Category Archives: Darkness

The Zodiac Salamander

Photo by RDNE Stock project on

Alabaster eggplants frolic in a purple haze. Munchkins drop acid and watch Wizard of Oz repeatedly until one jumps out a window. Wood gnomes with shotguns play patriots on the streets of D.C. The world looks at them and laughs. Sharpie abusers make cardboard signs declaring freedom and love. Love? Love runs rampantly abused. There is no such thing as a pair of dice. Las Vegas doldrums, sadness in a sea of glitter and gold. The tin man walks against the tide, his metal hide, the mental ride, rising, like Calypso. He feels sick to his stomach and vomits nails. He’s so visual yet so invisible. All those magnetic eyes stuck to the rides, plowing the sleigh bells, the conch shells, halls of injustice carpeted in velvet and blood. The soul ship arrives, to take us on a ride, to the other side.

His heart is dwindling, his skin is splitting, magic means nothing. He has a heroin sandwich for lunch on the 32nd floor. The room is quiet except for the soft whirr of an invisible A/C unit. He steps out onto the veranda, looks over the edge, the city roars, there’s wild boars, mandible monsters pound the pavement, the invisible man falls… No one even sees the crash. It’s all madness walking over and clockwork cuckoo skins. The fountains spray jest, the endless hallways cradle the wild, the wind, the sin, the ever-flowing gin. There’s sonic bathhouses and orbital areolas, Italian soda kisses that send some to Kingdom Come.

Flight patterns are all nonsense now, like sauerkraut rainbows, mint gravy, acidic donuts, laundry detergent made by skunks. The wires are so loose, obtuse, full of fruit juice. Here we go. The whore canals swell in their suits of lies, another tried and died, another tear-filled sky, standing on the deck of the wet city, the rain finally flies to wash away all the deliberate unlove.  

And now there are men who think they are animals, and they pay to live in a glass cube at the zoo…

When one gazed into the room, his eyes were like little red lights… Little traffic lights they were, in that bloom of darkness. But when he stepped out of that darkness some, his eyes then turned green, as if fireflies were bouncing around inside his head and peering out the eye holes. And when he finally came full into the light, he would blink madly, and his eyes took on a golden glow. It’s because he’s an animal. It’s because he’s a human animal, a man who lives in a cage at the zoo. The sign outside his enclosure reads: The Zodiac Salamander. He’s an amphibious being with fire for feelings.

Cat food chaos envelops the world, the morning, the night, the knights of the trapezoid table. Maximum fluoride, ambient chloride, synthetic metropolis, a glimpse from the cage. He sees the eyes stare back at him, the monkey grins, the Karen chagrins, the popcorn tossers and word salad snipers. The girl cracks the skin of a banana, takes one lonely bite, throws what remains at him to see if he’ll play chimp. Gimp. Shrimp. A wholly cocktail to turn him different colors. The sky is a blue sheet of frosting, the clouds twisted puffs of cream, he lives in a dream, a chocolate fountain by his bed, a loaded gun to take off his head.

The purple bus steams as it waits, passengers fidget in the queue, he watches as it pulls away toward a desert moon, a wandering bride swallows a monsoon. He’s satiated where he stays, the curtains of his command center are frayed…

“Why can’t I be just like everyone else?” he asked himself as he stood before a circular mirror inside the Gilligan hut that stood inside the larger enclosure. “Because I don’t want to be like everyone else,” he answered his own question. “I’m not merely a man, I’m a man who’s an animal… I’m animalistic. I am extreme. See how my eyes glow?”

The Zodiac Salamander got on a black telephone attached to one wall of the hut and pressed some square numbers. “Hello, central operations? It’s the human animal again. Say, when am I going to get some hot prey to mount? Isn’t it mating season yet? Can someone bring me the menu?”

He paused as someone on the other end of the line spoke.

“Uh huh. Right. I understand. Not too many willing participants? Now I don’t understand… Uh, huh. Right. Society frowns upon human breeding experiments at a zoo facility?”

Again, he paused as someone on the other end of the line spoke.

