PART FIVE

ELYSIUM

29
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
I’ll sing Thy power to save…
–William Cowper

It’s 1975. Nine years have passed since Aaron was murdered and burned since Benjy and Maddie died eight years since David Threnody took a trip back to those crossroads in Mississippi but maybe it began in 1975—the healing. And in the healing maybe we’ll finally know who Benjy was. Maybe we’ll get to know David’s son. Reflected in Solomon. And Dulcinea. In the child she bore that year… but before we get to what happened in 1975 I should let Bethany speak. Let her speak from 1975 on what happened in 1966 and before that. What little she thought of David Threnody’s return to that crossroads. The act he performed there of setting fire to his first electric guitar. After all she was a woman into her fifties now. Beyond having children of her own, but still raising them–Solomon turning nine. She was a woman in the world. Just not of the world. It being nearly twenty years since she gave her heart to Jesus. It colors the words she has to say about her son about how she felt about the death of her firstborn twin at childbirth her divorce from David how she felt about Benjy’s death later. Dulcinea’s child out of wed lock. And I suppose the best way to let her speak is not from her journals (though they will be recorded here)–no, it’s two conversations. And not two conversations she had (only one specifically involves her) but a conversation Benjy also had. What’s interesting about it is who they talked to for they both talked to the same person the same woman the woman who gave birth to them both the one who cut the cord the one voice out of all these accounts all that’s been said about David Threnody and the people in his life which truly sounds black–the voice of Marie Toussaint–the voodoo woman a blind woman and very old the same year folks thereabouts near Hemphill said she died in a fire. And there are discrepancies. Some accounts have her demise back in the mid-fifties about when Bethany got saved when David Threnody’s father died the year he lived with his mother and recorded his third album. But some say (and this is where we take Bethany’s journal into account) the fire happened much later in fact after Bethany’s grandmother Bridgette died and after Papa Frenchie died. The truth is no one knows for sure when that old voodoo woman died and if she burned up in a fire if that fire really happened if that shack she had back in the bayou really burned down and if she burned with it. By all accounts Benjy shouldn’t have been more than ten years old if what folks say is true, but to my reckoning and what I take from Bethany’s journals is in fact that Benjy was much older perhaps fifteen when he paid a visit to Marie Toussaint to discuss what happened back in 1955 when he was seven years old when David’s father died and David brought him a guitar. As a gift.

–What you is black boy?
–He wants to get to know me. He wants to get to know his son.
–And is you afraid? Lord! Lord! What is it with your family and fear? I can hear it in your voice.

and I looked at her now. How you look at someone when you think they can’t see you. Almost like they’ve become a mirror and you look closely. Just like you look closely for your own faults… at least I used to look closely. Like I’d look different. But this woman–no. The long greasy hair white and gray tangled underneath a man’s hat. The long plume of a dirty chicken feather. And I could not see her eyes. Not just because she wore the brim low but the dark spectacles almost not of glass but like made of volcanic rock in how they reflected wire-rimmed and round the rest of the face the nose and mouth enshrouded in loose dry skin and wrinkles crow’s feet about the eyeglasses and the lips cracked with many lines and sagging into her smile showing what was left of her teeth yellowed and rotted and when she laughed or rather cackled it was like some dark abyss opened up and I was staring into a skull wearing a tophat and she was walking towards me in that stoop of an old woman the back humped and the neck disappeared the frail body supported by a cane a knotted stick the hand I could see poking out of the folds of her moth-eaten dark robes red and purple showing gnarled fingers and ingrown nails the dirt beneath them and a sheen of grease in the enamel as if she’d just eaten fried chicken with her hands one of the many chickens she kept about in cages clucking to her laughter almost like a chorus the hens led by the roosters singing, “You are lonely! You are lonely!” to the snakes in their coils and the spiders hidden in dark cages. And yes I looked closely as if I was looking into myself when I stepped foot in her door as I entered her cabin deep in the thrush of the big thickets what would be gone if the Sabine flooded and it did which is why her house was on stilts a make-shift dock leading up to it with missing wood planks and a decaying two-seated row boat lay overturned against the rotting siding an oar leaning nonchalantly at an angle beneath the skulls and other calcified bones hanging there from her home some of them tied to feathers and others with the sockets of the eyes dark yet something glowing inside as if candles illuminated them and I said to myself, “Yes, I am lonely and is this it? Is this the intimate encounter I’ve been looking for and will I feel from this old woman who gave me birth isolated yet somehow content as an artist the pain of rejection will she also say to me, ‘You are different and all your dreams will avail to nothing…’?”

