The Adventures of Eagle Feather
I found a feather the other day. It was from a great Bald Eagle, Christ. I had seen its nest at the top of a dead tree up top. I went asking for the feather for my old man. Post-peyote, head in birds, talking to God and thinking of America.
My brother and me walking around doing nothing. Me? Post-peyote, head in birds, talking to God and thinking of America.
I thought I’d ask to get an Eagle Feather from the Bald Eagles we saw flying high, the nest up top at the top of a living ponderosa dead up top, in the Oregon desert. I was visiting my Oregon home from New York where I’d met Catherine, studied with that old Indian Jew nut, was trying to figure out how to talk. I should have been watching my big and only brother I had, connecting, but I never knew how to do anything. I was raised crazy in a crazier home. I got hit, strangled, beat, knocked the block off, and these were the people who loved me, still love me, tall man I am, have proved themselves and their love and worth, us all broken, me never to stop, I tell you, no sobber story here from me, but I was crazy from the word bananas and coming out of the mother’s you-know-what. Vagina. The start of starts. I thought I was an Indian Native all my childhood. Still do. I think I’m from heaven most of the time. I don’t know what to do here. I feel myself fading and coming back. Everyone says I need to get ahold of myself. Accept that this is my life. Well, and be serious. Be smart.
Well, I’m flying out of my brain while in my body and I’ll tell you, writing this book isn’t smart, since too much is true. I’m with old Dennis Hopper, saying “My written history is one big lie. I mean I can’t even believe my own history.” So don’t you believe it. I’m very much here but not, because I buy my own lies. So I need sex and sex and food and cigarettes and hands and skin and my arms and the wild look of the words moving and shimmering after not coming back right from being with Natives on Peyote. And I wanted to get that feather to send to my teacher. So I could really figure out how to get more real. You know? To know I was who I thought I was, an Indian Kid, a great white Indian peyote writer. And guess what? The feather came to me right as I asked.
I dropped tobacco from a cig I took apart and kept the loose stuff in my palm, and I circled the tree counter clockwise, like the turn of the earth, and dropped the tobacco staring up in the tree and praying, like an old wide-faced (I)ndian showed me to do in rehab in the snow in Minnesota around a big oak tree, horses in the field of night, snowflakes falling like drunks, like a dream, stars holy above, and as I finished dropping the last speck, finishing a circle around the ponderosa, praying for the old man in the Upper East Side to have, there it was, standing up in a rich grass, by its quill, right out of the ground. Get it? EAGLE FEATHER. This is a wild trip. Animals come to me now after the peyote. Think of that fox showing up last chapter. I’m a Catholic. As a professor, I say to my students when they ask, that I’m a psychedelic Totem Catholic. That’s big in Baptist towns in the South. Religion. There are more animals that come to me. I’ve been terrified too. Don’t get me wrong. That’s what’s wrong with me. Terror all the time, and living so aware and capable of seeing the walls move, all the time, they move, everything freaking filling with light, forget “capable,” the walls bending and everything covered in visible heat, which took years to work out, worrying about God and having terror and having been through too much, or just the right amount, so, well, I can’t ever remember the month or what semester I’m teaching in—won’t end this sentence with a preposition.
My father (or not my father, but the great man I am speaking of as if he is my father) is how many years old, and smokes how many packs of cigarettes a day. This is me admitting how stupid. How I idolized the son of a bitch. And for what? Is he Jesus Christ? The old Jew? Has he done anything much to change the outcome of the ball game? Zilch, hardly. Still, he made an impression. He has nearly always got an erection when I see him and spends most of his time making up lies to tell whenever I call, or someone phones him, or I think of him getting a telephone call. He’s old but it seems like an act. He’s lived his LIFE in capital letters. Or can talk like one who has. This isn’t my father but my old teacher I got that feather for. He doesn’t bathe, except in milk and vinegar and I suspect sometimes he’s got other children than me that he won’t tell me about. He says I am the only one he’s got, ever, and I just wanted to send him the feather along with a rock that I would write we’re related on it.
You know it’s a federal offense—keeping a Bald Eagle’s feather—unless you are a true Injun? It is. Plus, sending them through the mail. I am not a “true” Indian but I am better than a white person. I shoot off .45’s in the nude on State Lands. I have been with underage women, recently. Plus, I almost al- ways like to masturbate while driving—through the pants.
I think a lot about my old man.
