J. M. Scoville
The Mountain's Laughter is a Landslide
in the Seed Moon's Light
-for Katie Lou Flea Collar
All by myself,
I'd gone to hear acoustic music at the Neutral Ground Collective Coffeehouse,
tucked off, away from St. Charles Avenue,
in Uptown, New Orleans,
going exclusively to see Mike West (9th Ward Hillbilly)
and Myshkin (good ol' Folk-a-delia with a smidgeon of Crescent City groove),
had gone for no other reason than to kill a little time,
when I came across her. Sometimes when you come across a person, you know that is the person you just have to connect with or you'll be kicking yourself forever more. For a while, I watched her and was careful to not let her see me. She, too, was alone, snug in a dark wooden booth, drinking a fancy coffee drink. Being alone isn't a bad thing when Mike West and Myshkin are playing, because then you can concentrate on their lyrics. Even though she had the big Gothic ponytails sprouting from either side of her skull, even though she had the dark eye makeup and the intense lip-shticks, had the vinyl boudoir top all corset-like and latex mini skirt and big, bad boots, all done in the black colors, accompanied by vampy black and white striped tights, I knew it wasn't her. Even though that was what I saw, I knew she was more. Her tattoos were road signs faking vice as her facial piercings did the joke of hoops in the middle of her lower lip, one in her nose, and another in an eyebrow, before the ladder work of her ears. Sure she had the bondage chokers and bracelets and rings galore; sure it looked dangerously apocalyptic, industrial fetish, when the world is set on fire; and yeah, sure she held herself darkly in a haughty pose of a decadent coquette. She looked like a tourist just opening her spiked torture chamber purse, showing me it was all a big lie, that she was simply picking at something akin to a scab. It's okay to lie. That's why people call me "Gypsy' instead of "Phizz." That's why they can't see the Snow Leopards in my eyes. They can't see them because I don't let strangers see them. And everyone was a stranger before her. She was like the infamous Russian play The Sea Gull if it was performed in the garage of the local catholic school, where all the catholic girls lean against the walls wearing their plaid skirts and drinking their café au laits with chicory mixed into the coffee, fanning themselves and gossiping, while Anton Chekhov's Medvedenko confronted Masha on the dinky stage made of old tires, useless S & H green stamp books, and dead black and white televisions.
I stole from Chekhov to get in good with her right after the West/Myshkin set ended. I said, (Medvedenko:) "Why do you always wear black?" She smirked at me. I finished the theatrical exchange: (Masha:) "I am in mourning for my life. I am unhappy." It was perfect. We started right there to talk. I mean deep things. Right away. Leaving the dark woods of the saloon looking Neutral Ground to some back porch blues guitarist and her down-home cohorts, we went to the double-secret-secret hidden, ultra fascinating, folk art and old books in abundance of Borsodi's Coffeehouse. The owner did the normal thing of being a Zen monk by brewing our Turkish coffees and preparing our baklavas like it was a ritual, making sure time meant nothing to us. Time meant talk, meant finding out the difference between her and me. She found out that I was a thin Gypsy man, who could name most of the hostels in the U.S., who cooks like Shiva lost in a winter of snow leopards. As I had guessed, I found out she wasn't the sepulcher vixen, not the unholy bitch, not the slut going broke morally; rather, she was the artist on the verge of freakdom, doing the Psycho-Jezebel-Hex-Sabbat-Sodom-Cryptic-Gotha, not for suicidal bliss, but just for thrills, kicks, and the occasional licorice drop. We both began to lose our disguises. By dawn, we had walked and talked to the river. By the next week, she had given up on mourning her life, discarding her death garb for the Baladi, Zills, and Zagaree of Arabic dance. Actually, we both started taking lessons together, to each be a belly dancer in our own right. By the next month, she had moved up to MidCity from Bywater, sharing the shotgun house I was renting. We used these old parachutes we got cheap at the army surplus store and dyed them orange and yellow and green and purple, making a wall in the single bedroom to give us a bit of privacy. The wall was so delicate, the slightest hint of wind could part it--our walls so delicate even the wind could part them.
"She has an innie," I whisper often. "I've always loved innies."
But never pierced, never recklessly hip or commercial, not
the pop tart trend.
To me, un-jeweled, naked belly buttons
are the grace of true sex appeal, which she has.
