passenger seat and Wendy and I are talking and she tries to tell me about how it is for me and it just pissed the fuck out of me, having something to do with me and the kid. I’m so fucking pissed that I take a swing at the windshield with my left and completely miss. I take a moment to recalibrate my aim, probably squinting a bunch, and proceed to nicely bash the windshield, starring it mightily. Owww. Wendy pulls over crying and I have to assure everyone that I am A-okay and not going to hit anything else on the rest of the ride home.

I’ve been meaning to write about this since it happened but never got around to it. I’ve always felt since then that the kid was some small chance, some small way to pay penance, to right a wrong that I allowed against another. But when I told Rhonda the story she was like, you were looking after yourself. I had never though of it that way, but it strikes me that it is the truer of the two.


22OCT00
Went down to see Gwen and Ivan last night. Sitting in my Jeep, shutting down the GPS and stowing the radar detector I ask myself if I’m afraid. I do a gut-check and I’m not. Yeah, I’ve had a cocktail on the way down but it is not nearly enough to kill those kinds of emotions.

When I walk in though, there is an awkwardness between Gwen and I. I’m standing too close to her— like we would hug each other but neither of us do. There is a flurry of niceties but it’s her eyes that grab me— they look hurt, like I hurt them because they cared at one time. And I believe more than ever that she loved me at some point.

God, she is as beautiful as she ever was. But my heart didn’t leap into my throat— thank god.

This is the first time I’ve seen her since the 2nd of January 1999 and about the fourth time I’ve spoken to her since then.

Through all that time she has been in my dreams. And I wonder why. She stopped being a person on that day and I wonder if I keep her dreaming about her because of what I think she represents or something that she is or was. I don’t know.

I asked myself for the first time last night if I cursed the day that I fell in love with her. God knows it’s caused me enough pain and heartache. But I really couldn’t say that I did. I never planned or asked to fall in love with her— it just happened. I have felt guilty about it since. All I want is to know that I never hurt her or did anything to betray either of their friendships.


23OCT00
I think that part of it is that Gwen really touched me like no one else ever has. And because of that she continues to represent something I long very much for. That’s part of it at least.

31OCT00
I took the last two days off from work, complaining of back pain; which was true but not nearly to the degree that I led them to believe. I needed to catch up on some stuff in my life.

It seems like I’ve had a hard time getting up in the mornings lately so I show up to work later and stay later; and even if I didn’t I’d still be staying later because of the amount of work we have to do. And when I get home I just don’t feel like doing anything— cooking, cleaning up, reading, writing, running, homework, or even drinking. Suddenly you find three weeks have got behind you and you haven’t done a damn thing.

And just lately, I’ve had this awful feeling that nothing I do, have done here has any meaning. That when all is said and done I’ll be left with four empty walls and a hard floor echoing hollow footsteps.


Religion

Lenin
called a Disease
an addiction.


Kool-Aid and the Unpardonable Sin

The Kool-Aid had smelled funny to you— bitter, like almonds and your nose wrinkled up in distaste.

She told you again to drink it, to be, “mommy’s good little girl,” and you tried, wanting to please her. But you couldn’t get past the smell, the way it made your stomach turn.

She raised her own glass to her lips, with two hands, and made an overt show of drinking hers. But even she could not avoid betraying her own distaste for the flavor and somehow in the back of your three year-old mind you knew that everything was not alright but you couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

You stepped forward ever so slightly, meaning to comfort her; the obvious distress you saw in her eyes. You hadn’t meant to spill your Kool-Aid but your right foot caught the white, stuffed polar bear that you slept with, Mr. Baar, and the clear plastic cup tumbled from your outstretched hand, somersaulting in slow motion to the floor as globs of red Kool-Aid spilled from the cup like marbles— catching and reflecting the late afternoon sun streaming in through the kitchen window. Your breath caught and time slowed for an eternity until the cup hit the linoleum floor with a dull thunk

Instantly, tears sprang to your eyes as you dropped to your knees in distress, trying to salvage something, anything from the wet, red mess. You looked up, pleading, knees coated in red liquid, looking for that love and reassurance you had found in so many accidents before.

You recoiled in terror though from what you saw, cowering with your back against the wood cabinet doors and your knees now pulled up tight in front of you.

A red Kool-Aid moustache traced her mouth, now pulled back in a half sneer, half grimace as she lurched unsteadily towards you, eyes glazed over with an emotion, an expression that you had never seen before; knuckles white around one of the kitchen knives you had been told never to touch, blood running down her fingers from where her fingernails were digging into her palm.

Incorrectly, you thought that all this was somehow your fault.

You tried to call out her name, to apologize, but all that came out was a tearful, frightened, sobbing, “…ommy…orry…orry…” as you shook your head sadly.

The last thing you saw before squeezing your eyes shut as hard as you could and burying your face in your little arms was the look in her eyes— the same look she had when she tucked you into bed and kissed you goodnight after reading your favorite story, the one with the penguins and turtles.

When the sobs finally subsided and you peeked out from behind your arms daddy was there, holding mommy who was lying still on the cool linoleum. He was shouting into the phone. His face was tight and he was breathing hard. Later you would remember a red slash on his left arm.

You slowly uncurled from yourself and slid to where your dropped cup lay, thinking that you would finish the Kool-Aid inside, no matter how bad it smelled and show them that you were a good girl and then mommy would get up and daddy would smile and everything would be okay.

You flinched in fear, the cup raised to your lips with two hands, as your dad looked up, eyes full of dread, and slapped the cup from your hands, catching you on the left cheek as well, the glass slamming against the wall where red Kool-Aid trickled down the white paint and pooled on the linoleum. You stared at each other; eyes locked wide, bodies frozen, until your mother spasm’d, coughing and your dad turned back to her.

You scootched back into the corner, arms wrapped tight around your knees, sobbing as quietly as you could so as not to bother anyone, little sides heaving, silently, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Mr. Baar at your feet, staring forlornly up at the ceiling.

Later, as you peeked out between your arms, men in blue uniforms rushed in with a white and silver-wheeled stretcher and knelt by your mother, oblivious to the red Kool-Aid on the floor. Gently, they lifted her onto the stretcher and raised it up as they wheeled it out the door, your dad holding your mother’s hand tightly in his own, knuckles white, just like hers had been.

The next-door neighbor came running in as they wheeled your mother out. Your only thought was that if you could at least clean up your accident than everything would be better and everyone would be alright. But as you tried to mop up the mess as best you could with a solitary paper towel a police officer gently picked you up off the floor and away from the Kool-Aid a you began to cry in earnest on his shoulder. When your sobs had faded into quiet whimpers he set you on the counter and picked up Mr. Baar, who had somehow escaped the whole incident without so much as a single red splotch. The policeman looked him over carefully, turning him over and about in his hands and holding him up to his nose before giving him to you. You clutched him tightly, burying your face in his white belly, needing him and the safety that he brought like your life depended on it. The policeman picked you up again and held you in his arms until the next-door neighbor came downstairs with your little blue suitcase in her right hand.

You went to her house and immediately took a shower. Everyone tried to be nice to you but you had already retreated into a place you had never known existed.

They tucked you in that night, in their guest bedroom, and reassured you that your mother would be okay and that your father would come see you in the morning. They left the door cracked and the hall light on but come morning, they found you asleep, sitting in the corner of the room with Mr. Baar.

Your father came for you the next morning. He was wearing the same clothes he had been the evening before and there was a bandage on his left arm. He looked tired and he hugged you so hard when you slowly went to him. His face was scruffy from not shaving and you could feel the hot tears on his cheek as he told you how much he loved you and that he was sorry for slapping you the afternoon before and leaving you at the neighbors.

You timidly asked if mommy was okay and he said that she was sick but that she’d get better with help from the doctors. And then you tried to apologize for spilling your Kool-Aid— couldn’t even explain how it smelled and made you feel before you were crying and your dad was crying and telling you that it wasn’t your fault.

And even though it made you feel better, you never quite believed him, and to this day you can’t spill something up or pick up a knife without tears welling up in your eyes.


