The rush of muse is like the hot, bubbling stream of a geyser, drenching and burning you to your core until you’re volcanic, ready to boil over with condensed creativity. It hangs on my mind, my lips, my fingertips like a farewell kiss swollen with the sharp ache for release, begging to erupt from my soul to paint canvases and flavor journals, smearing materialized emotions across the face of reality. Clear the cache, release; restart, refresh—start all over again until you’re at peak, needy, aching, teetering on the edge. Art, music, literature, dance: the grounding, the bolt, the tether to sanity. It’s soul gravity; get up, get down, filter in, filter out. You and I. Let’s discharge. Breath. Release. Be free. ((Repeat))
Just ran the most tranquil run beneath the redwood forest canopy, their feather leaves cushioning my pace. It was completely silent, save the ravens that discovered me snaking through the mellowed trails that stretched their healed incisions through thickets of shamrock and huckleberry heavy with their black-opal droplet fruit. Vetches of blackberry vine hung their surrendering lengths in and between bosky stream beds and I grabbed a gushing handful to fuel me further and deeper into the place. It was only shadows and thick air with me, I fought with the thought to take some photos but instead insisted on keeping it a selfish secret.
Tomorrow, we burn our flags. We’ll watch the colours shift to hues of orange and blood. We’ll let the ashes run through our fingers like riverwater. We’ll drink up like it’s the finest wine until our throats are clogged up and we’re all as drunk as the guy with a thousand glass shards for a heart. Tomorrow, we burn this house down. The windows will explode inward, the roof will fall through. Brambles and dandelions we tended to out back will strangle each other to death. The children will pick them by the handful a year from now, I imagine, and sell them as necklaces down by the wharf. But the ocean’s miles from here, you say. If anything, this place is a desert, with occasional rains to dampen our moods. Oh, but the oceans will come to us. Because tomorrow, we drown. The vultures will die, the sky will finally meet his dancing sister. The clouds will weep and weep and weep. And you will float towards the light whilst I sink into the moss.
He ceased as I turned back, my spine to the long, narrow street whose aromas itched my nose and watered my eyes by firewood making my heart pulse—I was unsure if I was awake.
I could smell him too. The lines of Autumn air leaking from his veins into the night sky that became lost as I opened the door. A fragrance, a house, earth plucked out from strands of my hair and tips of my teeth. England, old and new, cinder and cider like black diamonds and aging trees.
From between my bones and his wilderness, I bled like the holocaust. I walked, pale, like the headless demon of stories; pining and black from head to toe, hunted by a crane, dripping truth from my fingertips that were rested inside parentheses.
Once more did he stretch out his arm and unfold his hand, placing it on the arc of my shoulder…and leaving it there, though only as a ghost. Once he was gone, he was gone, so how dare he remain.
He left me.
He left me with his ash in the fireplace and the sculpting of his bones embedded in the wood paneling. His morning moans and evening sighs, burning wood and dust in the Halloween air, marigold glows of orange lighting on my porch combative with a distrustful silver moon. This was his memory.
I can never go home.
Blooming Grove. A one-horse town surrounded by real birches for real forests that almost set the sky ablaze in cooler weather. Those who wanted to look only visited for a short time, but those who stayed ardently did so with a holy assertion no other place with such tranquil folds in its countryside was worth calling home.
We danced at the edge of Fireside Lake, where the trees glowed the brightest, where she admitted the place could never be her home. Her olive skin and tawny hair matched the landscape perfectly, but she resisted me as if resisting an influence for her to remain. “It’s too late for you,” she said solemnly, “but will you promise to let me go when the time comes?”
I said I would, as anyone might say right from that first moment when love took hold. In the weeks that followed, when an equinox slanted into a solstice, we lived forever. Everything we did together was done for the first time. And with each acknowledgement, we shaved whole off decades yet to occur. She knew this without my saying a single word, and something changed in her that couldn’t be changed back.
