When Roads Become Clouds

The following is a series of poems that I wrote in August 2003, while on a solo road trip from California to Kansas and back. I was recently inspired to unearth them from their hiding place and let them see the light of day.

 


∴ ◊ ∴ 

 

 

-nevada- 

 

Bleeding streets
burnt red,
their cracked and scaly skin
shed the heat of the sun.

Black tar
keeps me stuck here,
as a firmament of
dying stars

press down.

Smoke rises
as the clouds shoot
up

Mojave
mesquite
mescaline.
I am

lost

in Vegas,
mourning.
When the serpent breaks ~
the diamond rattler
strikes

then recoils
into desert sand.

I see
your body in flames,

Punctured,
pulsating
where the poison entered your veins.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

-utah-

 

Living
rainbows
cross land and sky,
there are

Charcoal gray
archways,
there are

Pink
flesh cliffs,
there are

Canyon shadows
cutting deep,
there are

Gorges
forged from earth
fire.

Moab,
ancient kingdom, your
iron umber
monuments, your
cosmic bones

I imagine
but do not see.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

-colorado-

 

Arapaho
sky forest

Passing over,
I ascend to
fall again.

There are
ghosts in my car.

I talk to them, they
shift, like
static against my skin,

Cold and electric.

Visitors from the trees,
I am alone and listening.

Kiowa,
old wood,
I hear you creaking.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

-kansas-

 

Summer rain
wet and warm,

Cicada prairies,
rolling

Seas of gold.

I travel
through the heart of America
unadorned,
past

Rattlesnake jewelry,
past

Sleepy towns
where time moves slow.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

-oklahoma-

 

Sweet grass and citrus groves,

In the darkness
I see the tops of trees.

I am afraid of what I do not see.

Cherokee,
the taste of tears,
the smell of home.

Displaced,
forsaken

Mother,
this land
it cries with me.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

-texas-

 

Songs of Jesus
dying in the hearts of man.

Open the eyes of my heart,
Lord.

The flood is coming..

in Amarillo
I hear its thunder.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

-new mexico-

 

Black Hills
cast their spell
across the border.

Time disappears.

I see you,
Mary Ellen,
at a trading post.
An old woman
wears your ghost:

Leathered skin
silver hair
turquoise eyes

catching dreams.

You ask me for direction.

I am no longer your daughter.

You do not remember me.

Now
we are both lost,
searching for a way out of this world,

Adrift upon Navajo streams.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

-arizona-

 

Black Elk canyon,

earthen chamber
where ancestors dream.

Smoke rises.
I pass through
flesh
cleansing fire,
desert belly
screams.

All around the night sky looms
lightning blankets,
covering the land.
You will never leave

 

Phoenix star souls
and rivers flowing

into Eternity.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

-california-

 

Full circle
from the East,

A storm illuminates the desert.

I am no longer scared
of the sacred
old feeling

when roads become clouds.

San Diego,
your haunted mission,
your forgotten river

sleeping.

Countless pathways
intertwine ~
branches, roots twisting
future with past.

Is this where it ends?

Breathless ocean
Burial ground

Home.

 

 

∴ ◊ ∴

 

 

The Open Road

 

 

 

No Conviction

We watch as a man is
gunned down
in cold blood,
plain as day;

We watch that man’s blood
spill from his heart
and spread,
soaking the fabric of his cotton shirt
red
as a daughter cries
and his soul leaves
his body, still buckled in.

He wasn’t reaching

With his dying breath
still trying to explain
to his killer,
a henchman for the city he loves.

We can hear.
We can see
in a rush of blood,
through the screams
as an innocent man is
torn from this life.

The truth is clear.

Justice is not blind
when a man’s skin color is the trigger
and a gold badge
sets his murderer free.

***

for Philando Castile

“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”
– Montesquieu (The Spirit of Laws)

Dream

Last night I dreamt that Jim Carrey was my soul mate. It made no sense, but there we were.. flying through the inky night sky, high above the rooftops and twinkling lights of the town below.

It was “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” Jim Carrey, not “Ace Ventura” or “Dumb & Dumber” Jim Carrey (films that, I admitted to him, I would never willingly see). It was a more serious, sensitive, heavyhearted Jim Carrey, the one who despite extreme measures cannot erase love’s memory.

We flew without wings, lifted by a weightless feeling inside that some might mistake for emptiness. Somewhere within the darkness of moments past that we both had tried to forget, there was a spark that the fabric of our being billowed around, like a hot air balloon as it floats midway to the heavens or a moth that flutters above the halo of a flame.

Like most dreams, it was just a flash of an image stretched thin to make a story. And like most flights, there was that moment of descent, when reality sinks in: There was no love to begin with, really, just the inevitability of falling.

Halo

There is a man I see around town.. I’m not sure whether he is homeless, but it is clear that he struggles with mental illness. His black hair is wild and wavy, his aura a seventies-era mixture of Carlos Santana and Frank Zappa (without the mustache). Yesterday he was at Balboa Park, tipping over trash cans and trying to balance them on their edges. By the time I left about 30 minutes later, he had succeeded, as one concrete can stood at a strangely perfect 45° angle. I’ve seen him crying madly, rocking back and forth with his head between his knees, I’ve heard him screaming far-out things about the planets and stars and our place among them, I’ve seen him walk in predetermined circles, as if orbiting an invisible sun. Tonight he sat quietly at Whole Foods Market in Hillcrest, slumped forward, head in hands, fresh-pressed green juice and empty bottles of coconut water before him, a bag of organic produce by his side. Though his body was still, the very air was charged and vibrating around him, and it seemed clear that he could never really be still, despite his efforts to compose himself, to nourish his body with healthy things. I considered this with a heavy heart, while the moon continued to wane into the shape of a half-broken halo, somewhere up there in the dark heavens, beyond the city lights.

Mercy

Today I wept
when I saw what remained of you
after the demons of this world
pulled on their fleshy gloves,
“ready to fuck you up.”

I want to believe in Jesus
so I can imagine that someone was there
to hold you
when you cried out for your father
while being beaten
by fists and clubs and the butt of a gun,
until your face split open
and you were choking on
bone fragments and blood.

I wonder if He would have already lifted you
by then,
by the time your chest started caving in
around the chamber that kept
your heart and lungs confined
for 37 years alive;
if He would have been breathing light
into your pain,

whispering to the boy who was trapped inside:
“Everything will be okay, son.
I have come to take you home.”

***

for Kelly Thomas

Holy Days

We celebrate

moments
past and passing,

loving
           one and other. We
feel time,
feel timelessness 

and wonder what it means
to let go
of all we know.

Flowers grow in our hearts
as we sleep
in the warm-blooded universe.

We open our mouths to sing
and petals flutter from our throats like
wings, lifting us.