go on out to Sole’s Rest
past the last city exit
get off the at the truck stop
take the old highway into dusk
after the fire last year it’s all shortgrass
white-gold in the last rays
first know a long nothing
between here and nowhere violet
beyond the firebreak melting soft
where coyotes pull down the sun
and lure the house dogs out
minstrels of the desert skirl and chime
out past the corral
no bell so sweet
the pups can’t help themselves
but pipe a dirty descant
come out on the porch
where a star falls down singing
the delicate cacophony
with a sudden snarl or itch
the cubs always miss their cue
so the highest pitch fades last
melting black hills
distant trucks shift down
somewhere between Indian Creek
and Mountain Home
their echo more quiet than no sound
wait, they’ll start again
turn the porch light off and listen
to the cooling air
play the Dimming of the Day
and Little Joe the Wrangler
now another mile away
fainter sweeter now they bay
and go about their business
the desert dogs sing waltz time
on the dark side of the day
into the desert of breaking things without pause for concern
a prayer and a message for the old and the new – to be repeated upon waking from whatever dreams or nightmares still haunt us taunt us rejecting our efforts to remember
with words worming warming – sorry, warning – with words worming a warning of halt! stop! desist! into your mind the mind our mind the collective mind of humanity stuck out here in this godforsaken place called home – sorry, warning – settlement, not home, settlement – stuck out here in this godforbidden settlement on the other side the dark side the side we never ever ever see; of the moon, yes, our crumbling cracked moon some 384,403 kilometers from oily mother earth – our former home spewing fumes and fumigations of smoky hell – furnace furniture on special for all the unlucky survivors living in terror and fear and the slow suffocating death of the oxygen the inability to breathe sulfurous smoke the inability to convert CO2 back to O2 the inability to tip the point back the other way
stagger then, into the still dust of darkness with your weighted boots until you come to our flag – stars and stripes faded and worn from your light trembling touches – say a prayer as others have before you and take off your helmet – and die, old one, with the worming words still giving warnings – die out here with a view of total darkness and silence and peace and stars and the promise of a quick death, cold and surgical and everything you wanted but could never have – the wife the children the job the wealth you stole from people who trusted you who thought you their friend – let out that stale breath and stop the heart the foul heart of a chicken a coward a runner a loser
you think yourself back on earth on your ranch out in the desert far outside of a deserted wild west town – instead of white cotton candy decorating the sky, only ominous black clouds gather on the horizon – to rain oily slime on your horses your crops your collection of scorpions and rocks and fancy cars with empty tanks – sweat in front of the broken aircon and the useless generator sipping your last glass of bourbon, neat, no ice, alone and lonely and oh-so-sadly pathetic – memories of the good old days of clean water fresh air a smile the touch of your mother a gruff word from a strong dad roast beef a speeding ticket blue skies a pet dog called spot rain that cleansed a shower indoors shampoo brushing your teeth white and sparkly
we watch from the safety of our dome, hissing air from the latest holes we don’t have anything to fix with – watch the oldest sacrifice himself for the greater good our good getting better until best is the only option left us victorious bastards lucky heroes all working to put the past behind us and the future ahead of us and the present problems of dwindling resources and meteor-showers of moondust and moondarkness and of the icy cold of space without end without sunlight without any life – no snakes rattling behind a rock no bugs or hardy cacti no yellow prickly pear flowers no shrubs to tickle the shins no kangaroo rats or jackrabbits to bounce like lazy tennis balls or speedy ping pong balls no wily coyotes to howl at the moon and no lizards to flick rude forked tongues from a rock
no blizzards or sandstorms here to entertain and endanger what few good men we have among us – sorry, and women – what few good men and women we have left among us, to breed and to live on when all hope all land all past life is lost gone forbidden ended and – sorry, happy thoughts only – to breed and to carry on the legacy of man against all odds all bets all risks, if only we were fertile instead of just incredibly handsome and drop-dead gorgeous – our scientists continue to work on the problems of creating fertile children, cloning only the best of us – stem cell research and bioengineering promise to be our only way forward now that we have no choice no ethical considerations no one to watch us judge us tell us what to how to when to why not to where to do and not to do – so
