June 16, 2011


The black carpenter ants that crawl on the

walls, the floorboards, across bathroom tiles, over

front porch under back porch, can lift their body

mass by twenties in a cinch pinchers clenched and for

4.5 hours every few days I'm working hard, or, hardly

working, trying not to flashback to the steps I made to

avoid my current part-time post-collegiate situation. I

stare at the tiles to pass the time and walk quickly, or,

stand in one spot thinking of everything but time.

When my eyes close I see green fields before me

milking the sun and just before I jump into

hallucinatory somersaults my eyes open and there

are the tiles reflecting back oblong spheres of light.

Customers of varying degree ask for googly eyes,

double-sided tape, anniversary banners, candles, the

restroom. I point. * Two great big arms wrap around

the building connecting at the entrance with interlock'd

fingers closing us all in with a fun sugary hug.

Triangular Dog Ears

         The dogs run this land.
         Their paws have pressed into the burning red sand that starts and ends with the horizon. They travel together in packs, but each independently searches, panting and confused. They yap back and forth at each other, at snakes camouflaged in thorns and rocks and the automobiles that, every so often, slowly come to a stop before returning in the opposite direction. Always on the move, always surging ahead, then the dogs are off, blitzing to where the sun warps sight.
         Once domesticated, these dogs have left walls and linoleum kitchens behind to find a newfound freedom in the dirt road. They are the shades of dirt. Soot black with sharp brown tips. Muddy brown, burnt tan. All have ribs that curve out like the bones of a ship. Some have spots, some have clouds of dust that follow them and some, more than others, stink.
         These dogs don’t understand the lengths and limitations of time. They float above sea level and their shadows constantly morph dragging over sun-baked boulders and angulated plant forms. If one has but a single chance to center their gaze through the eyeball of a canine, if only briefly, they will witness the whole vastness of the desert and a life occurring in circular expansion.