Don Q

He was a knight
in Autumn’s armor—
rusty and blood-stained,
creaking with each labored movement
sword heavy
and dulled with contrition
lance snapped apologetically
at the tip.
He gazed out
under low leaden skies
the left eye
wide with romance
the right
squinting with cynicism and reason.
On his shield was the sigil
of a peyote button
in a two-thumbed fist
and inscribed beneath
were the words
“Somos Pocos Pero Estamos Locos—
(Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money!)”
Beneath him,
his mount stood nobly, firmly
red flanks dirty
and sides heaving
with effort and exhaustion
puffing little clouds of steam
into the crisp, biting
rain.
He stood alone
silhouetted against the dark stone mountains—
and somewhere,
very far away
like a distant cry on a moonless night
or a bad dream slowly departing
his soul stood
perched on the razor
between salvation and damnation
held ever so slightly
by the terrible emptiness
within him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chapter IV.5


The Baar, the Wolf, the Otter, & the Ice Princess (Unfinished)

““This is my helper,” he told Tayo. “They call him Shush. That means Bear.” It was dark, but in the light from the fire Tayo could see that there was something strange about the boy, something remote in his eyes, as if they were on a distant mountaintop alone and the fire and the hogan and the lights of the town below them did not exist.

He was a small child
learning to get around
by himself.
His family went by wagon
into the mountains near
Fluted Rock.

It was Fall and
they were picking piñons.
I guess he just wandered away
trying to follow his brothers and sisters
into the trees.
His aunt thought he was with his mother,
and she thought that he was with her sister.

When they tracked him the next day
his tracks went into the canyon
near the place which belonged
to the bears. They went
as far as they could
to the place
where no human
could go beyond,
and his little footprints
were mixed in with the bear tracks.

So they sent word for this medicine man
to come. He knew how
to call the child back again.

There wasn’t much time.
The medicine man was running, and his
assistants followed behind him.

They all wore bearweed
tied at their wrists and ankles
and around their necks.

He grunted loudly and scratched on the ground in front of him
he kept watching the entrance of the bear cave.
He grunted and made a low growling sound.
Pretty soon the little bears came out
because he was making mother bear sounds.

He grunted and growled a little more
and then the child came out.
He was already walking like his sisters
he was already crawling on the ground.

They couldn’t just grab the child
They couldn’t just simply take him back
because he would be in between forever
and probably he would die.

They had to call him
step by step the medicine man
brought the child back.

So, long time ago
they got him back again
but he wasn’t quite the same
after that

not like the other children.”[1]




Untitled

Can you see the wound
behind the mask,
the boy
behind the wound?


So there once was a Boy—only he was part Baar cause baars are easy going yet wise and full of life, protective, powerful, curious, and slow to anger; he was also part Wolf because he ran in the shadows, was cunning and fiercely loyal; and lastly, he had a little Otter in him, being that otters’ sole purposes in life are mischief and fun—the kind of critters that make you groan, “Fucking otters!”

So, one day he was walking through the Forest of Life, and, seeing that he was a little smarter than the average baar, he didn’t get caught in a net like the lion—who tended to be a lazy, egotistical bastard, nor did he stumble into a pit like the elephant—a rather shabby dresser and snooty conversationalist. No, the Baar avoided all those things and still, he awoke one morning to a terribly sharp pain in his belly that felt like your heart breaking on the hard kitchen floor into so many pieces of lifeless pottery. Somehow, unbeknownst to him, a Thorn had pierced his thick hide, lodged itself in his soul, and was worming its way slowly towards his heart.

He growled and roared in pain, baring his razor sharp fangs and rolling about, knocking down small trees and flattening beds of ferns, tearing at the wound with his claws till it bled profusely.

All the animals that lived nearby in the forest heard the terrible roaring, the crashing and fled frantically for their lives, fearing some evil monster had descended into their neck of the woods to devour them and their families. And even after the din had died away, no one returned to their homes for a long time, and some never came back, deciding instead to settle down in more peaceful parts.

Finally, after many moons, Wolf lay still, bloodied and exhausted. He realized that he could not extract the Thorn this way. The pain was deep but he had fought it to a place where he could keep his head above water; though it numbed him to the bone and most nights it made him dream if another Boy and a flower in a desert, the boy kneeling over the flower, keeping it alive with his tears. However, the salt in the tears is killing the flower, though it matters little since the Boy is running out of tears anyway. When one dies so will the other and it will all be over.

As Wolf lay still, the Wind whispered in his ear,

“Find the Other Boy. He will tell you how the Thorn pierced you in the first place. Then you will be able to remove it.”

Wolf though about this for a while and decided that it was so. He would set out to find this Other Boy though he had no idea who he was, where to look, or how to find him.

Wolf was thirsty and found a nearby stream to get a drink of water. As he drank, he caught his reflection in the water and jumped back in shock. The wound had spread, eating away at his insides till it looked as if there was nothing there, and his once proud face was contorted in pain.

This will not do, he thought to himself, taking a second look. The Boy/We/I has many friends; if they were ever to see me like this…would they understand? Would they run in fear? What if this is contagious? I could never live with myself if I knew that I had passed this on to someone I cared about, hurting them in the process. The pain is great but I will bear it alone. It is the only honorable thing to do.

Having made up his mind, Wolf set about concealing the wound with mud, fur, and leaves; and then carefully constructed a mask that hid the perpetual grimace on his lips and the sadness in his face. The only things that he could not hide were his eyes, since he needed them to see. So it was that, if anyone with a curious or caring mind looked directly into Wolf’s eyes, they would see all the sadness lurking in the shadows behind the sockets. Wolf, however, took to making faces and distractedly moving his drink around when talking to others so that rarely did anyone think to look into his eyes. And so, Wolf set out to find the Other Boy.

Something in him told him to head west but whichever way he went, he always seemed to wind up heading east. Perhaps I am the anti-Columbus, he mused one day, arriving in the West by going east and rediscovering what has already been discovered.

Wolf traveled mostly at night and off the beaten path, afraid that he might run into someone he knew, someone who could see through the disguise to the pain that he carried inside. Even then, sometimes his path would cross that of an old friend who would stop to catch up on old times.

“Wolf, old friend,” they would say, “is that you? It’s great to see you again you old scoundrel! How have you been? What have you been up to? Have you seen so-and-so? Where have you been hiding yourself?”

At this, Wolf would roll his eyes and make some faces, feigning surprise and joy while shifting his drink from paw to paw, drawing figures and shapes in the condensation rings from the bottom of his cup. At first, he was terribly nervous that someone would notice that something was wrong. But, as time went by, he grew more and more confident in his ability to act like everything was all right. Still, he kept to himself as much as possible.

And so it went for some time, Wolf trying to chase down clues and continually drifting east. He did not seem to be making any progress and felt like he hardly knew anything more then when he first set out to find the Other Boy. One day, he tiredly emerged from a forest only to find himself on a thin stretch of white sand that ended in the blue Atlantic Ocean. His legs were tired, his tongue hung dryly from his mouth, his paws were sore, and his heart ached so. His hope was slowly ebbing out with the tide and he didn’t know where to go next.

“I have failed in every way to make any kind of progress,” he sadly said to no one. Nearby, a lone seagull cocked his head curiously to one side and then silently lifted off into the breeze, white wings expertly feeling for the currents. “And now…now I have brought us here to die.” Wolf lay down, resting his head on his paws in front of him and quietly watched the waves roll up on the shore.

*****

When Otter saw the ocean and the blue tumbling waves he gave a squeal of delight and dashed frantically over the beach for the water, little legs kicking up a cloud of sand behind him. Diving into the surf, he splashed about delightedly, body surfing on the waves, constantly chattering excitedly to himself. After a while, Wolf forgotten on the shore he began to swim parallel to the beach looking for fish and mischief. Wolf, watching him go but, but not having the energy to stop him, quietly swore to himself, “Fucking Otter!”

Eventually, Otter came upon a large basin filled with gray frigates, tenders, mine sweepers, destroyers, guided missile cruisers, tugboats submarines and aircraft carriers all tied to piers. This, of course, sent him into another spasm of chattering excitedly to himself. He had actually been quiet for a while now, but only because he had been swimming against the tide and it had been a stiff one at that.

By 2100 that night, with a head full of rum, Otter had managed to ingratiate himself with the crew of one of the sleek gray cruisers and now proudly answered to the title, Seaman Otter.

For the next five years or so, Seaman Otter sailed around the world, only thinking of the Other Boy or the Thorn on those rare nights, as the one is Spain, when he scaled the Fort of Lost Souls and watched the stars dance with the moon in the ocean. Most of the time though, he was involved with things that you would no want your mother to know about, even if your mother was an otter. And, it usually seemed that, if Seaman Otter was not instigating these misadventures, he was wholeheartedly participating in them.


Dream of the 7 Blue Turtles

He was (largely)
the dream
of 7 blue turtles
and as such
spent most of his days
smiling contentedly
down by the water.
One day,
however
the 7 blue turtles
woke up
and went about their turtle business
leaving him
in a most awkward
position.