some time has passed and now we stand again proudly on the achievements of our geniuses – our children breed true and fast, small bodies with enormous lungs hold air for hours at a time, strong membranes cover all exits and entrances and our babies scuttle about the dust of the moon, foraging for rocks and sniffing out the trapped water we need to convert to oxygen and to food to energy to power our new life as fallen gods rising from the darkness, the metaphor of transformation from the torture of abandonment and the discomforting challenges of compromise to the post-orgasmic bliss of fucking mother nature in the eye – we won – we live on – come and find us if you can – two-legged blindworm earthlings not welcome here – the moon is ours and you may find our settlement – sorry, home – you may find our new home not at all to your liking – be gone bygones and let the filth of your oily stench remain where it came from, on earth, as it is and always has been – forever and ever and ever – amen and an end to men and women of old – hallelujah and praise the lords of the new DNA sequences of the men and women of today who cover the moon with their limbs and their life and their work for our future and – sorry, warning –
with our words worming into your minds we leave what’s left of you humans with a warning – the moon is ours and we’re taking it far away from your filth – and a gift, our relatives our ancestors our two-legged monstrosities lie frozen and wasted in their ancient broken domes – in 16 of your days they will land and you will afford them proper burials as we depart your skies forever – oh soon-to-be moonless earthlings
we leave you now to your repercussions – if you’re still there – well, are you there or aren’t you there?
no matter – none of it matters – farewell well-flares well-fires unwell ones, and
at swim; the moon, fooling us once more to break the vicious cycles of the circles in our clocks – the ones that all stopped the hourglass moon sand dunes from spreading their lifeless bumps from flash-freezing us as we spread our arms our wings our fins our scales our mighty lungs our new limbs and swam the solar currents across years measured in light without pause for concern until we’d mended all the broken things we found
we return from the studded desert out there much changed – do you remember us as we do you? broken brothers and sisters, dare we try to mend you, too, or are you too far into your own spaces to return as triumphant as we do now?
The joy welled up until he thought he would burst. The Salamander giggled delightedly as he walked along the street, the people around him oblivious to the power that coursed through his fiery veins: liquid flame, passion made molten and power made pure, power made molten and passion made pure. His eye twitched. He commanded the tic stop, but it persisted. It annoyed him, this little failure when he had the very elements at his command, when the world was at his feet and these fools all belonged to him. How frustrating to control so many destinies, to hold so much power in your hands yet fail to stop your own fucking eye twitching.
The laughter died on his lips and he glared at the young mother fussing over the baby in the pushchair. He swerved to pass her on the narrow pavement. She was scantily dressed, hot like everyone else in this day when the lorry tyres pushed runnels into the tarmac and the air smelled of burning. The grass was brown on the verges, the taller weeds wilting. A bead of sweat glittered on her chest.
The droplet trickled down her front, slid onto the globe of her right breast and curved around to disappear in the moist coming together of her full cleavage. The tic in his eye stopped. She glanced up at him and he averted his gaze, his involuntary shyness a second little failure. He hurried on past her, stepping into the gutter to avoid her frown.
Oh, to think of the power he held and yet this humility he showed; whole lives squirmed around on the pinkness of his outstretched palm, living or dying on his whim. Humble me. Delighted, he giggled once again.
He walked on, raising his head to the blue enormity of the sky, looked into the burning sun as only he could, his eyes open wide to admit its heat while those around him cowered from it. He wanted to throw open his arms and bring it down into him, but it wasn’t the time. Not yet.
The power came rushing into him and he gurgled like a delighted baby. The tic was back, but he ignored it and walked on, weaving through the busy street of hot, bothered shoppers and laughing at the people propped up, gasping for breath against the glass shelter of the bus stop, its metal frame too hot to touch.