         The sun shone ancient as ever. Its rays dug right into the earth, slowly drilling, deeper and deeper with the afternoon. The landscape was always some shade of tan, the color of dust, or sometimes a burnt orange like hot coals, or even a pale, fading purple just before night gulps it down in blackness. The midday horizon was a conniving lake reflecting the jagged whale mountains that appeared as a row of handmade tools. There were no trees, though, every now and then a mesquite tree would materialize, languid as hell, and weighed down by its own exhaustion. Nothing, nevertheless, to take the pleasure of shade in.
         Avoiding the heat was a near impossible game the members of the tribe were constantly forced to play. Peak heat hours found the grown, and growing men, huddled in their teepees joking, or witling a new tool, a decorated walking stick or chubby figurine. A face contorted looking up toward the sky or a mother figure carrying baskets of bread. In mid-squat their sweat would collect and drop to the dirt floor. The old grandmothers and young girls taught each other their differences through the strategic guise of cooking, sewing. The mothers cared for the infants, nursing them for the dreaded patterns of history, but doing so with easy smiles. Smiles the infants eagerly returned and then everything was like the arctic for a moment.
         Chief Hell Hawk was their leader. His eyes could penetrate the orifice of the lone soul and his skin was like so much shredded burlap. In legend his height may reach fifteen feet, but, in actuality he stood just under seven. His headdress shimmered with the colors of traded macaw feathers, sandwiched between alternating black crow and dark brown hawk feathers. Only within the confines of his triangular teepee corner did Chief Hell Hawk lay down his headdress, and then only to sleep right beside it. When Chief Hell Hawk had some announcement to give the entire tribe encircled him and regurgitate his words days after. When his eyes suddenly veered slight, but proficiently, to the left in alarm, each head of those nearby snapped in that direction.
         Through the process of familial hierarchal elimination, Chief Hell Hawk was given control of the land on which his tribe sat. Many long summers of blood-shedding that routinely turned to winters of rigid devastation, passed before the land became the unending plane of disheartened neutrality it was now. The long-ago battles were no longer realities, but articles of history, the past, myths of exaggerated importance. Sometimes they fell upon deaf ears and sometimes they frightened and shocked, raising an excitable anger. The eldest of the tribe were roughly a generation removed from personal relations to the veterans of these battles. The humiliating pain and dissension suffered by their Great-Greats had become folklore to bounce off the children and, as each generation grew more distant, it became harder and harder for them to identify with the past.
         Chief Hell Hawk was a young void of flesh, barely able to comprehend a fresh root from a dead branch, when he witnessed the struggles of his grandfather, then his own father, as they tried in vain to adapt to a way of life they’d never been given the time to appreciate. Their ancestors enjoyed a borderless life and now they were being put in place and given laws to live by. Chief Hell Hawk sighed at these thoughts and looked at the parched youth with hopelessly slanted eyebrows. When his vision extended further, however, and he saw that desert reaching, a smile curved his expression and his brows relaxed. The noncombustible land, with its invisible walls of distance, was everything and would always be there, trapping them, but at least leaving them be. Hope was always in the air above the tribe, but hope was still, only air.
         The seer of the tribe shook when his thoughts – the thoughts only few could attempt to understand – struck him, unpleasantly, in the back of his mind. The last dying membrane of the tribe, grown into a life of mass delusion, silent prayer and taught the tales of ancestors who’ve disciplined with gods and have shed so much skin for the sake pure being. His mind was trained to follow the particles of thought that fell deep into oblivion in order to arrive at some haunted wisdom. His pupils would orbit, disappearing beyond his lids, and that’s when the elders knew a vision had knocked him. He’d be flying through some myth-laden awareness and they’d be looking impatiently at one another with mouths going crooked. Only those brave and close enough to the seer would ask him of his vision. Only rarely did he speak of it, and only then for fear of losing the memory. Mostly he’d crane his head toward the sky, take in full complete breaths, then slowly rise and disappear beyond the teepee.
         His life was getting late. Among the tribe, they knew he was a rarity that might even outlast his prestige. His red mountain skin sagged from his elbows, neck, cheeks, thighs and ass. Days would pass leaving him completely voiceless, staring at the sun, sitting on rocks or walking until his wet ghost danced in his place.
         His actions were never questioned. Everyone trusted his grasp on life and knew his family history was not to be discredited. He had witnessed miracles, glimpsed the future, spoken with long-dead ancestors in the way ants communicate. Nothing anyone else could ever do or say could be translated appropriately enough to make him change his mind. The children would remember him creeping in the background of group events -- a kooky, old, stubborn man with some high silent status they were too young to understand.
