The Angel of Myself Is Not Forgiveness
When the snows cleared, we left. We started walking downhill. We saw a dog barking at nothing, that much we understood.
And I had blood in my hair, I remember. Blood matted thick as snow and earth beneath our feet. But I guess I did not care of its mouth.
Soon, there was no more snow, just mud, showing all the lines, rivers, and roads of a country I had never seen before. How very little had changed.
When the sun spit its light over the mountains I had only climbed down from a few days earlier, I kicked to life a fire I did not make and ignored the slow music of the world to which each of us dance before departing.
I have no horse. I walk. I walk through the grasses and have every urge to tarry. Time is no other. The days may pass unnoticed and unworried, though I may stone, the tent may tear, and our spirits may leave our bodies, march and mortality alike, before summer arrives. But, still I linger. I am here and know nothing else.
Man wouldn’t stop walking. He found me as he was in the river. Found me cold as I strode, sunlight cloaking my body like a curse.
“They won’t stop,” he said.
“Mister,” I replied. “Mister,” again. But he filled the nature to where I stood.
He told me there is no forgiveness. “They do not forgive.” And I was come upon and had asked for none.
We sat beyond the heat and light of the fire, outside the fist of ultimate color, the night chewing overhead, the stars silent only because of their distance.
Later, I slept and dreamt of a horse painted
with sunlight as the day broke apart to dusk. And I was an angel above myself. In full chase, the flanks
of my horse caught not dust but light, and the light cut new geographies in the
sinews of the flesh, new rivers, roads, and graves with every step.
The morning broke the mountain pass into fire. Yet even when the sunlight departed, red flowers remained, a forest fire of flowers, poppies like blood, like blood. The idea came that they are the flowers of soldiers and forgetting, and where they bloom blood was once spilled. That is the errand, always. That we forget the flesh we leave behind in the dust.
I hadn’t seen food in two days, so when I caught sight of a doe in a meadow grazing its life away, I shot hard and struck its heart so savage I saw the shot land in the hillside behind it.
I stumbled but for the long grass hiding all manner of root reaching for tether to this world. When I rose from my knees, not could I see the place where the deer lay fell. It cried not, so swiftly dealt. And I wandered the field for long an hour seeking my hunger’s course yet finding none. The world continues to take.
I am riding, the land familiar but distant. Such a cloak overhead since earth made move to send me running. The mornings in mist to deceive, and even as it rises about, all air rising, all spirit, the spirit of the very world rising from the earth and departing, I do not know myself or those with whom I ride. We are strangers, doubly strange to ourselves.
The trees clung too tightly to the mist. The man’s foot caught me in the head.
He’d been up for a few days. I thought I could hear the maggots, and when I cut him down, I could see the cities they’d built in his cheeks.
His pockets were as empty as the howl that rung out from the bushes. I saw the clean flanks of a man fleeing between the rises to yonder.
I chased after him, not knowing why. I lost him in the trees as I stumbled into a trough cut into the earth. Lying on my back, I could see it all from the sky. The paths branched out. I had been laid in the palm of a giant rising from depths I called out countless below.
The stones were large and flat and unknown. Skulls lined the walls, walls
older than any dead I had ever seen. It was a tomb, here longer than any of us
but those here before. For a long time, lying here, trampled underneath and
just now noticed.
When they left, they shrugged the dynamite, cans of peaches, and a cheese wedge. When they left, they left a light on. It sparked nothing I did not already know about the dark. When I walked the mine, not even the wind stormed a sound outside. In the real world, and beneath the mountain, there was nothing. No stirring, not tools, just light as above. “A fool watches over us all, ” read the paint in the deep bend of the track’s loop. That said it all. The father of our thoughts made us as empty as his head.
There was little reason to stay. I stole what I could.
Down the escarpment, I saw flames cut shapes between the crowd of trees. As I approached, guarded by a pistol slick with sweat, one of the boys began to talk. He said the century comes and nothing has changed. He told a story about the time before ruination. He said he was a survivor, that every man bending on ear on this night would live a king in the world to come because it was the world before.
But, I say, I did not care a word for it. I gripped a rock with my back and made friends with the dark. Because, I knew it for sure, these men would seek to undo me. These men would end my very being for even knowing. What are the Gates where Hades waits but trees framing a southern fire seeking to burn up the land?
I think, even after, morning mewling, the dust did not settle, maybe never will.
South of the tower science created for all of creation, as it was said, an old trading post charmed me to its bosom, set off the tracks not fifteen paces. So close, yet easily forgotten.
I don’t know who lit the lamp, but its glow leaked into the trees against the cool embrace of night. I thought I counted fingers then in the eaves, what brightness on nature’s dark arms.
The sun had set on this building long ago. The boards were torn up, the furniture outside in a pile. I struck at the armature first thing, though. Swung some cabinets open. Canned vegetables, I’d long partook my fill. Grabbed a can of snuff and tripped over a board so firmly nailed it must have been keeping a secret.
The owls hooted shamelessly from the trees above. Dandelion whinnied outside. A howl far enough to say it was
imagined. I felt I could stand there for a long time, thought maybe I’d lie
down, wake up in another man’s world. I took the gin kicked under the rock and
worked for the door. I didn’t yet lean but stood, staring back at broken glass,
empty sky, and bullet holes, big as eyes unblinking.
Moths and folk alike flicked to lanterns aligned with road, dust no longer kicked but settled at the hour. Carapaces alight, shiny and hard and small. I thought of muzzles speaking a language I knew.
I kept riding, past light, away from settlement to what said was always stirring.
The lights of the city burn. The river paws at stone. The air is charged with pixies. And where are the effete? For too quiet. Quiet. Churns and claws unheard, night lit by noise but never noticed this shade, this sick for the words on departing are too few.
From what do I do?
My body in these marshes will burn, suffer under stone paved and footsteps interminable of the ignorant and the proud.
To what do I give ground to what assumed was already owned?
Nearly a year since I’ve written a word. But the feeling finds me now. Counter had me whistling at the bartender a song only I seemed to know.
A man came in talking fast about another sounded like one I once knew who was about to be hanged two counties over. I gave the bar of my money and kicked a boy that blocked the door with his stupid.
I rode. I stayed on the tracks and hoped I’d see train coming. I stroked hard and kissed the steak of the horse with my spurs. I kicked and kicked, I’ve lost so much. I’ve strayed and found nothing in the field. And I rode for hours and what must’ve been halfway, on the periphery of myself, I saw a woman in gray, head lulled like a dead rabbit, standing beside the track, eyes fixed on the sun, and I choked my mare with the reins and rang around. But there was nothing there but a stump that looked like a dead woman whose name I had forgot all the spirit of. And cursing, I skid the mare around and fired off faster, faster, that I felt it in my bones, the bone of my bones, the salt of my sea is dying, is dying, this piss from me, I’m coming, I thought, I’m coming, hold me, hold on for me. I left my horse almost dead at the mouth of town and grunted toward the gallows. No crowd, though, no chorus of justice among the eaves, but a boy was there selling papers, and I said of him, “When for the hanging?” between breaths that must have sounded far away. And made a nickel from me, and the damned boy said, “For now, none, no hangings forecast.” But he went on, told me the one yesterday. I missed a show, kicked at the air for over a minute, fought out every life as if the ground itself, hands invisible, clawed into him, deep inside of him, taking what he would not give, and in the end there was no resistance enough, and he fell in love with the earth, fell so hard he’d never leave it again.