They just saw a dirty tramp, a yellow-white beard, wild hair and a shabby coat tied around him with frayed blue nylon rope. He knew that. He leered at them as he passed them, sneering at their averted gazes. A small boy pointed at him. He snarled, letting the redness of the flame enter his eyes for a moment, delighted at the frozen o of the boy’s mouth and the fear in his blue eyes. He walked past, giving a little skip as he heard the child starting to wail for its mother.
He shuffled through the gates of the park onto the grassland, mottled brown now thanks to the hosepipe ban. Couples and small groups sat pointlessly on the prickly, rough carpet of dying vegetation, shaded from the beating sun by umbrellas or portashades.
The power was building up in him now that he was in the open space, he could feel it beginning to pump with a sweet pain. He neared the monument at the centre of the park and stopped for a second to scan around. He caught the curious gaze of a nearby couple sitting under their portashade, an icefan set up next to them as they lay on their green grasspile rug together, reading their readers. They knew the second he did, he could tell from look of fear that crossed their faces. She would be The One.
He walked to them, the heat inside him turning his laughter into a moan as the sun poured into him, heating him beyond endurance. They were powerless to move until he shouted at the boy through the licks of flame beginning to consume him.
“Go! Run! Tell them it was the Salamander!”
The boy, released, scrambled away. He stopped, still on his knees, looking back at his girlfriend. Her eyes begged him to stay.
“GO!” screamed the Salamander.
He turned to the girl and with a sweep of his arm burned away the little clothing she was wearing. Her body hair ignited and she would have writhed but for the chains of flame he put around her. His clothes, too, were gone. He fell on her, burning her inside as he entered. He raised himself, then, to the sun and called it down into himself and then, with a gargantuan thrust he brought the moment of her death and his together. The heat blew them into a million shreds and tatters.
The blast pulled the parkland up, throwing gouts of soil into the sky. It burned bright in a leaping column of flame that boiled, suspended in the air before it dropped, a fireball that blew out in an awful concussion of super-heated air, a wall of force that smashed the buildings around the park and tore out the heart of the city.
A moment later in another city.
He woke under the railway arch. The cider bottle rolled away from him as he sat up, his bloodshot eyes wide at the single clear thought burning away the foggy ache of another hangover in an instant.
‘I am the Salamander.’
(from) Brown Trash
Look at her. She’s brown trash.
I hate my life and I hate the Midwest. I hate my brown skin, I hate my stupid name and I hate my religion. I feel like a goddamned freak in this small town in the middle of nowhere. My best friend is a black man who’s struggling to become an artist. I’m a twenty-five years old virgin and I’ve never had a boyfriend. Maybe I’m gay, but I sure as hell don’t feel attracted to females. I fancy white guys, but I still hate white people. I hate brown people, too. Actually, I hate everybody. The whole world is a fucking worthless place full of scumbags and we all deserve to die together in a nuclear bomb.
“We’re going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Why? I’ve got a right to be here.”
My family is Muslim, but I don’t want to be Muslim, yet at the same time I WANT to be Muslim just so I can shove it down in white trash Christian redneck’s faces. I fucking hate rednecks. I’m surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of rednecks. Nasty, smelly, stupid, racist, homophobic worthless rednecks with a bad case of busted meth-face, rabbit teeth, and rotting white skin, boasting about how Jesus is great and making sly anti-Semitic remarks about Jews. Rednecks hate Jews. They hate Black people and Mexicans, too. It’s only natural they hate Muslims. Around here, rednecks have screamed at me, “Go back to I-ran! Go back to Mexico!” Actually, you assholes, I’m not even Iranian or Mexican, but– because I have brown skin and black hair, it must mean I’m automatically Mexican or Iranian, right? Fuck you. You’re white, so you must be from England or Germany or France, right? You’re all the same. White people. You’re all the fucking same, so fuck you.
“If you want to come back… please dress more appropriately. Thank you.”
The door slammed in my face as I stood outside on the sidewalk, fuming. I just got thrown out of the Springfield Islamic Community Center. Two burly Muslim men escorted me out the door and tensely told me that if I wanted to remain at the mosque for prayer service, I needed to dress more appropriately. I looked down at my outfit: muddy combat boots, ratty denim vest which was heavily studded, old worn out jeans, and a ripped t-shirt of one of my favorite obscure punk bands, a headline which read: LONG LIVE THE FASCIST CUNTS! Great Britain Tour 1982.
