So, I was wandering through the graveyard the other night
(no morbid, goth fascination, just the quickest way home from the bar)
and it was mid-July and had rained most of the day
(so you can bet your ass it was humid and sticky as hell)
and I had this goofy tune bouncing around inside my head
that I just couldn’t shake, “way down yonder in the land of cotton,
old times there, they aint forgotten. Look away, look away,
look away...” You know the one.
And the moon and the stars were nowhere to be seen.
And the locusts and the crickets had their maniacal
cartoon calliope machines cranked all the way to “eleven.”
And for some reason, I started feeling kind of edgy,
kind of prickly, kind of a “maybe something’s creepin’ up
behind me” feeling, my mind dredging up everything
from ghastly apparitions to razor-sharp switchblades.
And the going started getting a little tricky
and the leaves and tips of low-hanging tree limbs
did indeed feel like boney fingers in my hair
and I was seriously debating with some shamefully
expansive and cowardly facet of my character the idea
of turning the fuck around and taking the long way home
before some hideous manifestation of the universe’s
darker matters and energies leapt out of whatever box
it was kept in and did whatever it was that hideous
manifestations do to wayward, lonesome travelers,
WHEN SUDDENLY! (and isn’t it always “suddenly”
in situations like this?), those very same universal fates
and furies seemed to have found it fit that I find my foot
sunk knee-deep in what appeared to be a very recently filled
(very recently rained-upon) burial plot.
And the moon and the stars were still refusing to show.
And I’d swear my spook show accompaniment
of crickets and locusts came to an absolute dead stop.
And yes, I believe I very nearly soiled myself (very nearly
“filled my britches” as my Uncle Mikey used to say)
as I sprawled and struggled, there, in the oily,
mucky, mosquito-infused dark with the soil’s
seemingly supernatural suction power.
And sure, I’d like to say that’s how they found me
(the groundskeepers, the cops, the EMTs, whoever),
that I was babbling and raving wildly and had
obviously gone mad (“mad I tell you, MAD!”),
maybe even my hair gone completely white
or that I’d clawed my own eyes out at the sight
of some horrible thing that just should not be,
that something down there had grabbed my leg and pulled
and pulled (not totally dissimilar from the way
you may think I’ve been pulling yours, I’m sure),
that I’ve written this whole thing while “resting
and recuperating, indefinitely, under strict observation”
at a minimum security “mental health facility”
(in that classic Lovecraftian idiom).
But no, I eventually goddamned,
motherfuckered and son-of-a-bitched
my foot free just as it began to rain again.
And, eventually, I collected my scattered faculties
and shambled and squelched my way home
(my shoe pretty much ruined).
And all the while, that sinister and perverse
phantom pin-balling around inside my skull,
flittering unseen all around me
somewhere inside those hissing sheets of rain,
tormenting me with its cloying, insipid adulation
for the Lost Confederate Cause
and the grand old antebellum south...
“Way down yonder in the land of cotton...”
-Jason Ryberg, 2011