“Well, surely you can find some wandering aimless babe looking for a good time. My hanging fruit is ripe and full and I’m about to blow a packet of seed. So, when you do, let me know. Thanks.” He set the receiver back upon its cradle. “Damn society and all its correctness despite all its ill repute. This societal schism is giving me mental illness.”

The zoo wasn’t a big city zoo in a well-known place. It was a small zoo out on the edge of a brutal southwestern town on the fringes of the mad desert. The animal animals were limited to the usual small-town zoo fare plus various creatures that were native to the region. The Zodiac Salamander was neighbor to foxes, coyotes, a black bear, bison, devil snakes, lizards, icky spiders, evil goats, a long-horn steer, brooding vultures, and a passionate mountain lion.

After watching the movie Taxi Driver—his favorite—for the 919th time, the Zodiac Salamander stepped out from his hut and into the open air of the enclosure. He liked taking time to look up at space before he went down for the night. The jagged universe tossed back its grand array of colors and shapes and the milk of the Milky Way spilled and ran down across the faces of all the stars and other celestial objects.

It was just then that a small, gray man came into view beneath the light of the moon. The Zodiac Salamander sniffed the air. “Cliff? Is that you, Cliff? Cliff old boy?”

The man stepped forward to reveal his true self. “It’s me. How are you tonight?”

He sighed a painful sigh. “I’m lonely, Cliff. They’re not bringing me any women to mount. I have needs, Cliff. I have animalistic urges.”

“I suppose they haven’t found a proper mate yet,” Cliff answered. He scratched at his head. “These things take time, but I’ll see what I can do.”

“You’re a good egg, Cliff, and my favorite zookeeper.”

Cliff looked up at the stars. “Do you ever consider the sheer vastness of space?” he asked.

The Zodiac Salamander followed his track up to the heavens. “All the time.”

“Yet we toil with such meaningless wonders here on Earth. For instance,” Cliff pointed out to him. “My greatest worry is not being left alone or the fate of my everlasting soul… It’s will I be able to afford the rent or be able to buy enough food or keep the lights on. Isn’t that just such a terrible way for a man to have to be?”

The Zodiac Salamander nodded his head in agreement. “That’s why I’ve chosen to live how I live. My only true concerns are of a deep and primitive nature. I let the world out there worry itself to death. I mean, what can I do it about it. My hands are tied.”

Cliff tapped at his fuzzy gray head. “It can make a man go insane. We weren’t meant to live like this, yet here we are, living like this.”

“Sounds like you need to mount some female prey, Cliff. You’re wound tighter than a toy top.”

Cliff laughed at that suggestion. “I’m afraid my mounting days are over.”

The Zodiac Salamander frowned at the thought of the same thing happening to himself one day.

“Well,” Cliff said. “I need to finish my rounds. Unless I do myself in, I’ll be back at the crack of dawn’s early light to hose you down.”


The Tepid Hemorrhage

I am an anonymous donor
spreading my seed of grief across the world
and I might as well be blind
for all I see is black,
the rubber room menace
rotating on some wobbly wheel
and my gifts have all been opened by other people
and I sit and watch in a pile of gold paper
remembering the uncle who shot himself
the cousin who shot himself
the brother, who someday may shoot himself
And all the bleeds will flow like thick wine
and pool into an ocean
where God Neptune will pierce me with a sharpened shovel
and all the angels will laugh at God’s biggest mistake.

And this all a malenky bit sad, isn’t it?
But what is joy without sadness?
It does not exist.
What is love without loneliness?
The deeper the isolation
the brighter the kiss …
but still,
time stretches out like a river
vastly flowing over the rocks and the limbs
crushing flowers with a wet fist,
numbing hot legs braving a dive
and where will I be tomorrow?
In a treehouse with a shotgun
or in a bar with 11 empty shot glasses before me
or on a dancefloor with a whore
or alone in felt-like desolation
sipping at the tears in my wrist
or clapping for the might of the clouds
or then again
nothing at all.
Bear with me bears of the forest
for I cannot get a grip on yesterday
or tomorrow
or even right now
stone sober and burning
and while someone is making wishes
I am losing my mind
Another red
another notch in the bed
another twist of cold morality,
but then,
things could always be worse
and so, I’m not positive,
I don’t need to be today
I am bleak and writhing in the fuel
the dirty fuel casting spells of the tepid hemorrhage
and I ache relentlessly
for my heart is an inferno
download me
into the electric sea
and you will see
who I am meant to be.

