Monday, April 19, 2021

Red Sonja #1

My totally unauthorized script for a once-planned six-issue run of Red Sonja. (Formatting a little off with transfer.)


Interior of a large tavern. SONJA seated at a wood table, armed, gulping from a big tankard. She’s alone, with three empty tankards on the table, one tipped over with spilled grog: She’s been here a while, imbibing a while.

There are other people inside—barbarian types, and motley looking folks—mostly men, unless there’s a woman with a group of men. And a barmaid and a male bartender. Sonja’s the only solo woman.

if possible: show three old women (ie the Fates—maybe one younger) either looking in from the outside (maybe just their heads or backs of heads visible). Not looking at Sonja yet, just looking in general (as revealed later)

Also: show young DRONA lurking in the shadows/corner also scoping out the scene.

Name of tavern on a sign: THE WHITE CAMEL

Credits in old-world tavern sign style, like on wooden signs:

Story by:

John Yohe




PAGE 2 (six panels)

Panel 1—Medium shot at floor level of Drona sneaking up behind Sonja. Only lower part of Sonja visible, waist down, with a coin purse hanging from her belt (Note: it’s a pretty empty coin purse). Drona is behind, reaching for the strings with a knife/dagger. Her expression is kind of excited actually, eyes wide and almost smiling.

Panel 2—Same shot, but Sonja’s hand has reached down and grabbed Drona’s wrist. Drona’s face has turned to surprise/shock/fear.



Panel 3—Medium long and wide of Sonja, now standing and holding Drona out at arm’s length. Drona’s feet don’t even touch the floor. Sonja is not quite angry, more like un-amused.


You’re wasting your time with my coin purse, thief.

Panel 4—From out of nowhere, Drona has produced another knife in her other hand, aimed at Sonja, but Sonja has reached down and grabbed that wrist as well.




I am not amused. What’s your name, thief?

Panel 5—Same angle/shot, but Sonja has turned Drona around, facing away from her, both wrists still held high. Drona is scared/alarmed.




How appropriate.

Panel 6—Sonja drop-kicking Drona in the butt. Drona almost off panel.






Go play out in the street.

PAGE 3 (five panels)

Panel 1—Medium of Sonja sitting down again. Not a CU but close enough to see here eyes looking sideways to a table off-panel, hearing the convo below:


Looking for work, friends?

MERC 1 (OP):

If you’re looking for swords.

Panel 2—Medium shot of the Old Trader standing next to a table where two mercs, MERC #1 and #2, are seated. This is from Sonja’s POV. They’re long-haired, long-bearded guys leather studded armour, with swords hanging off their seat.


I’ve need of swords to get my caravan up the coast road to _____.


Two nights. Two silver for each. Payable on safe arrival.

Panel 3—


To ___? Easy money.


Panel 4—CU of Old Trader, looking a little uneasy.


There’s word of bandits filtering south.

Panel 5—CU of Sonja, raising her hand in signal, and addressing the Trader off-panel.


I’ll sign with you as well.

PAGE 4 (five panels)

Panel 1—The three men, same shot as before, from her POV, heads turned to look at her, maybe slightly surprised.

Panel 2—Same shot, but the two mercs are laughing, and the old trader looking embarrassed.





Panel 3—CU on Merc #2, still laughing, looking at us/Sonja, off-panel.


Wench, are you mad?!

Panel 4—CU on Merc #1. Same, laughing and looking at us/Sonja.

Merc #2:

If you want to come along, I can think of something you’d be useful for!

Panel 5—CU on Sonja’s face. She’s pissed. Note to colorist: Maker her cheeks/face slightly more red with anger/shame.





PAGE 5 (five panels)

Panel 1—CU of Old Trader, looking uncomfortable and maybe slightly apologetic. (Shrugging?)


Y’see missy, swordwork is men’s work.

Panel 2—Wider shot of Sonja, at least from her knees up, leaping up out of her chair, grabbing and half-unsheathing her sword, snarling and glaring, from the men’s POV.


I could take these two by myself!

Panel 3—CU of Merc #2. Laughing lecherously.


I bet you could! Har har!

Panel 4—Same shot, only now the tip of Sonja’s sword is a half-inch from his throat (or, in his beard, I guess). He’s surprised and scared, looking down at it cross-eyed.