"I don’t want to live here with you forever," she said as we stretched out on a bed of damp birch leaves under a night sky, cold and filled with the hard shape of stars. "Come with me to a place we’ll grow old together, where we can die in a place that won’t remember our names."
Despite my protests that we could do the same there, in the quietude of Blooming Grove, her sighs interrupted me. Her audible breaths punctuated my every word with absolute resolve. Though our talk was no good, our heads swam with the intoxication of pilfered wine while our bodies drifted in a pulsing afterlglow. “No more talk,” she said at length. “Let’s sleep.”
The night slowly unfurled like a dream hovering delicately over the water, where my heart repeated her sighs over and over. One by one, all the women I loved had visited me, each kissing me gently on the forehead before they waded daintily into Fireside Lake. My heart watched with deliberate sadness as they disappeared into the water. The procession went on and on, lasting until the moment I awoke with the sun in my eyes.
She was gone. I knew it as one knows the absence of warmth that is expected after a night spent in the company of another. In spite of my efforts, I couldn’t recall if she’d taken her turn at the lake. The coldness that followed was short-lived. There were other women who followed in time, though none touched me quite the same way she had, the way someone stirs a deep fiber that never stops echoing within every ensuing dream.
Yes, there were other women, but I always recalled her.
After a considerable time—decades, perhaps—I saw her again. She’d grown old, but those subtle features radiated from underneath her graying skin and sunken lines, unmistakable now just as they had been in her youth. For a long time we beheld each other and said nothing, preferring to hold the moment as long as possible before the magic was broken forever. “You haven’t aged a bit,” she said in a hoarse voice.
I told her not to be so modest, but she held a mirror up to my face and revealed the image of the boy I’d always been. Nary a line blemished my face, just as smooth as it had been all those years since she left me, and after I’d had my fill of the view I looked up to find her tear-streaked face glaring back at me with wonderment. My arms gently wrapped around her shoulders, where we remained for along time.
Only then did I understand why she wanted me to leave with her during that night in the forest at Fireside Lake. And since that night there had been many women, but none like her. It was doubtful I’d ever have that again, no matter how many enchantments I shared. At once I knew my curse and again for remaining in Blooming Grove. If I had been there once, I had been there forever.
You had me at “when an equinox slanted into a solstice”
An open gallery event was a night-out excuse for me this last weekend. A time to swim in the richness of warm Cabernet and sulk in the abstract company of artists. It is only softly uncomfortable to speak to workers of this strange trade. While they sit or stand unassumingly near their gallery wall, nodding kind gestures to any who approach. Some are coy, brushing off their time as a hobby, hardly naming each piece. Acting as though they are as unremarkable as pointing out one single star against the watery purple galaxy of so many others.
I fit my mouth around thin glasses sipping too eagerly at the grape tincture and rounded a corner of paintings I thought less glamorous, near them was a great eleven foot beast of a sculpture made from twigs, some homage to the Burning Man, radical in its poise it did command it’s space, but as most single medium forms shaped like humans do it became obnoxious. I glanced it over quickly and was instantly board.
Around the corner still to these, what were these paintings? Blocky, heavy handed lines that in a maze-like pattern were portraits in muddy colors, starkly outlined in black. They were interesting and so bold, almost layman. There was the artist, his name was Bryan and he had Down syndrome, though I first recognized his state before his name. There was one piece that was grotesque in its form, pillared posture of a human, mouth pulled open, lines around the face showing girth, and block lettered words that read “frighten the mighty” “I am not evil” “this is not the devil’s work”.
Art is a subjective place, life is subjective. I thought of my work, what it said, how it spoke in my language, how it was born of my eyes and my portrayal. And I think of Bryan, how he must see his living in so much hesitation from others. How I did not look him in the eye, how he knows that is ok. How I saw him in his way, and not at first as another man. His art was certainly a perfect dialect for his perceptions. How I noticed the lines, the heavy bold words, the convictions before I noticed the person.