One evening though, after returning to port from a particularly long and arduous deployment, Seaman Otter sauntered down the brow as the sun set, intent on expediently getting to his favorite watering hole for some fun and mischief. As he rounded a corner, a large paw shot out of the shadows and gruffly grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, roughly jerking him off his feet. His cover fell off his head and rolled on down the sidewalk, finally coming to rest on a crack between to slabs of concrete, next to an old, flattened beer cap and a wad of cinnamon gum. He had just turned twenty 8.

Sharp claws pierced Otter’s slick coat and he curled up into a little ball, mewling sadly.

“Enough.” A gruff voice said. It was Baar, scowling sternly down at Otter. But inside, he was sad because, through Otter, in his irresponsible good-natured ways, he had fallen in love with the sea, her sensuous voice and the sleek ships that rode her. In a small way, he knew how Otter now felt and it didn’t make him any happier and there was nothing right now that he could do about it.

Baar turned on his haunches and slowly ambled west. Otter picked himself up and slowly followed, sad tail dragging after him. He stopped once and looked back over his shoulder before turning and following Baar into the shadows. But not even the shadows could hide the quiet tears as Otter left the only thing behind that had taken care of him. Slowly the three made their way West.

*****

Many more moons passed. The Other Boy was nowhere to be found, no matter how hard they looked. The Wind offered no more advice and the Thorn continued on its painful path. All were beginning to feel a keen sense of urgency and depression that overtook them like a fine mist and left their hearts pounding in fear. Otter went along gamely, but his tail dragged constantly (I know, have you ever seen an otter's tail that didn’t drag?) and nothing seemed to excite him anymore. Wolf kept to himself more and more, and Even Baar now went for days on end without saying anything to anyone, just blindly pushing on. In retrospect, he would have liked to have believed that it was faith or vision that kept him going, but, as he knew, he just didn’t know what else to do, except to stop—and that meant death.

“What the hell are we doing?” Otter asked, stopping one day. “We aren’t getting anywhere and if something doesn’t give soon we will die this way.” Baar turned surprised at the tone in Otter’s voice. He had never seen him look so serious.

“You’re right,” Baar agreed, lowering his great head slowly, “I can feel the Thorn moving deeper everyday.” He sat down and looked at the other two intently, “Lately, the pain has become so constant that, occasionally, when I don’t feel it, I’m suddenly afraid…” his voice trailed to a whisper, “afraid that I’m dead.” Wolf and Otter nodded empathetically. All were silent, lost in thought.

“What if,” Otter started?

“No!” Wolf snarled quickly, cutting Otter off. “That is not an option. You know that. We all swore. Besides, who would you like to lay that on? Someone close, someone who has no idea what they’re getting into?” Otter shook his head, twitching his whiskers angrily. Wolf was right, but not entirely right. They fell into a black silence again.

“Let’s spend the night here.” Baar finally interjected. “It’s getting dark and we can get a fresh start in the morning. Maybe Wind will bring us some advice as we sleep,” he added hopefully but halfheartedly.

No one disagreed and Baar curled up by a tree, tucking his nose under a paw since it had been getting cooler at nights and a chill frost covered everything in the mornings as the full killing moon sank into the west. Wolf climbed a small hill to the east and sat on his haunches, sniffing the evening breeze—standing watch over his friends, though if they’d asked, he would have denied it. Later, Otter awoke some time in the middle of the night. In the distance he could faintly hear Wolf howling at the moon in agony and despair. He though his heart would break.

He couldn’t go back to sleep. Baar huffed quietly in a dream, his breath warm on Otter’s back. The moon was just past its zenith and cast crazy shadows down through the trees, shimmering on the frost-covered branches and blades of grass. And, in spite of his dark mood, Otter felt a twinge of his old curiosity returning. It was such a beautiful night. His nose and whiskers twitched, testing the still night air, the fur on the back of his neck rising involuntarily, tingling like an electric current had been applied to his coat. Carefully, he stepped out from between Baar’s great paws where he’d been sleeping and gave his coat a little shake, stretching to yawn. He stood still for several minutes, listening, trying to peer through the shadows for a sign of Wolf. He was still half-asleep. Finally, something he would not be able to explain in the morning, gently grabbed him and led him trotting happily off to the west, his impending doom forgotten. And as he did so, Wolf quietly watched him go with intense yellow eyes clouded with pain.

Otter was not aware of how long he had been walking. At some point the frost on the grass gave away to a thin layer of crunchy snow but he didn’t notice. Finally, he came to a stop in a small clearing of aspens. Not too far off to his left he could hear the babbling and gurgling of a small brook. The moon had fallen below the trees and the clearing was dark. Whatever it was that had led him here was gone and he shook his head confusedly. He looked around again, as if for the first time and turned to go back before anyone noticed he was gone, when a voice stopped him.

“Hey.” Otter took a step back. He could’ve sworn that the clearing was empty a minute ago.

“Hey yourself…” he ventured as she stepped into view, smiling. Her hair was frost blond/white and her eyes an icy-piercing blue that the stars danced unrepentantly in. Otter’s little brain was furiously working overtime, that face, those eyes. God, it was all somehow so familiar. “Christ,” he moaned to himself, unable to remember, “why did I drink so damned much overseas?”

“What?” she asked.

Otter’s eyes got big for a moment and a paw shot involuntarily to his mouth. “Er…nothing,” he stammered, “hello.”

“You said that once.”

“I know.”

“Would you like a drink?” she offered up a glass. Otter eyed it suspiciously. “It’s Absolut and cranberry.” Otter couldn’t help but lick his lips. He accepted the glass carefully with both paws.

“Careful,” he thought to himself, making sure he didn’t say it aloud, “it’s not plastic.” He took as big a swallow as he thought he could without seeming to be rude and then handed back the glass. Carefully. “Thank you.” The vodka warmed him and made him feel like wiggling happily about.

“You’re welcome,” she brushed back a stray bang. “So what brings you to this part of the woods?”

Otter looked around quizzically, almost doubling back on himself to see where he’d come from.

“I’m not sure exactly,” he said, puzzled, “I just kinda ended up here.” She nodded. It never occurred to Otter introduce himself and he never stopped to realize that he didn’t know the name of the woman he was talking to. They chatted amicably all night long however, until Otter, feeling the Thorn burrow a little deeper, squirmed in pain and gave a little yelp.

“Are you all right,” she asked with just a hint of concern in her voice.

Otter opened his mouth, almost spilling the beans and then closed it again, remembering the look on Wolf’s face, his heartbreaking howling, how tired Baar looked and how quiet he’d been the last several weeks.

“Uhmm…,” he stammered, wondering how he got himself into these things. “It’s really nothing,” nonchalantly, “I’m just soul-sick. That’s all. Nothing to worry about. I’m sure it will clear up as soon as I get back into some warmer, tropical climes.” Otter waved his paw in a diminutive gesture.

“I see,” she said, not exactly sure at all.

“Holy shit!” Otter exclaimed, realizing what time it was as the eastern sky began to lighten. “I’ve gotta go. It’s been really nice talking to you and we’ll have to do it again sometime……” his voice trailed out behind him as he scampered off to the east as fast as he could, leaving the woman sitting alone in the clearing with an empty cup.

Otter was nervous all morning, not willing to meet anyone’s gaze, constantly stealing sidelong glances to see if Baar or Wolf were glaring at him. No one said anything to him though and no one seemed to notice that he had been gone most the night. Several time, Otter almost admitted what he had done, but always stopped short. After all, he had not given up their secret and nothing bad had happened. Yet.

Wolf thought that they might be in the right area, and no one having any better leads, they decided to spend the winter where they were at, hoping to find something that they had overlooked. Otter was all too happy to back Wolf’s idea. And, as the days got shorter, he was able, from time to time, to sneak off and spend the night talking to his secret friend though he never mentioned being soul-sick again, and she never brought it up.

*****

Wolf had known for a while of Otter’s secret comings and goings though he had never said anything. In fact, most nights he had quietly followed Otter under the pretext of keeping a protective eye on him, which wasn’t entirely untrue but he also had to admit to himself that he was just a little curious. Usually he would follow Otter to the edge of the clearing and then drop back, not wanting to eavesdrop.

Baar was sleeping late one morning as he seemed to do most morning those days when Otter woke up and trotted down to the creek for a drink. He had just finished shaking himself off after a refreshing swim when Wolf walked up behind him, breath billowing in the chilly morning air. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Otter had a bad feeling and his heart began to pound furiously in spite of himself.

