Devil’s Tramping Ground

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You’d suppose you’d be alarmed.
If shadowy figures stood around you when you opened your eyes
you’d suppose you’d be alarmed. Not us, headin’ back East. Dusk
lulls us by its familiar mass, stern and menacing tribute of
richness, the black from the obscurity placed in our eyes at birth,
our eyes we close against the prowling, our causes are in surplus,
our encounters in excess, and this discomforts us, seeing our
impulses toward reverent rest here.

In midst of shadow. Dark inexpressive forest,
it is them, encircled, I mean, they’re there but we’ve never seen
nor decrypted a face among them. Sleep of the sacrifice, stroke
us in the cradle of the residence, gingerly loving like a thing
worth dropping into the dismal abyss, viscerally worth smothering,
feed the predatory night the domesticating suffocation of babies,
whose seconds’ horror sight of mothers, a lifetime of recognition
that what took it was what takes and takes again when the statures
grow over you, place hands upon

the dead or merely sleeping. What
totems, what fetishes, dropped into the treeline long ago and far
beyond recovery, depth of awe, unknowing of echoes, cannot bring
us into us. Cannot bring us into us. Cannot bring us into us. Us,
are we decent? Are we a pleasant surprise of the halfway awaited
decents? Stern, the silent trees. Are we as unheeding advice of
the watershed where even the decent may cause incalculable harm
if shadowy figures stood around you when you opened your eyes?
You’d suppose you’d be alarmed.

Slightly blushing, from humidity, as well,
we understand we are one in the same the creatures that dreamed
enveloped in treelines on continents of undersides where hands
were bred to cover vision for practice and take life to save it
and in Chatham County, North Carolina, there is a place called
the Devil’s Tramping Ground where nothing will grow but you
could cut through the darkness to go right to the light with
the Devil’s walking stick. There.

What plans might y’all roast
when the treetops have faces.
But you turn away from them.
And observing your sleep, evil
treads ’round in a circle in
the dark, dark forests we left
to guard us from ourselves.

Dreams About Women, III

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It is untold when she will focus on me
in the cramped store with the mesh grate window gates
strewn with receipts and bills like a pawnshop

I put my fingers from my parents in the grate and pull
until the knuckles, peaks and valleys turn searing white,
the red tips point outward toward Soto Street

“I was in The Decline of Western Civilization,”
she says, “but I was only a baby.” She sells beverages.
Ginseng and Malta. It takes way too long to pay by card.

“I’m closing now.” Outside I pour it into a glass.
“King Taco” rotates above my head. Lumbering metal.
“Smoke,” she says, indicating the sewer, “al pastor.”

“Steam,” I say, perplexed, “it’s steam.” Metal,
tanks of sorts, great round things stenciled with
advertisements, lumbering past, floating past.

“…it doesn’t matter anyways,” she says, “this part
of California will be annihilated.” Yes. Sanity. Arm-
ageddon, voice of reason. “I’m from…” I begin, “from…”

Funny feeling. I look. The glass was chipped.
The lip. My throat. Felt. Nothing in particular.
But things can hide in your throat for years.

Phoenix Sorted Me Out

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“Eastern people can’t believe they still do those things out West.”

I got burned by Phoenix, but it sorted me out. With my undisclosed doctorate, slouching about, talking in dark college halls of Godard and Brecht to laid-off truckers, starry-eyed freshmen, the rest. Friends, I won’t have to spend three months on your couch; I got burned by Phoenix, but it sorted me out. All the kids in their scenes, well, they talked a good game, all cured of disorders to endure them by name. And the sun it was hot, but I’m from a hot place. Burned through my plans for the summer all in the space of the time it would take to improve on your watch, nose in detritus of couch-dwelling sunspots. And I don’t think I’ll be here when blisters arise. Once burned by Phoenix, and it won’t happen twice.

“out West, drinking SoBe and Surge like ’90s pop suicide was murdered by a lover”

The bus Ok, so this is the desert
to you I’m required to cross
who I the risk
had not prepared for
yet met

it left Ok, so this is the climate
Phoenix I’m obliged to adapt to
at 10 extend the
and takes falling in basins
me south

it leaves Ok, so this is the Continental Divde
the last on a knife’s edge
truck stop in order and disorder
and I laughing and falling
am yours

“Eastern people can’t believe they still do those things out West.”

Bottle Tree, Taqueria

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San Antonio.

Some people know what tacos are, others know what bottle trees are. Some people go to Texas, others go to Hell.

Charlie Pride sings by the taqueria with the bottle tree: Is anybody goin’ to San Antone? You may all go to Hell.

The woman with the Spanish accent intones the words of Davy Crockett printed on a shirt: “You may all go to Hell, I’ll go to Texas.”

Upstairs in the antique mall there’s an original pressing of Riley Puckett, “Dear Old Dixieland”.

The Indian man wants to sell a hat. Resistol or Stetson. He wants to sell a boot or two. Justin or Ariat or something made in Mexico.

Then outside of the taqueria there is a bottle tree, although some folks wouldn’t know tacos and the rest wouldn’t know bottle trees.

So far from Africa, so close to Tenochtitlan. So many folks on their way to Hell. Is anybody goin’ to San Antone?

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We are the Skin-Walkers

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New Mexico.

“Ay, mis hijos! Pueblo fantasma!”

“No. It is not a ghost town. The population has been shrinking since the 1950s. The trains don’t seem to matter so much. Half of the gas stations have been closed with shelves stocked with products for a few years, and we can’t get any coolant, but it’s not a ghost town. People live here. About four hundred of them,

That dude pro’ly in the narco biz lingerin’ ’round the hotel door — I ain’t namin’ names! If it ain’t the one open hotel then it’s the other. Maybe it’s one of the ghost hotels. Maybe it’s the ghost saloon. Maybe he’s a bandido fantasma!”

“Ay, mis hijos! Narcobandido fantasma!”

Good. We needed some laughs. And the rain’s comin’. Desert rain. Gone cool us off a bit. On the way to Roswell. But still no damn coolant. “Is it the green or the red kind? Can you tell from lookin’ at the bottle?” And here comes the desert rain. “It don’t matter. The mechanic’s on the way.”

“Ay, mis lluvias! Arena fantasma!”

“Do you wanna walk?” No, siree. It is not a ghost town. Or if it is then we must be dead. Lightening. The crows are frightened, the jackrabbits and the pronghorns and the chupacabras and the skin-walkers flutter through the sage. “Do you wanna get out and walk?”

“It was just a joke.”

We are the skin-walkers today.