December 15, 2012 by The Citron Review
by Mario J. Gonzales
Because it’s taboo she refuses to speak his name. I have taken to sewing his pictures into a quilt, each patch a memory of him. He’s playing basketball on the range. He’s cutting up melons and working the cookouts on my birthday. He’s smiling near the wild rose bush in front of his broken motor bike. He’s drawing cartoons for me, sitting on a rusty oil drum, the day fat with hours where nothing gets done.
I know it’s pointless to watch the stars at night. If his soul has gone it is no longer in the sky but being hunted by the souls of animals. This is a test we all must endure. That’s what the storytellers say. No one believes them anymore and so few are left to know what goes on. I watch the sky anyway. In the northern limits I find him where the stars briefly shine before dawn.
When he was young he was a great hunter and fisherman. He could run through the desert, making tracks for animals to follow. He would fix his bike and ride it out to the rocks. Trying to find the edge of the earth he told me—shouting his name across the canyons. “I am, I am,” he would yell, as if the days were crumbling stones falling all around him.
If it was near dawn and he not come home I knew he was under a spell. I could hear his voice, talking as fast as time and entering that place where her prayers could find him. I know he heard her. Her words were slurred it’s true. But who hasn’t eased their heart by drinking a bit of death each day.
What had entered his blood is sold on the street and we could tell it was a fire as sweet as hell. We could tell it gave him visions so beautiful that they were taboo, meant to be kept and guarded by those dispossessed of their dreams.
Life is the days spent searching out your name. His father told him this right before he left for good. I called him the Great Balloon Poet because when high he’d write love poems on strips of sea-green paper, putting the paper inside a red balloon that he would fill with helium and then release it into the sky. He said whoever found his poems would fall in love. Forever they would succumb to its madness he said. They would know their name.
One day he left and never returned. She searched the alleyways and arroyos, the dead-end streets and abandoned buildings for him. The old men said he was lost inside a vision and could not find his way home.
When they finally found his body he had no name. Wild dogs had eaten it and so we returned him to the place of his birth. We will burn his bones so that the ancestors can pick through the ashes, touch the briefness of his face, hear the rise of his voice as he searches for his way home.
How lonely the world is when you have no name; when the coyotes howl in the canyon lands; and when just below the horizon a mean line of storms waits to be born.
How much loneliness lives in the empty bottles that lie next to her bed. I can hear her waiting, thinking that each new dawn will bring him home again.
Mario J. Gonzales lives and works in Northern New Mexico. His short fiction has appeared in Rio Grande Review, decomP magazine and The Cossack Review. He is the recipient of the Hispanic Writers award presented by the Taos Writers summer conference, 2012. His work has recently been translated into Arabic and will be forthcoming somewhere in the Middle East.