by Joseph Sigurdson
When I was a boy, I watched ten turkey buzzards float over a coyote carcass. An agent of Satan was floating with them. This was to explain to me that my meat was for their taking. Thereafter it came in my sleep. Carried on the calloused hands of my forefathers also bearing fruit and freckles from American ghettos. They entered my bedroom in glowing garb—Hell tattoos or the gray art smocks of Purgatory on their lashed backs. It was pooled in a jeweled chalice but shaken nearly empty by their shuddered, dopesick grip. It stank of a liver and tasted like sleep. Call it as they may: a family curse or an arcane blessing. I call it the burden of creating my dying. Every way of life needs a vessel. I had no say. Age came and I grew into a shaking young man—clean faced, nervous gaze. A junky friend said, “Are you still drinking?” And I said, “I’m holding the tear torn long ago. Can I borrow some string?” And he said, “I died three years ago.” I went to the Xanax, for the withdrawal, and it was speechless in its deadpan, white state that made the floating turkey buzzards stop, and fall. Save the metaphor—I lost most of the people in my life. I was in a bar of wet cackles and was so in love with the clinking glass in front of me that I could barely stand. I could have stayed there forever. In the morning I lay sick, staring at the cobwebs. I was in the sweat, heart pumping the sickness as fast as it could. A tall man who wasn’t there came later and said he wanted to see me bleed. Taller than the door, hermit hair just touching the ceiling. I didn’t eat for six days. I couldn’t cry. I made it through, arms and calves raw from the excruciating shake. Five months sober, I visited nature and found a creek that was muddy and moving swiftly. A whirlpool swirled in the middle with twigs and trash and three dead ducklings. On the ledge above sat a turkey buzzard and that same agent of Satan. He said, “Jump in,” and I did.