Friday, June 24, 2022

Cerro Pelado Blues

"Cerro Pelado Blues" appeared in SOUTH DAKOTA REVIEW. Winter 2019.  Issue 54.2. Here in its entirety. Order the print journal here

Cerro Pelado Blues

Chorus I

Big dark thunderstorm extreme weather came thru

Virgin Mesa + Redondo tracking east over Caldera

to Española + Sangre de Cristos toward Barb

way over in Pecos in Barillas Lookout

She called + invited me over to visit when I want

working on a book for Forest Service on history of lookouts

knows Tripod + Aztec + Cerro Pelado too

this morning woke in a cloud socked in + cold

lightning off + on all day but with rain + hail

maybe when things dry out some smokes will pop

but already another unusual season here so wet

normally would be dry + windy tho windy

now sun setting behind the Sierra de Nacamiento + clouds

lights down in the valleys twinkling on in Jemez Springs

Albuquerque + Santa Fe + the I-25 strip

thinking about poor Schopenhauer + his gloom except he's right

except I guess when things go wrong we at least know we're alone

small consolation but a least when we do something

it's because of who we are which sounds destined

but I guess is a form of higher freedom

since who we are causes our destiny therefore we choose it

except Shope seems to think only one outcome possible

in any situation because who we are there must be only one

but who we are seems to be could determine multiple outcomes

so I think not giving us enough credit but I'm not sure I care

though not caring might be choosing illusion + not reality

i.e. letting the cat be killed so put a shoe on yr head

Chorus II

Everything needs to be tied down + fastened + battened

+ secured in a lookout tower otherwise you get

rattling + ringing + moaning in yr world + in yr mind

like the time the zen sensei took me aside in the zendo

+ told me not to wobble while meditating

because if the body wobbles the mind wobbles

+ so the mind rattles + rings + moans in this wind

and you need to take care of feet + hands that dry out

a little Queen Helene cocoa butter does the truco

even when rain + hail come in in big dark nubes

and you gotta watch the rock squirrels + mice + chipmunks

little fuckers will climb up in yr car and nest in the vents

one time driving down from Aztec to Glob a mouse climbed out the hood

clinging to the windshield wipers at 70 miles per hour

+ later in Salem during an oil change the guy found a big nest

right on the air filter so I'd been breathing mouse piss all winter

everything must be if not tidy at least under control

like the mind + body which is what meditation teaches

your fire lookout tower is after all a taoist temple

because we're a little too crazy to be zennonites

those people don't have a sense of humor at all mon frère

we're all just a bunch of skin bags to them meaning ugly

meaning they have body issues + the world sucks

just like Schopenhauer and even tho they're right

the world kinda doesn't suck we just notice when it does

but all these moments of beauty + even just contentment

they happen they exist + we are beautiful

our imperfections are what make us beautiful

Chorus III

Because zen monks are very proud of their shaved


Because reincarnation is just as unbelievable

as God

Because Japan is very far away

As are China + India + Tibet

Not to mention Jerusalem and Rome

Because the weekly dharma talk is the least useful

yet most attended

and because you conveniently don't have to sit as long

Because sitting is good

Because sitting at 4:30 in the morning brings neither

more nor less

Because chanting is kind of silly

Especially multi-syllabic translations of monosyllabic


But because any group of people coming to sit

quietly is better than any church or anything

Because sitting alone you start to worry if you left the stove on

Better to sit + watch Game of Thrones + eat Doritos +

tweet w/friends

Because sitting still w/one's thoughts could lead to something

or not

+ either/or that's dangerous

sitting still

still sitting


Chorus IV

People ask don't you get lonely up there

but I only ever get lonely when I go down into Santa Fe

around people but separate

w/only polite conversation w/baristas and bank tellers

which is why I always fall in love with baristas and bank tellers

tho sometimes loneliness follows me up to my tower

and a day or two is necessary to purge myself

with mountain air and milky stars

playing a blues or two on the guitar

up in the blue sky picking my nose

reading imperfect but perfect B. Traven novels

seeking smoke and fire or nothing at all

Chorus V

The Dry Line is where

moist air coming up from the Gulf

collides with dry southwest air

anywhere from Amarillo to Santa Fe

and causes rain + hail + tornadoes

+ why sometimes the wind comes out of the southeast here

whereas in Arizona at Aztec it always came from the southwest

+ so even w/a drying trend predicted next 10 days

out east past Pecos + Barb in Barillas LO

a huge thundercloud burbles w/lighting

+ could maybe form over here

w/high cirrus clouds coming from south

signals some kind of moisture mañana or day after

or not up here at 10,000 it's all cold + windy

even w/the sun shining directly through the windows

setting now + I'll have to throw on a hoodie

and the full moon rising in the east

will do the same later tonight for me + the wolf

I think I kept hearing tho sometimes it's a coyote

but one night it howled like a wolf

which I wonder has come up from the Gila

+ even if coyote welcome up here if nowhere else

but what I want you to consider is this:

to be aware of the Dry Line within yourself

changing location + storming + raging

not that you can suppress it or would want to

but to be aware of those currents within

Chorus VI

spotted two smokes today from lighting days passed

or even the lighting from last night

w/moment of John Henry satisfaction that air attack

at least didn't spot one of them

+ spent all day guiding firefighters in

when all along a big rain system built over Albuquerque

+ moved north dousing the whole forest

'firefighting activity hampered by rain'