Nothing foreign has ever settled in that lovely hole.
Giving up on the Goth,
my giving up on the Gypsy,
her name is Syn
and I am Phizz.
And now to how we got underground
(some four months since the Neutral Ground).
We arrived in daylight
quickly giving way to dusk
soon giving way to the wide Veronika Luna
of a Seed Moon
just before the Pagan holiday
of Beltane, the Eve of May Day,
driving northwest from The City to the rurals
of Louisiana in Tangipahoa Parish
in my station wagon smelling of nag champa incense,
exposing my granola roots.
I knew my cornrows didn't look that good.
It was a joke I couldn't get out of at work,
where I tend the organic produce section
of our non-chain health food store.
Syn manages the vegetarian café
in the same veggie joint. She has quit
the Hell's Kitchen work in the bondage cafés of the Quarter,
replacing frozen ingredients with fresh vegetables and whole grains
which are locally grown, organic
when possible, and always prepared fresh daily.
She wants everything to be all natural
as the African caterpillars fall from the oak trees
and climb up on her bicycle,
burning her leg the exact shape of the caterpillar
like a tattoo cooked into her skin.
It's still there on her lovely leg,
below the knee,
as we lay below the ground,
practicing to be dead.
of male and female
(of Pan and Nymph for us)
in woods, in harmony, admitting
we'll be together for a good spell.
I think I like this woman
and I think she likes this goatboy man
Coming from a good distance, coming from another parish, crossing over like we were meant to traverse over the rhetoric of borders, crossing what men have divided and renamed, when nature knows no names, we traveled in my old station wagon, listening to the Canadian geese behind us--always behind us, just out of sight, blocked from us by the cypress and southern pine, the oak and long leaf pine. That was before the Mountain ambushed us, before we knew mountains did exist in this terrain. Before we discovered other human beings, mostly redesigned as still lives on the rainbow walls of the farmhouse Syn located at the end of an alternative health rag's free events column which she found in our store mere days before we set out for our journey from Orleans Parish. We found more than we could sow . . . faster than we could sew up one's lips. We being me in my soul patch/jazz dot hovering over my goatee because I have the satyr's rut of a goat and Syn, my girlfriend, in her Hungarian leaves rippling about her soft, Columbian eyes, while posed as the Egon Schiele muse of effortless bending. Here was where we all met our gloomy, cornstalk high and lean host with his One Dead Eye turned west like Egyptian death. Stars covered his arms, comets streaked across his wrists like suicide attempts, a blackhole permeated his wasted socket, a scar decorated his lower throat, strangely reminding me of Yukio Mishima, and he dressed like a Hindu ascetic--all worn out and wrinkled, all burnt by the sun and perpetual psychedelic new years, all rusty and missing of parts like a used up Magic Bus where the driver is the last hippie to call himself a hippie, remembering the sunshine, rainbows, long haired hippie chicks and old time free love, all patchouli-esque, all bed of colorful flowers.
But his hope had become hopelessness,
his peace had taken on a menacing smirk,
and his flower children lay in shallow holes,
just over the weird little makeshift bridge that reminded me of my lonesome childhood along a lake near the sand dunes. No flowers could have survived here. Everything was wilted, dried, worthless--except the indoor pictures on his walls. Even his garden produced only piles of empty dirt, a harvest of zilch, a crop of nada, zip, nope. He lived in a desert surrounded by rich green woodlands, denouncing his spread as an anti-oasis, a radioactive cesspool, a crime scene. Only the Mountain hung out and seemed not to give a damn. I'd say he was an old, eccentric hermit, a wild man unable to touch his heart. I hope this makes sense, some kind of start prior to my telling of what happened after we found no bonfire, no drumming circle, no where to speak to the no-thing-ness eddying in our souls as a spirit guide after I sighted the grazing werewolves and we had to make our own vegetarian meal. We didn't trust his utensils nor his pans or the stuff in his fridge and cupboards, thinking everything of his was either contaminated or cursed by dark magic. Our supposed feast comprised of my spicy black beans, salsa, and the flour burritos we'd brought. Nothing more. Where were the cornstalk, one-sighted-man offerings? Where were his foods to be shared by all of us?
This is not what the little advertisement promised:
Pagan, Vegan Potluck.
