Archive for the 'myths and little animal stories' Category

Moonlight and nightingale

 

The moon is hanging in indecision. A nightingale sat on a low-hanging branch. He sang a love song to a rose in the moonlight. The rose turned her face away from him, up toward the eavesdropping moon.

I do not shine brightly enough, said the nightingale and hid his head in shame. A beam of moon reached down through the night sky and touched the nightingale lightly on his shoulders, stroking the strong wings, soothing the dark feathers. The nightingale lifted his head and looked at the moon. She was smiling at him, a simple half smile that suggested something not quite specific. He flew, with a light heart, from the lower branch to one at the top of the tree and sat there swaying on the highest, thinnest branch. A light breeze came to dance with him, and the moon wrapped her white light around him. This was the happiest nightingale had ever been and he opened his mouth to tell the moon about adoration and love and soul and so on. He opened his mouth and out came a song so brilliant, so trippingly and thrillingly embellished that he almost fell off the branch. Sitting there in the moon circle he was fully visible to every bird for miles around, his voice carrying from tree to tree, from tree to meadow to forest to river. Every bird began to sing back, to the glory of the moon, to the calling of the nightingale and he sang with a thousand song birds, a few hundred crows, and one or two sparrows who couldn’t sleep well for one reason or another. Their song shook the leaves, who began to dance, and the water, which began to jiggle and percolate in the wide shallow river. Someone turned the volume up high and they all danced together until the early hours of tomorrow, until the dance and the day was done.

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Bottom feeder

another giant squid

This is what it’s like to be a bottom feeder. First of all, we love ink. Ink is invisibility. Ink is darkness. Ink is what we write our history with. Look out there, out there into the vast whiteness. It has nothing to say until the ink drops into its wide open. No turning back once the ink has been spilled.

You want to tell your history, that’s fine, nobody’s stopping you. You want to tell someone else’s history, that’s different. There’s danger there, smells like sulfur, smells like burning cactus, smells like the brushfire or the war that can rush in and wipe out an entire clan.

Once I was playing cards in the back room of a little trailer house in Four Corners and I heard the wind pick up suddenly, and it was like I could see them even from inside, tumbleweeds rushing across the black night and suddenly igniting, igniting like monks in red robes, self immolating and taking down the fragile open country and everything that lives there with it.

I understand the meditative life of the tumbleweed, I understand the need to move, to feel the wind catch and carry us somewhere new. I knew about that even before I left Navajo country after the fire. I found my home on water, water green and blue and dark, almost black, where I fell in and never went back to dry land again, not for more than two, three days at a time. Long enough to find myself lurching when I came back to dry land, feeling the hitch and pull of gravity and rotation more strongly than I felt them on the water.

My family’s been landlocked for hundreds of years, most of them. My sea ways made me foreign, weird and unrecognizable as a giant squid, coming up from the deep only rarely, with gifts for my sister’s children, and then her grandchildren, until I am the only old salt on the Navajo nation, bringing seaweed ristras and monkey balls and painted tentacles. I stay a couple days, give them the salty sweet taste of my bottom feeder’s life, and then I leave again, leaving behind nothing but a trail of ink, and a history they can fabricate from the secrets hidden in the bright open sky and the black mesa reaching in the four directions around them.

For me, I add two more directions: straight up into the heavens, and straight down, into the cold, dark waters, where the wild shy ones live, where I feel most at home.

Green

They lost the sun. They lost the son. There was a long night, a northern night. They knew the sun would not be back for some time. One morning, a bird taking flight surprised the man in the wolf mask, who was hunting and starving, both, all at once. The bird taking flight moved west, then south, and he followed it, taking with him his wife and those children who had survived the last winter. His wife took with her a fringed shawl, a small black urn, and a flowered cushion given to her by the visiting pastor’s wife. They followed the goose, they followed the snake, they followed the wolves down into the grey green land and the morning doves were plentiful, the trout easily caught and tender. The northern night, the sky with revolving lights, faded into purple evening, then stars like salt through a shaker, bright on dark. They lit a candle at sunset most nights, for a few minutes at least, but most nights they slept with the stars and woke with the pale thin lavendar spreading across the many greens, the sage, the olive, the pampas, the thin fine grass that grows in certain quiet meadows. Quail, dove and rabbits abundant now.

