Side-stepping shadow-boxers with glassy intentions,
Into a waft of fumes that are no longer elegant,
Only to emerge, gun-shy, within a cat litter mine
Blown out over the two-tone linoleum. A sandstorm
Carpeting the bordering streets of a village oasis.
Fluorescent light obliterating each and every shadow.
“It’d take a nut-butter taxi,” said one obliterated shadow,
“To relax thee.” Surely misheard, though the intentions
Intoned clearly evoked the miscalculating oasis
– or was it miscalculated? Lost in these tapestries. Elegant,
intricately measured designs, then covered in sandstorm.
The external, all of it, (bird song, heartbeat, helicopter) mine.
Withholding opinions in the cloud of skin-flakes, all mine.
Blustering about the sunbeams lost to return in shadow.
Watched ‘em climb dunes to picnic just after the sandstorm.
Waiting. Impatient. Forever dancing around their intentions.
And there we were – knee-deep, greasy, and elegant.
Our crescendoed laughter shattering mirage and oasis.
With her stunning arrival we need loiter no longer at the oasis,
But found it challenging to extract ourselves, to mine
The cruxes from memories raw, to shape and fire elegant
Miniature echoes, pencil scratches against shadow.
She turns and we follow, phonies, raw with intentions
Blasting out and shuddering nothing within this sandstorm.
You cannot reshape me inside of this pedestrian sandstorm,
But if on occasion my travelling companion and I reach the oasis,
Please mow the lawn and inform your children of our intentions,
If you can guess. Even my fellow’s are obscured to me & mine
Shift and flicker in the darkness, casting an elongated shadow
Through these North African streets glittering, star-lit and elegant.
She spit spumes of mint tea into the bird-bath, once an elegant
Ornament, a bleached target to fix upon from within the sandstorm.
Donate just a moment to this silhouette of shade trees and shadow
One moment, beyond the daily tickity-tock, and find in this oasis
A dream, a breath, a concave mirror for the ten-thousand intentions
Held tight, given names to define always what is suppose to be mine.
So barked and banged intentions, oh, oh you elegant
Whores, bankrupt and broken. Mine is yours in the sandstorm,
In the mirage, the oasis. So come, sit with me, within shadow.
Early in the morning a radio breaks the night’s silence “Last night I dreamed
I was a child out where the pines grow tall…” Early. 4:32 a.m. The darkness
Of night tinted in the greenish blue of the alarm clock light. Clocks. Cocks.
The dying rooster in the Zona Maya, coughing it’s daybreak alarm, always
Two hours premature, I inevitably laughed, it resounded drunk and earnest,
And with no more hen-houses to invade, it lived to torment the conquistadors.
As you get out of bed do this – sing your song, sing a song of ruthless conquistadors
Spreading a plague, sing of toothbrush and toiletries, sing the dream you dreamed.
And afterward as you greet the sun, oh hallowed burning sphere, laugh in earnest.
How did the torchbearers occupy themselves in the hours before the darkness?
With song of course, blathered or chirped, soothing yet cautious, always
Deep in the pocket of an unwritten groove. Observe the iron weather-vane cocks
Spinning in the dawn wind. Squeaky, grinding, cast iron replacing ancient cocks
Crow, hardwired to our biology over thousands of years. Farmers, kings, conquistadors,
All woken by the proud foul. In your primal brain, woven, programed, always.
In sleep comes the home invasions, now I must even shut the cat door. I’ve dreamed
Of landscapes and implausible choreographies, someone needs to chide the darkness,
It’s become too full of itself, but then again who can blame a repository? Earnest
Dreams. Awake the vivid images twist in some surreal landscape. I fall back to earnest
sleep – or somewhere in-between. Dawn light through the blinds. What is it about cocks?
Half asleep, half awake, mind still in the dream place and I stiff as a pine. Off in darkness
A man crouches, blowing on sparks in a bird’s nest of bark shavings. Lost conquistadors
May soon upon him stumble, one kicks a pebble into a puddle or have you dreamed
That tiny splash that now echoes from the hotel bathroom, a faucet drip can always
Keep me up at night. I always search for the pattern. The Morse Code echoing, always
In every hotel, motel bathroom into the dreams of travelers. A message, subtle, earnest,
Through pipes and plumbing, sings softly, “Wake! See the world around you!” I dreamed
Less once I reached the cenote. I swam among the shards and bones. The cocks
Fighting behind the palapa were ownerless, there were no modern conquistadors
Tossing pesos on the dirt. The souvenir pyramid, visible on nightstand despite darkness,
Reflecting the rays of light breaking through the blinds, but within it a perfect darkness.
Darkness deep within its heart and in the few seconds of real of twilight, always,
For as long as I could remember – the echoing, horrified screams of conquistadors.