Panel 5—Wide, across whole bottom of page: The bar, with the bartender and barmaid both holding and aiming crossbows at us/Sonja and men, looking stern and angry.


No fightin’ inside!

PAGE 6 (four panels)

Panel 1—Large and wide, outside of the tavern, in a wide, fairly busy street, with stalls and store on each side, people walking and riding horses, horses with carts. This city is Middle-Eastern-ish, in clothing and architecture. Maybe some of the nearer ones have their heads turned at the commotion of Sonja and three men, who have walked outside.

Merc 2 is turned to Sonja, pointing and glaring, etc.


Whore! I’ll cut your tits off!

Panel 2—CU of Sonja, looking strangely calm now: She’s in her element, and primed to kick some ass. Maybe slightly smiling, edges of her mouth curled up, fucking with him.


I’ll cut your balls off.

Panel 3—CU of the Old Trader, holding up his open hands, worried and trying to calm everyone down.


Now now! Calm down!

Panel 4: CU of Merc #2 pointing at us/Sonja (her POV)


Now, whore. On Your knees and beg for mercy!

PAGE 7 (four panels)

Panel 1—CU of Sonja, even more amused now. Arms crossed, waiting.



Panel 2—Wide of Merc #2 on left, facing right, at Sonja, who is facing left. He’s just slathering with rage, still pointing at her. She’s still calm, arms crossed, totally fucking with him.


Or I’ll knock your teetch out for a nice hole!


To think you had a mother.

Panel 3—CU of Merc 2 charging, bare-handed, livid.



Panel 4—Wide—Merc 2 on left, Sonja on right. Sonja in the middle of a reverse roundhouse kick. (note: if more panels needed for this, go for it)

PAGE 8 (six panels)

Panel 1—CU of Sonja’s boot heel connecting with Merc 2’s jaw.





Panen 2—Wide-ish, low/ground level, of Merc 2’s head hitting the ground, his eyes wide and stunned, with the Old Trader and Merc 1 in the background, shocked.




Mitra’s beard!

Panel 3—Close up (or CU as possible with three people) of three women, jaws dropped.

Panel 4—CU of Drona, equally stunned, eyes wide, but smiling.


Mitra’s ass!

Panel 5—CU of Merc 1, with still shocked Old Trader in background. Merc 1 drawing his sword and snarling.

Merc 1:

Wench, you’ll pay for that!

Panel 6—Sonja drawing her sword, calmly, in her element.


Must you speak in clichés?

PAGE 9 (five panels)

Suggestion/idea: All these panels short and the width of the page?

Panel 1—Wide. Again, Merc 1 on left, Sonja on right, swords drawn and facing off. both holding swords two-handed.

Panel 2—Same shot, Merc 1 charging. sword overhead.



Panel 3—Merc 1 bringing his sword down, Sonja raising hers to meet it. Swords meeting.



Panel 4—Sonja using his strength and sword weight to guide it down to her left (towards us) and into the ground, her sword on top.



Panel 5—Keeping her left hand on her sword hilt, she reaches up with her right hand in a fist, backhanding Merc 1 in the jaw.



PAGE 10 (five panels)

Panel 1—CU of Sonja, POV of Merc 1 (so, facing us/him) as she winds up her right hand, glaring.

Panel 2—CU of Merc 1, POV of Sonja (so, facing us). His eyes wide, stunned from the hit he just got (and maybe his jaw dislocated or something) but aware that she’s about to smash him in the face. He can see it coming.

Panel 3—Medium-wide-ish side shot of Sonja smashing Merc 1 in the nose.



Panel 4—CU of Old Trader, looking at Sonja/us, from her POV.


Mitra’s blood...

Panel 5—Either a CU of Sonja, or maybe a bigger shot of her standing over Merc 1’s body, but in either case, wiping her mouth with the back of her right hand.


I didn’t kill them.


You might still need more swords-for-hire than me.

PAGE 11 (five panels)

Panel 1—CU of Trader, deer-in-headlights look.




I can’t hire a woman. I’m sorry.

Panel 2—CU of Sonja, surprised/incredulous.


You can’t hire a woman?


After what I’ve just done?


Are you insane?