may not last the night tho both put in monitor status

i.e. let'em burn a little + clean up the underbrush

which everyone wants to do more of just not in their backyards

but more lightning with this cell so may do same mañana

watching wall of water + electricity move north

jagged glows in grey mist

looking down on rain from here or across

learning the clouds—cirrus on up high w/cirrus streaks

cumulus midrange from fair weather to cumulonimbus

stratus the low level flat game over for fire season

along w/mammatus cloudbreasts about to rain

+ lenticular meaning high winds over mountains

locked in my self-love shack reading about sexual perversions

+ discovering myself + a lot of other people too

a sizable minority in a majority that sets the morals

so glad to be up in the cloud socked-in

nothing to see nothing to say really except

some Whitman-like hello to the future

the human world goes on if you step outside it

+ it doesn't matter when + if you come back in

no one cares + it saves you a headache

Chorus VII

at sunset after the yellow orange pink red

far mountains turn blue

and clouds turn blue

and rain even rain that never reaches the ground

flashes of lightning in the blue

+ I curl in my blue sleeping bag

blue sky + light blue stars

still in the blues listening to the wind

even the smoke from fires turns blue

at the end of summer letting them burn

like we all should let our fires burn

unless they could really hurt somebody

but if in the wilderness of the heart

let them go and burn in the night

someone will see them + think them beautiful

and you may see their fires

+ tho you may not believe me all fires are beautiful

even dangerous ones especially the dangerous ones

fire has a purpose in the world

it keeps the wild healthy

+ cleans up the dead stuff in the forest of yr heart

but I'm just melancholy sad to have to leave Bald Mountain

having spent many nights up here in the wind + rain

lightning storms off to the west

lights of Albuquerque + Santa Fe where normal people are

I feel the moth tug to be with them + their lights

but I want to stay + fly to the moon too

or into a fire

Chorus VIII

time to burn

burning time

after weeks of rain + lightning

Virgin Mesa Fire

all the firefighters that haven't headed north to other fires

fire time

fire is time

over time

beyond time

rock squirrels are time

flying stars are time

riding mountains into deserts is time

just like Dogen's time to ride mountains in deserts

so fast you can't see

or it's all bullshit anyways

just as there is not bullshit

and no not bullshit

but fire

+ time

+ hummingbird blossoms

and a combi to dig out the mudholes off the road

so cows in time won't have waterholes in time

+ wind in time

time wind

time to put on a coat on the catwalk

tune out the radio

time to put fire on the ground

Chorus IX

even if/tho bell hooks is right

+ love is a choice

you can still be wrong if you go looking for fire

all the fires I've ever seen were w/my naked eye

my naked plum blossom eye

it's when you go looking for fire that you fool yourself

get fooled by shadows + waterdogs

use technology like binoculars + online dating services

you have to let fire come

enjoy the lightning show in the meantime

(+ no fires may come at all

in which case you head down the hill on Wednesday

like a fool into Santa Fe

for books + groceries + hot yoga

feeling like you're in a Tarot card)

then of course the decision:

put it out or let it burn

or even help it burn

put fire on the ground

pull back + watch it

or there is not fire

no time

or all the time in the world

fire time

fire in time

or there is not love

or all the love in the world

Chorus X

many nights on Bald Mountain

many ghosts

but ghosts are just ghosts

you sit with them

they appear + disappear

up to you how you react

or you could just simply invite them in for tea

morrocan mint or jasmine pearls

I like my tea green like my men

the most difficult thing about sitting up here

is feeling the mountain move

southwest into the desert

+ the sound

the nothing

the space in the symphony makes the music

the space in the head

+ even in August there are fires

small and may fizzle

but important to know they're there

hold onto your fires

sit with them

they don't even leave like ghosts

but you don't want them to

+ for that I'm a zen heretic

zen women don't stop wearing sexy underwear

but you don't want them to

even if far away

even if ghosts

Chorus XI

freak on the peak ok

I end this summer like I began

w/my head in the clouds

socked in

all I need now are some bagpipes

aspen turning gold

grouse clucking around the tower

elk bugles

or men pretending to be elk in heat

and I still love the idea

of men bugling in heat to each other

thinking the other a stag or stud

men out in the woods exploring their true natures

not that there's anything wrong with anything except denial

but when I say I like solitude

it doesn't mean I like solitude

it just means I like solitude

+ enlightenment isn't sudden it's a process

+ a bullshit western term anyways

like emptiness instead of maybe space

tho that conjures visions of sci-fi adventure

even if zen could be called Lost In Space

I always liked the younger daughter w/dark hair

+ wondered if she'd try + hook up w/her sister's bf

+ how that would go down in space

plus those gloves that could squeeze water out of rocks

Chorus XII

all the Johns that accompanied me on my moving mountain:

Johann Sebastian, Johnny Cash, John Lennon, John Coltrane

all the afternoons singing to the grouse and cows

coyotes singing at night + playing in the meadow sometimes

the wolf I swear I heard back in April or May

or do we hear what we want to hear

cloud lightning silent in the wind a flash

but no—thunder even this cold

they're filming a western or firefighting movie down in Santa Fe

I've called in their smoke twice they've changed locations

one lightningstruck tree still north near Deadman

+ lightning in the Rio Grande Valley high desert

wanting one more fire before I go for closure

+ to prove I'm useful still

make up for all the false alarms I called in

even tho firefighters don't care they'd rather be out in the woods

sunset summer another miracle I'm here I'm alive

to see heaven every day in solitude

I'm not Wordsworth I don't need a companion

tho if my sister were here we could make guacamole

watch the storm + fading light + talk Michigan

so damn you Wordsworth maybe you're right

but it's beautiful anyways it's beautiful because I'm alone

being alone is beautiful I wish you'd let yrself be it

I wish you'd let yrself get out of town

drive + get out of yr car + walk