I met Edward Abbey at the sand dunes,
but he was already blown away
I met Miller at a French cafe,
but he was already blown away
I met Kerouac on a railroad car,
but he was already blown away
and I met me at yet another airport,
but I was already blown away.
The bleed pile of my grace
is wiped away with a red rag
and the doctors can’t patch me together anymore
so many holes have I,
so many disturbing dreams
and polarized realities,
my only sanctuary is to drown in paper and words
pictures and photographs
and electric men pumping bullets into nameless
Today has been fried bologna on burnt toast,
water and pills,
ashes on my eyes
and the sound of her bellowing in the background
and the weird upstairs guy snoring through the ceiling.
What new ache will tomorrow bring?
What will I be forced to swallow
into the hollow grave of my soul?

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (Love and Loss)

Anton Chico. Juarez.

The Battles

All the battles of Anton Chico’s life have brought me to this place – alone. For the battles break you at times. There. Over those hills I look out at the far gone on the horizon, now bathing in the holy amber light of another fading day.

So many miles between myself and life. Anton Chico looks out over the edge of the balcony at the long way down. So far to fall. But look how far I have fallen already. The hum of the city winding down mixes with the din of my own loneliness as I watch a happy family trot along the sidewalk gazing at the sun and moon both etching out their individual spaces along the horizon.

Together, husband and wife and little kids too, all on their way to get gunned down in Juarez because they are the entitled Americans who know no better and think Mexico is just another shopping mall, another place to push a shopping cart, another place to bitch at inept clerks who don’t cater to their every spoiled whim.

Get gunned down you fools. Have your white American blood all over the filthy streets of Juarez in your endless endeavor for more stuff. Get gunned down as you piss and whine because no one speaks English, and the Burger King hamburgers don’t taste the same across the border. Shooosh the little begging boy away. Cringe at the sight of him why don’t you, at the site of his dirty face and dirty hair and big, wet weepy eyes and turn in disgust as the filthy rags he calls clothes make your eyes sting just from the smell of them. Get gunned down. It’s all for you but there’s no one there to save you now.

Anton Chico, me, that is I, turned off the television set and headed down to the car to round up some magic at a local magic shop. The car had cooled down considerably and when I got in it reeked of bar life. I headed for the main drag that runs up and down by UTEP (University of Texas El Paso). The street was surprisingly hilly and lined with appealing architecture unfamiliar to me. Mexican-American brick and stucco facades, adobe churches, wire and mesh fencing, stone yards, cacti, stunted little palm trees and yuccas.

This part of the town had a sad tone to it, it breathed poverty and desperation, yet it had a furious taste of survival to it – cultures clashed, the old and the new, the white and the brown, the intelligent and the inaudible. As I moved farther from the areas closer to downtown and nearer to suburbia, the familiar sickness of strip malls and neon rose and that is where I found the spirit shop, pulled into the parking lot and sat there for a while smoking a cigarette in the last rays of day.

When I went inside the Asian clerk behind the counter greeted me and watched me as I headed straight for the beer coolers at the back of the store. I looked up and down at all the varieties he had stocked there. I wanted something good, not the American piss swill I usually bought because it was cheap, I wanted something with some heart to it, something with some kick, something that would really slur my speech when I began talking to the television set back at the hotel… Something that might give me the crazed sense of false courage to throw myself off that balcony and crash face-first into someone’s nice, clean windshield. I wanted something that might kill me.

I left my cell phone on just in case someone called. Was something starting up? Not really. It was there, but not. There was a party and I was invited but of course I didn’t go because I was here, there, in El Paso getting lit on magic firewater and tossing burning cigarettes over the edge of the balcony. It was dark. The lights in the room were dimly lit and I began to tilt. It was sad there, yet jubilant.