And she did not stumble. She did not reach out. She knew where he was just as she knew where she was. Her face her eyes behind what seemed volcanic glass almost asking him, “Who is blind?” Without the words. Almost as if she did not answer to his description. That lack of vanity. A way of being so that you do not say, “This is me…” but “That is you in describing me.” And she did not have to answer. Not to the question he asked, but also to the question he did not ask. The: where is God? I am not good because He did not create me only to be good. It is my intrinsic freedom to say, “This is good but I will not do it and so what I do must be bad this must be my inherent evil and all that I suffer comes from my freedom and what God cannot be…” The allowance of an old account. The answer to the question he did ask: is it settled? And that’s when he saw it. He saw the silver necklace she wore among the bones and teeth. He saw the Cross and her answer: what is forsaken? You or your loneliness? You wear it like a thorny crown–the spiritual concept of what you look like to your fellow man. For what is as real as the age of the earth? Man’s delineated history? No. You say: this exists. And it exists. Just as what you don’t know exists has and always will be with no past until you say that it is. Then does it have a past in order for you to see it now for you to say: It was and now it is. You make the incorruptible corrupt. By your body that now exists you speak forth the past and this to you is where God is located the blame for all your evil. Oh man! What grows in your seedless vanity? Behind all your words stands the devil to foretell. The playgrounds to your pause. And any hesitations to your fantasies are what God is and only can be… This is what Benjy met as he stood at her door. And Marie Toussaint didn’t make it any easier on him. She couldn’t. Not because she was blind, but because he could see.

and she said: “Come and see…” and I saw. And not the meaninglessness of pain. All the evil and abuses I had already seen in my short meaning of life what I was exposed to and predisposed to have empathy for I saw in me before I ever witnessed it in the world. It was in me for me to recognize and not say “What is this?” but “Why has it come?” And she said: “You already know. You knew in your mother’s womb the meaning of pain in the brother that did not live so that he came first and so that you as second could cry, ‘I will so that you will not!’ And by your will you introduced the pain what was in the blood of your grandfathers the sons of slaves and so how can you not know pain for it is like a hunger shared with a dog and so then you say, ‘I will not!’ to what has already been willed and this is what is attributed to your generation and the generations to come–the meaning, the meaning of one number after another…” And so I knew the evil didn’t come to me for it came from within despite how I wanted to recognize it as a stranger as something foreign to me and my question of What is this? was the same as saying Who am I? for the same man that shares a bone with a dog is also capable of hurting what can’t hurt you back. And I knew. And I saw. The want of surprise. The meaninglessness of pleasure and I said to myself I will so I will have. But what I have is not what I want and having what I want the only pain that is real. For if I say: I only need this and then and then… the futility. And I knew in these words I was no better than the dog which is my boon companion and I can only share in his bone. And so I remembered. I recalled the kiss which I instigated. The kiss between cousins between my sister Dulcinea and Aaron and how I wished after to banish the girls from our tree and what this made me feel when later my father handed me my first guitar and I said again: I will not! The cry the sound “I am lonely! I am lonely!” And she said:

–Come and see… And I saw. And I said
–I don’t know how to love! And she said
–In giving there is pleasure… but that is not why you give.
–Yes but how? How? And she said
–You is a fool! Give the dog a bone, boy… Go on! Go on now and kiss the girl! And I said
–Yes, but my old man… And she said
–You just don’t know what it feels like but I’s gonna tells you what it feels like. It feels like… home.