         The seer awoke one morning to the sound of a distant howling -- a common noise that blanketed the flatlands often. When he took his first gaze at the fresh sunlight he noticed an encroaching blackness in the upper-right field of his vision. His right eye itched. It felt like a thumb was pushing it from behind when closed. It started to swell shut lop-siding his real visions of nature. The mountains were bruised and the sun light dimmed. He found that if he shut his eye too tight, a gushing pain erupted behind his eyeball. He sniffed at the pain with open nostrils. He looked at his feet as he walked on the cardboard-flavored ground. By afternoon his right eye had closed completely. A dark purple spread, vine-like, across the socket. The lip of his lid, a dark red slit, folded upward slightly, looking like the opening seconds of sunrise over the ass-black ocean.
         A cloud canopy cooled the sunlight. He sat before his teepee on a chair his grandfather crafted. Two fat logs raised him above the ground. People out in the calm air walked past him many times. They wandered from the obscurity of his wound and their worried expressions eased into him. He tried to ignore it. What if our great seer cannot see? They asked themselves. A man in black snapped a picture. The unraveling of secrecy allowed a crowd to form. Amidst low rumblings they stared at the seer and he, back at them, both with equal amounts of uncertainty on their faces. Flies landed on shoulders.
         Slicing through the crowd, politely tapping shoulders, was JP Morgan Medicine Man. He wore a helmet of horns and seemed to lack eyelids, for his eyes were in a constant state of bulging hysteria. He was informed of the strange contusion on the seer’s eye and left his teepee at once. When he walked up to the seer’s face everyone fell silent. Chief Hell Hawk looked on with arms crossed. JP inspected, wide-eyed, about two inches from the wound. He told the seer he knew of a root that lay out in the desert just waiting to be plucked. It would surely cure his pruning eyeball he assured. Just then, JP left on an excursion and returned days later. To the seer, though, it was as if he blinked his good eye only once and the medicine man was back. In his hand was the chunk of root, freshly green and turning whiter at the torn end. Clumps of black dirt clung to it falling one by one. “Let’s go inside,” he said. With Chief Hell Hawk following, they went in.
         JP clenched his fingers over the stalk, squeezing it into a thick paste while staring at the seer’s blemish. “Let me rub this on your problem.” He swiped a dollop of the crushed root with his pointer and middle fingers and gently toiled it into the bubbling eye socket. The green paste, when smeared, turned more and more opaque, melting into his pores. The seer stood patiently, his arms anchored to the floor. Through an opening in the teepee some gawkers peered onto the scene. Chief Hell Hawk abruptly flanked the opening shut and stood in their way. JP stepped back, examining the seer with his bad eye glistening. “Now you will sleep, and let the root work its magic,” he said.
         The seer, with back to the ground, stared at the top center of his home. As the sun shouted at everything he drifted into heightened sleep. ** When he awoke in the sleep region it was dark. He walked out of the teepee to a cold evil wind sweeping across the top of the rock ground. It blew his hair wildly and caused rapid blinking. The desert had turned into some strange new Arctic terrain and the skies were the inner depths of the decaying ocean. No other teepees were around. After he took a few steps from his it rushed away in the arms of the wind. He was alone.
         As he walked he noticed a large dark mass waltzing through the clouds. It was difficult to identify its exact size or shape. He slowly approached filled, half with cautious fear and half with an electric youthful exuberance. The shape broke through a cushion of clouds to reveal itself as a giant fish swimming through the skies and it looked straight at the seer’s face with its big lifeless eyes. After surfacing, the fish erupted, spitting another fish out onto the desert ground. It landed, sloppy and drowned, a few feet before the seer. The skies closed.
         Curiously compelled, he walked to the fish and knelt. A piece of red cloth dripped from its mouth. It was drenched in placenta goo the likeness of pumpkin innards. The seer tugged on it and felt it tighten. He pulled harder, but had to hold the dead fish down to keep it from moving with his pull. Pinning the back fin to the ground with his left hand, he yanked the cloth with his right and noticed a small rupture pop from inside the fish, then felt a slackening with the cloth. He wrapped the cloth around his hand, cranking, until he pulled it completely out. At the end of the long cloth the fish’s heart was tied, dangling in an uneven circle.
         Blood dribbled out from the fish, half-way turned inside out -- filleted. Its dead eyes reflected the anxious weather forecasting doomsday above. The seer stood stunned as the winds walled around him. His fist around the cloth opened allowing the fish heart and its leash to be taken away by the air. Staring down he sensed, for the first time since infant ages, fear. He fell to his knees and began to weep. The tears gushed, flowing with dry memories. They fell from his eyeballs and splashed away into the vortex of movement.
         A red cloth brushed his shoulder and though he didn’t at first realize it, it persisted causing him to look over his shoulder. The cloth hung before him and led endlessly into the sky. At first he wasn’t sure what to do, but soon gave into his own fascination and increasing desire to leave behind his tragic findings. He clenched it and held on as he sailed up into the colliding skies. **
         When he woke up he could smell his body baking in the triangular oven. He sat up and looked around. Next to a hand-weaved blanket a clay bowl with a bit of the mashed root still spread on sat. He felt his swollen eye noticing his vision fully intact. The root dried up the sore. As he stood up the wind that sucked into his body gave him a thankless nausea that almost made him sit back down. He gathered himself, breathed deeply, then moved through the flaps.
