The Border Kingdom


We drive the dusty road

east from the mountains toward

the flat land not divulging

any secrets from this distance.


Still morning the intense sun

withers fallen vegetation and

quickly dissipates dew clinging to

cactus needles.


We have not spoken since the pass

surveying what we left behind

and the horizon leading elsewhere.


I doubt my father was ever here

and images of snow-capped mountains

clear sand-bottomed lakes, roaming

herds of cattle and horses


became glorified cartoons, almost

legends, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto

Jesse James and his gang

in the 6-year old mind.


Thousands of acres stretch either side

open fields wire fenced yet empty

arid, harsh wind blows dirt and small

stones, tumbleweed across the road.


I turn to speak anything, to comment

on the traffic, and I think you were

asleep, at least drifted beyond the

shared space - I decide to remain quiet.


Morning sun has become the afternoon

companion we now follow as the road

veered left and west and into

a bowl – chasing the road rising.


I forget in scattered fragments

why this landscape has become the

backdrop and focus of a once budding

relationship deteriorating with each hour.


Mile 418.  Unfolded, stained, torn map

found in the garbage at the

last gas station says there is a town near

and a river.  I see only tar and dirt. 


I remember the first glimpse of

your olive skin beneath the black dress,

a large pinkish rose adorned the front

and the catwalk you made in my direction.


I remember watching grayish skeleton limbs

against milky blue backdrop through

quarter sliced windows


while you slept, fetal, on the

black leather couch you brought with

next to the dog you desired.


Your struggle became

more apparent to fit

two separate lives

until I relented. 


I imagine not God's kingdom

behind pearled gates transcended from mortal forms

meshed with forward singular time

wrapped in fear and repentance


but a kingdom earth bound

free of time, free of the wind

torn sands.  Here dreams flow

spherically with no sense of direction. 


And in the last dream I remember

the river flows beneath skipping feet

chasing prophecies and false prophets

spoken words and brutal lies.


I see life fading away, fading into vastness

I try to pull the visible strings together. 

I see a painted face in the sky above,

one of the many angry gods of war.


I wave the white flag standing within the murky waters.

Steam from the battle’s aftermath

rises around my throat as the once black sky turns blood red.    

Stained rocks lie beneath the flowing river of souls. 


I see fire building

across the open field

and briefly invent an

overgrown empty field burning

the willow tree left

scarred and aware.


Before the shift

rumors crept into conversations

            of the border kingdom

            high in the mountains

            city of mist and rain

immune to desert wind and

not at the sun’s mercy.        

Even the name gives birth

to images of purity and salvation. 


In the dark days

darkened by doubt

time slows, lengthens

pause between beats,

the space pulls strings

emerging from the mind

and eventually each pore

turning you inside out

until you do not know

you. Who is that in the mirror

and why are you staring at me?

What is this you are showing me?

That is not real, that is not me.


In your eyes you have one truth,

in mine I have another.  What separates us

besides the glass mirror? 


My faith began to waver

when grandpa passed. 

Years spent building a foundation

enforced by dreams of winter

laying nuclear ash upon the

ground, vanished

when the physical self

released the soul.


We have become God's of

individual domains defined by the

things acquired, captured, and scored. 

I listen to words of peers and words of teachers.

The shaman speaks of reality and no reality, of mind control,

of the matrix infiltrating mind and spirit and becoming sleep,

unaware, lost, wandering that dark black path

through an empty field yet not realizing the empty field

is empty, the reasons for being empty, is the true path,

is our own creation.


I listen to these words and in

the same breath know there is no

one way through the everlasting shift,

searching for my own salvation.


Like fragments

I choose the pieces that make sense

that ease the deep fire burning within.


This fire I must learn to harness,

to control, to bend, to shape

until I become the shape shifter.


We approach the border -

            a wide river moving swift and cold -

and stop.  Both looking through the

bug-encrusted windshield and our hands touch

to remember this last speck of civilization.


I used to dream day and night

of flying above the clouds into

upper reaches of the atmosphere closer

to other borders, other layers

of various gases, closer to the burning

sun and becoming cold and frozen

until a different light skewed

my vision and stripped everything away

and I was able to fly unburdened and free. 


I pause briefly just before

the bridge, a final thought

to be discarded, one less

burden we must bring with us.


We cross the border under

the new moon with shadows locked

safely away, to be revealed

when reaching the kingdom.


Bill is a writer of experimental poems and essays about nature and awareness with publishing credits that include: A View from the LoftThe EdgeWhistling ShadePaper DartsPrimalzineWhispering AngelKinship of RiversSeven Circle Press, and Lief Magazine.  He is also the poetry editor for The Edge magazine and founding editor of Stone Path Review.