And do you know what they’re talking about? An old voodoo woman and a fifteen year old boy? The mind still somehow makes a whole picture even if pieces to the puzzle are left out. Like word scrambles. Anagrams. What we trick computers with these days to let them know there’s a human on the other end. Some would even call it the basis of art–what’s left out. What someone perceiving the art has to bring to it to make the work a whole. Not judgment–understanding. If it was all there it would be easier to judge, but when crucial evidence is missing the mind the heart of the audience brings their own experience to bear and a magical connection takes place. A I am not you but this has also happened to me and so you are me. That’s the beauty. The meaning we find in pain in pleasure even. The I am not where you are from I was not raised like you nor do I have the same body I don’t even have the same values the same God but I’ve felt what you felt I know what you’re trying to hide for I’ve hidden it too and though we never speak of it we commiserate. And what we’re talking about here is a first kiss. Of course you already know that or I have failed. Or maybe I haven’t failed I’m just not done yet for this is a work in progress and if you’ve been reading along you know that some of this is merely foreshadowing and some of it remembering what already happened what you know will happen it’s just that I haven’t pieced Benjy’s character together yet. You know his misfortune in time in what hasn’t been told by him and this is the loud white noise lacking the walking shadow of life, and if I’ve done my job you never tire of it. You see Benjy just didn’t come to this woman living in the woods along the Sabine because she brought him into this world (maybe like all of us he thought she could bring him out)–no, it wasn’t even the guitar his father gave him as a gift–it’s what happened with a girl the first girl with whom he felt those first stirrings of lustlove in the loins the first time he had a situation something he had to walk off and that guitar the guitar his father gave him when he was seven was merely an instrument to the situation. What he felt at that age what we’ve all felt at that age the humiliation the failure–what makes a boy a man and a girl a woman. And that old voodoo woman just knew not from some paranormal power not from some heightened sense being blind what ailed Benjy what bothered this young man and so she said:

–Stop thinking with your dinker, boy! It just makes you dumb…

And when his father David gave him the guitar he said: In this I bequeath to you Time. So there’s a story to the story. Because it’s easy to imagine something that never ends, but you can’t help placing a before in the beginning. Victory over time is the illusion of fools the identity the peace the dependence not according to our purpose decay the triumph of our Nature and the Infinite forgotten in our grasp. So take it. Take it and play. And whatever it is–call it good… So that he (Benjy) sees it now. He sees it in a blind woman’s gaze. A crossroads. Highway 61 and 49. Mississippi. 1937. Eleven years before his birth. Before his hands found the wise tension of his brother’s umbilical cord. And the old woman says:

Do you smell it? Do you smell the trap? Where your father went is not just where he went electric. For that’s not the guitar the Devil tuned. It was acoustic. The guitar he brought with him to that place on a moonless night. You know which one I’m talking about. It wasn’t missin’ no string, but it had a bullet hole in it. It was the guitar you wanted at seven which he got at nine and you said I will not only to hide it later from a girl what was right there in front of you what you said you wanted… Yes the easy money the women the fame what the fire burns quickly leaving the juice inside. The blood… Ever wonder how the blood clots? That’s one of God’s mysteries so simple to life yet so complex how the intellect takes it and makes it hard to say hard to understand what the artist makes simple again. Your father was (is) an artist. But he failed you. He failed to bequeath to you Time. The story in the story. He didn’t tell you to forget. The fall of a man and his redemption his restoration. The madness in love. The reason in madness. For what’s done in six days can’t be done in seven. And there ain’t no short cut to talent. That’s a gift. A gift not taken lightly…

And Benjy said:

–But I wanted… And she said
–Shore… Shore… I’m sure she knew what you wanted too.

For there is a fate it takes strength to face to acknowledge the sum of the past of what you are to sense the underlying essence to gain true knowledge and know no action of yours can change this the question What is truth? in the death of God rejecting objective reality knowledge contingent and conditional and finding meaning again… For where are you and where am I when we look to a determined focal point in the distance is what you see and what I see the same? It is wise in death to laugh. And so you must love fate. Then and only then is an end established. Because what is common is creating a value even if it what I value and what you value may be different… I am different from my father. Yet I am the same. For if my life were to happen again it can only happen the same. And so if my father hid something then so must I… And he said:

–What did I want? And she said
–You didn’t want to fail like your father did. But don’t you see, chil’? You are what you do. And if you want to be what you is you got live over what you was. You got to stare into the horror to affirm your life. To be who you is…

… and even God cannot change the past. It was is and ever shall be. I have been baptized in that river. What is unchanging in the course of things and yet always changes. And this world this world is child’s play. And like a rope over an abyss if I fail I cannot say I didn’t burn burn and even if we have not seen signs from heaven for twenty centuries I must add I must say too as my father did before me what the heart doth say…

–I know I can’t be free… And the old woman says:

