It was a place of barefooted children with empty bellies and mongrel dogs that snarled.
It was a place of water moccasins that hid under mimosa trees and crabs that clung to the wooden handled dip net that left splinters in my palms.
It was a place where the sun heated the clods of earth pushed aside by the road scraper. Where the names on the stones in the Foreman graveyard where worn away beyond reading so Addie and I were left to re-christen our ancestors who had been dead for a long time. Caleb. Minnie. Grover
It was a place where our refreshment came in cold glass bottles from the ice bin in the store at the end of the road. Nehi. Orange Crush. Dr. Pepper.
It was a place where grandmama spit into a Luzianne coffee can and granddaddy dozed over his latest issue of The Grit while the wisteria choked the trees in the side yard.
It was a place where the carpets were worn out, the people were worn
out and the piano was out of tune.
Long ago and far away…
Daddy rolled the old Ford – three times – on the curvy road between Belhaven and Pantego. He walked away without a scratch, Harold Ray escaped with just a broken arm, but the Ford was history. Daddy lost his driver’s license – again – and he had to bum rides to work with Uncle Roswell. He dropped Daddy off at the REA before driving on to Ambrose Barber Shop. Uncle Roswell was Belhaven’s only barber. He was also the mayor, a deacon at Bethel Methodist Church and a successful tobacco farmer. He thought Daddy was lazy and told him so at every opportunity. How Daddy must have suffered – his 6’ 4” frame folded into the cramped passenger seat of Uncle Roswell’s Renault for the 7 mile ride from Pungo Creek to Belhaven. I can hear the silence. Daddy tolerated the ride in because he didn’t have a choice but he refused to ride home with Uncle Roswell. First he couldn’t stand the smell of the hair oil and cologne that clung to Uncle Roswell after a day in the barbershop. Second (and most important) Daddy wanted to stop off at the pool hall for a drink before heading home and Uncle Roswell – a teetotaler – wouldn’t have it. Daddy – always resourceful when it came drinking –found a solution. He enlisted Will Davis – the owner of Belhaven’s one and only taxicab – to pick him up at the pool hall and drive him home every night. Some nights Will would honk the horn and Daddy would call for us to come out. Addie, Willis and I would run out barefooted and crawl into the taxi. Then we would go for a ride. My sister and I in the backseat – my baby brother up front between Daddy and Will. We’d leave Mama on the backporch with her hands on her hips, shaking her head and yelling that our dinner getting cold. Off we would go – over the bridge, to Letha’s Log Cabin where Daddy would get beers for himself and Will. Next stop Sidney Cross Roads where Addie and I would run inside to get ice cream. Chocolate for Addie, Strawberry for Willis and Vanilla for me. Will would ride us around – up and down the dark, dusty roads that snaked through our part of Beaufort County. Daddy and Will would drink their beers and laugh and talk together. Will was black and Daddy was a cracker for sure – but on those long nocturnal ramblings they were as close as brothers. After a while, Addie and I would curl up in Will’s backseat and fall asleep to the comfortable sound of their laughter and the smell of their cigarettes.
High tide is best. Close your eyes. It goes where your head goes. Stay away from the swans. They bite. Remember when you thought you could walk on water.
Open your mouth. Stay away from gossip. It bites. All the action happens between breaths. Short words are best. A rising tide lifts all doubts
Keep your heart open. Don’t be afraid to leave the shore. Swans mate for life. If he believes he walks on water tell him low tide is better.
Most of the action takes place under water. Inhale. Open your eyes. Your life goes where your heart goes. Time and tide wait for no one. Take big bites.
“The pilot has warned us it’s going to get bumpy in thirty minutes. This would be a good time to get rid of your trash and go to the bathroom.” She directed the second suggestion to me.
I wondered whether I would want a thirty minute warning before the onset of dementia. Somedays I think it’s imminent. Those are the days I think I see the gathering clouds of cognitive deficit. I forget names. So far that’s the only sign on the horizon.
We were having lunch in Gordon Bierce before the flight and I caught a glimpse of one of the Today Show hosts on the television over the bar. I knew the first name – Lester. But his last name had gone where algebra went. It I had internet access here at 38,000 feet I could google it. But I don’t and poor Lester’s last name will have to remain as much a mystery as when or whether one day I won’t even know my own name .
And as we descended into the clouds over Denver I remembered. Holt.
In this dry place
where cow skulls grin from restaurant walls
skeletons dance in the gift shop of the Chimayo Sanctuario
and lovers leap from the gorge bridge
Death feels close and friendly
In this dry place
where Duende hides among red and green chilies
and the devil dances with sequin skirted Marias
I fear living more than dying
In this dry place
I sleep too deeply
and awake from dreams of rivers and wombs
of waterfalls and falls from grace
I dream of walls without gates
and small dogs thrown from high porches.
In this dry place
that summons chaos and phantoms
that hides beauty behind a garish mask
and puts miles and miles between here and yonder
only death is nearby
And she asks again
Which breath were you born on?
Which breath will you die on?
I wrote this poem shortly after SaraBlue was born two years ago. How time flies.
Ah! That pigment that blossomed even as she followed her sister down the birth canal.
A 5 o’clock shadow darkened her blood smeared face
before Irish cleaned it with a mother’s tongue
gently with an instinct that eclipsed learning.
The nose grew. The color darkened.
Now a lump of coal.
The black so black
I fancy I can see my face reflected there.
But it is only a nose.
A nose to point her way from whelping to weaning.
A nose that sneaks beneath the bed skirt to worry the dust bunnies.
A nose that pushes sand before it as it tunnels past the tideline to the Bay.
Just in time for summertime reading I have updated my collection of poetry and prose and it is ready for your poolside enjoyment.
Cover Photo by Tamara Somerville
The longing to tell one’s story and the process of telling is symbolically a gesture of longing to recover the past in such a way that one experiences both a sense of reunion and a sense of release. Bell Hooks
Click HERE to order.
Here is a sample:
And when you go, arrive with the sun.
Arrive from the east.
Arrive when your mind and body are numbed by travel,
and be surprised.
Be surprised that the mountains are alive.
Surprised that they breathe and surprised that you can believe again.
And when you go don’t wait for sunshine
Walk in the rain.
Walk in the fog.
Walk in the dark so you will know the power of eucalyptus.
The power of sulfur as you sit clothed only in embarrassment at the baths at Esalen listening to an ocean you cannot see crash on the rocks below.
When you go sleep late. Dream deep.
Enjoy the echoes that have been left behind at Deetjens
Make them your own. Leave some for the travelers
Who will come behind you.
Stretch. Make love. Be love.
Go to breakfast and taste the oatmeal.
All your life you will recall the way this oatmeal fills your mouth,
your belly, comforts you.
When you go remember when you drove up Highway One for the first time
in the dark, alone and unloved.
Remember how you envied the family in the travel trailer by the side of the road.
Remember how you wanted to step into a new ocean
You’ll find more here:
Reunion – Recovering a Past
List Price: $11.00
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/3468586
Nate had to set things right. If he’d still had a body he would have paced the floor as the news anchor detailed his sins. Of course, he wasn’t entirely responsible. He, like Harry, was just an instrument of Charlie Bell’s revenge, but he was culpable none the less.
Desperate men do desperate things and dying men make rash decisions. Charlie had pegged them both. Harry had been desperate and Nate had been dying. Charlie’s plan had been simple – if you believed in the paranormal and the supernatural.