“I know where you’ve been going at night, Little Friend,” Wolf quietly growled.

Otter gave a little, “Eeep,” and then stammered, “I haven’t told her anything! Honest! Honest I haven’t!”

“I know you haven’t.” Wolf tried to look reassuring, managing more of a grimace.

“I’ll stop Wolf.”

“You don’t have to do that. I know it makes you happy, just be careful that you don’t slip up.”

“I won’t. I promise.” Otter couldn’t believe his good fortune. Not only was he not getting eaten by Wolf, but now he could stop feeling guilty about sneaking around all the time, hoping not to get caught. In fact, he felt so relieved that it skipped his mind entirely to ask Wolf how he knew about the woman in the clearing.

*****

Several nights later, as they lay around the campfire, Otter mustered up enough courage to nonchalantly ask Wolf, “So, who do you think she is?”

“I don’t think that she’s anyone,” Wolf replied tiredly.

“So you don’t have any idea…”

“I didn’t say that.” Wolf cut him off.

“But you said that you didn’t think that she was anyone.” Otter whined.

“That’s right. Because I know who she is.”

“Oh, then who do you know her to be?”

“The Ice Princess.” Otter nodded his head as if he had suspected as much all along but hadn’t wanted to say so.

“So how did you come about knowing this information,” he asked curiously?

“How do you know anything,” Wolf asked back?

“I don’t know, you just do.”

“Exactly.”

“But that’s not real knowing.”

“Okay,” Wolf said, starting to grow impatient, “Let’s suppose that you can’t know anything—at least not like you’d like to be able to. For certain, I mean”

“Okay,” Otter nodded.

“Instead we have probability. And, based on the facts, it is more probable that she is The Ice Princess than it is that she is not.”

“But what facts,” Otter asked with an exasperated sigh?

“Enough questions,” Wolf snapped.

Otter fell silent, what the hell does Wolf know, he thought to himself, probabilities my whiskers. The only probable I know is that I would probably kick his ass if I thought I could get away with it.

As far as Otter was concerned, Wolf could think/know whatever-the-hell he wanted to. The next time he saw her he was going to ask her if she was or wasn’t The Ice Princess himself and then he would know. Humph, probabilities!

*****

She was sitting in the clearing as Otter came scampering in through the snow, churning up a little white cloud of powder behind him. She had barely returned his greeting before he blurted out,

“Are you the Ice Princess?”

She laughed to herself, “What gave you that idea?”

“I don’t know,” Otter rambled on, “it just seems more probable, given the facts, that you are than you are not.”

“And what facts would those be?”

“Well, I don’t really want to say, but I will say that after many years on the high seas, an otter develops a keen ability for sensing things.”

“Is that so…”

“It is,” Otter replied proudly, puffing up his little chest.

“And none of this would, by any chance, have anything to do with your dark friend who is always skulking around in the shadows would it?”

“What?” Otter froze, hackles involuntarily rising on his back.

“He’s a friend of yours right? I’ve caught glimpses of him almost every night you’ve come. Why doesn’t he ever come all the way into the clearing?”

“That’s Wolf,” Otter said out of the corner of his mouth, sidling around to cast a long glance behind him. “He tends to be a little edgy around strangers.”


ODDS AND ENDS THAT NEED TO BE WORKED IN

Wolf stood, soaking wet, at the edge of the clearing, squinting thru the downpour. His coat was matted to his skin and his ears were flat as he slowly searched the shadows, unsure, looking for a sign.

“There you are…,” her voice warmly pierced the gloom and found him where he stood.

He inched forward slowly till he sat just inside the ring of trees. She stood in the middle of the clearing, a black cloak with a hood protecting her from the rain, a glass in either hand. Slowly, she offered one to Wolf, who hesitated and then took it quickly, drawing back to the edge of the clearing.

“I didn’t know if you’d ever get the courage to step out of the shadow.”

Wolf eyed her deeply over his drink, silent.

“You’re soaking wet. That disguise must be cold; can I dry it for you?” Wolf inhaled sharply, the Thorn twisting in his side. He shook his head no. Neither spoke and the rain slowed to a drizzle and then stopped altogether. The pain was growing inside Wolf and finally, he set his cup down, turned and quietly left.

A week later he was back and this time he walked a little farther into the clearing before sitting on his haunches.

“It hurts me to see you this way,” she said, “you know that you can talk to me about anything.”

“I don’t know if I can,” Wolf quietly replied. “I hardly know you and yet I feel a bond that I can’t explain.” She looked up at Wolf who was looking at his feet trying to find the right words to explain. “I…I carry a pain in me, so great that sometimes it’s harder to go on living than no to. How can I…how could anyone share that with someone else?”

“But isn’t that what friends are for?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I have…have been there for others

*****

“You must be Wolf,” she said.

“And you must be the Ice Princess,” he replied. She stopped what she was doing, a look of shock/surprise running across her face, before recovering quickly.

“And how do you know that?”

But Wolf continued, “You live alone, locked in a tower of ice. This isn’t the real you, or at least the total/whole you, only a part projected out into the land. No one knows where your tower is and you never tell.”

“Is that what you’ve heard?” she replied coolly.

“It is.”

“And how do you know that it is true?”

“Tell me it isn’t,” he growled.

She didn’t reply.

*****

“I want to trust you,” Wolf said, “I need to trust you. But…”

“But what?” she softly asked.

“But I’m afraid of hurting you, afraid that you’ll condemn me, afraid that I will care (too much).”

She didn’t say anything for a long time. “I worry about you,” she finally said, “it hurts me to see you this way.”

“I know,” he replied, “and I feel like a bastard for it.”

The wind shifted in the trees above, the gentle rustling swelling and filling in the invisible gulf between them though they sat side by side— the gulf that Wolf so desperately needed to find a way across, the gulf she didn’t know how to help him bridge.

I gotta go,” Wolf finally said. “I’ll talk to ya later.”

“Kay.”

“Goodnight,” he turned and headed back into the trees. She watched him fade into the shadows before turning to go herself.

*****

Wolf stepped slowly, heavily into the clearing and paused, his breath billowing out in a white cloud in front of him.

She stood in the clearing cutting the heads off of rats, looking up as he approached.

“Whatcha doing?” he asked curiously, tilting his head to one side.

“Research.”

“Didn’t find it the first time?”

“What? Oh,” she smiled warmly.

He walked over to her side and sat down, looking up at the crisp, cold stars.

“Beautiful night…,” Wolf said, more to himself than anyone in particular. He looked over at the Princess but she wasn’t looking at the stars, she was looking at him.

“You look troubled tonight…” the concern in her voice was evident.

He nodded slowly. “Tonight my fears keep me company and there seem to be more than I know what to do with,” he paused grimacing. “I…,” he started slowly, “am used to being concerned about myself, you kinda get used to it. But it’s these other things that I don’t know what to do with,” gesturing with a paw. “I am afraid for our friendship. For you. That this is too much. That is some way I will allow you to feel my pain and it/I will hurt you, that you won’t understand, that you will, that you won’t take it seriously, or think it’s some kind of joke. That you seeing me like this will think that I am less than I am.” The pain in his eyes was unhideable.

“But you know that none of that is true.”

“Yes…and no. For all the talking we’ve done I still really don’t know what you think of any of this. And yet, who am I to ask for anything more? What right do I have?” Wolf stared at his paws glumly. The silence was long but not uncomfortable. “In spite of all that, you have managed to see through my disguises; you have come further into this mess, my life, than anyone else; and your caring has done much to ease the pain. I don’t know how much, if any, of this you have realized and feared that I wouldn’t be able to find the right words to let you know.”

*****

The Beast leaped out at him from the shadows (of his mind) — nothing but a dark blur of hate and death. Its claws ripped deep into Wolf’s side slashing towards his wrist, his throat. Wolf managed to roll away, involuntarily howling in agony and surprise, coming up on his feet, baring white fangs and growling ominously. He could smell the rotting stench of decay and loathing on its hot, foul breath and knew that this thing would not rest until he or it was dead. Wolf’s heart pounded in his ears, the blood pouring from his heaving side, warm.

“Do not be afraid, Wolf,” it hissed through clenched teeth. “Give in to me and I will make your death a painless one. No more will the anguish of the Thorn torture you, haunt you.”

Wolf shook his head violently from side to side but he could not get the voice out of his head.

“Baar and Otter have already both given in; they’re waiting for you…to join them.”