Is that what you think you’ve been tempted with? What your father said before you were born? Ain’t none of us free! Not because we ain’t and not because of color or money but because we don’t wanna be. God gave you a gift. But you don’t want it. You don’t want the burdensome choice ‘tween good and evil though that’s what you thought you wanted to be wise. Instead it just brought confusion and suffering so many cares and unanswerable problems… Because you see death now. Because the secret to being who you is is not only to live but to have something to live for. And if you don’t have that you’d rather destroy yourself than remain on earth. I know what you want, boy! You want what everthing that lives and breathes craves and hungers for from the time that it is born–you want to find someone to worship. From the beginning of Time we’ve set up gods and said to one another, “This is my God. Put away yours or I will kill you…” And so to the end of Time it will be until the last idol has fallen and there is no one left for us to hand over our freedom to until there is nothing left but our guilt our deception nothing left but our suffering because we’ve been forced to lie to endure the freedom we find so dreadful–the gift that you me all of us have rejected as infallible that sign from heaven in the words of the One who said: Man shall not live by bread alone… And Benjy said:

–You’re wrong old woman. I don’t want to worship but to be worshipped. I wanted her to love me… And she said
–Oh, man! You’s a bigger fool than I thought. Don’t you know you be tempting God? And he said
–God is owned by all of us. As are all idols. Otherwise He would have come down off the cross and enslaved us all. And she said
–Is that what you’re still waitin’ on? For some miracle to come? You think that will set you free? And he said
–Yes I want to be loved as children love and be allowed to sin. And she said
–How hard it is for one man who knows the truth! Yes, and what doth it profit a man… And he said
–But I’m not angry anymore. I’m not angry at her… I love them. I love them all. Even when they laugh at me. Somehow I love them more than ever…

So what did he (Benjy) see? Not behind closed doors not in a room with a bed but in May just before a darkening rain when the sun hides behind the clouds the earth green with more splendor than silver or gold more than all precious jewels like looking at a flower opening for water those dewdrops on petals praising the sky and how one day one man can be complete a microcosm in this the synaesthesia what he (Benjy) sees standing in Marie Toussaint’s door in the midst of a swamp the pigeons come home to roost and all the other birds of their kind singing it’s created for you your freedom like the smell of lilac on spring fields last bloomed what man cannot return to in all eternity Benjy crying, “Youth!” to the sky and the graying leaves dance in a cool breeze how the wind carries all of it so light and ephemeral unburdened by the mist of our colored choices its wise lamentation to the relations of power the reciprocal movement of celestial bodies and you look with the cosmological eye into the imponderable of all things the immutable silence of the mountain the song of the river and Benjy (not David) takes up a guitar by the water of a picnic the guitar his father gave him at seven the one to which he said, “I will not!” for he wanted what his father was given at nine to play to pluck the strings of what the heart doth say–to play to a girl–and all he is saying all he sees smells tastes hears feels the ce’st moi in the face of a woman a face like his mother’s who said, “It was Jesus…” that same year he was seven the same year he said, “I will not!” to his father’s gift a face looking on with what is written silently in her heart for in the beginning was the Word… and she (the girl) says to it, “a storm’s a coming…” and she smells like trees rain and like seeing all the kingdoms of the world for a moment in time here comes the sun to which she says out loud, to you, the word become flesh, “I am warmed by it…”

… you see I tried to play. But I couldn’t. Not like my father. And I could not repent from the pride of my ambition for ambition is never contrite but like Christ in concrete and you say in your heart of hearts, “Here is a man!” so instead of kissing her I tried to play to hide what I did not know to begin with what she in her infinite wisdom knew instinctively the voice of that wise spirit the voice my father heard which says, “for it has all been delivered unto me and I give it to whom I will and if you worship me it will all be yours…” The distinction the profundity between what is written and what is said… for the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…

So what was written? Sometimes you don’t understand another’s knowledge. Their knowledge of the trees and the animals and the stars what we all crave knowledge of our universal nature universal unity how the knowledge of life is greater than life the knowledge of happiness greater than happiness the depth of the love there like what we could have for our fellow man. For there is no greater love than to give one’s life for another. How we’re all just dirt. Thinking of ourselves that we are much more than that because somebody loves us because God loves us… And maybe a woman should write of it–a mother–Bethany. What was written in her journal the year Dulcinea’s child–Abe–was born her reflections on Benjy who would have been twenty-seven that year and Solomon who was nine how she felt about David Threnody after all those years the guitar he gave and the guitar he burned her conversation with the old voodoo woman Marie Toussaint who gave birth to them both on what happened with her only living son and what he (Benjy) yearned for in going to that cabin back in the woods along the Sabine when he was perhaps fifteen and was first in love with a girl first having that contact with the trees and the animals and the stars a connection not just in thought alone but also in some physical way–the union–the union which creates one flesh… And maybe why he wanted it. Why Benjy wanted his father’s guitar. The guitar with a bullet hole in it which the Devil tuned on a moonless night at some crossroads in his father’s past. When he (David) first loved:

