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KEITH JAMES HAINES

Keith James Haines

Keith Haines, an enrolled member of the Mescalero Apache tribe of south central New Mexico, was born in 1968 in Farmington, New Mexico to Jodee Yazza and Bruce Haines. When he was five years of age his biological mother passed away. Two years later, his father married Charlotte Hara, a Japanese American from Hawaii.

Growing up in New Mexico, Wyoming, and Nebraska, and spending a significant amount of time as a youth in Minnesota, Arizona, and Montana, he left home at seventeen after graduating high school to study art and literature at several universities.

Since leaving the trailer he grew up in, he has traveled extensively throughout the west and mid-west, supporting himself, among various occupations, as laborer, student, cook, pipe maker, ranch-hand, and mill worker. Keith passed away January 28, 2020; yet the legacy of his beautiful spirit through his art and poetry lives on.

 

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Welcome. Here you will find several poems and stories I have written over the last several years, the earliest being The Dirt and the Weeds, and the latest, A Pure Blue Flame Where the Hawks Go. I am currently at work on a longer fictional piece entitled Horse of the Sun, same as the headline for this website.  In addition, I have included a few pencil sketches of various subjects and plan to add several larger, more fully developed pieces when time and circumstance permit.
 
Enjoy,
Keith J. Haines
 

Poetry

Hangover Medicine | In the Avoidance of Women | Fall Valley | The Dirt and the Weeds | On the Forest Floor | Amaranths In Dew | Poet Taking Rest | Second Note to a Past Lover | Under a Feeble Sun | This Desperate Threshhold | Nearing the Base of West Mountain | Spring Hills of Missouri | Penning Delicate Words | Summer River Wildflowers | Parched | Sweating at Meremec | Humming in the Wind | Horse Travel Through the Blues | Nectar | The Long Limbed Day | Jaguar Leaping in the Wind | Outrider

Stories

Pollen Storm Blessing | The Morning World | The Barn Where It Was Dry | A Pure Blue Flame Where the Hawks Go | Dog's Neck | Games of Chance and Get Even | Waterbug | Seven Colors of the Sun

Chap Books

The Barn Where It Was Dry, A Collection of short stories from a contemporary Native American artist
Drinking With the Women, Poems. Love, despair, and the ultimate joy of passionate living


The Dirt and the Weeds

This is my father's room.

He likes to call it his tiny box of bitter contemplation. 
It rests here,
on the five hundredth and third floor 
of a five hundred and three story building. 

This blanket is the place where my father sits. 
All but him are forbidden to rest here. 
This blanket comes from the time when he lived 
on the ground below,
with the dirt and the weeds, 
when he held sway over the broad expanse of this area, 
sitting in comfortable ease 
and directing with subtle gestures of lips and fingers, 
who should pull forth the sun across the sky, 
who should govern the revolution of the seasons, 
who should provide for the rebirth of the harvests, 
and who should lead the flight of the bird across the arc of the sun 
and back.. 

It is from here
that my father once motioned for me to bend nearer his lips, 
and I did so,
and he began to tell me of the time 
when he lived on the ground below, 
with the dirt and the weeds, 
and what happened at dawn one morning 
while he was preparing for the day. 

Long time ago, he told me,
some people who he had never seen came to him
and asked him to leave the spot where he was camped, 
but he said, "No.  I have been here such a long time already."

One of them then replied, "Well, old man, it is no matter. 
We are a gracious people, and we have decided 
that we will allow you to remain in the spot you have chosen. 

But since you refuse to be displaced outward," 
he told my father,
“we shall simply displace you upward.
In addition,
we have decided that we must lay down our cement rug beneath you
and your blanket,
so if you'll step aside, please, thank you."
My father stepped aside, bewildered.
"Larry," said the man,
get your men over here and lay down a cement slab." 
Turning back to my father, he said,
"As well, we have decided that we would like to
build up our walls 
around you, and in so doing, 
we will raise you to a place 
where neither you nor your people have ever been." 

"Where is that?" my father asked.
“Old man," he was told,
“prepare for your ascent into heaven.  Frank? 
Gather your men. 
Four walls and a ceiling, please." 
My father folded his blanket over the wet cement 
and sat down on top of it.
"I am fine here," he said,
and the four walls and the ceiling 
began to close in around him. 

The people who were gathered near, 
becoming more and more by the minute, 
then raised their hands to the sky 
and summoned forth from the ground beneath my
father a powerful movement, 
setting into motion the rise of a massive 
four-cornered structure made of brick and steel. 

The tremendous rumbling caused by such an event
was said to have been felt across the plains,
where a sleeping cloud mistook the rumble for
thunder and began to pour forth its rain, 
over the mountains,
where the Spine of God is said to have trembled, 
through the basins,
where the fruits of the trees 
were moved to fall from their branches, 
and down into the sea
where the dust was shaken from the shoulder of
the land. 

And so began the ascension of my father 
into this place called heaven.

Now,
when I sit with him,
he likes to tell me that he is still able, 
when he closes his eyes, 
to hear the weeds in the wind, 
blowing their music close to the ground.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002.  All Rights Reserved.

 


On the Forest Floor

Now,
even the most gentle of female rains
brings down the early dogwood
blossoms,
once white,
now stained pink and red
as if bruised and wounded,
sent to the forest floor
to bleed quietly in the shade.

The petals are dirty
are cut and bleeding,
and looking closely,
their hurt faces plead into mine.

But what can I do?

I gather a handful,
six or seven,
and begin to shout around about the glory of these
fallen criers of
Spring’s army of joy,
naming the days of their bannered and heralded births,
touting the courage of first blossoms,
and going on about their short lives of timeless purity.

Afterward,
I let the petals drop from my fingers,
watch them come to rest
on last Autumn’s leaves,
now dead one full season
and resting with new stories
of the Winter
for the telling to
the freshly fallen dead
of Spring’s army of joy.

 


Amaranths In Dew

I am a whisperer of the moment,
a piner at the edge of gardens,
a drunk gaper of endless petals,

in whose curves
I see the hearts
of potential lovers,
wet amaranths
in dew.

 


Poet Taking Rest

My lover,
I admire the length
and grace
of your well-shaped hands,
delicate wings of the butterfly
pressed tightly together
in prayer,
and in between them,
my only thin asylum
of brief repose.

 


Second Note to a Past Lover

I do not think of it as folly
to spend all my time dreaming
of your touch,
but I do suffer terrible embarrassment from
those who would say I am
foolishly enamoured with one
whom I am not familiar with
in the least.

Nevertheless,
I will continue
to persist in this behavior,
foolish as it may appear to
those lacking in any sense
of romantic abandon, and
it would be to them that I
would simply say that I take
extreme pleasure in the
weaving of this thought of silk
through the 10,000 crests of
the waters
that separate us.

 


This Desperate Threshhold

At this desperate threshold,
look how white my knuckles –

I can’t face wine,
not like I used to.
Not anymore.

Oh,
my most admired romancer
of the most strange and terrible nights,
where will I turn
if not to your sopping invitation?

You have pulled me too far apart,
at my own request –
I could not ask you
to pull me back together.

I have sought out your freeing waters,
often as I could,
for more than a century,
but I have grown weary
of raising your implements to my lips.

Understand,
I have loved you more
than I have loved my women.