“No…,” Wolf moaned quietly, shaking his head in vain, “No…”

The Beast had not moved from where it was crouched, all but hidden in the shadows. “It’s a Mercy Killing,” it whispered reassuringly.

“No…,” Wolf said again, tears rolling from his eyes.

“She doesn’t care…” the shadow purred, smiling.

Rage welled up in Wolf, “No!” he howled, launching himself forward, teeth ripping into the shadows, crashing into the undergrowth where the Beast, now gone, had been. He tried to stand back up but sank back to his knees, adrenaline rush gone. Feebly he tried to call out to Baar or Otter but the wind drowned out his feeble tries. A part of him told him to go back to the clearing but he couldn’t do that, not twice in one night, not like this. That would be too much, too much to ask. He finally passed out where he lay, alone.

*****

One night Wolf woke up crying and whimpering in his sleep. He had been dreaming— about the Thorn.

His body, his muscles, his bones, his skin all had a collective memory of their own and they remembered, remembered the night of the Thorn even though Wolf didn’t. That memory was strong, specific in a vague kind of way. It was more of an impression, a feeling instead of linear logic and details, but just as strong and persuasive in its own non-logical way.

Tears spilled down Wolf’s cheeks as he lay curled up, rocking himself slowly, trying to remember.

Several months later Wolf went back to the clearing, to see the Princess. It was the first time in a long time— even Otter had stopped going, for the most part.

*****

In their own way, each of them is dying— all to one degree or another— from isolation.

Baar from a growing sense of despair and failure— he feels that he is the eldest, the spiritual leader and that he has somehow through his own misguidance/poor judgment been unable to steer them on the correct course.

Wolf is especially dying from a sense of loneliness— he sees himself as the physical protector of the group and it was his failure that led directly to the Thorn wounding them in the first place. His pain is the deepest and most acute of the three. He is terrified that he will be unable to protect the other two and that they will die, leaving him alone.

Not much gets Otter down— he tends to be naturally happy, but he senses Baar and Wolf’s pain and in his own way tries to make things better, to lighten things up; and when not terribly successful it brings him down. He feels all the worse because he sees his role as the smallest, though still important, which makes his failure all the greater; because, in all honesty, Otter may have the biggest heart of them all and there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for any of them. He just wants them to all be happy again so they can have fun and go on wild adventures.

All of them, though Otter to a lesser degree, feel how the Thorn makes them different and feel the need to conceal its existence within them from everyone, even those they trust.


Dream— The Indian Goat/Sheep Herder

There was this little native Indian boy— herded sheep or goats. Nothing special about him if you looked, but he was different somehow. His father, or maybe his mother, had been a shaman perhaps. His spirit mingled freely with the animals I think. He knew things, though you’d never know it by looking at him, ‘cause all he did was herd his goats/sheep.


He died somehow; I’m not sure. His grave was on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the desert below; though nobody really knows who buried him. It could only be reached by a little, precarious roundabout trail that can scarcely be seen and shoots off from the trail/gully/gorge that he herded his goats/sheep in everyday.


I went to the grave ‘cause somehow, someway, this little Indian kid was me. I knew exactly where the hidden trail would be— like I’d seen it a thousand times before. There was only a little mound of raised dirt to mark his grave and in the NW corner a little circle of that dirt was wet, as if an animal had marked its territory. And in that circle of dirt was a lone paw print— a wolf’s or coyote’s maybe. He was a wolf or coyote now— I knew this— could almost feel him watching me while I was there, hidden. But I didn’t know what I was supposed to learn here, what message he was s’posed to give me.



Wolf


I saw a shadow walking through the night

his name was Wolf.

He was hungry,

you could see it in his eyes.

The rain followed on his heels

the night before him.

He stopped for a moment

to share a word

and tell

of life on the other side.

His eyes were haunted.

“The night’ll do that to you,” he said.

His words were bare

as lean and gaunt as his body.




[1] Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony, p. 128-30

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Album- All Times Reggae




Saturday, October 18, 2008

Album- Road Trip Mk 1 & 2









Friday, October 10, 2008

Chapter IV.4


Back Down Into the Wasteland


22FEB98

Been raining most of the day. Feeling particularly soul-sick. Thinking back to ’92 when I really became aware of this part of me and honestly believed that there would be a way to find out what it was; that it was like a puzzle, that I would be able to find all the pieces and put them together, that through logic and comprehension I would able to reach an understanding. At the time, I thought that the road trip would cap it off. Well, it didn’t; and the understanding, the cathartic release never came.


I want so badly to know; even just to find out that it’s a seasonal depression. Knowing ANYTHING at all would allow me to categorize it instead of feeling like this unknown element, alone in the world.


And then I though that a woman would be the answer, my savior. That having someone able to understand me totally, that maybe she would be the fresh perspective that saw what I had overlooked. But I don’t believe that anymore either. Not that I don’t long for that someone who cares about me/understand me, but that’s not how I’m going to learn what I need to know.


And sometimes I wonder if there ever was/is anything there to begin with. If it was all only some figment of my imagination and that I’ll never be happy until I just accept that and let go. I don’t know, something is there. I can feel it. I can see it by negation, much as a shadow hides something from view.


And I feel lost. I don’t know what else to do. How many books do I have to read? What am I missing? I don’t know.


Bitter


“I’ll know the way,”

he said

with a certain bitterness

“when I get there.”


Finally kept the promise I made to myself, sitting on the roof of the Anarchy-mobile all those years ago in Canyonlands— have returned with a Jeep to drive the White Rim Trail.


05AUG98

Airport:


Got to my campsite, the Airport, sill fairly early in the day (noon or one) and set up the tarp for some shade. Not much to do here so after sitting around for a while I decided to go for a hike. I’m all winded at first ‘cause of the altitude difference and stumbling around like a drunken mule and all I can think is, why am I here? What the hell am I doing here? I can’t rightly say. Later I manage to rephrase the question as, what am I supposed to learn here? But I’m still at a loss for an answer.


Driving into Canyonlands last night…the sheer rock walls seemed so ominous and foreboding, like they were evil spirits waiting to drag me away. And today, after a short nap after my hike the fear just washes over me; but of what I don’t know— of being alone, of just being still and quiet without having to do anything?


As I sit here writing this I have the distinct feeling that I’m talking to Gwen.


I was apprehensive when I left work on Friday, thinking that I could just spend my two weeks of vacation at home instead, the two weeks off and the drive suddenly seeming so big and imminent.


I know I was scared the first time I came out here. Hell, everything was up in the air, my life was shit, and I didn’t even know if I’d have a job or a place to live when I got back. That trip was much more brave than this one ‘cause I had everything to lose.


In a way, it feels like this trip was actually set in motion seven years ago and that I was supposed to have learned something in the intervening years to use on this trip.


06AUG98

White Crack:


A while ago I was watching Up Close and Personal… with Sarah McLachlan. During the course of the show she said that she had had to take some time off because in her touring she had kinda lost touch with herself and that she had lost the sense of the place where she wrote from.


I understand that so well. For so long now, writing for me has come to be even physically difficult and it feels like I fight to get the pen to work on the paper; not to mention the fact that it seems like I have nothing to say. It’s like all the crisis and drama that started me writing in the first place is gone and now my life is droll. But at the same time, I can’t say that I want all that mayhem back.


Couple days ago, Monument Valley, I sat there and thought about how a year ago I was getting ready to die in the Persian Gulf and here I was now, alive, staring at this incredible, majestic beauty and trying like hell to force myself to feel something. I couldn’t feel anything.


And it strikes me all of a sudden that I have led myself into a place that is as physically barren and desolate yet beautiful, like my own soul— the external mirroring the internal; totally alone except for Mr. Jeep.


I feel wounded all of a sudden. Nothing specific, just wounded, like I’ve come back home to find a cure… or to die. A wounded warrior. Would the sister’s of mercy, or Athena, or Artemis come and lay by my side in the night, bind my wounds and fortify my spirit?


Coyote


Coyote has been hounding me

hand and foot

since the day I was born.


At work, not long ago, they brought in a masseuse to give neck rubs to everyone as a surprise/reward. When my turn came I couldn’t believe how tense I was. The massage hurt like hell and during the course of it the lady was moving my head around and she told me to let go and surrender. I tried. God I tried. Rhetorically she said, “You have a hard time letting go don’t you.” And it’s true, I do. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place where I felt I could, totally, ‘cause there’s never been the other person there so I could let my guard down— to watch over me I mean.


