27

Don’t you let that deal go down…

–The Grateful Dead

            You must remember those first things.  You must return to them.  Like when Dulcinea was three.  She didn’t feel guilty about what just happened.  She was happy.  The sense of it not as some fleeting thing but how to love even in criticism.  So in a conversation.  A talk between her and her lover.  How we will return to it.  What happened in 1966 and a year later and the beginning of Solomon:

A room upstairs Dulcinea’s room dark and colorless except in shades of gray and music from a record player.  David’s first album a voice in the room like talking to a dream after you’ve had it you’ve woken up and you know why you dreamed what you dreamed and you remember and talk to it.  You talk to the darkness and become another voice distended without a body no flesh yet out of the flesh the voice speaks while another voice remains silent and only listens its interruptions a mute empathy a being there seeing as though through the eyes of both the voice of David and that other voice in the darkness—Dulcinea—speaking to her lover a shadow and eyes in the moonlight his flesh so close next to her almost one as she feels his breathing her cheek to his chest and his hand somehow not a part of him the fingers of it writing—writing down the mixture of the two voices the father and the child the woman in his arms as it caresses the nakedness of her lower back.  And the room nothing on the walls a bed on the floor one window slightly cracked to let the March air in the night air of a winter dissipating green shoots sprouting on the trees still a shade of gray under a half moon any chill to it angry and accursed the wretchedness of death in the presence of life for there is an infant crib in the corner completely in the shadows a sleeping child who yes too has his dreams but not the same talk to it the discourse some nameless hope breathing out the cold with heat absent of nightmares maybe even this child dreaming all of it dreaming the voice from the record player and Dulcinea’s voice the hand writing it down in its caress of her lower back.  A dream in the night of ancestors and Dulcinea saying:  Yes. No.  I know he missed him (and the lover halting the words with his hands not writing saying) You don’t have to fear don’t be afraid for I will never leave you or forsake you I am here you can feel my flesh and as your child sleeps tell me; tell me of your father your father’s father as if they are your lover too for they are the first hands to hold you the first to write giving flesh to my flesh the unsubstantiated appointment to what you dream and what you remember this the form the matter to the shades of gray in this room where we are not alone…  Dulcinea breathing easy maybe even a small cloud to her breath her body becoming her lover’s pillow no weight no heaviness beginning a story…

“I met him and he was someone to remember…” (the lover saying: Who?) the silence for a moment after filled with the voice from the record player disembodied writing in her lover’s hand… “Not who you think.  The story he told me… worry adds not an hour to your life but that’s not what he was doing and why he did it I think everytime he saw us Benjy and I it was like a limbo to his choices because you see he only lived in Austin to be close to us to have us in that in between of a place for music and a man and his family a man as an artist for he wasn’t that kind that come to Texas and change his name for some failure because he wasn’t a failure and if his father was alive I suppose he’d tell him (my father) so…” (the lover his words—: and yes what are the reasons so—is it hope some bliss for what will I wake up to after you tell me will you still be here after the story is told the story as you tell it in the darkness his voice the impetus for my fingers and what happens when a hope dies will I die if I am not here if you are not here and we are not as thus time’s impish dream on what was that I said and what I say now remembering what I said what you say here with me when a hope is over because that’s what you want to tell me—isn’t it?  You already want to tell me how it will be over when enough is enough what you can’t confuse in your father and mother and their parents and will I be a father to who you tell the world is not yours but what your parents let go of as to all the reasons for the end of an affair.  Because you see I already know.  You’ve already changed my hope and in what you I know want to tell me the story I hear already in his voice what he wanted to be but only disappointment after disappointment and what this does to the hope to the story his music and whether it was even good enough for his father the one you say when you met him he was someone you would want to remember and this I see and know is my suicide…) “No,” Dulcinea said.  “My mother wants to say they did a lot of things wrong and it scares me of doing the same almost so I don’t want to do it.  I’m afraid.  I’m afraid that one day I’ll see you as a lie.  I fear the hope will become a lie what his father tried to tell him in how all new things pass away as old things and what do you change?  What do you change when you see it as lie?”  (the lover: but it’s not).  “Yes it is!”  (No!)  “Yes!  Let it be either this or that yet it is and you can’t do it.  My father never did it for the money to be loved yes maybe to love himself but I think even that changed after one hope after another never turned out the way he hoped it and then I think he just did it because he already was it—the hope—and everytime it died he died but then it still was always there.  The legacy of his music.  What she as a wife and a woman scorned.  For as a wife and a woman she was scorned by it—why I’m afraid—I fear this is the end of all love for if love has any end at all it is because it is named it is hoped as something else.  It becomes the past.  Something we all will have…”

