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Creek Running North

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November 17, 2004

J. (4)

Grief is a siren. She bades you forsake all others, divest yourself of interests and passions. She promises bitter, familiar comfort, and all you need do is give your life wholly over to her. And when you do, she is gone. Even the sharpest grief will fade into depression, bitterness, resentment. You have shaped your life around something you no longer have.

I feel it necessary at this point to beg your indulgence, dear Reader, though your patience with my brooding may well be approaching a state best, if metaphorically, described as threadbare. Rest assured I sympathise. I know precisely how tedious it is to read the remembered maunderings of a bereaved and self-absorbed boy in his early twenties, even if filtered through the diffidence of the self-absorbed man two decades later. I am, therefore, certain that you can imagine the far greater tedium of actually being that slight post-adolescent, especially as that summer in Buffalo ended up actually being a summer spent mainly in my father's suburban basement, twenty miles out of town. No car, no public transit, and – as I wasn't speaking much – no conversation.

Endless amounts of beer were consumed down in that humid cellar, and I broke my petty vow never again to touch fingers to keyboard. Lurid stories were written, all featuring Coyote, most of them involving him being beaten senseless by friends or suffering humiliation at the hands of admirable, complex women.

Stuck in Buffalo one evening and unwilling to call for a ride, I walked ten miles along Buffalo Creek from the outermost bus stop to my father's house. The shallow water rippled over slate banks on its way to Lake Erie, breaking the moon into a million brilliant shards. Every mile or two a bright building loomed: a convenience store, a nursery, a noisy tavern whose music and breaking glass carried oddly on the moist night air.

I found a place to sit along the bank, let the mosquitoes land. While it was sharp, my sorrow over J. had oddly sustained me. But somewhere between Berkeley and Buffalo I had crossed a line, one separating the immediate tragic aftermath from the long haul. The bugs were biting and I was getting hungry, and those were the only two reasons I had to ever move from that spot, and they didn't seem enough. The rest of my life to live, and no interest in getting there. Dull grief is scant distraction.

A grove across the water had been badly pruned. Amputated limbs indicted the moon. Reducing us to one color, they complained. Unhappy, I imagined myself in the Mojave, a landscape I had driven through only in darkness, contorted Joshua trees looming in the headlights' margins.

It took an hour to recognize the feeling that came over me for what it was: homesickness.

I leaned against a silver maple, fell asleep as Buffalo Creek murmured. I dreamed I was at the wheel, driving through endless desert canyons, J. beside me fiddling with the radio knobs as static filled the car. We parked in Barstow, walked out onto the dry bed of the Mojave River, laid down together among the tamarisk.

Did I say the grief had ebbed? It was particularly sharp when I woke, alone and cold.

On glass-littered streetsides the mountains look down
The wrack and the ruin, the heartbreaking town.
But up above Crestline bright snows can be found;
They melt to the river that flows underground.

The desert is blazing, the mercury high
The sun pouring molten from up in the sky
Oh don't bother listening, you'll hear not a sound
from the inconstant river that flows underground.

The surface too thirsty for water to flow,
It seeks out the depths of the earth far below.
Though dams in the mountains may briefly impound,
the water runs through them to flow underground.

It passes through Lenwood, and Helendale too
The center of Barstow a dry sandy slough
And through Afton Canyon with cliffs red and brown
Mojave, the river that flows underground.

The desert is blazing, the mercury high
The sun pouring molten from up in the sky
Oh don't bother listening, you'll hear not a sound
from the inconstant river that flows underground.

Well early one evening down in Riverside
The love of my young life was struck down and died
I watch from the mountains, my sadness profound
My tears join the river that flows underground.

The people around me, I can't let them know
the loss of that woman is hurting me so
I'll wander the desert, on dry land I'll drown
My heart like a river that flows underground.

The desert is blazing, the mercury high
The sun pouring molten from up in the sky
Oh don't bother listening, you'll hear not a sound
from the inconstant river that flows underground.

J. (5)

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 17, 2004 03:09 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
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Comments

Just so you know, I'm here quietly listening to the rest of it spin out. Stop apologizing though.

Posted by: susurra at November 17, 2004 11:23 PM
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I'm still here too Chris, although I probably should be working on "the" job instead of reading.

Posted by: OGeorge at November 18, 2004 04:03 PM
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