Maybe a Bonfire.
Drum Circle under the Full Moon
Out on an Earth-Friendly Commune,
where there will be Dancing & Singing.
Trout Fishing in America House.
Call for Directions.
Syn called, got the directions. Now we see them as a lure, as some sort of bait that led us to his porch. We became moths, smelling the aroma of cooked cous cous mixed with the pungent scent of sinsemillia, both of which haunted the two stories of the old farmhouse without any cannabis being evident. There were no bongs or pipes lurking, no rolling papers carelessly laid by his PC, and no abundance of cheap, disposable lighters littering the counters. We were stranded there, beneath moonlight. And I--in my lousy stardust head, measuring cornstalks with my fingertips--knew the arugula werewolves were close by, eavesdropping, making like eyewitnesses for their detective notes. Then, of course,
the Mountain did something
no one saw,
burying us under several layers of mud and debris.
We weren't even done with our burritos. We hadn't yet howled the moonsong challenging the wolfman's blues. Wolfman saw us go under. Shrugging his shoulders, he took his grave digging shovel and headed south, mumbling something sordid about a date with a Cajun gal along the Gulf Coast and that he should set out immediately, leaving no time to help us. His canine pack of misfit wolves picked up their rucksacks bathed in lunacy and all went their different ways, making all kinds of racket. It was like a documentary about harmonicas and banjos, seeing them go that way, seeing them through the dirt and mud and debris of the old Trout Fishing in America farmhouse we had visited before a Mountain made itself known to us. And now, the stillness sits across us--except for the budding of cicadas entertaining melodies and the occasional green glowing dots of lightning bugs. We are quiet in the way gravestones are very quiet. We are restless for the last bites of our meal. But our One Dead Eye host doesn't need any refueling. He is already deceased, already departed, already gone and existing between his two worlds--underworld/overworld--as morning dews give way to gaining humidity, while winter lays dead in the trunk and spring ruffles her wings like a ravenous hawk. Undermining mortality, he has control over the lifeless, making every moment a day of the dead, recreating every moment a jet black midnight landscape matched merely by his jack-o-lantern grin. He has practiced the Old Ways away from the commercial Voodoo ceremonies that become tourist traps frequented by the Anne Rice vampire connoisseurs and Marie Laveau wanna-bes getting their info from romantic fictions and popular television and the plastic, American visitors needing a black magic fix to take back to their lives in homogenized places where sterility doubles as civic pride. This is not the Quarter, not the safe, expensive, fake, guided Voodoo tour. Our Cyclops host isn't paid by the gig nor the hour and is the One with a Dead Eye, the Sighted One with hardly Any Sight. His shirt is the shade of swarming fire ants.
the Cyclops did not
I know the werewolves came and went like a herd of cats; I understand that the Mountain has a soul and is as real as Syn and as me. There is another presence here. Rather done up, ready to do more harm than any Mountain could to any single man or woman, because he is the creator of our Zombie host and can see through walls with his eyes closed. His name is Bokor. He is a Bokor--a sorcerer. Bokor came out of the home movie our host was showing us upstairs. Outside, I could see the dead magnolia tree killed by the last lightning storm cradling the full Veronika Luna (spreading her seeds) when I looked out of the window. Upstairs, as we ate our vegetarian burritos and the Zombie abstained and the Mountain felt himself growing sick from the trouble of eating his noontime dinner, we saw how One with a Dead Eye was born. It was a homemade movie of his birth; and, like amateur movies of this kind, the camera work was poor. It hopped about, giving Bokor some friction as he delivered the dead body into a Zombie from the crawfish ground and got the dead arisen. Hopping about, Bokor started to grin. He hopped about so much, he found he could leap out of the homemade movie and did so, landing on both feet, on the other side of the tall screen, with us. The Sighted One with hardly Any Sight, overjoyed, said, "This is my birth . . . This is my PawPaw Bokor delivering me. See his rubber gloves? DOCTOR . . . Doctor. See him step out of the movie to join us?" "Hello," beamed Bokor. "Thank-you for inviting me, Son of a Gun."
The Bokor can play patty-cake
with the duality of The Devil Bahometh,
doing hopscotch with le grand Zombi snake
wrapped thrice about his extensive neck,
and calls the newly dead up and about
as his Zombies to play hide-n-seek.
