Rain

It was the dead of night; unfathomable darkness pervaded everything.  It flowed in the gaps between roots and undergrowth, clotted out the nexus of branches overhead, seeped in on us like liquid…filling up all interstices.  The rain grew heavier: hundreds of large drops, cold as ice, drummed down on our heads and shoulders, dissolving whatever layer of warmth lay between our skin and clothing.

“We need to find shelter,” I said.  “We can’t keep this up.”  We were getting soaked to the skin.

thud.

“Oof!” Sailor said.  She lurched to a stop, as if she’d run into something solid. Her grip on my hand tightened.  I felt her take my momentum into her arm.  I stopped.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.  But check this out,” she whispered.  She pulled my hand forward through the rainy, inky darkness until it touched something cold, metallic, round.  With her wet hand over mine, she rotated the thing.  It was a doorknob.  The door swung open.  A soft yellow light revealed the door to be a low-arched, wooden, cut from the trunk of a primeval tree right at the center of our path.

“Shelter,” she said.  We ducked through and closed the door behind us.  We were out of the rain.

 

 

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Crickets

Sailor climbed with a renewed impetus, searching for the source of the mysterious music. Nightfall approached, and the air grew cold.

I stumbled  in the darkness and fell down into one of the hollows between roots. Sailor turned back.  She stepped down to help me up with a firm forearm grip.  In her frank, practical way, she said, “This shit is insane.  We left under an hour ago.  Now it’s dark.”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Should we turn back?”

“Let’s keep going.  We’ll be going downhill once we turn back.”

Holding hands now, we climbed at a ferocious pace.  The cold air turned to wind, blowing Sailor’s hair back, pressing against our clothes.  The wind howled and moaned over the fading song of the crickets.

We leaned into the wind, climbing for what seemed like an hour.  As the night grew colder, darker, the howl of the wind died slowly away.  The sound of the crickets dissolved entirely.

Presently, a sound something like the soft fuzz of a radio came from high above us.  Rain had begun to fall.  The thick canopy of the giant, primeval trees protected us, but it would only be a matter of time before rain penetrated the canopy.

We were tired now, climbing more slowly, our hands freezing cold, gripped tight.  It was ridiculous to hold hands and climb – it felt as if we could pitch forward and fall with the slightest misstep – and yet somehow it worked…as if the magic of the forest recognized the sweet power we invoked through our contact.

 

The Trail

At first the trail was easy: a soft, narrow bed of humus and broken bark lead us upward.  Then, little by little, roots criss-crossed the trail, grew thicker and more twisted, as if giant, knotted coils of living hemp had slithered across the the forest floor and lain down to sleep, growing old, slowly bristling with bark and moss.  We lost sight of the sky as the trees nourished by these roots crowded out the sun.  The air grew cooler.  The roots grew closer together, with little levels and hollows between them, each hollow higher than the one before, so that the trail formed a sort of elaborate terrace.  We wound our way up the terrace slowly, still smoking our cigarettes, swirls and halos of pale blue smoke trailing behind us as we went.

Then Sailor’s cigarette went out.  I saw it go; it glowed slightly brighter in the gloom, then winked out, as if someone had turned up the power from a tiny battery before switching it off. Mine went out, too, as if someone had blown it out.  I looked around behind me, but saw no one.  I turned back to face the trail ahead.  Sailor looked back, holding out the stump of her cigarette.  I nodded, held out mine, and dropped it in one of the little hollows between the roots.

Realizing we should have brought another layer of clothing to protect us against the cool air, we drew closer, and made our way up side by side.  The sound of crickets filled the spaces between the trees.  Then the sound changed, warping and keening into strange, other-worldly music.  Nervously, we pressed on.

 

(Back Door: Enter “Anticipation” into the search bar.)

 

The Return of Harlin Coke

Maybe it’s corny, but I’ll tell you why we went down to California.  To be free.

There was a writer who said that anything in the continental U.S. not nailed in place slides down into L.A….like the stuff sliding into the corner of your junk drawer when you take it out.  Something like that.  Anyway, our case was no different, Sailor’s and mine.  We slid down into L.A. like a pair of old, dirty pennies.

After Sailor met Harlin in a smoky basement bar called Grog on the Lower East Side, he’d taken her to suck him off in the Chelsea Hotel.  After he’d paid, on the way out the door, he’d dropped a card.  Harlin Coke, filmmaker.  And a number.  Sailor told me that he’d mumbled something on his way out the door, lighting up a cigarette, talking low through the smoke.  “Could use a good indie chick like you.”

When she’d come home from all that, she’d flicked the card down on the kitchen table in front of me, right by my coffee cup.

It’d been right after my breakdown, and I couldn’t sleep.  I’d come out to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee and was just reading and drinking coffee and chainsmoking out there.  As I sat, the first light came through the blinds and fell in pale bars across the kitchen table.

“What do you think about that?”  She’d asked.  “Met him down at Grog.  One john that turned out to be a decent fornicator.  And he dropped his card.”

I didn’t say anything.  Just some asshole who wanted to shoot another cheap home porn with a New York hooker.

“Why do we need some shitty excuse to go down to L.A.?” I asked, “We can just go.”

“Upi owes this guy a favor.”

“I don’t understand.”

“If I just duck out he’ll track me down.  He’ll try to hurt me.”

I took a sip of coffee.

“Upi, I mean.  But if we have a reason to leave, and he knows the guy, owes him…well, maybe it will be different.”

I was still processing.  “He would track you down…across the whole goddamn country?

“He’s crazy.”  She turned away from me.  She was going through a corner cupboard I’d never seen her use before.

“And you think this other guy isn’t.   Harlin Coke?  What kind of name is that anyway?”

CLACK.  Sailor placed an old VHS cassette down on the kitchen table.  “One of his.”