[Newsflash! I’ve done the white man peyote walk for seven years plus. Meaning I can’t see right and I’m haunted by things I do not understand, having blown my head and flesh wide open on the peyote paste with Indians circled around me in a teepee with feathers in hair and hand drums and old ancient chants which I think is just crying and getting it back together, and the grey ash of creation spinning out around the fire in timeless time pretime on the paste with the spinning ash like star matter making the universe—OH and fear—I still walk and talk and write and dress in a coat and tie and teach University English classes as an Assistant Professor in Baptist country Texas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a Catholic in the age of the internet and drone aircraft. I’m still up and at it! Bring the cocksuckers, Cocksuckers. It’s all confused. Plus I’ve lost a plotline. I like a cigarette. The smoke in my lungs before blowing it all out. I belong in a poncho eating beans storing my life away in some canvas hutch on a hillside and crying into a woman’s old gish, speaking babble and waiting for Christ to appear. I’m trying to open my senses. Or close them. Get ahold of my- self. But it’s a life, and once you’ve lost someone like we have, you go on despite it. You make due without your due. You find holiness in the holes where time cuts you a break. You don’t count beans, you eat beans. This is America today. No one is fooling anyone, except a lot of people fooling themselves. You’ll see who we lost. May you never lose.
I’ll tell you this, I like to hit an AA meeting wearing my denims across town here in Texas where I live and hear some people tell some real stories. Light up my light stories. I’ll see little angels in the sky inside the building, in the air, little silver dots, and I’ll shoot gold out of my forehead, but all I want is to be off this planet in the next world and the next. I’ve never been comfortable. Except on a wild tear, like you’re about to hear with this finding the feather business.]
I was driving over the mountains earlier (in the time of the story, before I added these parentheticals) [also brackets, of course] and I got this sense to throw the feather out the window. Everything smelled like hot pine and sun and I started thinking about the feather. I took it out of the glove box and saw it had a white star on the stalk and was otherwise black with a white middle. The softest fluff was down at the base. I was doing how many miles an hour with the windows up. I rolled the windows down, and threw it to the wind. To the hot pine and sun.
My father (see earlier) still lives in New York City. He is sure all the time that he is dying or going to, but he wants to live on terribly. I am in Oregon throwing the feather. I am in Oregon. To Hell with him if he doesn’t know how much I loved him. I’d always loved him. The Eagle had done its work. Molted. And I just couldn’t stand the thought of the feather going to a place with all that much grime. The taxis all dented up and yellow. The noise and the crowding. I have lived in New York City. The endless endless. The edge. Old man I’m calling father up up in the Upper East Side. He is there with a marble table in a room I’ve never seen, or in the bedroom with his face in the nishy, womankind still better than us.
I stopped at the ice cream parlor near Detroit Lake for an iced espresso.
“Can I get some room in that,” I said to the lady. There was nothing but room for states and states over. This was the wide West.
How much, the lady said.
“How much room you want?” she said. There was a lake outside, Detroit Lake, and pine trees hot in the sun.
“Just enough to stick my whole head in,” I told her, and she laughed.
“Never give them a straight answer.” I said. “They don’t want one.”
“What do they want?” she said. She was old and looked skeptical.
“What’s the last point you had you any man?” I said.
She gave me the look.
I looked her back in the same way.
We went behind the ice cream cooler and she slipped off her pants. When we were finished, she shut up the store and we went out to my car. The Bald Eagle nested in the back seat. Upholstery had been torn apart, and the foam and springs were all out in the sun.
The windows had been left down. It was my fault, To Hell with it, then. We started driving fast for New York City. When I turned around, I saw the Eagle’s feathers flapping in the wind. His wings were spread across the back seat. Now, here’s a worthwhile enterprise I figured: 100,000 dollars per Bald Eagle feather and a year in jail each. We were all facing serious charges. The Eagle most of all. He wasn’t an Indian, either. Plus my not having a license to drive, if we made it to New York we would be our own heroes I decided and the old woman would become my wife; she’d be pregnant, too. (Catherine and I weren’t together yet, but had been some.)
Watch out Pappa. We are coming. And we’re never going to stop. Watch out you old head of white hair. We are never going to stop and then we are turning back for the West. To hell with it all, I shouted. To Hell with this having to die. Here comes your boy, Pappa. Here comes your boy—and Hot Pine, and Bald Eagle, and the Old Sexpot right alongside. We are never going to stop—any of us. We are never going to die. Here comes your boy. Here comes all what you have made.