Fake Lake, Wyoming

standing on the lake edge
beside silver stemmed aspen
foot resting on a mighty driftwood log
arm on knee
waiting for a sunset

no words to describe the beauty
the water a mile or so away
vanished on a summer vacation
ripples retreating unseen
evening a quiet platitude

in the distance a cloud of dust
it hovers above the dried grass
then an old army tanker appearing
a quad bike with dogs circling
working the hundreds of sheep

watching from the sidelines
an unfolding drama growing louder
engines, shouting, bleating, barking
approaching a solitary hut
a regular sundown scene

admiring the shepherds’ work
now over, a fire is lit, dogs fed
they are hard as Idaho hills
viewed across the state border
beyond the lake with no water

there is safety in their numbers
the sheep settle into the night
the dogs listen out for the wolves
inside the tent there is darkness
and time to reflect

waking to the sound of howling
dogs or wolves or coyotes
echoing under a Wyoming moon
these memories will last a lifetime
I’m leaving in the morning

standing on the lake edge
beside silver stemmed aspen
the sun rising through the trees
calling my name across the valley
hearing only silence returned

alone as always

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Two years ago today I camped near this lake which appeared to have disappeared for the summer. Alpine North Loop Campground is on the Wyoming / Idaho border near the town of Alpine. I was on my way up through the Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone. The lake was actually a reservoir. I watched the sun setting over the mountains as a group of shepherds gathered in their flock of noisy sheep for the night. That’s the dust they kicked up in the middle of the photo. The shepherds drove what looked like an old army tanker and quad bikes and had a hut which they returned to. I sat alone and watched the unfolding drama. One of the best camps on my trip. Travel at its most rewarding. Wyoming is beautiful. My spiritual home.

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what shall I write you on this maudlin morning

what shall I write you on this maudlin morning
that peers between clouds over the hillside

what shall I tell you that you haven’t already heard
what truths and lies that hide behind my words

what shall I keep from you in future safe storage
those little white lies we disguise behind our eyes

what shall you take from me and what will I give
this moment or that or the past so recently forgot

what shall the day bring if nothing’s worth repeating
more clouds, more rain, more words, more sighs

what shall I write you on this maudlin morning
that pours between us like an ocean divide

in black corners

the basement door ~ down a corridor ~ black boots on sticky floor ~ cracked linoleum ~ couples kissing ~ chewing gum ~ humming static ~ muffled laughing ~ your hand so small in mine ~ childlike almost ~ warm ~ sweaty ~ passing a joint ~ passing it round ~ mouth to mouth ~ resuscitating ~ kisses in corners ~ shadows flirting ~ from out of somewhere music ~ thump ~ thump ~ our hearts beat ~ senses pricked ~ poppers ~ pills ~ white lines ~ going fast ~ speeding’s fine ~ claustrophobic ~ now dancing now ~ black eye liner ~ red eye shadow ~ caught in the act ~ caught in a corner ~ touching too much ~ on a worn out mattress ~ play act fighting ~ a tussle ~ a hustle ~ punk posters hung on damp walls ~ smoke hanging on damp air ~ clinging to each other ~ stinging eyes ~ hoarse throats ~ louder now ~ shout to be heard ~ someone shouting in another room ~ a fight ~ a bright light ~ dark again ~ momentary quietness ~ red hair girl passes out in a corner ~ boyfriend rolls a spliff ~ it’s heaven he mouths to her ~ temple balls he’s saying ~ your favourite he adds ~ but she is gone ~ head lolling ~ vacant eyes ~ smile on lips ~ beer can in hand ~ dripping ~ your lips on my neck ~ your pierced tongue ~ love biting ~ coughing ~ hair spray ~ black pvc trousers ~ black denim and black leather ~ black ~ someone plays bass notes on an acoustic guitar ~ recognisable ~ joy division maybe ~ head is fussy ~ drunk ~ or high ~ or both ~ bauhaus ~ cure ~ velvets ~ cramps ~ bowie ~ find a toilet and puke ~ basement filling up ~ the usual crowd and more ~ word gets around ~ gets around town ~ gets underground ~ siouxsie sioux is spellbound ~ couldn’t leave even if we wanted ~ rammed jammed packed ~ but we’re safe in our corner ~ wandering hands ~ turn me on ~ turn you on ~ and later ~ we will walk along the beach and kiss some more before heading back to my bedsit for sex and one last spliff before falling into sleep in each other’s arms.

