Roads on Her Face #1 Shots Fired

http://www.allthesky.com/nightscapes/forest2.html

© T. Credner & S. Kohle, AlltheSky.com

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.

We had pulled off the road somewhere in the forest, between towns and out of the reach of city lights. It was a dirt road, the only good kind to pull off on. Dirt meant it probably wasn’t used that often, it meant cops weren’t cruising and looking for vagrants. You can get lost easily in the trees, behind the brush. I don’t know where we were, other than in the forest. It could have been California somewhere, but more likely was northern Arizona or maybe somewhere in Utah. It was hard to keep track, when the road was where you lived. Places blurred together and the only things that stood out were people. You remembered faces from a place, or a restaurant, or a camp spot where we almost lost the cat. Not so much the names of places, or states. When we were done driving for the day, we stopped, Mom cooked dinner on the Coleman camp stove, and then we went to sleep when the sun went down. There were no lights to read by, there was no TV. No-one called to talk on a phone that wasn’t there. Nighttime was bedtime, or sleeptime since there was also no bed. We let the cat out to hunt, confident that she would appear on the hood of the car in the morning, knowing it was time to hit the road.

I was nearing sleep, my body relaxing, the stars blurring in my vision, when I heard the noise. POP! Zinggggggggg. All of us jerked awake. POP! Zingggggg. The pop was familiar, the zing more like the sound a telephone wire would make if you strummed it. I didn’t recognize it. I was puzzling over this sound, but dad knew what it was immediately. Vietnam and a lifetime around guns had made the sound second-nature to him.

“Goddamit! Some fuck is shooting at us!” He was half-dressed, scrambling for shoes lost somewhere at the back of the car where my youngest brother was hurrying to get out of his way. His tiny bed-space had disintegrated when my father’s feet moved. Dad didn’t have a shirt, but he had his rifle. He got his shoes on, lifted the back door of the wagon, and was gone into the night. We were all awake then, blazingly awake, our eyes glued open.

“Get down, everyone, get down!” Mom was calm, at least outwardly. The baby was calm, looking around with her wise-owl eyes. She had been born to expect things like this. The boys were excited, whispering, both diving to the floorboards in the front of the car. Adventure! Just when they thought they’d been stuck with going to sleep, here was adventure. It often arrived that way, in the middle of the night, the adventure of dad coming home drunk and us figuring out how to stay out of his sight, or the adventure of being on the run, finding a new place because something in dad’s mind had clicked. Something that said it was time to go, no matter if it was midnight. Sometimes it was just time to go.

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.

After that, there was a gas station. I remember eating a tiny ice cream cup before bed, such a treat! We never got ice cream! I remember the dark swallowing us up again as the road hummed under the tires. I don’t know where we slept, maybe they drove and we slept on the road. The important thing was that the miles unfurled beneath our tires, marking time between us and them.

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.

Leagues Apart

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.

Angelita

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.