“You see you got to know where he came from where I come from not out of some pride some obstinate deference to roots but a vernacular used sparsely and at the right time.  For what do you know out of what I told you about my father and when I was three my first memory of his father?  In little there is small but in all the layers of a town of a country there is an innocence to what is of color and oppression of rich and poor the divisions and distances like you take a street here in Hemphill and you look out your window from block to block stop sign to stop sign some of it municipal land and sidewalks but the yards the subdivisions in a sunset the trailer parks and the houses some of brick and siding and others white-washed and then molded with dirt the rotted woodwork the insulation exposed the roofs missing shingles all this like in pictures black and white where other people live on this side or that side of the railroad tracks the signs you see and what’s in those yards is it gardens and flowers and molted sculptures all in shades of gray or is it children’s toys in red seeing many rains and thrown out plumbing and car parts the skeletons of kitchen appliances barb wire the gutted thrift the tires and hoards of the poor where in my mother’s time the laundry was done outside the women in men’s clothes too big for them bandannas about their heads wearing hobnail boots unlaced over wash basins and wash boards not making any music except the monotonous friction of scrub brushes a dog at their heels an outside dog as they look without ever taking a bath and do you see as you already see and know taking those streets those different streets of class and division the past and this is not my future the gated properties surrounded by the latticework of green vines and wide porches where rocking chairs sit next to iron-wrought tables with empty tea glasses the melting ice that I live here and you live there and all this will be added unto you and from me taken away the education the money the food the job and who gives it and who takes it and can I come to your front door or do I have to go around back this innocence to if I envy you for what you have or merely envy what you have and how do I get it is it even possible do I have to have some sort of design a plan to have what you have the house the land the money…” (the lover: but that is just a type a greed and not an individual for even the gene of the oldest man hundreds of thousands of years old comes from the sounds of such wash basins the antediluvian plains of all this and who has the bone and first sees it as a tool and how one man becomes two men and then three and how a community is formed the division of labor and of ownership territories marked by urine and engineered sewage systems and then the bartering the laws passed and ratified the nomination of judges their written word filibusters created to explain the arguments of founding fathers as industry and corporate persons come into existence and are edified into amendments as other things are repealed becoming the comedy of media used to disseminate the news the propaganda of outrage a garnered laugh the same thing just told different ways to complicate what isn’t complicated at all—: because it’s just sex you know…) “No you’re white trash and I’m a nigger,” Dulcinea says in their room of darkness coiled in his body her lover’s arms the voice the song the undertones speaking moaning and pleading the sound going in and out the timing like breath a kindergarten she can’t remember and this time too in many years a faded memory forgotten and prophesied what is always discussed as what is real and what is not—“for I am my father’s daughter just as you are your mother’s son and the story is the story of the middle class and how it was created and how it disappears into the gulf of our nakedness what I’m not ashamed to show you here for here now in this room a child asleep I hear my father’s voice but it is not calling to me it is not asking where I am for in the story he told me about how Benjy died how their lover died God doesn’t have to call out for me as we hide here in our nakedness for why does God have to go looking for you?  God don’t ask questions He don’t have the answer for.  He goes walking through this our garden our afternoon delight of earth knowing why He doesn’t have a companion.  What I knew in my nakedness at three what I know now here with you without feeling any guilt at all.  The pride the humility the unfathomable history of the outcast the stone the builder refused…”