Panel 3—Wide, whole width of page maybe, showing Trader on left, facing Sonja on right (in a similar shot as when she was facing off with Merc 1). Trader is flustered and apologetic, maybe holding out his hands/arms in a shrug. Sonja now looking angry (thus, maybe his flustered-ness_


Miss, it’s just...well...


It’s just not done. I’d be a laughingstock.

Panel 4—CU of Sonja, side shot. She’s now more stone-faced, realizing she’s being rejected, no matter what.

Panel 5—Same shot/angle. Sonja turning away. trying to snub him, to keep her respect.


This is crazy.

PAGE 12 (six panels)

Panel—Back inside the tavern. Sonja back at her table, another tankard of grog in her right hand, gulping it down.


Excuse us....

Panel 2—CU (again, as much as possible with three people—maybe width of 2/3s page of Maiden , Mother, and Crone. All smiling, like they’re found the answer to all of their problems, and it’s Sonja, and they know she’ll say yes automatically.


We’ll hire you.

Panel 3—CU of Sonja, arms crossed, annoyed and grumpy.


For what? As a scarecrow in your garden?

Panel 4—CU of Maiden.

They just judged you because you’re a woman.

Panel 5—CU of Mother.

Now you judge us because we’re women?

Panel 6—CU of Crone.

Or is it because we’re old?

PAGE 13 (five panels)

Panel 1—CU of Sonja, surprised and chastened.


I’m—I’m sorry.

Panel 2—CU of Mother, smiling and winking.


It’s ok, dearie. You were magnificent!

Panel 3—Super wide—of all four, all smiling, with Drona lurking in the background shadows somewhere.


We need you.




To protect our village.





Panel 4—CU of Sonja.

Just me?

Panel 5—CU of Crone.


You can help us find more swords.

PAGE 14 (three panels)

Panel 1—CU of Sonja, looking skeptical.

How much?

Panel 2—Wide-ish CU of three older people. Averting eyes and otherwise acting sheepishly.






That’s the problem.

Panel 3—Either same-ish shot, or individual CUs if you want.


The drought this summer was bad.


We barely have enough to live on this winter.


It’s bad everywhere.


Which is why there’s bandits.

PAGE 15 (five panels)

Panel 1—CUish of Sonja, with Drona in the background, looking up at her and obviously listening in.


Where are your warriors? Every village has fighters.

Panel 2—CU of Maiden.


Gone. Conscripted into the king’s army.

Panel 3—CU of Mother


For the so-called defense of the country


For the wars in the south.

Panel 4—CU of Crone.


Even the boys.

Panel 5—CU of Sonja, one side of her mouth curled up, amused.


A village of no men?


Sounds like paradise.

PAGE 16 (five panels)

Panel 1—CU of Mother.


Please, dearie. We have food and board.


A warm hearth for winter.

Panel 2—Wide side shot of Sonja looking glum in the middle, arms crossed facign left, with the three elders on the left, and Drona lurking off in the shadows to the right, spying curiously.


You can’t pay. You want me to find more swords that you also can’t pay.


To defend a defenseless village.


Why should I do this?

Panel 3—The three elders know they’ve ‘hooked’ her, so they are smiling.


For the challenge!


Because we know you’re not just a sword!


You’re a leader! you can teach us to help ourselves!

Panel 4—CU of SONJA, looking resigned (though the praise is working, she loves feeling appreciated).





Panel 5—All three Elders (or three separate CUs if desired). All smiling, triumphant, like they’ve won the battle already. Crone should be holding up one finger, like he’s telling a truism or something.




Now how shall we find other swords?


Honest ones!

PAGE 17 (three panels)

Panel 1—Back outside in the street. A larger, bird’s eye, view, with Sonja in foreground, the three elders, and Drona hiding/tagging along, in the background.


You have no money. The only swords you’ll get will be freaks and losers.


Make way! Make way!

Panel 2. Even larger (most of page?) Soldiers surround a horse-drawn cart with a wooden cage. In the cage is Belit, the Black Pirate Queen, in rags that might be still pirate-ish. She has long dreadlocks, her hands gripping the wooden bars on one side, glaring out at people. She’s beaten, but no broken.

If possible, have Sonja and the three elders in the background, turning to watch.


Make way!


