Copyright 1999 - 2002 Bob Persons

The Horse Beatitudes - 4

I saw him shambling toward me from the small dune, white dust, with a kicking little-kid sheepy grin. "Hey, man," I said, "how're y' doin'?" hey," he said, "I'm "Hey doin' alright; an' yerself?" "Okay too. Man, look good fer almost as old as me!" someone "Yeah? well, you don't look so bad yerself, fer someone much older than me!" who's so "Oh yeah? well, this is the first of many years that I will you'll have plenty of be 49, so time to catch up to me."

There, the conversation stopped dead in the water, him standing there heavy on one leg his hands backwards in his tight jeans pockets me with my arms folded across my chest my chin cupped between a thumb and forefinger rubbing. "Y' miss yer beard?" he finally said, almost unheard in the still desert air that seemed to swallow everything. I heh-ed and we watched a brilliant orange centipede crawl from under one rock to another rock about 10 feet away.

"Now look," I said seriously, "about 'Visions of Johanna'." He spun on his heel, never letting his hands out of his pockets, and jerked his head as though he were looking at first one thing in the sky and then another. "Come on, that's from Kerouac, right?" His head fixed, though I couldn't tell what it was he saw in the clear blue sky. "I mean, 'Visions of Gerard', 'Visions of Cody', 'Visions of Neal', 'Visions of Buddha', come on. So why have I never heard you say he was an influence? Why nobody who said that? Why did Nicosia never mention you? Man, you weren't the first one to write Rimbaud. Is it because you didn't do the backpack thing? You didn't take to the road like thousands of kids looking for kicks? You didn't hike the Trans-Canada Highway and sack out in downtown Jasper with hundreds of other smelly kids? You didn't sit on a mountain thinking Zen thoughts picking toenails with your teeth climbing trees like squirrel inviting all the bums up for dinner and letting them rob you of your money your keys and your luck? You didn't..." He hadn't moved. I jerked myself up short from my blathering. The air seemed to flake down from the parched sky, dusting itself across my boots and laying there dead of all breath. Hey, it was a gorgeous day I felt like singing I think he felt like singing I wanted to just take him by the arm down to Joe's corner bar and grill and eat a pizza and get drunk and laugh about all the good times we'd had together and cry a bit over some of the bad times and eyeball the chicks knowing we're both too old for that but what the hell it's buddies you know

"Jerk."

"What?"

"Jerk. That Kerouac was a jerk."

No more. I waited. Lost in Juarez. The brakeman flaggin' down the Double-E. Granpa buried in the rocks. Idiot Wind. Ain't there someway outta here Senor! "So 'Tarantula' wasn't?"

His shoulders hunched. A black bird rose from the horizon. A nearby bristlecone pine rattled its 7000 years lightly in the breeze.

"So what isn't?" he turned grinning from ear to ear. "What isn't a jerk, man?" He laughed, a short gruff bark.

I laughed, a short hoot. "So if it's all jerk, then why talk about it? Just say what's different so we get someplace."

"Where y' wanna go?"

"I wanna go where the cotton fields grow white on the black dirt where the moon shines down from a sun-bleached sky in November on all gods chillun with shoes on and wheat fields merge with accidental white oak groves over water rights where Mister Jones is out to lunch and we can play with his computer invading the Chemical and Rubber Company's database where Kerouac gets his kicks on Root sixty-six and Dylan does his drive down Hiway fifty-one all night to busted flat in Baton Rouge I've got bums waiting on me with more humor than you've got right now so why do I hang around anyway when are you going to see me for what I am?"

"Hey! What are you?"

"You tell me."

"You don't own me."

"God help me nobody owns you for chrissake we're not talking about owning we're talking about using we're talking about renting and bringing back intact can I rent you for a while?"

