Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I left the Marble Mountains with sore knees and a stomach raw from too much ibuprofen and fried salami.

The lightning storm from a few nights earlier momentarily scarred the surface of Ukanom Lake with ordered ranks of quivering pines, wavering in their sessile salute to death.

The next morning we were wrapped in smoke.

Driving south on Highway 5 the yellowed teeth of the sky opened just enough for me to see Mt. Shasta, almost unrecognizable without its usual turban of snow.

Four years ago, on that very same payphone there, I had a wonderful conversation with my dad, having no idea it would be one of our last.

“Why you so good to me, Pop?” I had asked, after he had offered to fund me on some then-important road trip to Utah.

“Because I love you, you dope.”

After last night, while sleeping in a puddle near Castle Lake during a mid-July downpour, with frothing indigestion from bad tortilla soup, Shasta is once again a pure white grizzly hump piercing the stratosphere.

Just as annual events give time a set of false teeth, so to does returning to a place for the second time after years of being elsewhere.

Perhaps that payphone still houses your voice somehow.

In the months after you died I would pick up the phone every once in awhile and start to dial your number, only to remember that you weren’t home.

Some day, years from now, I’ll probably return to this little town, and that payphone will be gone. Perhaps then, I will finally begin to believe that you are gone as well.

July 2007
Mt. Shasta, CA

The Be Good Tanyas

That tobacco-stained bear tooth was setting like a ship over the ruffled Western Sierra.

Waribu and I drank whisky to stay awake for the last winds of that bumpy drive.

Up and up we went, away from the parched throat of the Owen’s Valley, and into the cold ache of 11,000 feet.

The White Mountains.

We wound past the caramel-colored, corkscrewing wrinkles of the bristlecone pines, who range in age from sapling to the 5,800 year old Methuselah tree.

Just a few hours earlier, we had been huddled in that bright world of dust and fire, the Joshua Tree Desert, watching the Be Good Tanyas pick their magic.

They looked flushed, and over-hot from the sun, and drank margaritas out of quart-sized cups. They sang like little warblers, just passing the time away while sitting on the eggs.

Sometimes the world seems too big. I keep on coming across people who I want to spend my entire life with. There are too many choices now that we no longer stay in the worn pockets of our small villages.

Corina and I went to see them play in New York City last fall. We showed up late to the show, and had to huddle outside the curtains just to listen.

Now the Kate Wolf Memorial Festival in Northern California. A canvas of yellowed grass stretched and broken by the gnarled, massive hands of the black and valley oaks.

The Be Good Tanyas played just before sunset. If I could give the entire planet the feeling those women gave me, while they picked that subtle, seductive magic, like a hot, southern pie, I would.

Music festivals always make me wish that I was in love.

But for now it seems that I’ll just keep on meeting people that could make me happy for the rest of my life if I had been welcomed into a smaller world.

And when I say I want to spend the rest of my life with them, it’s not that I’m imagining making love on a screened-in, wrap-around porch on a humid, Indian summer night, surrounded by fireflies.

No, that would be too easy.

What I imagine is those moments. Those precious moments when we become nothing more than human things.

Rushing late in the morning and watching her hop and struggle across the bedroom with her favorite pair of socks.

Surprising her with homemade chicken potpies and having them turn out like little cylinders of concrete foundation with string beans poking through, and watching her take a bite and giggle ‘til she snorts, try as she may, unable to pretend I did a good job.

Waking late on the weekend and hearing her voice trailing through the curved sunlight, yapping on the phone to all of her friends like my mom always would on Sunday mornings.

And of course, my hand pressed wide against the kicking globe housing our soon to be born baby.

The oaks hung heavy in robes of gold and green, with watery trickles of old man’s beard.

Those sweet, sweet women warbled those honey-suckled songs, and love felt far away, sitting with its feet up in some fire-warmed cabin in Canada. Far away, but still, safe and cozy.

And just knowing its out there staying warm somewhere is enough, and life never tasted so crispy-sweet, as it baked just right inside the golden crust of that late evening sun.

