6 min read
Words Like Wild Horses

by William Thomas

Sometime in the early hours around oh-dark-hundred, when farm and forest are silent and unglimpsed creatures prowl the night, my day’s delving into the pain and profiteering of a plundered planet kicks loose another doorstop of denial wedged against a yawing entryway from which there is no going back...


     The door swings open and somewhere behind eyes burning like coals from another 14 hours staring down the ceaselessly scrolling windows of a computer screen something lets go and all the words I’ve been so careful to corral and control for public presumption escape like wild horses, trampling the genetically modified wheat, galloping over fences, heading for higher ground. Jack Kerouac was one of the first to wade the fast-flowing rapids of stream-of-consciousness narrative. That freight-hopping Dharma bum used to sit on borrowed couches winding 120-foot scrolls of teletype paper through his typewriter like an ammo belt before taking another gulp of rotgut wine and lettin’ ‘er rip—the muse I mean, insistent, wicked and wise as an honest drunk, funneling through another devoted scribe whatever comes lunging or slithering through that doorway...

     …onto unscrolling yards of black ink screed:

     tap tap tappety tap - ka-ching! - tap tap tap

     leaning forward to the sheer mad joy of kickwriting: single-spaced no paragraph breaks…

     Far away from home in a cheap unfamiliar hotel room, hiss of steam, creak of old wood, footsteps upstairs, all the sad sounds of this too-huge world… No worries, no counting the miles, no thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas… 

     The only hope for surcease if not salvation is to keep going as this never-ending night of American improv deepens and the jug of cheap wine runs out and the last drags on the last smoke tease nicotine-hungry lungs.

     The chapters spill onto the floor like tickertape: insights, impressions and imprecations recklessly relentlessly filling pages without indents or punctuation to catch each fleeting synapse on the fly more like film frames than a series of snapshots only it’s hard to tell how this movie ends or even where it’s going which is somehow the point expressing such angry anguish over all the slaughtered innocents and every kiss and kindness too spilling onto the page under a single unshaded bulb like the light in monks’ cells and interrogation rooms.

     Total Zen, baby! Rolling in all the way from China and post-atomic Japan to break like surf over San Francisco shores shocking every nodding hep daddy and even the coolest cats with the irradiated Orient’s incredible implacable impossible exhortation to fetchwood carrywater—that’s all! 

     It sounds so simple being totally present—engaged yet unattached to outcomes too mortal and mysterious to worry about now or ever—yet a place nearly impossible to attain except during a few seconds of stark awareness prodded by sleep deprivation, nicotine, alcohol and another overdose of caffeine.

     The basic gig basically demands full immersion in each fleeting moment RIGHT NOW!  Which is why Kerouac’s and my fingers flew/fly over keys tap taptap tapping like the ivories tinkling daringly discordant bars from a ‘78 spinning round ‘n’ round like an answerless koan through all that bare bulb haze until Kerouac’s clatter and my own finally fall away into the kind of speechlessness that comes after wild sex or violent sunsets cast by an unknown star.                          

     Taking up each paper roll — scrolling through phosphor screens — we inhale any messages that might have come through, surprised and humbled as any explorer when all that purposeful pounding — day after week after month for most of a lifetime —finally releases a few more lines of code.

     Keep going as the first hint of light ghosts the west coast sky and the boundary between dream and reality blurs dissolves like the illusion it’s always been only we’ve forgotten ever since we traded in shamans and three-million years of wandering and wondering for lockstep wristwatch prisons and let go of everything joyful spontaneous and wise.

     Dig it! the Beats insisted. Drink the dregs and pluck the muse’s cocked-leg invitation from the bottom of the jug:

     You want rev’lations jest be sure yer ready!

     Keep typing.
    Keep going.

     Nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling… down the holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road…any road…

     Screw sitting still counting breaths the universe is breathing you.

There is no time.



The fleet is steaming beneath the Golden Gate again and again and again, replaying in flickering newsreel nightmare their paradoxical passage west to the East where Fermi’s illegitimate suns rose like double stars over what is now the Land of the Rising Suns. If you meet the Buddha on the road nuke the bastard!

     (Yessir, sed the robot men.)

     Go ahead b r e a t h e cry scream r o a r Jack roared over twin atomic atrocities that contaminated all the centuries to come.