At this desperate threshold,
my friend,
look how white my knuckles,
but look how clear my eyes.

 


Nearing the Base of West Mountain

In the foothills to the East
there is pollen.

I am coming in the pollen.

The pollen falls upon my hair
and streams across my eyes,
and in my hair
there is a breeze.

 


Spring Hills of Missouri

Over endless lakeside hills,
unfolding forests
show spring blossoms,
white lace
airing
among the dogwood
and the plum.

 


Penning Delicate Words

What fine silk
moves through these trembling
fingertips
but
what an array of dusty stallions
courses through my wrist.

A timeless dripping sun
labors over me,
yet
I do not sweat as I pen these delicate
words for you.

 


Summer River Wildflowers

At riverside,
in the waning days of summer,
I part eight blossoms
from their stems.

Later,
wearing the flowers,
I stand waist-deep
in Summer River,
gathering drifting leaves
from beyond Summer River’s bluffs.

 


Fall Valley

Out here,
all my crushes
are on
divine
sugar maple forests.

It’s Fall.

Devastated,
I roam the valley
for a
Summer flower.

 


Parched

These three desperate throats,
in the wake of such a malignant sun,
where
in this endless brown valley
can we find wine?

(These horses are but ashy silhouettes).

What a shabby and dissolute arrangement
has been laid out for us!
Is there left a cool breast
to appeal to?

Oh, our dry and tongueless bellow!

 


Sweating at Meremec

What is there that can restrain joy?
Not me!
These pores on my back-
with what joy they sweat!

What a time this is
to radiate with expansiveness and light.
These people around me,
these fine days we are spending together,
such laughter!

Under these trees,
in this universe,
we are so small,
yet with joy look how long and wide we reach,
and how deep!

 


Humming In the Wind

All day
Beneath the hot sun
I thought of you.

Thought of how
My love for you is like

Ten thousand bright blossoms
Humming in the wind.

 


Horse Travel Through the Blues

My blue gaze rides
toward
her breast
like dusk
moves
between mountains:

deeper,
wetter,
greener,
coller,
roaming and
loping
with heavy melancholia.

This
is
the nature
of horse travel through the blues,
stepping through rivers,
noting the shorelines
flowered
and
hung,
bending in the saddle
to part blossom
from stem -

true and desperate acts
performed
at dusk
during a cool and
loveless
summer.

 


Nectar

Isn't love, too,
proclaimed to be at it's most
dangerous
when new,
like the poison of a
young snake?

And which is the greater danger?

Love, leaning nearby, musky and aromatic,
or the capable length of a snake?

From either tongue
drips nectar from the body
like dew
from the bud.

 


The Long Limbed Day

She is a lean figure
curved against the window,
a limber boiugh
hung heavy with foliage in the sun,
lithe body drawn from
the sinew and supple muscle
of the
slender
forest deer.

In her bare arms
and in her naked shoulders
I witness the
heightened
and tightened
awareness of a doe's limbs, prepared
at any instant
to bound off in a tremendous
single
leap
nine feet long
perhaps,
to go stretching into the
long limbed day,
young
strong
beautiful
forever.

Yes.
Oh,
yes, yes, yes.

 


Jaguar Leaping in the Wind

My muse,
you
have liberated me from the rocks!

Long reacher,
high stretcher,
you unfurl your body
a silk ribbon of skin
licking the midday wind,
and I look,

oh how I look!

Woman,
it is a poet's duty,
aye,
a poet's pleasure,
to sing the tips of your fingers as claws,
the breadth of your hands as mitts,
the length of your limbs
outstretched and roaring
from your bosom,
as those of a jaguar in hunger
leaping from the rocks
toward
the hot neck of the sun.

 


Outrider

I unsheath
from my boot
3,000 wet tongues,
grim bladed
butterflies
sent out to riot in
the night,

wing tips dark as hot razors
stained with the blood
of
a
long
haired
poet.

I unsheath
these wet things,
hold them level
at sea,
one man standing
against
all comers,

long haired, doublebraided,
point taken,
praying for hope against
the bellowing
sea
of
the
East.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.


Hangover Medicine

Coyote had been drinking too much whiskey when he left
the place where the group was camped.
He left because he wanted to go make pee.
He invited those who wished to attend
to come along.
Everybody said, "No!"
So coyote began to wander off
by himself
to go make his pee in private.
Then he turned around and told the others that
when his pee hardened,
it would become a solid lump of pure white gold,
but the others were wise to his tricks,
and so they said, "No! No way! Even we don't believe
you can turn your pee into riches.
Go along in your own peculiar way,
Coyote,
and make your pee without bothering us anymore.”

So Coyote went along the tree line until
he found a nice clearing to put forth his water,
but he decided to rest
for a while before doing this,
and he passed out beneath the tree
he had been leaning on,
forgetting all about the necessity of putting out
the liquor he had poured into his belly.

Next morning,
Coyote awoke with a pain in his innards.
"What is the trouble here?" he said,
"ohhh, why does my body ache so?"
He rubbed his belly all over and made several chants,
but nothing helped the aches go away.
Finally,
he got angry and grabbed hold of his member
and began to swing it around and choke it, saying,
"Look! What is wrong with me?
I feel so awful!
Help make me better!
Send the troublemaker who is giving me hell in my body
out your little hole so I can punish him!
Do it!"
Coyote flung his penis around
and threw it against some trees,

he even caressed it and encouraged it to perform,
but not a thing was forthcoming.
He began to feel even worse,
but he was not worried yet.
He put some lotion on his member to heal the sores
and tucked it away in his pants.

That is when he began talking to his anus.
"See here!" said Coyote to his anus,
"I have maligned and injured my own member
over this pain I feel in my body.
No matter what I do,
my penis,
my favorite,
won't even help rid me of my discomfort.
Help me, anus,
help me to expel the troublemaker at work in my body."
So saying,
Coyote dug a hole,
pulled down his trousers,
and squatted.
He began to strain with all his might.
He grunted. He waited.
He implored his anus to do its best,
and his face grew more red with each try.
Finally,
he grew tired from so much effort and rolled over onto his belly,
cursing his body for the weakness it showed
in expelling this nemesis from within him.

By this time
Coyote could hardly move from the pain,
and his lower lip began to tremble,
and he could do nothing but try to cry.
He stayed that way for a while,
trying to cry,
but no tears came out either,
and he felt worse than ever.
He stayed that way for two whole days.

After that,
he felt better,
and he got up and began moving around again.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.


In the Avoidance of Women

I

Sidebelly had become aware of the moss on his belly
ever since the time of an early spring
twenty-six years ago when he was twenty-one years old
with a lean incisive body moving easily
through the pines,
running north,
as he had been doing without pause for water
or love
for six years in avoidance of the assumption of
responsibility
he was to take on as a man,
and what brought him down at the end of his youth
were the frequent and penetrating thrusts
of mental daggers being driven through his ear,
sharply and up to the hilt,
which upon further examination
would have proven only to have been
the thorns of wild roses fashioned into tiny darts
by the thin and nimble fingers of some
woman,
no doubt,
and he did, finally, break down smoothness of motion
of wind in hair
into fractured moments
of settling vertebrae and sharply distilled
moments of anxiety,
for he feared his people were yet on the trail
behind him.