June, 2007
Black Oak Ranch, Northern California

Monday, June 22, 2009


An unusually high tide washed up this beach a few hours ago, and now the mostly dried sand feels like a warm crust of brownies beneath my feet.

The inter-tidal is covered in crab carapaces and probing sandpipers. The tops of the soft and lethargic waves are capped in rose quartz.

The sun is a golden shield in the sky and an orange dagger in the water.

The same sun that is playing too close to the horizon again, and will soon be pulled under by the flexing currents, left to tumble and toss in the darkness until it is spit back out on some distant shore in the morning time.

The salty musk of the sea smells like my dad, and the little crab boats have just turned on their lights.

The entire continent stretches off my back like a giant horned and channeled shell, and to stand with my feet in the ocean seems an especially noteworthy achievement right now.

Thoreau said that every compass points west, but he had the advantage of being in Concord, Massachusetts, while I have exhausted west, at least as far as walking is concerned.

For me south along the edge of the continent will have to do, until I make a quick punch left through the dunes spangled in salt grass and coast lupine, back towards that mighty eastern parking lot.

January 2008
Limantour Beach, CA

I Am Without Socks!

For Pete and Cindy

Bridal Veil Falls guzzled like a drunk over the cliff edge only to burst into long ribbons of falling silk.

The ceremony took place the day before on top of Telluride Mountain.

The bagpipes, quivering and proud, wiggled around in my DNA, and made Willy cry.

The aspens lit up the autumned hills from within, gigantic quills shoved wildly into the earth with plumes of over-sized buttercups and gold coins.

What courage to be deciduous!

We all stood, grey and windy, waiting for the bride, and as she came into view the sun poked its long ring finger through the wallpaper and lit Cindy from behind like a billowing cluster of cherry blossoms.

During the ceremony Pete, Cindy, Beau, Megan, Sophia and Ryan all had their hands tied together, a tradition as old as a bagpipe, woven like a sash they are bound in symbiosis, as a sphinx moth is fasted to a primrose.

Back down the mountain Cindy and Pete walked through the streets littered in gold coins, drinking Veuve and shining like the sun-drenched moon.

And just to further prove his love, Cindy’s ring is an umbel of diamonds, like some undiscovered salvia growing low and quiet in the underbrush of the Sierra Madre, only once found by the scooped hand of a little girl, who dares not tell, for she knows that science may try to convince her that it is not a headdress for angels.

During the reception Uncle T-Pot’s “Hip Hip Hoorays!” broke me open like a chickadee egg in late spring, and I smiled through my sternum and out of my collarbones thinking about how much Dad would have loved Cindy. “Jesus!”

On this day, October 12, 2007, your love became an anchor that winnowed and sunk, heavy and fast, into the depths of the chests of all who surrounded you.

And to quote my dear brother Peter, the groom: “You knock my socks off.
“I am without socks!”

October 2007
Telluride, CO

Another God-Damned Love Story

Another God-damned love story. I went to the movies alone, and when I left it was dark, except the sky was pink and the air smelled like anti-freeze, as if the world had spent the past two hours thinking about ending it all but couldn’t quite follow through because it’s a fucking romantic like the rest of us.
Now I’m going to sleep in an abandoned building, because I’m just that kind of guy. I’m going to buy two hamburgers and a quart of beer to make it all a little more epic, so that being alone feels somehow important, even cool, instead of plain old sad, and lovesick for no one in particular.
You want to know what inspired all of this? What movie it was I just went to see? I wasn’t going to tell you because it’s embarrassing, and honestly I didn’t even think it was very good, but damn it all, the love story was convincing, and the ending sweet, and oh what the fuck, it was Zach and Miri Make A Porno, alright? Fuck you!
And now I’m full of: “When’s my turn?” and “What if it never happens…?” and “Can it really be like that?” And you know what? Fuck yes it can, because the sky doesn’t dress in pink for just anyone, and if the whole world is holding on to the possibility then why shouldn’t I?
I’ll give up when she does, and it’ll be one hell of a bloody apocalypse when that cloudy eyed bride sits in the tub and opens her wrists for all of us to fly through, but until then, it’s beer and hamburgers for me, and sappy romantic comedies, and the belief that there actually is the truest of true loves out there. Motherfucker.