Belit the Pirate Queen is captured!


Panel 3—CU of Sonja, maybe in a little ‘corner’ triangle panel in lower right, turning to us/elders, pointing her thumb behind her at Belit.


Let’s get her.


Cher Vincent: Letters to Van Gogh

My epistolary essay, "Cher Vincent: Letters to Van Gogh," now out in the new LIT QUARTERLY! Canadian print journal. Buy here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Friday, April 9, 2021

Rim Liquor—short story

 Appeared August 2018 in MOJAVE HEART REVIEW, which is alas no longer with us.

Matt threw his cards down. —That’s it. I’m out. I’m done.

Ryan pulled in the money, smiling, cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth. —Mi amigo, you quit too soon. The night is joven.

Ryan’s trailer, in Verde Estates, north of Payson. Matt, Ryan, Johnnie, Anthony, Karl. And Jamie.

Matt stood up and grabbed his hat, putting it on. —I’m gonna grab a smoke outside. Anyone?

Ryan shook his head, collecting the cards and shuffling. —We’re not stopping now. Not when I got my game on. The rest of you vatos ready to lose your dinero too?

Matt walked past Jamie reading People on the couch and went outside onto the porch, lighting up and blowing the smoke up into the sky. Stars everywhere. Crickets. A television from one of the other trailers. Professional wrestling.

—Hey Matt!

He looked back through the screen. —Yo.

—Why don’t you go make a beer run?


—I want to go too!

Jamie’s voice. —I’m bored.

Matt turned away from the screen, took a last drag and dropped the cigarette and ground it out. Ryan yelled out, —Hey Matt, you want to take Jamie?

—Yeah sure.

The screen door flew open and Jamie came out. She had put on her boots, though was still in shorts and a halter top. She had her purse, checking inside for something. —Let’s go.


They got in his pick up, and he turned on the cd player.

—Is this Shania Twain?


You listen to Shania Twain?


—Is it because she’s hot?

—A little.

—Does Ryan know you listen to Shania Twain?

—Not sure.

—I bet he don’t.

—Why does it matter?

She shrugged. —I don’t know.

—Then why did you ask?

—I don’t know.

He looked at her a second, then backed out of the driveway and headed up the hill out of the valley.

—What was that look for?

—What look.

—The whole look-at-me-out-of-the-corner-of-your-eyes-like-I-done-something-stupid look.

—Oh that one.

—Are you mocking me?

Mock? What does that mean?

—You know what it means Matt Wattley.

They got to 87 and he stopped at the sign. The Mogollon Rim off to the north. Dark cliffs. Storm clouds, up on top. A flash of lightning. He turned right, heading south down to Payson. The windows were down, and the cool air blew in. She rolled up her window. —Jeezuz fucking christ! I’m fucking cold!

He rolled his up, leaving a little space so the air still blew on his face. —Why didn’t you wear a jacket?

—I didn’t think of it, ok?


They got to the Payson city limits, then through the traffic circle in front of Wal-Mart.

—Why do you have a Toyota?

—What do you mean why do I have a Toyota?

—I mean why do you have such a small truck?

—What do you mean why do I have a small truck?

—Jeezuz fucking shit Matt, I’m just conversating!


—Yeah, you know what conversating is?

—You mean talking?

They passed the turn off to the airport on the right and were in town.

She crossed her arms. —Ryan’s got a diesel.

—Yeah, I fucking know Ryan’s got a diesel.

—Well, don’t get mad at me. I’m just saying.

—You’re saying what?

—I’m just saying. Shit, what’s up your ass?

—You know how much diesel costs now?


—Well ok then.

They got to the 260 intersection. He drove straight, still going south.

—Ain’t you going to the Beverage House?


—Why not?

—I want to go to Rim Liquor.


—I don’t know. I like the name.


—Cause it’s funny.


He looked at her quickly. —Cause. Like the same reason it’s funny there’s a store up in Flag called Beaver Liquor.

She thought about it a second. —Oh.

They passed the Post Office on the right and he turned left into the Rim Liquor parking lot.

He parked and turned off the truck. He looked at her. —You don’t get it, do you?

She looked at him. —What?

—Rim Liquor.

—Yeah. Kinda. I get the beaver one. Is it like the other side?

