Her Name was California

He’d laugh this little howling cackle that pulled you into his slipstream as you made your way along the path, down the makeshift rope, repelling into the cove below that you’d never seen breaking before and now was suddenly cracking it’s sonic water booms on the reef below. Everything made him laugh. And almost everything he laughed at led you to math, calculating the odds of survival. ⠀

Some friendships are like this.⠀

He led me to a burning mountain. He led me to wildcats prowling in broad daylight. He led me to a cabin where I spent long evenings watching dragons in the heavens war against the winds on earth below while Jack Kerouac sat on the recliner by the lampstand fearing the dark. He led me to the psychic who knew more of me than I even know and probably still has all the secrets she summoned from between my words dried out and saved in glass jars for seasoning on vegan tacos for the next visitor she entertains. He led me to the Captain who loved her and didn’t speak much because she already knew his words anyway. He led me to high ridges with views in all directions. He led me to a trailer where a Stranger poured me a glass of bourbon and shared Her cigarettes in the dark. ⠀

Her name was California.⠀

She led me to fields of poppies glowing red with love for all and none. She led me to highways that carry hearts to heaven and hell. She led me to destinations even deeper still. She led me to kelp beds anchored to the skulls of conquered peoples. She led me to endless lines of barbed wire fences that scraped into my flesh and instead of bleeding the wounds poured out cheap wine and could only be bandaged with brown paper sacks. She led me to the top of the steeple of the first mission on her skin where the air was as thin as the plot in these verses and where the smoke has been rising since it was burned to the ground in 1775. She led me to her far north where the trees were once taller than any lie ever told. She led me to a path on the edge of a cliff following a friend as he laughed his way down the mountain. ⠀

And she led me home.