Scarecrow

scary scaregrow

I will tell you the story of the scarecrow’s birth. He was born in a small deer farm near where the road passes not far from the second hand tire store. He was born in Bull’s Blood Junction, so small a town that pizza was unknown and meat might be jerky, might be carrion, and might not be had at all. An old town, Bull’s Blood Junction. People said in Bull’s Blood the rain runs red, and every man, woman and child in Bull’s Blood is anemic. This was, of course, because of the scarecrow, his sad life, the cutting, the pain, the heartache, the rotting seeds. That scarecrow, who started out in life just a broomstick and a worn-out petticoat, didn’t scare much of anything until his first Halloween, when Red Duncan brought a pumpkin to the house, and a knife, and a fair amount of whisky.

The first slice in a pumpkin’s head is the worst. It’s like the eyes themselves have been slit open and the first thing they see is the slithering ooze of their own brain’s entrails swimming around behind their eyes. Then with a snap, Red pops out those eye holes and Crow is looking out, scared, into the sight of his own birth. Scarecrows don’t usually have hands, you may have noticed that, but they have the deepest craving for them. Red popped those eyeballs out and wiped Crow’s face with a dampened cloth, wiping away the sweat and the seeds that started running down those new cheeks. Red was a happy man that day, twisting the knife as Crow looked out, looking side to side and down as much as he could, for arms that could reach and hands that could grab. Red’s was enjoying his whisky, and gave Crow a belt about halfway through, as he was cutting a mouth that couldn’t decide whether it was laughing, crying, or snarling. In the background there was the sound of a chainsaw; Grey, Red’s cousin, was cutting wood for the coming winter months. In the kitchen, ma was lighting the woodstove and talking about pies. 

Crow listened, watched and waited for someone to give him a tongue, but no one did. With his nose, he smelled the woodsmoke and the piney air. Blue, Red’s brother, carried Crow’s head out to the field where the last of the corn lay fallow, and put him on top of the old broom stick in the petticoat that’s been there all summer, surrounded by crows laughing, stealing ears, rabbits snickering, stealing spinach, mice stealing grain, foxes stealing chickens.

Crow was born mad, put on this earth to scare nobody but man. That first fall and all through the winter, Crow watched. He watched the harvest moon, he watched the first frost, he sat up through the longest night, and he counted the stars night after night. A scarecrow with a broken heart needs arms, he said, needs legs, and needs a way to get on that sled on a cold winter night and leave. At the end of his first winter, he learned how to curse, and this put Bull’s Blood into a time of sorrow and need, until the day they gave him arms, legs, a hat, a pair of trousers, and a shirt. He waved goodbye as he rode away in a small wooden sleigh pulled by a sawhorse, over the horizon, to that next harvest moon.

The woodcarver’s wife

woodcarvers-wife

The man sits quietly on a short red stool. He holds a knife in one hand, a piece of hard wood in the other. He is carving. He stops periodically to smoke. He smokes different things: sometimes he smokes tobacco, sometimes ganja, sometimes an herbal mixture that soothes his lungs while lightly scarring them at the same time. An anesthetic smoke. His first choice is for tobacco mixed with ganja, a nice blend that elevates the spirits and focuses the mind, and in this state many beautiful wood carvings are made. He sells carvings. The man sells wood carvings to another man, who lives just far enough away and in just a big enough city to have an apartment in a high rise, with stairs and elevators that sometimes work, according to those who may know.

