A HalfMan Dreamer

David Matlin

     Wesley'd always be out in the hills walking or riding a horse, alone most times, some with us to play rangewar, recreate the nineteenth century settlements that had dripped into the smallest canyons over who'd end up in the future we were to live, being inferior or superior. Rusted pistol, bits, horseshoe, bone. That's what'd appear through the dirt after spring rains. Wesley could be found walking that map. We'd watch him from a ridge, lean over or get on his hands and knees like his father'd done before him to dig up ants' nests or clods, smell the world that way. For his father. It was the soil he was after, its health and disease. For Wesley. We weren't sure. And if he was either, sure as hell he'd never say, watch us watchin him and be in his saddle when we came up, ready to race. Wesley'd rode the tunnel one night between Detroit and Windsor. There was a person holding the hand straps in a packed bus between countries under the Detroit River. Wesley wrote he was from Montreal. Had used his aunt and uncle's name and address in Kansas City to sign up with the 82nd Airborne. They trained him for assault Hueys, a door gunner with a machine that spewed out enough ventilation for ten wars. He was back. Didn't want the citizenship offered or the decorations, wanted to sign up for classes in Montreal, see if it might be possible to walk a sidewalk again with trees shading it, read a book and study without hearing prop blades above his head cut and wump the air he and those bodies below him had breathed before he applied the almost weightless butchery of oxygen lying between his forefinger and the 50 caliber trigger he'd come to know so well. They talked and had some drinks in Windsor. Wesley told us that was when he decided to sign up for classes. Start a little at the bit. Took a Saturday course in archeology where there'd be a dig in swamps north of the city, and another, about the Chinese, the ancient Chou and Shang.

     The Indian site was pre-Columbian. There were potsherds, arrowhead fragments, ochre stains, charcoal from five hundred year-old fires. Fish and bird bone showed too at this camp which may have been used for decades. Wesley liked the work. Doing soil samples, mapping each find and the exact level of its appearance. This contact with those long gone others, what thinking was brought about them as each unstable, half corroded fragment appeared out of the dirt they may actually have stood on assumed a quietness for Wesley, this stem from another world and its shadows. The stuff about the Chou and Shang. He studied the pottery of the older people, how it moved toward the elaborate finely poured bronze vessels of the Shang, the drama and mass of the pieces. He examined that for hours wanting to ask about them, his questions over jade knives and burials, axe blades that seemed to him had been forged to cut off the heads of gods. His teacher spoke and read Chinese, was Quebec French, a scholar of Asia who said things about Vietnam, its history when asked, would describe a Delta or northern villager. He was one of the earliest to tell that America might kill part of itself there and got publicly scorned down, his gentle unswaying revelations jeered. He would almost whisper about the Shang when Wesley talked to him. Their metal technology, the delicacy and brutality of their transformation of rhinoceros and tigers into sound engorged bronze bells inlaid with silver and gold. Wesley had a small room he rented off Cass Avenue. He'd try a bar, mostly listen to the talk, then go back and read, imagine the fall run he was missing. I'd had a chance to come home but re-upped, volunteered for a meaner tour. Wesley said he wouldn't touch the Pacific without me being there. Had never seen a real winter and the colder it got the better the girls looked.

     He said he'd stay.