November 2008
Alviso, CA

The Day I Fell In Love With Scotch

After you died I became a terrible driver for over a month.

And if that doesn’t give you a few extra pocketfuls of compassion for strangers, especially shitty drivers…

In the week following the ceasefire in your chest, while you were out getting cremated in Santa Rosa, the six of us kids had the sickeningly tragic chore of divvying up all of your belongings.

A job that can only be accomplished by those recently welcomed into the hazy, softly-gnawing jaws of shock.

We drew names from a hat, and it was revealed that I, your youngest, would get the first pick from the things.

There were many treasures, but the top choice was obvious to all: the ostrich egg that you found in Ethiopia forty years earlier that rested like a moon in the huge abalone shell that you peeled off of the floor of the Monterey Bay as a boy my age, some fifty-five years prior.

I walked out to the backyard with my new gift, a reminder of a fatherless world more potent than a coffee can full of ashes.

I lined the inside of the opalescent shell with a handful of magnolia leaves so that the two boons wouldn’t clank together, and then found myself screaming with tears like only a newborn can do, realizing the full extent of the tragedy they had just signed on to, and knowing that there is no turning back now.

We spent the entire day picking through those bones, with frequent trips to your still-stocked liquor cabinet.

10 year-aged Laphroig Scotch Whisky. The heavy smoke of the peat tasted like some sooty birth canal as it chapped my tongue.

Amazing how we can only become drunk in times of dullness in our lives.

I must have made that 12 foot pilgrimage from the dining room table spangled in memory, to that cabinet full of liquid tombstones thirty times that evening, taking strong, healthy pulls from the many bottles, but most affectionately from the Laphroigs.

My bellyfuls of liquor did nothing to me, besides perhaps to give me a slight aid in keeping my feet plastered to the rocking, salty planks of the earth that felt like it was ready to flip me upside-down and let me go with its next lurching turn over itself.

I fell asleep with smoke pouring out of my eyes, knowing that I must have made a true friend, because the day I had threatened to despise this world forever, I fell in love with scotch.

July 2007
Mt. Shasta, CA

The Executioner's Executioner Feels Sorry For The Moon

Yeah, and what’s it to you?

I wasn’t only watching porn. I was splitting my attention between the blonde girl on her stomach getting fucked from behind, and the flock of juncos taking their evening meal just out the window.

Her bleached Hollywood asshole was pointed skyward, looking like nothing poop had ever come out of.

Those brave little Passeriformes picked at the ground, the last meal of the day before the long January night would have them huddling in the underbrush, slowed in torpor, not feeling sorry for themselves.

I quit with the porn. Too cold to jerk-off, and uninspired anyhow. I stepped out back to feed the dogs, last meal of the day before I drive off this mountain, leaving them here in this safe house, lying in front of the warm fire, feeling sorry for themselves.

In the puppy’s eager little mouth was one of the juncos. “Drop it!”

I scooped the trembling bird off the ground. One wing hanging slack and twisted, no tail to speak of, one eye bulging and bloody. It was still alive, but no hope. I laid it on the wooden rail and picked up the hatchet from the kindling pile.

I couldn’t help but think that if you were an owl, or a hawk, or a human being, you would certainly be offered an attempt at saving. So why not you little junco? I don’t make the rules.

A soft thwunk! of the hatchet across the neck, just to break it. It stopped trembling. I threw the bird in the nearby brush and two things happened simultaneously, well actually three things.

The first: as the body flew towards the brush its head flipped casually off and landed a few feet in front of me.

The second: as the headless junco sailed into the thicket, a flock of roughly twenty living, still intact juncos flew out of it.

The third: Planet Earth kept right on tangoing with the sun, never missing a step.

