Birds and Snakes and Aeroplanes, Part 2

Birds and Snakes and Aeroplanes, Part 1


My closest neighbors on both sides are cows. A cattle farm and rented pasture. Full of families, and the remnants thereof, lost in a foggy routine of days. Sleep, eat, move from one grassy spot to the next. Waves of time, each part indistinguishable from the last or the next. Numbness not comfortable, but familiar. Routine like camouflage, betrayed only by the intermittent arrival of a horror that is at once familiar and untold. The smell of diesel. A long rattling trailer and some slobbering dog from hell or Australia.  Barking, growling, tugging at its rope.

Then absence. Yours or theirs. What was is not. What could have been becomes something else. Or nothing.

What mostly becomes is time. The true blue healer. The one who growls then quiets, and promises to forget.

But when? Days to pass one by one, while what you’ve been set apart from lies waiting in every thought. But it’s not yet a killing blow. Moments turn into hours and days that seem almost normal. This is how it is now. Maybe it’s always been this way. Until some implement or another announces the next upheaval,

Again, and again.

There are woods behind. Not enough pasture for livestock. Left to the birds and snakes. Deer, raccoons, and the occasional bobcat. I walk back there sometimes. Sometimes I wear boots. I don’t want to handle it.

Once I found a cleared spot within those woods. By the river that waters the grass that feeds the cattle that, for a while, are my neighbors. Someone put a tarp there, beside a pile of rocks and an old bag of sand. There was a chair for a while. An old woven lawn chair, like we used to sit in beside some other river. Long ago. Someone took it, or it blew away.

I think about that clearing sometimes. Usually in the late afternoon. When I hear a cow calling out in the distance.

Bemoaning the inevitable.

Can’t You See

“That duality—another great Southern rock band, the Drive-By Truckers, would later call it “the duality of the Southern thing”—that ability to both celebrate and lament the South, is ever present in the music of the Marshall Tucker Band, and it’s that duality, that complexity that won’t allow me to write them off as just another rock band. Amid all the flash and noise, amid the reactionary politics and fading glory, what they knew—the original band, the band before they gave way to all the things that rock bands so often give way to—is that there are at least two parts to everything: what we hope for and what we fear.”

I Make of You What I Will, at the Oxford American.

A must-read, for everyone.

The Word Around the Campfire States

They’ve never seen her tear-streaked face so blue.

And assorted other tragedies. And, no, it’s not funny. Cards laid are cards played. For most of us, anyway.

I’ve camped all over this sad, blue world. Bastrop to Camp Coker to Norway to New Mexico. I remember Chain of Lakes, when the raccoons raided our campsite like zombies on meth. And Buescher, when it was so cold we went to bed at sundown. A harbinger, I suppose.

And Scandinavia. A long, hard, beautiful week above the tree line, in the snow. Far too cold to make a fire, or talk. We ate frozen Hershey Bars, and counted the days until we could hike back down those mountains to some farmhouse. With food, unpasteurized milk, and daughters. Reminds me of an old joke my uncle, a farmer mind you, told me once over post-bird hunting bourbon. Her name was Lena, but I digress. She fed me strawberry jam.

Seems familiar.

I’ve played some cards. Euchre, Pay Me, the martyr, business in jars, and whatnot. I’ve caught some as well. Trumps, Tarot, and a queen or two of diamonds. You know them by the way they shine.

A long time ago, a red-headed girl from Mississippi left me a voicemail. Half in Tibetan, and half in French. Mother tongues. I never had it translated, but I understand it anyway. Emotionally, if not semantically.

You can understand without knowing. In fact, it occurs to me that knowledge is often the enemy of understanding.

Words. Leaning one way or the other. Dinner or lunch? Cleave, as in to hold fast or to divide. My grandmother called mountain lions painters. She never saw one, as far as I know.

But they’re out there. Somewhere.