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At the Edge of the Woods

Let's get straight here, what one operator can reasonably expect as a return on his energy. Not much, really, if you're carrying it all in on your back – amendment, pearlite, plant food, organic guanos by the 16 pound bucket. One time I carried a deep-cell marine battery up hillsides and down gulches for a whole day to go 2.5 miles as the raven flies. Did I mention interruptions, where the latent nervousness was electrified into jumping out of your skin, what with, horseback riders, silent on the old logging road?

There are riders, and loggers, and ranchers, and birdwatchers, quads, cattle, poison oak, without mentioning Beararrow or the mountain lion. My only protection was that I would hear them before they heard me. I glided up the canyon runways, took the updraft for elevation, swung on the long pine tree branches like Tarzan. I'd swing over the deer trail to land at a completely out-of-the-way trail. I was silent, but not still.

At The Edge Of The Woods At The Edge Of The Night.

As I head home at night, there are times I hear voices in the dark by the creek. Lots of times I may be sitting at the edge of the woods waiting for dark so I can head home, climb up Cemetery Hill and dash down the open meadow to the highway. When I’m sitting waiting for dark, it could be hunting season besides everything else. Lots of times the wind brings voices. Sometimes the creek sounds like people talking out there in the gathering dark. Severed heads talking, laughing. There's a woman's voice. I lean back into the blackness of the forest's shadow and sit stiff, still. It could not be, not relaxed people, talking, laughing, out here, at the forest’s edge at dark.

It gives me a chill actually. I know that one voice, coming up through the dark from the stream down there. It couldn't be them partying. They're all dead. But that’s Elinor. I’d know her voice anywhere. I heard it in the birth canal. I think I remember, it must have been a cribbage hand. I think I heard her say, “That's three to peg out, I win.” Nobody plays cribbage in the dark by the forest.

It was in the pecking order of birds that I first noticed the strange company. I was stared at by an owl. I was under its tree on a hillside that put me high, at his eye, though he, too, was high – stories, gaps, maps, above the canyon below. A blue jay arrived as I lay on the trail. The jay began to squawk, a big stink, and I turned my head and stared right into the face of this owl. He must have been there all along, must have watched me struggling up this hill, and the owl must have just sat there as I staggered up and passed him. If he was a snake he could have bit me, we used to say.

I was flat out pooped on the trail and this owl is giving me the good unblink. The jay squawks again. The owl turns his head slowly but faster than I could see, and the owl stares at the jay. Then the owl turned back to me. The jay is silent. A classic staredown. The jay screeches to nobody in particular. I mean there was nobody, not for miles. The owl spins again and stares at the jay. The jay flies down closer. I notice that these two Pepe La Rosas are keeping an eye on each other. The owl is trying to stare down the jay over a semi-dead carcass and the jay knows we both have feathers in our caps. Strange company inhabits the forest. Strange company inhabits the plains.

The dog toted my boots off, one by one and now they rest, one in the flowerbed, the other out by the battery shed, next to the carrots. The insoles are elsewhere. When I come in from the hills the first thing I do is look after my boots. Then I check for ticks. I immediately take the insoles out of the boots and spread them out to dry in a sunny but shaded spot. I put the boots next to them and get on to checking for ticks. I do a kind of naked pirouette before the mirror, looking for any small spot that could be a leaf shard, mud, or a tick. If it moves, there is no doubt.

The soles are elsewhere, along with many rehearsed speeches left undelivered. My whole search as the artist is the quality of life, usually not something the writer is very interested in. You can take language and shake it all up. You can take language apart letter by letter. Put these letters in a brown paper bag and shake it all up. You can have Borges, perhaps limber, athletic, a place to pause in every sentence, think for a moment, not anything too grandiose. Perhaps, I forgot to wash the car, like meditation in that respect. Over the titles you can brown bag the titles all up, the Zhir Emma Zunz. Zunz, almost a palindrome. In fact it is as if you allow for a half-Rudy maneuver mid-air somersault. It is in the just banging of the type, humorous and tricky thoughts enter, and after a while straight storytellers become bogged in a channel of low bridges, each stride now weighs a ton. The hammies act up and it's soon to bed. Clemens, that old river dog, went to bed and loved it. Never went to the Sandwich Islands anymore though. Lost his whole wiggy to an upwardly mobile young couple, who eventually took over. Neither one of them had ever been to the Sandwich Islands. So the end was faded out like bad erasing, the paper torn slightly, the pencil work still visible to a keen eye. In a brown bag of letters are a lot of questions. “You're not right a lot of the time.” “I know that I'm not right a lot of the time, but that is not what we're talking about here.”

There is no lilt to my step. I am stiff, cannot loosen up for a few days. All the adrenaline, the fear, exhilaration, trapped within me, like many bull elephants in a bamboo cage. There is  great shoulder movement, yet I am frozen. On the fifth day I am limber enough to stretch. I know I am on the road to Toulouse.