 

 

me and indoor cat and the sun god smiling

on my last morning in that room I woke to find
two grey cats sitting upright on the lawn
resembling Egyptian Bastet statues hewn from stone
under parting clouds that cleared to say
your time is done now slink away

I dozed beneath my red wool blanket
the indoor cat curled tight against my chest
its purring conferring some inner soliloquy
that questioned the need for getting up at all
when dreams held greater sway

when next I woke the grey cats were gone
had they ever even been there or were they
(as I thought) just a figment of our imaginations
borne on the perfumed scent of morning
that bade us move from here and be gone

and though the boxes were packed and loaded
and no future would now bind us to this place
we left after breakfasting on dusty memories
through the front door and down the street
me and indoor cat and the sun god smiling

I used to be a claustrophobic deejay

I used to be a claustrophobic deejay
I’d spin a disc then dive outside
hyperventilating
gasping for air
before the next tune was due to be played
I did this all night long
my heart thumping along to the beat
my head pounding out on the street
it was a crazy situation

but don’t get me wrong
I was electric and semi-eclectic
in my tasteful choice of songs
I played disco and punk
and funk and techno
I even once played al fresco
at a gig in Fresno (no not really)
but that was all before I went wacko
from too much Michael Jacko
and my life became a bad thriller

in my claustrophobic deejay days
I tried to stray from the straight and narrow grooves
by interspersing the unexpected
mixing with the likes of Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’
or Rick Wakeman’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’
just for fun and to give the dancers a rest
from the 125 beats per minute dance floor workouts

and to the twelve inch instrumental version
of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’
I would take the chance of performing solo
a sermon of sorts from the mount of turning tables
my mirrorballed ideas would flash with the strobes
and set my worshippers alight
to be born again of the night

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Early 80’s – this was the mobile disco I used to run with a friend before doing some club work for a while. The name was shamelessly borrowed from a brand of cigarettes! Can’t remember where the man and woman logo came from but I was into early 20th century b/w design at the time.

a-holding hands we’d go

i used to walk on pebbles in bare feet
high as the moon on Schlitz and pain killers
the cigarette smoke spiralling out of control
like the helter skelter on the edge of the pier
that appeared to be toppling into the sea
or was that me teetering on the edge of my own insanity?

you buried me there
amongst the seashells & cigarette butts
a cairn of pebbles piled upon my chest
that made for heavy breathing
a labour of love and lust & longing
for a morning that would bring us back to earth
with a crash and burn and a song and dance
a-holding hands we’d go

On this day in 2016 I bought the soul of Samuel Thomas for $10 and it worries me still.

Was it okay to take his photograph?
He said yes

Canyon de Celly South Rim lookout and thunder
I’d been skirting the storm clouds since leaving Ganado
Aware at Chinle they threatened to catch up with me
The usual visitor centre
The park for lunch
Bread, cheese, tomatoes
Sweet mesquite potato chips
A dog, some trees, scattered picnic tables
Just me and some off-duty rangers

Is history ever planned?
He said yes

One thousand foot high sheer cliff faces
One thousand year old ancestral stronghold
Red rock scoured by ages
Sunrise and deluge
Teeter on the edge and relive the past
Bareback braves and gatherings
Col. Kit Carson in sixty three
Surrender and removal
Return and reclaim

Do you ever come back?
He said yes

Every spring and summer after the thaws
We open up the hogan with eight walls
The door facing east toward the rising sun
Pick a peach or two on the remaining tree
In days gone by the crop would be dried
Laid like sunsets on baked ledges
Preserved alongside the corn
Winter’s rainbows
Now I drive a pickup and live in town

How much? Ten bucks? I’ll be back
He said yes

It was part of the bargain
The waiting and negotiating
White European invader with smartphone camera
Follow the trail, find the clues
Read the unfinished story
Listen to the thunder applaud your glory
And see. Now I am ready to honour my word
The money buying his family time
Carefully skirting around the canyon between us

Did you paint that?
He said yes

Crudely painted native art
Some representation of things I knew not what
Spirits and stuff for tourists on the back of a board
But hey, it’ll look good on my book shelf
But I didn’t say any of that
He was packing up
The storm clouds were catching up with us
Day turning to night
A time for retreat

Can I take your photograph?
He said yes

And posed without smiling
Held his artwork without pride
I held out my hand and we shook like men
Looked him in the eye but his was cast to the ground
An uneasy truce ensued
The first drops of rain falling first upon his cheeks
They all seeming to miss mine
I wondered did he ever smile
Samuel Thomas, Navajo, 22nd August 2016

It’s been nice meeting you I said
He said yes

And then, looking away he said
I have to be here
This is my home
This is my life
If I leave
If I have to go somewhere
It is like somebody broke my journey
I dream of hearing wild horses again
The sound of peaches falling into buckets

~

On the road out of Chinle
Still within the Indian reservation
The storm had come and gone heading north
Great floods of water surrounded shacks
Island trailer homes and tied-up dogs
The summer hail swept to the sides of roads
Eighteen-wheeler-dealers thundering through
And me? I was on my way to Horseshoe Bend
The next stop on my whistle-stop tour de force.

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