June 22nd, 1975–And she said, “Come and see…” and I saw. The earth as it was before. When we desired for nothing, but were calm. When we did not aspire for the knowledge of life because our lives were fulfilled. When we were playful and happy as children. When love was among us when we bore our children. When there were no quarrels among us, nor jealousy–we didn’t even understand what that meant. And though there was death there was no sorrow, no tears, only love–for our earthly union was not severed by the grave. When we sang songs to each other, solemn and exalted songs, which now we can’t understand, which our minds cannot fathom, but our hearts feel it even more–when once we could love without pain… But now I see I am corrupted. I corrupted this earth. And to that first question, “Where are you?” I learned to lie. And the lie entered my heart and I loved it. And soon I learned of jealousy. Cruelty. Soon the first blood was spilt. Unions appeared, but they were unions one against the other–the idea of honor was born and each union had a flag and reproach and recrimination began. I knew shame and made shame a virtue. I began to abuse animals and the animals withdrew into the woods and became my enemy. I longed for suffering and said the truth came by it and science appeared. When I was angry I began to talk about brotherhood and humanity and conceived those ideas, and when crime was committed I invented justice and prescribed laws to maintain it and to maintain those laws the death penalties to enforce them. I didn’t even want to believe that I had once been innocent and happy and called it a dream. And I said to myself, “Knowledge is higher than feeling and the consciousness of life is higher than life and science will give me wisdom and wisdom will reveal to me laws and the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness.” And I loved myself above all others and proclaimed this suffering was beauty and this–this became the song I sang… And she said: How to find paradise again you do not know. It cannot be expressed in words. And knowledge? That is what must be fought. For I will tell you this, an old truth repeated and read over and over, yet it is discovered again and again and in it you will instantly find how to live–love God and love others like you love yourself–that is all. That is all you need…

But that isn’t what we really want. What we really want to talk about and not yet the birth of Dulcinea’s child in 1975 and some the healing which began to take place then is what happened around 1964 perhaps just after (or about a year after) Benjy paid a visit to Marie Toussaint. For it’s an interesting time in Bethany’s life. And David’s too. Reading through her journal this pinpoints when she herself saw the old voodoo woman. Maybe for the last time. And this visit perhaps explains what bothered Benjy what bothered his father because it was soon after that they both took up with Maddie and became guests in her bed in that room above Sunset Inn Again in Hemphill. It’s also the same year they began building on the dam. On the Sabine–the Toledo Bend Dam, spillway, and power plant, even though it took the better part of two years before the earthen embankment and impoundment of water began, when Solomon was just an infant just born…

…and it never lasts–the temptation. Sometimes you just got to wait on it. You got to give it time and if you can do that it just goes away… Like something lost. Sometimes that’s got to happen. You got to lose something for a time to really cherish it once you get it back… David was a lot like what my grandma Bridgette used to say about her old man–Papa Frenchie. She used to say he was a horny old devil and maybe it was passed on to Benjy too which is why I saw in that old woman’s blind eyes the story of why he came to her. It wasn’t hard to figure out. I’m sure the boy’s hormones were ragin’. I figured it was a girl. Makes all the reasons why we love ourselves and God and Man those lofty thoughts to what’s lost and found again and our answer, “Here I am…” seem simple enough where you don’t need no science or philosophy or religion too to answer them. It’s like earth and water. Women are cycles. A ribbed ebb and flow. While men are as steady as dirt. And it don’t take long to know what they’re thinkin’ with. Maybe that’s what he (Benjy) was already fightin’ when he come out. And he wasn’t fighting this knowledge. That’s not why he held on to the cord round his brother’s neck. Maybe it’s that eternal nothingness the not-love of existence he was holdin’ onto the ‘I don’t love myself’ that is sleep and dreams from which we don’t want to awake–maybe he missed an old friend who sticks closer than a brother… No, I had to say more than once, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” to David getting fresh kissin’ and rubbin’ his hardon against me and I’m sure his boy my son had the same problem with the first girl he felt that way about. And I’ll be damned if he didn’t use his father’s guitar what he said he didn’t want. You see he wasn’t just tryin’ to impress her with his playin’. He really was tryin’ to hide something. Maybe he thought she wouldn’t see if he had a guitar on his lap. She wouldn’t see his response to her. His erection…

