Where one leak seemed fixed, another springs up. Well, isn’t that the way it goes? Stained wood, stained mattress. Damp kitchen, scary room.
Stove going. I was in the dirty attic. Three-legged chairs, canceled checks, dauber nests by the hundred. I go up there because the attic is my place to intercept the rain that finds its way through the farmhouse’s old, fallible roof. Like me, the rain keeps returning, keeps coming back to this remote piece of cattle country in the middle of the state.
A mist rises from the pasture, hangs there like a cloud. Above, the sky is clear. There is, thank God, no wind. It is still. I can hear nothing but the nothing that is, the nothing that once will be everything. If you would be so kind as to scatter my ashes here. If you would allow me to play the part of the sandstone, to let the water through.
The mice are back. Two traps, old cheese, picked clean. Leave the droppings where they lay. Wise rodents. Re-bait, try again...
A short missive from Farm, from late last year...
But then a second Yoakum brother paid a visit. This was Junior, the youngest, veteran of the Navy, pulling up the drive in an all-terrain buggy with his wife Ginger in the passenger seat and two hunting dogs in tow.
I had never met Jr before. He lives not far away. We got to talking. He had some questions for me. He wanted to know about the house. Does it have running water? Yes, I said, but the toilet is not currently hooked up. Is there any air conditioning, a window unit? asked Ginger. Negative on that. Just a box fan, I said.
Jr remarked on the clearing I’ve been working on these last few years. He even noted how the shed had been cleaned up, part of it anyway. He had memories of Willy Lee, who lived in this house in the middle of the last century, who farmed this land. Jr identified that big hulk of rusting metal in the pasture near the barn as a wheat combine. A thresher. My mom’s dad was a wheat farmer, he would have known that hunk of rust was a thresher. On a recent visit, my uncle Vernon had alerted me to an article outlining the history of my grandfather's threshing circle in the Okawville Times. I wondered about the viability of growing wheat on this rocky terrain but I guess old Willy Lee had it figured out well enough...
Click on this link to read the full story...
I. Setting Out.
My brother is driving. I'm in the backseat at liberty to write. Dad, riding shotgun, shuffles through sheets of paper explaining stock valuations and physical therapy exercises.
The car is a 2015 Buick Lucerne with 62,000 miles on it and counting. Destination: Ludlow, Massachusetts, where my dad grew up, where he's from, where he still has family: his cousins, his aunt (who turns 88 in two days), his sister (who he hasn't seen in 25 years), his niece (likewise).
We left Belleville, Illinois, at 8 a.m. this morning, yours truly behind the wheel. Football (a.k.a. soccer) streams on satellite radio, channel 157, the European Championship tournament. This is the first round of the tournament, dubbed group play. Earlier, Russia knocked off Finland. Now, it's Turkey and Wales.
It's been awhile since I've been in a car's backseat. I'm enjoying it; it feels like a luxury. Like I'm flying on an airplane. What else is there to do but to read, to write? To describe, to explain, to tell?
At the first rest stop, my dad pointed at some new socks he was wearing.
"What do you think of these?" he asked...
Click to continue with my account of traveling by car to Ludlow, MA with my dad and brother to visit family there...
1. It is tomorrow here already.
When the vodka's gone
it means we have to sleep
And I don't want to sleep—ever!
2. Turning and twisting.
The rest of the poem...
What was all that law school for?
Those early mornings, Austin city
bus, statutes, prescription glasses,
hard attitude, I
Never wrote the checks. I only ever
sued one "person," one dumb city and
It was a win but
what is that victory now?
13:04. I'm in my room, 1415, at the Westin San Diego. This is two hours in the room I didn't think I'd have. Because check-in isn't until three o'clock. I'm grateful.
I've looked at myself in the mirror. I look rough! My cheeks are approaching brick red, or burgundy. I stink!
First order of business is a full-on shower. Then some walkin' around, looking perhaps for a notebook store. Then I'm going to that burrito place I went to a year ago. I'm-a get two burritos, one for this afternoon, one for dinner...