The man who lives in a high rise works in a coffee shop where there is internet. He works in an internet café, and from here he sells wood carvings to import export businesses. He makes some money doing this, and does not try to elicit information about bank accounts from old people in other countries, even though it is well known, according to the internet, that this is a quick and easy way to make moneys that may or may not be illegal, depending on the country of origin and the country of arrivals, and the regulations governing each.

So, the woodcarver sits quietly on a short red stool, making wood carvings that his business associate will sell for him. And because of this business relationship, he will eventually have enough money to go to a different internet café without his business associate. There he will see, with the help of his nephew (who guides the mouse through many incarnations) the grand scope and potential that makes sales a mighty elixer, a draft for the very thirsty. He sits in the internet café and rubs the mouse like a magic lantern and a genie appears.

“What may I do for you?” the genie says. Around his head and in a column to the right, popup ads try to distract the man on the short red stool, who pushes them away, ghosts that they are, and forces himself to focus on the genie.

“Genie,” he says, “I want tobacco and ganja and hard wood with nice grain, and a knife that will never dull, and a wife with no voice, and children who will make me rich. And I wish for riches, horses and palaces and cheeses and wines and mistresses, and I wish to have power over the religious men and the politicians.”

“Okeedokee,” says the genie. “That’s it, then, and have a nice day,” and he disappears into the dissipating fog of three wishes granted. The man on the short red stool stands up and looks around him. He is surrounded by wealth: beautiful fine grained wood, a knife more splendid, shining and sharp than anything he’s ever seen before in his life, a wife who places a heated cloth on his tired shoulders and leans against him: she smells of sandalwood and patchouli, and he is aware that his hardwood is harder than he’s ever known it to be. He blushes, and the sky is a hot blue with white sand and red light streaking across the sky where the carrier jets pass, where they will land and collect his goods, his wood carvings, grown larger now, complex, some as big as a city street, and he is overcome by visions.  Hours pass, then days and weeks.

One day, finding himself alone in the garden where the heavy fruit is ripe and the afternoon is sleepy, he steps outside of his house, his palace with the ornate hand-carved hard wood gates and he begins calling for his wife, over and over again, as the sun goes down.  She does not answer: without a voice, she does not pray; without a voice, she does not sing to the children; without a voice, she does not lean against him; without a voice, she does not lay the warm cloth on his tired back. After many hours or days or years of looking, he finds himself lying in the dark, waiting for sleep to take his wishes away.

Pirate’s confession

pirates

I hereby confess to a long-standing aversion to the specifics of religious texts of all manner and make and creed. I hereby confess. It has been 18 months since my last confession, I must admit. I must admit and I will take notes and I will make witness to that which I perceive and conceive to be the ultimate, penultimate or third to the penultimate sacrfiicial lamb.

I like lamb, Rainbow says. Rainbow is a flippant gypsy, a hippie’s grandchick living in a blanket tent, a yurt, among the coyotes and meth dealers in the way back beyond El Rito, where every little trailer house has a meth lab. I have a golden lab, myself, a golden lab and a monkey, who came to me through monkey rescue, a facility that collects, captures and rehabilitates monkeys who have been led down the garden path, who have been stimulated beyond their monkey mind’s capacity.

Rainbow is Rainbow’s name, not a name she blended for herself while tripping on ecstasy and dropping out of the BFA program at her little private college. Rainbow’s parents are Lisa and Don, and they did tune in and drop out and then drop back in again like they all did, and they did, and they did, and I thank you. This is an anthropological fact, a history of American family life from the very beginning. Handed down in old journals, in trunks and satchels, some thin faded handwriting sitting in a trunk in an attic until one day it is not.

I fold my clothes neatly and pack them in a trunk that will be stored belowdeck. The journey will take almost twelve months. Not that I knew that, not really. Just to take my trousseau, the pillow cases, the napkins, the tablecloths, the little fine handkerchiefs. And by the time we got there, I admit I was a bit ruined. That is what happened. Too long at sea. Looking out at the waves, rolling, diving, the heads of seals or were they sea women, mer-maids, bobbing along with us sometimes for days at a time. I heard them calling, half seal, half woman, and I wanted to jump in. I’ve written my family, whether they will ever get it or not I do not know, to tell them.