So I figured it up and said to the woman who gave me birth This is not my house but His the incest the murder the curse of a man rejected by his father how he slayed a giant and befriended a man not against what he was against but for what he was for and he took me from my husband only to mourn his child the spirit of Lust the cause of his contrition this the why of my son the old woman saying Yes and do you think this your alliance puts you in the Good? Good stands divided but Evil does not quarrel with itself it knows its purpose with confidence for a house divided cannot stand… And I heard as it were the mechanism of Time as it is dead measured by turning wheels and of old as it was the sun and moon the turning of the Earth and its seasons all I see seen at a faint angle the precession so that when I say What time is it? Time is dead but when I know not the hour or the day it comes to life and I saw… Her clock or clocks for she had many of them I heard them tick for they were on her mantel they lined her walls even among the skulls of animals heard above even the incessant cluck of hens the cages she kept in the dark the only illumination the melting wax of candles and she Marie Toussaint in the shadows among her clocks all of them ticking ticking telling a different time and besides the Cross about her neck she wore a large man’s watch this too telling a different time a dozen different hours and all of them with the same assertive contradiction the same assurance I had for she asked me What time is it? and I looked to my own watch and told her just like how when you don’t want to do a thing your body will try to trick you into doing it and it says Why do you persecute me? and Time if it could talk if you would only listen saying It is all to bless you… like when Jesus walked in Galilee waiting for His time and when He says Rise you look down to see your murmuring bones and the deep water realizing that nothing can help you when you know you don’t need help when Time comes to life when you hear it… Marie Toussaint saying Yes and that’s what’s sad about it for nothing is even worth the changing of it for I could go from clock to clock and I could set my watch and say This is it this is the time and would that could that give you all the assurance that you need? Would that change what was and what is to come? So I said It is the best thing then: to see them my family all the people whom I love not as I think they are but how they think they are and this I should let them share… And she said Yes because all your speculation regarding the mechanism of all these arbitrary turning wheels is merely the symptom of your mind. It is the heart which leads it is the heart which sees God…

So what of his (David’s) songs? You won’t find it here. Not much on David’s music his life on the road the places he played for by 1964 he’d been about everywhere he’d traveled that Winnemucca road seen people not only from a stage or a corner in a bar inside and outside but in train stations on buses and in cars hotels and past hotel rooms streets and food haunts and there is not much of the other musicians he met other singers bands in which he played their stories nor are there nuances into his craft how he went from novice to master no there is none of this only his life not as a singer but the story of his family and those he loved so that out of all of this all we have is what’s written here the songs of his songs what made me want to write about David’s life for the strange thing is even the David of the Bible not much is mentioned of his psalms only his life only that we know he wrote them… And so Bethany wrote:

November 1st, 1975—She is thirty-four weeks. My daughter. So what have I showed her? My vanity wants to say she is me and will be even more when she becomes a mother but still the past and memories of that river before it was dammed—the Sabine—how it was an old evil river loud with noise of cottonmouths and gators and to this day I know it’s the reason my first husband’s body wasn’t found Pete Southhouse I’m sure the gators got him and I remember the cypress trees how they grew so slow and that’s really how he died my son Benjy it wasn’t no mulberry they don’t’ grow along that river it was a bald cypress the rest is stories fabrications misinterpretations passed along by folks other singers David knew no it was a cypress tree from which the body of my son hang when he fled her room Maddie that was his coffin and I know now after I visited that old woman present at both our births what happened wasn’t nothing but suicide my boy’s suicide that old voodoo woman showed me… I skinny-dipped in it once when I was a girl in Hemphill I’ve swam in it and I remember how we made a bunch of noise and we didn’t swim long for it’s a dirty river awful muddy and that’s the river David crossed the Sabine when Benjy our sons were born and he crossed it when Benjy died and I remember my old lover from my youth my God so long ago thirty-three years now how he crossed it and never returned what my father said of the river and I hear the words of David mixed with my father and I can imagine how Dulcinea heard her father’s David’s voice what she will hear when her child is born the words… I am a man for have I entered. I have entered you and I have seen it in your eyes what no words can convey the submission unto power and all those weak little deaths crying out Hey! I’m not only good I’m the best! The fault of any performance what we see hid knowing what you try to hide the curse of a woman the promise that you shall crush his head but he shall bruise your heel yes that story the trials of your labor and the sweat and toil that I shall always sing to what we will always be talking about even when the eternal fire of the fire goes out…

