GUNSLINGER IN NEW MEXICO
FOR ED DORN (1929-1999)
“Entrapment is this society’s sole activity…& only laughter can blow it to rags. But there is no negative pure enough to entrap our expectations…”
Ed Dorn, GUNSLINGER, III.
“All is transhistorical,…”
Ed Dorn, GUNSLINGER, The Cycle.
“ I love these dogs because they are us & more us than we are & they seek their places as do the true…”
Ed Dorn, THE COSMOLOGY OF FINDING YOUR SPOT.
“Time is movement in space.”
Gaston Bachelard, POETICS OF SPACE.
In the Land of the Moneygrubbers,
the curtain rises on a single speaker,
out of nowhere, accompanied
by the Abso-Lute.
Last time I saw you Slinger,
you, the Poet and Lil’
were stoned at the Red Dog Inn, Lawrence, Kansas,
dancing to the Ike & Tina Turner Revue,
Ikettes moving in unison
to the thunderous clef from a tornadic storm
resounding above the Red Dog’s roof,
while Tina almost swallowed the microphone.
We were stunned from shimmy to shake,
hypnotized by black singers in white, sequined micro-minis,
by Tina’s voice which had legs, Ikettes a musical metronome,
the storm overhead cracking claps in rhythm
with Ike’s band that made the Red Dog
dance and dance and dance,
Tina movin’ on the river of rhythm,
storms inside and out coordinating crescendos
while through it all we never lost power.
Out in the night rain,
the River City Outlaws and Kaw Valley Hemp Growers
were cutting their nightly harvest.
Wayne Kimball & his Great White Dog
were at the Rock Chalk Cafe
where the Sacred Mutt circled,
looking for his Spot on the Cosmology of the Floor.
Long before the Red Dog
or the Great White Dog of the Rock Chalk,
Quantrell and his accursed war-curs
burned Lawrence to the ground
during border clashes within the Civil War
between partisans, pro and con,
of people as money.
But if you had been there Slinger,
when the evil Q attacked
Massachusetts Avenue with the James boys
& Mizzou cohorts, rabid shadows of the Dog Star,
leaving only the hotel standing,
you woulda pulled your .44,
pulled the rug from under the thugs.
Whirling in a pivot of consciousness,
I remotely viewed you shoot the assassin Q,
take hash from the wound-smoked body
of the hashashin assassin,
consume his death in a puff,
spit his spirit out in a smoke-ring,
and go on dancing to a tune of The Dead
rolling from lobe to lobe like the Red Dog rhythm
in the pasado presente,
gliding to the edge of the shelf of your Self
on the Dia de los Muertos dance-floor of time
where you reached down, scooping up little sugar skulls
from altars on Mexica graves,
ate the cloyingly sweet death with a bitter aftertaste
of Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochti and Xipe Totec,
flayed the skin of the Fascist Q you slew,
pulling it over your body to steal the power of his life,
like a smokey shawl of death,
a mortal rebozo.
Slinger, I saw your word and deed,
warp and woof of your turf,
shadow of your shadow,
at high noon in Chaco
in a thousand ravi-shankars of light
and in the full-moon midnight
selenography of Jemez.
I know you and the Poet are still here
en la tierra encantada,
because you buried some words
around Enchanted Mesa
near the stone island of Acoma
or left a hidden poem
in a labyrinth of crossword
of transhistorical words
on El Morro Rock near Zuni
or melting letters on the walls
of the Badlands Ice Cave.
On your journey down to Nuevo Mexico,
you probably passed through the Raton,
moving from the Great Plains
of Hidatsa, Mandan and Shoshone in your old car,
wearing that round, wide-brim, black leather hat
you sometimes wore with aviator sunglasses
before Stevie Ray Vaughn ever wore them, or was even born,
on your way from Black Mountain to the Gran Apacheria
like a sacred white buffalo covered in a cloak of invisibility,
a buckskin Ghost Dance shirt from a Lakota or Cheyenne shaman
painted with the story of your life.
Slinger, I know your aim
was always true, your truth always aimed.
Like the Poet, your Eye and Poetic I,
you know the only good fascist is a dead Fascist,
like the evil Q you slew in a Midwest dream
stretching from the 1860s to 1960s
in a century of constant war.
