episodes from A HalfMan Dreamer  
David Matlin



                                                             Have pity on us

                                                            who wish to know

                                                             What is

                                                            the matter with us

                                                            drifting snow?

             Nadia Sanin decided she'd take Wesley up to the "Sleeping Bear." It's a part of a line of dunes, the remains of fossil wind when water level was more than two hundred fifty feet higher. Glacial boulders and pebbles where the "Bear" sleeps are so polished Wesley thought it looked like the shoe man came through, whispered "Shine, Mister?" to each one, and snapped his rag to a Junior Wells or Tammi Terrell preview snuck through a little time blister somewhere long enough for this geologic population to be smooth as a last locomotive thinned dime. Wind's the original surgeon here and its taken six thousand years to facet these perched dunes and the moranic roots holding them. Sleeping Bear Point lies at about the tip of the "ring finger" as you hold your left hand palm down in simulation of the Lower Peninsula . The two Manitou Islands lying just off  the hibernator's shores are echoes of the "Mide wiwin" and its mysterious compassions about why human beings or anything else comes to be alive in front of what wants everything alive, dead. The "Mide wiwin" created a resistance. The quiet wrath of the Visitors who held the sanctuaries of sanity and its seepages into possession and disease needed study, a grudging sometimes ugly one no single woman or man in a human lifetime necessarily wanted. But it wasn't what you wanted so much as what wanted you, coming in an uncurled second to pour you out of what you thought had been your life and handing you this one map, not to get you back, only to leave you knowingly human, juggling your mind into the worlds calling for the parts, the ones you thought were yours and the subtle repellent debasements giving you other breath, other invasion. The "Mide's" resistance extended to the European and his Christianity. They already had a Cross, part of its lower trunk and arms painted white with red spots. But there any similarity stopped. The Cross's base for the "Mide" of the fourth degree was squared, each side marked with a color; green for the south, home of rain and thunder, vivification and renewal; black, the north with its bad weather, malady, foodless want; white, the east and light; red, denoting shadow, lurking death and the smell. The "Mide" charmed good and evil, lured frantic love and its disappearances into frantic hates. Early chroniclers say the influence of a "Mide" at this level of ghostly communions was "...Beyond belief..." "The Mide wiwin" was a respected and feared traveller to other worlds, and the inhabitants of those places whether spirits in the realms of the dead or terror voices looking for the bodies that once held them, constantly tested personal conduct with temptation. They filled their human intercessors with trance, incantation rendering them vulnerable to sudden breakages of mind to build mind-courage, sent flares of miraculous harm and the undertones of their sensuously empty nearnesses. When the Europeans came every village had a messiah conscripted to "The Path That Had No End," a somebody for them to pronounce how the days were to go forward with rectitude if they could get it and get shrewd too in a sway of vocabularies not cooled yet in our world formations. Strangers like the French or English from across the salt oceans were one hard skelter, their accompanying sacred Son, broken, the repulsive final loneliness and His complete knowledge of it may have been for the "Mide" an initiation into mysteries to the second, or at the most extreme, third degree. A mean sell in those timbers. Get your peripheral flesh recipied into a finger stew.


            "Sleeping Bear" curls in its six thousand year hibernation four hundred fifty feet above Lake Michigan . The sweep of living earth on this Ursa reminded Wesley of the desert. It was late spring when Nadia drove him two hundred miles over the palm to the high outside edge of the little finger and the dune looked to Wesley like it couldn't be trusted.

"What if it wakes up mad?" he asked Nadia as they approached the pine and scrub held flanks of the coma snared beast. A breeze was lifting off the dune carrying some sand, some pebbles. She thought about this sense of humor foreign to her, the world so unpolished in its scarcities he'd come from, and this quick polished watchfulness holding the irritants up for examination. It didn't try to conquer what it saw, but it constantly checked a scent without asking for comfort. Its absence of callousness aroused her. Were the men like this with each other and if they were what about the women, a woman's business which included men? Nadia heard the question trail off in her dead lover's voice. The archaeologist when she was on her farm near the town of Freesoil drove to this same outcrop. She felt her endurances about being a wife and mother had been blinded by the "Bear." It wasn't a defeat of one womanhood over another, as much as what she thought she knew falling that day leafless and what woman had been there to pick up the pieces?  The "Bear's" sentinel caused many who visited it to feel suspended in its depths, the manner of its hugeness drawn hard, leaving ribs and diaphragm feeling treeless as if the ice and the "Sleeper" it'd left behind might come out of their latencies. When her symptoms appeared she'd gone back here, alone. "For the Wolflight," she explained to Nadia. A darkness mixed with "sunrise," the one coming to the sick in their night dreams she as well as the corpses she uncovered might also have longed to see. That border turning the almost dead back to the fully living with its death-like touch of healing she thought might intervene if she were licked by the "Bear's" sleep.


             Wesley looked down slope at the waves curling with spray, then at Nadia. She liked the quickness in his eyes; they gave him a scent coming at no particular time to gather her, even when he wasn't around. Could a man's body be described as this one's? Hair of chest and stomach marking a line to be brushed with fingers loving the necessity and who she belonged to, a woman, women to be lived and afterwards the unguessed concentrations she felt touching him. Did sexual skills come in fragments, stiffened mounds of hair to be stroked, waists bent for the unappeased blindness of anal penetration? Where would a kiss begin? Clitorises teased as if they were buds sweltering. And what about desire, to be filled, slipped, stirred, trembled, savored, twirled, wrapped, jerked, exploded, impaled, mingled, tongued, pulled, stolen, washed, joined, dangled, tensed, tossed, reflected, smelled, hewn, flickered, shadowed, braided, fucked and eaten deep and supple, used and no one could ever be sure of the ways, exactly what'd be taken or demanded and the necessity to meet every tongue or cock, finger, toe, knee, breath, hair stained with shit helplessly appeared as come.


