Fri 26 Oct 2007
Do you still sing of the mountain bed we made of limbs and leaves:
Do you still sigh there near the sky where the holly berry bleeds:
You laughed as I covered you over with leaves, face, breast, hips and thighs.
You smiled when I said the leaves were just the color of your eyes.
Rosin smells and turpentine smells from eucalyptus and pine
Bitter tastes of twigs we chewed where tangled woodvines twine
Trees held us in on all four sides so thick we could not see
I could not see any wrong in you, and you saw none in me.
a long time ago, lifetimes ago, when i was someone i barely remember, i knew – and had the arrogance to tell him, sitting on my kitchen floor at 3 am well-past halfway through a bottle of Southern Comfort – that a part of him belonged to me.
because i knew it was the truth, and i knew it was the bravest thing i’d ever said aloud.
we didn’t touch then. we never did. we were spoken for, both of us, lives long entwined with others, and the twines of friendship with each other suddenly grown tight and choking and ill-fitted…too many taboos between us to call it love, to even begin to understand this thing that shone and confused and compelled, made me look for my own reflection in his eyes.
he left my kitchen floor, and went halfway back around the world. and a month later, in the fall when all was unravelling around me, he sent me this tune, these old Woody Guthrie lyrics set to song by Billy Bragg and Wilco…just the kind of thing we’d always sat up late and made the world spin with. we who would not look on love. we with this impossible, futureless tie. and i thought he was a fool, for not knowing it was a love song. and i thought i was a fool, for wishing it were.
Your arm was brown against the ground, your cheeks part of the sky.
As your fingers played with grassy moss, and limber you did lie:
Your stomach moved beneath your shirt and your knees were in the air
Your feet played games with mountain roots, as you lay thinking there.
Below us the trees grew clumps of trees, raised families of trees, and they
As proud as we tossed their heads in the wind and flung good seeds away:
The sun was hot and the sun was bright down in the valley below
Where people starved and hungry for life so empty come and go.
i thought, in that wretched September seven years ago, that if all i could have of him was our own metaphorical mountain bed, even if it were a kitchen floor, and those frozen moments of connection and actuation, even if ours were chaste, that it would be enough. better than never having. better than never making it up the mountain at all. yet i believed the dichotomy the song sets up, even though i’ve seen Bound for Glory and know Guthrie was relentless, a womanizer, and of course he wrote it like the mountain bed and the true love that feeds one’s soul is a place away from the breast of one’s woman and child. of course there are two women, and never the twain shall meet. and she, the muse, the friend…i wondered where she went when she came down down from the mountain bed. i wondered if anyone noticed the leaves in her hair. and i wondered if this were what he was trying to tell me, sending it to me. and yet still, i knew it was our love song, flawed as it was. flawed as we were, and hopeless, still we had made each other more just in the knowing.
There in the shade and hid from the sun we freed our minds and learned.
Our greatest reason for being here, our bodies moved and burned
There on our mountain bed of leaves we learned life’s reason why
The People laugh and love and dream, they fight, they hate to die.
The smell of your hair I know is still there, if most of our leaves are blown,
Our words still ring in the brush and the trees were singing seeds are sown
Your shape and form is dim, but plain, there on our mountain bed
I see my life was brightest where you laughed and laid your head…
I learned the reason why man must work and how to dream big dreams,
To conquer time and space and fight the rivers and the seas
I stand here filled with my emptiness now and look at city and land
And I know why farms and cities are built by hot, warm, nervous hands.
I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears,
I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here:
My history and future blaze bright in me and all my joy and pain
Go through my head on our mountain bed where I smell your hair again.
i remembered all this tonight, uploading pictures to flickr. of Oscar, covered in leaves this afternoon in the backyard, his father raking them high and spraying them forth in bursts, the crinkly decay of fall in the air, the shrieking of O’s laughter in my ears. and behind that, these chords, still burned on me. and though i never got to smell his hair that night on the kitchen floor, he washed over me again, these seven years later, suddenly and urgently, the minute i allowed the word “leaves” to play on my mind. and i laughed.
All this day long I linger here and on in through the night
My greeds, desires, my cravings, hopes, my dreams inside me fight:
My loneliness healed my emptiness filled, I walk above all pain
Back to the breast of my woman and child to scatter my seeds again.
i laughed because Woody Guthrie was wrong. but so was i. the threads of muse and partner are not necessarily ones that cannot be woven. and the impossible can come out of heartbreak, heartbreak several times over. we made our way, he & i, through many more bottles of various comforts and many more nights on floors all over the world…and the seeds have not been scattered so much as distilled. down to little faces, and earlier nights. but still, a part of him belongs to me, and i to him. and i would never, never have believed it…but here we are.
our mountain bed never existed, except in the eyes of two people who saw something in each other that both desperately needed seen, and not flinched from. and it is the place where Oscar was born, all the very same.