The Wilds

The cowboy has fallen asleep in the saddle again and been carried into the wilds of the howling night by a horse named Division. He hears the wolves of the prairies like drunk rustlers on the shit-strewn streets of whiskey towns, their Bowie blade fangs cutting the wind’s throat. Breathed exhaust obscures the moon, and there are no fires on the plains for him to warm himself beside, and the sky grows so dark that it doesn’t seem to be there at all.

The cowboy then hears a song− an iambic monotonous pulse of a hymn, muffled as though sung through a balled-up sock. He hops off Division w/ one fat flat boot slap on the hard ground, and he combs w/ spread fingers over the dirt & dried shoots till he finds the spot where the hymn is hummed from (somewhere, out there, under the no-sky) and digs into the earth beneath the crabgrass, the foxtails, & the weeds; digging, fingertips bleeding, shedding bits of nail to decorate the hidden rocks as he pulls them loose from the sediment; and the song just keeps on singing. Until, clawing so, he claws at the face of a buried man, a living man, whose mouth has been gagged by his own neatly snipped balls, whose eyes have been sewn shut w/ wires, black & thick as penny-nails. The cowboy, through his own smoking breath, asks the man why for he sings there all bundled like a dead rape doll in the cold cold ground under the no-sky sky. To which the living man replies (clear as day, though spoken through his own testicles), “Singing to God−” singing to God, is what the living man says. “And weren’t for you dug me up, I’da not heard his reply.”

And the cowboy has to ask, just has to ask, because who couldn’t ask, “What do God say?”

“Well, all the things that you say,” the living man says. And the cowboy feels like a freeze inside− just a jagged freeze inside, solid as any ice that sinks a ship in calm waters. So the cowboy, he unstitches the man’s stitched eyes; pulls the sack out of his mouth & gives him a hooked hand-pull to his feet; hands him his balls as cordially & sadly as you’d hand a woman the news of her dead husband; & he dusts the man off properly where he stands. He gives him a steady arm as the man gets a foot in the stirrup and sets up on Division− sitting very tall & proud for being such a kicked-in jack-o-lantern− and slaps its equine ass to git gone again into the wilds of the howling night. He watches the living man go− faded, then gone: erased by the hungry dark. And he starts to sing.

Then the cowboy, he takes out his knife & does what’s-what down below, and he bites down on his own kiwis, and he stitches his own eyes, and he lays down in the clawed-at dirt, covering himself− singing, clear like chimes in a winter cave− waiting to see the rise of a God who’ll never rise, in a sky that’s not at all a sky. Singing a song you’ll one day hear him sing: “I know (not now, but someday gone) that you will someday come along, from out the wilds & woods & plains, to dig me from the weeds, foxtails, and songs. That you will come unbury me when cold cold night becomes the dawn; that you’ll take the wire from my eyes and my children from my mouth. And that day, that day, this cowboy will see God; and be sent back, back on his way. Asleep. Alive. And riding on,” out in the wilds, where we all have gone.


Matt Wilkinson Matt Wilkinson

matt wilkinson was born in Santa Cruz, CA, 30 yrs ago. He has a girlfriend & a cat now, & he lives in San Francisco. He also has a plus-size mannequin in his hallway which he got from a jeans store that was going out of business. She remains nude. People comment on it often.

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