Extemporaneous Beltane ditty

He enters a shiny path, lined with polished stones. The light strikes off beveled edges. Semi-precious stones. Semi-precious treasure. Dead men here, walking on my grave, he tells himself. Looking over his shoulder, looking for bones, for rotting corpses, the black dot. Too many pirate books, that’s what his mama always said. 

Been like that since the sweet death he’d experienced at Beltane two summers ago, his loss of virginity in the scrub pine woods in mountains east of here, deflowered by dancing pagan ladies, sweet and spicy as relish. Since then, wandering the earth, backpack, hitchhike, neohippie baby boy.  

He’s on the crazy gravy train of youth and excess. Tried to book a flight back home, go see his sister, his mom, what’s left of his dad. Got stuck on the voice menu; it is a carousel, the voice menu says para español oprima el numero dos el numero dos and he pushes it but can go no farther.  

But he’s always wanted to oprima el numero dos, always has, and cannot entienda nada after that so he cannot go home, cannot go back to the previous menu. The message is in that foreign language that he’s been craving, craving like cake, like snow-cone, like syrup on the fingertip of the unattainable pagan ladies who would never come back again. 

Come back again, pagan ladies, he’s thinking with his thumb out in Portland. Pagan ladies, where are you? he’s thinking in Scottsdale. Pagan ladies have drifted in and out of his dreams for two years now; he is a two-year-old convert to a wooded religion, to a vision of himself as Keith Richards as played by Johnny Depp, prettier and smelling interestingly of persimmon and honey mead.  

He sees himself as tall dark and handsome, then sometimes despairingly as short fat and bald, but in fact he is one of hundreds or thousands of newly plucked young men wandering in search of a particular onramp, something to climb, to embark upon, to merge with. Another young man in search of a map.

How many books in how many bus stations, how many poems, how many secret destinies? He is sometimes too exhausted to floss, he is so continually surprised by his transformation from boy scout to man.  

For one moment  (pick one moment), for one moment there is the exact right number of hairs on your head, everything you do or ever will do will be perfection itself. You may look at yourself in store windows and think Damn I look good. You may dress as a gold digging gigolo, a tender gigot, a neo-con executive, as a Roman general, as a world class athlete, and everyone will believe you. You can be all at once a long-distance runner, a slightly sedated confessional housewife, an ice cream salesman, the president of a third-world country, and whatever it is, you will be believed. For one moment only, and that moment is like flying. It is beyond flying, beyond time or sex or youth or death. For one moment every birthday cake is yours, you win, you win, you win.  

The adrenaline of youth is the magic of mind over matter, the glass elevator with the 360 degree view. Look there — Bombay, and there, a fruit picker in Bakersfield, the poppies in Afghanistan. Look there, a small animal is running, a large animal is chasing. Look there, the monsoons have come early. The mother of that one is laughing, the grandfather of that one breathes in short, noisy gusts, enticing death to come closer, a little bit closer and death is so tempted. In the bunting a baby is snuggled, a baby is hugged, a baby’s little jug ears are admired and covered in a flowered cotton cap. And over there, a woman in stiletto heels makes stacatto gestures with a thin cigarette and drives a sharp Italian car. Testarossa. Got something to prove. The man with the hairgel is perfect, the girl with the braces is incredibly sexy, the priest has the answers, the concierge has the questions, the pharmacy is open 24 hours a day. 

The adrenaline of youth is the magic bullet of deadlines, the momentum that hurls us off the roundabout and into sudden, still moments of completion – done, it is done, it is done. Back to that crazy gravy train, here it is, served clear, sparkling, in flutes. High notes, unexpected pauses, harmonies where none were one moment before nor one moment after. The pagan ladies deliver only once, only once.


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May 2007
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