Austin in Pictures, for John Lennon
In pictures that speak I walk and listen
the streets here like the ones back home, are covered in the steps of workers and machines that claim the intersection with the ubiquitous assistance of pylons and other orange colored pieces of plastic.
The new shrubbery of safety grows, proffering nighttime reflection in the bright light of day. The men step inside their orange boundary on black top while white plumes rise above the trees of the State Cemetery. A flag waves higher than the tree line. God before man in this Christian place. I spit in my mind. Smile to my companion and gently, we accept this scene and move on.
I move him past his fears, past the boxes of the years of being a good boy. I have him stand where he shouldn't. We take his picture. The brown men watch and when we're done I scream a note of "gracias!" and the man, who could not hear me, sees my lips make the shape and we're ok. Fingers go up in a benevolent wave. We make our way back to the corner where see another man, named Reuben.
They stole the land from his family when they put in the highway where the afternoon traffic is building at five o'clock, reflections of the grackles casting their collective shadow. "Cotton" is what he says. That's what they picked, his parents. He worked for the bus company and he speaks some Spanish. The words aren't perfect but the inflection is on target, hitting the bulls-eye of home that shaped as his mother whispered in his baby ear. "My grand-parents, they were Mexican." He says, but I can't remember from where.
We move on and take Reuben with us back to the café where the neo-tribes are forming in the blackness that is the moment before inspiration, the many strung together moments of discontent and hopeful creation slowly building in these places where debts grow and screens blink. These people have no home. I find them every where and I love them, too. They are covered in art that can not be sold without selling their bodies. And while they ponder their options, they add to their worth in shops that line Airport and other points along the rails on the east side.
A young man hangs a holy object on a tree as he gets ready with his bike. We speak briefly. At the center of him is an owl. And like his ink, his eyes are dark and open to all that he sees. Hi voice, however, has its own song. He is not the bird. He is many things, including those that are covered by his sleeves. I understand this and let him go.
Someone asked me the other day if I missed home. Winter there is cold. I don't miss home. My family and friends are there. I miss home. I miss the hope in my mother's eyes, that we can hold fast while another Christmas goes by. And while the prodigal daughter wanders the streets chasing dreams and challenging the small choking order of population control, she holds the traditions she can in her grasp. They scatter like the birds and the clouds which will be gone in the morning. They scatter like Persia and a girl blinks in Farsi while she invites me to tacos.
Someone asked me if I missed home and I said I don't. She said that now, with the holidays here, weren't the streets of Fifth Avenue calling? I smiled sweetly that "No, not really, it's so cold." I didn't mention the windows of famous shops, that I can not shop in, money not being the object. Sacrilege comes into the vision. Imagine a holiday of peace where the windows are not cracked with the ugliness of the haves mocking the have nots. Imagine that the hungry do not line these uptown streets where visions of food fights by overweight chefs does not mock them in their blind ignorance. Scenes from 1950 are the other alternative. A woman serving her nuclear kids. It turns my corn-filled stomach. I am wandering these commercials for consumption and I find no solace. The days however, of this fallen dream are numbered and I walk the streets of a New York-Austin where no one cares that I am consumed in my darkness. So instead I laugh. How perfectly fortunate to watch the world after the crash. How lucky to see so many good ideas go crass.
Suddenly, with a slight lightness I can't wait to get home, but first. More pictures of the brown boys, those who once picked cotton and those who will pick marijuana. God bless America and the smoke of drugs. I guess they make passing the windows at Barney's like a dream. Like dead people we can laugh at the strange machinations of the living.
I think I died in Texas. I think I like it. I think I died in New York City and came to life again in Texas. I think I died last night. I think I like it. I died once in Boulder and I died once in a place or two I can't remember. I died so many times I might have gotten used to it, starting to like it, too. John Lennon died and I think when he's born again his name will be Reuben. And he will speak on cassette tapes powered by the sun. And when they find him dead he will be smiling, and his last words will be "yeah, yeah, ok, again." and he'll go off to find his cousin.