He is authentic, chatting with Baron Carrefour along the crossroads, stitching Eruzulie's doll to guide her voodoo powers to a victim's might. Nevertheless, he is poor, feeble, and sick in his mind, needing others to enact his will. Inviting strangers like us, he uses the guise of that health rag ad suggesting a peaceful, vegetarian meal and drumming circle, to become his specimens. When he greeted us, under his breath, I heard him utter a slow sound becoming the word spec-i-mens. We thought we were his guests and went to work trying to befriend him. Like a scientist, he lied to our faces. We thought he was our chum; he knew we were his vudu stew . . .
"But where are the drums for drumming?" asked Syn, brushing back her long, straight hair. I can hardly remember her in her thick Gothic ponytails, wearing black vinyl and latex. No music inhabited the air nor were there any instruments laying about. This definitely wasn't the scene for a drum circle. The Zombie Cyclops and the not-yet-laughing Mountain didn't even look like they could play an instrument. Or if they tried, it would all be off tempo, out of sync, off rhythm, damaging everyone's eardrums. I went out on my own to remedy this lack of tunes. The musicians materialized over in the corner, unimpressed, on the beat up stereo system. They played their darbuka, tar, def, beledi, claves, oud, psaltery, arghul, mizmar, etc--instruments of the Near East that I read about in the liner notes. When the cassette tape finished, I imaged that the musicians needed to take a rest around the giant water pipes of their hookah forest, so I didn't flip it to the other side. Our Cyclops host, wearing cricket chirping colored suspenders and britches the hue of a copperhead snake's strike, tried to grin, breaking off a chunk of decaying lip in the attempt. He put on a CD by a tribal underground band I knew from San Diego. "Do you like them?" he asked. "Yes," I told him. "I have even written a poem for them." "I've seen them, when they’ve come for Fat Tuesday and play in New Orleans," he confessed, almost mournfully, as if he was missing his other life before "PawPaw Bokor." "Crash Worship." I had never heard two words set side-by-side and uttered with such earnestness before. It practically made me cry for him. How stupid. Crying for a Zombie who has trapped me in his own grave.
In the southlands of Louisiana, there is merely a monkey hill in the zoo to pretend, for the kids' sake, that one knows mountains. Unobstructed, we could stand on our new found Mountain and survey the flat horizon, looking out across flatlands of a compromising low lands, to New Orleans. One could almost see the Mississippi River, see the Gulf, see Cuba, if it wasn't for all the oak trees and southern pines and cypress and long leaf pines acting like a great big wall of wilderness or a drive-in theater screen playing The Bayou Beast of Pontchatoula.Before laughter, uncomfortable with indigestion, the Mountain hiccupped, signaling the animals of the lands surrounding our wasteland to flee, to evacuate, to take whatever they could grab for an escape. The locals felt the warning in their bones. The locals being: wide awake deer ticks, restless fire ants, coiled copperhead snakes, comfy cottonmouth snakes, sleepy box turtles, fishing egrets, hungry pileated woodpeckers, dozing cardinals, foraging red fox squirrels, nervous nutria, oblivious armadillos, waddling striped skunks, digging cottontails, rutting razorbacks, etc. Also present are the mosquito hawks (eating white striped mosquitoes), lightning bugs (signaling the will o’ the wisp), love bugs (linked stern to stern) and cicadas (electric fence waves of crashing sound). Winter has shifted into spring, which means they have all stirred and awakened into life.
But the possums
as is their nature,
causing the Mountain to pause in its hiccups, to forget its indigestion, to laugh at the poor little darlings who get so scared they blackout, causing the Mountain to laugh so hard it heaved up its laundry, opening like an After Christmas Sale at the shops in the local mall when everything has gotta go to make room for the new spring fashion parade of disposable merchandise . . .
dislodging southern noontime dinner, bringing up red clay from deep down in its belly, shaking the land until all we knew was it's landslide.