No one in the entire world knew where I was and for insanity purposes, I truly believed that no one cared. I was Anton Chico the unloved, the ungraceful, the unbeauty of all males in the Southwest. But someone was hurt that I did not come to the party. I don’t know why. Said she was hoping I would, but most likely in the throes of the festivities I rarely came to anyone’s mind.

I went out on the balcony for some air. It tasted brown and smelled dirty, but I felt free as I cracked open that new bottle and added to my demon inebriation.

Once sufficiently aired out I commenced the ritualistic clicking of the remote control. There was nothing worth watching. There is never anything worth watching but I left it on just so I could hear some voices other than the ones in my own head. I was watching something about crocodiles and a man who drove around in a little boat at night with a flashlight and then he dove into the water and grabbed onto one of those crocodiles and wrestled with it. He had an Australian accent. Them fucking crazy Aussies. Anton Chico thinks there great, just great.

Another bite of magic please and I suddenly felt very, very lonely. No one had called. No love letters slipped in under the door. No angels from heaven dangling outside my doorstep. Nothing. Solid me. Lonely me. Empty me pouring out the emptiness into a world of emptiness and I wondered if everyone else was as bored stiff as I was.

How could they be? I hear them laughing, I see them smiling, I see them hanging all over each other doing great things and going great places and there was me, Anton Chico, lit up and down on the seventh floor of some dirty old downtown El Paso motel boo-hooing about another and another and another crushing loss while the entire freaking world is out there partying their asses off.


The TV is off. Muffled voices on the other side of the walls. The clinking of glasses. Laughing. The sound of faint music, a tap of a piano key, a lover’s whorish growl, a train whistle, my own rapid heartbeat banging to get out of my chest. A freight train leaving town, its call and grind a heartless calliope.

Check out the previous posts in the Anton Chico series: Low and High and The Monarch of Devils.

An Abandoned Place

An abandoned place. Old house with eerie green glow around it.

I went to an abandoned place in a snowstorm. It was behind a fallen fence of wire, snug beyond a wall of crumbling stone from centuries past, in a sea of struggling yellow grass poking up here and there through the cap of wet white like the balding head of a blonde Santa.

The abandoned place was someone’s home long ago, a farm for family very long ago it seemed. There was no longer any glass in the windows, there was no door, there was no person or persons in the yard hanging wash on the line or just sitting on a porch looking out and thinking as the blue sky roiled and boiled at the sight of an approaching storm.

It was mostly dark inside the old, abandoned house. The light that came in, powered by the reflection of sun on snow, barely scratched at that darkness and the cold air. There was an old chair positioned in front of one the glassless windows and I went to see what whatever ghost there was may have been looking at. It was just empty endless life out there buried in the in-and-out breath of a landscape I did not know.

I set the gun down on an old table once used for eating and groveeting in decades long gone. It clunked heavily as I smelled the tasteful memories of maybe a roast and its gravy and potatoes or dumplings or rolls or decorative scepters of gold-colored poison piercing a birthday cake.

I always told myself throughout life that if it ever came down to it, there was always the last resort. If the end of the road made by ruthless man was clear on the horizon, I had the power to turn around in an instant and vanish. I listened to the wind rattling the bones of this old, abandoned place. I could taste the cold in my lungs as I breathed. Perhaps I could even taste that coming last resort.

I hadn’t ever seen much of the world, but I had seen enough. I had seen enough on all the screens we get lost in, the only way to truly see the world anymore, or so it seems. I used to be out in it, years ago, my body moving like a machine beneath the smear of deep blue sky as I lost it in the Rocky Mountain Land. I was far from the Rocky Mountains now, but I didn’t know exactly how far. I just knew it wasn’t there that I was.

I gathered old pieces of furniture and stray pieces of wood from the old yard, breaking branches down from trees that stood bare or plucking dry ones from the clearer patches around them. I piled all this wood in the center of the old, abandoned house and worked a small flame into a blaze. The warmth felt good. The smoke was yanked out through big gaps in the floor of the second story and on through the dilapidated roof.

