Manzano Mountain Review is an online New Mexico literary journal affiliated with UNM-Valencia.

At Yellow and Black is Where the Mystic Lives 

by Brian Michael Barbeito

Succulent too, the rain that began in the middle of the night as I was unawares.

At that time I was having not a dream but an actual vision and it was of a small wooden abode, but structurally sound, and there was water outside and I got the feeling that though there was a front entrance, it was the back way, the watery way with a small vessel and man waiting to take you to and fro as it were, where you got in. I felt it was a place you could go when you die, a good place, somewhere in the astral realms. The water was dark, and some parts of the little dock and steps or else the window frames were painted yellow. Then I saw a person, and I never recognize these people and they are not angels per se, or guardians with benevolence and love coming from them, but just people. I can never hear them for some cosmic rule has turned the audio off. It’s frustrating. I recognized the person on another level, but it’s difficult to articulate. I can’t even remember if it was a man or a woman. They were white, with light brown hair, and you wouldn’t notice them in a supermarket for any good or bad reason. Who knows what it all means, but I got the impression that I was visiting for a few moments.

Speaking of supermarkets, I bagged the groceries slowly and surely. What’s the rush anyways? Razors and ibuprofen, some bread, and bananas. It has turned cold, and the cold is with cold rain, and the cold rain is so determined that it just feels like it could turn into slush and maybe even snow. But that won’t happen yet. It just feels like that. The reason it is holy, is because the summer was too hot, oppressive, stifling. Now, the dogs and I will be able to roam field and forest, labyrinthine path and little happy stream and be comfortable, poised, paced. But not yet, because it’s too wet and this all has to pass. Snoopy in the comics was either going to be a famous pilot or a novelist or something else perhaps. When he was going to write a great novel he always started with, It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it certainly was. Snoopy was a Beagle. I had a Beagle and it was nice and kind, but not overly attached to me. Yet, if I was on the couch and sick, feeling ill, it would sense it and come sit next to me every time. How did it know?

There is a reason beyond reason.

Behind me are some lily flowers in a vase. To the side, but out of view around some crown molding, are some roses. The place is quiet. Last night I was told that an infamous biker gang blew up the vehicles and part of the front of a building I know. Wild. The person was telling me that a special incendiary device was used because the cars and trucks, mostly steel, aluminum, metal, - things that don’t burn easily as cloth or such, were mostly ashes on the ground. The person or people that did it parked out of site, came up and did their thing, and then retreated. All in the night. Snoopy never saw anything like that I bet. My dog however, did see a real life biker gang. I was down the street reading from a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and a small red bug had crawled on the pages. I didn’t know what was going on but I heard the dog barking. Long story short, my dad came home and tried to hold a member of the biker gang there, and the other was under the water swimming as he had just dived in. But my father himself had only one arm because the other was bandaged or in a sling, ironically enough, from an injury due to a motorcycle accident. There was a commotion and the biker gang members got away. Eventually the police became involved, and the leader of the gang told the police to get off the properly as the police were interrupting their party.

My dad flipped out and challenged them to a fist fight. The police stepped in the middle. Then, a neighbor’s dog wandered onto the property and they said they would kill the dog. My dad said, If you kill the dog, I will then kill you right away. The police were nervous as they had sent two young constables. It was getting out of hand. I watched from the darkness of the shadows but was there, was always there watching everything. I wanted to cut back to the house but as I turned, I was faced with this incredible literal and metaphorical darkness rising up from the ravine.

It was a thick darkness, thicker than brick, and it had something to do with the night on one hand, but with men, with man, with the ways of the world on the other.

I just stayed there, like a deer, you know, instead of caught in the headlights, I was caught in the darkness.

I was green more than I was yellow. Inexperienced. Callow more than full of cowardice.

When we did get home we just waited with a gun, a rifle, in order to kill anyone that might come back to harm us. But they didn’t come. I was glad. It’s not good to kill people if you don’t have to, but its okay in self defense. I think though tempers were high, that they did not come back because they knew they had been what is called in ice hockey and also sometimes on the streets, ‘offside.’ And you rarely admit it when you are offside, in fact, you often complain to the ref or some powers that be that you were not at all offside.