No snake God
came to intervene
to save the snakes,
no St. Francis, only
St. Jude, the saint
of lost causes, telling
everyone, "You have to
The Mountain, feeling better, kept laughing a good bit longer. It couldn't stop itself. A good joke had to end in a long, good laugh with tears in its eyes and dribble running out of the corners of its mouth. It laughed so hard a bit of gob became a projectile, shooting some red clay, a few boulders, and a colony of fire ants way across the parish into the next. For a moment, the Mountain resembled a volcano. But that was the only thing that flew, except the fleeing birds, winged bugs, and bats. The possums woke up, looked about, and skedaddled before the long arms of the mudslide brought uprooted evergreens and lightning bolt killed oaks, old discarded cars and deserted hunting camps, illegally dumped garbage and roadside stand wooden boxes, a billboard still advertising one of the Longs and a road sign telling everyone not to drive on the shoulders of the road, and so much more, down towards the possums to bury them as seeds in a garden that is warning of a fruitless yield. The possums went east or west, maybe south or north, above the ground, with the other above ground critters, as the snakes, fire ants, and crawfish went down, to run away from the avalanche in their own way.
It is written
or so they say;
it is spoken
or so I've heard:
it takes a Bokor's magic before there can be a Zombie.
The Zombie is an unprepared and abandoned corpse. The Bokor has to actually utter the cadaver's name and the carcass has to answer him back before a Zombie can get up and out of the grave, to rise up and be animated.
as in a slave
to his wizard's will,
a tool just like a hammer.
But can this hammer think?
Know . . .
Bokor the sorcerer has been singing long, commandingly loud about hoodoo to the ceiling of this place, which is our tomb, not yet speaking our names. The Voodoo resurrected, with no lips sewn together so he can answer back to Bokor, keeps in mind his nativity: "Bokor! I hear you call my name." The Mountain Laughter still echoes the Zombie's pledge: "Bokor! I hear you call my name-aim-aim-aim-aim . . ." It is in the note of C minor, of breadcrumbs fallen to the floor during ravenous consumption by the undead for the mice, pigeons, cockroaches. Bokor, having his orange flaming eyes, dresses hep, wearing a baggy red suit that drops down low, with the white skull and cross bone buttons, double breasted, and the black tie answering "why", while his shoes are so slick one always thinks of Lounge, of El Diablo kool, of the nice little hatcheck girl in the tiny dress.
Then, of course, yeah, you think of the corkscrew in the shaft of his magnificent cane, perfect to make the hatcheck girl giddy. You hear the pop of the wine cork being released and know something naughty is about to happen. You think, yeah, he's Jazz, done all over the hatcheck girl's dress, in the back, behind the fancy coats. Yeah, he's Blues, echoing in cigarette smoke, when the hatcheck girl's husband catches him between her pearly pillars, gunning him down, before he can even think right. Oh, yeah, baby, this is the Bokor. That never happens to Bokor--no way. He's too slick. He's the one with the bowler head gear and the neat cane that swings around and breaks the husband's hand before the trigger can be pulled, then up with the golden La Muerte handle, breaking the hatcheck girl's man's jaw like its glass. Oh, look, he's been messed up. You better call an ambulance. Yeah, this is a Bokor, with his dress shirt open and his ancient beads of Africa, Brazil, Haiti, passed to him from grand master Bokors, who knew everything and never got anything wrong. All gone. Only a few, like him, know some of their names. This is Voodoo, the life force, the thing you feel in your blood, when he dips his sacraments in the rivers of the sacrificed, speaking the names of those that have died as he brings the symbols of his Gods and Goddess to his flesh, decorating himself for war. His Gods and Goddess watch proudly from behind the Mountain, knowing where to step to avoid what will become of this dried, burnt, dead land after the landslide comes. They see all, because they have already been here before. Or so the Zombie tells us as in a story before bed, to get us to sleep, to get us relaxed, before being born again in resurrection, becoming his sister and brother. I already have a sister and need no others. Syn already has a sister, needing no one else for her family.
This is against our wills.
We listen to this . . .
while buried . . .
alive . . .
Our saliva blending the dirt into wet clay for the making of primal pots. Dried, they will collect rainwater. We will not go thirsty for much longer.