And she (Bethany) said And she made me see. More than I can write more than the run-on words put into the mouths of others there set aside words and set apart thoughts as if not mine for which no style or format can set aside or set apart and I saw I saw him (Benjy) through the eyes of that old woman through the volcanic glass which shielded her eyes blind on that day not when he was perhaps fifteen and wanted to know about a girl but in 1966 April Fool’s Day when he knew what the girl wanted in this case Maddie but he’d reached that age in which he bemoaned the injustice of it and he just couldn’t wait any longer wait and find out he didn’t want anything from her at all not justice even and whether he gave of himself or not it still was a delicate and precious thing and you really shouldn’t want anything from a woman who’s given that to too many men the old woman saying Yes keep on speculating on that symptom of your mind because what do you want from the man his (Benjy’s) father for it’s easy to say now We ain’t married but you still want him to be a father and you want him as a husband still because you want him to listen and he wants… I don’t! I don’t! I ain’t gonna hurt again I love him yes as a father and I love him yes as a friend but I won’t let him in in it is my journey now not his’n and how can he want what I want (the Devil owns that man) and for another piece of my heart it goes on and on it never ends and he always there and I can say Thank you but to act with thanks to say to Grace humbled any live man is better than a dead man but he ain’t no better than me live or dead and it ain’t so much sin as it is morality for unto Grace I say I am ashamed and I will have not my pride his songs his life but not that thine is mine and I don’t hate them! I don’t! I don’t… the old woman saying So what is so tenuous? The power to say you must be nice to me but I don’t is this love love like you want to be loved yourself? Foolish woman! Here your daughter marrying a white man and he (David) and your son in bed with a white woman this all just a reflection of what used to be and what is the impervious let them alone let them think what they are black or white nigger or white trash that’s not so much a person so much as a behavior a reflection of who you live among and is you jealous jealous of them songs so much that you call it beauty in not even hearing them not even reading his words as if this indifference shows how much you think of it? And so I saw him standing there Benjy by the side of the river his shadow his head where his belly was over the water moving to what was standing still with the admiration the noble have for anyone who beats them in a fair contest what a man attests and a woman scorns and he speaking to the river the Sabine saying Well Old Man I’ve learned from your affliction… and opening his hand a wooden cross a sort of Christ in his pocket which he lets drop into the muddy current watching as it just floats away… and whether it be sin or not it does not occur to me found not in death how he went up to that woman after knowing he would have to flee knowing she didn’t love him love anything without that streak of self-love which tainted all of it the doubt of the intelligent and the confidence of stupidity he died it died there by the river. In an American prayer… And she said No… no that’s not subtle enough for me…

So the old woman says like she’s looking up to the sky So it was in the days of Noah where you think the man is lonely but really all he seeks is the same fulfillment you defend in being a mother for a man can be alone and it can be good but if the man’s purpose is somewhere else if his children are somewhere else how can you shut that door how can you say I love and you should love yet when he speaks you tell him to go and when he goes you say See! and she (Bethany) reflects in her heart and says not hardened says without even the intention the thought of evil says Yes! I told him to go I told him to seek that somewhere else I told him to find another woman and so he went to Maddie and I felt righteous (but not by faith) for I see now not only now but what was before and I look to see the choices of what is to come what it will look like nine months down the road a year and then twenty for yes I told him to go I said You cannot come in! though you stand at the door and knock though the rain begins to fall and the stink of it is I saw me and I saw him and I thought I saw our children the way Dulcinea clung to him as a father the way Benjy rebelled and when I said It is good for this man to be alone I knew I knew and I saw that Do unto others is not fit for lovers when lovers once loved but now one does not no more how yes I said I needed to work on loving myself for a while and got down on my knees and prayed to Grace feeling His affliction and I did this alone and I cried alone and I thought I thought I taught my children… What? You thought what? To say have them say I am sad when I am sad and I am angered when I am angry? To share and to not be selfish. To read to them of the Bible the stories there telling a story and I not without sin yet I must be strong strong for them my children even though it says the weak are used for His glory and the humble shall be exalted while the proud are brought down low and if I have not love… the old woman saying So is this it your affliction a man a father to your children who you say doesn’t love as you doesn’t love himself as you so that when you said Go to another woman you seem surprised and dismayed that his (David’s) son did the same? For ain’t it written that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to a woman and the two shall become One Flesh so that what you do to him you do to yourself and to the least of these? For what do you think one flesh is if it ain’t your children how the two of you joined to form them this the boat that rocks the race how you even down on your knees usurp what only God can do for only God can shut that door (and this a matter of faith for even Noah was a drunk) for what God hath joined…and I said no No! it is not good it is not good for man to be alone and his kids need him now more than ever but I know now old woman I know now what you meant when you said the poison… Yes this I know (Jesus loves me!) and I know now why lovers are meant to tarnish it tarnish the Golden Rule how it is their duty for my eyes have been opened and I see. I see…

