. I remember
. the moon
. was sinking
. and you pushed
. up with
. your hands
. “witch” i said
. and you kissed me
A past-life regression scene (medieval) from Hippies …
Jazmine closed her eyes and began to disappear into the tan acid. Her hips ached. And the joints in her fingers. Bagpipes and bone flutes, tumblers in procession past the front arches of the small church. The circus people were making as much noise as possible to attract an audience, and annoyed geese scattered at the pipes and timbrels, flapping themselves in half-flight to the patchwork warren of rutted alleys and streets spreading out on either side of the church. Jazmine was tempted to smirk at these itinerant performers. “Damned be all these gypsy tramps,” she was thinking. She felt an arthritic pain shoot through her left hip. “So this is what it feels like to be an old woman,” she thought, as she faded into the avatar of a hobbling crone. She eased her aching bulk onto a small, rough-hewed stone wall. “Damn their money-grubbing ways.” A few townspeople gathered about the square as the gypsies circled: artisans in bright tunics and hose, monks in plain brown robes, housewives with gowns and shawls and white caps tied in the back. The traveling circus had caught wind of the Lord Bishop’s visit and smelled a chance to get what copper coins and bartered goods they could from visiting curiosity-seekers and from proud locals, whose native severity was known to yield to a more festive spirit on such occasions. Whether they deserved the old woman’s damnation for thus seeking a ration of daily bread we will leave for the philosophers to decide.
“Ach! Christ’s blood!” said the crone, and she cackled out in laughter. “We’s all the same, aye. Gypsies, Christian, heathens. We draw people in to visit our pretty church so we can take their money in our shops; the gypsy ragamuffins come to take our geld.”
As she rubbed her crusty feet, one at a time, a box turtle wandered through a breach in the stone from the dry grass behind. It plodded along but stopped to look at her skeptically. She kicked it with surprising force for an arthritic, and it landed upside down on its shell, spinning for a moment like a coin. “And damn all the devil’s vermin too.”
This wholesome exercise with the turtle seemed to give her strength. She stood, pulled a twig of oregano, pinched and put it into her pocket, and began hauling herself, hip by hip, past the timber-framed houses thatched with straw and heather. “Aye, hell is for saints and sinner alike. All be damned is justice served. Aye, but what’s this?”
She stopped suddenly and looked diagonally across the square. Jeremiah – Rebecca’s Jeremiah, William’s apprentice – loitered by the irregular limestone blocks of the church’s wall, near the rounded arch of a heavy wooden side door. The crone peered closely and kept up her muttering.
“Aye, I know thy craft. But my boy, my only son, William, is too good for thee. Thou’st so smart with that Rebecca, so cheery, but I know the game. You two’s can be quiet and sneak and talk. Aye, but others can sneak too. And listen. I can hear the demons, Jeremiah and Rebecca. I heard thy devil words, thy will to get rid of William – she the orphan wench that William took in when her curséd father was beat to death. Aye, beat to death fairly for a witch. And now the wench to plot with Herr Brighteyes against my William.”
She crinkled up her voice in mockery. “‘We’ll be free of him tomorrow,’ says he. ‘But what of the Mohametman boy,’ says she. But wait!”
A brown-skinned boy, barely a teenager, had joined Jeremiah at the side of the church. Draped over his small frame was an absurdly rich gown of black and purple, finely trimmed in gold with geometric patterns. Sandals filled smooth, beautiful brown feet. That he was engaged in some secret discourse with Jeremiah was beyond question.
“So that’s the Mohametman to do the trick. A lamb, he appears. Aye, but my William shall not be anyone’s lamb.”
The old woman hitched in closer. She pulled the oregano from her pocket, along with seven scalded black beans she had placed there earlier, and rubbed them vigorously together between her hands to make herself invisible, as local lore would have it. She crept still closer. Jeremiah looked flustered. “In a few hours,” she heard the Mohametman boy say. “After the Lord Bishop’s audience with the Burgermeister.” She was all ears, but her bean-scalding technique must have fallen short, because she was startled by a princely horseman on her heels who apparently found her quite visible.
