From the midsummer wild flower meadows to the steep hillsides that burn. From the city streets to the freeway long haul, from the parking lots to the cars that stop and the whey faced couples that stop and gawp at the elk that hide from the hop and stop gas station cola buyers. From the jungles of ‘Nam to the bats at Wuhan, from the statues whose arms were stolen to the marble goddesses that preside over the small mortician who seeks a replacement for his thumb that he lost in a careless sweep through the ribcage of a guy they called MORTega. I think. Cool name for a corpse. From the marketplace gold to the street stall shades, from the scarves that are wound around the razorblades. From the cold hard cash to the soft parades of flesh and freedom, or weary thiefdom, they prepare for the steeling of the hearts. From the four white horses that are hitched to the wagon of the Priest of the Ditches, from the long locked Samson to the shorn headed quizling. From those witches that circle with their hands upraised singing death to dominion from the cradle to the grave. From the arches of victory to the Kentucky Derby. From the Forks of Salmon to the pursuit of mammon you were with me.
It has been fifteen minutes since I decided there was no reason to continue the conversation. The mental conversion of sympathy to pain, of care to shame, of the tight grip around my neck of that biting razorblade of emotional demands for rescue whilst refusing to anything at all to shift the situation to help rather than hinder. To assistance over this stumbling block of alcohol and speed, of crack and disaster. Of you and me. The photos of your blood bucket. The swelling and the fever. The end stage disease of your soul and your liver. All reach this undeniable conclusion that cold blooded and broken, or hot headed and rolling everything surrenders to destruction in the end. Everything is reduced to the building blocks to be rebuilt once again. These are the dark days. This is The End.
A woman in a veil wraps a shawl around her shoulders, in a dream she sits and knits as she cackles her indignation to the walls of my psyche, the barriers between the outside and the in, the space between drowning and being forced to learn how to swim. Yes that woman she is rocking as she drops half the stitches, the woman she is rocking as she knits escape hatches into the fresh batch of complications. Her flowers are all treacherous. They bend their heads towards the sun, they open up to greet it and then they are done with life and beauty and are all about the dying. The bare oozing pods giving up the holy ghost of other peoples’ dreamworlds, of inspiration and intoxication, transmitting the easing up, the dying. The blood letting go of the soul. Untethering the pony’s from life’s eternal hitches. Johnny Cash is singing When The Man Comes Around: “It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” It is my pleasure, Johnny. My reason for living. No peace.
A mansion on a hill. A temple in the distance, it’s ancient colonnades stripped of the friezes that adored it. For it’s own good of course. The earth is stripped of it’s resources – for it’s own good of course. The life is hewn away, chipped and powdered and eaten for supper by insurance men who are drunk on the blood of saints, or at least I suspect some libel against a dirty politician who has dirt enough and aplenty without some phoney gonzo-inspired accusations. A shack in a campground looked good from the dust. It’s leaning doors and corrugated roof looked like it could be mended, a fence erected, a few chickens, a goat, a vegetable patch, a fire pit for boiling water and cooking potatoes. I haven’t had a potato for months. In years gone by, mukashi mukashi, a long time ago, the riders in feudal Japan would bring the food to the tables, riding so far, riding hard to feed people. Thank you for riding! The people would say Go Chiso Samma deshita. There is no thanks for riding for five long years. No go chiso samma deshita. There is no thanks for being the wing girl, or the navigator, the protector and the feeder. No thanks for my company. No appreciation for my devotion. Just fuck you, and listen to Jimi. Jimi is dead, I tell him. Show me something living, but the vultures are in town and they all want a feeding.