“I found it.  I found the letter but I wasn’t looking for it.  It was in his guitar case not the electric the Gibson he almost never played anymore in fact it burned and destroyed down in Mississippi when he went back there in ’67 and not on some Chitlin’ Circuit but to settle a deal payin’ in blood not his:  No he played a Fender after we were born the Gibson kept in some closet back in a storeroom of his father’s pawn shop and after Benjy died he returned to East St. Louis to see his mother but he didn’t stay he came just to get the guitar cause you see I think he already had plans for it some last vestige of showmanship I guess to say, ‘I am done with it…’ and the letter was with the other guitar the acoustic his first guitar made of wood and strings an ancient bullet hole there where he stuffed the letter no longer folded along the yellowed creases but rolled up and stuffed in that hole like a message in a bottle…  He left it in Sunset with my mother at her cousin’s place after he got the phone call about Benjy and now there are the stories the sides and which side you’re on based on what facts are put into focus because I know there is some original before all the counterfeits gone viral before you know the story and try to tell it for a particular listener to make them happy maybe because you see it’s about attention…” (Attention? The lover asks:  Is that how it began?  After you showed me after I’d seen it the yellow age the creased folds and one word a name on top of the folded edges—Maddie—is that what happened?  The story changes the original and who it was for transmuted into reader after reader and they go tell it after they’ve read it how they tell it who reads it next generation after generation the before the original like a lost recording a house of squabbling women and was it meant for me or meant for you and for all of us on a side betrayed or the betrayer when we take the truth and make it our own world…  The story nothing but what it is to the one who reads it how I hear you know telling me this knowing what I already know how not one word remains immutable except in the immutable change the undisputed fact that  your brother is dead that he had to die not in his own design but in that of your father’s how the stories overlap from generation to generation and like an infestation a reproducible law you are bitten and scratch at the surface of what is hidden what remains sleeping in your soul what maybe your father’s songs are all about the sounds he made on a guitar for if Benjy hadn’t died in Hemphill if he’d made it across the Sabine in April 1966 he would have died anyway because you said he was being drafted—he was being sent off to fight in Vietnam and like many boys he had no illusions about coming home the same as when he left…)  “Yes but it was just a faded copy.  That’s what became of it—the story.  The story Benjy heard.  The story my father heard.  The stories told now.  What I hear and tell you and what you hear and go tell.  The ink runs.  The images dissolve.  And a hard truth forms either of integrity to character and not reputation or a despair into dogmatism a I was right and I’ll always be right—an identity—you see?  The letter wasn’t a story, but it became one canonized your chosen response.  Whether you say as God go thou and sin no more or as God’s child you say he who is without sin cast the first stone…  You see?  The story becomes you or you become it—I don’t know—and what happens?  What happens if you don’t do what it says—if you do nothing?  What happens if you haven’t heard it at all?  You didn’t read it?  What is the story then?  Perhaps this is the original.  Before all the counterfeits.  The original is the story you don’t read you don’t hear yet it is the silence to all your doubts.  What it isn’t becoming what you are…”

And then it’s morning a Sunday and it’s raining.  A cold March a late March in a year for an early Easter a wind bringing rain after some warm days a foreshadowing taken away Dulcinea and her lover wearing the clothes they went to bed in at a kitchen table a window over the sink a natural light in an otherwise dark room but no voice there not her father’s voice nor her own nor one muted in empathy the child still asleep still dreaming just the steady sound of water pouring down gutters and the weather does not judge itself Dulcinea’s hands cupping her coffee mug one leg under her as she sits and her eyes have that morning look of being awake and no fear of being naked how fearing God is freedom how even if you do this or do that the good deed with evil on your mind the bad things you did for love the increment of time between the doing and not doing how it must have a time a start and finish implanted in our routines if it is to be a routine at all (the lover slouched in a bad posture across from her (Dulcinea) as across from a wall a game inside himself you shouldn’t even try saying:  Go on.  Tell me.  Let me read it again the hearing and the doing how God is in all of it all the doings going on at this time or that in all that we hear in all of our experience how you learn to read a clock depending on where you are by the light you see or do not see God is glorified even in what happened after the letter after Maddie read it written in the longhand of David’s ex-wife (your mother) and it’s like not being judged…) like in some book like it has to have a start and finish something happening something doing in the instant you close the circuit and connect—a memory in a moment like how Dulcinea sees it in a moment looking into his (her lover’s) eyes a door to when she was three her grandfather David’s father looking for her but as a game after he counted she in her Sunday dress her Easter dress and they are outside in the sun the eggs all found in the tall green grass as yet un-mowed the colored ones he’d hidden for after church the formal creases of that too his church clothes even as he covers his eyes and crouches she giggling to the game the hide and go seek game of seeking and being found:  a story—the peace that whether it’s finished or not if it hasn’t even begun do it and let it be done knowing there is an author and a finisher to which even the demons tremble and her eyes (Dulcinea) saying in their nakedness:  She (my mother) was just as much of an artist as he was and all artists are driven by demons.

