A man has fallen over into the street, or maybe it's a woman. That breathless screaming has a particular female edge. Like a sick mother bird. The person shouts and flails, contorted like a gymnast or an addict; this is Hastings and Columbia so you choose which one.
A crowd is collecting. Looky-loos dart close then dance away. People are confused and sickened, scared of the screaming and the way the woman - yes, it is a woman, in pink underwear, and long red hair soaking in the rainwater running alongside the curb - the way she screams and scratches at air. She stares at the sky with eyes so pinned they look blank, like old nickels.
Her muscles are clenched, her face is clenched and inhuman, as in fiercest concentration. It looks like she has been hit by the #8 but no, the bus is only stopped so it doesn't run over her head in the gutter. Her bare legs tense and fold back toward her head, nerves crunched by a chemical voltage. People are laughing in horror. They are saying Oh boy, oh shit. People are frozen and helpless on this wet, grim day. It is a neighborhood where bad things happen and this bad thing just happens to be going on right here. This skeletal woman screaming, with no pants on. No kind hands or words because we are afraid to touch her, with sores and sweat and death already all over her.
Now here is the ambulance. The attendants come over slowly as there is a thick feeling in the air of something winding to a close.
The woman shudders to a stop on the gurney. The green sheet they spread out over her body is badly wrinkled from being folded, but it does the job.(less)
guiding her towards the earth.
Frayed yellow edges dripping,
tears for the loss of another season.
(more) She will never see her children,
they that feed on the richness of her death.
They will never know her beauty,
except what is reflected in their own form.
In an age they will feel the sorrow,
know the weeping mothers mind,
and fall back to their birth,
the cycle never ending.
Growing up in a red-neck town, hearing the occasional gun shot was a common occurrence. We just didn't bat an eye.
At least that was the way it was before that night. The dreaded night of the cross burning.
When I was young child, in a predominately(more) white school, a sweet young girl and her family moved into our town. The first time I saw her was when the teacher introduced her to the class. Her name was Latashia. She seemed very shy. I made it my personal goal to draw her out. That is the way I was around the shy kids. I took it upon myself to show Latashia around and introduce her to other children during recess. We became fast friends.
Not long before I met Latashia, there was a family of the same race that had moved into and quickly out of my neighborhood. I didn't understand why they left until the "dreaded day".
"POP! POP! POP!" with loud whooping and hollering.
It woke my family from sleep.
We dismissed it as some idiot red-neck drunk firing off his pistol and went back to bed.
The next day at school out teacher told us that Latashia will not be back at school. I recall the teacher looking angry. "A cross was burned in her yard and out fear her family has decided to move away from 'our' town."
The teacher opened the class up to any questions we might have. I was one of the first to ask one.
I asked, "Why?"
Her answer made no sense. She went on and on about racism and ignorance and white and black and hate and...
I raised my hand again, "But...why?"
"I don't know." She answered
When I grew up, I moved away from "their" town.(less)
Once I saw a woman fall over.
She tripped on a step she didn't even know was there.
She had white hair, and wrinkles littered her skin.
My mother let out an audible gasp. She has always had a soft spot for the victimized elderly.
I wondered if that(more) woman was embarrassed. Did she think 'Why here? Why now?,' or was she grateful that everyone present helped her up, and soothed her with comforting words?
Or even worse, did she do it on purpose?
When I see people, I think of their stories. They always have a good life story and a bad one.
Was that man smoking a cigarette on the street a drug dealer?
Or did his girlfriend make him mad, so he went out for a smoke to calm him down?
Did his dad, an honorable veteran, go outside to light a cigar?
Or is he trying to be rebellious in some demented way?
Is that women jealous of her boyfriend, or the girl he is talking to?
I will never know,
But its nice to think that there is good in the world.(less)
The duel was over before it even started. That's how fast he was. I'd heard rumors, but I'm the kind of man who believes what his eyes and ears tell him. I knew the truth now, for all the good it did.
I slumped against the saloon wall,(more) dust settling in a puff all around me. Leant my head back toward the noonday sun and closed my eyes. A thick wheeze split my lips like locomotive steam. I put my hands to my chest. Felt the blood matting my shirt and pooling between my fingers.
So fast... how could he be that fast...
I was breathing heavy. Sweat broke out across my body, but I felt a deep cold. Shim sauntered over to me, the barrel in his hand still smoking. I heard him spit a wad of tobacco into the dirt.
"Ye ain't gonna last the night," he said, and I knew he was right. "Any last requests?"
I forced my eyes open and squinted, struggling to find him in the sun. The words came out of me in weak fits, like an old man's cough. "How 'bout a tune?"
I saw a wry smile cross his face. He pulled a blues harp out of his back pocket and pressed it to his lips.
The notes that came out were slow and sweeping. His mouth twisted them into unnatural shapes. I began to feel light-headed. The sun grew dim. The desert colors became strange and vivid. The world tilted around me, and I felt myself falling, slowly, off the face of the earth.
I heard he played good. Unnatural good. So good he could sing a man's soul right out of his body. I'm the kind of man who believes what his eyes and ears tell him.