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Journeyman Lovers


I am posting the story both here, for crit, and in the Road Tripping thread in the Field Notes forum.

Journeyman Lovers

We were five days in getting there, three days in getting through. And we did not find the tree sprung blaze until the night of the last day.

We could feel them rising in the distance. Long before we could see the mountains, we felt how thick the earth’s tongue was growing. We could feel it lapping at the air. The red clay of the plateau had given way to rich vegetable loam, and the wind’s song was spreading out in the overleaf cloak of shade. The dark trunks of the trees all seemed wide enough to pull down the sky, which was when we knew we were deep inside the foothills. Then we entered between the mountains with their sequin gowns of gold and red, and we felt how much closer was autumn. The road followed deeper into the earth’s fold, while we followed the road.

It was a snake, that road. And in spite of what we knew, we still began to doubt where it would take us. The higher we went the shorter became its coils. And soon we were lost inside our own dizzy senses. All we had, then, was our faith in journey’s end. That, and the river rushing rhythmically beside us. We knew that the river must be coming from a place closer to where we were going. We knew also that, if we staid beside it , it would please us for awhile. And we did see fly fishermen who had stopped and waded out to easy spots. They were below the places where the river’s course was broken, where the river’s flow was slowed by the bluffs, bends, and hard faced shallows. They were patiently casting their flies over the cold dark pools. And they never did see us, they never turned around. They devoted themselves to casting out, and to reeling in, their slim and skimming lures, while the season’s trout must have been swimming down under, playing out their lives, wondering if it was time. But still we kept too the road and we did not falter. We felt as if we were the ones who had too thoroughly been turned around.

The road soon lost itself inside the pass’s deepest defile, and we were shouldering the big boulders leaning out from the mountainside. We then found ourselves wondering too. We too were wondering how soon. And the sky was barely a ribbon thinly waving above us, echoing the river and road’s bending, curling streams. But it was just so far away, a blue whisper, and it seemed to mock our traveling wishes. And keeping to the road was all we had to put between us and the brooding mountains bearing down, those heavy mountains closing over. There was nothing belonging to the sun that could find us where we were. No light, no warmth, no breezy scents. We were forced to leave our first days behind us. We found ourselves shedding thin desires for desires more deeply buried.

Then it seemed as if our constant climbing was dropping out from under us, and that we were falling too. Gradually, even senselessly, the curving, curling road turned over into the mountains’ other side. It was pushing us down the ridgeback’s blind side. And what took hold of us mostly was the dampening fog closing us in. It closely wrapped us in. Our going was slower, for fear of losing the road, and there were no more cascading measures to guide us. The river’s song had left us, the mountain’s slope was still, and so we took to the fog, having no place else to go. And the milky silence that banked around us closely held us in. It was holding us in a way no song’s flight can. It held for us the loves we remembered, and all the loves we had lost. It held onto the things we knew, and all the times we had been mistaken. And just as soundlessly as it came, the mountain fog was gone. It left us alone to follow on the road we had chosen.

When we finally reached below the covering mist, we could see out over the valley hidden away. And the sun was calmly shining, shining full in its face. Without throwing itself into surges of yellow light, the sun was pacing over and down. And the valley was a gap stole away below a sharp, mountainous rim, the sky was the cooling, unbroken blue of a high autumn, Shenandoah day. From where we were perched the valley looked like a gold flecked lake. Its oaks and maples in red, yellow, and burnished bronze was a surface of waving winds. We continued on.

We were a long time in reaching the valley’s other end. The strands of several days were woven without a snarl into night. When we slept, we slept in the open bottom of that earth bowl. And our time was taken in fair weather. From when the sun came up and poured its first streams of light inside the basin, to when it rounded over and was flung away empty again, the sky was kept in shades of shallow blue. And the nights were open ended, they were always open ended. They showed through to the deepest blue demesne.

