Mountain Home

When that odd fruit tree salesman
from Poor Valley with the big ears,
A.P. and Esley, clinched mountain homes,
ironwood in milkweeds and honeysuckle,
stopped at the Shell station to ask
the attendants for songs, and he’d tell
the black man, Esley, he might could
write one, too, try yer hand at it,
we’s mountain folk. To fill up the
tank and rattle home with the bounty
from the Cherokee orchard, to bake
in Maybelle’s scratching skillet, and
Sara! Oh Sara, to’ve made that A.P.
Abraham the Pleasant, out to raise up
that nation from forest bones, to settle
instead into old age as another picto-
graph running an old stone general
store! And their feet carried them from
Del Rio to Brinkley’s border blaster
and from there again to opposite sides
of America. A.P., did you find the
spring of song and greenbacks? It didn’t
matter. You fell out your saddle of steel
and gut harpsichord strings, tumbling
into laurel ravines of forgetting. And
Isaac! Their Isaac in cylinders of wax,
the fever-child of the sterile clinching
and Mountain Home, of the fruit trees
and folk songs traded for the planting
and the singing, traded for the Family
and the Gap, traded for Bristol and
Kingsport, traded for Maces Spring and
traded for Canaan. Isaac in cylinders.
We heard you clinched in rage and grief
and scrape your knuckles on the ironwood
but you did, A.P. You raised up a nation.
And your mountain home is coming, yes.
Yes, your mountain home is coming, just
as always, in milkweeds and honeysuckle.
And we would sacrifice it all to come
home again. But feel the angels balanced
on the butt of your Buck knife, steady
in its movement down to laurel ravines.

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.