            The Lake seemed to almost fester below them, the halo of its worlds drawn into a trance. It intensified her reluctance even as she watched Wesley's back, its suppleness as

he looked out at the scoured horizon, smoothed by the remnant afterwinds, the ice stretching its whispers, its unfinished work. The luster of the deep water caught her. She had been so adept with women. Loved the smell of tits, the lingering blood softness of pussy and sweat stranded behind a tense, lightly bitten ear, as much as she would allow herself to say it, "as any man," not really wanting the parody and its containment. Her life as this woman had been filled with devotion, kindness, as the desperations and anguish wove themselves, set the days in a clarity, friendships, apartments to be gutted, re-designed, skills shared and watched over, "faggots" and their awarenesses creating a tangible susceptibility, trying any of the human fruit on for size and then smear it with good precise gossip that touched the funniest music and the funniest shit about stealing, drugs, sex binges, shopping, hysteria, and falling into a million pieces; call it style, fragile, sad, and brave.       

            She thought her preference was a "sickness" in the beginning and when it wouldn't go away, wouldn't treat her like other sicknesses might, that her illness came from pleasure and desire, then what was she supposed to think? Whose sickness was it exactly with its prizes of humiliation and shame? True illness, the ill in being stripped of their lives and reduced mercilessly, as her friend had been--Nadia in trying to search for blame fixed on their love, could not in the moment of her own agony and bewilderment keep the tide of the "straight" world from its automatic immersions. It had shamed Nadia and the archaeologist in those days of her dying, for the weeks left, brought them both to an enkindling intimacy where the other illness, the one which wounded far more definitely, and its pretenses were allowed to crumble. Wesley, so soon after the archaeologist's death, had appeared as a "gift" but Nadia saw almost immediately the mockery and self deception and understood the dignity they had both struggled for.  


"No sanddollars," Wesley said, "not a one," as he looked off the edge of the dune.

Nadia hearing the comment asked what a sanddollar might be.

"It's a little like a piece of Virginia City ."

Wesley, when he flirted like this, had an aloof distant attraction, that turned like a Queen Anne's Lace, she thought, in the wind. And why that flower and not another. Stick the stem in blood, and it would rise, stain the laced intricacy, turning the soaked flower face outward to other hungers.

"Are sanddollars like a Queen Anne's Lace?" She wanted to taunt him, to hate him for the confusion he'd brought her.

"If the one alive's as much like a skeleton as the one that's dead, then they might both be the same that way."      

            The wind had stopped blowing and Nadia, anxious at that moment, noticed as Wesley kneeled down in front of her, took his forefinger, as he had seen that father of his do so many times when conversation and what it'd carry wasn't enough, and drew the face of a sanddollar, the disk with its central five leafs marked there. "It's skeletons that wash up on shore. If you pick'em up too hard they'll crumble like a ripe potato chip. But if you don't claw at'em they're like some little secret you can take home."

Wesley looked up at Nadia and didn't say a thing then. But he remembered what he and his sister had learned from their mother about the sanddollar on one of those excursions she'd taken them on - it was the "shadow of the child" with its beating arms of light, and the hordes of the dead, all of them, could enter even the smallest disk for their midday rest as they were chased and eaten by the sun. The information as it grew in him seemed to be about a people who, though they were gentle and easily exterminated, were far more dangerous in their stories than the conqueror would ever guess, and Wesley didn't know exactly what this might bring him, and if he could properly carry it as a man, he didn't know this either. He loved the roses, the hard knowledge which came with them, but he didn't know finally what had stunned his father and whether or not his mother had meant to break him and break herself. Her prolonged hostilities and the way she let them settle on their land, their house, the roses her husband touched every day in his fight for their survival honed her and her violence like her leather gloves, nearly seamless, allowed no room for counter agitation. What conclusions for Wesley could there be about women, his mother's pride, elegance, her sense of persistence as a woman turning slowly toward a motionlessness in herself, summoning no duration. Nadia looked out from where they stood and in every direction there was the sky, this fresh water ocean beneath it, the "Bear" poised equally in the emptiness, drawing all that might swirl around it into the scale of its sleep, its riddles falling under the grindstone of its dreams. She was afraid almost to say anything, the fear of having it be a stutter, she could not hold the withdrawal marking women like an invisible tattoo wherever they have been born and gone numbering each woman with a disguise. The stutter, though it wanted everything for itself, needed irritation. But she knew she was more than a little upset. Stutters were another way of saying she liked Wesley and was afraid to stumble over anything, especially the wrong words. It was Wesley's half whisper that got her. That and the way he touched her fingers asking if she was gonna be OK? Nadia had never asked herself how long a man stays around, women or men, the throw of those dice was probably the same.

"All this sand and sky," Wesley quietly announced, "and not one piece of grass to chew on either."

How was she, Nadia, to take such a comment, suddenly grown afraid of words as she had. And now this easy flow from Wesley, quick and exact to catch the simplest breeze.

"Wesley?" Nadia suddenly asked. It was only one word but she was surprised she hadn't stumbled over it. In the absence of a blade of grass Wesley took some sand, cupped his hand, and let it slip through as a wavering spray.

"Take me to a motel." Now it was five words. She hadn't done a bad job.

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