A Full Coyote Moon Desperado

Monologue from the Grave* for Kell Robertson, 1930-2011

“…Zapata swings his rifle around…
and the eyes of men / retain the fire /
to fix the fences / or burn the world down.”
Kell Robertson, “For Woody Guthrie.”


I camped out in the winter
of the world
all my life
in the forest
of memories
stubborn as tree stumps
waiting for a summer
that never came–
burning a lot of bridges
for fuel.


Sometimes another drifter like me
would show up out of snow-where,
both of us flapping
like torn flags
in the breeze.
I’d make tramp-coffee
and we recited poems
at the altar of our alter-egos,
watched birds fight for food
with jumpy squirrels.


I’d go to sleep at times
beside the campfire,
an empty bottle of forgetfulness
on the ground
from the night before,
wake up at first light
under a snow-lace curtain,
the cold as sharp
as the snap of a stick.

I’d walk around the fire
to warm up,
even joked to myself
that reciting Frost
would make it colder.


I wrote in my notebooks
when I could,
went to nearby towns
to pray at bars
that were my churches,
ended up at times
in the drunk tank catacombs
sleeping off the Past,
next day to the Rescue Mission
where we had to sing “I love Jesus”
for a plate of food
as if we were seals
trained by hunger.


I saw Hank in concert once,
a drunken Jesus with guitar.
The alcohol of his voice
entered every pore of my body
like a full-dunk baptism
in the liquor of loneliness.
When Hank saw the Light
I saw it too,
wrote by its spark for years,
though later he said: “There ain’t no Light.”

After his death,
I rolled away the stone
whenever I could and
Hank walked on the water
of his words again.
I sang his hymnal
wearing a cold, cold heart
on one sleeve,
a cheatin’ heart the other.

In later life,
my own words and guitar
reached out at times,
grabbed me a place to stay
with friendly women
and I sang of Hank’s sudden death,
Woody’s slow demise,
and Billy Joe Shaver’s
“old five and dimer’s like me.”

When I walked into any church
with beer-nuts for communion wafers
and a bartender-priest,
I looked at the women there and said:
“Hey good-lookin’,
whatcha got cookin’,
let’s get some Jambalaya,
crawfish pie n’ file gumbo
before I go down that Lost Highway.”

Hank had the Nothing
that Everything could buy.
I had Something
that Nothing could acquire.
We thought the bottle
would kill loneliness
but that was the potion inside.


I came from the Past,
never left it,
lived in the Land
of the Forgotten,
played music from
the history of Desperation
–a one-horse stampede–
never believed the Future
could feed me
because the manna
that fell from any Heaven
was always snow
that melted before
it touched the tongue.


Every time I walked
through the snow globe
of this world,
there was a blizzard
in my eyes.


Out in the forest,
I’d sing like a banshee
in the wind,
whittled the aspens
with my voice,
while the blood
of the Sangre de Cristos
turned winter-white
and a raven loosed a caw
that became an echo
in the box canyon
of my life.
When it flew away,
a long black feather
lay on the snow
like a quill pen
to dip into the ink
of the night.


Zapata’s shadow stretches out
in the cyclopic light of the full moon
that shines on the cholla
by my gravestone.

I’ve been waiting
for him to lend a hand
to the hungry coyotes of the land
for when the people are pushed too far
they’ll reach for trigger and crowbar.

A lesson from the Gospel of Zapata:
Givers, against their better nature,
must strangle the Takers
who are high on the drug of Greed
before the poison of their arrogant selfishness
enslaves, then destroys, the world.

Viva Zapata is tattooed on my tongue.
The Levelling Wind carries the slogan
each time it passes over my grave.


Now that my horse is gone
since Desperation is only for the living,
I walk these memories
like the ghost of an abused child
drinking the whiskey
of my death
with no chaser
of regret,
no ice of cold guilt.

My vengeance is to die
before ecocide takes this world
whose rulers
–like evil stepfathers
drunk on power–
spit in the face of truth.

From the grave,
I shit on the soul of Exploiters,
listen for the music
that accompanies their execution,
bullets from 9-millimeter stanzas.

*The Moon, a traditional death symbol in Western cultures, was full the evening of Kell’s burial. It came out early and hung low before dusk like a wheel of light beside the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains around Santa Fe. It must have shone brightly on his grave, the light, perhaps, even penetrating the dirt we shoveled over him.Gary L. Brower