Each day so far, around 1600 I start getting angry, irritable— it’s too fucking hot, the day lasts too damn long, I’m bored out of my mind. It’s like going through detox/withdrawals from a life where the senses are constantly bombarded. I don’t listen to music except when I’m driving or after the sun’s gone down— something to invoke a mood.


I count the days and once again I want to leave already, now. Something keeps stopping me though and I’m not sure if it’s just plain stubbornness or some half-baked idea from the Navajo Creation Story, which I happen to be reading, that I will learn something on the fourth day.


Writing today I’m left with the impression of my daughter reading these words, perhaps sitting here, trying to understand them, understand me. Maybe it’s for her (you) that I’m writing all this, maybe that’s why I’m here.


The sunset was beautiful last night; watching the canyons and mesas turn oranges, reds, blues and purples and the shadows crept up them. The moon was almost full and I was listening to the Serpent’s Egg by Dead Can Dance, it was too perfect.


And as I sat there I had the thought/idea/hunch/feeling that, “angels are watching over me,” and there seemed to be a subtle pervasiveness of the Feminine, although not in a mothering sense, but concerned and protective nonetheless. It’s the kind of feeling that allows a warrior to ride into battle, not unafraid, but just so.


While I was watching the moon rise it hit me that my spiritual life has largely died. The kid that sat on the roof of his Toyota seven years ago was so much more in tune with himself and just aware than I am now. Largely, I want to blame it on the Kennedy, and I probably could. But that seems too neat, too pat.


I feel like the eternal prodigal son— always adventuring or wandering off somewhere and returning only with stories and sometimes lessons learned.


White Rim Trail


The moon climbed towards its azimuth

on silver legs

freshly shaved and showered

I played Miles Davis

for the bats

busy eating the bugs I so despised.

The ants however,

couldn’tve given a damn

not being inclined to jazz

in general

or Miles Davis in particular.


07AUG98

Candlestick:


Set out a can of sloppy joe to heat in the sun for dinner. Opened it up and realized that you needed to add ground beef. Oh well, I blame the Navy. So I opened a can of chili and had sloppy chili for dinner.


Felt the same urge to get out of here today, though it wasn’t so bad. Today just didn’t seem to last nearly as long as the other two. Maybe it’s because I got a late start or ‘cause the drive was a little longer.


Today’s drive was by far the most difficult, relatively speaking, of the legs so far. I am so proud of Mr. Jeep. He has done so well. I’ve found that driving him in terrain like this is a lot like riding a good trail horse in that he’s got an idea where you want to go and if you give him a little reign he’ll find the best route to do so. Sometimes, going up these loose slopes I’ll feel the rear tires slipping and scrabbling for purchase and it’s just like riding a horse. And then they grab hold and it’s all okay.


You can see a good stretch of the Green River here and it so much represents life. All that cool water meandering through shady green banks— a whole ‘nother world than where I’m at. Might as well be a million miles away.


Rain was forecast for today and tomorrow and clouds are building up in the west and slowing moving this way. I’ve done all I can to be ready. Just hope it holds off till tomorrow rather than tonight.


I think I can see where I sat and wrote that day when I was first here. I remember climbing up there and trying to write about Colleen but I just couldn’t.


08AUG98

Upper Big Bend (off of 128):


Started out as a good day: Found my campsite at Potato Bottom C— two trees and in the valley so it was cooler. Backtracked several miles and found a place to get down to the Green River on the sandstone so I swam and lay out for about four hours. God the water felt so good. Left there and found an even better spot and stayed there for a couple of more hours, but then noticed clouds building up, black and low on the horizon.


Hadn’t sat in camp more than twenty minutes and it starts raining. I’d rigged Mr. Jeep for foul weather and gotten everything squared away and there’s nothing to do but just hunker down. It rains and rains, doesn’t look like it’s going to let up. I start to leave but get up on a mesa and can see better and I think it’s going to break up after it passes. But it doesn’t. An hour later I decide to split. It in fact, looks like there’s more rain behind what’s over me. After I get clear of the canyons I can see that it has broken up. Now I’m pissed ‘cause I was looking forward to this last night; to having some pasta for dinner and drinking some wine and listening to tunes.


Driving out of Canyonlands it’s weird to be back on pavement and already I miss the dirt trails. The whole four days is so vast and immediate that it makes the rest of the trip out here seem like years ago.


I can’t begin to tell you how bad I felt leaving when I saw it wasn’t going to rain and it was too late to turn back. For four days I was fighting with myself and then to leave early made me feel like a quitter— like I had come so far, so close only to miss something because of the dumb weather.


So here I am at Upper Big Bend Campground. I was just going to head for Colorado Springs, I was so pissed. But I saw this and it’s a way of salvaging the whole thing. Although not as nice as Potato Bottom, it will do. I’ll have my pasta, drink my wine, watch the moon and listen to my tunes.


Taking Leave of my Soul


And Mr. Zeep felt his thoughts

and the pain and dismay they carried

but he kept his own to himself

and quietly bore him away to the north.


13SEP98

The two most influential things on who I am right now have been the Navy, which has allowed me to choose, steer who I want to be and do. The other would be the on-going quest that started in ‘91/’92 to discover some lost memory/knowledge— as began to be chronicled in Twenty2 the Hard Way.


The Navy allowed me to restore my faith in myself, in my potential and ability— to find something I liked to do and to do it well. It allowed me to start over and remake myself. 22THW though is a going back and inside, down, to remember, rediscover what had been lost, forgotten, thrown away, suppressed. I have learned more about myself, about my emotions, fears and what makes me tick from this. It is generally terrifying, always painful, and hopefully cathartic. All of it seems to be things you’d rather not remember, think about or even deal with.


Somehow though, the two must be reconciled. I will never know my true, total potential without knowing my complete history— the in as well as the out. If one is the future and a striving for divinity, the other is the past and the all too painful reminder of one’s own humanity. This quest backwards has pretty much been on hold since I joined the Navy and I guess that my road trip in August is what really has awakened it.


I have to go back and it scares me— the darkness, the depression, the hurt— I have to get through all those again and I’m not looking forward to it. And as far as all this goes, I’m still not even sure where I’m supposed to start looking or how to conduct the search.


Transition


Three bits beyond

God

fifty cents shy

of the Devil


21SEP98

Not in a very good mood yesterday or today— too much gray, too much rain. Lying in bed yesterday, got the idea to continue writing 22THW, that it wasn’t just missing one final chapter to tie it all together but many. Now that I think about it, I can’t recall the thought process that led me to the idea. But I know when I was writing last week I was thinking that this whole thing was about going back and that I would have to go through the fear and depression to get to the other side. Only I still wasn’t totally sure what I was supposed to be looking for.


--What am I looking for?

--Where is it at?

--How do I get there?


04OCT98

I’m not exactly thrilled about using myself as bait for whatever it is that I’m trying to catch. Especially since the gist of the trap is to wait till it gets close enough and then to just grab it. I must be some kind of fucking idiot!


09OCT98

And I can hear it calling my name, that irresponsible voice— the suicide reflex. It doesn’t scare me yet but it is a source of concern. Things haven’t begun to get as bad as they were after Colleen but I can feel the weight. Jesus, what the hell is happening to me? Funny, I have the power to take my own life, right at my fingertips yet I don’t have a clue as to how to set it aright. Too fucking funny.


Mercy Killing — A

Johnny (New Light)— The Dream Academy

Gabby Says— The Dream Academy

Choose Life— Born Slippery

Through These Eyes— Social Distortion

Pleasure and Pain— Steve Jones

Showdown at Big Sky— Robbie Robertson

Aura— The Church

Street Fighting Years— Simple Minds

Wilder Wein— Rammstein

Useless— Depeche Mode


Mercy Killing— B

The Edge of Forever— The Dream Academy

Bad— U2

I’m the Ocean— Neil Young

Heart and Shoulder— Heather Nova

The Party— The Dream Academy

Lowlands— The Dream Academy

Mercy Killing— The Dream Academy

Touched— VAST

King of the Hill— Roger McGuinn

Succubus (Wet Nightmare)—

Klavier— Rammstein


Untitled


With drink and music

we summoned the angry beast

to do him in

before he killed us.


14DEC98

I have such a propensity for being in control, for quashing thins down and keeping them inside. And that makes it hard for me to get at the core of my emotions, to realize them, understand them…since I’m dealing with the by-products of them. I’m going to have to make (at least) one more trip down into this mess and I’m going to have to be drunk to do it ‘cause it will be deeper than ever and it is the only way I can seem to “let go” enough to deal with it. And this time, I’m really nervous for me ‘cause if anything is going to kill me, it will be this time. I’ve had a small taste of the self-rage and hate and it’s going to be ugly.


