Posts Tagged 'myth'

Sailing

I was alone for 15 years or so, alone the way we are when we are not children. How is alone now, what is the shape of alone, do you know? I shook a stick once at alone and it hissed back at me, a snake, a goose, a small cat with big green eyes. I have shaken my solitude so hard that all of its fruit fell to the ground and lay there fallow, lay there unseen for year after year. Little nuggets of solitude, little nuggets of loneliness, they lie there in an orchard, an orchard of past stories, stories from before the travels that took me away, away from hearth, from home.

I left in the winter of my 15th year, as is traditional. I rode a small horse with a fine Arabian head. Not the horse of the nobility, nonetheless a horse that suggested connections. I might be an important bastard, said the horse, I might be a well placed clerk in a prosperous, powerful and dangerous religion. Religion being, then as now, a dangerous and dishonest pursuit, was very appealing to second sons. I might have been a second son, that was generally agreed upon, or a bastard, again, that also was agreed upon. 

I left in the winter of my 15th year, leaving my lady and my lord in disguise, to travel and claim a kingdom for my own in lands far away. Once taken, I would return to tell the king and queen, my mother and father, about my acquisition, and then they would name me heir and bond me and mine forever to them, in spite of my bastard status, in spite of my feminine nature, in spite of my brother, the king’s first son, who was more of a bastard than I was ever likely to be. In spite of his mother and father’s marital status.

I left in the winter of my 15th year, as is traditional, riding my horse with my man to the edge of the sea, where I left both and boarded a ship with an uncle, who agreed to allow me on board as long as the secret was kept, but who could not guarantee my safety if ever all was discovered. This uncle was a first cousin to my mother, a man named Thomas Wilcomb, and he let me onboard at some personal risk. I came aboard as first boy, and looked after his parrot, kept his books, and ran away as soon as ever  I could, so that I might seek my own fortune, and not simply add to his.

Concatenation

I come from the island country of Concatenation. The commonwealth of Concatenation was named by the state poets and accountants who were held responsible for balancing the books, booking the best artists, poets and musicians; and the doctors, who raised the technology of health care to a single point of light. Every citizen of Concatenation was entitled to unlimited hair removal, dermabrasion and cold laser therapy. They were uniformly smooth, soft and silky to the touch, but unfortunately utterly unable to tolerate touch of any kind, and so the pedestal was actually invented in the commonwealth of Concatenation, a little known fact that has nonetheless shaped the past and future of the Catenates who first migrated to the island in 1846 from a small atoll on a deep current that passes Concatenation during times of climate change.

There was a heavy wind that day, I remember distinctly, with a sunset that was mango colored and shot with clouds. There was a ringing in my head, and a sense of warning, as of shipwreck, the shipwreck that is in the bones of all natives of Concatenation, the one that brought us here, and threw us away, stranded, on foreign soil.

Standing on the prow of a sailing ship is a young boy, or a young girl, no one ever knows in these stories, but whoever or whatever he is, he stands tall and looks far as the ship tosses. Only the very young can be tossed like this without severing an artery or rupturing a disc, and so we know that the young boy or girl is rubbery and ripe for the hard action of adventure. The slim bare feet are dirty, the kerchief ties the tangled brown hair back and away from the face, which is both brown and mischievous. This child, regardless of age, stature or gender, has been traveling like Pan on the seven seas, and here has come to the island of Concatenation, where the adventure changes suddenly from swashbuckling and overt to spicy, mysterious, and internal. I saw the child there, hanging onto the ropes, nearly falling into the wash, and I saw my future. Pulling against my mother’s skirts, I tugged away, away from her brush and her braiding, away from the skin, hair and nail care that made up my predicted path, and ran into the foaming waters at the edge of the sea on the island of concatenation, where I heard the sea birds ringing in the changing of the season, tintinabulating, sang the birds. And so what, you may ask? That was the first day of my life as a pirate, is what I say back to you, the me who is little and wild and still hairy as might be. Saved.

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.

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.

Mothers, daughters, sisters – a Christmas story

xmas-rooster

I had a happy rooster once. He was bright and loud and disappeared one mid-winter day just before Christmas. This was long enough ago that when I look at my legs in my memory they are thin, with pale fine hair on light brown skin. Kid legs. I can see my kid legs and they are not here any more. I still have the tin tree ornament nena gave me to replace the happy rooster, though.

The vatos who inhabited my sister’s dreams in seventh grade dressed better than I did. Their hair was shiny, remember that, hita? My sister (who is actually my daughter but we didn’t tell her yet) kept pictures of all the boys she loved for about a year, and then she stopped. When you marry a bad boy, it’s better not to look back, is the way I always heard it. But later, when we are all comfortable again and certain things have been forgotten, we can get out the box of pictures. For years, she kept them in a cigar box, but she moved them into a metal dental tool box she got when she was dating that crazy periodontist. Hector Altamirano, moved here with his family from Mexico City when Hector was 6; his mom cleaned houses in a damn good neighborhood, got Hector the grades to get into the right schools, and next thing you know it’s rinse and spit and a piece of prime real estate in the Silver Lace neighborhood. When Hector and Zola broke up, she moved to San Antonio and opened an office as an investment banker. She knew as much as anyone else, was how she figured it.

One day when Zola was still too little to talk about family, she and I were lying together on the porch in front of my mother’s house. We had our heads together and we were looking inside of a wooden box with metal hinges. Inside the box was a mouse. The mouse was small, probably immature, with tiny white paws and smooth brown fur. We were lying on our stomachs, cracking the box open enough to let some light in. The mouse inside looked out, sneezed and trembled, wrung his mouse hands together. I think he’s praying, said Zola. No, I said, too logical and mature at 19 to let even a mouse have prayers. Is too, said Zola, and then she started to cry. Big baby tears. The hinged door fell open, baby Zola ran screaming and crying into the house. I followed her, and the mouse’s prayers were immediately answered.

At Christmas time, we alternated between Christmas trees, glitter, chunks of coal and runaway hysteria. Nena knew the importance of light in wintertime, especially in cold winters when nothing is enough. Especially in winters when we are moving from one secret place to another, and there is never enough to put deposits on all the utilities. Moving is damn expensive, really hard on the poor, but we are the ones who have to do it most often. Sometimes we played the midnight mover, packed our bags and left with rent owing. I can’t say I knew what else to do.

If you take a cold five year old, dress her in yellow pajamas, the kind with the feet in and printed ducks and geese all over, then wrap her in a sleeping bag in a cold room with an unlit fire, then you sneak out while she is sleeping and buy a fire log at the mini mart with the three dollars in change that you had been saving in a pickle jar, then you light the fire and wake the little girl up and she sees the old artificial tree with the scrubby plastic ornaments in the firelight at midnight and you tell her santa has come at last, she believes you, and you believe too, for a little while, until the child is asleep again, and you are holding her against your chest for warmth. For her, for you, for Christmas.

mouse


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