The Mountain declares himself brave, declares himself a warrior like Hanuman (like Hanuman the monkey warrior) and says he would when he can't because (can't you guess?) he's a Mountain and only moves slightly, destroying with his actions, far from being brave and heroically historic. He can't move without hurting something or himself. Brothers and sisters, the moon is highest tonight--we know--is esbat all over this country--we understand, not seeing a cloud in the sky to obstruct the full luna's presence. It reminds us of snow, of snow leopards lying across the earth, sleeping, carpeting the ground, and enabling us to go barefoot if we hadn't already been swallowed. All the animals--domestic and wild--are feeling the urge for spirit, making a commotion with their howling and prowling, reminiscent of the rutabaga werewolves who abandoned us to our fate. No other people have come, none have gathered beyond our sleepy grotto to play their drums and burn their fires to the sister moon, to the man in the moon, to Radar Men From The Moon--Rocket Man has rusted next to the Tin Man and can't save the planet from its feminine self.
The Cyclops starts in on some humming, something he learned along some French sounding bayou in one of the three parishes where once a year ugly Creole tomatoes become sweet, letting us forget our danger for a couple of moments. One of the rutabaga werewolves returns and makes rummaging sounds before bending down, over my head, close to the slide, to speak to our underground captivity. He asks, "Y'all know you've been caught by a mudslide and have been buried alive?" "Yeah, sure," I respond, sounding like it happens to me all the time, just like a good crawfish. "Y'all are trapped," he inserts as if the two of us didn't already know this. "We know." "We? How many are there?" "One, two." "My, oh, my . . . two claws full." "Syn, my beloved Xer, and, of course, me." "Of course"--repeated as a cliché. "Shucks, sorry," he says. "You could dig us out." "Nah." "Why not?" "I have a bad back. My physical therapist would kill me." "Okay . . . You could go for help." "Too much work." "Why are you here?" "I forgot my boots when we split. I guess they got buried, too." "I have them right here!" "Liar." "No, they're right here. If you dig me--" "It's not gonna happen, pappy," he barks, before launching a bloodcurdling howl to the bright Veronika moon, then bounding away.
Sure, I was lying.
We are nearly drowned, underground, breathing through the oxygen reaching us between the cracks of dirt, buried like caskets in a poor cemetery where graves rise during flooding rains of the below sea level Big Easy, coming up to flip open and give their dead denizens air and a sight of the lands of the living. We are submerged alive and are kept from the moon as she comes and the day moves someplace else. It is night, but illuminated! This much is told to us by the Gulf-kissed air, by the language reaching our sunken lungs. It is obvious, we can't move very much, only as far as earthworms can travel in the same allotted time. Held to where the landslide reached us--held in confidence, held in purgatory . . . My station wagon and the nag champa incense are entombed down here. The rest of the burrito fixings and the farmhouse that smelled like sinsemillia smoke with the title of a Richard Brautigan book as its tag have become subterrestrial, have gone underfoot of the pair still walking about above ground. It is our fate to remain and wait. We wait listening to the Mountain's long stories of adventures in lands he shall never see, we will never see unless we can free ourselves. We pretend to accept the Zombie's--for it is his unsophisticated, underground settlement where we are kept--earthen rooms of empty Gods and sad Goddesses, bleakly furnished, despondently decorated, miserably adapted for guests. We know this simple truth: we must move soon or never move again. Clandestinely, psychically, we hold a meeting, take a vote, decide how we must act and act soon. How? We want mosquitoes coming to us in the nocturnal light, between the cracks of dirt where the air has been traveling to our soiled lips. We want them as messengers, attempting to get us up and traveling away from being buried, resuscitated by pain, by the fever implied in their irritating stings to our complacent skin, extracting a little blood as a little payment for the good they do us in forcing us to flee into the moonlight. This will involve pain . . .
Yes, pain! Even our faces are covered by the Mountain's muddy Laughter, we must bring stings to our wrists, ankles, waists, to all the rest of our bodies! We must use pain like a weapon to piss ourselves off and break ourselves free. We can do it, can dig, can uncover ourselves and act like explosives. Shiva isn't moving . . . but Syn is . . . this girlfriend of the Gypsy man, who can cook like Shiva lost in a winter of snow leopards, can move, does move, and so does on the breaths of all the avatars born to this earth as Vishnu's will. She moves and will not listen to Bokor, only to the pagan night moving like rivers of sand upon her flesh, which has the capacity to lose more and more clothing, reminding us all of a Paul Delvaux nude. More and more, Syn unburies herself, until she reaches the air--the divinely cool, fresh breeze--breathing hard, taking it in her, surrendering to the infinity of oxygen. Compassionately, she beckons me to follow her, to undrape myself from the soil where I could be mistaken as the dead, transforming into a zombi before I have even died. It sounds right, except I have learned how to breathe through dirt, how to stay absolutely still. Stillness becomes my martial art. I have learned how to wait. The Zombie must be smiling because this is how he was caught. The Sorcerer must be smiling because this is how he caught the Zombie. Am I waiting for my name to be called? Am I waiting until my name is called? Will I answer, because my lips have not been sewn shut nor was I buried face down nor was I torn open or shot through the head or given poison to my heart? And my family isn't waiting at my grave for 36 hours. No one has done anything to prevent the Bokor.