Then in the early evening of the last day, while the sky was still blushing, we came to where we were going. It was up against the valley’s blind end, against the shouldering south side of the range. It was where we found what we were looking for, and they were all there too. They had already begun nursing the flame, the one that would keep itself going through the night. In the middle of a white pine grove littered with the remains of cars sinking into the ground, there was a widely cleared circle with a tree stump at its center. And it was inside that stump where the flame was sprouting. The long necks and perfect pears of guitars, like big bottom girls, had been its kindling wood. The fire was already growing, the edges of darkness were pushed away from the smiling arcs of faces, and our sacrificed friends were there, they all were there. They were warming their hands and their earth turned wrists on a tune. The men were mostly guarded behind unshaven faces, and the women were sparkling with earrings that were as flashes thrown out of the flame. Such sparks as were once again getting thrown out of the flame.

They had been gathering for some while. We were late arrivals. But the jug of wine was going around, still going around. It had gone around before. They made room for us and we all joined together. We married our fortunes one more time. Then the pipe you never did see coming. It still had inside itself the magic of dragons. And the wine came back, we all took of that, and the lasting flame kept growing. It seemed again as if it could never die.

The flame was looking with roomy desire for its king to come, and we were looking too. All of us who were there. Beggar poets and journeymen thieves, we had found our way from the outlands, and we were waiting for the long year’s monarch to return. We knew he would be coming. We knew he would be starting out from the North country, that he would be traveling down desolated roads. He would be breathing the air in the fields of Tom Paine, and, soon, he would reach this oldest valley inside the oldest living mountains. And we knew he would show before the dawn split itself open one more time. We knew we would know him by his wired shoulders, and by the lovely white flame that would take us inside its blue pulsing embers. We knew what would happen, we knew how it would all begin. We knew the far away stars would draw down and keep us company.

And so it happened that when the fire grew higher, when it leaped out of its full cup that had become ember tight, when it began dancing beside itself and was flirting with us all, we gave no thought to having found again what we had lost. We did not stop, or try to turn aside, the teasing, tingling flame that night.

Tere
Aug/29/2010, 4:58 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Journeyman Lovers


hi Tere,

What a remarkable piece of writing this is, each phase of the journey is palpable, embodied and out-of-body at the same time.

Where did this come from? I'm glad it's here.

Chris
Sep/1/2010, 1:59 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Journeyman Lovers


Chrisfriend, thank you very much for the compliment. Readers like you are a litmus test.

In the fall and summer of '82 I took my first baby steps into prose. This thing belongs to a collection of prose poems and vignettes made that year, 22 or 24 in all. On one level I was looking how to segue the collection from Florida to Virginia: summer spent in FL and back in VA by fall. On another level I was wanting to get hold of this thing of road tripping children of the 60s were prone to. On a third level, and by accident, I realized the piece was operating in the hippie range, for lack of a better descriptor, and so I went with it. As for where the writing itself comes from? I never know.

So many years later I view the piece as an allegory.

Tere
Sep/1/2010, 7:05 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Journeyman Lovers


Very nice writing, Tere. I enjoyed the building up in the last part... The tension suited the words perfectly. My favorite part of all:

"We were a long time in reaching the valley’s other end. The strands of several days were woven without a snarl into night. When we slept, we slept in the open bottom of that earth bowl. And our time was taken in fair weather. From when the sun came up and poured its first streams of light inside the basin, to when it rounded over and was flung away empty again, the sky was kept in shades of shallow blue. And the nights were open ended, they were always open ended. They showed through to the deepest blue demesne."

-S
Nov/6/2010, 11:16 am Link to this post Send Email to susanculver   Send PM to susanculver Blog
 
Terreson Profile
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Thank you, Susan, for reading and registering your response. I know you are an accomplished writer so your comment has meaning. (As small a board as we are and so many gifted readers. Makes an old boy feel lucky.)

That is my favorite passage also. It took me a long time to get it right, or as right as I could, years in fact. But when each step seemed to naturally progress, or lean, into the next it finally felt accomplished. My second favorite passage is the passage through the mountains. Thanks again.

Tere

Nov/6/2010, 11:47 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
vkp Profile
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Re: Journeyman Lovers


This exquisitely captures the moments, the setting, the journey and the beautiful arriving.
May/29/2012, 3:37 pm Link to this post Send Email to vkp   Send PM to vkp Blog
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Journeyman Lovers


Thank you, vkp. Do not want to think how long it took to get the piece right. But I think I did it.

Tere
May/29/2012, 6:11 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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