“None of us is free…”

Franklin Meeks smiles under David’s hat.  He continues to stir the coals.  The moon is up.  Still in a blue sky.  Waning—the full moon just past.  Low, but still rising.  Its dark spots clear in the light of the sunset.  Meeks facing the sunset.  David facing the moon.  For some reason they both look up at the same time.  Their eyes almost squinted shut.  The start of a grimace on their faces that turns into a smile—calm.

“You strive for an identity and then when you make it you don’t want it anymore.  You have earned who you are.  So why are you scared?  The child will die.  You already know that.  I can break your wife’s fever, the child will be born, and then he will die.  You know, but you think if you change it won’t happen.  If you play a different role or position yourself a certain way you think what you are will change, but it won’t for you are your past.  That identity you sought you sought for a reason.  You made choices to follow it.  You followed the river near us.  So did your wife…  Go back.  Go back with love.  And take that guitar out of your father’s window.  You know it doesn’t belong there.  I know your youth and your war.  I know your wife’s origins.  It followed you here.  And you think you sold something, but you didn’t.  You didn’t, but nobody believes you so you don’t believe it.  You abandoned their success, and you succeeded at what you wanted to be.  But now you don’t want it?  Why?  Did you think you could share it?  The identity—the reality that you made?  You cannot share being free, just as you will not be able to save your firstborn…”

and I did go back.  As I saw him stir the coals  In the way the wind blew the smoke.  I went back to being born.  I saw him as that first musician.  That first musician I saw as a boy walking with my mother.  I remember when I first held Jonathon Bonnor’s guitar.  How my fingers felt finding their first chords.  That bus ride I took to Memphis.  And that old tree at an afternoon crossroads walking Highway 61.  I saw love and being loved.  Those children through a window in the winter streets of Bastogne.  Those slow days in the prison in Biloxi.  That last look of Rosie sleeping in her bed.  And waking up to Bethany beside me…  I went back to who I was, and he was right—I couldn’t share it.  I could share love, but not being loved.  And what I mourned was not knowing our child would die, this I knew with numb certainty—I mourned the evil in me—that part of me I’d shared with a woman.  With Rosie Soledad.  Bethany Lebeau.  I mourned what they needed from me and what I needed from them.  But even though I knew, as I went back into my past, there was something undecided.  Something I couldn’t quit no matter what role I chose to play.  There was a reality I couldn’t escape, even with this man and his fire encamped along the ditch of the levee and the railroad tracks.  I had to be who I was even if the seed of it would die…  I would take this man to my wife.  I would let him break her fever so I saw her in her eyes, and then I would not speak of it.  And then I knew what I had to do.  I had to laugh.  I had to laugh with my wife as much as possible.  I knew that was the trade made nearly a decade before in that bus ride to Memphis, to Mississippi.  I knew that was what that old man in the Quarter was speaking of after Bethany and I wed, in that mad affair that led up to it, in her birth and life before me, in what happened to Pete Southhouse and Popovitch, my old friend Johnny Tribout.  That was the trade. The trade I made was a trade with time, and I could mourn my sins…  but my sins would not mourn me.

            –David Threnody, on being an artist— from his journals 1966 to 1975

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