Stick figures marching in procession through woodedness—meadows—sunlight leaf-drink drip droplets scattered moonshine, gregarious all the veins, the flocking of fleece we hide in—our selves crickle crack snap like twigs under the Boot.
The old woman who lived in a shoe sang dirges doing dishes served drudgery up with butter and toast. The Boot crunch, crush, dishrag limp bag you call me old bag and I say tis only a shroud, chrysanthemum.
Lilybirds flutter at my throat with rubies clutched in their beaks. A sparking bud of true. Juice the night open, slide sweet and pliant on your back, be open to Her, drain away the Drano, it’s clogging your pores. Become porous and malleable around your inner delicate twigs, the birdboned farmhouse called
Fascist: a strong word I know but comes the Boot, comes the boulder, whistle your saxophone breath, your blues are your breadwinner. Let the night spiral around you, grip cups with furtive fingers, bring faery elixir to your lips. Join strands of leaf-hands into rattley sheath, march onward, into the city.
When you get there build bridges, build books, build fires everywhere.
Your rags are your coat, hang the blooming diamonds from the eaves, gather your bushels with all us Eves and remember your name that resilient grew under the Boot. Do not try on the boot, do not collect the bones for bristling, let the etchings dissolve under the acid of goat eyes and cream eccentric into a bowl, make it your breakfast.
Break fast away from the hollowland, stronghold of static, the limpid light of flickering screens. Remember your moss, your lichen, liverwort tea.
What did I have in dead-end beyond-the-cemetery Wellington, the parents, the vacuum, dry brown fields, small keg parties on country roads, at places with names like Beercan Tree. And now, I still go back these many years later and get smacked with the ankle chains of gender roles, of alcoholism, small town football, everyone knows everyone, poetry hides in the eye crags of old timers who refuse to give up their secrets.
What was there for me except a column of flapping straitjackets, hanging out at the Kwik Shop, couch-surfing and watching that same old Kansas sun come up over a grey and barren land–they say farmland but in all that alleged abundance there were no fertility rites of gathering around candles and reciting poetries from our deepest longings–not even the occasional conversation.
Mom and Dad the wardens, me the 11-year-old parent of brothers, itching, itching, growing toward the light of being, something beyond the same old wagon ruts, the gross misogyny, the racism, the economics like tongue depressors, leaving everyone gagging and gaping. Yes, I had to.
When I heard about The Road, did I have any other choice. It was the only way to taste it–college and upward class mobility were not in the cards, not on the table, the only way was pilgrim-style, ragamuffin-style, hand-to-mouth penniless pauper poet-style. And in my bag were journals and holy books of Beatnik writing and I was sure the magic would be all around me, would be easy for the plucking and the feathering, I could wear it like a hairstyle, a commonplace coat, like a book, open pages, Page of Wands and The Fool, I jumped off the cliff and poetry rose up to meet me.
Yes I had to do it I was fleeing demons just like all those other kids, fleeing my parents, abuse, my town, oppression, my queerness, the overburdensome weight, responsibility not mine. It was my reclaimed girlhood but also tainted by that wash of poison–and now I know I say honey you were trying to wash with poison, mucking up, mocking up what a carefree young adulthood would look like. On the Road. But Jack hallucinated from delerium tremens before his eventual death from internal bleeding due to alcoholism, it’s all laid out in that book Big Sur.
I wanted freedom and does it always have to have such a tragic edge. I wanted everydayspectacular, I really saw us, saw bums as angels, like Allen Ginsberg talking about angel-headed hipsters (I saw halos). I related to this so much more than the Sid Vicious/Johnny Rotten stuff I had been exposed to. A certain purity, or the search for it anyway–saintliness, saltiness, salt of the earth, how it all looked from the ground, so much more a comfortable position than I imagine the top to be.
I’m afraid of heights. Took me a long time to get over my fear of flying, in airplanes or otherwise.
I first discovered the gorgeous of library living room in the cold homeless blast of New York City 1994, when I hitched up picked up my Kansas tentpoles and after a detour south through Oklahoma I met up with that one first girl, First Girlfriend, and we hitched our tongues together and packed bags when her mom walked in, and we were bound for the City.
Soon though she gave me the gutpunch lesson that boys are always better than girls for the coupling, left me for a strange boy what was his name I don’t remember but I think she ended up marrying him.
The point is, we boarded a Greyhound to Philly or Pittsburgh one of those P cities and from there hitched into Manhattan. Actually got stuck in Connecticut cause rich folks didn’t wanna pick us up and we spent nights in graveyards and ended up scraping some change together for some kind of commuter train or bus from there into the city. It was winter and it was COLD. I remember discovering the public library as a place to get warm and soften again, out of the wind, First Girlfriend long gone through the rat crumb undercity tunneled by streetyouth like us. I’d hunker down in that library and read some of Bob Kaufman’s poems, curl up like a cat. This went on for three months.
I remember sizing up a library bathroom some time later, a single occupancy one and imagining what a heated private luxury that would be if I was still on the street–for a living space, I mean. In that New York City winter I was always on the lookout for a safe place to sleep, that is after our ratty squat was busted and boarded and I had to break back in to retrieve my beloved boots and books. I thought my toes would never be warm again. I wore steel-toed 14-eye Doc Martens, oxblood, that I had panhandled enough money to buy.
All those junkie kids just didn’t understand my boots and they’d stumble toward me on Christopher Street where I sat outside the gay bar each day, collecting coins, and they’d say “Blue–that was my name then–Blue, I need to get straight.” So I’d give them some change and go back to writing. I didn’t understand them, either. I was there on some sort of Kerouac dream–not a drug user but a 40 drinker. 40 oz bottles of malt liquor. Drunk every night. Two bottles on stoops, brick buildings. Cold went away. Squatting behind trash cans right there on the street in the open to pee. That was another thing I was always on the hunt for: a public bathroom, or places I could sneak into without folks batting an eye. Peeing behind trash cans was fine, but pooping was something else all together.
I was 18 years old. I endured those things because I was hungry for something more, adventure, real life beyond Wellington, Kansas. I am 35 and wearing 14-eye Docs right this very minute, periwinkle blue. In New York I was just living day to day, just being there for it, knew I’d make it home, whatever home was, eventually. I think I was just more present than I’ve ever been, at least in the day-to-day. But I was medicating heavily. Getting drunk, as I’ve explained. The other kids, the ones with their junk, didn’t trust me. They were hard, hard-edged. Hard stories. Didn’t understand maybe why I’d be in that position if I didn’t have to. Maybe it seemed like I didn’t have to.