He kept a straight face. —Of what?

She smiled. —Of the beaver.

He smiled. —Yeah.

—Matt Wattley, you are the most perverted motherfucker I’ve ever known.

—I doubt that.

They got out and went in the store. Bottles and bottles lined up along both aisles. He nodded to the cashier as they walked to the coolers on the far back wall. He stood looking at the beer. She hugged herself. —Fuck it’s freezing in here!

—Like I said.


—A jacket.

She smiled. —Fuck you! Hey, do you remember back in high school?

He shrugged. —Do I remember what?

—Like how we all used to get at keg and go up to Milk Ranch Point and have parties?

He nodded. —Yeah.

—What ever happened to Teresa?

—You know. She went to ASU.

—I know, but like, with you and her?

He opened a cooler door and grabbed two cases of Bud, one in each hand. —Nothing. She left and it was over. She said she liked Phoenix.

—How could anybody like Phoenix?

—Well, there’s jobs. I guess.

He looked at her. —Last she said, she’s going to get a masters.

—A masters? Really?

He nodded. —Yep.

He started walking up front. When they got to the counter she asked for a fifth of Jim Beam and a pack Marlboros, and put them with the beer. Matt stared at her. She added a pack of gum. —Don’t worry. Ryan’ll pay you back.

They left. He put the beer in the back of the truck and they got in. He started the truck and pulled out back onto 87, heading north.

She opened the Jim Beam and took a swallow.

—Jeezuz Jamie.


—Nothing, I guess.

—Hell, I’ve seen you puking your guts out, so don’t get all superior on me.

They stopped for a red light at the 260 intersection. The clouds had come down off the Rim. More lightning. Rain drops starting to fall on the windshield. He started the wiper. The light changed and he drove.

—Matt, do you still like me?

He looked at her quickly. —Oh shit. What do you mean? We’ve known each other forever.

—I know. But you don’t ever talk to me anymore.

—Well, we’re out of school now.


—So we got jobs and shit. And you’re Ryan’s girlfriend. Shit, I don’t talk to a lot of people no more.

She took another swallow. —I know. Me either. Hey! Turn here!


—Just do it, ok?

He turned left on Airport Road. —Where we going?

—Up to the airport. Trust me.

They started up the steep part, and when they got up on top of the mesa she had him turn left onto the road up to the water tower. —Turn in here to the parking lot!

He did, facing the truck north, towards the east side of the airport and the Rim, though it was almost hidden, until a flash of lightning lit up the whole area.

—Wow, did you see that?

—Kinda hard to miss.

He kept the wipers going and lit a cigarette, offering it to her. She took it and rolled down her window a crack. He lit another for himself. Another flash of lighting. The rotating green light next to the runway.

She exhaled. —Have you ever been up here?

He shook his head. —No. It’s nice.

—Yeah. My dad used to take us up here, like on nights like this. Or like when the monsoons come in the afternoons, you know, like in July. Or like, when they get fires. You can see the smoke and there’s helicopters taking off and stuff. You’ve really never been here?


—No I’ve seen the fires though. Remember that one out on Promontory? You could see it glowing at night.

They sat for a while. More lightning.

—Matt, how come you never asked me out?

—Oh shit.


—Just, why the hell are you asking that?

—I’m just asking. I just wondered.

—Well, I mean, you’re Ryan’s girlfriend.

—Yeah I know that already. I mean, before. After Teresa left.

—Well, maybe I wasn’t in the mood then.

—Oh. I thought maybe it was because I wasn’t Mexican or something.

—Jeezuz Jamie, what kind of stupid thing is that to say?

She tossed her cigarette out and rolled up the window. —I don’t know. Ryan’s all into mexican girls. Doesn’t he talk about them to you?

—I mean, we just talk about girls, period.

—Oh. So do you still like me?

—Oh shit.

She laughed. —What?!

He tossed out his cigarette. —We better be getting back.

He started the truck and turned out back on Airport Road and down the hill. She took another drink of Jim Beam. They got to 87 and he turned left, heading north. The rain lighter, but steady.

She crossed her arms again. —I mean, like when we’re doing it, he likes to talk about us having a threesome, and he always wants it to be with a mexican girl.

—Oh shit. Too much information.

