Almost Here. The full mid-summer moon touches me in the high desert. Drove up to Joshua Tree yesterday, late afternoon. For my reading. Barely coherent, sun-smoked. Humid and hot, hot, hot. 115 here and 105 up there. Ghostly on Highway 62. Red Arrow Gallery. I arrived early. I was there with Phil on March 29 for another reading and the last picture of us together was taken then. I wore soft pink lipstick, my cool blue suede leather jacket. I look, in the pictures, elated. I was. Phil was near. We got to talk to a famous alchemist and journalist. A very nice man who has unlocked the code for anti-aging and is living proof of its success. Phil had incredibly intelligent questions to ask him. I could only stand by and smile.
Reaching down to guide me through reading. Nervous. Feeling Scorpio inward. Summer days, isolation days, worrying about Tarah days. Headache days. Too much coffee days. Not enough green tea days. A dash for the beach last week and heart in throat. We were there, we were at the Starbucks in Huntington Beach. Shit. Thought I could put it back. There it is. A homeless woman with long gray wig hair yells at traffic. She may be waiting for the bus. But the bus drives by. People go into Taco Bell, ignoring it.
Nervous. Reading with a famous author, and in a migraine days, realize I'm stuttering a little bit. Shy and scared. Not totally like me. But there is a different me these days. Last minute poem shuffle, deciding what to read, and digging the fact that the desert would backdrop me through the floor to ceiling window as I read, to the setting sun. Creosote, the earth's oldest living plants. Safety and security in that. Even if joshua trees signify the gates of heaven and hell. The light show and rave at the music fest here last May was a wonder in itself and I wish, wish, wish I could've been there with Phil. He lived for that stuff and I could see why. The coolest light show I've ever seen with the coolest, mixed up ambient beats, under soft desert night air. Magic. The spirit of parties in the desert when I was growing up. Nothing can match that. Or does. I live it again and again. Full moon splash when the sun is finally down and I read, sweetly and shyly but wryly of course, and tragi-strong. Beauty lives at the edge of terror, is what Malcolm said at the Into California reading last May. And I come from the middle of nowhere, I told him. That's where this all comes from, where it all comes in.
Sideways. I see friends in the audience of 25 or 30 who've come to see me and Deanne, hear she and I read. How honored I am, to have arrived from nothing today, and here they are. Caryn. Rainbow. Barbara. Rob & his wife Kate. Cheryl, such a generous hostess, and Katie, owner of the Red Arrow. Putting out the wine. I drink a little bit. To get over my stage fright. A few people approach me, in awe of the desert book, some having already read. I am surprised. Oh yeah, the book. Right. Sure I'll sign it. More copies are sold. Rob buys a copy of my poetry chapbook, Dry Waterfall. Now, I'm REALLY shy. He's such an awesome prose writer that I'm embarrassed. So it's time to read.
I preface with the quote I love from Chemehuevi Indian elder Larry Eddy: "I'm going to tell you a story,he said. But before I tell you that story, I am going to break your heart." Preface to the telling of one of the stories of the Salt Song Trail.
And so I read: Rattlesnake in the Cooler (haiku series, Andreas Canyon). from the preface to "No Place for a Puritan." Then, Mirage. Orouboros (Amargosa River). Jumping Cholla/Teddy Bear Cactus. Friendly Fire. Slow Freeze. Home Girl. Ghost Flower. Poolside. Wonder Valley. Chemehuevi Cemetery. Rattlesnake in the Cooler, V_02.
I didn't read Two Bunch Palms or St. Michael, V_02. I also decided against Phenomenal Phil; Stillbirth: Lake Mojave, Late June; Ochoa's Farm; Washboard Road. So little time. So many poems.
Moonside. The Joshua Tree Saloon. Too loud but we pile over there. Starving. I haven't had dinner or lunch. Past big bouncers, and an older gentleman, obviously quite well into his drinking night, smiles at me and says "here comes a live one!" If he only knew. I laugh, a little cynically, shake my head, ignore him, move on.
Me and a group of cool women friends, named above. I drink a fat tire beer (memories there and in red stripe beer) and we listen to horribly loud horrible rock music. Caryn, ever take-charge and speak-up, asks the waitress to turn it down, but...it is (terrible) rock and roll night. Caryn is from NYC and speaks French fluently and in fact is going to France soon for a rendez-vous with her beloved. Deanne, super-cool, talks more about her terrific book of historical research into the legacy of the wild horse in the U.S.. I'm touched by her passion for ending the government slaughter, which continues to this day, of wild mustangs in the west. Barbara, one of the editors of the well-known Sun Runner desert magazine, and I share a plate of french fries and onion rings (the bar has stopped serving all but the most abysmal junk food.) Rainbow, who is a medical doctor also from NYC, talks about her yoga and tai-chi classes and says we need to go for a hike. It's hard to follow conversation, music way too loud, my mind is distracted, I give into my recent habit of zoning out, zoning out, and watch a table of rather innocent-looking marines drink a lot. One of them sidles out smoothly with a woman he has shared one dance with and gives his buddies a thumbs up as he chugs his beer and tosses the empty into the trash.
And the moon holds me on the drive home. Middle of night. I call a friend to talk, on speakerphone. Mesmerized, and losing the signal in the Morongo Pass, then calling back and picking it up again. The moon showers the open land. No one is in the desert, mid-summer, too hot to handle. Moonlight feels good. The sun is a brute. My writing is at once, now, more beautiful and richer and more violent than it was a year ago. What of it I've done. Debbie coerced me to write a haiku series, and helped me shape them into top haiku form, hopefully to be published in this year's Southern CA haiku journal, where I've published before. I'm nervous about several writing assignments I've been given. I drive home on empty roads, taking the shortcut, Indian Avenue, through Desert Hot Springs down to the I-10. Gratefully, I easily fall asleep. Be brave. Again. How could I ever have thought this is the best way to live. But it is. Still, it is. The desert is where my imagination lives and grows wings, grows sunflowers in my garden from a previous nothing-ness, where roads uncurl to infinity. Wisdom and eternal sunshine of the moon-mad mind. Maybe I don't have to be here to know this now, but for now, it's where I still live.
And sleep with blinds not concealing everything, no matter how hard I try to beef u their work with blankets pinned up with tacks. What more then, except to wake up to blasting sun at noon, and hide indoors all day until night comes back again, with that soothing moon. Pink Floyd is perfect. For here and now. The sunflowers hold their heads alert, the hummingbirds visit their blooms, but only at the start and close of day, in the twilight of birth and death. The dogs are bored. Brindle plays ball by himself, and Shasta stands nearby. Tarah has moved to the Salton Sea. I'm alone here again. Maybe she'll call, maybe she won't. Floating. Waiting. Drinking iced tea.
Almost there. The moon, I mean. Ready to quiver across the lips of my 90 degree pool. Kiss me deep where the water's over my head. Again. I can almost see you.
"I'm going to tell you a story,he said. But before I tell you that story, I am going to break your heart."