And Dulcinea speaking out of alleviation out of an honesty that always has in the back of its mind a learning core an I was this and I’ll continuing being it but let me listen and by our conversation I will hear back all that I am even the I am you will not receive even though you hear me say it I just wanting to know that I’ve said it even if it’s not received because I will not remember what you say but I will remember what I say as a response and then a pause for if I was given the choice to give up what I love the most would it mean lengthening your life by one day the honesty in this the question we never ask as I speak and then you speak in turn leading to what I say again what you take out of it and what I take the truth that you love what you can’t have that we belong together for a time…  “You should be raped.  The sympathy is not monotypic.  A male pattern is imprinted on your brain what I needed self-esteem from my father for to be taken when you don’t want to be took how I remember how it happened just like I remember my grandfather’s face when he found me—the trust…” (Trust?:  the lover asks with his eyes looking up from where he was looking down her words (Dulcinea’s) bringing his eyes to meet hers then looking down again like a pool to collect her memory the moment when he looks in her eyes the only time he exists for now is not a time for him to talk because that might lead her to go somewhere else with it—the story—and he (the lover) wants this to be more than just a random sampling how you can pick a topic and have a discussion and it can be judged and then judged again without ever losing the initial hypothesis that when the discussion is over all that’s resolved is in general the response of you or me is not wide but as it narrows and becomes more specific we see individuals and he (the lover) wants her to be specific)—“because when you want to be found it’s easy and don’t get me wrong I like to be kissed hard but it does something to you when you’re betrayed when you become an object and not a person with feelings and we all have it in us: to treat people as objects.  It’s as easy as being found.   How you lose your identity and in a sense all the morals which come with it how if even one person laughs it must be okay this pure contempt we can have for another life their likes and dislikes maybe not much different but see you don’t have this identity anymore where you identify instead you walk with something that isn’t human so I know now I can’t ever feel sorry for myself because the moment I do I lose my identity my humanity the injustice I feel cutting me off from the exculpable don’t do this to me and I won’t do it to you but he was my cousin and I trusted him and that’s the worst thing you can do to a person—you take away any vestige of control they have you violate their dignity leaving them feeling powerless and there is no remorse for this only a contempt for weakness and if you die I will take even your clothes and leave you naked as the day you were born—that’s the worst thing you can do to a person and it’s in all sex and death: the misguided love of fear because some men only ask one question—Are you a killer?  You should be raped.  Because then you have to ask the question if you wanted it in some way and that is a terrible question to ask like when you hide do you really want to be found why I remember his (my father’s father) face in his question of ‘Where are you?’ in the gone wild lies of all you have to do is ask forgiveness and find your humanity again…  You see?  It takes a lot to scare me now.”  (her lover: Yes and in despair your soul becomes an object.  So easy to forget though the sloth of contrition which leads to a bored pride.  How easy to forget when our security is shattered a something that I was then and yes sometimes it calls to me but I was young and I’m young every time I get down on my knees and pray and then somehow I become old and I look upon it like I know everything what haunts us all when we have to get down on our knees again as we all will have to do…  (her lover a doubt a fear creeping into his eyes as he looks out the kitchen window out into the only natural light where they sit a memory maybe of being called and so many resolutions to change an assurance that it is time maybe he remembers his own youth still being in it when he couldn’t be himself and that’s his only fear now—what happens when you can’t be yourself)  Show me.  Show me what you were when he forced himself upon you what you’ve already told me of the first kiss happening in a tree house of your childhood the same tree your brother etched yours and his (your cousin’s) name and is that what you remember two memories enfolded—a memory from when you were three and your grandfather called out to you and another game another hide and go seek but not after an Easter egg hunt where your father went looking for you and you hid in that tree the memory of your father finding you a juxtaposition of guilt and not guilt after it happened because you weren’t three no more you were eighteen and this time when you hid there was no joy in being found being naked the seed of the child in your room sleeping (your son) the last sense of any ownership of your body taken away and yes I can see this how even your soul can become an object—and if this can happen what is there to be afraid of?  So show me.  Show me again what your mother wrote…)