—Oh I’m sure, Matt Wattley. You’re the one that likes butt-licking.

—I never said that.

—You implied it.


She laughed. —Yeah! Implied!

—Oh shit. You going to go to college using all those fancy words?

—Oh horseshit Matt Wattley. Besides, I could’ve. I took classes at Gila Community College.


—And I have to work, just like you.

Neither of them said anything for a while. She looked at him. —But seriously, doesn’t he ever talk to you about that?

—About what?

—About being with two girls and stuff.


—He doesn’t ever talk about me?

—No. Not like that.

—Well like what then?

—Like normal.

—What’s normal?

—I don’t know. Like not about sex.

—Do you ever think about being with two girls?

—Jeezuz Jamie.


—Just lay off, ok?

—Ok! Sorry.

He turned left back down into Verde Valley Estates. Another flash of lightning. He pulled into the driveway behind all the other trucks. After he turned off the truck he leaned over and kissed her.

She jerked back and pushed him away. —Matt! What he hell are you doing?!

He froze.

She picked up her purse and put the bottle in it. He leaned back and turned and looked out the side window. —I thought that’s what you wanted.

—What the hell made you think that?!

He looked at her. —Are you serious?

She stared at him, holding her purse to her chest. —What?!

He didn’t say anything. She moved to open the door, but stopped and looked at him again. —What?!

He grabbed his hat and put it on. —Nevermind.

—Why are you mad at me?

—I’m not.

—What do you want me to do?


They sat there a second, then she opened the door and got out.

He opened his door and got out. She was already running for the door, covering her head with her purse. He grabbed the two cases of beer and followed after her.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Glacier Grey

 "Glacier Grey" originally appeared in Green Theory & Praxis, Issue 12, Volume 1, April 2019. Pdf format, page 39. Now here for easy access!

The end of the world is cold. And windy. No trees, just rock, boulders and shale. Patches of snow and sandy pebbles hitting my face. My plastic poncho supposed to be a windbreaker, but has really just turned into a big sail. I have to stop in big sudden gusts blowing down from El Paso Garner, Garner Pass, 'El Paso' for short. No trail, basically we're just heading up. With the altitude, I rest every twenty meters, bent over almost to the ground. A man recently died trying to hike over this point.

A huge gust hits, blowing me over and back. I twist mid-air somehow and land on my hands and knees, dragged, poncho choking my neck and flapping in my face.

Up ahead somewhere, I hope, are my two Australian companions, named, amazingly, Tristan and Hamish. They've been traveling in South America for about two months, basically trekking, camping out, The Inca Trail in Peru and Macchu Pichu, getting ripped off by police in Lima. Neither has picked up much español, so I've been useful, for once in my life, as a translator back in Puerto Natales where we met in one of the hospedajes. They accepted my presence matter o' factly and invited me along on an eight-day trek around the park, doing 'The Circuit,' a big loop in el Parque Nacional Los Torres del Paine. I'd only been thinking of an overnighter, have never done more than that, but said yes immediately. Amazing how that can change your life. We've seen the Torres, the Towers, huge skyscraper-like mountains, a climbers paradise, along with 'small' glaciers and glacial lakes filled with large chunks of floating blue ice.

I just graduated, barely, in December with a degree in creative writing, and the only story I could imagine for myself is working at a Border's bookstore the rest of my life. Nothing made sense except to revise completely, to leave, to go visit Chile, the homeland of Pablo Neruda. Why do trees hide the splendor of their roots? Maybe a last gasp, a last reward, a poem, before I join Real Life and grow up and be serious and stuff. So, from minimal savings I bought the ticket and walked through that gate in the Detroit Metro airport, expecting someone to say, Hey, you can't do that. Which is kind of what school had been like. But, no one did. And in Santiago, despite all the beautiful women, my instinct had been to get the hell out of there too, out into wilderness. My guidebook showed Los Torres del Paine, a United Nations Heritage Site, at the southern tip of the continent, of the world.