Last night I saw an old photograph of people from New Port Richie. They were old relatives, great-great aunts and uncles. I wondered how long since they were all dead. They were small and kind, that group. For some reason they were really little, like a different species of people. Maybe when you get really old you shrink and if you were already short you get really short. I remember them, and looking for lizards, called anoles, those garden variety and generic green and brown lizards of Florida that were all around at that time. Perfect things for a young boy to try and catch. I was a bit more afraid of the others to touch them though they were harmless. I always let them go. Well, once I brought one home on the airplane in my pocket to Canada, to live in a terrarium. They never stopped me at customs or in any metal detector. I guess a lizard doesn’t set off a metal detector. That was in the old days, when things were different anyhow. The stewardess for Eastern Airlines and Wardair and any others would come and seek you out, and see if you wanted to see the cockpit. And to think there was a smoking section on an airplane!

Those were the days, as they say.

Well, the old people from the photograph are long gone. They entered the land of the dead. Perhaps they were met with spirits that speak but that you can’t hear. Maybe they went first to the strange dwelling by the water and met people they knew on a soul level but did not know in actual life. Their rings, clothing, beds, trinkets, and perhaps their own family albums and keepsakes, all scattered to other hands, to other lands, to different ‘somewheres’.

The beagle is gone, but her spirit survives in memory. The night is gone, but it will come again. That rain outside has calmed but it is still steady in its own enduring and even endearing manner.

Pitter patter, summer is left, and we are bereft. Pitter patter, fall is trying, and I aint lying. Pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter.

I wonder what it was like when the fire and explosions lit up the surrounding night in the industrial corridor. That is a rough place where lots of things go on. The business is closed, obviously, until further notice. Who knows what will become of it all?

I was thinking, the summers sunflowers are dying fast, so wilted and falling now. I had affixed their stem to a bamboo pole and tied it gently with string. The petals were proud in the July brightness, into the August days even. But now I have bought Mums, an autumnal plant, and they splash bright yellow on the porch, in the sightline. And someone left an old yellow glass table, the perfect size and design in all ways, by the side of road. People don’t care about things if they are a bit old. I do. I took it before it was taken to the graveyards, the landfills of the world. I am going to paint the rusted parts yellow again. It will a place for the mums. It’s a gentle fight against the night. I wonder if they will be bright enough to light up the witching hour, to show the way, to show a way at least. I think it shall be perfect if it works out…

Those other bikers, well they are long gone. That was decades ago. The kind relatives that went to church every day in New Port Richie are gone, and the mean sub culture of trespassers that threatened us are gone. The house is still there. I was visiting last night. Where those bikers lived now lives someone else, some regular people. You could walk past and tell them a story, a real story about who used to live there, but they would probably think you were putting them on, so why bother?

There is a painting of two lovers kissing in the dark, under a moon, that I passed for years and years on my way upstairs to my bedroom. Only, my mind interpreted their silhouettes differently. I never knew until recently they were two lovers kissing, that it was a romantic thing. What I saw was the outline of a Sasquatch, a Bigfoot, a nature monster approaching the viewer in the dark, but lit up by the moon. To think I misinterpreted it for so, so long. But, now I can see the world in two ways, as a place where Bigfoot lurks, or a place for lovers. The picture is made actually from thread, yellow thread, that is woven through some kind of pins affixed to a black and purple background. It’s kitschy or overly crafty but I liked it. Very 1970’s or something. Black is the void or the source, the abyss also, beyond a Rorschach test of any sort. With black, with the night, with that sort of canvas, no hints are given. It’s up to you. Yellow is in a way opposite, energetic, upbeat, hopeful, kinetic somehow, - vibrant. Both together encompass a lot, and at once. Now I listen to radio shows about Bigfoot all the time though I don’t think it’s because of that picture, but just because. And I also study Rumi, who knows all about love, lovers, life, laughter, loss, and the like.

And it’s all in how you see it.


I have to go put the bananas away now. They are on the counter, but there is a hanging basket with three levels, and that is where they belong. 

Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer, poet and photographer. Recent work appears at Fiction International from San Diego State University, CV2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, and Catch and Release--The Columbia Journal of Arts and Literature. Brian is the author of Chalk Lines (Fowl Pox Press, 2013, cover art by Virgil Kay). He is currently at work on the written and visual nature narrative titled Pastoral Mosaics, Journeys through Landscapes Rural.