03. The Border Kingdom

(1)

We drive the dusty road
east from the mountains toward
the flat land not divulging
any secrets from this distance.

Still morning the intense sun
withers fallen vegetation and
quickly dissipates dew clinging to
cactus needles.

We have not spoken since the pass
where we studied the horizon
surveying what we left behind
and the road leading into the unknown.

(2)

Thousands of acres on both sides with
open fields fenced yet empty,
arid, harsh wind blows dirt, small
stones, and tumbleweed across the road.

I turn to say anything, to comment
on the traffic, and I think you are
asleep, at least drifted beyond the
shared space – I decide to remain quiet.

The morning sun has become the afternoon
companion we now follow as the road
veered west and rises toward the
cloud-free sky.

Mile 418. Unfolded, stained, torn map
found in the dumpster at the
last gas station says there is a town
and a river near. I see only tar and dirt.

(3)

I remember watching grayish skeleton limbs
against milky blue backdrop through
quarter sliced windows blocking
winter wind and snow

while you slept near the fire
on the black leather couch
you brought with
next to the dog you desired.

Your struggle became
more apparent to fit
two separate lives
until I relented.

(4)

I imagine not God’s kingdom
behind pearled gates transcended from mortal forms
meshed with forward singular time
wrapped in fear and repentance

but a kingdom earth bound
free of time, free of the wind
torn sands. Here dreams flow
spherically with no sense of direction.

(5)

And in the last dream I remember
the river flowed beneath skipping feet
chasing prophecies and false prophets,
spoken words and brutal lies.

I saw life fading away, fading into vastness
I tried to pull the visible strings together.
I saw a painted face in the sky above,
one of the many angry gods of war.

(6)

I see fire building
across the open field
and briefly invent an
overgrown empty field burning.

Before the shift
rumors crept into conversations
of the border kingdom
high in the mountains

a city of mist and rain
immune to desert wind.

Even the name gives birth
to images of purity and salvation.

A place to find and enter
leaving behind and never looking back.

(7)

In the dark days
darkened further by doubt
time slows, lengthens
pause between beats,

the space pulls strings
emerging from the mind
and eventually each pore
turning you inside out

until you do not know
you. Who is that in the mirror
and why are you staring at me?
What is this you are showing me?

That is not real, that is not me.
In your eyes you have one truth,
in mine I have another. What separates us
besides the glass mirror?

(8)

My faith began to waver
when grandpa passed.

Years spent building a foundation
enforced by dreams of winter
laying nuclear ash upon the
ground, vanished
when the vessel
released the soul.

We have become God’s of
individual domains defined by the
things acquired, captured, and scored.

I listen to words of peers and words of teachers.
The shaman speaks of reality and no reality, of mind control,
of the matrix infiltrating mind and spirit and becoming sleep,
unaware, lost, wandering that dark black path
through an empty field yet not realizing the empty field
is empty, the reasons for being empty, is the true path,
is our own creation.

Sigh…

When did this, this life
become this hard?

I listen to these words and in
the same breath know there is no
one way through the everlasting shift,
searching for my own salvation.

Like fragments
I choose the pieces that make sense
that ease the deep fire burning within.

This fire I must learn to harness,
to control, to bend, to shape

until I become the shape shifter
able to take back control.

(9)

We approach the border –
a wide river moving swift and cold –
and stop. Both looking through the
bug-encrusted windshield and our hands finally touch
to remember this last speck of civilization.

(10)

I used to dream day and night
of flying above the clouds into
upper reaches of the atmosphere closer
to other borders, other layers
of various gases, closer to the burning
sun and becoming cold and frozen
without direction, spinning,
until a different light skewed
my vision and stripped everything away
and I was able to fly unburdened and free.

(11)

I pause briefly just before
the bridge, a final thought
to be discarded, one less
burden we must bring with us.

We cross the border under
the new moon with shadows locked
safely away, to be revealed
when reaching the kingdom.