The Gospels of Movement

Shane Anderson

Sermon 1: Something

A slack dog snake driver scuttled up the hill. Admiring the tree ripples, the blackberries, beloved, the nestles. Past the Mound of Hostages, a tower, stairless, lay. Up there were wheel throwers, tarmac hammerers, spud farmers, barn babies. They threw down triangle-faced icons; shoe shrines. Spat prophesies, an eyeless woman, laughing. Plighting the plights of the Snake Driver, she warned against a yellow door; black; green; purple; blue. She promised sons; and that every one would escape, finding stairs in mountains, lakes. In places named after famous thieves or filled with greed, they would make names for themselves, for their father. Though they would never return, others, she threatened, would. Peregrinating here, looking for them, the sons, they would bring greed with them, the greed for experiences. These, she said, will willingly buy their faces, the sons' faces, storing them on shelves and walls, sliding them between pages. Mixing up their names, some will confess they didn't come here to learn, but to forget, themselves, secretly, abroad. Yes, she said, their greed will lead these to forget many things. That you drove your sons away and that they never had anything but black disdain for their father. That you were kidnapped, a slave, will ignite like colored gunpowder in their brains, fading from their memory, quickly, losing shape. Commit everything you ever wrote to flames, she exhorted, and they will never know you are from foreign soil, peregrinating here like them, the others, the greedy. Still, she consoled, you will always be known as the Great Snake Driver, the heroic one who rid this hilly post-glacial landscape, green and purple, of the snakes there never were.

Sermon 2: Nothing

Against the scenic routes, the Slack Dog Snake Driver decides. Sinking in Travellers' traces intimated from a lack of foundation, the antiquated caravan tracks are being repaved again; filled in; another fugitive layer of asphalt, by marshy peat abiding. Driving, on the tolled freeway, the Slack Dog Snake Driver reads. WELCOME TO STAB CITY, SLOW DOWN and BEWARE OF FALLING ROCKS; lit up, blinking. The Slack Dog Snake Driver drives slow, slower. Down goes his window; a rock falls, is thrown. Smarting, he pulls over. A laughing hooded figure, shank bearing, scurries behind a building, disappearing. Breathing in muggy lung knives, air thick with poverty and violence, the Slack Dog Snake Driver feels his head. He ponders the Pythian highway illuminations; bleeding, slightly. Already late, he decides against punishing the lowly priest of mischief and drives further, to the church behind the boortrees, a Travellers' first communion. Inside, he finds tabernacle altar linen, paddle feet; rowel spurred flying lecterns; stone lions, lit up, tomb leaping. Griffons and musicians on consecrated bread knives; a tree spirit sugar sifter wine skimmer; a unicorn crested candelabra. Sitting next to the Snake Driver, a Driveway Paver fighting off a hangover in shirtsleeves straightens the plastic of plastic wrapped lilies, then shakes the Snake Driver's hand. Outside, the bells toll and the rain lashes, buckets. The Travellers, gathered, still, listen to the cat and rat jammed organ, the pipes that demand improvisation like their lives. In procession, their sons and daughters toe toward the Blood and the Body, toward the expectations of their mothers and fathers. That's my girl, says the Driveway Paver, the one fiddling with her tiara, her hair. What does she have in there, the Snake Driver asks, picturing an ice pick, an axe. You'll see, you'll see, is his answer and then, this is going to be a blast the Driveway Paver laughs, crinkling the plastic, throttling the lilies. Receiving the Body, the Driveway Paver's daughter palms something, connected by a wire to her tiara. The Slack Dog Snake Driver fears. Salvation isn't far, is nearer. With the Blood in her mouth, the Driveway Paver's daughter turns around, faces the Travellers, teeth baring, fiendish, finger depressing button, flashing, HE IS IN ME, neon, from her tiara. The Slack Dog Snake Driver claps, thunder. Deluged by an explosion of laughter, the Driveway Paver sighs relief, smelling of asphalt, whiskey.

Sermon 3: Everything

Ash walking stick turned tree, blossomed legends and history. One day, the Slack Dog Snake Driver, old, will return there. To fashion a new staff from its branches or to stumble on the one he knew, retrograde. He will arrive to a crowd, huddled, waiting for the warmth of tale. In the beginning, he will say, there were granite outcrops, dense bracken, grazing regimes. Rudders carved with instructions. For boat building, games. Maps navigating other worlds and serpent-infested seas could be found in bogs with butter, stored, shorn wool pillows made for sleepseeing, for the sacrificed, the dead. From one side of the country to the other, swollen feet bore iron crosses, hairshirts, and seals; until turnips tasted like tar, spuds molded, and others let us starve. United by language and hatred, the others gauged our currency as wheelbarrow full worthless and burned grain they couldn't eat. Aside from dying, abroad bound boats and useless built roads were our answer. One fishmonger turned hooker, turned icon, into song. Suddenly, sheep outnumbered men. Afterwards, there were spatchcocks, bombs. Miniature portraitists became crime scene reporters, family photographers in front of ships. Probable prodigal sons measured marriage proposals in road frontage, yarn-spinning another world in letters, possible at home. Later, men without opinions gave theirs. Bronze monuments were molded, erected, greened. Adorned with tigers and chevrons, women took control, framed homes, shifting. People stopped uniting except for paper. Dissatisfied with their lives, they climbed rivers. Shot laser bows and arrows at one another, laughing. Shifting, they rode an eye, spit from the top, snogging. They entered buildings, tubes and further tubes, watched screens, slept or tried to; then they stood up on the other side of the world only to come back, gone shorter and shorter, less and less. They said that everything the world had to give could be found at home for less. They fingered colored cubes according to algorithms, herding, barbarian, electronics, hoarding. They discovered that man sweat smelled like fish, woman sweat motor oil. Roads became cables, libraries looked like gun towers. Rusty barges farmed worm infested salmon, harvested mussels stuck with disease, then became apartment buildings. Meanwhile, peaty water streamed from everything, which is to say, the Slack Dog Snake Driver will say, everything everythinged, everything bled together. All the while the Slack Dog Snake Driver will stand, whittling a staff or praying for the ash to turn back. Those gathered, uncomfortable, will mistake this tale for stand up. They will laugh nervously, then fervently, and the Slack Dog Snake Driver, tired, will lie down under the ash tree, blowing his nose like a trumpet then sleeping

Shane Anderson lives in Berlin and blogs here. Recent work is/was/will be in > kill author, everyday genius and the playbill for Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler's KHU.