Between now and then, between yesterday to and today, between night and day, between birth and death, between good and evil, between heaven and hell, between light and dark, between joy and sadness, our lives occur and we are so seldom there to see it happen, lost in dreams of what never will be, never was.
Two men, having reached
an indeterminate age, sit on old chairs
outside the small town grocery, it’s
neon beer sign half, flickering, around
the corner from the bank on main street.
One, plaid shirt tucked in coveralls,
one bib strap unbuckled, leans back,
takes a turn on his long neck, his cane
propped against his leg, thankful for the rest.
The other, denim shirt bleached in spots,
threadbare in others, pours the remains
of a bag of potato chips into the plastic bowl
resting atop the empty 50 gallon drum that is
at this moment a table, later a platform
for the checkerboard both are not
drunk or bored enough to bring out.
He opens a beer on the edge of the drum
and both look up smiling at the clearing sky
and a Saturday afternoon in the
only America they have ever known.
To arise from the earth is simple, too fall back the more difficult, for that is a journey we all seem to fear, though with no arising, there can be no falling back. When I finally admitted that I feared dying and didn’t want to be drafted to fight in that war Roshi asked me if I feared being born. “Fear,” he said, “takes up all of your energy and there is never time enough for that.”
My sister only wanted a horse an my parents thought they could solve that dilemma with a pony at her fifth birthday party where she would get all the extra rides, her friends and playmates be damned. Like most great parental plans, this one was doomed to failure, and failure marched front and center as they learned from the pony was loaded back into the trailer and my sister tried to tie herself to the trailer with ribbon from her gift wrap. She was never good with knots, even when she died at 52, the cancer having ravaged her one organ at a time, but even in her waning days, she whine to our mother that all she ever wanted was a horse, then winked at me, staring around her hospital room, since we both knew there was a pony in there somewhere.
There is a blessing in silence that we so often deny ourselves, unaware that it lies just beyond the noise of our minds and lives. We crave it, beg for it, and hearing the beggar, shun him for the noise he carries like the skin he cannot molt. Beethoven understood silence in his later years and filled with a music none of us will pause to hear.
At night, in these mountains you see a million stars, but all you hear is the silence. It bothers you, this silence and you strain to hear, what? There is no one here but you and your breath is swallowed by the night sky. Be still for the wind will rise, and these mountains and these trees herd us into ever smaller spaces as we have been herded for generations, we will gather as we ride among the peaks and down into canyons, listen carefully, for inside the wind we dance around your ears, our songs faint. As the full moon rises slowly over the mountain listen carefully you will look for us but we cannot be seen. You will hear our song dancing across this mesa, one voice to another. You will imagine us coyote, you will feel a chill along your spine and we will fall silent. The stars will smile for they know our stories but to you we are simply, the songs of coyotes. Listen to our voices we will tell you of the land of the grasses once here where our herds grazed, now gone to endless sage. As we lick at your face taste the tears which have watered this now arid soil. Look at the flowers pushing out of the sand and rock, see our faces in the stones about your feet. You may return to your homes and pull your comforters around your chins, hiding from the night’s chill, but we shall remain among these peaks, in these canyons for another ten thousand moons.
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019