They weren't, of course,
they had failed to pursue five-and-a-half years back
after he had crossed the River of Separation,
the women moaning the loss of yet another
virile partner,
and he had come to rest slowly trembling,
driven down pointedly into supine immobility
by prayers and Wishes designed for his restraint.
By the Almighty Goddamn
they had caught up with him after all!
Hair by hair, finger by finger, toe by toe, cell by cell,
his breathing came deep
and the moss below his back gave way.
He could feel the breath of his bed exhale
near his ear telling him not to be afraid,
to rest,
that he needed rest,
and he closed his eyes and could feel the moss work
beneath his back and move up the sides of his belly,
taking over the responsibility of keeping him alive,
penetrating through his tissues,
extending through his veins, capillaries, arteries,
and enshrouding his heart
in the timeless revelatory muscle of the earth
as he slept.

II

The terrifying complexity
of manufacturing a self contained internal reality
for nine still years spent while saddled motionless
to the back of the earth on a bed of soft spoken moss,
of course,
was not to be undertaken alone.

But goddamn if the young Sidebelly was willing
to give up independence of strong, taut
manhood
without a fight for sole
or even partial possession of his tender mind,
no matter the teachers,
goddamn them all to hell with the
fruits and flowers they bring,
"I have been trying for six years to pound them
into dust,"
he told me, "six years to rid myself of their pursuit,
six years in avoidance of their mouths of
open and inviting tragedy,
six years spent hiding from their invasive minds,
six years working my muscles for prime
defense against their advancements,
I knew they would come too,
starting with Susie, of course,
goddamn her who kissed me first while pinning me
up against the wall
next to the garbage bin in the alley
behind the furniture store.
Six years,
six years,
goddamn them women, them witches,
them who spend the earnest moments before
the rise of the sun caressing,
oiling, and perfuming their legs and breasts
with their own juices,
combing and waiting to plait the magnificent length
of their hair under the beauty of the
polished crystal prism of mother’s making,
designed and crafted for the specific purpose
of dispersing the first rays of the morning throughout
the hair in the belief
that to hold the seven colors of the sun
was to hold the power necessary to enliven
the fibers of the hair which in turn,
when laid upon the pillow at night
and spread in imitation of the sun,
would successfully capture and blind a man
into meek submission of catering days;
days of heat and labor
spent under a malignant and difficult sun,
of strained breath spent through thin and dusty lips,
of brittle and confused moments
at the end of the day when conversation
with the woman
becomes necessary yet unavoidable and what is truly
needed is a cold beer
and an open window to the west –
a breeze would be too much for me to handle;
I would go insane in such pleasure of ease-
and goddamn
if she wouldn't then inhale the sun
into her belly at the close of the day,
swelling deeply
at the rush of performing
her daily admonition,
for she would have been stewing all day in her own
juices,
and speaking with the sun between her lips
of my failure to achieve the potency of manhood
in a dignified and respectful manner..."

And of course,
it was worthless for Sidebelly to struggle,
dangerous even,
for he was being wrapped tighter to the back of
the Mother Earth
at each impulse of protest,
pulled in deeper to the Woman of all our fruits,
and he would eventually learn that to struggle
would be to relenquish an even greater part
of his masculinity,
but he succeeded in the end,
thankfully,
in securing a bit of his manhood
down and away
in a sack between his legs where they could not
get at it,
the witches.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.


Pollen Storm Blessing

There he spurneth dust of glittering grains;
How joyous his neigh,
There in mist of sacred pollen hidden, all hidden he;
How joyous his neigh,
There his offspring many grow and thrive forevermore;
How joyous his neigh!
-- from Song of the Horse, Navajo

Bahe would go to the spring hills to pray against the war. He thought he would attend the war if he had to. He wouldn’t run away from it, even though there was a new woman. With the new woman he had made a child. The child was four months old. He was called Siggy, after Sigurd, the woman’s father. Bahe called the woman Haansh’Taye, which in the Apache means “butterfly.” Her other name was Susie, but Bahe called her Haansh’Taye because he thought of her well shaped hands as delicate wings of the butterfly, and when she held his face between her hands he imagined that this was his only place of brief repose in all the world.

With the war threatening he spent as much time between there as possible. At night he would cry sometimes about having to leave his woman and son and he would ask her to hold his face between her hands and pray against the war. And she, while comforting him with her good words, would begin to cry as well. Then baby Siggy would wake up and start in too. At times like this when the small room would echo with wailing the air would suddenly become cold and it was ghostly when the air became filled with their own visible breath. The haze of their breathing turned blue like there was a neon light from outside their window shining in but there was none and neither he nor the woman knew anything about the blue haze, only that it frightened them and caused them, all three, to huddle against the terror on the corner on the bed. Everything fell away at such times, the hum of engines and the gears shifting over the streets, the sirens, the horns, the rough voices of the kids on the walk and the drunk rantings of husbands heavy on the bottle, everything, everything fell away into the heavy silence and then it was terribly lonely because they felt like they didn’t even have each other then. Bahe thought that this was the way it would be for his family if the war called him out.

There were always images that appeared in the blue haze. All the images were of men, brown men like Bahe himself, and young yet with hair like jet. The men would be stripped to the waist, their torsos lithe and tawny and shining with sweat as they danced around to old drums and sang. But neither Haansh’Taye nor Bahe could hear the drums or hear the men singing. There was just that silence. Bahe and his woman would look across that silence at each other and down at the baby like there was a wide and dark blue sea that separated them finally and completely and made communication impossible. They could only cry and watch the men dance. From the waist down they could see that the men wore fatigues and high black boots, army issue. Bahe knew the men. They were his relations, his ancestors, his uncles and great uncles, his grandfathers and his grandfathers’ brothers, all dead, all passed on in other wars. Only when Bahe and his family stopped crying would the images be gone. The haze would dissipate slowly and the room become warm again, like it ought to be on a spring evening.

So Bahe would go to the hills to pray against the war. He’d take Haansh’Taye with him, and she would place little Siggy into the cradle that Bahe was placed in when he was a baby, and she would strap this onto her back when they struck out onto the trail that led to the meadow where there was a stream and a falls that came down the hills.

One morning after crying all nigh long Bahe called into work and told them that he couldn’t make it, that he was sick. Then he rolled over and shook Haansh’Taye gently on the shoulder. “Haansh’Taye. It looks nice out there today. Let’s take a lunch and go to the hills.”

Haansh’Taye rolled over to face Bahe. Little Siggy lay between them. She stroked the baby’s face and looked up at Bahe. “Okay sweetie. Let’s do it. Let’s go. Did you call into work?”

“I called. I had to lie again, but they wouldn’t understand if I said the truth.”

“I know, sweets, I know.”

Baby didn’t wake until they were already in the truck. When he woke he began to cry. Haansh’Taye just placed a breast in his mouth. After a while he became full and yawned and was burped, then placed back into his special seat. The movement of the truck made him sleepy and pretty soon his head fell to one side.

Haansh’Taye had made for them a dinner of thick sliced cold roast beef along with some fried bread and roasted and peeled green chilis. They also had some coffee and an old percolator which was placed over the fire to heat. All this was placed into the backpack that Bahe carried, as well as a blanket and diapers for Siggy. They never ate breakfast on days they went to pray in the hills and always ate toward the evening when they were finished.

