When I stood in Hemingway’s study in Key West, I was certain that the old Underwood portable probably had at least one if not more great novels in it, and I would gladly be the one to unburden it. Then I paused to wonder wouldn’t Ernest have taken his Underwood portable with him to Ketchum, Idaho, and how could Mary be sure none of his blood was splattered on to it, and if so the one in the study in Key West was probably bought at an antique store sold to them by some failed writer who had given up on it, or on writing, with no great literary works lying in wait, just the mundane, and I have long mastered that alone.
A desert again, always a desert and she the saint of uncounted names, her crying eases, no smile appears for this Madonna of the coyotes, her orange-orbed eyes shuttered against the slowly retreating sun. Once her tears watered the desert sands, mixed with the blood of a Christ now long forgotten, trans- substantiated into a spirit we formed in our image, no longer we in his. The Blessed Mother watches, holding hope, holding space, holding a serenity we cannot fathom in our search for divine justification. She remembers, she mourns, for what ought to be, and waits for the windwalkers to pull the blanket of stars over her.
The problem, or one of them, is the lack of music today. We have all manner of what people call music, but not the music of the sort we need, needed once and found, as we stormed the bastions and bastards who mired us in war, who shunned darker brothers and sisters, who made alienable basic rights to half of us without rhyme or reason, save greed and fear of loss of status, power.
Where are the songs now, calling us, you, to regain the victories, no matter how small that we won with our sweat and often our blood, eroded or taken over time by those who live in the shadows, who crawl out in the dark, who dread the light we would so willingly shine on them again.
We sat in the tent and you complained again of our condition, knowing what lies just out of reach. He speaks to me, not you and there is little you can do to hide your jealousy. I often wonder what might have happened if I had wiped the blood of the lamb from your lintel. It was you who watched the calf take shape and did nothing, seeing it a personal tribute, and ordained its fashion and for your sin we shall be together forgotten men in the land of Moab.
A millennium ago the army of the lord dressed in mail and rode proud steeds across barren lands, swords flashing in a red roasting sun washed in the blood of the infidels. They stopped for prayer blessing the bodies left along the dirt track left by their hooves, a common grave for common faces differing only in the color of skin and hair.
In this millennium the army of the lord slouches outside the mall rubbing hands against the chill, the bell bleating against the night, a barren moon reflects off the red kettle. As they locked the doors he pulled the flask from his hip pocket and thought of the bodies passing by, swerving to avoid him, and the forty dollars he would get would warm his frozen skin.
First Appeared in Lullwater Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.