Cricket Writer

Roasting Gloom.

Rosti Sando and Zozobra
Tumble, Fall into the
Blood of Christ.

Missive Seventy-Three
By Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
September 10, 2002, at 1530 hours MDT.
Sante Fe, New Mexico, USA

How far away, how deeply under can one go?

Lingering smoke of the rosti sando, sweet and pungent in the heavy air of a lightly falling rain, tells me I have arrived at a different place. Green chilies by the bushel tumble and fall in their steel cage o'er the fire, roasting in the delicate mist of the morning, roasting with prudence and trust, roasting for the barren winter ahead.

Tuesday's rain is slow, persistent, embracing. At times it slips into a gentle mist. It caresses adobe and clay, bathes the late blooms of marigolds and blueberries of the juniper, quenches the parched earth's droughty thirst, and raises hope that the too-long dry spell might end for good.

I cannot see the Sangre De Cristos rising above Sante Fe as I did yesterday when the sun shone hot upon the undercurrents of passion. Grey clouds hang low now, render invisible the encircling peaks to all who cannot imagine how it once was, how it might be again in the inevitable act of transformation. Far away now from the comfort of the hacienda, I cannot see the smile of my true love's eyes. I can only remember.

Can gloom be cast asunder by the burning of effigy?

The pagans with wry help from lapsed Catholics and officialdom burned gloom to death at Fort Marcy Park five nights ago, but I could not bear to watch it. Zozobra had to die without me.

Burn the Puppet, Slay Gloom.

Not that I didn't aspire. In the late afternoon's beauty and serenity of an episode, I sought a path to the fire, thinking it would enlighten a long-favoured investigation of ritual. I would stand with the throng, scrutinize the artistry and mechanics of the fifty-foot-high puppet, bathe in the hot glow and smoke, and tie my psyche with leather and devils to the mood of the place, old Sante Fe on the night of Old Man Gloom's fiery death. My failure of purpose came quickly like a cloud of acid on a gust of wild wind. Too much of somebody else's gloom had been dumped in the pathway, right there on the sidewalk beside the Cathedral Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, and I didn't see it soon enough, the melancholy pile of disappointments, but stepped in it unawares, and it clung to me like burrs and stung like the bile of jellyfish, and rushed into my soul, and devoured my will to proceed.

Loneliness when it rushes upon a man will rip away his veneer of serenity and cast it to the ground, and all he can do is wallow and wail. Despair can come like an ambush, twist and turn the good things into wreckage, dance like a squalid jester on the proscenium of one's gloom.

He retreated, he arose, he watched the roasting men from Mexico toss fresh hot chilies into great burlap bags. He awoke from a slumberous lethargy to address the issues of so many empty pages, issues raised like stained glass icons upon the high wall behind the scaffold in the crumbling cathedral. So many artifacts needed repair. He saw the hungry women trade twenty-two dollars for forty pounds of rosti sando from the fertile fields of the Valley of Hatch. He watched the blood of Christ flow over the marble and glass of the sacristy.

It Demands: Stay the Course.

There was a cliché stuck on the south plaster wall of his room at the Silver Saddle, he was the only one who could read it because the circumspective limitaries had taught him how to decipher invisible inks; the cliché demanded, Stay The Course, but he was staggered by the mysteries the steep inclines jagged boulders and fissures claws and incisors they gnawed and gnarled so he wanted to lay down, just collapse pass away forget about it and rest in peace forever.

Some ancient urge called out: Skin Upon Skin, but he was cautious and reluctant. He was impassive and inscrutable on the hunt. He knew through experience the limits of pleasures of the flesh. He would require a formal invitation from the primal huntress. Even then.... Even then the inscription would have to be crafted with gold leaf on the white skin of a doe and delivered by Artemis on her stallion.

As for The Course, he stayed it to spite his worst intentions, stayed it to counter his proclivity to be slothful and undone. The Last Time of Last Times had moved upon him like a curse from the charnel house, a curse cast eons ago upon the Houses of The First Born, a curse not yet broken. He felt the presence of threat like the smell of a wild animal on the mild midnight breeze, cold wind through cracks in ancient bars of lead, pheromones of desperation announcing the presence of an encircling pack of starved coyotes, beasts waiting in the void behind his campfire's waning light.

He warded off the threats with acts of Will and episodes of continuation.

He brought rain to soothe the drought, but they would not discern the concordance. Even then, should the discernment come, its message would be ignored in the foul spirit of self-aggrandizement.

He winced when he saw the quick trigger of offense, how readily the others cock it, how naively he induces their urge to squeeze and fire.

Black Boots, Blunt Force.

Too many of The Others wounded him the mother f***ers and the self-proclaimed unfortunates, the mean spirits and brutish traders of instruments, the deed makers and black-booted henchmen, the arrogant academics in their surety, and the vain fat dancers of vulgar routines, and the greedy practitioners of blunt-force blows and backdoor swindles.

He would have to remember the admonition to be loved and love in return. He could turn it around and love, be loved in return.

Money was reputed to be in endless supply, but.... ellipsis, ellipsis, ellipsis, and ellipsis.... The four dots he scattered so often upon the page were like markers on a trail leading somewhere, yes - but to places not fully known. The dots trailed off into uncertainty. The dots became knowing pauses. The money was expressionless, indifferent.

The women in rain jackets and capes carry off the burlap sacks of chilies to their kitchens for repackaging and freezing. The roasters from Santa Teresa and Nuevo Casa Grande and Chihuahua rekindle the fire. The wayfarer with all his possessions in the saddlebags of one old Chevy El Camino realizes he shall never taste the relleno, cumin and jack of wintry Sante Fe.

"My dream is a treasure that I'll always keep," Hank Williams the First sang to the wayfarer. Behind the song came a cry from the ranch of the Jackalope. It was the whine of an artisan's chainsaw, blades and engine attuned to an act of creation. The hot steel ripped through the wet flesh of ponderosa pine, which became a totem that would never be his.

sometime. Maybe.
Once I wrote
according to a formal deadline.
It worked well enough.
Now I glide in presumptuous luxury,
awaiting communion with a Muse.
She has a name and I know it.

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