The bible was very full of endeavors.

I told him, you can't smoke everything green that you pick up off the floor 'cause that there, is an alfalfa pellet.

Bic thumb... an affliction during harvest, when you're trying to light up a taste but your thumb’s wore out from all the other tastes. Usually not fatal for the attachment, unless of course, you have to begin chopping the firewood immediately. Would have done it yesterday if I hadn't been busy with more pressing matters, like hauling six 30-gallon garbage bags through the wet woods in pouring rain. The hillsides are just Mount Fuji, straight down. I'm trembling, loaded, leaning, skiing and carrying, tugging, running back and forth, only three bags at a time. I rush, afraid some problem could come along while I'm transferring and steal the goods. I was busy yesterday. After all the above, I had to leaf, hang from coat hangers, dispose of fan leaves, branches, dead, and moldy material, the spiders, ticks, ants and other critters just all make a dash for it. After all, I live in a swamp. It's just a vacation home for that lot.

If I could remember what it was I started to say. I came in to type it down and when I got to my desk the cat was asleep on my chair. By the time I decided to move her, I forgot.... This is our secret.

Perhaps that was it, secrets I mean. Perhaps I was thinking about the hands of old outlaws. How the nails get chipped. Striations developed like rock edges, different colors, textures. And it was with Jesus in mind that he anointed himself with many oils, right over the dirt. He massaged that stuff in. Each year he became more like the forest, just like cops who associate with crooks all the time can become crooked. So you can start looking like the woods. Always some sort of fresh green growth sticking out through the shoes, even the Italian wicker loafers that serve for official presence. Even these expensive dandies have a fungus that just won't quit, high on the inner back heel. It limits the social cycle to a few minutes before I'm saying, anyone care if I take off my shoes? The socks have burrs in them. Each year I look more like the woods, much like a cop can become crooked. There must be a basic attraction there somewhere. Some lure to the dark side of the carnival grounds where the lights flicker and hand held messages are flashed. And so I am attracted to the woods, these woods, and I begin to look like them, pine needles in my hair.

But even in trades, there must be currency. Are we using stardust as currency, scattered puff dreams? Brand new at the smiling, unable to keep from beaming? Am I offered this as currency? If so, to what avail can I help myself to these dreams, these stardust visions? “Oh, please, Lord, lend us your arm, your ability to cut through the red tape and get to the marrow of the subject. Namely, can we borrow on the crop?”

How often do I think that little balloon dohicky that symbolizes thought in cartoons? In toon land: I think a round thought and I am a round thought, the perfect match.

No wonder they are considered rather mystical in some circles. For want of a better friend, I love you Ophelia. Oh no, wrong panel. I'm deep in round thought about this request to borrow money on dreamlands, stardust. Reminds me of Bretch, his best period, 26 through 29. Stardustville: I find if I tilt my head way over to one side and lean in that direction, and while standing and leaning, I shake my leg, water comes out of my ear. Well, just getting to my spot is a good day's hike. Setting up my necktoids, cranking my ear around a bit, loosening up. Health nuts say stretching is good, so I'm tweaking the ear, necktoiding the neck and I give her a good leg pump. Ah, relief, water is pouring out and down my pants leg. I was dry and as they say at home, this is manna. Yet the money I earn with the magic I was given, though it might seem easy, well, I feel a certain attachment, understood by all I'm sure. Requests for money are considered to be stone bowling balls. You're going to have to have momentum to get this moving. I consider the stardust dreamers. Do they have mom, momom, mo, that's my main concern. Their bad luck becomes mine, and bad luck strikes the immobile first or Bob's not your uncle. Oh ya, oh ya, Bob is too my uncle. 

To be a good gambler you have to have a feel for the rare event. A sniffer that wrinkles with curiosity at the events that happen in night alleyways, about upside down boats in a placid bay. A gambler, if he still has any currency left, has a nose for the storm that comes, a back that slowly shifts towards the wind, a really blood-kin desire to dance yourself to death. As a gambler, I wipe my hands as I step away from the table. It is a ceremonial gesture but powerfully important because as we know so well luck is an infrequent visitor, a day trip ticket, already many passes canceled. So the number of uses must be few. Therefore, the luck of the table must be left there. For if, like some canine dog, you're a lonely guy who just needs a home and the table luck follows you into real life, you do not want this. You'll have used up all your lucky before the second latte. That’s for a lifetime. No indeedee, you step back; you step out; you give the hands a quick not unfeeling wipe and you cross the highway where the pickup car is waiting. It is pitch black, cold and starry, no other car lights. Looks good. I was lucky tonight.

“And I have released my soul to my destiny.”

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