He bent down, grabbed a handful of white sand, and rose tossing the sand into the air it fell back into his face he squinted with sand in his teeth. His raunchy curly hair rattled about his face as he spit and spit and spit. He ambled toward me put an arm up to my shoulder and gripped it tightly. "Hey man, you don't rent me. I'm for free you didn't know that?" He turned, looked at the black bird settling back to the horizon. "All my life I wanted to be for free an' I got caught up in the money thing you know I made so much money I could burn it for weeks and still be rich an' that's what I did man I burned it house with an onion dome divorce fees real estate scams I never wanted all that but that's what I got - punishment for somethin' I guess beats me what. Fine that's all over now and I'm not sure that you being poor are any better off 'cause guess what being poor does it gets songs written about you like I did but it's nowhere man it gets you nothing more than those damn songs written about you - like, you fall out of a plane over Los Gatos Canyon and Guthrie writes this fantastic song for you it made him famous but you're still dead rotting on his topsoil an' there's lotsa guys out there dead or starving who made me famous and rich so all I got to say now is I hope to hell there ain't a god who loves alla this because I'm pukin' tired of it ain't you?"

found a tiny stone, picked it up, sidearmed it into the dune from which he had emerged twenty minutes ago. "Yeah I'm pukin' tired of it all right."

He looked at me, then grinned widely showing yellowed tobacco teeth large still intact though awfully yellow like a horse's and I thought of that motley mare who dropped her foal in a stink to the steaming straw and, with ancient infected teeth, bit the cord thereby giving it a disease that would infect the entire race of horses. I wasn't for nothin'. I would pay him for it. That way he holds nothin' over me you know.

Loosen up man." He put his arm around my neck (he had to reach up). "You know by now that I ain't god I never was I never will be I jerk my pants on just like you hey if there are any gods they're out there lookin' in an' goin' My My but they ain't talkin' and they ain't givin' us any clues you know "

"But what about your conversion buddy? I mean Slow Train Comin', the Wailing Wall, 'I and I'. Don't tell me you have no gods."

"Hey I was talkin' about the gods, man, not about God. The gods are the ones that people think exist because they want them to they need them and they end up praying to them like they was real because they need them an' they invent these stories by the tonful to explain how they got that way an' what they want of them and does anybody really want any of that shit? I'm talkin' about God when I look at a grain of sand when I want a woman so much I take to the mountains for forty days when I don't try to explain the moon bellowing its light on me but just accept it the way it is when the night closes in on me making my day darker than any empty hole in the universe could ever be when I just get tired of tryin' to explain everything an' everything is beggin' to be explained when shit looks like gold when poverty shines like a diamond when all my stories fall into the void without a whisper when no answer comes to a question I can't even begin to ask when all my pubescent flames have burned me dry and I loft into the desert looking for one drop of water to cool my tongue when snails are the epitome of God's creation when Nebuchadnezzar roams the desert naked then comes back to rule Babylon once again when all Kerouac's desolation angels come home to roost in Lowell and to give him a proper burial in his red rocks he's not the only who's had Visions."

I sat heavily down on the sand. "I'm still in my rock."

"Hey, who isn't?"

"You?"

"Yeah but what's your rock?"

"I'm afraid of being found out I said that once to Lucille my boss and I could've choked myself for letting her suck me into that she didn't need to know that I have lived just fine for forty-nine years without her psychologizing me making me spill my beans why couldn't I just stay hidden the rest of my life I mean who would it hurt?"

"Afraid of being found out that's very revealing do you know what "

"Don't."

"Huh."

"That's exactly what she said; why are you being Lucille why do you want to torture me more."

"You think you're the only one afraid to be found out? Look what I've got at stake hey hey when they find me out! Well I think when they find you out they will all sit back and say hey what a guy guess we found him out hey but hey don't he look just like us hey what a guy pretending to be something he ain't lookin' like he has his shit together an' don't he look just like us in his dream don't he think like us an' act like us an' play like us an' jerk his pants on like us don't he act so smart an' just like us."

I was trying desperately to hide my face in the sand.

But hadn't he done the same thing? The only difference was that he was willing, even eager, to show his ostrich face in public, spitting sand from his teeth while railing on others to come out from behind their hypocrisy. "Christ, you little shit! You and your 'gotta serve somebody' 'whos gonna take away his license to kill' 'when you gonna wake up' and serve your lord'."

"Get right with your father."

"..." I looked around inside my head. "Well, yeah, I realize all the bad things I said about him in Cambridge when I was so unhappy with myself I wanted to die but all I could do was blame him for my weaknesses. "But I got right with him I'm working on it "


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