         Sun seared the cracked ground. It was hot, but not burning enough to keep the entire tribe from stepping outside and the seer wondered where they were. A close mile away he saw them clumped together. Their bodies seemed to sprout suddenly like a forest. Each of the near-sixty heads in attendance sunk below the collar bone. Chief Hell Hawk stooped over a miscellaneous heap he had trouble comprehending. A land dog lay out on its side, breathing patterns absent. The lines in Chief Hell Hawk’s face pointed toward the body, inches away. The dog eyes were frozen and rolled and the dried-out tongue spilled over the teeth. The head bent upward cracking the neck at the throat. There was no blood. Curling out from the neck gap were veins of all colors.
         Chief Hell Hawk, filled with sorrow, warmly pet the dog with a sadness that threw dents in his brows. His pupils were crow black and shrinking. As he rubbed his hands along the fur, its coarseness turned altogether smooth. His hands gathered oil as little sprockets of fur fell off. His sadness turned to horror then morphed into bewilderment in the span of twelve strokes. He rubbed the dog harder, wildly distraught, until he felt the unusual gumminess of its skin. The thinning fur revealed a layer of spoiled, gelatinous tissue. It leaked with a substance like watered-down Jell-O.
         He stepped back quickly, frightened, upon noticing the goop clinging to his hand. Twisted gasps rolled out from the crowd. Eyes darted from Chief Hell Hawk’s hand to the hole in the dog, which mostly drained. Beyond the liquidated dog viscera was a mysterious grey. Not like the grey of the skies before a heavy rain, or the grey of the falling feather of a peasant. This grey was flat, two-dimensional and dully reflected the sunlight back into everyone’s eyes. Chief Hell Hawk eerily moved back to the canine. He felt the opening and noticed it was hard. When he tapped it a metallic chink sound rose up and echoed through all ears. Faces found disorder and perplexed expressions.
         When the seer walked up he was suffocated by their confusion. “What is wrong?” he asked the closest person as he made his way through. “This dog is not right,” a young man told him trembling with total damnation in his throat. “My vision is repaired and I see you all distressed,” the seer remarked as he approached the center. “What to think?” Chief Hell Hawk asked, locking eyes with the seer. “This dog is dead. But not only that, made of materials far from that of bone, flesh and skin. This dog is from the roads,” he concluded. The strips of pavement were a grid they never understood. There was nowhere to be found at the end of the roads. They lead out into regions they wished not to believe in. Beyond the mountains and beyond the heat is where you get lost.
         At the furthest visible point of the most distant road an automobile moved. It seemed to grow in the distortions of heat. A hallowed roar barraged the airspace throwing everyone’s attention opposite the dog. This wasn’t one of the rare, but harmless vehicles that sometimes flashed their obnoxious colors around. This was pure machine with a centipede body and armored layers. It was not on any road, but sliced right down the middle of the dirt. They could see it was made of the same solid grey that shone from inside the dead dog. As the details brought difficult questions, the weak and weary fled, inharmoniously, into the folds of their teepees grasping for some protection. Their screams mixed with the hard hell-noises growing louder through the dust.
         Chief Hell Hawk stood defiantly, the strange dead dog motionless at his feet. There was nothing he could do of the panic in the minds of his people. He hardly knew what to do himself. Before him something he was unsure of threatened his existence and he didn’t know what to do about it. He could only allow the deep insertion into madness to begin. A few feet before him, the seer fell to his knees, almost giving up. His eyes shut so tightly his lashes interlaced with each other. A quivering ran from the core of his neck to the backs of his knees. It was as if his heart were attempting to saw its way out of his chest. Chief Hell Hawk walked up to him.
         “This is our final fight my great friend,” Chief Hell Hawk said, clamping his palm down on the seer’s shoulder. “May the dogs find their own way.” His grasp let up and the seer watched as Chief Hell Hawk ran towards the horizon line and the growing beast he would not defeat. The dust kicked up from his tightening ankles and fluttered in his wake.
         The automobile had become more than that. It was a strange machine, a hunk of malnourished metal eating up the desert, a devouring god and it obstructed the landscape blowing a screen of blasted rock before it. It created sounds at levels they had never experienced. The seer stood up and watched helpless as it obliterated all he’d known.
         The tribe barked and foamed. Raw strength was all they knew and they put it before everything in their last ditch effort to eliminate their demise, or at least maybe postpone it for considerations of negotiation. The fight raged on a timescale distorted by space. The fresh color of sodomized sparks flashed orange and corroding red hues. The sound of their cries turned into the sound of flesh hitting metal, metal hitting rock, which gave way to the sound of the machine’s solo chugging. The enthusiasm of color eventually dulled until there was only grey and brown. Bones shivered and dropped as the sun sadly slouched, out of touch and feeling hideous, between the mountains.
         Over time the grill-top ground turned pale with cement, thick and established, abetting the horizon. A cinder block grey, laid out like a blanket. Keeping progress warm and allowing conventional ideas to rest and fester. Upon scorched tones of grey were stacks of shapes, each differing slightly from another, and of a shade a slight touch different from that of the dog and its following machine. The final battle told to no one, covered by letters of neon. The end of land, the flood of real estate and television assignments galore.