     The trees were stripped. Ferns gone from yellow to brown at the old Indian site. Grasses looked a burnt grey before the planetary slide. Wesley told us the lowering sun nearly scared him. And when he walked into the deeper woods surrounding the dig he'd see deer gone grey too eating fast as they could. Nearly anything with a hint of nutrition. A cricket here and there, and the wild flowers looking like something had charred them from the crown down, and soon, whatever it was that did this to the flowers might lick the three or four forlorn crickets lick away their songs as though those were bodies too. Everything half dead and the left half-life nervous. The forest had a stench too, he'd never known. You'd smell its sleep setting in, every day going closer to the near to be entered dreams risen up in the acrid grip holding the forest in its new settled latency. Crusts of thin ice splintered over ponds, this growing faintness of cold, slipping before any sun-ray then to sneak back like these spread frozen webbings were echoes wandered from some desolate voice that had scented the world, wanted to stop it in mid-breath as Wesley watched, over puddle, lake. It didn't matter. The rains had come to soak the moistureless coloring leafs, pull on them and then the fall winds to cut at the forest, cut at every branch and twig. Cut the wasps, ground hornets lumped over any sugar lurched apple, plum, dead squirrel. He told us he'd even come up on a maple, a huge sweet thing covered, weighted down almost from top to trunk with monarch butterflies, tens upon tens of thousands opening and shutting their wings, the color of them flexed almost into a mountain to crush the moveless being where they'd landed. We'd all seen lady bugs do something like this, cover pine stumps in the coast range, each red dribble of them to make that remnant into a burnt insect flamed stone but nothing like these butterflies pulling at that maple as if a more ancient sun had landed just there, split itself into these creatures to be their flood, lingering in this tree. Wesley thought about the Kiowa, Tom Green. What he'd told about butterflies. His ancient grandmothers and aunts who'd had their minds shattered by butterfly journeys. Their female yearning. Some to come out of trances somehow stacked in a permanent silence, brought to early death, or spin themselves in a cocoon of far voicings and emergencies that might save the life of villages.

     He sent a note to the Indian about the swarm. Tom Green wrote back he was glad Wesley had come upon such wonderful trouble. That it was luck almost good as life and death themselves to have seen such a tree and that he wished Wesley more of the same kind. Tom Green filled the mail envelope with the brown color stems of the Rosa Damascena with its small pinked, light enfolding glands. Wesley remembered those glands cover everything but the petals of this ancient rose to keep all but the butterflies and bees from the nectar. Tom Green asked him to lay those stems at the maple's base next time there was a chance. He also mentioned he was glad the butterflies had called the way they did that day. He'd ring his grandmothers on an extraterrestrial telephone and let them know. He said he hoped Wesley wasn't getting too smart or too stupid and left off with a warning from his old aunts about seeing one too many trees like that. It was ok with maples. If it'd been a black walnut, why then the butterflies had the right to hide the dick of the witness anywhere they wanted. The chosen one had the usual five days before giving up the prize. Wesley could practically hear the Kiowa giggle over that with his ancestresses. But he was glad for that maple too and laid the stems of the Damascena at its base. The Kiowa would have done almost anything to give Wesley those five days than the one where he'd be a corpse in a Mekong rivulet.

     Tom Green wrote Wesley earlier about a trip he took to King Lear Peak as it overlooks the Black Rock Desert, gone with a Shoshoni he knew. They walked into a canyon. Some old still preserved burials were there and they wanted to remind themselves about certain things. There were eagles circling the upper sandstones and it was quiet enough so you could about hear the wind thrush the feathers of their flexed tails. That didn't last long. The noise of big engine pick-ups ripped at the Mesozoic cliffs. Tom and his friend climbed a ridge for a better look. The trucks had thrown up a contrail of dust but that didn't block what the men down below were after. A small herd of horses, fifteen or twenty boxed in. The animals trying to get a distance that would never exist again. The people in the trucks came to a stop. Got out. Reached into the open beds for chain saws. Tom could see them fiddling with gas, oil, the spited introductory revs of the smoking machines. It didn't take long. And you could hear the animals scream above the pitch of steel and those razors churned through Equus meat like that was no more than a salt engulfed slug. The horses stared at what was happening to them, at the men who'd do such a thing who were tossing still quivering horse sections into a pile. Those boys and their equipment had bathed and it didn't seem to Tom any different than what had taken place off Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence all the open years back when walruses by the million got brain clubbed, the sixteenth century coves from Quebec City to Cape Freels, to the nameless canyon where he now stood were forever the poised beginning come with its kiss, and whether it was Basque fisherpeople or ranchers' sons the hemorrhage had the same calling card. Where it had drifted to Tom and that Shoshoni didn't know. If it surfaced in Asia Tom felt those people would redesign the feast and the butcher, make it so that America would maybe like the taste of itself better'n anything else. He said too, he wished they'd send him rather than Wesley. Send the one's who'd lived. They'd know who to kill and kill war with it. Wesley went back to that maple when its leaf and butterfly weight had gone, its posture held by steepening ice-cut air. He heard a lone bird singing. One incantation emitted from the skeletonized maple. A vireo. Some leftover quaked hard like the other things there, before even the softest wind. Chipmunks snapped their jaws under the risen winter sky pushing at it seeming to disintegrate both the ancient high bowl and the vireo holding itself, holding itself in the incantation against a first word and all the accumulation to follow. As if that song were part of the irresistible stones, the Sioux ones Tom had told him about flying between worlds, search the strange tides there for the drowned, bird or wolf eaten, the flash flood crushed, and that seeing what'd happened in that canyon Tom was scared, not in any usual way fear comes, but about if any of those dreamers sent their stones, what those voyeurs on their wraith journeys would stumble onto.