After the ship docked in Newfoundland, I was to join my husband to be, and we were to build and farm and bear children. And I knew long before we landed that I would not be there, just a trunk with linens and a note to Mr. Joseph Nugent, the man I’d contracted to marry. Thanks for the passage, mate, I said, and I tipped my hat to him as I slipped past, dressed as a boy, and off into my future on the high seas, the low life, the adventures only afforded those with the right appendages. I’d had my lessons, well and good, in the hold, in the corners when noone was looking, and I knew just how it might be done.

Good idea, teaching women to read. Glad someone thought of it. When we first set sail, I knew nothing but needlepoint and looking down, biting on my lips to make them red and appealing. Needlepoint’s got nothing on sailor’s knots, though, and I took to that as needlework with a purpose. To make a rope that would take me either to freedom, or the gallows. All the same to me, by then.

A ship is a small thing on a big ocean. Even the largest of vessels cannot but take on water, and the pitching is something that cannot be easily described. I’ve held tight to ropes that swung me high and crashed me down in rains so heavy that I could see nothing but water, the pitching sea, the occasional blast and blind attack of lightning, thunder and wind so hard I was practically deaf with it. Holding on, like a monkey, desperate, small and light, until suddenly it seemed, the storm had passed and we found ourselves, on deck, below, anywhere and everywhere, soaked and covered with bruises. Alive and free. That’s what did it for me. Alive and free, like any free man, taking the air deep into my lungs. Decided then and there, I am no sacrificial lamb. And that is my confession, in this year of our lord 1853, March 18, as the spring winds begin to blow.

Ozzy Mandias

wanderer-above-the-mist-casper-david-friedrichThe pregnant feminist reminisced on the hegemony of gesture, rubbing her hand on her belly, big and round as a full moon. She rinsed her dry mouth with cool water and put her head under the faucet. My hair streams down my neck like snakes, like little rivers running as the snows melt in an early spring, she thinks and she pulls her head away from the sink and shakes it like a dog, water spraying around the kitchen. She thinks also I am not ready in spite of the evidence of her eyes, her belly and her ankles that she is beyond ready.

Truth be told, there are no accidental pregnancies among radical lesbian separatists, which is what Mardi Gras is, here with her big belly, pending baby and theories full and pressing against her, bladder and brain both distended past all previous reckoning. Mardi Gras is the child of sanctimony, matzo on one side, communion wafer on the other, and a little trickle of southern baptist that comes out once in awhile to sing big old hymns when noone is listening.

We here all know about the conversos of New Mexico, what, 16th 17th century Jews running to the new world from that old world wringing their hands in sacred mud for lost children, and then centuries later worshipping in that same wet Chimayo dirt with prayers and candles lit on a menorah but who knows quien sabe really, is what the grandmother said to the pregnant feminist.

The feminist and the rabbi walked into a bar – this is an actual joke that Mardi Gras heard from her own sister, who then inhaled a pretzel and asphyxiated like some nasty republican, like some old pop star, like some damn fool who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

Truthfully, when your ancestors came over from Spain and Morocco and Italy during the inquisition and they’ve all been steeped in the mythology of survival, then survive is what they do, what they do is survive past all expectation.

Mardi’s mother tells the story of the archbishop who played grabass with every choir boy in Española for twenty years and eventually got promoted up and out far enough where whispers could not touch, like dust in a sealed tomb, like the settling of old debts, and was silenced at last.

What worry could they have at the growing of Mardi’s belly, so intentional, so abolute in faith and love? All children should be wanted. All of Mardi’s are, starting with this one, the first. Ozzy Mandias, king of kings, son of women, singer of songs from every corner of this little earth.


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