Duke


And one day too

my muzzle will grow gray

and I will yearn no more

to rush outside

to chase a ball, stick or squirrels

but instead will lie by the fire

haunches kicking and quivering

as I yelp and whimper

off after another rabbit

bounding across the gray-green moors.


18JAN99

Last night is now a vague blur. I know I said to Bonnie, at some point, that I didn’t give a damn if I died driving home drunk as long as I didn’t hurt anyone else because my life had become very cheap. And it has. And I’d say that my life has no meaning because I am no longer fulfilling anything for my friends and I realize that is the only way I’ve ever measured my worth— by what I’ve been able to do for others.


I was so totally surprised to realize over the holidays that I have never had a goal growing up. I never said, this is what I want to do and this is the road I need to get there. Not ever.


19JAN99

Thinking on the ride home from work today how I’ve never been very comfortable with conflict between two people and how I have a hard time expressing my anger. And the truth is that I have never known how to do it appropriately because whenever anyone was mad at me they ended up hurting me. And since I never wanted to hurt anyone I cared about, the only option was to bite down on it and keep it inside. There was no safe way to release it, a pressure valve because it was an all-or-nothing proposition and if it was going to come out it was going to come out evil, like a demon and I never knew if I’d be able to control it and if I couldn’t, it would attack and devastate the other person, killing me in the process as I sat there in stunned shock listening to the things coming out of my fucking mouth.


This is what happened with Kim, ‘cause I was like, I don’t deserve this and if I don’t say something, stand up for myself, I’m doomed. But I didn’t know the right way to voice my grievances— and once the genie was out of the bottle, there was no getting it back in.


Busted


“I’m leaving

Las Vegas,”

he said,

“even though

I’ve never been

there

is only so

much

pain

a man can bear

and I busted a lifetime ago.


15FEB99

It has really made me mad that Chrissy went and told my sister that she was worried that I was suicidal and yet she/no one has talked with me to find out what’s going on. I don’t believe that I’m suicidal. I do not want to die, I am not done living. I have not done everything I want to do. Friends like these…


I am looking for something. I have descended into a strange, dark world that I do not entirely understand and it is filled with some inherent dangers— the first being pain. I have hurt so much, felt so alone and depressed, so scared, so gutted that you finally reach a point where you just want it all to stop. It’s not about getting back at someone or feeling sorry for yourself; you just reach a point where you don’t believe that you can go on anymore like that. All the light, all the things that make life special and worthwhile are gone from your sight and they have been gone so long and the darkness is so hard, so deep, so pervasive that you can’t even remember if the light ever existed.


The other thing is the rage, the anger, the hatred…and this has actually been going on for a long time. There are times when I hate myself so fucking much, where I feel that I must hurt myself or die to make amends for some unknown sin; that I do not deserve to be alive. This comes from the part of me I don’t know, can’t see.


I feel like one of these guys in Saving Private Ryan or Thin Red Line— all there is is the fight and nothing makes any sense. To fight is to risk the high probability of death— so to fight is, in a sense, suicidal. But to not fight, to be a coward, is a thousand times worse than dying. So you fight because it is the only way out of the nightmare, the only way to reach the objective, the only way to gain the knowledge. And you hope like hell that you can hold it together, that you are tough enough, wily enough to cheat death and win the day.


I do not believe that I am suicidal. But then all this could just have been some elaborate rationalization.


Terminal Dis-Ease


Suicide—

It’s not the bullet

the rope

the razor

that kills them

that’s just the end

of something else

much more powerful

that has been killing them

for a long, long time.


16FEB99

It was a year ago Sunday that I stepped between Gwen and a drunk bum on Duval and something in my head snapped and I saw her in an entirely different light. It was a year ago last night that she leaned over the back of the couch; smiling, thanked me and I saw a look in her eye that said she really cared about fucked up me. It only took me eleven months to push her to a point where she is no longer talking to me.


*****

It’s been a strange several months and more than once I’ve felt like I’m living someone else’s life— a nightmare that I can’t wake up from as I watch the things I care about crash down around me, seemingly by my own dead hand.


The Truth


Don’t

Believe it!


25FEB99

It feels like there is a piece missing from me, my soul, something cut out. All I need to be whole is to find this one piece. It might not make me perfect but it would make me whole; and I’d rather be whole than perfect any day.


22JUN99

Brought the last box of books in from the Jeep, been in storage these years in the Navy. Poured myself a gin and tonic and put on some old Cure. Leafing through the old photo album of Kim and I. All of a sudden I feel strange because it’s like she hasn’t been gone. Suddenly I remember just how it felt. And, oh god, I miss her.


Reading through some of the letter she sent— it amazes me how very strong she was. She was such a trooper. I don’t even know if I truly realized how strong and special she was then. I t makes me smile to think of it ‘cause I have so much respect for her and I now that she’ll be doing well wherever she is.


Her words, they made me realize that I was good for her, that I wasn’t always like I am now— that I did used to be open, care, and able to talk about things. I remember what it feels like to love someone, to be loved and to know that someone does care about you.


Hanging Tree


Left my suit on the highway that day

up from Mexico in a bad kinda way.

“Where you been man—

lost at sea?”

“Naa…

Been swinging from the Hanging Tree.

With a face like death

and a heart like lead

you can’t imagine the things I’ve seen.”

He said.

“Swinging high in the Hanging Tree...

Yeah… there’s a place

for those of us who don’t belong,

I have found it, yes!”


24JUN99

I have felt wounded for a long time now. Some of it I can point to a cause, at least generally. But for most I’m not entirely sure where it came from. I think I’ve always felt shame about my wound(s); that they were dirty or evil, something to be kept hidden.


All I wanted to do was show Gwen my wound(s). Not that I expected or wanted her to heal them or even be impressed, but just to see/know me for who I really am, to be accepted by another, to not be judged by my own eyes. And also, in showing them to her she might be able to help me understand some of them. That’s all I wanted— but I didn’t know how to say it.


The Ferryman


“I am here,”

he said,

“to help you

pass

through the eye

of this storm.

For I have known

great suffering

and pain.”

And with his charge

safely

on the other side

he came about

and tacked back

into the darkness.


Early Morning Conversation


He sat down in the sand beside her and looked out past the breakers to where the pelicans were dive-bombing into the surf for breakfast. A light breeze blew offshore and the sun was about ten fingers into the sky.


“Morning,” he said, taking a sip of his coffee.


She turned and smiled, arms wrapped around her knees. Her blond bangs danced ever so slightly in the breeze.


“So…,” pausing, readjusting his hat against the glare, “why are you really here?”


She looked at him again, eyes questioning.


“What I mean is…you said you were here to see me but I think there’s more to it than that. I mean, I was thinking earlier this morning and the way I see it, is that you’re here because of something bigger. Yeah, I’m a part of it, else you wouldn’t be here. But it’s like a picture can hold a bunch of different, separate things that aggregately make up the whole.”


She nodded slowly, not so much in agreement but as if thinking deeply.


“It’s some kind of crossroad, but I don’t know what,” he continued, leaning back and gazing up at the sky. “The thing I can’t figure out is what role I’m supposed to play, what I’m supposed to do, how I’m supposed to help you. I don’t know if you’re here for advice, for sanctuary, if you’re moving on and here to say goodbye, or I am an obstacle that you have to surmount to move on.” He paused, noticing dejectedly that his coffee cup was now empty. “I suppose it could be any one of these, a number of others, or some combination.”


“…you forgot hero,” she looked up winking with a smile.


“Naa, I just didn’t want to sound too pompous. Besides, if that’s what you need, I don’t know you’d want me. The horse is tired, the armor rusty, the sword dull, and the lance bent. I’m more likely now to spear you or myself than some foe.” He slowly shook his head, smiling bemusedly to himself and digging his toes deeper into the sand.


She stared quietly out past the waves.


“I know you a little better than I used to…” he started, “…and I won’t press, but I had to ask. I figure you’ll tell me when you’re ready…or maybe not.” He stood up slowly, brushing the sand from his red shorts, “It’ll just depend on how desperate you feel— what you’re afraid of losing if you talk, what you’re afraid of losing if you don’t.”


He turned and started walking back to the apartment, “If I make some eggs and toast will you eat,” over his shoulder?


She nodded. “Hey!”


He turned.


“What scares you?”


He looked away for a minute and then turned back, finding her gaze— steady and intent.