     Wesley came back to his room after unearthing some more pre-Columbian otherworld. It was still late afternoon. A Saturday. He looked at his Voight fins. His life-cord ankle straps. And then out the window. Snow flurries licked at the sills. I'd told him I'd been shot. A wound through the leg. I asked him if he'd send me something from those people in the forest he went to visit. Red ochre arrived. I'd carry it with me. Without it I might be dead. The people we were fighting. They knew how to shoot. Head shots that would come from nowhere and left you inside this shame. It couldn't be filled up. With anything. Nothing. No one could prepare you to know what it felt like to see a man that way. I didn't want to say too much about that, its perversion. The things it'd make me ask and wonder. Get me or someone else churned into a run through the procedures. He said he didn't want me to live to come back thirsty for a surgical noose, swell my veins like so many others where we came from. And here was the ochre. If it made them come alive in the world of the dead then maybe it'd do something to me twice-tubed for lift off that converts you into a twenty-four degree pocket-rocket. The shadows underneath. They were filled with tunnels and boys uniformed and masked. Their steps throbbing against secret stairs. The greasy infected cement, cracking with the strain above it, its surface ready to erupt downward into this place. In one corner, a couple there is locked in a candle lit dance. The woman's hunger. She wants the male to unwrap himself. Show his penis. When she sees it a sound from her throat equally blood chambered rushes over the masked boys in the semidarkness wanting someone to kill. Her teeth have the sexual carnivals of her past etched into them. Her laughter animates the held scenes there and the candle formed shadows on the walls behind them flutter with the growing erection, its transparency meeting the facial dangle of her tongue, the sleeve of her labia lushly flowered. On one of her teeth dawn has the jaws of water without flesh. The direction of the journey shines there.

     Wesley'd been in one. A bar where mostly negro workers went. He was the only white there some Saturdays, attracted to the hard dancing and drinking. The veil it held. They'd watch him. Show him unmovingly, the remote jeopardy that bore them, the underscent of transparencies holding them, and which gave them a layer of deflected surveillance. And how its body if inflated would mangle him. But only for a second. Then to take back the near appeared thing. Offer a shot of Johnny Walker Black. Cut the lemon for him. Pull it through his teeth. Let it mix there at the gate of his body. Wesley's habit was to carry a knife. Maybe it went back to both his mother and father. Tools and at least what protection might pretend even when none could ever come. No Mexican/Indian like his mother's people would set themselves anywhere without that. His father had three or four favorites. Wear them down to different formations for peeling, examination, cleaning. Another hand with a little piece of steel that'd go finally where words couldn't, make those sounded bent things into shafts of a dead mine. No thoughts about violence though these things seemed to say always what the rules were, even in the remote world of roses. The cold mystery of their bloom in that desert where he'd learned to watch. Slowly he found they carried knives too, quiet and steady and real. Not for show. But in range. To be drawn and used. You could concentrate both ways on that mirror. Get spent or stand. Let the veil of race go. He knew they had shown him the sexual garments of the degradation. The sex mummy come to bathe everyone in this Egypt with all its inmost ornaments. It scared him how they let him sway before them, let their drops of permission sweetly splash, and watched, knowing this boy in his whiteness. What he had come to ask, and maybe, for them, what they'd become ready to give.

