the god bear and the fire witch

I hear a deep laughter but I’m not sure it’s mine. The window panes, unbroken, still cut me with jagged light. The storm sweeps the street mindlessly, but it makes at least one thing cleaner. Night closes in again, and again I fight this battle. I am still very strong. I can fight this night again. If you render this piece of paper down to a pulpy mush, then bathe the mush in chemicals, you will find my DNA. You will have evidence against me that I fought this night, but the words will be gone, and my battle plan will be gone. I don’t need any evidence. I’m People’s Exhibit A. I am convicted, sentenced, executed, resurrected, forgotten, remembered, forgotten again. I am very much at ease with it. I fit in well with the rest of the ghosts. The Buddhists call this “liberation” but I am not a Buddhist, so I must call it something else. I’ll call it “potato chips.” That’s easy enough to forget.

Lucky puts his big paw on my foot as if to hold me down. He knows how light I am right now. Dogs are smarter than people. He knows how easy it would be for me to fly away, and he’s going to make sure that it doesn’t happen. The fire witch possesses my soul so I am little more than ashes, and I crave fire. Explosives, fire and smoke – I love these things.

The god bear stalks me but he is too slow and I elude him. The fire witch drinks my blood at night, and I don’t even care because it feels so good, even necessary. This is nothing to be concerned about. I prefer to be consumed in heat and light rather than to rot away slowly. Light, heat and energy – these things she brings to me. Without her, I’m not much more than a filing cabinet – cluttered, opaque and immobile.

The god bear snorts in the darkness. He’s hungry. He’s always hungry. But I won’t be his supper, not tonight at least. “Look around leaves are brown. There’s a patch of snow on the ground.” This is purity, perhaps a lucid moment. The Kali wail of police sirens slice the night air again. The god bear has found somebody to feed upon. It wasn’t me this time. Tonight, I’ll lie down and sleep like a dead man and not give a damn about anything. Tomorrow, when the sun sneaks into the sky, I’ll care about things again, perhaps.

The god bear is very close now. I can hear him shuffling in the leaves. The moist breath of the great carnivore is in the night air, moist and close, threatening, uncertain. This wet night is full of evil and time. Small phantom faces in dark window panes mouth words but they are silent and meaningless. He is relentless. His hunger is infinite. I am appalled and fascinated with his primordial potency. It is not the moral evil of humans who plot and scheme, but rather the elemental evil of storms and predators, neither moral nor amoral. It is simply hunger and lust for destruction.

You could say that God is punishing me for having too much fun. You could say that God is being very kind. Both would be true. The god bear knows nothing of God. He knows only his hunger and the hunt.

The fire witch is fickle. She is not moved by the ice on my eyelids, nor is she heart-broken by the great empty spaces in my soul. She has her own laws. She comes when she comes and leaves the same way. I have never understood her, and I have tried. I could never constrain her, but then, I have never attempted to do that. She will return to set me on fire again, and again, until that time that she returns no more and I will die. I don’t mind the dying, but I’m not ready yet. I would mind it today.

Push me against your hot breasts and warm me. I am not young anymore. I don’t mind not being young. Being young is a pain in the ass, but being old is too. I just want to be warm and incandescent. You don’t have to be young to give off light. In fact, the young are often clouded with their confusion and decisions. They may blaze and burn. They may give off great heat and thick clouds of smoke, but their light is seldom clear. There are some, but they are rare. If God screwed up anywhere, it was in wasting youth on the young.

I am like a stone by the water’s edge. God, that’s boring. That’s why I need her. She turns me molten and explosive. She gives me fluid motion. I don’t have to be cold and still when she’s around. She has the colors of flame: reds, blues, yellows and orange. She feeds on me. She feeds on flesh and bone, nerve, and, yes, even soul. She is always hungry.

The god bear is a different matter entirely. I have no desire to share even the smallest piece of my not-so-young ass with him. He’s a greedy, rapacious monster that only knows how to eat and tear things apart. As a playmate he leaves a lot to be desired. But then, you knew that because you’ve heard him snuffling around your windows too.

I saw her in the moon tonight all spectral and ghostly, but the moon is too far away. I don’t need her in the moon. I need her in my bed sweating and moaning with me. I need her fighting with me down some city street’s sidewalk. I need her to torture my imagination with heat and conspiracies and secret delights. The moon is out of reach. I don’t need a ghost. I have plenty of those.

The god bear never lifts his eyes to the moon. He knows it’s up there but he doesn’t care. His head is always down with his nose near to the ground so that he can sniff the trails of prey. He cares only for the hunt and the dismembering. I learned a long time ago from an old Eskimo that the bear could be manipulated with words, not exactly scared, but confused and distracted, long enough to escape. So, I practice this voodoo and it works most of the time. You can’t feed him and you can’t shoot him. You can’t run and you can’t hide, but you can hang a spell in air long enough to throw him off.

“Surrender. Get it over with. Aren’t you tired of fighting?” Yes, I am tired of fighting, but surrender? I don’t think so. Not today, anyway. What would you do? Offer your children to him and hope he eats his fill before he gets to you? I’d rather make them bear hunters. We’ll go down fighting, but someone will remember that we slapped the hairy monster in the jaws and dared him to take a bite. Maybe that’s all that counts, or maybe what really counts is loving the fire witch well and staying out of the bear’s jaws.

The first law of thermodynamics is that everything gets cold. Every fire burns out. Every erection goes limp. Every light bulb burns out. This is the straight scoop.

I burned out a long time ago. I blazed brightly for a time, as bright as any for a moment, but the fire consumed everything – one thought, one simple idea that made a blaze, and then it was gone. I became cold and still. There are some advantages to being burned out. Vision is clear. Hands and voice are steady. No fever courses through the veins. It’s a lot more relaxing, just dull. I hate being cold. I’m not wild about being still. Blazing may be a pain in the ass and mightily inconvenient, but cold is energy death.

Tonight the earth is shrouded with snow. It is five degrees outside and the solstice draws near. The earth is dead and dark. There is no fire, no heat and no light. I wait for the longest night, as if something magical may happen in the course of its interminable hours. I am a magician. I will wait until the darkness is deepest and then speak a spell into the night. I will cast a spell on the god bear to make him sleep. I’ll cast a spell on the earth to make it warm again. I’ll cast a spell on the endless night to make the hours go by. I can’t tell you the words of the spell. The fire witch knows them and the god bear will hear them, but if anyone else hears, the power will be lost and the god bear will roam sleepless and hungry.

Deadest heat-dead night, Winter Solstice. I should find some magic in it, but I step out onto the back porch under the diamond-on-black velvet sky and I just freeze my ass off. Thirty seconds and I’m shivering like a wet puppy. There’s magic out there, somewhere in the haunted Kentucky hills tonight, on some windy ridge between naked trees. I can see it but I can’t reach it. I can tell you about it because I was there and know it in my primordial bones, but I’m not there now. Some teenagers are there drinking beers and slipping in the snow. They’re full of fire and they don’t feel the cold. They feel each other. They feel the miracle of their own young skin and the magic. They may die on the road home tonight but that doesn’t matter. The brown haired girl sails a beer can over the edge of the bluff, out into space. It falls into the brush below and is swallowed. I’ll find it next spring by the side of the trail and fuss about their carelessness, slip it into my backpack and bring it home. The magic which clings to it will be gone by then but I will smell its traces and know its story. The boy puts his arm around the girl. He thinks he’s god tonight. Maybe he is tonight. I’m in no place to judge because I swore off of theology. So, he may be God tonight and nobody would know the difference. He won’t be tomorrow, but I’ll save those old-man horrors for another day.


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