At the woods it was a warm day, and the sun was out high and strong. There was a breeze, and on the breeze there were fresh scents of pines and grasses and flowers. Bahe and Haansh’Taye got out of the truck and looked across the cab at each other and smiled. Haansh’Taye came around to where Bahe was leaning up against the hood and put her arms around him. She kissed him long and deep and their faces lingered next to each other and brought out new scents of skin against skin. This was a vital time for them, to be together like this in the morning air of the country after such a night as had passed where they each had been gripped and stifled in fear and an insurmountable loneliness that left them feeling they were 10,000 miles apart.

Bahe and Haansh’Taye had not planned to bear a child together. In fact, they had seen very little of each other after the first few times of love making, and even after Haansh’Taye was into the initial terms of her pregnancy they rarely spoke about establishing a life together. They found it difficult at first; it was a tremendous burden coming to appreciate one another. The love was not there. Only the sex and the anger and the fear. But now, they found themselves to be deeply wed, and the love had come and the baby had come and the commitment had come and then the war came and it all pressed them deeper into one another so they thought they could never be pried apart again. And then with the war came the cold blue hazes and the awful visions.

Baby Siggy let out a small gurgle from the cab of the truck. Bahe and Haansh’Taye parted with a final kiss and went about preparing for the hike into the woods. This was never a solemn affair for them. There was only joy and a deep sense of wonder and appreciation for life. With the spring there was always life renewed and this was a common bond between Bahe and Haansh’Taye and the land they walked on. Each day after every terrible night their little procession moved along the trail through the woods. They found themselves to be a part of a constant cycle of loss and coming together, of death and rebirth, and it made them feel as if nothing could touch them, that they had been make privy to an eternal secret. Even if Bahe were to go off to the war and die, maybe he wouldn’t really die after all, just go off to some other place to rest before coming back. But still, there were those terrible visions, and they came time and time again. Bahe thought that even if there were an ounce of fear left within him the visions would return again and again and perhaps he would find himself with his ancestors, dancing in the haze. So he prayed to let go of his fear. He prayed to be strong. He prayed against the war.

At the place where they make their camp near the stream there was a young and sturdy dogwood where Haansh’Taye hung baby Siggy in his cradle. The blossoms were just starting to form on the tree. Haansh’Taye stayed within earshot of the baby while she moved about the area in search of wood for the fire. Bahe went off alone towards to stream where the little waterfall was. He sat on a flat slab of granite which overlooked the small pool of water that the falls fell into. He produced a pouch which held his smoking mixture and from this rolled four cigarettes while making a song.

In times past when they had come to the hills it had been peaceful and serene but these days it was not so quiet. Fort Leonardrock was nearby and in full swing; all the troops were in heavy rotation. As Bahe smoked he could hear the heavy trucks rattle and heave over the washboard roads that criss-crossed the area they were camped in. The jets screamed around overhead and the explosions went off constantly. Bahe smoked and prayed while all this was going on, almost expecting to see from over the crest of the hill a movement of troops hupping doubletime through the woods. These things didn’t sit well with Bahe, but he felt it important that he place himself there in the midst of wartime preparations where his fear was at its strongest, thereby confronting the greatest looming cloud of his life at the place where it resided.

At pool’s edge beneath and across the way from where Bahe sat grew a wide ring of cattails. Beyond the cattails at the far edge was the meadow. The meadow sloped gently uphill from the stream bed and there on the hill the grasses waved in the breeze drawing Bahe’s attention gently and slowly and rhythmically so that everything, everything fell away like in the cold blue haze. The trucks, gone. The jets, gone. The explosions, gone. The troops, gone. Everything, gone. But this was no cold blue haze in a tiny room in a corner of the city. Here the canopy rose up high and spread out beneath the sky like a green wing, the tip of which brushed up against the meadow and rested there on the downstroke like the gesture of a mother protecting her young. From here Bahe peered out onto the meadow. He smoked his fourth cigarette. The grasses waved. The wildflowers nodded beneath the fat yellow glory of the afternoon sun and from the spaces between the leaves of the canopy shone the fat glory in wide bright angular beams down onto the edge of the stream on the forest floor. On the beams on the sun there came the pollen from the meadow. Slow, heavy, steady, a pollen storm blessing. Bahe breathed it in, and he breathed it out, smoking.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.


The Barn Where It Was Dry

Spring was an awful time to be sick about losing a girl, especially after you let yourself get all caught up in it and gave yourself away by letting her get too close inside you where it started to matter what she said or did. It was something that couldn’t be gone back over and fixed so you were there on the edge of the land in the rain sleeping alone in a goddamned barn with the poison hurt of it. But in your pocket there was some money and a ticket back to the reservation at Mescalero even though it made you feel less of a man to be running away from it. The only token from the whole mess of the situation was the scar you carried away that showed you were capable of an emotional investment in somebody other than yourself. Up until then you were too chickenshit to bring anything up from within you that might lay you open to slaughter and yes, you were a fool to open up but you did it because you finally could and you wanted to be loved but were cut down and gored through instead.

Sometimes when it rained the horses would come up the hill across the meadow to be in the barn where it was dry. You could smell the oats and see the hay spread across the floor of the barn and underfoot the ground was clumpy and uneven with excrement. You hoped the horses would come but they didn’t come. Maybe the rain was not heavy enough. But the rain kept on. The rain kept on and didn’t let up. The horses stayed away.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.


A Pure Blue Flame Where the Hawks Go

After the snows on the next warm day there were the solo hikes along the old logging trails with a lunch of cheese and crackers and ham stuffed into a satchel slung over the shoulder. Where the trails go on the sides of the hills the snow melts and runs down like a clear brook and if you pause to bend down to it you can hear the water going over the rocks and falling onto itself. It’s wet going and sloppy at the low parts but the low parts are where the sun doesn’t come so it’s cooler and the air feels heavier because of the smell of earth and pines.

Up high along a ridge there is a pond where it’s hot in the afternoon and nice to lay about without a shirt and feel the wind across your chest like it was summer. There are tracks everywhere at the water and you’d even think you heard fish jumping but it would only be snow dropping from the young pines bowed over the edge of the pool. After a while everything would get lazy and hot and sleepy after eating and sketching or writing, and laying down on your back in the grass sleep would come and from way off a shrill whistled note and maybe you dreampt it and maybe you didn’t but it was there in your head and out over the high pines you’d feel something soaring and looking up through the pines you’d know the sky was a pure blue flame where the hawks go.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.


Dog’s Neck

The rain intensified around a quarter after five, switching from a light moving vertical mist to a steady heavy drizzle, thus disallowing our pre-dinner stroll down to Lower Lake. Instead, we began in on the wine, noting we were more thirsty than hungry, the three of us admiring in each other our shared propensity for excess. Smiling thinly, but pink with anticipation, Bennet produced a corkscrew, flipped it open, and drove it in slowly, all the while eyeing Stadler and myself.

“My Uncle Hank had this stuff flown in from Chile for Sarah’s wedding. But of course, we all know she won’t be needing it now. I’ve a whole case of it here behind me.” Bennet handed each of us a cold bottle.