Continue with this short travel essay...
Awake again at an off hour, at
an odd hour, now for several days
on end. Times like 3:13, 3:23, 3:34.
Some combination of threes
after bad dreams.
I'm not going to journal the dreams,
it's stupid stuff, scare tactics
drummed up by me, designed
to rattle me the most. Strangers yelling
through the window. Me fleeing
to the attic above my attic.
My nerves seem to have risen
with the humidity, with the
overnight lows. They are rising
with the river itself.
When it gets like this, the
river cannot drain. It cannot
get downstream fast enough.
So it camps out in the yard or
suns itself in the kitchen sink.
To settle myself
I go to make a drink
but when I reach into the freezer
I find the river lurking there—
of dirty ice.
Wooden doors. French doors. Lockbar, cord sheath. Dormers, slate roofs—lots of slate roofs. Slate mulch for trees on Esplanade. Fluorescent plastic straws, a few pennies. Failed mortar. Church bell. If I had started counting from the top I would know what time it was. Gum wrappers, gum. Cracks. A red substance—wax? Wrought iron. Gas lamps, flickering flames. Cool breeze. The neck of a glass bottle. Spigots lacking handles. Woebegone cigars. Sheathes now for the downspouts. Tender aluminum? Spit, phlegm, leaves. Trumpet playing on Jackson Square. Heels on these pavers, dog snuff, bags being rolled along their luggage wheels burning and turning. Feathers, sparkles, glints, sequins. Buttons. Shadows. This building I'm leaning on improved by the Works Progress Administration, 1935-1936. Trumpeter playing and singing that Hank Williams song, "...down the bayou...," his singing not as good as his trumpet playing and I'm a little hung over, a little emotional, having a moment here, a future memory I think, tears caught on the inner face of my sunglasses.
To continue reading, click here...
I wanted to get through the first section of this notebook on this trip. The pages in this section are edged in blue. I've got a ways to go, sorry to say. I did not do enough describing of areas. I was reluctant to write in the car and thereby pissed a lot of decent words down the drain. I would have said more about how the plains looked once we were on the eastern side of the park, looking out toward the east. It was what I called Custer's view. East of the park, on the fat part of the divide, the land begins the process of flattening out and it's as though you can see for miles and miles and miles. Maybe you can. The colors were a range of maize yellows and sun-bleached wheat whites and dull greens and then of course the blue of the sky—that dumbstruck, blue-lipped blue. The sky was free of clouds as we drove north to Canada on Wednesday but it was accentuated and supported by fairly high altostratus on the way back down. It was mackerel sky in spots, probably my favorite day sky.
There was champagne—well, prosecco—in our room at the Belton yesterday. It sat in a little ice bucket on a tray along with a card of congratulations and two up-ended champagne flutes. B had told them it was our 10-year anniversary trip, which was true. It was the same brand of prosecco as was waiting in the fridge at our cabin (Reclusive Moose), for Patrick and Anne-Marie in recognition of their tenth. This was not coincidence. One of the co-owners of the cabin is the general manager at the Belton. The other co-owner was waiting tables at the restaurant there last night. Small town in a small world, I guess.
Continue reading about this trip to Montana and Canada...
A friend leant me a book about projecting—effecting an out of body experience. I attempted to read it just now. The attempt was a failure. I picked up a few good lines in a short time, though.
Projecting myself from here to there, to drop the book off. Down Page, through Westport, curving downward into the valley, past the small airport blinking here and there in the night, to the river, seeing it sidelong, the casino standing sentry along it, looking north, all the water moving that way between here and there before winding its way east and losing itself all south, into another river. I've had dreams that have explored this question but never answered it. Past the river—. No, the OBE ends at the river. Best to keep it short, and what exists beyond the river anyway...
Here I am
Death, death, death, and destruction
Bourbon at 13:00—
a Nobel would do better.
Hand to forehead,
elbows on desk—
staring, stoned, bereft
all of the past up to the present
& this is what's left.