I am alone,
with the worms
waiting . . .
Syn goes off to find a shovel to help me get out. I'm not sure if I can do it on my own.
Waiting . . .
I dream . . .
of Mr. Bones
doing a skeleton dance
to the music of Tom Waits
and the singing of William
S. Burroughs . . .
Waiting, the flying insects come to feed. They come to feed their children so their children will someday come and feed on me for their own children's welfare. I am a warehouse of feed for the coming biters of humanity. Irritations, so many blood wells are dug on my wrists, more to my waist, even more on my ankles. Skin swells and I want my hands free to scratch, to relieve the itches--
please, I can't take it.
Can't stand this aggravation,
can't afford to practice my martial art, must do something or die from excessive insect bites . . . The more I wait, the more swellings are given to me and I begin to resemble someone with a terrible case of chicken pox.
Oh, pl-ease, I'm beggin' . . .
This is--not right, can't do this sick shit, can't succumb to . . . Can't think, can't reason past my fingers reaching a couple of the inflictions . . .
Monkey-mind loose, can't hardly think . . .
Reacting, I must use this to get out of here. The Mountain's hand is patting my head while Bokor is clearing his throat . . . I hear my girlfriend overhead. She has returned. Unsuccessful in locating a shovel, she promises me she'll use her own dirtied mitts to dig me out, but I have to help. Low to the ground, she must be squatting or on her hands and knees, to tell me she sees Bokor and he's wearing a red double breasted coat with some "scary" beads from Brazil.
He says, "Brother . . ."
Has he forgotten my name?
"I mean," he corrects,
"John? Bob? Rob?"
Lacking concentration, or at least some easy research, Bokor is losing his chance with me. Even Syn is telling me this and encouraging my flight from underground. Her breath vibrates the soil. I can see her face through the cracks in the dirt. "But I want you to try first," she demands, before excavating, knowing my efforts to escape will become a pictogram of my love for her. Both of us have to have dirt under our fingernails before we'll believe it. Yeah, this is about being in love.
Waiting . . .
finishes like the wrecking ball smashing the bust of Marie Laveau in my forehead. I am an emerging plant, a black-eyed Susan seeking room to grow as if I am a child of the wildwoods, measuring myself by my conversations with sunrays.
Pushing through my soil prison walls,
I reach up . . .
and am not a Susan, instead, I am an arugula,
with newly sprouted leaves,
and receive the cold night air
"Sam! That's it! SAM!"
and bright moonlight upon me.
I pull myself further,
take out my legs and step out onto the land as amphibian,
as ape, as the man
"Albert . . ."
I was when I first came to this place of Laughing Landslides. Coming to me, Syn bathes my flesh in the pink calamine relieving lotions and I start to forget what the mosquitoes have done to my body. Almost normal, I smile. I enclose my girlfriend in my arms and kiss her neck in the way she loves, sending shivers through the fathoms of her whole being.
Bokor is jumping about his camp,
enraged, demented, out-of-control,
because he has missed his chance with me,
has forgotten my name
and tried to trick me by calling me various wrong names.
I will not be fooled--ha, ha!
Heh, heh . . .
The Zombie is confused. His once great master has shown he can miscalculate. The Zombie is still missing his careful grave and the visits he knows his mother makes every afternoon. He misses her deep, comforting voice, her simple stories of their family, and the fresh smell of gardenia flowers she brings. Miscalculating, Bokor turns his back on the Zombie and the walking dead walks away. Next time he won't answer Bokor's call.