If only I could have rewritten the story of my life, then maybe I wouldn’t be here now, alone, constantly looking over my shoulder, nervously jumping at the sound of a twig snapping outside. If I could have just taken a big pink eraser that smelled like school and went at the book of my own life with a frenzy. I would blow away the shavings, scattering the ink, scattering the recording of me into a billion undecipherable little crumbs.

That is true sorrow. To know you have no future. To know that one’s life has come to an end but that you are still living within it. There is nothing else that draws a deeper well of despair than regretting every breath one’s ever taken. Especially when it didn’t have to be that way.

I closed my eyes and tried to remember the taste of her lips. How long has it been now? A day, a week, a month, seven years? Fuck. I don’t even know anymore. I retrieved my battered wallet from my pants pocket and fumbled to find the picture. It was a photo of her and I standing outside some hacienda we had rented in some far away western place. It was a photo we had some stranger take. They were nice about it.

She was wearing a yellow dress and an orange shawl or something like that. She looked tropical. She looked like a fresh piece of fruit. We were both smiling, standing close together, skin touching. I remember that my heart had always beat a little faster when she was near me. It was love, I guess. The picture was losing some of its sheen. It was showing its age. It was a memory that had become more fragile than before and so I put it away back in my wallet and I tried to forget about it for a while.

The fire crackled. Orange light bobbed around in the darkness, shadow boxing with the walls. The day was growing grayer. Night would soon fall upon me, and this abandoned piece of the scattered puzzle, and so I fashioned a place to sleep in one of the corners. Sleep. That was once something I found comfort in. Now, it’s just a dreaded chore. The wakened reality of the nights here is worse than any nightmare in sleep.   

I piled more wood on the fire and settled in for a cold night, the restless angels leaving my soul behind. My eyes were heavy and strained as the reflection of the flames danced within the lenses. The silence grew more silent just before the coming of the flaming sheep.

I heard their dogs first. Deep, hollow barks in the wooded distance. My insides froze. My belly hurt with nerves. I didn’t think it would come this soon. I got up from my place and went to the old table to grab the gun. I went to the darkened doorway with no door and strained to push my vision through the veil of night. The swaying yellow glows of their lanterns were visible through the winter trunks and branches. The howls of the dogs grew wilder and more intense.  

I put the barrel of the gun against my head. The metal felt cold. I cocked it, forced it deeper into my skin. I heard their voices now. I thought that was reckless of them to give me so much warning. But what did they care? Everything they did was reckless. They breathed and bred recklessness. It was their livelihood in a sense. My finger trembled against the trigger. Was it finally time to fly?

A voice rose from their small, glowing gathering of light and guns and dogs now restrained by struggling tugs on leashes. Someone was calling for me to come out or they would come in. I was standing right there in the doorway and yet it seemed they did not see me. I could tell by the wondering movements of their heads and the disgruntled looks on their faces that they were confused about something. I didn’t move at first. I did not dare breathe. Then I carefully stepped back into the middle of the main room as they slowly moved forward from the yard.

It wasn’t long before the old, abandoned house was flush with lamplight and bodies and the glint of fangs with electricity fizzing off the points.

“Show yourself!” one of them yelled. “Do it now!”

I stepped forward into their ring of light. I dropped the gun to the dirty floor, and it hit with a heavy thud. I looked at them, but they didn’t look back. Instead, they looked right through me, past me, beyond me as if I wasn’t even there. That’s never been anything new to me.

I moved through them and past them and I went out the doorless doorway and I trudged through the snowy old yard and toward the black skeletal remains of trees, leafless and revealing beneath a torchlight moon. I walked and walked and walked for a very long time until I came to a road. I looked across it and something was strangely familiar. There it was again, that same old abandoned house I had just escaped from, so I thought.

I went to it, and I went inside and then out again into the yard like I had just done not that long ago. And they were coming again, the lamplit sheep with their dogs and their guns and their tattered bloody flags like it was the Civil War or something. And it just went on like that forever and more. Some dreamy game of lost and found and lost again. Over and over. Never ending. Like horrible time unleashed without a grain of mercy.