She lays herself down on the desert sand.
Black vultures sit with her,
Experts in death who know when
To summon majesty to take her.
They cry to the sky to call the wild beast
To its duty
To kill her body
So they can clean the bones.
She does not shudder at the roar.
She does not seek escape.
She offers her throat to the bite
And her body to the embrace.
The vultures prepare the body
Digest it into dirt and dust
So the ancient beetle can carry it away
For the restoration of life.
Her bones gleam white against white on the white desert floor.
But they will darken soon
Chewed and abraded to dirt and dust as well.
The wind will finish the job in a flurry of sand.
Like a blue mirage
Of life-saving water
To draw another seeker hence.
He is drawn
Pulled and dragged
To the light bright shimmering water.
He trudges on
And more dunes again
Until it all seems a cruel mirage.
But then he arrives
By a light blue light.
He can feel something has happened here.
There is a faint smell of violent blood
A faint hint of peace as well.
This violent peace is only here.
Everywhere else is vacant lifeless desert
All about him
are everywhere there,
Concealed asleep in the searing heat.
He cries out
“I feel you, I sense you
Dear dear one,
Who laid yourself down.”
Suddenly there are other presences there
And then it comes in a wave and a roar.
Accompanied by a raven
“You are not prepared.”
The squat old woman glimpses
The wisp of blue
On the horizon.
Like a desert tortoise
To the place
Shimmering above the desert floor.
She lowers herself down
To the sand
An ancient beetle crawls
The old woman cannot speak.
She comes from the time
But not before understanding.
And the beetle waits.
The blue shimmers.
A bare wisp.
The blue congeals
Into a substance.
She takes the soul
The beetle is left alone
And walks on.
The young professor scans the high-desert grass,
Searching for pronghorns.
Some people call them antelopes.
But they have been here in the New World forever.
They are antelopes no more than javelinas are boars.
They run faster than anything on the continent,
Flying across the grasslands,
Easily outrunning wolves and coyotes.
They are perfect speed.
No living thing can match them.
But a dead one can.
Evolution dictates that nothing runs fast
Save to escape a predator seeking to run faster.
Nothing learns to flee that is not chased by something not easily outrun.
The pronghorn is indeed chased,
But chased by a spirit now.
A fleet and powerful cat chased it once upon a time,
Shaped its miraculous speed,
In order to receive the gift of its own agility in turn.
The spirit cat is gone now from the flesh,
Betrayed by a slow halting primate with a spear.
The pronghorn is alone,
With nothing left to chase it,
To kill it,
To honor it,
To meld with it in a blizzard of speed.
In the wilderness the professor comes upon an old woman
Accompanied by a young girl.
Perhaps they are Native Americans,
Though only the girl looks it.
The old woman looks like the grass itself.
She is yellowed and sallow,
Aged and ancient as a creek bed,
Burned black by the sun.
Her face betrays no race.
The professor is startled.
But feels he is the intruder.
“I am here to find pronghorns,
To celebrate their speed,
To watch them run for play.”
The little girl says, “They do not play,
They run in sorrow and in waiting
In sorrow for the death of majesty,
In waiting for its return,
So the dance of life and death can begin again.
The old woman does not speak.
But a vision enters his mind as if a gift from her.
In his mind the pronghorn bounds
As fast as an eye can see
Pursued by a majestic blur.
The pronghorn says
“This is what I was made for,
This is what I was born for
This is what I live for
This is how to die.”
When the majestic cat
Chases the majestic deer,
They are one.
No time for fear,
Only time for life.
The professor responds,
“No one has ever seen this cat,
Who runs so fast.
It is only scientific speculation.”
The girl says,
“Mother has seen it many times in the flesh.
She is here
To take its soul
Seeking shelter from the storm,
The homeless man finds a cave
Above a dry wash
Turned raging torrent.
Wet and shivering, he sits
Once he had been something.
What, he has forgotten.
Society’s refuse is what he is now.
Garbage meant to take itself out.
He has wandered for years,
A leper with no bell,
To find himself scavenging in a red desert,
Seared with hellish heat except for the occasional Biblical deluge.
Like an old ascetic,
He has spent forty days and forty nights in the desert,
Free at last of those who would throw stones
At lepers without bells.