“If anybody would be in need of a bit,” offered Stadler, fingering the corkscrew, “it would be Slakely.” He looked around for our responses.

“Slakely shouldn’t touch the stuff,” I said. “Not anymore. Of course, I’m no one to talk, but then I’ve never taken a life due to drink.” Stadler handed me the corkscrew. I centered the corkscrew over the cork and began to turn it.

“It was purely accidental,” said Bennet, looking up from pouring his wine and breaking in. “He was just playing a bit too rough. One of us should’ve stepped in after Sarah said something. She was practically screaming.”

“I know,” I said. “I know. She absolutely had a right to, but I have a hard time accepting responsibility for the death, beyond what you said, Bennet, about one of us stepping in.”

“Say,” asked Stadler, “how long did your sister have Gus, anyway?”

“Seven years. His whole life,” said Bennet. “Until Slakely broke his neck. Everybody heard it, too.”

Stadler nodded over his cup. “It’s not doing Slakely any good to keep on denying it, saying that Gus died of a heart attack.”

The three of us silently drank the wine, wine that was meant to be drunk at a wedding, at a celebration. Instead it was being drunk here at Bennet’s cabin on the lake. It was creek cold at least. Bennet had placed it in a pool in Rose Creek, a thin stream that ran down the mountain from Boulder Lake. Boulder Lake, where we planned to fish and camp the next day, was so named for the seven massive boulders that rimmed its rocky edge. A small lake, only half a mile wide and three-quarter mile long, it was deep and clear and cold, fed by the glaciers above.

It had been an early Spring tradition for the four of us , including Slakely, to do the climb to Boulder Lake. We’d get roaring drunk there, casting our flies about for trout in the morning after having stayed up around the fire the whole night through. Now it was different. Slakely wasn’t here. It was as if he had been silently and wordlessly banished by the group after having killed Sarah’s dog. Sarah said it was the last straw, that she could no longer stomach Slakely’s drinking and the antics it would bring on. They were going to get married, her and Slakely, but she called it off after the killing. We all felt it was accidental, although we were all well aware of the growing violent streak which marked Slakely’s character, this being the main reason, I felt, why each of us was reluctant to part dog and human, not for fear of an angry dog but a vicious man. Indeed, as we sat around the dimly lit cabin, without Slakely around, things felt awfully good, less tense and edgy.

Slakely had only fallen in with us a couple years ago, after meeting Bennet’s sister, Sarah, at a political rally. He was quite gung-ho, that one, always flailing his arms around and talking loudly, striking his fist into his palm. He provided a great burst of energy, true, but in the two years we had come to know him, he had come to behave quite strangely. Slakely would often stick out his chest and thump it, saying, “Who’s the mountain? Who’s the mountain?” He became careless with his strength after drinking too much, and he had come to be a constant threat to each of our safety, nearly breaking all our arms in wrestling matches. It had occurred to all of us that this behavior would lead to injury, but when, and to whom? Bennet had often expressed concern for his sister’s safety, but she didn’t let on if there was anything happening, for she was always cheery about their relationship. Perhaps it was better that it was the neck of a dog that was broken, not one of ours, with all that worry going on. Now, there was hard and tangible evidence that Slakely had gone too far, and none of us were slow to acknowledge this.

Each of us, then, had come to the personal conclusion that we were better off without him, and we were happy to have a reason to spurn him. None of us had had that chance, though, because we never saw him after the killing. He had left the party, still maintaining that no, it had been a heart attack that had killed that dog, not him.

Bennet broke the silence. “So what do you guys think of the wine?”

“Damn good,” I said, rising, eager to be in a happier mood. “Now here’s a toast – to the long march of the vine from the coast of South America to the bottoms of our gullets! Here’s to the Chilean grape! Gentlemen, here’s to the three of us! Heads and shoulders bent now, into your cups!”

After this happy pronouncement, we began to drink without regard, the three of us beginning to feel a bit better, better about ourselves, better about the safety of our little group, better about the hard Montana rain and the cold deep of the high glacial lake, the chill of our wine, and better about the guilt we shared, the truth that not one of us was strong enough to have raised a hand to saved a wrecked life, not Gus’s life, not Sarah’s life, not Slakely’s life, and most preciously, not the life they could have shared together.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.


Games of Chance and Get Even

Lippie T. Poorbreed, who at the time just prior to his baptism, broke down upon one knee and with a sly smile apologized to the congregation for his having been such a difficult sheep to turn, was at one time previous an excellent thief, the focus initially being on candy, small pocket-knives, gold pens, plastic figurines, marbles, jacks, dominoes, cards, games of chance and get even, and at thirteen years of age he became the wise and rarified leader of sixteen of the twenty-four trailerpark kids for displaying an exemplary nature of silence under pressure of questioning from cops about who broke into the market behind the hardware store and stole all the cake and pie and candy, and in so heightening and subsequently expanding his influence, and in order to keep his new friends in the good loot, he began to narrow his eye on the pursuit of cash.

Three miles out of town to the south, down by the River of Tunes, down where a few of the older boys had fashioned themselves a cave four summers back with the scapulas of fallen and rotting cattle who had stumbled dizzily and collapsed from everything so dry after arriving at the river in hopes of finding water, but who instead found only flecks of hard mud, there had come again an air heavy with shade where naked children played with soiled panties left by the River’s edge, Lippies older brother Kippie D. no doubt, down again with some hot chick from the town, an air where the young were allowed their ways without a slap on the ass, an air on the edge of turmoil and release, alive and green and flourishing to capacity in which was drink great cupfulls of the River while dallying around the fire in the heart of the cave, and it was into such an air Lippie T. spoke to the other children, “Little buddies! You and I should all be grateful to our brothers and sisters who came before us. They have worked and prayed hard to make this a better place, and now it is up to us to do the same thing. Remember how our brothers and sisters were forced upon their bellies in the past, some fatherless and some motherless, forced to fend for themselves, to stomach the rotting flesh of the cattle who fell over before their eyes, and forced to make the long walk to the diseased waters of the swamps seventeen miles to the east where it was impossible to move without interrupting the bones of the dead. Now maybe we are lucky that there is life on this River again, and we have been able to flourish in this place, but I am afraid that the gathering of simply cake and pie and candy has left us wanting in many areas……You other children! We have all heard tell of the way in which The Man chooses to conduct his payments for services or items rendered, and we are all aware of the many places in which his money is kept hidden. If you wish to begin making use of such money, I suggest we begin as quickly as possible in the gathering of this rather than our candy and pie. It is up to us now, little friends, to do what we must. I have already chosen my way.”

The next day being Sunday, Lippie T. arose early, had morning thoughts of a solemn and divine nature regarding his father whom he thought of daily at this time, his father dead now for four years having succumbed to the disease of the swamp, the man who told him with the last of his breath to be wary of letting go of the old ways for the promise of the bearer of the cross, the bearer being held responsible for the way the people had been forced to live under conditions suitable for all but death, and the promise being held responsible for allowing such conditions to exist under its bearers’ name while they themselves paid heed to the cross only with their faces turned upward to the sky but forgetting about the place they stand on, and Lippie T., taking these thoughts with him as he made his way into the kitchen where his mother was preparing a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, proclaimed to her, “Mother! I have been considering coming to know the Lord lately! Would it please you if I were to accompany you to church this day?” Mother staggered back with one hand on her chest and the other clutching for support from the table, for she had been there at the time of her husband’s last breath, and could only utter in initial surprise a great “OH!” and then falling into a chair at tableside, “Church! Yes, dear Lippie, of course you may come to church with me. Perhaps you will be able to light the candles! We’ll have to see. I’ll talk to the pastor for you,” and after a brief moment, “Lippie? Dear? Come sit here on my knee. Your father has been dead now for four years. Do you remember what he said? And what do you think now? Would you like to be baptized into the church today? “

“Baptized?” Lippie questioned. “I haven’t given it much thought, mother,” and rising from his mother’s knee, “but I will think about it as we walk.”