The Dark-Eyed Junco has a black head, or hood, and is likened to an executioner in the birding world. I picked up the decapitated head by its beak. There was no blood, no change of expression, the cross-section was all feathers except for a tiny gristle of spine.

The executioner’s head.

I threw it as far as I could, and filled the dogs’ bowls with kibble.

As they began to eat I walked back inside, feeling sorry for the little bird who got chewed on for awhile before getting its head chopped off.

Feeling sorry for all the other birds who thought they were resting in safety before their mutilated friend flew unnaturally into the bush.

Feeling sorry for the cowardly dogs who would be left alone during the storm all night.

And yes, feeling sorry for myself, obviously.

The moon
stepped in for a dance
and was turned instantly to shadow.

January 2008
Lagunitas, CA

The Birds Know Better

I awoke to the song of the Swainson’s Thrush.

That musical tinkering that sounds like a baseball rupturing your neighbor’s window, but instead of the glass falling to the living room carpet, it rises, up and up, like a thousand translucent, trumpeting angels.

I was over-hot in my tent, and felt stiff and groggy.

Heavy eyelids and blurry vision made me feel like someone had placed a fishbowl over my head that somehow still held its water.

It’s hard to imagine a songbird waking hours after the sun only to turn over, take one bleary-eyed look at the world, pull a pillow over its face, and try to postpone life just a few more hours.

No, the birds know better.

And as each stitch of this star-drenched blanket is pulled up, revealing a world baked into slanted gold, the birds begin their day with a song, like angels within angels, knowing that to postpone life even a few hours, could mean postponing it forever.

July 2007
Marble Mountains, California

Some Sort Of Beautiful Apocalypse

I woke up to that bead of liquid amber poking through the pines.

My face covered in fuzzy marmalade light as I looked out at a sky of vaporized poppies, the blankets pulled tightly up to my chin.

Soon the sky became a bleached fury, like some sort of beautiful apocalypse,

and I rose,


fed the animals.

January 2008
Lagunitas, CA

So Close

I almost had it right for a change.

Tossing log after log of almond wood from the driveway up to the stacking place.

The far-off December sun warming my forearms.

Whoever is chain-sawing off in the distance hasn’t missed a day since I was a kid.

When the planes crashed in Manhattan we all huddled around the radio like it was the past, but that chainsaw whirred forever onward.

“Take your time, Old Man, the drowning radio will hold its breath for you, and you’ll be better for it.”

And now stacking it. Little cuts on my hands. Young man. It could be a hundred years ago (don’t mind the chainsaw).

Taking pride in the woodpile. Symmetry. Strength.

I almost had it right. So close. And then the fucking cell phone rang.

And so the world and our progress has found me again, just when I thought I may have lost them.

It’s my own damn fault. I should have turned that little chirping rectangle off.

Better yet, I should have hiked up the mountain to the reservoir, and given the bass a small token of our progress.

“Just keep eating bugs, Old Man, always rest in the shadows, and never let this sinking, worthless apparatus distract you from the ospreys.”

I’m just full of advice today.

December 2007
Lagunitas, CA

There's No Need To Cry When Living In Saltwater

Youth is a disaster! Impossible to navigate its swollen waters except in retrospect.

But still they all tell me: “Enjoy it while it lasts kid, it don’t get any better than that.”

I’m not so sure, though.

For me, youth has been a glass bottle dropped on the rocky coast amidst the panicked oystercatchers. For years I will be left to tumble in the rolling tides, jagged and salty, waiting for the smooth edges of old age.

But for most, youth is it. Once lost they search and long for the days when the hummingbird of their heart saw the entire world as tubular and full of nectar.

And without warning (besides of course for the hundreds of warnings), that quick iridescence one day molted into a merganser on its way to becoming a stiff-jawed pelican.

But not me.

For me I know that the best has yet to come, and I have always gladly associated myself with pelicans.

I can hardly wait for the day when the sun-burnt dust can settle around me long enough to see where it is I am going.

When I am no longer roaming from town to town, job to job, love to love, maybe to maybe.