And I know when you and the Poet came down
to New Mexico via Santa Fe, you descended La Bajada Hill,
passing through the city of the Duque de Albuque,
through Socorro south, traveling in your mobile
teleidoscopic memory down a wagon-rut road thru
battles in humane/human history,
till you picked up scent of the fame-trail of the Kid
from Lincoln County to Silver City to Ft. Sumner,
saw the take-down in the Mind’s Eye of your Poetic I
where the pat-garrets inside Billy’s brain
killed every last endorphin they could find
as his body fell in slow motion,
rippling heatwaves like a lazy lizard
in desert dust.
We’re still waiting for the cadaver
to hit ground in a future echo
from the Mogollon Rim.
And after that flashback
prismed off a disco mirror ball,
Slinger, I know you drove down to Mesilla,
saw a Mimbres scorpion design
tatooed on your driving hand by Zia sunrays
just as it would appear on the bottom of a bowl
placed over the face of Mimbreno dead.
As the scorpion hand on the steering wheel,
moved back and forth, the vehicle glided
down linear historical lanes
till Slinger entered circular sacred space
of the death-bowl over his life,
broke a hole in the bottom
for his spirit to breath free.
Like Orlando, Slinger, you were furioso,
and so was the talking horse you came in on
when you had to sell the nag to pay a debt to Roland,
French dude singing his Chanson de Ronceveaux,
calling for his Hammer and back-up in the reprise;
and you owed a debt to Sid, Spanish champion
moored to the myth of Al-Andalus;
and to Uly, who’s wife Penny
wove rugs like the Navajo Spider Woman deity;
and to yourself Slinger, looking for a hero,
or anti-hero, sandwich prepared
at the Epic Lunchcounter
where they can sling
the Slinger some hash.
“Wait”, sd. Slinger,
“isn’t this some DE-scription
of my anecdotal history,
my tango choreography,
from East to West?
After having been scribed,
to be DE-scribed
would mean my name is
“You’re not being DE-scribed,”
sd. the Poet, “that would be Instant Death,
but it’s true your multi-group of One
are adventurers of neither ether
nor one reality or another.”
“Well,” sd. Slinger, “I guess
the Poet throws what the Poet knows.”
With that, Lil’ began singing
from her own version of the Kalevala
in which Slinger becomes Vainamoinen,
his horse a blue elk and Lil’ the Earth Mother.
“That proves it”, sd. the Poet:
“The Truth of Myth is History
but the History of Myth is Poetry.
It’s just hit and myth,
That is: It all comes down to Truth or Consequences,
a city once Hot Springs according to an old map of Nouveau Mexique.
Or: A city whose motel rooms had hot springs by night
while hope sprang eternal by day
but ran into consequences of the Truth,
left and never came back.
Who knows which way
“All I know is
the damn thing
doesn’t float”, sd. Slinger,
“especially down the Rio Grande,
which has had its water stolen.”
The Poet, Slinger and Lil’ centered themselves
with the I and Eye so they wouldn’t arrive
before getting to their eternal, internal
desublimated destination somewhere between
the Organ, Sacrament, Watermelon, Hemish
and Blood of Christ Mountains.
In their roundabout way,
they approached the Outskirts,
crossed the Taos Gorge Bridge,
traveled the high-ridge road
through Truchas and Trampas,
fell down the falls at Nambe,
passed the now-rich ghetto of
the City of Our Lady of the Holy Faith,
down Jemez Canyon arriving in the village of Placitas,
in the ancient Land of Creeley
where a Thunderbird once lived,
its nest a hangout for outlaws, poets and other miscreants.
“Do you want red or green, Slinger,” sd. the Poet?
“Neither either, replied his ego at the altar of the Poetry Deity,
also called Miss Thing, “just les mots justes,
or at least la mota justa, just like those bards
with their verbal barbs over in Madrid and Cerrillos,
on the William Blake or Walt Whitman Memorial Highway
Number 14, on the back road between Sandia Crest and Santa Fe,
past the temporary creative vortex
where the Synergia Ranch Commune used to be
not far from the prison of Reality.”
“But,” sd. Slinger, “My horse Heidegger
wants to run for the money and
I’m afraid I’m losing my Poetic I.
