1906, 36, 56, forever more and before.
Trees of great California Cedar, Spruce, Pine & Fir,
Heartwood and Sap,
were felled by ax and saw.
Men in hats and sacks and cowhide boots rose before dawn to gather at the gate.
As the sun came up they smoked, waited and wondered.
They said very little to each other while the birds sang.
When word came down they put away private worlds and handed over their energies for a promise of pay.
They were told by the foreman to clear the mountain and so they did, of every last living thing.
After a lunch of silver fish and hard bread, black coffee to wash it down, they hauled the take back down the mountain to the cool running river below.
There they kicked it in and cursed it and sent it to the mills.
To be eviscerated, evaporated, poured in pulp.
In rolls and reams for trucks and trains headed east.
A new, nothing, nowhere white.
Not cotton or milk or sow seed, but paper.
For newspapers, bibles, receipts, summons, cash, tickets, dead fish wrap.
You name it.
For all the things we do and have done and do over again.
For the number men smoking too many cigarettes deep into the night looking for ends in the end that may never make sense.
My Father did this and I do this.
On paper, faith still pines for answers like a Lotto ticket.
Like some youth you have and spend or trade and giveaway.
Some long off hope between the seats with the peanuts and the juju beans,
matchbooks down to nothing, waiting on word or wonder.
Know this now and take comfort, exalt in its limitation.
Most of us may attain nothing more than the showing.
The ticket ripped and handed back.
Dust of the roads you ran.
Hands you shook.
People you spotted and borrowed, a ten, a twenty, very often more.
And the art you made on the bills, while on the phone with men wondering where the money is.
Mr. Sullivan, where is the money?
How should I know? I’m working on it.
We are here for such a short while taking turns wide and despite what I’ve said here, despite how I’ve felt at times, he did his best.
Now I only remember his smile, miss his smoke and his eyes for the sea.
No one ever misses money.
And now I,
as our sons will do,
on empty plains and thick of woods,
in black midnight Fords we never own,
leave roads with signs for roads with none.
To hound over dark dirt in a bump and shake,
like shadows on a wall, in an alley of a town,
in a grand dream of lessening leads.
In touch by some signal, sawed off, shot, lost, through the ether making its way home.
His Master’s Voice I Hear, I hear,
I think I still hear.
Some faraway fiction and the places sound like magic:
Kalispell. Beloit. Thermal. Ada & Laurel. Shoo-Fly. Nipomo. Waycross. Cairo. Needles. Pacifica. Signal Hill.
And on a clear night the message finds me through an open window moving.
I had gone out late looking for a thing unexplained, some unknown to bend belief.
And I came upon in the distance,
in a dream,
in a holy, glowing, gleaming fever,
some new palace, place or purpose.
To exist for nothing but itself.
No justification, no explanation.
Of all shape and no shape, consequence or none, sense or none.
Why a broom, on a wall, in the corner, in the sun can break my heart I cannot tell you.
Maybe no one cares about them anymore, and maybe no one should, but i’ll say it now and always, forever more and before.
I imagine rafters painted white and a renewing light and so I enter.
And between acts, at the sides, a disturbance like a spark off the wheel of a train,
I look up and catch your face.
In the dim light, young and hopeful as I’ve ever seen or never saw, but somehow know nevertheless.
And I say aloud to no one.
Is that you?
Then a shot rang out and cleared the crowd.
Out the door, in the street, I kept pace as best I could,
but I was getting older quickly, I knew this now, more and more this was known to me. First in my legs, then in my lungs.
I was in the river swept away with the timber.
Around the corner between Main and Luther, where Post and Pen cross.
Before the cigarettes took their toll, before any sickness settled in.
A ballplayer on the streets of your youth rounding third.
Over the fence and free into the darkness running, tripping, laughing.
Disappearing away from me,
creating a distance exponentially - mathematically -
I could never hope to cover. You were so fast.
Like the light goes at the end of the day,
I let you go.
But at that fence, in the cool night air, I bent and caught my breath.
Shook my head and smiled.
At your ease, your speed, your escape.
But before you go,
let me ask you.
What was always chasing you?
Of what was your escape?
I think I know.
It seems we make it hardest on ourselves and then those around us whether we know it or not.
And much of what we call upon never really happened or not in the way we remember.
Not exactly anyway.
So it might as well be some fill station or stop on the edge of a town.
A billboard advertising nothing from nowhere.
A Panhandle in a Badland.
A cross over the door.
A ticket between the seats.
A white piece of paper on a desk,
willing, waiting, wondering.
Sean Sullivan 2015