The Australians haven't laughed at me, at least not for any of that. They seem to be giving me the benefit of the doubt that I know what I'm doing, despite the fact that I'm in cut-off shorts, a Mötorhead t-shirt, and Converse High-tops. They do like to make fun of the States, and other Americans ('Why do American tourists dress like children?') which I am more than happy to encourage. Plus they're fellow Monty Python fans, quoting classic lines like 'She turned me into a newt' with much better British accents than mine. I had half-thought I might drop out earlier, and without them I surely would have. They've been teaching me, even just by example, how to properly trek. Things like planning out meals, reading a topographical (topo) map, and just drinking water straight off the glaciers, no need for iodine or filters (but cold). Also showing me how to tighten the waist belt on my mochila to get most of the weight on my hips, so my shoulders aren't screaming. Which makes my hip bones scream. But it's a good pain! Other things I've learned on my own, the hard way, like if you use a tarp, never put it under the tent. It should go on the ground inside, otherwise it actually catches runoff from the tent and funnels it into a puddle right underneath and you wake up the next morning with your butt in a puddle. Fortunately, neither of them are the gung-ho type that get up at five in the morning. Nope, we all crawl out at 9:30.

We had all wondered if I'd be warm enough, with no heavy jacket, just a rain shell, and I have been fine up to this point. Walking with a forty-pound backpack tends to warm one up. I've had it for a year and took it on a summer study-abroad in Mexico, but never really used it for a backpack. But here I am, mochilando, the first few days in low hills, snow-covered mountains in the background. Chile and the whole west coast of South America are like someone took the west coast of North America and flipped it over, and we're in the Alaska-looking part, though I'm Darwin, observing longer thinner dandelions, flower heads smaller, evolved differently down here. And with at least one completely new animal: the guanaco, related to llamas, same long neck and wooly fur, which browses in the grass like deer, but also jumps around on rocks like mountain goats, and has the same kind of hooves. Herds of them, or single ones just appearing over my head on a boulder, staring at me. Judging me.

Learning too the rhythm of trekking, of backpacking, of mochilando, aware of what's around me but processing thoughts and emotions, of girls, friends, girlfriends, jobs, school, life. They just flow on by, nothing I can do about them, all that is far away, nothing to get on with except the next step. And when I get tired of thinking (though you never do, really) I just come out of the trance and look at the mountains which have been there forever. My problems nothing, a speck of sand on the side of a mountain.

During this trip, people have thought I'm Canadian or Argentinean, which is fine by me, I'm kind of ashamed to be an American after seeing many US oil companies in Chile, and knowing about our government's involvement in the coup which overthrow Salvador Allende, a democratically-elected (though Communist and therefore automatically bad) president, who Pablo Neruda supported. One would almost start to think America was out to invade everywhere because of oil. But on one break, Hamish remarks, —Well, you're certainly the quietest American I've met. Most go on and on, gabbing away.

Which I'm proud of. But we do talk. Hamish the free spirit type. Long black hair and a beard which he's been growing since he'd arrived in South America. One of the skinniest people I've ever met, and I'm pretty scrawny. I don't know how he hikes so far and fast with those chicken legs. He's still going to college, but I get the impression it's an on/off kind of thing. His girlfriend is an exotic dancer, which I would think would be both exotic and nerve-wracking while away on another continent for two months, but seems neither to him.

Tristan the more serious and quieter of the two. Long Elvis side-burns and the shortest hair of the three of us. In graduate school for psychology, he's going into clinical psychology to actually, like, help people. What a concept. But he still indulges his love of travel. He's seeing a beautiful young woman too, and keeps a picture of her in his passport so when a customs official wants to check his papers, her picture falls out and the guy forgets about hassling him. This actually happened at least once, I guess.

This whole trek I've still been expecting someone to jump out from behind a boulder and pull a Monty Python on me: 'Right! Stop that! You're being much too silly!' But thanks to Tristan and Hamish I've been starting to feel a little normal. Or, not alone in my silliness.

I rise, staggering, my poncho now just a cape, both hands on the ground, wondering if I'm about to be blown off the mountain. More sand in my face, trudging, long bloody slice in my left knee: the mountain has claimed a blood sacrifice.

And then I'm not walking uphill anymore, facing a vast sea of ice, grey and blue and cold. Glacier Grey. Beyond it, surrounding it, the Andes Mountains. We've been hiking through mountains the whole time, but these are MOUNTAINS. Tall vast dense hunks of planet with ice and snow on top, in huge CLOUDS. And I'm looking across at them. The end of the world. Nothing can be beyond those clouds. This is where reality creates itself. And is destroyed.