We need to move on to the
City of Dead Presidents
where I can hone my Eye and I
The bright hues of sunset over the Land of the Moneygrubbers
color the daily decline or incline on the tables and walls
of Wall Street and Las Vegas Boulevard for Imperial Gelt-ocrats.
“Did you say Howard Hughes
is still living at the Sunset in Vegas?”
sd. Slinger, “and if so, is he still
in the Mandarin Chinese way,
you know, with silk robes
and long fingernails
to grasp the money
that drove him crazy?”
“No, Slinger, Howard’s dead,”
the Poet sd., “rode off into that other sunset,
though still venerated among the moving inventory
of the people in this Land of Entrapment
located in the sharp knife point of southern Nevada
as it stabs toward the Colorado River
and throughout the acreage known as
the Kingdom of the Almighty Dollah.”
Howard, in his later incarnation of moneyed lunatic,
a far cry from his role as Son of Sunset Boulevard
or Daddy Warbucks of Hollywood film strips and strippers,
dandy dildo of vagina reginae of the silver screen,
was hermit-ically sealed in his guilt-gelt,
entrapping himself in a cocoon of greed
surrounded by a Mormon moneygrubber mafia
who protected him from the hoi-polloi
in his spider lair high above the madding crowds
who stroll the Vegas concrete prairies
looking for a favorite place to give away their
hard-earned money as if they were rich
and could afford to light cigars
with hundred dollar bills like million dollar Howard.
so called because some
of her best friends
sd. to Slinger:
“I didn’t even know Howard was dead,
they musta been keepin’ it a secret
like the death of that young President,
his Senator brother and the American Avatar
of the Mahatma who knew his salt,
spun peace cloth to replace the fabric of empire.
I guess Howard could hustle everyone’s future
but his own.”
“Well”, sd. Slinger, “you know
what the Poet sd”.: “Vegas is a decoy…
It’s real like a Hunter’s duck…”*
In the futuro pasado,
on stage at the Red Dog Inn,
Tina and the Ikettes pretend to compete for Ike,
who plays his guitar deadpan,
paying no notice to the mock battle
which builds to a musical climax.
Tina always wins, carried on by Ike’s rhythm,
later the blues.
The Red Dog’s dancers are lost in the dance-trance,
power-voice, heartbeat, back-rhythm,
sub-woofers barking their notes
over the pulsing room.
At the Rock Chalk Cafe on Mt. Oread,
the Great White Dog of the Rock Chalk,
always circled in search of the Perfect Spot,
as one of the two Symbolic Dogs
of Lawrence of Kansas,
the Red and the White,
like Midwest (in)carnations,
now awaft in the smoky Mirror of Memory,
and as the Mythic Twin Dogs of the Egyptian pantheon
guarded the Gates of Heaven,
so the Great White Dog of the Rock Chalk
and his Red Canine counterpart
guard the axle-spot of Memorial Space
on the Dancefloor of History.
In a corner of the Inn-space of the Great Red Dog,
Slinger, the Poet and Lil’ dance inside their own
tornadic rhythm from Kansas backward
to the Center of the Chaco circle of ancient skyscrapers,
whirling dustdevils in a transhistorical, Puebloan teleidoscope,
time-warp particles of stars passing through the space,
of memory constellations.
Back in the Kaw River Valley,
the hemp-harvesters have finished their task
before Deputies come searching for the River City Outlaws
and their bright, night-harvest lights hovering over dark fields
like UFO illuminations floating over Elysian Fields of Kannabis,
champs elysees of Cansas, that are now gone in a toke of memory
just as they arrived.
*A direct quote from Ed Dorn’s GUNSLINGER. The references to the Rock Chalk Cafe, Wayne Kimball and his dog come from Dorn’s The Cosmology of Finding your Spot (or Place in later editions). The Red Dog Inn and Rock Chalk Cafe were actual places in Lawrence in the late 1960s. Ed Dorn taught in the English Department of Kansas University at that time. I taught in the Spanish Department. –Gary Brower
Love the poem. It’s like Pike Bishop said in THE WILD BUNCH. If they move, killem. I think Peckinpah stole that line from Dillinger.
epic. great stuff. not one word that feels out of place.