Two dark figures walk disconsolate, heads bowed in distress,
Hand in hand, along a nameless desert track.
The road is long and rocky, unpaved, filled with ruts, winding through hills, dipping into and out of arroyos—
The sky is leaden, with a clear space just above the horizon.
Jagged volcanic mountains, dead and black as anthracite, thrust upward beyond the cloud cover,
Bleak, cold, sterile, majestic, sharp, pitiless.
The rocks burn like acid at the touch, not destroying the flesh.
A frigid breeze blows, whipping up dust and miniature cyclones.
All is aridness, sterility, ache, expansiveness, airy space, and distance beyond all hope of bridging,
Sickening the soul and draining the heart—
An Atacama of the spirit, created by humanity, condoned by the gods
Who will not reach down to bat a hamburger teeming with coliform out of our hands—
To save ourselves is our task;
But the two wretched spirits on their toxic pilgrimage cannot be saved, though they still believe it.
The two have been yoked together since youth—no, since the universe began.
Their union was decreed by That Which Knows All.
Where they are going, they do not know—
What they hope to find, they do not know—
Who they are, they don’t know, either—
Their hearts are dolorous, tenebrous cities built with bricks of lies and on the sand and rock of falsehoods,
And they only know that they must go on, and go on together, indefinitely,
Forever and ever, amen;
And, in fact, the road is endless and leads nowhere
With only blasted crosses surrounded by sere and blackened bouquets of roses and baby’s breath,
And rotted boxes of desiccated chocolates
And crumbling decayed cigars, echoes of empty congratulations
For men and women warped by silent lamentation of their own existences,
Like descansos, to mark off each light-year, each eon, of the interminable journey.
And the change in the landscape is negligible beyond the point of monotony
And the fatigue is like water torture,
And the dust-devils, the foul, chill and stale air,
The occasional whiffs of sulfur, flatulence, putrescence, alcohol and ozone,
The endless deafening ghostly cacophony, the inner monologue of rote-learned scripture,
And here and there are springs that refresh
Even as Joshua ben Joseph was refreshed at Golgotha,
With beer and whiskey instead of gall and vinegar:
The snows of yesteryear are permafrost below the dull infinite Gobi, inaccessible…
“For what did you die?"
“No reason! I just had to.”
© 2004 by Mark Andrew Holmes.