                 A wheel cougar whistle     pierces the
dead   ears
         of the dead.     The    underworld    beast     has
straight   legs
   flanged   at    their    ends   holes   punched  for   axles.

         The association  of   ease    however    does    not
exist    and    the    wheels
inspire   no   utility      no     solution    to    burden.

The     cougar's

tongue   is   swollen     hanging in desperation     from    a
twisted    face.    Rabies

                           tears   at   its   eyes   and   jaws
                                         and    the   wheels
                             are     hydrophobic    insignias
                     flowing water    and    rain 

       viral    convenience   disshaping   water  of  
mind   and   mind/earth

     There's a gap in the geologic history of Michigan. It's called "The Lost Interval." To call it huge is to call upon an abyss that makes the nine days and nights it takes in some stories for the dead to fall into the lands where they go seem like the candle in the sunshine trying to keep up with the vast spiders and their fiery tracks as they swim across infinity. It is almost like it's an apology but one too vast and now infested with nothing and what's beyond nothing as it labors at its stupendous circumferences. What's lost is two-hundred-eighty-million years of geologic time from the end of the Paleozoic where the Mississippian scruntches into the Pennsylvanian to the Pleistocene. There's some microscopic plant spores from the Jurassic, whisp-charmed tremblings from the Age of Dinosaurs laid down maybe in now untraceable stream valleys when Mesozoic Michigan was a desert and the risen land extended itself above the invading oceans and the huge Silurian reefs of the Kokomo Sea. Michigan offers up a mysterious even wonderful blank where all the furies of life and death gather upon this core of dreamlessness and its petals waiting for the secret bee who never came and never will. The Iroquois did something similar in the mid-1600's. Set out on an extinction campaign against the Huron, Jesuit, Cat, Tobacco, Neutral, and Fire Nations. They made what's now known as Huronia, the old floor of Ice Age Lake Algonquin, a fertile plain extending from the southern Georgian Bay to the flats of Lake Erie, into a home sale vacuum cleaner demonstration gobbling any opposing humanity, a place they loved to visit and till its human emptiness until alcohol, cooking pots with their iron, and the lust for vengeance a hundred years later began making that wilderness from north of Albany to the Carolinas and from there to the edge of the Missouri into a version of decay where it is said in some chronicles they took to biting each other like dogs.

                                      And cool air
filled with military rated felonys these MRF's their preference for
any surgeon