When the hiccupping sea finally leaves me to rest on its shores, and the smooth, milky serpentine of my eyes holds the answers to these questions.

When I can look out the window and watch the kids running from dragons below the swollen lanterns of the persimmon tree.

When the day comes that I can hold my son in my arms and have my own dad back.

And when, after knowing each other for thousands and thousands of days, she and I will still sneak off to the back porch when the kids are sleeping,

and make love beneath the wide-eyed stars looking down at us with curiosity, giving no thought to real estate or calls from the principal.

They say that the world is my oyster. As long as that remains true I will take these calcified hands and opalescent words and weave pearls out of all the pain, the tumbling, the salt water rushing into and out of my eyes.

Youth, I see you now, and I will dart around in your gardens, and roll in your waves with a smile, while it lasts.

And on that one day when I notice you have left me, I will stroke my beard and have a seat, waiting and watching for the dust to settle.

November 2007
San Francisco and Nevada City, CA

One Too Many Martinis

A rose petal fell into my coffee cup this morning.

Sunlight came careening and flapping its way down into San Francisco, and I sat in it, drinking espresso and eating eggs and reading.

It was mom who gave me coffee, and dad who gave me scrambled eggs.

But mom doesn’t drink coffee anymore, and dad’s dead, so
“Teach a man to fish and…”

I just take care of myself.

I once slipped out into the morning, said farewell, put on my hat, and spent seven months in the wilderness.

Now I live in this city, and do all the same things: wake up, brew coffee, find a sunny spot, read, write. Just in tighter spaces and with a bit more self-criticism.

It was just the other evening that I drove over that Golden Gate, car full of all my things, with a plan to call these slanted sunlit pinnacles and house-congested hills my home.

It truly was an inviting scene.

To my right, the sky and the sea met like a pair of blue lips and held the setting cigarette sun tightly, as rosy smoke rolled in ribbons from the corners of its mouth.

To my left, Alcatraz poked up, resembling a huge, regretful barnacle, and Angel Island was the scabbed and restless fin of the greatest of the great-whites.

And all around me, the bay was every blue and pink pastel in the world boiled down and set to cool.

And I came tumbling into that city, looking for inspiration, and maybe a little love.

A rose petal fell into my coffee cup this morning.

You know the one; little, with spouting blue whales painted onto the speckled, birds-egg white.

I often think about happiness.

A lupine and corn lily bear meadow, or a San Francisco atrium, apparently they’re both the same as long as you’re doing what you love.

On Lincoln Moses’ birthday, after one too many martinis, mom gave me her hair, and dad gave me his nose.

I came tumbling into this world, and love and inspiration have come wearing a different suit every season since.

For now it’s scrambled eggs and sunlight, a good book and a long morning, a rose petal dancing in the eddy of my favorite coffee cup.

But really it all comes back to love and martinis, because when the best parents in the world give a little boy a happy childhood,

“You have fed him for a lifetime.”

September, 2007
San Francisco, CA

Measuring Success

I moved boxes for her all day. She had thrown her back out. “I need to get through all this stuff by tonight!”

Total workaholic. “No time after today!”

As dusk settles like detritus over the late-summer hills of Mendocino, the female cougar rests beneath the purpling biceps of a manzanita grove.

Looking down over the camel-humped hills leading steeply into the willowed banks of the Eel River, she spots a family of five mule deer.

She was young, mid-thirties, fairly attractive and obviously well off. She spoke nonstop in high-pitched, nervous jump kicks, and apologized incessantly.

“I am so sorry to have to ask you to move that box back upstairs again!”

Feeling that old punch in the stomach, she stretches her long spine like a bow and licks once over her whiskers. She doesn’t act quickly, but instead gets slowly to her feet, and glides through the grass like an evening breeze.

Her plastic Ikea bookshelves were covered in exotic art from all around the world, and beneath the whole scene was a sticky stain of sadness.

The ears of the deer twitch uneasily as they all look around them, not knowing why that familiar rattle of doom is sounding in their chests.