And the letter was already there.  Between them.  And it hadn’t changed at all.  It was an immovable object.  Not trapped in a time but passing hands.  Opened and then closed again.  It rested by a vase of dead flowers.  The child’s (Solomon’s) diapers and an empty coffee can the only other things on the table.  And maybe it has a voice too a voice in a child’s dream the lovers awake the past before them cluttered and not only the night before and yesterday but things they remember before they even knew each other and if that was in somehow the reasons they met how a whole other life could have happened if they hadn’t in what happens every day in people we see in what we envy and covet what makes us happy the troubled discernment of a past where you remember what hurt you and what made you happy and is this person somehow a part of that the hurt and pain the joy of a shared reality in space and time or just a casual acquaintance a someone when you meet you say:  We have nothing in common.  Where you live is not where I live.  Where I go is not where you go her lover (Dulcinea’s) maybe even having a different God.  But what happens when you listen to it—the voice of another God what God is to Dulcinea to her parents to how she was raised what maybe she wanted to be found hiding in that tree as a teenager a tree house in Hemphill, Texas in the late sixties a child forming in her womb and the Sabine River nearby and the members of her family who’ve crossed it in the past what she came from the souls of a demographic their voices too whispering as you wake to the day and remember who you were before you were ever in love and this is why she wants to warn her lover warn him of a curse in all love and the grave a you shouldn’t read it you should never listen to it—the voice of that letter for it is the voice of Dulcinea’s mother read to music her father’s music almost like they decided to create something together they made love and had children…  And the letter was already there.  It could not say:  I had it but it is better to not have had it at all.  Go back.  Return to those first things.  The wretched memories of what you experienced the moments of bliss the frazzled passion and hopeless insanities you will come to say in your confusion and loneliness I wish I had never learned to read better to have never been born than know what I know…  Yes this voice too in a child’s dream.  In Solomon who David named not by some coerced compulsion but to have it to say yes I had it and it is better than to have never had it at all to learn to love my people the window into another world the world of your lover’s past and their God…  And it hadn’t changed at all—the letter.  What happened after it was read couldn’t be changed.  Benjy was dead.  His voice dying in the love it couldn’t have.  And Maddie too—yes see her death too and the stories surrounding it.  The stories as to why David could no longer hear in one ear.  Let the child read it in his dream.  Read it and decide his God.  And so Dulcinea’s hand reaches out.  It reaches out and pushes the letter away from the vase of dead flowers pushes it like some unstoppable force across the table towards her lover so that he may read it again as if he had written it in their bed of embrace as if his fingers caressed it on her lower back:

 

Maddie,                                                                                                                                                             March 25th 1966

I am the other woman to your other man.  Don’t ask me how I found you for the reason I’m writing you is to not ask questions but find answers.  It’s not hard to make a man jealous.  I need no proof of this.  I don’t have to convince your soul.  My son has fallen in love with you.  My ex-husband I’m not sure.  The truth is it doesn’t really affect me none.  It’s obvious that you have a loose obedience to God but I don’t have to tell you what you already know about that.  You have the privilege of being white.  My time and care is with my daughter now for she is with child and I wish to make no connections with my past with my first husband or to David who I divorced.  If there be sin in it so let it be.  I will go no deeper in the reasons just as I don’t assume your intentions.  Just don’t be too late.  That’s all I have to say.  It’s too late when it affects you.  The morality to this an afterthought. The truth of what you do or don’t do on how it personally affects you.  This is an individual problem.  A societal problem.  It’s the world girl.  The moral reflex to when something finally affects you.  I will not be late in what I foresee.  My guilt will not be an afterthought.  My lament will always have a little praise in it.  My despair will have hope.  For I know what a woman who is not in love feels.  So go easy.  Go easy on my men…  You will be in my prayers as I look to the cross.

Bethany

28

And he said, “Yes I think it can be easily done

Just take everything down to Highway 61″

           –Bob Dylan

            But wait.  That seems cut off.  What of Dulcinea and her lover some three years after the events the spring of 1966.  Her marriage to Aldous Brand in 1969.  Hints of a deal and the one story that will be told about it—David Threnody’s return to a crossroads in 1967 on Highway 61 South Mississippi taking the Gibson ES-150 with him.  The story he would tell about what happened April 2nd 1966 the day after Benjy’s death.  There are others—other stories.  What was told offstage among other musicians—the people who knew him—friends and family.  You have already seen discrepancies in facts and dates in the stories told about David—the question of what is palpable and what is legend.  But these stories taken together peel away like an onion the only truth we’re going to get out of it.  A fiction and not a history lesson.  How a man evolves in the eyes of others…

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