Lippie held the hand of his mother as they did the long walk to her place of worship.

“Mother,” he asked with his head bent low in consideration, “does everybody bring money to church when they go?”

“Yes,” his mother replied, “it is for the offering to the Lord.”

“I see,” said Lippie. “That is what I thought. Tell the pastor that I will be ready.”

Upon arriving at the church, and after conferring with the pastor, mother led Lippie T. by soft hand to the room where those who sang in the choir kept their coats and purses and the robes they were to wear while singing praises to the Lord, and Lippie T. did not once crack a smile upon counting the purses of the shelves above, which numbered seventeen, and he made mental note of the door behind which his loot lay, and while donning the robe of the candle lighter, he said to his mother, “Mother, I need to know where the bathroom is in case I need to pee while the service is in progress. Will you show me where it is?”

“You should go potty now, Lippie, if you need to.”

“I don’t have to now, but I may later. I should know where to go.” Lippie T. zipped up his robe and reached for his mother’s hand.

“The bathroom is two doors down on the left. Now come young man, you have a job to do.”

Having lit the candles behind the altar and taken his seat in back next to his mother, Lippie T. folded his hands neatly in his lap and began considering the nature of what he was about to do, it being nearly behind his capabilities to keep from grinning at the thought of many in the hands of children, and after half-an-hour’s time went by he leaned in near the open ear of his mother and told her how he must pee immediately, rose from the pew without consent, ducked quickly into the hallway, looked right, looked left, looked to the right again and to the left, trying to gain his bearings, and once accomplishing this by the recognition of the door behind which his loot lay and entering there safely, he reached for the first of the seventeen purses, and out of this one drew twenty-three dollars, reached for the second and out of this drew fourteen, and finding in the third eighteen, and so on down the shelves, eventually coming to the decent sum of two-hundred and fifty-one dollars which was quickly and evenly distributed among the four pockets of his pants and without much more reflection Lippie T. closed the door softly behind him and returned to the pew where his mother sat, head bowed deep in prayer.

Once the service had ended and the plate had been passed, his mother having tossed two dollars, one for her and one for him, Lippie T. leaned in close to the vacant ear of his mother. “Mother, is it time for my baptism now?”

Mother turned her head towards her son and rested her hands upon his. “Yes, Lippie. It is time. Come. I have already talked to the pastor.”

Lippie T. Poorbreed, fatherless son of a poor and troubled mother, who at one time previous had been an excellent thief, broke down upon one knee and with a sly smile turned to the congregation, “I am truly sorry to not have come here sooner. I had no idea that this place could provide so much for my people,” and turning then to the pastor, “I’m ready.”

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.

 


Waterbug

When Polly walked next to him in the sun she glowed, but Nestor was too embarrassed even to request to hold her hand as they went along towards the market for sodas.

“Why do you act like such a goof-ball around me?” Polly looked out at him from the corner of her eye. She didn’t want to look right at him. She wanted to know the answer to her question, seriously, but was afraid to burst out laughing if she should look directly at him.

“I dunno.” Nestor wiggled his fingers in his pockets, shrugged his shoulders, did a fancy little skip step and swung around on the walk to face Polly as he kept pace with her while skipping backwards.

“Do I make you nervous?” asked Polly. “I make you nervous, don’t I?”

Nestor looked at the way her thumbs hooked into her belt loops at her hips as she walked. The way she tossed her hips made him sweat, feel real nervous about sex. So did all that hair of hers, long, straight, black, burgundy in spots in the sun, fluttering over her shoulders and across her neck and breasts in the breeze.

“No. Not nervous. Not really.” Nestor played at boxing with her as he danced around on his toes, faking combinations at her flat little tummy, gently poking her in the ribs as he fell back to walk at her side.

She laughed at his touch. It tickled. It felt good to laugh together and while they laughed they looked at each other with their mouths wide open and they both felt embarrassed at showing such a true and unrehearsed side of themselves but it felt awful good and it was spring and warm and they were new together, new to each other, new on the promenade.

Polly wanted to make Nestor say it, say that it was her who made him act silly like he did when he was with her. Other times, when she had stood off from him and watched him with the other boys, she had watched him be quiet, graceful, fully at ease in his long slender body. The way he was with her, well, she’d have to break him of that. Where she really wanted to be was in the presence of that even, focussed, attentive, and assured young man that she saw when she stood away and looked. She saw him there, far off, there in the way she wanted him to be. She could see it, but she could not get close to it, could not yet make it happen closer to her. He would have to admit it first, that it was her.

“You don’t know what it is, then, do you? Makes you dance around me like a bug on water?”

“A waterbug? You don’t make me nervous, Polly. Just, I really like you is all. You know?”

She heard it. Waterbug. That was the word that had made him say it.

“You like me?” Polly stroked some hair back behind her ear.

They paused in front of the entrance to the market. Polly turned a shoulder in towards Nestor and she rubbed a toe along the cement walk between them, looking down at her shoe as she did so.

“Yes. I mean, of course I do,” said Nestor, following her toes with his eyes.

“So what makes you act all silly around me then, Nestor, like you wanna be somewhere else, all nervous and jumpy like you get?”

“I don’t want to be anywhere else, really Polly. ‘Cept with you, I guess, I mean, I’m glad you know now. I just get all wound up, get out of rhythm with it. It’s you makes me do it, get that way. Other girls don’t touch me. But you, you got something works for you. It’s like it ain’t even hard for you, like you ain’t even gotta work at it to get all the guys to come ‘round you. I ain’t like them other guys, Polly. I ain’t, and when they’re around you, well, I’d just as soon stand off a bit.”

“Play it cool?”

“Yeah.”

Boji’s Market was a relief from the heat. They went inside. Polly loved it when Nestor paused to allow her first entry. When they were in front of the sodas Polly scooched close to Nestor so they were touching shoulder to shoulder. She looked into his reflection in the glass in front of the sodas.

“Those other boys don’t mean nothing to me either, Nestor. Do you know, sometimes? When I’m with them? Surrounded by them? I’m watching you. I’m looking around, looking around, then I see you. I watch you. You always look so cool.”

“Well, I’m supposed to look cool, Polly. I been cultivating it.”

“Cultivating it?”

“Yeah. The look. You know. You wanna see it?”

“Right here in front of the sodas?” Polly tried to stop the squeal but it came out anyway. She didn’t care. She put her fingers at her lips and told him to go ahead. “Go ahead. Do the look. Show me. I wanna see it up close.”

Nestor cleared his throat. Then he shifted all his weight to his right leg and produced an inkling of the look.