Renegades and razorblades. Rebels and no causes. Motorcycles and riders. The baddest wildcat in Duluth was riding over that mountain pass with nothing but a bandanna and a smile, a pair of goggles and a fine feel for the road, using the heft of the van to protect him from those wild winds and the rain and the storm that had blown in in the mid May climb into summer. It is one thing to see the rain and push through it, it is another to see the rain and ignore it. Those who ignore the storms are bound for glory on the next train to destruction. Good luck can only go so far down the line, before it stumbles from it’s feet and jumps towards another traveller who has not seen it for a while. A lucky red penny. A silken bunny foot. A hair of a dog and a poppy strewn Nudie suit. Resurrecting life giving ice baths and broken promises and wild horses and tumbleweed that has a life of it’s own as the antelope roam down some Montana highway to the only summer that ever mattered before the end came in sliding into first triumphant and cursed.
California burns every summer.The radio is transmitting ill intentions. Signalling a break in the programming. Trapped in the space between the cold distance and the flames, we are all barefoot soldiers against a future that we can’t hold back, that marches onwards, trampling hope and happiness. It is all just the theater of war, the production of the machine that makes the wheels of the economy creak and grown, demanding tribute in life and limb. There is no bridge across the river, there are no bullets in the chamber. There is no smokescreen to cover the search and destroy the search and clear. The wins in this war are barely discernable. The vines that grow, the wild cats in the jungle their eyes glinting cooly in the humid moisture-thick night, the jokers and the fools, the lost ground and the hills. The radio operator blinks five times. “There’s a message coming in. We have a clear transmission. They are telling us.” Ten hungry faces beg him for good news.. ..”To push forwards. Take the hill.” Old men are greedy for young men’s lives. The hills don’t matter, the ground doesn’t matter. You stay to yours, we will stay to ours. Its mine and its yours. It is a line in the sand, cowgirl. It is is a thin red streak down the forehead of the beast. I wonder what it would take to wipe out the 7th cavelry? A virus? I wonder what it would take to remove the strength to oppose.
There is a feeling that you don’t want to know. It is the feeling of truly giving up, of saying ‘if I live, I live, if I die, I die.’ Of not being able to hold on any longer and submitting to Fate and will o the whisp, what will be will be. Take a look. Take a peek. The play is about to raise the curtain on another act of war and destruction. What will be will be. I am too tired to fight. I need to sleep for a thousand years. I need a clipper ship, a horse with no name, a good dog called Sue, a hundred telephones that won’t ring. I need the highway. I need the space between me and you, to prepare a face that might be suitable. To fix a voice that won’t offend. To see if this broken old fingers can still bend and I can pick out a tune, or if they have frozen twisted again. This is not the war any of us want. This war against failing eyesight and frozen fingers, but this is the war we got. This is not the sprig of green on a military helmet to ward off the headshots. This is not some casting couch indecision, between this soul or that surviving to fight another day, choosing between you…or me. The mission is meaningless. This hill or that river this bunker or that airfield. None of it means a gnats ass.
The radio is broken. The signal boy shot it, and told the boys to all go home. No one would tell. Beds were slept in. Water was glugged. Hamburgers were eaten. Rations not wasted. Some mother on her knees thanked a G-d she didn’t believe in in any other times of trouble. An angel holstered his weapon and led his friends through the jungle, and got home and drank himself to death. Shame is a powerful thing. There is only so much forgetting Captain Morgan can do.
So when a hand wrapped round mine, and told me it was ok we would be friends. When a hand wrapped around mine and told me he would stand between me and The End, I tagged along. Any man who facilitates a break in the transmission, a mixed signal, makes a decision can’t be all bad. “He had an Angel on his shoulder” the living who could have been dead on the hill boy’s mother was prone to saying, other son’s mothers in prettier tongues spoke happiness their sons were home again. They even went to church….and the Angel they gave thanks for, the order defier, the shooter of signal boxes and radios, mister radio boy himself, sat there drinking until his esophagus exploded and he fell, tipping over a bucket of his own blood.
I met an Angel once in New York City, he went with me from the midsummer wild flowers to the steep hillsides that burn, from the city streets to the Minnesota lakes and the loons that ate the last of our chocolate cake.