The wind doubles. The end of the world isn't going to let us live.

My Australian companions are having a grand ole time, of course. When I catch up, they're sitting behind a boulder, grinning away. As I collapse next to him, Hamish says, —That's more like it. I was beginning to get worried this would be a lark.

Tris grinning too. — Isn't this great? I got blown over on my back. Good thing I landed on my pack. Gawd, I never expected a view like that!

I cower in a ball, my poncho ripped to shreds, knowing I'm going to die, either right there, by being blown off back down the mountain, or else when we go into all that ice and cold and cloud. Those are the real Andes over there and I am shamed and unprepared, desecrating a holy place.

They take pictures.

Tristan turns to me: —We're thinking about walking a little bit further then stopping for lunch.

—Great! Let's get the hell out of here!

I run, shooting down the slope, expecting snow and ice any moment. If I'm going to die, it won't be crawling. Tris and Hamish come behind, jumping into the wind, laughing.

And, the wind lessens. Still strong, but only in a cold way now. And, instead of snow and ice, a field of thick green moss appears, covering over all the rocks. Far below, a forest of reasonable-looking non-snowy pine trees. Maybe we aren't going to die after all. I take big spongy leaps down, unable to stop staring at that huge GLACIER. We find another little protected nook behind a big boulder. Tris loans me a sweater, and we sit on mossy rocks with the best view in the world. Glacier Grey just like its name, with huge blue cracks and fissures. I'm looking down a long ways, those cracks must be canyons. I get a chill, imagining falling into one, lost in blue ice caves, the glacier moving and crushing me like nothing, which I am.

None of us speak for a while, none of us stop staring.

—You guys, I gotta confess, I was scared up there.

Tristan grins. —Yeah I noticed. You wanted to leave right quick.

—We just saw the face of God.

Hamish gives me his most pseudo-aristocratic Australian-snob look. —Bah. Rubbish. Someone's been watching too much Hollywood tripe. Or should I say Holy-wood? That wind wasn't a bit over a hundred kilometers an hour. Oh, sorry, divide by eight, multiply by five to get whatever the US is still using. It was a stroll. A doddle, if you will. If you Americans don't have some fortitude, who will want to be policed, watchdogged, big-sticked, or new-ordered by you? You could learn a bit from us Crocodile Dundee types, you could.

I break out a huge chocolate bar I've been saving, filled with mint cream, the most wonderful candy bar I have ever eaten.


Thursday, April 1, 2021


 "Globe" appeared at MOJAVE HEART (now defunct) September 2019.


twenty years later

still old open-pit copper mines

less mountains more pyramid tailings

small worn houses stacked on scrub hills

catclaw juniper cactus

small library nobody uses

highway 60 slithering through Cobre Valley

out to reservations

Salt River and White Mountains beyond

Pinals rising just to south—

hike up an hour you'll be in pines

downtown still attempting life

despite new Wal-Mart in Miami

the old movie theater

used to be an opera house way back

burned down

replaced by smaller place with four theaters

you can catch the latest Spiderman

two new bars—

one Irish and out of place

one a trendier sports bar made to look like a dive

or a dive made to look like a sports bar

with lots of tvs

microbrews on tap

new greasy spoon right on Broad Street

La Luz del Día

owned and operated by half-Apache sisters

where you can watch your huevos rancheros slathered in red meat sauce—

if you're vegetarian

they'll handpick out the chunks

natives from San Carlos and Fort Apache


just arrived or first and second generation—

retiree white folks

or miners

faces dark and leathery

big city style café making espressos

and cappuccinos for the few tourists

plus regular coffee for locals

including the Globe Democratic party:
four old guys who meet once or twice a week

teenagers sitting on couches in the café

not even buying anything

will leave town as soon as they can

whites and natives and latinos dressed in black

staring at phones

sharing funny videos

of life in the Real World—

Phoenix oozing closer

plans to widen highway 60—

trailer park in Superior down the road

bought out by Circle K gas station

tenants kicked out

to power weekend ATV warriors

and future commuters—

go to Safeway

weekly food-buy

head north into mountains

to my tower

to look for fire