Saturday, September 17, 2011

In the Glory of the Sun

Spun to life
spider in the alarm clock
flesh in the shower
the water streaming with silver fingers
over broken backs and weary knees
finding my face in the mirror again
eyes foggy with a lifetime of defeat
the suit wrinkled
the liquor gone
no indentation
on the other side of the bed
some would call me a failure
but, even failures need a little scratch
so they can continue to fool and delude themselves
with lottery tickets, race horses, and loose women
as the torture of time clocks tick on
and the paychecks grow
smaller and smaller
until they are almost
out of sight …

I made my way to the funeral home that day
not because I was dead
not even because I was alive
just because I worked there
and I sat in the front office
till the phone call came in
another one bite’s the dust
(that is the mortuary hold music)
and I took the name and the address and the corner case #
headed for the garage
got the gurney
got the van
and I was off
with Paul the Embalmer driving
heading out of town
deep into the barren Mojave
the sun like a giant yellow sea urchin
pulsating tiny tentacles of white heat
the desert racing around us at 70 miles per hour
last name Rangle
dead at 53
we turned off the highway
not a road, not a trail, not even a cow path
dirt, sand, rock, the heavy stamp of time
ten miles from 29 Palms
thirty miles from Hell
burning brain matter
the riddle of time in the creosote bush
praying to Joshua Tree’s
like Mormon’s searching idols
like old prospectors drunk on the mirage of water
we barreled upwards to the house
yesterday morning
a man walked out onto his back patio
stretched his arms in a yoga pose
dropped dead in his bathrobe and slippers
another victim of the hopeless despair of the desert terrain
the silent springtime breeze
washing over his blood
the coyotes and jack rabbits staring on
in silent hunger
as the family waved off the stray dirt bikers
buzzing into the yard to bum a gallon of gas.

Paul the Embalmer spoke
with the next of kin
signed the papers
offered our deepest heart felt sympathies
as I laid out the play
fixed the dead guy with a sheet
tucked him in permanently
rolled him around the cement patio
lifted him atop the gurney
limp wrist, dry blood, the vague odor of rotten fruit
the rigor breaking out easy
dead for awhile
dead forever
sucked through
told the tale
silenced before he could reveal …

We nearly got our vehicle
stuck in the sand
as we attempted to leave the scene
the back tires spinning dirt
the brother of the dead guy ran up
told us to straighten her out
drive forward
then back up
and don’t worry
if we get stuck
he will pull us out
and I thought, good God-damn!
… where have you been all my life
been stuck in a ditch
for as long as I can remember
but my metaphor was lost on him
so we waved goodbye
circled the property
as Mr. Rangle circled the drain
and we began to slowly descend the dirt path
back to the Highway
to the left of our rolling van
sitting on the shoulder of the dirt road
in the warm, smooth sand
was a desert tortoise
full grown
with it’s four stretched legs lounging
in the glory of the sun
it’s majestic head held high
watching us with easy calm
with a stoic gaze carved from marble
just like the ceramic jobs
you see in the Mexican pottery lots
I told Paul the Embalmer
that you shouldn’t pick em’ up and move em’
they piss themselves
and are subject to death and dehydration
Paul laughed and said, “We got another gurney in back!”

I said yeah, “but if we take the creature with us and he doesn’t die
then the thing might out live both of us! They got an average life span
of 100 years!”

“No, shit”

“I shit you not! If he move it across the road and leave then it’s like stealing all their money and leaving em’ penniless in the street. They have to start over to build back their roll!”

“Right!” Paul chuckled like a machine gun gurgling thumb tacks, “Don’t want to leave the thing out in the heat with a bankrupt bladder.”

We continued to drive on
in the glory of the sun
leaving our beautiful desert tortoise behind
content with our corpse
wondering where the next call would lead us
as we chased the tragedy of other’s
all in the name of the almighty dollar.

And, somehow
as we road off into the distance
our tires kicking dust clouds over cactus
I couldn’t help but think
that the tortoise
in his slow methodic stare
had it all figured out
just right.

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