Polly hated to laugh but she knew it would happen. She should never have taken on the meeting with the look, close as she was to it now. She couldn’t handle it, was not prepared to receive it properly like a young girl ought to, with proper respect and admiration due the young man for showing a piece of himself that he had constructed, in part, for her.

“How come you laughed at my look? You wanted to see it! It’s cool!” Nestor folded his arms and frowned.

Polly thought there would be more to it after she saw it. She thought that a feeling would roar over her like a river bearing her as the maidenhead on it’s course across the land, strong and sure and relentless and destined. Nestor’s look hadn’t produced. It was only a mask anyway, a cover-up to hide who he was on the inside. But it was that real, easy part that she wanted to be close to, there on the inside. Not a mask or a parody or a caricature, but the real, deep thing that was turning into a man right as she looked at him. She bore witness to his growth, and was there to note it when he showed himself to be apart from the other boys. It hurt her to laugh like a silly girl at his demonstration of how he viewed himself, when she ought to have been prepared to accept him more like a lady, with grace and encouragement and tenderness.

“I don’t mean to laugh, Nestor, I really don’t. When I get nervous I just laugh. It’s like a reflex for me. Please, please don’t think I’m laughing at you, ‘cause I’m not.”

“It’s okay, Polly,” said Nestor, “it’s okay. I know what it is to be nervous around somebody that you might kinda, sorta, really like. Myself, I just can’t get it to be right around you. Here, pick out a soda, Polly. My treat. You know what I mean? I mean, I can be off doing something with Bobby and then, wham, you’ll come along, I’ll see you, and then it’s like there was a train or something ran over me so I can’t walk or breath or even move right.”

Nestor paid Sam for the drinks and they left, keeping on down the walk past the market towards the park. They went along in silence for a stretch and sipped at their sodas. Polly had chosen orange, Nestor grape. The can felt weighty in Nestor’s hand. Weighty, cold, wet. He looked at the droplets of condensation on the can, saw them build and run down the side onto his finger. Fifty cents wasn’t much to spend on a girl, but on a hot day a cold sweet soda went down good and made a nice memory to think about later as something they had shared.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.

 


The Morning World

Through the mist there are the mountains. It is dark yet on the valley floor where the city is and I can see to the east where the mountains are that behind them there is the sun and the pale blue color of a clear desert sky. It is the morning after the first heavy snowfall of the season. The air is crisp and dry and the fires have been burning all night long and on into the cold dawn where the wood smoke has risen high up the sides of the mountains to rim the valley in a blue-white veil. Later the veil will be burned off by the sun, showing the mountains sharper and cleaner and whiter and purer against the sky, stronger and standing more absolute than usual in their bright majesty of long tall centuries. This is how they belong, friend, incontrovertibly majestic and without peer, sustainers of prayers and dreams and heights and visions.

As I walk my breathing is light and visible and I think of the breath of wild mustangs in the high deserts of Nevada turning their heads in the snowfall and moving forth slowly in search of food. I can hear the strike of my boots on the cement resonating down the street across the ice and snow and it is the only sound in the air other than the chirping of the birds. The early morning is a vital and precious thing, invigorating and astounding in its clarity. All around me there lies the snow, heavy and soft and thick like a velvet curtain fallen. When it warms further toward the mid-afternoon and the sun has been out good and strong over the mountains it will be important to walk beneath the overhanging limbs with a high upturned collar to prevent the melting snow from falling down the back of the neck at the slightest breeze. But still, it is a quiet and motionless morning except for the tiny hardy birds that flit from limb to twig to fence to eave to steeple (I think they might be starlings, there are so many of them – fifty or more in a single tree), quick and tireless and wary, hungry for seed or crumb. Occasionally too, there is the stray cat who pauses in mid-stride to observe my approach, only to slink off in a continual search for warmth and food before I get near. There are people as well - two or three early risers emerging from their doorways like sleepy children born into a new season, yawning over steaming coffee and shivering with cold and excitement. The cold is a shock and cheeks redden quickly. The people are fast back within their homes.

This is the morning world of the city in the valley. This is the morning world, and I am alive in it walking its streets, counting its cars, listening to its birds and songs and tires and doors opening or closing, watching the mountains through the buildings and thinking of how life is hardest and truest on the mountains where somewhere there is a hare with a twitching nose at the edge of a meadow beneath a bush, unconcerned about death or the long solemn vision of the hawk on the boulder in the sun. Amidst the waking life of the morning I oddly think of death and the talon and a small clear squeal lost against a high long sky that is pale and empty beneath which there drips from a wound a red trail of blood onto the mountain. Always there is death in the winter on the mountain. And down on the streets where I am walking there is also death, but death longer and slower and more weary, cold loveless and lonely and far less majestic or poignant. There are those damned cats, you see, who when pausing to look, look down the walk over the snow without a clear conception of their own imminent deaths, but somehow appear so forlorn and hopeless that when they bow their heads to move on it is as if they know, deeply, that their struggle is now tenfold the greater and you cannot help but sorrowfully look after them at their tracks that are fresh down the alley behind the backs of buildings that their people once lived in.

Turning away to walk on, though, I hug myself against the cold and declare that, despite the arrival of the cruel season it’s good to be under the sun in the morning world and it’s good to be present and attentive. I know I am alive because I can see my breath and I smile at this, ever aware of my own mortality. But beyond that I am aware of the heights of deep and emotional living, my visions and my dreams, and pleased to be not just breathing to one day die without ever having been aware.

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.

 


Seven Colors of the Sun

H. Panky Fastbuckle kicked the door shut behind them and immediately thereafter his pants crumpled to the floor.

“Young lady!” he began, “This is my home! Welcome to my home!”

“Very nice, Panky,” replied the woman as she looked around, “but what has happened to your pants?”

“You didn’t notice it,” spoke Panky, “but I turned my belt into a serpent and sent it off to the bedroom to wait for us there. My pants have fallen because I did this.”

“I see. But what will the serpent do in the bedroom?”

“The serpent will rest its tail on the wall above our heads. Its head and the rest of its tail will encircle the bed until the head again meets the tail on the wall above our heads. This is all to ensure the success of our creative act.”

“Well! How wonderful and fortunate for me!” The young lady folded her arms across her chest. “And what do you call your little pet serpent belt?”

“I have never named it. Neither one of us has named it, up until now. Perhaps that is why you didn’t notice it.”

There was a pause. The naked shoulder of the sun dipped further into the earth. Panky saw this past the head of the woman through the shade in the window. He spoke. “Young lady! Before we begin!” He clapped his hands together twice and rubbed them. His penis swung and dangled as he made a heavy step forward. “I am new in town! What do they call you here?”

“The men or the women?” asked the woman.

“THE MEN!” Panky rubbed his hands together furiously.

“They all call me Silkie.”

They were alone, and Silkie had long black hair.

“I have been admiring your hair this evening, Miss Silkie.” Panky bent low at the waist and spoke towards his feet as he unlaced his boots and removed his pants. “You should show me what you can do with that hair.” He then rose and stiffened. “Here! I have an idea. Drape it across my member. Right here! Look. It is already erect.”

Silkie brought her hands to the back of her head, eased to one knee, and began removing the string from her hair. “You’ve never noticed it,” she began, “but my hair holds the seven colors of the sun.”