“Hold thy course, woman,” commanded the horseman. It was Darian, the son of the Lord Bishop, in his own noble dress on a chestnut mare.
“What is thy name, woman?”
“Don’t fool with me. Thy proper name.”
“Guda is my given name m’lord, but all call me Gammer these twenty years past ‘a child-rearing. The other old ladies is Gammer Elsa and Gammer Kate and such, but Gammer Guda is too much for the tongue, your honor. My old man used to say, ‘Christ’s blood, Guda, if ever in thy …’”
Darian cut her off. “Dare you taunt the Lord Bishop’s son with such a blasphemous oath! I should whip thee here and now for thy insolence.” He cracked his whip to emphasize the point.
“Oh, Jesus, m’lord, I mean no insolence. The Lord Bishop is a gentleman, to be sure. As fine a gentleman as that rascal before him, in faith …”
“Hold thy tongue! That man hard by at the church wall just now. Thou wert watching him. Is he of thy household?”
“No kin of mine, m’lord. I wouldn’t claim such a bright-eyed demon for all …”
“What business has he with my father’s boy?”
“How call you him a bright-eyed demon? What knowst thou of him?”
Guda could see that she had revealed too much already. But there was nothing to do but go on.
“Know him!! God’s wounds, m’lord, how should I know him? One can tell by his looks he’s a clever one, m’lord. Lord Jesus bless me if I know such a creature. My old man …” At this second reference to her long late husband – for husband he was in all things but the law – she made the sign of the cross to impress her inquisitor. “My old man used to say when Old Nick gets in a body …”
“God damn thy old man! May he rot in hell!” exclaimed Darian, perturbed by the crone’s loquacity and perhaps exercising with his own oath a right reserved for his rank.
The chestnut mare gave a quick, sudden snort, startling Guda a second time. She staggered but continued.
“Oh, Jesus, m’lord, she’s a pretty one, she …”
Darian wheeled away, unable to withstand the chatter, and in his wake, Guda saw that the Mohametman boy had parted, and Jeremiah had made it just a few steps before Rebecca herself had joined him.
The first question people always ask me about Hippies is whether this romp through the psychedelics and sexual liberation and ideals, the music scene and the war scene, all the darkness and all the light of the late 1960s, is autobiographical. And am I like Ragman or Ziggy or Tex, etc.?
It’s not exactly autobiographical in that sense. But I draw from autobiography on every page. I am a bit part in every character. But perhaps this is tautological. Perhaps every artwork with more than one character is a kind of psychomachia, all characters projecting different aspects of the writer’s soul or psyche. Perhaps this is not just a psychological necessity (creative arts are after all self-expression) but a metaphysical one as well. How metaphysical? If all the people of the world – past, present, and future – are so many surface expressions of the single personality of godhead, then the whole great drama, the extended “vanity fair” of human history, is one great psychomachia. And divine history, too, as the figures that populate the collective imagination are just as much expressions of godhead as the figures that populate physical reality. Indeed, the figures of imagination may be more intimate expressions of godhead, as Jung’s collective unconscious transcends the individual psyche and gets one step closer the universal Psyche.
At least this literary theory, this metaphysics, seems consistent with the cosmic laws governing the created world of Hippies. And perhaps that is enough.
moonlit river night,
breath of sage, ghost of silver
sharp eyes fill wet snow
Now available; click image for link.
Last day to get Hippies free on Amazon …
A new sample (“A process of self-discovery”) is below …
“Jazmine, the doctor,” said the woman benevolently.
Yes, the doctor, thought Jazmine. She could not grasp what doctor they were referring to, but it sounded right. Yes, of course, there was the doctor. She followed the woman into the house and through a rustic maze of hallways. They came out into a wood-paneled study, refreshingly lit by high windows with brown curtains pulled back. The small room was easily filled by the couch, two upholstered chairs, and a desk with a straight-back chair. The room looked familiar to Jazmine. A fortyish woman with tight lips and glasses stood and stepped around from the desk when Jazmine came in.
“How are you feeling today, Jazmine?”
