Goodbye Our Western Skies

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Goodbye our Western skies
Into the dark American night

What the Mormon Battalion stumbled upon
in the bones of Mountain Meadows unhitched
can’t see the frontier for the horizon
and the Marian apparitions of Felipe Espinosa,
staring closer into nopal spine until vision
goes viscous and the American Oedipus cries,
Indian grave robber pads his own cache,
Goodbye our Western skies.

assassinated governors, gubernatorial assassins,
and the buried alive, because you know there were,
in all the Boot Hills along the Chisholm Trail
what all we built on the campfires of DeSoto
and the cigarette butts of truckers dying anonymous,
tomb of the unknown temperance, child brides raised
in the sovereignty of the fundaments, mystery which
lanced the growth and pulled out the lie until
it walked itself brisk and wide abreast the Union
Pacific, its horrible rapidity and grotesque
animation a blur of the mind of someone’s time,
Goodbye our Western skies.

Goodbye our Western skies
Into the dark American night

And whatever you say we are still here,
and the painted arrows on the red rock canyons
they’re still here, and the Navajo are still
aware of the evil which they could commit, too,
and through it all I’m not sure where to place,
figuratively, the Western skies.
Goodbye.

Now I’m an old hand – I mean, indulge me in this
for the moment – and I am hanging up my hat and
moving into town and running up the rag that’ll
let them all know where I stand where I stand
and that I’m a man who knows my limits, in that sense,
but I’m a man consciously ignorant of the depth
of the mine shafts, filled with bodies. For they
go down farther in my heart than I ever
ever want to know.

Goodbye our Western skies

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Peachtree Ballroom

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“Imma gone down ta ol’ Atlan-ta,
Imma gone down ta ol’ Atlanta some-a-these days
(Hallelujah)”

Ever’one I ever knew in Atlanta moved back to their
Southern hometowns. The city rings hollow of
Olympic days, obstinate Underground Atlanta
refusing to rejuvenate, always wearing its
party hat with a grimace.

Peachtree Ballroom, Ramada Plaza. Cracked
paint, ants in the elevators, hasn’t seen a fix
since 1996. Homeless passed out on the brick
sidewalk under sculptures evoking torches.
How much you chargin’? Sweet baby Jesus.
My name is Morgan, but it ain’t JP.

“You ask the judge to treat you well,
you offer a hundred dollars and he’ll send you to
Atlanta”

We watch you, our hope, our torch.
Atlanta. Who else would never understand.
It ain’t a good day. Hell, might not even be the worst.
But it’s good to get to know you again.
The Peachtree Ballroom with its dull brown
carpet, plastic dividing walls all pulled back,
stains and all. Alone in the ballroom,
alone on the roof, alone in Turner Field,
alone in the heart of Georgia. We’ll talk about
the I-85 collapse and why no one will use
MARTA. It’s a big empty ballroom today.
Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

“Went up on the Kennesaw Mountain
Gave my horn a blow,
Prettiest girl in Atlanter,
came a knockin’ at my do’…”

Dreams About Women, IV

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In this dream I died like my mother.
Lost control of the car.
Felt that weightless instant.
Stomach rising.
Saw it coming.
That long practiced moment.
That slow collision.
Lucid instant.
Knowing the next thing will be pain.

In this dream I died like my mother.
The slow collision of lifetimes
was around the bend in that dark road.
That I did not see.
I did not see the road I left behind.
I did not make it home that night.
I did not live anymore.
I did not see it coming.
I did not know pain.

The final instant is ambiguous.
Private, meaningless captivity of an instant.
And did they find me with Creedence
Clearwater still playing, suffocated in my
ribs and blood in the thick forested culvert
dripping humidity from the night before?
What came out to fill the road?
A Sweetgum ball. A feral peacock.
Squirrels stealing acorns from squirrels,
big trees grown from other, forgotten acorns.
And there I would be, dead.
Florida. Morning. After.

Dead. Dead, you say?
Why, my mother was dead.
I suppose that makes me
…half-dead?

A lively country road at the dewy dawn.

A Georgia Baby

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A Georgia baby’s a good thang
but she wun’t ’bout ta truly b’lieve it
she looked around with the innocence of
not knowing how the world works when you
precisely know how the world works but you
are tubin’ down the river in an’ ol’ tire
with her round stomach centered spinning
whitest legs dangling, her toenails pulled
to the wicks, battery acid burns, tattoo
of a perdy lil’ thang butter- dragon-
fly fly fly fly it takes a village
A Georgia baby’s a good thang
her mouth formed a silent scream in
order to blindly locate the straw on the
Baja Blast as she looked at a man and a man
and another. Her companion said it,
“that’s why no one in their thirties
should have babies. Yer fine, sugar.
We need mommas like you. And besides,
a Georgia baby’s a good thang.”

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.”