From the shrouded entrance of the cave
A coyote emerges
Ending the old man’s reveries
With a spark of fear down his spine.
The coyote lies down close beside him
And falls asleep,
Spreading animal warmth
To his body and his soul.
They sleep in peace side by side.
He dreams of a special place in the desert
He has seen
Where there was a shimmering blue light.
He dreams of an old woman
He has never seen,
She is ancient beyond words
And gestures to him to come.
He remembers the raven
When he sought a higher calling,
Saying he was not prepared.
He and the coyote wake
To a majestic roar outside the cave.
They venture forth.
The “old bone man”–
He laughs when he thinks of what they call him.
He is indeed a sack of old weary bones
Come to study bones far older.
He walks to the excavation site.
They wait for his science to kick in.
The old bone man always has a guess about what the bones had been,
Long before humans had begun.
Perhaps an ancient cheetah
Or a long-legged fleet hyena,
Both long gone
From the desert grassland.
The old bone man
For a long long while.
“It’s probably a hoax,” he says.
The bones look too old,
For what we know was here.
But it was never here, if it was anywhere.
It would have been very big and very fast
And could never have existed.
Nothing could have escaped its jaws
No animal could have outrun it.
It would have caught and eaten everything.
Even pronghorns could not have eluded it.
A young Native American girl was there,
Unnoticed till now in the background.
She asks, “What if this cat was big and fast
Because something was bigger and faster still?”
The old bone man nodded.
Looked at the girl.
And said, “Perhaps.”
He thought to himself,
“There has to a be a last one, doesn’t there,
A fastest and biggest,
An eater that does not get eaten?”
The girl hears his thoughts
And says, “No,
Humans eat but do not get eaten
Yet they are naked, frail, and slow.
They left the chain long ago.
For them, there is no death with dignity.
They hold their victims in pens
And they themselves die in expensive hospital rooms
No better than rooms in a cheap hotel.”
The man and the coyote
March across the desert
Fixed on their goal.
They are going to the place
He dreamed of,
The place where he was rejected
Because he was not prepared.
They are going together
Not to take but to be a meal.
Drink my body
Eat my blood
Into the soup of life.
He, to return at long last to the cycle,
The coyote, to mentor the re-entry
Of a being who had spun clear of necessity
In a great fall.
There is a way to die
It is not to flee the pursuer,
But to meld with the pursuer in grace.
The man and the coyote
March across the desert
While the coyote tells a tale.
“There once was a creature
Who substituted money for blood
And left the cycle of life.
Those with more preyed on those with less
And bled them dry
To make slaves and serfs.
In nature, predator and prey are on an equal footing
And they are sometimes one and sometimes the other,
Exchanging the gifts of food and death so life can flourish.
Money made the few powerful
And the many weak.
Once proud primates became zombies who called themselves wise.
They fed on each other’s blood
And fleeced bodies before they were buried.
In a dead world where the soul died before the body.
They called themselves higher.
They claimed a god told them to dominate.
They killed the majesty of death in a lust for eternal life.
They forgot what we animals know,
Life is about facing death squarely in the eye,
Otherwise there is no soul.
Do they shed money when they cry, not tears?
Do they shed money when they bleed, not blood?
Do they shed money when they die, not life?
We animals seek our mates
Run for our lives
And embrace death when it comes.
You humans seek money
Work for your living
And cling to a life you never really lived.
Have you ever run from a lion,
Saved yourself in a mad dash and leaping bound
And hailed the majesty that made you?
If not, you are not prepared.
You are not worthy.
You are merely buying time.”
The man and the coyote,
Near their goal,
Come upon an ancient woman and a raven.
The man says, “Greetings grandmother.”
But the woman cannot speak.
The raven speaks in her stead.
“The pronghorn is not an antelope
The javelina is not a pig
The tarantula is not to be feared.
I am not a human.
Things are not as they seem.
I collect the souls of the dead.
Each creature’s soul is a different type of blue.
From souls I make necklaces,
Symphonies of blue.
For balance I need all the shades,
But human souls are rare things these days
And I must seek them far and wide.
There are fewer and fewer to be found.
Most of them disappear before death
Leaving humans empty husks.
I see, my son, you have run for your life.
Your soul shimmers bright and blue.
Go, majesty awaits you.”