Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Armistice

We have been divided. Marine veterans for and against a president who today didn't pay tribute to our older brothers who volunteered for an early death in France a hundred years ago because it was raining. The leaders of Germany and France were there.

Not only was he a no show in France, but he didn't bother with the National Cemetery at Arlington either.

The rhetorical volleys on social media, back and forth between the few liberals and many conservatives among us, seem to have slowed in frequency and intensity today. I didn't see any one interpreting his actions to make them sound more benevolent or strategic than intended.
No one claimed that he had more important things to do.

And I didn't look for an argument with any of them or feel very strongly the urge to say "See?" That's not true, I did feel the urge. But I didn't pull the trigger.

I think today, with the rhetorical guns silent, we are all feeling this. We who once believed in something, stood up for something, and maybe will again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

This Place

Smelling white paint when I try to write
Seeing a small domed room from inside,
Newly painted, monochrome, with no relief for the eye.
The smell dries me out, dehydrates the words.
Reduces the world to locked door seclusion.
And me to solitary,  primitive, self-referred, smearing.
Illuminated dimly with pale fluorescent flicker.
Feeling along the smooth walls for cracks.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Smoke (draft)

A full year has gone without a single sighting. Each time he remembered the few instances of eye contact they'd shared, he'd felt a twist inside. The ache of a missed opportunity, which he should have dismissed and moved on from with a sigh and an "oh well" months ago but didn't, still remained.

Now he is sitting on a high-seated school bus with his knees pressed tight against the seat in front of him on his way from the parking area to the Holiday Carnival hoping she would also be returning. The short ride gave him a little time to reflect.

He knows he appears strange here riding with mostly women and their small children dressed for winter. There are a few men riding with their partners helping to manage children. They are younger than him, bearded, bundled up, seemingly domesticated.

It was easier to imagine he was part of this community last year riding the bus with his young son. Now, he's attempting  to push aside the feeling of strangeness by looking out the window trying not to go any deeper.

Doubt emerged and gnawed his confidence like a beaver. Was he setting himself up for a let down by coming here? What were the odds that she'd actually be here? Would he even recognize her if she was? Was the face in his mind even hers, or just one of his own creation? He is unsettled, not at all the vibe he'd imagined.

The shuttle arrives at the drop-off point adjacent to where you board the horse-drawn wagon if you feel like it. Small children under large helmets are waiting nearby for pony rides, a line forms to buy tickets for the games. He looks around too aware of the fact that he is childless, alone, and a male in advancing middle age. He doesn't know what to do with himself.

"Get out of your head" he says and starts walking.

She is right there, standing in front of the main entrance talking to a man. His heart leaps into his throat. No doubt about it, it's her. He feels obvious and obscene, turns his face from her and walks inside. Something needs to change.

There's time. Take a walk and look at what the vendors are selling - handmade leather good, lots of things made from yarn, framed photographs of birds, hot cider and kettle corn made on an open flame. Breathe and unwind. Smile at the parents and their cute and tiny children.

He spends some time looking at the chickens at the far end of the carnival and feels some relief.

"Gaw, Gaww, Gaw, Gaww, Gawwk" he says to the chickens.

A couple of hens cock their heads and regard him curiously. A rooster responds in kind, sounding annoyed. He feels relieved, he realizes, because he is alone. Except for the chickens. This is not the state of mind he needs to be able to talk to her.

He walks to the concession stand and orders coffee from an organic, free trade, social entrepreneur in enthusiastic Spanish. They make small jokes about the vendor's super-industrial-strength coffee grinder that he says could double as a wood chipper should the need arise. The man and his wife are smiling at him. He smiles back at them. The paper cup feels warm in his hands. Almost normal. He bids them good day and goes outside to stand beside the fire which is a tightly stacked pyramid, built with no small effort, for a sustained top to bottom burn.

One man with a short pointed stick appears to be the appointed fire keeper. The fire keeper and another man talk about their houses, their companies, sports. He exchanges furtive glances with them, lets openings to join in pass by, and walks away feeling distance again. It's time to find her.

Back inside the school, he does, at a junction of hallways.
He says hello.
She responds in kind.
He asks if she is involved with the school.
She says she works here.
He tells her they almost met at the Carnival last year, but didn't quite.
She says she does not remember.
He tells her he has been thinking about her for a year.
She says, "oh".
His mind goes blank.

He cannot remember what else was said. He goes outside where the cold air revives him slightly. He continues walking, away from the crowd, down to the barn where two donkeys stand in a stall. They look at him quietly for awhile. One has gentle eyes until it brays,

"Hee Haw, Hee Haw, Hee Haw, Hee Haw"

"I know." he says, "I know!"