General's warning sideways   winding  in  the  trees  popped

from  the  cold  wild  womens' broken eggs  they've thrown to
the ants

     After eight at night it began to fill with men. Wesley didn't mind that. Probably he didn't know. Carried his Western friendliness, not conscious necessarily of the affordable ease it occupied, its simple intimacies to be finished or unfinished and leave living alone that way. He'd go for a beer. Some talk. The gay men anxious for the silent alarm, smoking, almost trembling with the possessions this one minute would begin to allow. Sometimes he'd watch the assertions of these men willing themselves this one faint interior between the repulsions of loneliness and sex hunt. The femmes came earliest, though not in drag, here it was too dangerous even before these newest permissions, to talk to the bar's owner, a woman they adored named Lilliane. They wore beautiful sweaters before the fall's encroaching cold. Hair and skin cared for, the arrestment of boy presence and body finely lined against the sway of pants. The bar's owner, a Jewess born of trader parents in the Congo adored this desperation around her, the men who sacrificed themselves to it and came upon a shocked compassion about themselves. The immense sexual arrangements splashing them with panic and a remote nerve before their panic they would not slip from. Cocksuckers. You could spew that word easily enough. But I'd seen men around me in rice-paddies release themselves and not care about closets and cheerleaders ever again. War smashing the shrewd overlays of denial making cocksuckers in a firefight, braver for the afterworld they'd step into that meant saved lives in battle and love and friendship. Wesley's mother had Mochica ceramics she wasn't afraid of. Gone to Peru to buy them, set with her leather gloves to shroud her small almost skeletally delicate hands, knee-long black hair, sure to have her ivory, mother-of-pearl cigarette holders and sunglasses. Take a checkbook ready to turn anyone else's to pulp. Fly to Lima via TWA or whatever got there quickest. She'd arrive looking just like any other Mestizo. If she could have taken her two favorite Chrysler convertibles she'd have done that too. Instead she wore her own hand knitted dresses, snake skin high heels, careful that her lipstick drew a just right sexual wash on the cigarettes in her ashtrays. She didn't necessarily want other men or women, the farmer, the Jew she lived with and sometimes for, was enough goddamned trouble. The two words "high maintainence" sometimes floated up, and a letter'd be picked out from the adjective or noun, shredded like it was a dragonfly, put back, offered a chance to grow new wings and legs. She told Wesley and me once after one of those trips it made her feel berdache to dress up. Shock the gringos and European Spanish who wanted the art too, she'd gone after. Her aloofness shifted her, allowed things like that to be said even to a son. The ceramics she bid on. A dog fucking a woman. Eyes of her staring insatiably at the mounted animal. The grievance of her ecstasies singeing her. Her reluctance and terror consumed by the drifting invitations of passivity, the tales of submissiveness and their corpse-like deceptions anchored there. Her hold upon the dog flowering into conscience, rage, and her panic. The cloud-burst of instructions poised against the life of women. Mr. Pork Chop. Mr. Blister Straight Up. Mister Sister and his incurable grievances. Dwarfs, Hunchbacks, Hairlips. The heads of their penises brushed by facial, vaginal lips folding, moistening. The dwarfs are still unravished by the skeletal deformities. One is dressed. The flayed skin of a captive has dried. Sucked itself tight against him. His hip dysplasia, swollen abdomen, enhance the impression that the victim's soul has been shoved up his ass. Only the Ladies of the Court will be allowed to watch this dwarf who prepared their enemas. Brought them to the first dreamed border of womanhood. They'll watch closely the shades of blue his body will turn. Wait to see if he'll become the number of an ancient lunation when the ancestors in his line gave birth to the swallowed God. These things she brought back scared those earliest Europeans so they wanted to break or hack everything in that world. The accusation of sodomy and the morbid pressure of conquest. Everywhere they saw eroticism and everywhere it fueled their justification. Ceramic masterpieces from Mexico to Peru showing men sitting on each other. Anal penetrations. The humanity so firm, unswaying, it is almost indifferent. Skeletons riding vessels of water jacking themselves off, the final relict of the once fleshed bone swollen with just enough drops of blood. Prisoners suffocating. Slowly, their cocks risen with each equally swelling last breath, bulging them. Anal sanctuary between women and men. Everything to be smashed, censored. Their amazement at the sexual diversities beyond procreation. "Sodomitic" they called it. Throw away yourself on this show. Fart. Shit on your toes. Ooze. Issue a liquid. Cut yourself. Be adhesive. Get glued. Ashen green. Break flesh. Glisten. Hang. Just hang. Spread. Blood spotted. Burst open. Open. Be fuzzy and disintegrate. Go dry Mr. Blister. Go drop Mr. Sister. Sling that dead iron. But the masterpieces were alive and everywhere. The men and women carnally tending each other, for what millennia receding back toward the Northward glaciations, to keep a human heart and not forget? This Indian behavior. Inferiority. Filth. The drag queens who stood against the murder, impressed the Spaniard with the insinuation of themselves, standing, unyielded, were burned or eaten alive by dogs as honor to the Iberians.