The Heat Run
by Chip Livingston
That slip in the shower was just enough aquajet punishment on the dwindling blossom to warm back into that frenzy. Washed hot toward the hip shimmy and shoulder dig. Sit. Down. Stay.
Manic spin of new macho. Pre-everything sniff. Pre-bite. Pre-jump, pre-squat, pre-one leg lifted. Stand still and stream. Mark your territory, mark my territory. Thrust just dominance. A dance to balance the whump and bark of preteen masturbation. Everything a growl. Everything purr. Everything whine.
Off leash in a mile high tailspin. Undiapered into iced quicksand. Mountain trail lain down and maintained, browsed, parked. Mud carpet and overhang green. Solar windfields and sunflower screens. Blood pooling from a leg-shaking sleep but the comforter resoluble. Humanology floorboarded. The pull. The whistle. The stone.
Hotel dramaturges extending corded autos: Salinas. Back at the back of the Days Inn. Kennelled and concreted. Cabbaged. The opposite of prairied. Deflocked and almost desoldiered. Beet-juiced bedspread and eight blankets of credit. Suddenly breasts, suddenly perked, suddenly root-vegged.
Little knots tangling, nerves ripening, some kind of delivery and an out of the car giddiness, this day ending in Little Rock. First roadside full bloom and this city outskirt handle no safer than the panhandle. This carsick trick bullshit and good natured sportiness jetlagged, those Easter nieces not sticking to anything with their sweet fingers and rabbit baskets. Squirrels! Another road this truck packed looking serious. One dog looking like coops are for chickens and at the same time where’s my coop? This trip unsanctioned and ripped into winter, run wasted on window wheels along the Mississippi. That delta all swampland. All mystery.
Blood running cho-cho-cho-cho-co-co-colate. Choclo. Maiz. This in and out a maze of English and Spanish and this southern version of North America dizzying. Even a dog knows the rain drained counterclockwise and now this magnetic pull of centrifugal forest farmland and somehow my family, those nephews almost familiar, those dark haired tias, la abuela con su arboles de pecan.
Starting from swamp, like a creation story—thirty minutes in customs and we come out Americans, that crate of detention to a rental car, a pshew of confusion lifted into daybreaking Everglades, sun coming up carp, coming up crawfish, mudpuppy me—rising from overnight jail stories, canines in flight purgatory, this breakfast a birth renewed and spring nation thickening into maturity, this blood rich beginning cellular, four-footed, fin-and-gilled. Beak-boldened, song-throated: Here I could sing. And but for my fathers, I would feed alligators.
Chip Livingston’s collection of short stories, NAMING CEREMONY, will be published Spring 2014 by Lethe Press. He has authored two poetry collections, CROW-BLUE, CROW-BLACK (NYQBooks, 2012) and MUSEUM OF FALSE STARTS (Gival Press, 2010). Chip teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Institute of American Indian Art and for Gotham Writers Workshops. Visit www.chiplivingston.com.