Riders Picking Peaches on
The Landlord’s Earth

The mule was ill so to lease it was cheap
its lungs scarred with maps etched by the travel of breathing
At dawn my girl and I rode toward our landlord’s manse
and we only needed to stop at a magic shop en route
The slug of a hoof, then another to bind it
to gravity and the pleasure of floating on turbulence
In countryside reddened already by sunup
a glut of young butchers blushed the tattered hills
We answered the greetings of innumerable villages
with verilies, patience, and public domain blessings
Goods were cheap, beer and electricity were cheap
so we quenched and we bought what watts we could budget
By their dirty light we danced the ladies and the gents
till the village began to crumple with fatigue
then we slow-danced the village into a restless sleep
The women wore the same familiar scent on their wrists
which was essence of a storm yet to plummet
When noon failed to budge we trawled the local wunderkammer
It sold salvaged containers with mystery items inside
and you were guaranteed at least one mystery item
but only one-in-one-thousand odds of something “special”
which didn’t necessarily mean valuable
so we bought a copper teakettle and we dug out the mystery
It was the deed to the world’s largest rat from the carnival
and with relish the storekeeper proclaimed it a dud
That rat had died months ago, a newfound lab cancer
inflicted by a short-lived experiment with gum
Another couple got tickets to a drive-in theater
that hadn’t existed for at least thirty years
and so I guess we didn’t have it so bad, and so
with verilies, patience, and public domain blessings
and no less high on traditional heart
we galloped on to the sprawling outskirts of dusk
where we saw no villages but a few deserted orchards
brushed with white dust in electrified blue darkness
and ripe of no fruit known in books
We dismounted to rest in the night-blooming jasmine
while our rent mule got sick in the dank water pit
of a beaten cinder track no longer given to young footfall
Then wistful I said such pompous things I’d have never
had I not been engaged as I was on a quest
I said, “my dear, in the days to come there shall be time
to wonder why, and even, simply, to wonder”
and she flashed me this scathingly skeptical grin
as if to suggest I knew nothing of fortune
The blown road rose on the spine of the escarpment
then narrowed and spilled into a dry tributary
its bed hobbled and strewn with scuffed stones
Whatever prefix they rightly bore, the scapes
we then traveled seemed fevered, depopulated, done for
or done in, and we elected to slump into our narrative’s lull
a period of distinct and unrivaled boredom
conducted by the clobber of the hooves
along the teething terrain, interrupted by bandits
encamped by invisible fires, or fires whose illusion
of invisibility the bandits were struggling to perfect
They hawked hotel lobby coffee and hot pie by the plate
but an honest one whispered that the pies had all been jacked
from grandmas who believed the thieves were children
and so we decided not to buy pie from those bandits
Riddled by lament we moved on hungry but proud
The plain was once again empty, and indeed it rolled upon us
until as always at last we came upon a lone oak tree
and it was probably the biggest oak tree we had ever seen
and it did not move in the wind, though wind moved against it
It was obvious the tree was both a tree and a forest
and among its boughs we found our landlord’s simple quarters
A bed, a glass of water, a sack with our money in it
An expensive chair by an end table with a stack of propaganda
still waiting to be read under a whorl of lamplight
and our landlord it seemed had accepted his own quest
and he would never return within time
and time no longer recognized itself as duration
and we knew we were meant to live in the roots