He lets time pass, not that he can do anything else, knowing everything is ruined. He should apologize for making her uncomfortable before he goes. He's not sure if that will make things better or worse but he imagines how dismal things will be if he leaves now, this way.

She is standing at the very end of the line at the concession tent. It wouldn't be hard to stand beside her and have a private moment to explain himself and go, but as he approaches she seems to see him out of the corner of her eye and calls out to a friend a few feet away.

He reads this as a sign of distress and moves off quickly. He is standing now on the other side of the well tended fire pyramid. He is watching her lean into her friend probably telling her this creepy guy is following her. They start to turn in his direction, just as the wind shifts slightly, obscuring him mercifully in smoke.

He turns his back to them crouching, walking fast, then crawling on hands and knees, then on his belly, thoroughly disguised in smoke. Growing smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller. Until he disappears. 

Stay At Home Haiku

Silent Sunday morn
White snow and I'm regretting
Stay alone for now

Friday, November 16, 2018

Indian Country Tourist (halved)

Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills must be like a swastika in a synagogue to the Natives here. The larger monument to Crazy Horse is close by and under construction. He's here for a Lakota writer's book signing at the visitors' center.

Driving through the Badlands, the cemetery at Wounded Knee, Bear Butte had him feeling spiritual. He looked forward to the conversation.

The sun is hot in middle afternoon. It's quiet except for the wind. Two cars in the parking lot. Someone assesses Crazy Horse through binoculars.
,
The writer sits alone with his books spread before him. He approaches the table timidly.

Hello!

Lo.

He's paging through a book, what to say?, decides to purchase. During the transaction, he tells the writer he's enjoyed his books and about his experience as a white man in Indian country.

The writer isn't really looking at him. He can hear himself talking and wants it to stop.

What do you think society can learn from Native spirituality?

Silence.

Don't think they'll learn nuthin.

Outside, the hot wind blows. That spiritual thing is feeling sick.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Unpunctuated

My thoughts if they're thoughts at all not just fears or programming or compulsions or drives keep running and running dragging me behind and I'm trying not to lose my genitals to road-burn shifting from side to side trying to limit contact with the road surface to hips buttocks and thighs until it stops or I break loose which fills me with shame thinking I spend too much time worrying about myself and then understanding that the trick is to time things right and leap right out of your head into what's going on around you in real life in the world and so on the turnpike you think you will treat yourself to a chain restaurant steak tonight so you exit and pass the scene of an officer involved shooting though you don't find out what's going on until later and there's a douchebag at the bar with a bluetooth in his ear having a loud enough to hear too well phone conversation allegedly with a lady who is talking about her fantasy of being in a threesome with this dude and another woman and it's just more evidence that everyone has been ruined by internet porn except maybe the people to my right who are a couple from the greater Dallas area that have noticed people here look at you suspiciously when you try to make conversation and then of course there are three screens of sports playing simultaneously including women's soccer in an almost empty stadium football replays that last all frigging week and NHL hockey which forces me into a feeling of suffocation deflecting my attention to everyone around the bar and the bartender all of whom annoy me except one woman who looks good but doesn't want to notice me at all and even if she did she'd no doubt do so only to agree that my earlier notion to learn meditation in order to get off this drag is a fine idea 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Skiff

The hold was full of well-iced silvers, reds and chums still barking and watching me through one petrified eye. I'd thrown each and every one of them from the Natives skiffs into the brailer trying hard to look like I knew the difference between them better than I actually did. I'd shoveled all the ice too.

A good day of physical work out on the river and I was a hundred dollars less poor. The captain was happy with the haul. My face was sunburned, the wind carried a chill, my sweat and the slime were staring to dry, and fish scales adhered to my forearms. An August evening on the Kuskokwim, and we were heading up river with a full load.

I wanted to get to know this river - to be fluent, sure-footed and handy on it.
I wanted to do it quickly.
I wanted a particular Yup'ik girl back in town to think well of me.

When it first appeared in the distance, moving downriver, I could not be sure what I was seeing. It was clearer as it approached but it didn't make sense. A skiff with it's outboard motor in the water, still running, carrying only a sweatshirt and a few fisherman's items. Wet footprints. It passed us with a certain willfulness, like a horse that had thrown its rider.

The river is a silty brown and cold. Its channels are deep. It rises and slacks with the tide. It provides and extracts life. The fisherman wore rubber boots, probably, rain pants with suspenders, maybe a rain jacket too. No life jacket of course.

It felt a little colder. The sun was setting in the middle of the night, and the tundra darkened all around. I stood thin upon the deck.

"Slowly", she said.  Her dark eyes twinkled with mischief and stared with all seriousness.