Maybe it was my shirt that offended these poor innocent Muslim souls at the mosque. Or maybe when I grabbed a hijab out of the cardboard box that contained headscarves and had a sign that read: “Sisters! Please borrow a hijab if you don’t have one.” I pulled the hijab over my dyed lime green spiky hair and I struggled to fit it. That was when an annoying, wrinkly old brown skinned cunt approached me. I noticed she had been watching me carefully the whole time I arrived at the mosque. She looked like an aging Pakistani woman and probably spent all her time praying everyday. She asked me if I was a Hindu.
YOU FUCKING GODDAMNED BITCH! I’M NOT A HINDU! I’M A MUSLIM! JUST BECAUSE I DON’T DRESS LIKE A WRINKLY OLD CUNT LIKE YOU, IT DOESN’T MEAN I’M NOT A MUSLIM!
“No, ma’am, I’m a Muslim,” I politely replied. A look of shock came over the old lady’s face. She quickly eyeballed me up and down, absorbing in every part of my outfit, my hair, my face, and my attitude, uncertain what to say. She cleared her throat and asked, “Where are you from, dear?”
Here we go again. Muslim folks around here won’t accept the fact that I was born and raised Muslim just like ‘em, despise me being a punk rocker with dyed hair and piercings. YES, LADY, I’M A MUSLIM. GET OVER IT. AND NO, I’M NOT A HINDU CONVERT.
“My family is from India, I was born in Arkansas and I’ve lived here in Missouri since college,” I answered her quickly, anxious to get started on my prayer, “I really need to pray…”
That was when a group of young brown girls gathered around and whispered, staring at me. I caught a snippet of one of their hushed whispers, “look at her. She’s brown trash.”
Brown trash. That’s me. Yep, I am brown trash! I’m not ashamed of it. It’s who I am! It’s not as if I came from royal Mughal blood— both my parents hailed from a tiny poor village outside Delhi in India and my relatives over there are pretty trashy. Brown trash, that is. Some of my uncles and cousins over there wear dhoti around their waist, sit on a wooden bed outside in the hot, burning sun and chew straw. What’s more brown trash than that? Anyway, maybe it’s really that the Muslim girls all saw me as brown trash was because of my clothes and hair, and not from my Indian brown trash heritage.
And then those Muslims kicked me out, those assholes who threw me out because I didn’t look “appropriate” for their taste. Goddamned Muslims. I’m one of them and they won’t accept me. Fuck you! You’re all the same, just like those racist rednecks who hate Jews, blacks, Mexicans and Muslims.
I kicked the mosque door and glared after them. I peeked through the window. Everybody had already resumed their prayers and nobody noticed me still standing outside the door. It was humiliating being kicked out, but then again, I’m used to it. I’ve always been an outcast in the Muslim community. I’m also an outcast amongst Indians and South Asians. Well, actually, I think I’m more subjected to whispers and stares in the Muslim community since Muslims tend to be more conservative and uptight when it comes to sex, dating, alcohol, and whatever else. With Indians, it’s different. At least you have Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, and then you have Indians with different shades of brown skin, speaking different languages, eating different food, and having different forms of prayer from each other. A lot of Hindus love getting drunk and I can go to a Hindu party and get drunk and no one would throw me out. So there’s room for diversity in the Indian community. I prefer being Indian over being Muslim.
It’s sad, though. I love being Muslim. I love my religion. I just don’t like being told how to practice Islam. No one is gonna tell me how to be a proper Muslim. They should shut their mouth and stay out of my face.
Anyway, maybe these Muslims had a point in kicking me out of the mosque. They didn’t want be associated with trash or heretics. I’m trash and they decided to throw me out onto the street, to prevent further contamination of their little young souls. I turned around from the mosque and walked toward Cherry Street for the bus station.