The night was still, quiet, scented with the pungent odor of fresh pines and the musty smell from the station wagon’s lived-in interior.Squeezed into a corner of the “bed” that magically appeared by laying the seats back, I could make out the sky if I pressed my face against the plastic siding of the car. The stars peeked through the trees, the sky darkened to the almost-purple of a bruise. My brother moved in the front seat, rustling, getting comfortable. All six of us could sleep in the car, somehow, laid down like sardines in a wheeled can, a feat I marvel out now from my life of king-size beds and life in houses with more rooms than I use. No-one could move, but we were used to that. You pressed your arms down by your side to claim your space, and you were very still. You didn’t want to piss dad off, and for anyone to sleep we all had to be still.
I flattened on my stomach, Mom pressed beside me with her arms around the baby. We all held our breath. POP! Zinggggg, again. Now, an answering thunder from the 30-ought-6 dad had held in his hands as he slipped into the trees. No zing this time, the bullet was not flying over our heads now. At the time I thought someone really was shooting at us, that someone was after us, but now I imagine the shock on some redneck’s face as he shot randomly into the forest and then heard a zing as a bullet flew over his head. Or did the bullet hit his truck, shattering the windshield? There was a pause, then an excited POP! POP! Zinnnggggg! Zinggg!! Someone was definitely shooting at us now. Boom! Boom! The bigger gun answered, then there was a roar in the distance as a truck started up and sped down the road. Someone had gotten the picture.
Minutes later, panting, Ed arrived shirtless, the gleam of his eyes reflecting the stars, the sweat beading his forehead belying the cool mountain air.
“He got the picture,” he said. “Mary, get our shit, let’s get out of here before he comes back or the cops show up. Let’s go kids, roll up the sleeping bags.” A flurry as we pushed the seats up, arranged ourselves into our traveling formation, got the baby in the car seat. Our few crates of belongings on the top of the car were settled, and before panic could set in the cat was there. She knew. We all knew he would leave her in a second if she wasn’t there on time. I breathed relief, cuddling her in my arms as we coasted out of the forest with our lights off. No-one on the road. It was as empty as it had been when we drove in to find our spot. Huddled together in the back, us kids looked at each other with our wide gleaming eyes and finally breathed.
“Why was that guy shooting at us?” Rowdy whispered, no hint of a stutter when he talked to me, his fuzzy hair sticking up in clumps.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back. Reno grinned from the front seat between mom and dad, sitting back and not moving, not making a sound, not waking the beast. The baby in her car seat was relaxed, watching us, never opening her mouth.
Rivers of blood
See that news story the other day where a hobbyist drone pilot flew over a meatpacking plant in Dallas? There’s a photo of a river of blood flowing out of a pipe at the back of the plant. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Snow falling, brilliant backdrop of a scarlet river, the stream of life ending in mud
So many lives. No matter that they aren’t human.
Ask the man with a borrowed valve animating a failing heart
He can tell you the parable of swine and pearls.
Conveyor belts of spleen, hanging rows of beautiful shiny carcasses, plastic-wrapped feet and legs.
Detritus of a massacre, oh no, only dinner destined for a nation of hungry mouths
And fat bellies, nursing too many children from the teats of privilege. Those baggy, hanging teats.
Newborn ungulates bred especially (especially = Latin, belonging to a particular species)
for the size and shape of their hearts. Clone that one, he’ll do.
Never mind the miniscule chimeras buoyant, gently bobbing
And waiting in warm incubated blood. Joining the monkeys in silent rebellion.
One-sided Love Song
I fall in love, every time I watch a musician. Male, female, it doesn’t matter. The power of songs, music, all that talent packed in to one person…sigh. I just can’t get enough. The wine helps, or the beer, those old love-instigators. This was written after listening to Gregory Alan Isakov play in an old opera house in Pinos Altos, New Mexico just a few nights ago. He’s amazing. We’re (I’m) in love.
I see you but you don’t have a clue, it’s just all of them and me and you
You’ve got to wonder at that, you’ve got to wonder at me
Letting our love lie in these songs, just in these songs.
You’re the boy in first grade with the hearts in his eyes, who cried and cried
It hurts my art, these words they hurt my art, you slay me down
Just tell me more about the moon
That full-bellied whore, she captures your attention so.
Best one-sided romance that I ever had.
Never more disconnected than when he’s next to me, he’s empty of these words I crave
They fly by him on the wings of a song, just you and me and the rest of the crowd.
I see the men hold her down, they try in vain to hold their women down
Where do these tears come from? They see us fade into you.
We’d go with you if you asked us to.
And the reverb dies, and the amp clicks off
I wave and move along to the next great song.
And now you’re just a short man, shorter than me
Delicate hands and a voice worn down by the sounds you croon to me.
Your negligent hands around my throat, compressing the very air
Compressing my meditation on myself, my internal worth to a pinpoint of white on black
Craving you, breathing you, I want to break your bones with my teeth and errant thoughts
Your brother ran naked after my car, tears on his cheeks and a bruised heart
While you stared with pale eyes through the rain-streaked window, thousand-yard stare
The stare you stared while they took her out behind the bushes, set down weapons
And you listened to her scream, and you watched the sand swirl, and you did your job.
Because we do our jobs, because of this I want you to break me, I want you.
In our own desert, with the break between us chasm-like, I reach out over it
Only to feel the cold wind of bottomless depths. I smoke a cigarette, though I don’t smoke
I walk alone in the rock garden until you come to find me, out of duty, only duty
Call of duty, a game to you and obloquy to me. The shame of the hands and my neck
And the way my body craves it, is a supplicant to the sham of your adamantine volition.
Ferine, I burrow toward your heart, or what beats within you, I own your skin while you watch
From leagues apart, from leagues above, clinical, detached with only your own words to comfort you.
For my friend. My tears, my thoughts are with you.
Ángelita, con las rosas muertas
She said she felt your dancing stop
When it wasn’t over, when it wasn’t time.
Mothers know, they know
With every breath, with their skin
And with each heartbeat
She thinks she always knew.
They waved, blew silent kisses
Besos de lluvia
As you drifted above our mortal coils
As you danced a new dance, that we have not yet learned
You left your other half, forgotten, dear heart, híja
Did you forget her, your other breath?
She waves, too, tiny perfect hands
Until you meet again, forever.
As if the warm dark place with the steady thud, thud
Is all you were to see here.
There were more things, that we wished to show you
There were more things, but you left before them.
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