Sitting proudly in a picture frame was a certificate marking some sort of achievement, dedicated in her honor, and signed by the mayor himself. In large print were the words:

“You Are Successful At Life!”

The lion is already on top of the smallest deer before they know she is coming. The blood stands out sharply against the cougar’s golden face, the deer’s golden shoulders, the earth’s golden grasses.

The entire day passed and she never once offered me a thing to eat, I had to quickly sneak off to the kitchen in between tasks for gulps of water beneath the tap.

She eats her fill, and covers the rest of the carcass with dirt and leaves, then silently walks to the river where she drinks and washes her face beneath the star-choked sky.

She cut me a check for 90 dollars, and muttered about how we didn’t get as much done as she’d hoped. I left and went for a hamburger, and she retired to the bathroom to shit up some Table Water Crackers.

October 2007
San Francisco, CA


Alfredo Ramos Martinez once painted my family on an old newspaper.

If you look closely at the back of my great-grandfather’s poncho as he stands above his kneeling wife and six children, before the Lady of Guadalupe, you will see written in the classified section:
I will take less than half for my…”

And the words are lost in the shadows, until they pick back up with:

“the rest to the bank receiver.”

Ramos Martinez also painted a portrait of a magnolia flower that now hangs on Nicky’s wall in Coronado. The blue hovering on the edge of the wedding dress petals is a Mexican stained-glass moon with the light of forty suns shining through it.

In the Black Rock Desert the woman made of scrap metal rested on her knees, her arms outstretched, palms to the sky, and held the cream colored moon in her hands, like an offering of magnolia flowers.

Magnolia. The name cannot be said enough. I can imagine it as the name of my daughter. We could call her Maggie for short.

Magnolia. The trees are a bunchy mess of heavy, coriaceous leaves. A half-drunk, potbellied iguana with an underside mottled in dried tobacco spit. Grasped in its many claws are the prehistoric grenades that are its seedpods.

And the flowers. The flowers. The magnolia is one of the world’s first angiosperms, which literally translates to “clothed seed.” And to mark this transition from cone to flower was to mark the great marriage between plants and insects.

And it was for this most momentous occasion that the magnolia tree was first unveiled, each flower a Spanish bride dancing in a windstorm.

Just as some are called to roses, and others to war, I, on the brittle, yellowing newspaper of my heart, have painted a magnolia flower. It is a reminder of an old way. A billowing bride, an unborn daughter, a grandmother I never knew in a skirt of Mexican stained-glass.

For if the world had not already thought of magnolia trees, I surely would have dreamt them up.

September 2007
Lagunitas, CA

Hummingbird and Hemorrhoids

Sometimes our bodies leave us with no choice but to get real with the messy stuff of life.

You see, because how am I supposed to focus on love or accomplishments when I have that certain breed of diarrhea that is both spicy and spiteful and nowhere in this God-damned town is there a public restroom?

And to top it off I have what I believe is my first hemorrhoid, which makes each wipe feel like I’m ripping off a band-aid, and leaves the toilet paper a swirling collage of blood and shit.

I don’t know why I think that drinking gin in the middle of the day could possibly be helpful.

At times I am neat, but today I’m on the fucking rocks.

And even as a young man I am constantly plagued with clicking joints, a sore neck and bad teeth.

What is to become of us, body of mine?

If the spirit of a hummingbird were to be suddenly dropped into my skin all of my bones would instantly buckle and break and I would come crashing to the ground in a pathetic heap.

My eyes blinking a hundred and eighty times a second.

November 2007
Nevada City, CA


It could be seen both as a fierce rising or a great falling. The tops of the canyon walls are the desert’s scapula, and its boulders are other pieces of crunched bone, flung all around.

You can’t help but be honest with yourself in a place like this. Its effect is similar to meeting a young person whose face does not conceal well the truth that there is a skull hiding just millimeters below the pink of breath.

The entire landscape seems to have learned to live with little flesh, and has peeled its many bodies apart, leaving steep, heaping piles of grizzly teeth, sun-dried tongues and over-stretched ligaments.