And who am I to disagree? The thing is you can say it was this or that try to put your finger on it and apologize in apologetics and if you had more time what you had to say would be shorter than it is long but all this the brief tumultuous marriage David and Bethany had the children which were born and the children which died so that by 1964 when they began to dam the Sabine river this finished in 1966 shortly after Solomon’s birth in all that happened in those in between years as the children grew you can ask who was Maddie that David and Benjy went to her and why they went to her was that Bethany’s doing you can lay blame and cry out for justice but the truth is all that remains is a story you just want a story and a story is all you’re gonna get. Because healing begins when the other ends when one story ends and they who tell it must pass it on must pay it forward so that when you ask What time is it? what you want is to say something started here something finished but as you go back and forth in time as you visit an event a birth a death the ambiguity of a meeting at some crossroads the fact is you just get older while Time remains the same and you can’t change any of it so suffice it say it worked. It worked for David and Bethany. And maybe you know a little more about Benjy. What was heard in the birth of Dulcinea’s child in her marriage to a white man. Why Maddie died the way she did. Why Aaron had to die. And I could go back and revise. I could even put in some of David’s songs a little more on the guitar he kept and guitar he burned the guitar which was broken into pieces. But instead I will leave this here what little there is to be said on misery despair and I could say that’s what it’s all about and once it this it is always this but then I would be leaving out the ineffable purity of hope the lie that in fiction there is truth and in truth there are many lies so why not end it in a story the last words of Marie Toussaint to Bethany and what time was it what year doesn’t really matter what happened before to lead to it what must have happened after because it was told all this merely idiosyncratic like a cross on a necklace mixed with animal bones or the ticking of clocks and what’s made by Man or God doesn’t matter for it is all for your amusement and the source the source is the same for you me God we are all one One Soul and you don’t have a soul you are a soul in this is the inestimable difference the lack in all your knowledge. And so the old woman said and I (Benjy and Bethany) saw… a dream:

and the parable which was stolen

… Hell and the sight was horrifying. Row after row of tables laden with platters of sumptuous food yet the people seated around the tables were pale and emaciated moaning in hunger. And as I came closer I understood their predicament. Every person held a full spoon but both arms were splinted with wooden slats so he could not bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth and it broke my heart to hear the tortured groans of these poor people as they held their food so near but could not consume it. Then I saw Heaven. I was surprised to see the same setting I had witnessed in Hell – row after row of long tables laden with food but in contrast to Hell the people here in Heaven were sitting contentedly talking with each other obviously sated from their sumptuous meal. And as I came closer I was amazed to discover that here too each person had his arms splinted on wooden slats that prevented him from bending his elbows. How then did they manage to eat? And as I watched a man picked up his spoon and dug it into the dish before him. Then he stretched across the table and fed the person across from him! The recipient of this kindness thanked him and returned the favor by leaning across the table to feed his benefactor. And I saw I suddenly understood. Heaven and Hell offer the same circumstances and conditions. The critical difference is in the way the people treat each other. I ran back to Hell to share this solution with the poor souls trapped there. I whispered in the ear of one starving man You do not have to go hungry. Use your spoon to feed your neighbor and he will surely return the favor and feed you. You expect me to feed the detestable man sitting across the table? said the man angrily. I would rather starve than give him the pleasure of eating! So then I understood and I saw God’s wisdom…

in the ears of Solomon

And so ends the story of what happened in 1975. The year I was born the year Dulcinea’s child was born Benjy dead nine years Aaron dead Maddie dead and Solomon nine years old. Eight years since David Threnody’s last album and his return to a crossroads in Mississippi. So ends the story so another can begin so the healing (sexual healing) can begin. And everybody everybody is looking for something. It’s just a matter of what you find is what you get. A matter of what you’re willing to lose.

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