“You’ll appreciate the irony of this,” his voice dropping ever so slightly. “Nobody really knows me and there are a few people I’d do anything to help if they asked, even if it meant my own destruction.”


He smiled, blinking both eyes at once, and then turned.


01AUG99

Went to a party at Chad’s boss’s house last night. Pack of assholes. Had a good time. When we got back I went to sit in the Jeep for some reason, don’t know why though. I don’t remember doing it. Next thing I know I’m screaming and punching the windshield; thing looks like someone took a bat to it. There is blood everywhere. Next thing I remember, I’m sitting in the kitchen on the floor, holding my bleeding hand and yelling for Bill. I’m crying ‘cause I hurt so fucking bad inside and I’m unbelievably, hatefully pissed at myself.


My hand is all fucked up right now and that’s why my writing looks like I’m drunk. I don’t even know how to say how I felt/feel— hurt, rage, guilt that have been buried and growing for god knows how many years.


It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been drunk though, because I am so in control that I would never allow any of that to surface.


With a fifth full of courage

and a life full of rage

the cuts on his knuckles

bled on the page


02AUG99

God, I can feel the rage burning just below the surface— still. And I don’t know how to get at it, to tap it, to let it out because I don’t know how to do so without hurting myself. It is so hot, so violent that to merely touch it is to invoke a physical memory that must be acted out. It’s like I’m full of this energy that can only be released through violent physical action, that it can only be appeased by my pain, my blood, my life. It’s a rage that says that I have been found guilty of something and must pay, and pay dearly.


Unsent Letter Fragment to Chris

It’s funny in a way, I guess…maybe ironic is a better word. I remember when we were still in high school/just graduated when you had come back from your dad’s and were unhappy as hell. And I did not understand, really understand, what was going on, at least not until much later. All those nights we spent sitting out in the dark on Lake Michigan, drinking and talking…


And now I find myself with a busted up hand knowing all too well that my demons can still reach out and touch me whenever they want, regardless of how many books I read, how much I write, where I move, or who I do or don’t trust. And all of a sudden, I have to wonder if I have really been chasing them all these years like I thought or if I have been running like a man hunted. And you start to wonder if you will ever find sanctuary, understanding, acceptance…


25AUG99

Couple of vodka tonics— I can feel the anger, running just below the surface. And I don’t know what to do. Behind the anger lies the source, the cause. But I do not know how to get through the anger, how to discharge it, channel it, let it go without hurting myself. The anger, rage, cries, screams, demands my pain, my blood, my suffering, my death as payment. I cannot even test its waters. The only way to get there is to let go totally and it is stronger than I am— my instincts for survival and self-preservation will be trampled underfoot in a second. And so I stand at an impasse— choking back more and more rage, building it, storing it, unsure how to proceed. Guilty it screams; guilty, guilty, guilty!


30AUG99

Some of the symptoms of my soul-sickness/wound include:


§ The feeling that I must pay (with my blood or life) for some terrible sin.

§ The feeling that there is some part of me that I must protect everyone I care about from or it will hurt, kill, or maim them.

§ That I must always look out for the people I care about, protect them, help them, be strong for them, hurt with them (Catcher in the Rye) but that I can never expect or ask for the same from them in return.

§ That if I were to be completely honest about how I feel and what I’ve been through with someone I care about that it would hurt them immeasurably.

§ That no one can understand what I feel, mean, or say.

§ That some sense of honor dictates that I fight this alone; that you do not burden others with your troubles.

§ That I do not deserve that anyone ever care about me and nobody ever will.

§ That somehow I am a fuck-up and a failure.

§ A great feeling of loss of purpose and meaning, of not belonging, of being lost, of confusion and despair.

§ That I will never be able to make amends or be forgiven.


How Would I Classify the Wound?


Limited

Expanding

Numbing

Deep

Binding


Unlimited

Limiting

Painful

Shallow

Undoing


Isolating

Demanding

My fault

Driving

Destructive


Opening

Giving

Other’s fault

Hindering

Self-destructive


Healing

Known

Progressing

Confusing

Good/neutral


Festering

Unknown

Standstill

Understood

Evil/bad


Easy

Changing

Forgiving

Major

Band-Aid


Hard

Unchanging

Unforgiving

Minor

Bandage


Traumatic

Knowable

True

Mine

Symptoms


Untraumatic

Unknowable

False

Another’s

No Symptoms


Contagious

Healable

Malignant

Better

Involves others


Non-contagious

Unhealable

Benign

Worse

Involves only Self


Harvest Moon


There is a certain

sadness,

a chill in the earth

that makes my bones

ache

and the light

of the harvest moon

seem paper-thin and razor-sharp

like the jagged bones

of loneliness

re-discovered


31AUG99

The knuckle on my middle finger, the worst cut of the lot, has been red and swollen lately and I suspected an infection, but I didn’t see how something could get infected under that thick of a scab. Without any though, I pulled the scab off in the shower tonight and the puss just started pouring out. When I finally had it all cleaned out, there was about an 1/8th inch deep hole in my knuckle.


It’s almost ironic ‘cause this is a very apt analogy for me and my wound. A scab has been forming for years and on the outside it may actually look like it’s healing but inside, it’s infected, festering. The scab that separates and numbs me to the wound needs to be peeled off so that the poisons can be drained and the wound cleaned. Then, and only then can true healing begin.



Safety


“Why,”

she asked,

“are you wearing a flack jacket?”

“Because,”

I replied around my cigar,

“it still smells like the Ship

and reminds me of a time

when my Demons were

kept at bay

by the deep blue Sea.”


07MAR00

My soul is aching today. Maybe it’s the way the clouds piled up to the east, like they used to in Jax; maybe like some poor junkie, I haven’t got the Navy out of my veins; maybe it’s none of these— still, there’s something that I can’t quite put my finger on.


Thought passed through my head tonight, trying to recapture it now, less than perfect in its form.


I’ve had to live my life perfectly— perfectly unflinching, perfectly standing tall, perfectly unfailing, and in many ways, perfectly alone. This is not to say that I have not made mistakes, errors, poor judgment calls, only that I have taken the brunt of them, that I have muddled my way through everything without turning back; that with rare occasion, no one has seen me cry or known the depth of my ache or pain.


And the thing I long for most is that someone who understand and cares, that person who says, I will stand guard for you for a while, I will watch over you. Somehow I must be able to repay the debt that I feel is on my life. Somehow I must be able to make amends for my unknown sin…without having to die for it…somehow.


15APR00

Lying in bed one night last week, thinking that I can’t go on like this; that I can no longer be held captive or wait to find out what my demon is.


For some reason, I started thinking about Holly Sue and when she fell off that cliff. Suddenly it clicked— The Catcher in the Rye— how I felt like that, sitting on the edge of the cliff in the fields making sure that no one fell off. It also explains why I feel that I let something happen that I must pay for; with my blood, my life.


I barely remember the incident and I think my memory is imperfect now— but the more I think about it, the more I think it could be my demon.


My dad was there, after she fell and I’d like to know what he remembers, hoping that it would jog my memory. For the life of me though, I do not want to talk to him, not at all.


The more the thought lingers in my mind though, the more I think that this may be the answer. It’s actually a thought that I have considered in the past but the pieces never fit together in such a way as they did (seemed to) last week.


My Heart of Darkness


“I can feel it around the edges of me like a hunter stalking its prey.”


“Put a tie and coat on it,” he told me, “it won’t tame it but it will force it to a higher level of civility— look at the English for fuck’s sake.”


The smoke from his cigarette climbed towards the tent’s ceiling in a measurable straight line— not a single current disturbed the carcinogenic updraft.


“To the Pope…,” he clinked his glass against mine.


I could feel the edge rising through my veins, excited, angry. I was perched on a precipice of anger and hate, the instant before the stall indicator started screaming in red. I could pull back now, but the real trick was to ride it one-step over the edge and somehow maintain enough control through the ensuing crash so as not to kill yourself, hopefully walking away with only minor injuries and some major insights. It’s a lot like driving drunk down the freeway with your eyes closed, steering with toothpicks, and listening to your favorite song. It’s not the kinda thing you want to put your friends through…unless you’re some kind of bastard.


I got up to go, “See ya ‘round,” I said.


He nodded silently.


See ya round.


And somewhere very far away in the black, on the far side of everything…I didn’t know why, but the way back, the door to this side would be thru an understanding woman.


Echo


I could just have

as easily yelled these

facts

into the great emptiness

of the midnight sky

because that is where you

have haunted me the most—

in the places

you left empty



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