The damn orange flaming eyes have always belonged to the sorcerer as his talisman and are glaring at me, while the farmhouse continues to act like a subterranean sleeping dog. My station wagon is down there, too, lost, irretrievable--way down, under our feet, buried by the landslide with many other things. We feel it in the ground, feel the activity rising from our toes to our ears . . . To get away involves an effort by me. To seize the damn orange flaming eyes, Bokor will have to concede, permitting our getaway. I tell Syn nothing, I just do.
I make my move
and squeeze the damn
orange flaming eyes,
temporarily blinding Bokor,
creating him into
Siamese Twin Blackholes.
Spinning Bokor around
thinking of that old '80s song,
I yell for Syn to "GO!"
Adding, "GO TO HELL!"
to the wizard.
Of course, I'm smiling, wearing the giggling dog's grin, as the sorcerer spins off towards a silly hole. He weaves right before falling left, out of sight; probably down into the merciful pit. The whole scene looks like he had been swallowed by the hungry ground or had suddenly dissipated into thin air for the sake of the night air's evening snack of human flesh.
He is over . . .
My girlfriend has been busy getting a beat up pickup truck to stop and give us a lift. She dashes to the passenger seat, leaps in and slams the door as I plunge into the exposed back bed, ready for anything, not wanting to sit in the enclosed cab and be restricted. The open-air rear suits me fine. The driver is covered in grease, oil, and grime from the steel toes of his work boots to the bill of his baseball cap. He smokes a cigarette and drinks an Abita beer, initially not saying much to either of us. Naturally inclined to being neighborly, he soon offers his stash and we all get beers from his six-pack to guide our thirsts home. Of course, I wave away an offered cigarette. Syn doesn't and pretends she's the Cigarette Smoking Man. He says he'll take us all the way to St. Tammany Parish, by the long Causeway Bridge, where we can get a lift from some friends that live by the Lakefront. We slide out onto where the road becomes gravel, soon becoming civilized and paved. A street sign tells us where we are. Soon, joined by a city sign and some stop signs, civilization's business cards are all over the place. The arugula werewolf gang is nowhere to be seen, giving me a sense we've made a successful breakout from our earthen jail while the land flattens out before us.
HOW'S IT GOING BACK THERE?"
Syn shouts out the passenger window
with the wind going past at 65 mph.
I holler right back at her
but my words are thrown back to me,
caught in the speed, never making it up front
to the cab. It's always hard to talk
when you're in the bed of a pickup.
We're passed by another vehicle, a soul unrelated to the Mountain Laughter scenario we had just survived, allowing me to feel better and safer, more like regular people driving on a country road, not fearing Voodoo ambitions. Breaking out of the Mountain's jive, we're on the move, getting away, performing a clean getaway. We use the full Seed Moon to see past what the headlights can show. We see beyond the empty Gods and sad Goddesses of Bokor's faith, with their thumbs out on the side of the road, trying to hitchhike to someplace else. They've given up on this particular Bokor and need the charity of us, meager mortals. It's not gonna happen. We jet past them, pretending we never even saw them, enabling us to avoid their Voodoo curses. Someone will see them, stop, and give them a ride. Or they'll cross the median, hop a train and freeze their butts off to New Orleans, where they can start a cult of the dead on Magazine Street. The Voodoo hierarchy from near Pontchatoula Creek, in Tangipahoa Parish, has many options. We have few and opt to go home to Orleans Parish.
* * *
Now residing happily north of New Orleans with the tired laughing girl and three dogs, J. M. Scoville is a former tortilla baker in a Mexican foods factory, farmhand, political cartoonist, barista, puller on a shrimp boat, bookseller, busboy in a Chinese restaurant, produce manager, massage bootlegger, etc. Twice he has almost died. Once when attempting to swim across Silver Creek (whose environs suffered recently in the Sour Biscuit fire in Oregon), he was caught by an undercurrent and carried a good distance towards the rapids. The second time was when he was driving up a Fire Service road with a friend to the fire lookout tower on Bald Knob. The car fell off the mountain. Only a four-inch tree and two small boulders saved his car from falling several hundred feet. There were no other trees or rocks for fifty yards either way, keeping J. M. Scoville alive to be published in this publication. Most recently his work has appeared in the newly defunct Freudian Shrimp, with a promise of publication in the next issue of Mesechabe. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.