I looked at it for a minute.  “You wanna watch it now…or…you wanna get some sleep?”

“Gimme five minutes.  I’m going to slip into some pee-jays,” she said, “Keep that coffee on for me?”

I pulled on my cigarette and looked at the VHS cassette.  Someone had taken a BIC and scrawled on a post-it note scotch-taped to the plastic.

The Priest    Harlin Coke, dir.

Pricked

1.

What good to wait

When we both know

You’re going to die?

 

2.

You render thousands

Of secret mercies,

Kisses on two soft

Lids.  Dark centers

That lie beneath

Trace their spirals

On your lips’

Soft surface.

 

3.

Pricked with stars,

Our bodies fly upward

Into the fathomless dome.

 

Anticipation

We stayed so long our bedroom in the cabin took on the the mellow odor of skin-and-sweat-soaked sheets, which in turn mixed with the smell of our books…the favorites we’d loaded onto one of the broad window ledges beneath the view of a thicket of skinny pines.

In the mornings Sailor would come in with two mugs of coffee and set them on the lacquered stump of an old tree that was our nightstand.  And we would sit on the sheets, naked, and drink our coffee.

One morning we stared openly at each other’s genitals, and smiled softly, both of us…until I giggled.  Then Sailor tackled me backwards onto the mattress and we had a tussle.

Another morning while I read to Sailor she stared out the window toward the steep hill going up beyond the cluster of pines.  A little winding trail led away from the back deck, up into the big trees, the higher reaches of the mountain.

That same morning, as we sat out back, smoking, and looking up into the woods, Sailor told me that she had longed to take a walk up the trail.

Ordinarily we’d walked down toward the village, where several trail heads met in a small meadow.  But the narrow, difficult trail, beset with heavy, spiraling roots, that wound steeply upward from the back of the cabin…it was  a thing whose distances we’d preferred to imagine.  Until Sailor said something.

“You know that trail…?  I’m imagining something astonishing, beautiful.  But I know I’m going to be disappointed.  I just want to get it overwith.  Fuck it, N.  Let’s just do it.  Let’s go right now.  Let’s not even put out our cigarettes.”

 

(Front Door: Enter The Trail into the search bar.)

(Back Door:  Enter Mountains into the search bar.)

 

 

 

Verses, 11.1 – 11.51, Revolver

11.1

Why do I crawl

in reverse,

rewinding back, back

through the eye

of a needle, back

through a stageset

desert?

11.11

Am I inspired by acquaintances

who play so tight and close

their intimate whispers,

pregnant with trauma,

give way to a fetish:

a knowledge

of sutures,

de facto,

aid in a minor form?

11.12

The first ones

so lovingly forgive;

close those caverns

in the flesh.

Now chambers echo

where spinae yanked

tight as guidewires.

He who said so

set-to with

thickset hands,

unbuilding things

inside me.

11.13

In this way

my ambitious spell

was set in motion.

I gunned it, high-speed

down the highway

‘long uncharted deserts…

the lone oasis long departed.

I ran those re-treads thin, left

that smoking hulk aside,

tumbled out on a sandy

shoulder to save

my skin, birth

a little shiva.

11.2

Call it what you like,

but I know my own

private fear of death.

It was laughter over radio which

bubbled up from wreckage wires

and echoed in that dented hull.

11.21

You know I did not get

away unharmed…

could not make my break intact.

Now my undelivered

foot must sweep the dust

as Lefty, clopping clods apart

and falling, just as

poems fall, suggests…

11.3

(I later note

a fear of death

to be the flare

laid out

on asphalt,

which gets us gawking left,

such stupid geese,

while right

a parked car smolders,

its shadows on the grit.)

11.31

Meanwhile,

the mechanic, slave

to other accidents,

sweats and bends,

his dream catcher

hooked to the roll-tor.

Yet I’m the one

(Waaaaa-Waaaaa cries martyr!)

who hoists that

fucking engine.

11.4

You note an emotion

makes your trapezius

knot and lift; your shoulder

the record, the softly turning vinyl

of a breakup.

Revolve;

A needle

inscribes

its world

upon your surface.

11.41

I must turn.

I must turn and

Turn.  And turn and turn.

After all, my dear one…

There is no Witch-Doctor, no Alchemist.

Only a locator of grips, a deft

unwrapper of phantom fingers,

one who makes wake for her

who would choose superstition,

flying along the mirage of our secret

inland sea, strange wood fins

nailed to the side of her aqua car,

(a rooster tail, a big deal).

the painter’s knot left

unfurled at the dock, I

the one who cured her.

11.42

No magic here,

no paradox.

Instead, a desert lake:

a perfect fake,

now spoiled,

a silver mirror

rippled

by the speedboat

with its tall-tall yards of spray,

its superstitious show.

11.5

You and I,

ever pragmatists,

know a boat will make its

desert rescue even

across the sickening mirage,

in the middle of nowhere,

in the deafening silence,

in the absence of fanfare.

11.51

So why do you

force me on

the thing you deny,

(though you think it already):

Every means is orthodox,

when you bite down,

train the mind to skip

the trauma we both

know as cause and effect.

11.52 (Three Epilogues)

1.

Now we dance

beside the smoking car,

its radio tinnily

doubling the bursting

ring of laughter,

its broadcast hollow;

we sing across

the sands, black asphalt

ribbon’s end no matter

now… We’ve seen its vistas,

and survived.

2.

We dance at dusk…

in the cool blue shade

of metal husks,

‘mid radiowaves

and tiny shivas,

and in our

spirals,

thread

the eye

of Christ…

3.

…a decoration

slid ‘long twine

hung round

my neck,

then yours,

(a fisheye, a wet

black bead, an

ornament worn

for tiny dances).