“I think I’m a little better, Dr. Meyer.” Yes, she recognized Dr. Meyer now. It was all coming back to her. “Definitely a little better. I guess it just takes a while for things to fall back into place.”
“Yes, that was quite an event you had, Jazmine.” She sat in one of the upholstered chairs and gestured for Jazmine to sit on the couch.
“You were quite broken down. Do you remember where you were when we found you?”
“Not exactly. I mean, it’s coming back but not completely. We were sleeping in the car in a parking lot. A train station parking lot. I got out to go use the bathroom in the station. But something in the station. Something horrible. It made me think that the car wasn’t a car. It was a box. It was all some big mistake. I needed to get out and get away from that box. I remembered I needed to get to another station to meet someone. I needed to get to Rhinecliff. Everybody said to go to Rhinecliff Station. Somehow I got there.”
“Yes, good,” said Dr. Meyer. “Yes, you were in Rhinecliff. Do you remember talking to me about it?”
“Yes, now I remember. I’ve been here a few days. You and I talk about it every day at the same time.”
“Good. Now we just need to unravel the story backwards until it fits, until you remember the parts you’ve blocked.”
“It’s all coming back. The tan acid. I took the tan acid and it gave me weird flashbacks. I was in Medieval Germany. Rebecca was my name. There was some kind of divine thing in my body. It appeared like a disease, but it was divinity. It was like the divinity was in my body but I couldn’t feel it right. Like I was repressing something.”
“Yes, good, Jazmine. We’ve been through this, but now you’re awake, you see it yourself.”
“Yes, Meister Berold knew. He wanted to help me. And Jeremiah was going to help me. But something bad happened. Something bad happened to Ragman. But that’s where I lose the thread. Ragman was in a whole different time and place. New Orleans, recently.”
“Do you know what we found in your pocket, Jazmine?”
“Something. I can’t quite remember. I had some coins. A coin purse. I don’t know.”
“Do you remember what it was at the train station? The horrible thing?”
“No, no,” said Jazmine, becoming agitated.
“You’re close, Jazmine, we need to look at these things together, consciously, so you can control them instead of having them control you. Think, Jazmine, think. The train station. You put something in your pocket.”
“Yes, I put something in my pocket.” Jazmine was starting to break down again.
Don’t you want to know what it was, Jazmine? Are you ready now? Do you want to wait until tomorrow?”
“Yes, I want to know what it was. I’m ready. I can almost feel it in my hand. In my pocket. I had my hand in my pocket and was squeezing, crumpling. It was paper.”
“Good, Jazmine. I think you’re ready to cross the next bridge.”
Dr. Meyer stood up and stepped around the desk. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion to Jazmine. Her heart pounded. Dr. Meyer opened a drawer and took out a piece of crumpled paper. She started to come back around the desk. The slow-motion trauma was killing Jazmine. Would she never get around the desk?
Dr. Meyer sat back in her upholstered chair with the crumpled paper in her hand, resting on her lap.
“What was it, Jazmine? What was the paper you put into your pocket?”
Jazmine gasped for breath. “Ragman,” she whispered, and a flood of tears came. Dr. Meyer sat next to her on the couch and put her hand on Jazmine’s shoulder. She had not touched Jazmine before – perhaps there was some professional ethics thing about touching your patients – but Jazmine was grateful for the human touch.
With her other hand, Dr. Meyer held out the paper.
Astonished by a light refracted
in floating candles, the steps, a gesture,
a witching hour but the circle
broken, with blood and bone
broken, the moon shone
impassive, beautiful, cold
as the moon is, but
something broken, something
He approached; we all rejoiced,
not knowing what he might do.
Many years since in the reckless world we went
traveling their trains and fields of sweet rose bay
and silver-lined cities. Gears grind shards
of blood and bone and moon
destroying, creating, fixing the circle,
the cross, but no, not well, not
carefully enough, the wind
blowing through steps and through
empty spaces not even there,
silver, blood, bone,
He approached; we all rejoiced,
mindless of the terrible power that had
changed his countenance since Galilee.
We all rejoiced, praying, grasping, thinking:
this is r e a l l y going to be something.
from the new poetry chapbook (click to view)