CLEBO & GARLAND
At Midnight on Saturday
I walk a 1/2 block north
from the artsy apartment building
where I sleep every night.
I sit in the second row of folding chairs
in the new little performance gallery
with an artsy name. The front row is empty.
I came because there's a poetry reading --
two guys from Texas I's told.
I'm sitting in the second row.
But I can still smell the Scotch on Clebo's breath.
When he leans into the crowd,
he leans into my face,
his voice like a jackhammer,
telling me about a woman home alone
while a million guys masturbate.
Clebo Rainey lives in Dallas,
but you could tell that just by looking at him.
He is Texas in perfect emulation.
There's a Lone Star where his heart is.
His poems are dense with passion and images,
every word dripping
with his lust for women, booze, drugs, and life.
(Actually, that's a lie.
He didn't say much about booze, or drugs, or life.)
with a reminiscent smile,
of women who'd destroyed him
and who he had destroyed.
His Austin roadpartner Garland,
suave and smooth,
like dudes from farther east,
to each and every one of us
in every word he speaks about life,
and spontaneous verbal combustion.
I know what most New Mexicans
think about Texans.
And I'm sure these Texans don't.
And I am neither Texan
nor New Mexican
yet quite a bit of both.
After a scotch and a jay,
my spectrum of vision grows
to include Deep Ellum, Oak Cliff
and the difficulties
of being an egomaniac in Dallas.
The next night is as rainy Clebo's last name.
The arrival of these men
stirs up New Mexico's spirit,
translating their words to the air
and it responds with a storm.
Their rainy-night gig is a sideshow act
among punk bands moving trapsets,
and their disgust is apparent.
In the shared smoke of a parking lot joint
friendships begun the night before
the way barnacles endear themselves
to old, ocean-weary ships.
After their last set they leave quickly;
but not before we make plans
for tomorrow's mountain drive.
The next day,
the last of May,
the unsettled weather
continues and after a bowl,
hail hits our heads.
The Texans don't want green chile,
they want ribs.
we journey east past Zuzax,
then turn up.
Now, from Clebo's Geo's front seat
I am leading them
up a twisting mountain switchback hiway,
into the fog,
into the questions
that New Mexico demands.
We move gradually.
White patches in the ditch.
Garland is driving.
Clebo demands: what time is it?
(They have another gig tonight.)
I tell him there's plenty of time.
My pockets are full of it.
Garland and Texas demand that we make it to the top
as we look down at clouds.
When the snow begins to fall,
at 9000 feet,
the mountain swallows the lives of three men
and ingests all of their experience.
The common ground
between Texas and New Mexico
and boundaries fade --
their illusion becoming apparent.
Since I am neither
Texan nor New Mexican
yet quite a bit of both,
I can dance either's dance,
but must be like the clouds
that float over each,
never touching the land,
except at it's highest points.
As we reach Sandia Crest,
the Geo breaks through
to blue sky,
and we gaze over the precipice
our eyes following the line
of the Rio Grande,
pointing at the faraway buildings
listening for our own voices
riding on the wind,
and then Sally drives up.
I ride back to town in her car.
Sally tells me I'm a seeker
and she likes my poems.
Later that night,
I hear Clebo's repertoire
for the third time
and Garland doesn't win the slam.
(They needed the prize-money for gas.)
I guess the judges
just didn't like his tweed suit.
But they've got just enough
of whatever it takes
to get back to Texas,
with fresh snow stories to tell,
and at least one new friend.
We hug again,
I promise to visit them soon,
and I am neither Texan
nor New Mexican
yet now -- quite a bit more -- of both.