Beyond Crooked Man's Gulch

He walks to nowhere sometimes.  Just beyond the crooked man's gulch and the bend in the gravel where the street lights stop, he goes to weigh the world.  His parents could not say why, why their son has often stopped to hold a weight not largely his own, and sigh at its breadth and beauty.   He enlists the night to help him.  A certain emptiness is required to access the weight and while he speculates often about the desert one must cross to reach the prairie he agrees that the evacuation seems natural.  As the roads go from highway to lit pavement to gravel and dark dirt he unfastens the adornments of his day and sets them lightly to the roadside.  In the cold he shudders, he lifts trees from the ditch, he inverts them and stores them in his chest.  He senses these lungs become the same temperature as the skin on his bare arms and knows they've rooted well. If all this around him were forest trails to a lake where god was standing in wait, this may be a baptism. 

Its a rare exception that he's not alone when he goes.  He knows it will be this way and it does not bother him much.  But the world is still warm from the palms of other holders come before him.  The fog of their finger prints linger still and while he struggles it into the rivets on his chest, he smells where their breath has stained evidence of their same struggle some time ago. 

His lovers are rumored to have seen the scars on his back from where the weight of the world splits him.  I think they're lying.  In our dashes through the dense woods, and our climbs atop mangrove roots that have grown to the full height of men, I've never seen evidence of his brokeness but for the blisters on his skin and the way he sometimes hunches, more comfortable, as if the notches never lay empty.  They remark about the cracks in his skull, where bruised and frightened he came to their bed and they crawled inside, to wander about and unknot the places where his mind had tangled.  But theirs is a sour speech, a taletelling that may be venemous if not for the free sky spiraling in his eyes as he looks into the dark, with a cheek pressed to the world on his chest.  The wounds on his forehead number exactly one, and only I know it well.  It no longer matts his hair with blood and only throbs some nights.  It is the crater the story made. When the origin of this field fell to earth and the knowledge of the path, past the crooked man's gulch and the gravel's last bend, found rest, it did so just beneath the broken skin and cracked skull of a young man in the mountain west.  The sky took up its spiral in his eyes and he pilgirms to the holding now and again.

To follow him I must hollow my heavy arms and make veins of twigs, stretch a skin of moss, and muddy my eyes shut, faced east at the prairie.  From here, I hear him screaming, some nights. He screams when the trees in his chest grow, when his jugulars swell and crack against a spreading bark, when his head is back and his heart is bursting.   The gift of the trees is never speech, outside the chest of the holder man.  He is as answerless as me when it comes to why this struggle rebirths him. On the grass and plane he lives best and yet, one night, the weight will push him into the soil forever, never to hold again.

Then, the earth will curl in her mourning, a mother bereaved and blinded by her loss.  Even the earth can't know the power, from which quakes and flowing fire will come, that the sky has interned in her belly.  For, what made the gulch man crooked and bent the gravel into the shadow, but a garden of holders given to this prairie, a weight to be borne by the infrequent daughters and sons of spiraling sky eyes and tree lungs?  

And the mourners will lose their minds asking, Where did this one come from!  They'll pull their hair and stare, stilled, down the full length of country roads and feel a pulsing in their forehead.  And they'll wander past men like me toward a cold desert, new notches in their chest and a glinty spiral in their eyes, just beyond the crooked man's gulch and the last bend in the gravel.  And they'll walk to nowhere sometimes.


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