In memory of Sam Shepard (1943-2017)
1. Under a fat summer moon the Lost Cowboy stops his horse. Stares at the scars in his hands looking for a map to guide him home.
2. Home is the place where you always long to be but which you will never find. The Lost Cowboy still hears the words of his father.
3. Come home, oh sweet baby, come home back to me. Startled, the Lost Cowboy struggles to place his mother’s lullaby in his memory.
4. A house is not necessarily a home, the Lost Cowboy thinks. A house is where you can build a fire. A home must be the fire itself.
5. From deep in the night comes the howl of a lonely coyote. Animals have no real home, the Lost Cowboy whispers to his horse.
6. Sometime, somewhere there was a home for the Lost Cowboy. There was a woman, there was a son. There was something called love.
7. What is love?, the Lost Cowboy asks himself, is love a home? In his mind’s eye he can see only a delicate hand over his own coarse hand.
8. The horse moves its head from side to side as if answering some secret question. Do you feel love?, the Lost Cowboy says out loud.
9. What a lovely home you have! The Lost Cowboy remembers the voice of another woman. A woman who was not the mother of his child.
10. There were silences between the Lost Cowboy and the other woman. Long, deep, wondrous silences filled with flesh, with saliva, with smiles.
11. Two women, two homes, a blind man said once to the Lost Cowboy. The trick is to find out in which one the fire burns brighter, lasts longer.
12. The blind man died after his house burned down to the ground. House, not home, he used to say to the Lost Cowboy. I have no fucking home.
13. The Lost Cowboy remembers the blank stare of the blind man. Something in all that whiteness resembled love. Resembled home, not a house.
14. Shortly after the blind man’s death, the Lost Cowboy left his wife and son. Why?, was all she asked. I’m chasing fire, he said, I want to burn again. I need to burn again.
15. The Lost Cowboy abandoned his hometown to live with the other woman. In the middle of nowhere they built a house facing the dusk.
16. The other woman liked watching shooting stars travel across the night sky like cigarette butts discarded by some distant invisible force. Love them, she said, love you. The Lost Cowboy kept silent.
17. The other woman kept the fire burning until one day it was gone. The Lost Cowboy woke up. Looked at her nakedness. Felt nothing. Just a cold wind blowing over embers.
18. What is it?, the other woman said while the Lost Cowboy was saddling his horse. Have to find fire, he said. Have to find home and not just a house.
19. Under the fat summer moon the Lost Cowboy remembers the stare in the other woman’s eyes. Something like blindness, something like ashes. Something close to pain.
20. There was also hurt in the stare of his wife as he left home, the Lost Cowboy knows. There was a house or a heart burning down in the center of darkness.
21. The coyote howls again, the cry of a lonely woman. The horse scratches the ground with one leg. The Lost Cowboy lifts his head, suddenly alert.
22. Out there, in the midst of the moonlit plain, there is a small red light dancing and flickering. Does love have a color?, the Lost Cowboy thinks.
23. A fire burns under the sky where the moon is the belly of a woman about to bear child. A smell of cooking meat reaches the Lost Cowboy.
24. Where there is fire there must be home, the Lost Cowboy whispers. Maybe something like love. And with that he spurs on his horse, both of them bathed in silver like strange jewels of the prairie.
Mauricio Montiel Figueiras (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1968) is a writer of prose fiction and essays, as well as a poet, translator, editor and film and literary critic. His work has been published in magazines and newspapers in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Italy, Peru, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He has been Resident Writer for the Cheltenham Festival of Literature in England (2003) and The Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Italy (2008). In 2012 he was appointed Resident Writer for the prestigious Hawthornden Retreat for Writers in Scotland. Since 1995 he has lived and worked in Mexico City. Since 2011 he has been working on a Twitter novel, The Man in Tweed, in part through the account @LamujerdeM. Instagram: mauricio_montiel_figueiras.
Banner image by James Knight.