     Good thing Jack couldn’t see all the kids with monstrous heads and stub limbs from all the dioxin and DU delivered air express to more undefended villages and two-cars-in-the garage suburbs by the same air force flying under the same false flag pretensions: hey ya cain’t make a omelet without killing kids.  

     Hear him now, tap tap tapping to fill us in with a postcard from the Other Side: It’s all very nice here with these virgins Jesus honey and all, but I miss embodiment and hot nights typing to hotter jazz and the taste of a real nipple in my mouthwhatever it takes to drown the screams of another four-million slaughtered in too many unpronounceable unimaginable places, not to mention saving all those non-white kids to come from any chance of happiness or hope.   

     Swaying on the brink of mortality’s vertiginous high dive what can Jack and the rest of us mad scribblers do but try to chivvy an ancient alphabet’s couple dozen letters into fresh configurations of half-dreaded hoped for revelations like that wildcard Rune that foretells your last great misfortune: “You are going to die soon.”

     Have a great day.

     You gotta be careful playing with explosive words. Touch the red wire and the next revelation’s Big Bang is pow now—or never—as synapses spark snap sizzle smoke in burnout or disclosure, whichever comes first as each rollicking raucous riff raises random juxtapositions too accurate to be coincidental but just possibly profound. Who the hell knows?

     You decide.

     Forget the fakery of words like maps pretending to be what they describe. Read aloud instead to whoever will listen:

     It’s all about vibration. 

     Seek silence.

     Slooooow down.

     Give that judgment cop programmed into yer addled skull some gingersnaps and a cuppa, say go sit by that guy over there hunkered on his legs with his hands folded over his big belly, the one with the all-knowing grin on his face. And see if anything rubs off.

     If you don’t shut up the signals can’t come through. And you won’t let go of all those meaningless meanings to catch their humming frequencies instead — familiar and insistent as drumbeats heard on a trimaran’s deck in the thrumming Tongan night   

words   cries   whispers    

beating   beating   beating in some primal pulse beyond the dizzying spin of too many ads, too much bad news — keep the monkeys chattering so the Big Connections are never made.  

     “All of life is a foreign country,” Jack sed. Like Amerika seen through the eyes of its foundered fathers. They must be thinking Goebbels would be envious of Rove’s rhetoric repeated by wet-mouthed media whores until lies become “facts” while the truth stays hidden—more children dying and more parents crying under Bush’s legacy of bombs always more bombs and Obama’s indiscriminate hellfire robot drones as the glaciers melt and the world burns.

     Forget words. Listen always and rather for the reconnecting resonance that reconfirms what we’ve always known but temporarily forgotten in the din of distractions arranged by virtual reality virtuosos bent on controlling everything and everyone but themselves.

     Everyone is so afraid of their own ghosts why don’t we shut off our own projectors so we can unplug all the other ones too. 

     Switch off your ignition and all media mesmerizers. Park your carbon burner immediately chain it to a post and in memory of the good doctor and whatever went down at Woody Creek whip out yer .45—shout “For Hunter!”—and put a round right through the engine block.

     Save the 12-gauge for the TV.

     And one more thing:

     Stop buying so much crap!

     Whether excreted by corporations or politicians it’s all the same thing.

     Yer beginning to get it now. Like Jack said or meant to say, teeter-totter through reality’s kicked open doorway an’ oops! there’s no going back, no chance of divorcing terrestrial kin a hundred generations hence, no way to return to the arrogance of ignorance, denial masquerading as belief. Who sez they “can’t be bothered” when the tramp of jackboots stops outside their doors?

     The liberty and freedom bombers are swooping towards urban neighborhoods again where no one can shoot back. But Jack and I are rolling in synch now like a tractor-trailer descending Rogers Pass at dawn, engine howling against compression, surrounding summits turning pink with the coming sun and a black tunnel mouth filling the windscreen looking way too small.

     Too late to stop.

     I glimpse one scorched wall where some unlucky driver’s unbraked trailer tried to pass him, that 53-foot box looming like a Great White in the mirrors. That driver got out alive but none of us will, not when we enter that last dark tunnel going too fast or not really moving at all. 

     Which is why we gotta hit it now Jack! 

     There is only now Jack! 

     Behind the tigerish embers of our burning eyes the gathering dawn of another day brings one more chance to get it right—if only for a heartbeat, a few hot tears or a lunatic’s grin — all these words jostling and pushing like wild ponies for the light and the freedom that is the one true legacy of being human and alive.