How many times have you met your oppressor, legs akimbo, arms spread wide, earnest
Smile? The light stabs the bulletholes in this allegory. The invaders and their cocks
Stab brown-skinned Eves, in Edens so golden it’s all you’ve ever dreamed.
A limestone bed so porous that we dreamed – dreamed of numbers and darkness
Like scared children holding our cocks, cowering and alert. Always
The sacrifices made in earnest, turn gold into lead for conquistadors.
by Jeffrey Enright and Laurence Lillvik
Take eight Gallons of Ale; take a Cock and boil him well; then take four pounds of Raisins of the Sun well stoned, two or three Nutmegs, three or four flakes of Mace, half a pound of Dates; beat these all in a Mortar, and put to them two quarts of the best Sack; and when the Ale hath done working, put these in, and stop it close six or seven days, and then bottle it, and a month after you may drink it.
Rawlings tries to get his bearings. He is sure he is in a very large building. Something in the drafts of the central air tell him there are other exits besides the one Huanatoca wants him to use. He presses his ear to the door. The same low rush of vented air pervades. But far within is a small dry scribbling noise. It would sound like someone writing with a pencil if the tempo weren’t so fast and regular. They could only be scratching series of lower case l’s or i’s. A code? Someone digging? But Rawlings, with his time-hewn professional instinct for such things, (concussed, grogged, and pre-pneumoniatic as he may be) senses the room is vacant. There is no subtle interruption to the central air’s current, no pulsingly black void of latent energy. A curtain cord swaying and dancing against the wall maybe. The fingers of a tree branch taking dictation against the outer wall? Rawlings decides to just barge in. The door is locked. No footsteps reply. No clothing rustles. But the scribbling becomes louder and faster. And another sound joins in: The gagged moaning sound. Only now it is high-pitched, guttural. ‘There is someone inside! We are trying to reach one another.’ Rawlings throws his shoulder into the door over and over. When he hears Huanatoca’s Phils squealing across the linoleum he pounds the door.
When Huanatoca hits the hallway mouth at speed like a downfield fullback she looks like a jungle casual rhino on the rampage. As Rawlings oozes down the door in utter quivering horror hoping the symptom suite of quease, fever, and concussedness will take full and irrevocable sway of his neck-down in merciful antecedent to Huanatoca’s shoulders, knees, and bile, he is once again given an inexplicable moment of clarity; the sort of attachable memory of humming cluefulness which often attends the dispassionate moments when we are forced to be resigned to our fate. The greater chaff of extraneous thought is heaved to the air, blown then burned. Vital stalks of fact and priority remain. The sun catches one and then another. There is little time before destruction, oblivion. He is once again flying through the parkblock air and remembering the commemorative buckle Seven-Foot Slim had indicated with two outsized thumbs. Rawlings had been in Slim’s office for ten minutes. They had just completed a tour of the library. Slim is about to conclude a meandering exposition on what he would like to see Rawlings (that is Pauling) take from the voluntary/work-release library experience. It isn’t a stretch for Rawlings to play indifferent here but he doesn’t want to overdo it and have Slim notice and go on some corrective tangent when he seems about ready to conclude. Slim has told Rawlings about his enthusiasm for amateur rodeo. Every year, he explains, he competes in the Local’s Jamboree Division of the Molalla Buckaroo. To do so Slim takes June off from the library, packs his Ford Bronco with the tack decorating his garage, and drives nine hours to the southeast corner of the state to train in The Burns’ Boys Bronc Bustin’ Bootcamp. Slim had concluded (if not steered the whole time) his distinctly un-self-conscious autobiographical flight with a credo: “Work hard. Play hard.” This would have been unremarkable if not for the sheer context of the six weeks that had followed. Slim was a reticent manager, easily trod upon by the careerist book jockeys with unionized assurance and not a damn’s worth of self-consciousness about it. He repeatedly deferred to staff in non-strategic ways. There was nothing of the cowboy’s confidence brandished and self-stamped by those two well-calloused and curving thumbs. No sardonic hickspit lingo of the routinely and happily back broken, just the soft dumb lilt of the put upon country fried forced to talk now to talk and occasionally write for a living . Not a hint of the absolute swaggerdoccio he showed while crossing his Astroturf backyard and measuring off the rope-lengths between the produce crate he’d been standing on and the lassoed sawhorse fifteen yards away. He was in utter stylistic opposition to the countrified hard-living (but still-God-fearing-mind-you) hand whose Harney County file corroborated with paragraphs of youthful drunk and disorderlies, peace disturbances, and speeding tickets in every other rodeo town northwest of the Platte. Not that a man couldn’t change, sure. In fact, the radicality of the transformation was almost cliché: There’d been some chasteningly felonious moment out on the circuit where Slim had vowed to reform. He’d scored a G.E.D. and logged some community college. He traded the mockingly unlassoable expanses of Oregon East for the confines of the Portland grid and then Troutdale cul de sac. He had tamped down the wild in order not to destroy himself too soon. It is a reverse-romantic trope. We look at him and think of what we lose by having a surrogate sinner be so humbled. When we spy him swatting the rear of the corn-silk blonde watching for the deck we think “at least he has his consolations, his little old freedoms.”
