A Change Is Going To Come
Cain and Abel
I was dreaming. And in this dream I was Abel. And I was watching my brother, Cain. And he was
chopping with an axe at the roots of a great tree. But he was standing in a swamp. This is Cain we’re talking
about here. He was sluicing about the swamp. And there was no purchase. And he was sinking. And he
was chopping at his legs. His limbs. And there was just no difference between roots and branches. Or legs
Some things grow up and some things grow down.
His hands were waving free, like the swell of a chorus, and each finger in each moment left a slow
motion trail of blood. And we were lost in the mist. The wind blown bloody mist. And we were sinking.
And I was watching my brother Cain. And I was not able to wake up. And he hadn’t even murdered me yet.
I was lost in the mist and going down in the swamp. Trying to suss out my own responsibility.
And I couldn’t wake up.
With my face so blood-mist-stippled.
In the swamp.
I was walking down the road. Not quite the Plymouth Road. But not not the Plymouth Road either.
If you know what I mean.
I had been disabused. Of the myth of home. I no longer believed in a home. Here. In this vale of
tears. This forest of symbols.
I believed in climbing each and every rung that presented itself. Sky Blue. Climbing each and every
rung. Me and my Jacob. I was walking down the road. Let’s just call it the Plymouth Road. But not mistake it
for any location.
I was walking down the road and I came across my double. He had murder in his lips. He wore a
slouch hat and a cape. Dr. Sax. The Shadow. I was walking down the road and I came across my double.
And it occurred to me to kill him.
It’s not like I didn’t have the means or the motive. I thought about killing my double. The man with
murder in his lips.
And I had means and motive.
“You shouldn’t be here,” I said to him and walked on ahead.
“You really want to go there?” he asked.
“You come to this part of town and you got to know that life is cheap,” I said.
“You want to end this thing, or what?” he asked.
I just stared at him. My double. The man with murder in his lips.
“You think you’re up to ending it?” he asked.
“I could kill you,” I said, in reply.
“Yup, but you can’t face me.”
I turned, but he was gone.
I walked a bit further. And then I walked some more. Son of a bitch was gone.
But I was still here. I mean. Still. Fucking. Here.
In the Trees
When I was a boy, Jesus lived in the trees. He lived out there like an escaped convict. A fugitive. Like
a man on the lam. Watching you and knowing your name. And he would not go away. He just haunted the
trees. This Jesus. The Illinois trees. The Michigan trees.
And it was not altogether clear that your parents would approve. That your teachers would approve. This Jesus in the flesh.
This Jesus in the trees.
And he haunted. Not even you. He just haunted. But it was you, too. If you know what I mean.
Like an ache. The haunting. The trees. The thin and sinister shadow darting between the trees.
Like an ache. Calling to you. Like a siren. Calling to you. Bound with ears unplugged on a dead tree. In a
Michigan swamp. And desire. Calling to you. Squeezing out leaves like water returning to water. In one
Gypsy. Hobo. Minstrel. Rounder. Carnie. Town Crier.
(Odysseus, coming home boys! Take what is his. Kick some butt. Gonna open up a whole case of
Hired gun. Assassin. Mechanic. Magician. Medicine Show Professor.
Jesus in the trees. Terrifying and thrilling. Skeezie guy on county roads with signs warning of escaped convicts.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
He was out there. And he was neither decent nor in order. He was out there. In the trees. The
denuded trees. The diamond-lens-bespeckled trees. Trees of light. Kaleidoscopic burning bushes. Trees of
forbidden fruit. Trees of Knowledge.
When I was a boy, Jesus presented a danger to me much bigger than
any schoolyard threat. Any boyhood threat. Any nice girl threat. Out there in the great empty places of American sprawl. Baseball
diamond lights. Klieg lights. Car dealership grand opening lights. Shining in the unoccupied night. The
threat of a thousand delights. In the unloved night.
And the assurance that sooner or later you were just going to have to pay. In this America.
Traveling circus barker. Circuit Rider Preacher. Last gasp outlaw. Surrounded by Johnny Law.
When I was boy, I knew Jesus in the trees. In Illinois trees. In Michigan trees. And he called me
away. And he called me away. En una noche oscura. On flaming pussy-willow-torch-nights.
And I never looked back. I want that on the record. I never looked back. Instead, the little people
snatched me and they replaced me in my family with a changeling.
That's what happened, if you want to know the truth.
While I learned to love the night. And trees. And never looked back.
And me and Jesus. We haunted the night. Lighting bottle rockets. And smashing pumpkins. In the
night. Praising God as we haunted the night. In the erect trees of our dawning. And the sighs. Of the
shadows. Retreating over meadow grass. And deer love at sunrise.
I never did find out whatever happened to the changeling. In the Illinois night. In the Michigan night.
Nobody ever noticed the switch. I mean, in the family. They just thought I left. Heard the lonesome call. Hopped a freight to the coast.
But I never left. I never fucking left.
The trees. Or the family.
I just changed. With Jesus in the night. In the Illinois trees. In the Michigan trees.
I was not born on the fourth of July. I was not even born in America. It was 1963. When they gunned
down President Kennedy. They got troops in West Germany. GIs in Würzburg. I am not a donut. My
father was in the army. An officer. Guarding the Berlin Wall. Officers could bring their wives over. Over
there. My Dad brought his wife. Over there. She gave birth on foreign soil.
I am an American.
In 1978 I had a fight with my identical twin. My brother. Doppelgänger. This was back in America. I
hit him with my fist. He fell into a swift moving stream and got lodged in a drain pipe and drowned. This was
in Michigan. I got swallowed. All swallowed in horror. I killed my brother. How are you ever going to
atone for something like that?