The wind rages on, and the only thing that does not get blown away is the big, potbellied sun, who seems to like it here, gliding on his great, golden ship as slowly as possible, in no hurry to silence the Singapore night.

In the canyon bottom the Evening Primrose arches her back during twilight, and allows the Sphinx Moth his one drink from deep within her skirts, while she lets her hair down, kneecaps trembling.

This afternoon I covered my beard in my father’s ashes, and stepped forever into my manhood.

May 2007
Kaibab Plateau, NW Arizona


“I put the brains in the creek.”

“Thanks for doing that,” Brett replied.

Every animal has enough brains to tan its own hide, I hear.

It was just one day earlier when I told Brett that I feel like I’m coming into a place in my life where I need to start killing things.

All part of this becoming a man business, I suppose.

The river felt smooth and heavy around my knees, and the fish slick and foreign in my hands, and I said “Gracias” three times, and on the third one I sliced the spinal column at the base of the head.

It felt right, sitting there beside a Patagonian stream, roasting trout over a twig fire.

When I returned to camp the cordera lay hogtied. The gauchos called me Asesino, and handed me the knife.

A few fish were enough for one day, and I passed the knife to Nate. Excitement and fascination burned as I watched him put force and blade through that little sheep’s jugular.

It took it easy on us. Didn’t cry out. Didn’t really even seem to mind much. Just a few strong kicks, and those final, harsh exhales.

The gauchos helped us remove its soft, blood-stained coat, and threw the pungent, grass-filled guts to the dogs.

Skinned and tied up on a tree, I could still see convulsing and twitching of flesh and muscle.

Perhaps I wasn’t crazy after all, when on that morning I was sure Dad was still breathing, or when I thought I saw his eyes open.

At what point is death, death? Most every cell in that sheep’s body was still alive, yet we all agreed it was dead, as it hung there, headless.

Is life truly just a miraculous balance of organized nerves, blood, some bones and flesh? Could it be that simple?

Were my father’s stories nothing more than a harmony of sparks raining down in the spongy canals of his brain?

Peel your body apart for me, and show me where your imagination lies. Can I hold it? Ah yes, just as I imagined, a wrinkled hand full of molten opals.

And your love, is that it there? That blood-choked heart filled with smooth, wild-eyed rubies?

Nate cracked the sheep’s skull open, and removed its fistful of brains from the wet, dog-gnawed head. Its vacant eyes resembled small, green glass buoys.

We ate the heart and tongue first, sautéed with garlic and oil as an appetizer. I thought of my own heart and tongue. Love and lovemaking.

They were soft and sweet and chewy.

We are a supermarket people, and now strung up on the asador beside the coals, the body of the cordera looked a little more familiar. Food. Most of us sat quietly, watching the fat drip and hiss on the ash below.

I could feel hot tears boiling behind my eyes, hardening into stone. Not because I didn’t agree. Not because one life had ended to help sustain sixteen others. Not even because we would all just wake up hungry again tomorrow.

I wanted to cry because life goes on, and sometimes when you witness death’s cool ease, it can start feeling pretty lonely to be stuck in a body.

But for now, life does go on, and we still need to treat our guests with courtesy. We still need our mate′ water to be at the right temperature. We still need to put on a tough face and keep trudging onward through this murky abyss.

The sheep is now forever, but all of us, we are still temporary. And one day, when you sing your spirit free, and wrap yourself in a blanket of fire, someone will be offered a seat, handed a hot mate′, and they will discuss the winter,

while you, unnoticed and forgotten, are flying through the molten stained glass into the cool, silver moonlight.

The meat was hot and tender. As my stomach swelled and warmed, it all seemed to make sense again, this business of living and dying.

While we ate the cordera, we passed around boxes of wine, and when we were finished, we sang songs, all of us huddled around the fire.

At what point is life, life? Without that meat there would be no songs, no bedtime stories, no throwing wild handfuls of smooth rubies at one another.

We all agreed that the sheep was dead, and with full bellies, while staring into the fire, we sang it back to life.

February 2007
Provincia de Neuquen, Argentina