He’d met Mrs. Slim somewhere out on the circuit. She had followed geographical suit after a long letter or two during the second semester. She now worked at nursing home on the hill lurched over Olde Town. But the wild had remained in her eyes. She ran the home like a wagon train cookie; alternately crass and militant, but unmistakably stoked by stores of innate joie de vivre and pep to be universally respected, if not occasionally loved. She pressed her advantage with dungarees and sealed the deal with tight denim tops. She brought Harney with her and didn’t give a damn about salting her language and eating out “lazy old, mush-mouthed coots and dears” if she had to. Not once had she offered up her incongruity and visited Slim at The Troutdale Library or watched him speak (stammer is more like it) during the Troutdale Chamber of Commerce of meetings or the Troutdale Optimists luncheons. Their opposition would have been too stark. She would charm while folded into a very droopy question mark. Mrs. Slim, Queen of Corn Silk, that trademark ass-swat says you are his little stored away gem, a beneficence of a carved out home-life. Spying on them through the monocular, Rawlings couldn’t help but feel the jealous tumbles. They had a spark not one of the seven other Chambermen, 14 Optimists, the Mayor himself, and any other even tangentially connected Nobles of the Kingdom (but for the King himself) Rawlings had trained the monocular and lip-reading skills on. They were all upstandingly likely in this their bergful life. The Slims, happy as get out, only fit in because even bergs need to have their star power and sex appeal. Exceptions serve to reinforce the dominant mode.*
*Troutdale markets itself as an escape from the ideological rigamarole of Portland, where exceptionalism is the perceived (and thereby marketed) norm.
Floating through that parkblock air the first time the gesturing fingers buckleward had no cause to register. The Slims were the reassuring anomaly. Mr. Slim was, if anything, a victim of the stultifying normalizing force of the mediocre Troutdale Dream. To have the penned up cowboy foisted on his final pre-concussed thoughts seemed to be a reiteration of recent dissatisfactions. ‘You fly through the air as though this has anything to do with it.’
But sinking to the now welcoming plush of the Tapatio girl’s carpet he returns to Slim’s gesture retrospectively. There was just too much damn cord wood in those arms to so convincingly play the sap to our urban milquetoasts turned job-confident and union militant. He replays everything the former cowhand said. He remembers that during the tour Slim had pointed out the various eateries in the shopping center. “Library employees and volunteers receive a 10% discount at a number of Cherry Park restaurants.” He’d pointed out the participants, which had included Tapatio and four or five other places. “It isn’t exactly haute cuisine but it’ll give you a bellyful.” Who’s to say what influences some book time and library crewing will do for un-eddycated. But “haute?” He’d pronounced it without lick of self-consciousness, like he’d been saying it his whole life. No amount of acculturation is going to make a cowboy let that French fried word sound so crisply snapping yet subtly postponed at the ‘t’ led up to by the ghost, the mere implication of an ‘oe’ sound soft as a croissant’s innards. It had been so immaculate Rawlings’ bunk and hiccup tuned ears (humming pitch forks in even the necessary moments when his burdened brain necessarily checks out or just plain goes elsewhere) had registered not a blip of incongruity. The enunciation felt of a part with the nervous, soft spoken country lilt. But, in this blessed and bile-mixing retrospect rug and puddleward, the ‘haute’ made no sense unless Slim had a pile more eddy-cation than the file showed or the man had either oft visited, had cause to speak frequently of, or hailed near on and thereabouts in Indiana’s second city, Terre Haute, aka The Land of Bird. Moreover: Who in the heck works hard in the library? Certainly not a ranchy with exemplary hands. He should be pronouncing it like Swaff…Oat……Swafford? Cuisine? Haute? …Tapatio?
“Work hard: Play hard.”
Slim’s voice echoing in the dilution of his consciousness.
“Work hard: Play hard.”
Echoing and mixing with the sound of the gagged and whimpering ally on the other side of the wall and meshing into the staticky hush of the fibers. The dull drum of Huanatoca’s stampede. Thinking of his lone remaining friend while dimming to black.
“Covers, Tige, Old Buddy. All covers. And food poisoned to boot.”