“I know that. I told you earlier how much I’ve been admiring it lately.”

“Is that the sun or the hair?”

“The hair. And the sun. I admire them both. But only the hair should be draped on my penis at this moment.”

The woman finished undoing the braid and draped the hair.

Panky moaned.

Silkie sighed.

“Panky!” The call came from under the hair. “You know, I may be interested in your penis later, but I am both hungry and thirsty right now.”

Panky had left his manners at the door. “Where are my manners?” he asked, and withdrawing his penis from under Silkie’s hair, he found and gathered his pants up around his waist and called for the serpent, which had been listening around the corner where the bedroom was, to come out and turn itself into a belt around his waist again, saying, “Little Pet Serpentbelt! You should come be around my waist again!”

The serpent acknowledged Silkie on its way out of the bedroom with a nod as it came towards htem. Silkie rose, threw back her hair, and waved a slight hello. Little Pet Serpentbelt slithered into a belt around Panky’s waist as had been suggested.

Silkie saw all this happen. And then she said, “Look, Panky, I am still hungry and thirsty.”

“I have only cold beer to drink and thick venison steaks to eat.”

“That sounds fine. I’ll have one of each. I’ll take the beer right now.”

Panky led Silkie to the kitchen and seated her at the kitchen table. He opened two beers and handed one to Silkie. She finished the bottle in one draw. Panky reached for the apron next tot he oven and tied it on. “I don’t know about you, but drinking pop or beer too fast makes my throat burn. Does that happen to you?”

“No. But maybe it’ll happen this time. Another beer, please.”

Panky leaned into the fridge for another beer. He withdrew two thick steaks and set them on the counter. After this, he opened the beer for Silkie and handed it to her. “I wonder if I have any potatoes around here,” he said, opening the doors and looking through the cupboards, which were all bare. “It doesn’t look like I do.”

“That’s alright,” said Silkie, “the meat will be enough.” She finished her beer and set it next to the other.

“You know, Silkie, I certainly admire your beer drinking abilities,” handing her another, and finishing his, taking one for himself, and continuing, “but it makes me wonder what other abilities you possess.” He began poking holes in the steaks with a fork. “For instance, what is your relationship with the sun?”

“My hair holds its seven colors.”

“Yes. I know that. But what does that mean?” Panky turned on the flame beneath a skillet.
“It means that my hair has been empowered by the sun to capture and blind a man into meek submission of catering days.”

“You mean something like marriage?”

“Yes. You have been listening well! The power is explained in the story of Sidebelly.”

“Who’s Sidebelly?” The steaks sizzled as they were laid on the iron. Panky leaned up against the counter next to the stove, putting one hand on his hip and the other around his bottle. He raised the bottle to his mouth. They both drew on their beers.

“Sidebelly?” Silkie rose from the table and began walking around the kitchen, touching the potholders hanging on the fridge, messing with the silverware in the drawer, banging on the pots with a spoon, peering at her reflection in the window, running her fingers along the sill, fondling the lace curtains, until she finally spoke. “Sidebelly,” she began, “was a young man who tried to run away from the responsibilities of his manhood, one of which, of course, included taking a wife. He set a bad example for the other men. He told them that are our mouths were open invitations to tragedy, and that our minds were invasive and manipulative. So he took off, ran north through the pines for six years without pause for water or love in the avoidance of our women. Many of the other young men began to feel this way too, fearful of women, and we lost nearly two-thirds of them across the River of Separation. The women shouted to them and spread their legs and showed them their bodies, but we still could not get them to look over their shoulders. Finally, my Grandmother appealed to the sun for help in the matter.” Silkie drained the last of her third beer and reminded Panky to flip the steaks. “You should flip those steaks!” she said, and reached into the fridge for another beer. Panky flipped the steaks.

“Go ahead with your story.” He played with the steaks as she continued.

Silkie went on. “So my Grandmother said to the sun, ‘Look at the way your sons are behaving. They are all running away from their manhood. We women are tired of this. You should help up get them back.’”

“So what did the sun do?” Panky flipped the steaks onto a plate and set the plate in the center of the table. He pulled up a chair.

“Oh! Yes!” Silkie reached for her steak with both hands before drawing them back and peering up at Panky. “Do you mind if I use my hands?”

“No,” said Panky, “here are extra napkins.”

They ate their steaks in silence and then wiped their hands when they were through.

“Delicious,” said Silkie.

“Thank you,” replied Panky. “But after your Grandmother spoke to the sun, what did the sun do?”

“Well, let me tell you. The sun began by instructing the women of the village to each find and polish one piece of crystal from the quarry on the mountain. They did this. It took them one day. While they were doing this, the sun told them they should all come with the polished crystals in their hands to the summit of the mountain to meet him early the next morning. The women nodded their heads and said they would be there. Early that morning while it was still dark they began the long walk up the mountain. They tore their skirts and skinned their knees on the way up but did not complain. A few of them were not too sure footed, and they died while rolling down the mountain. No one looked back.”

Silkie spread her hands on the table and looked down at her fingers. She counted ten of them. Panky leaned in closer.

“When the other women had made it to the top of the mountain, they sat down and crossed their legs and dug the stones out of their pockets to show each other their handiwork. Everyone laughed and hoped their lives would be better because of this effort. Then the sun appeared and said, ‘You women down their on the mountain! Throw your stones into the air a little above your heads!’ They looked at each other and did this, and saw that their stones did not fall to the earth like they expected, but hovered above them in the air. ‘Now you women down there listen good!’ he said, ‘I have already spoken with the earth, and she has agreed to put an end to the running of Sidebelly and his men!’ All the women wondered how this was to be done. They were told by the sun that their men had been covered up with blankets of moss to keep them in one place for the time being. The women were pleased to hear this and folded their hands in their laps. They had been listening good. The sun went on. 'Now you women must have a way to keep your men by your sides! It is for this reason that I have called you all here this morning! Look at the stones hanging in the air above your heads!’ he said. The women looked at their stones. ‘these stones are very powerful! Look at the colors I have placed inside them!’ The women murmured their appreciation and waited for the sun to continue. Then he said, ‘All of you women! Display the fullness of your hair across your backs and turn to face the west!’ They did so, and immediately felt the heat of the sun grow more intense over their shoulders. They wondered what was going on behind them. The sun told them, ‘I have placed within your hair the seven colors of the sun! This will be very enticing to the men. They will want you to do things with your hair that you might not expect, so be prepared. It will excite them, and keep them around! What you must do now, you women, is go find the men. Show them your hair! Lay your hair across their members, and they can never run away again. Now take your stones and go! All I have said is true.’
The women left and did what the sun said.”

Silkie finished and looked at Panky.

Panky looked back at Silkie. “And you tell me that you are related to these women?”

“Yes. The seven colors of the sun are in the hair of all our women.”

Panky rose in silence and tipped back his beer. It emptied into his gullet. “Well, I for one,” he said, “am a young man yet, and my legs are still strong like Sidebelly’s legs were strong before he was tricked and captured. So I do no think I am the one you should be interested in.” He tossed aside the apron and clutched his buckle. He did his best James Dean. Silkie shook her head and laughed at him for a while and then lit a cigarette. “Panky,” she said, “you idiot. Don’t you know? It doesn’t matter what you think anymore.”

Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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