Kaminski Writing

"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” _Kerouac

Tag: Travel

In the Height of Heaven Stones

I’m going to grow my hair long
while I’m young and living.
I’ll drive fast
around and round the sorry continent—
Across forgotten lands
I’ll drive with windows down.

You were in the passenger seat
laughing or maybe crying,
I never knew with you.
I only knew the wisps
of your hair in my face;
the smell of your drugstore shampoo.
Your golden skin
and the sweat we made.

I shouted into endless
highway distance
when you left.
Unheard,
a ghost on the road,
I wandered off every exit
memorizing the face of distant godmade cathedrals.
I’ll climb their summits
with every tribulation of the spirit–
Crying out for mercy and more strength.

I’ll stand, or maybe sit,
looking out and back
to where I came from and how.
And in the height
of heaven stones
the wind will toss and pull
the hair I grew long
in my youth and life.

I’ll laugh so loud on that peak
you’ll hear me somewhere
on your own mountain.
Satisfied we’ll leave
to find one another
on some new crest.
Our bodies blending into
some godmade life.
I’ll breathe you in the mountain.

After long days I’ll lay in your bed.
You’ll run your fingers through my long grey hair—
mine through yours.
We’ll both know where we’ve been.
And I’ll love you with every ease of the spirit.

_ Kevin Kaminski 2012

Granite

Rand McNally and pushpins come to me in dreams. Kerouac sits in the corner of the room and whispers of the Road while I hallucinate off the side of the bed and burn my money in Alaska.

* * *

There are hidden parts of the Road. Varied and mysterious as the wooden playgrounds of my youth. Before the corporate child-proofing of America tore them all down, those wooden fortresses where we’d adventure while our mothers talked. Each time we went, a new cubby, a new nook that we’d get splinters working our way into. Maybe they tore that old wooden sanctuary down because they knew I’d get stuck trying to go back. The new blueprints, mere instructions to lead me out onto the interstates and super-highways of the Great Somewhere-Else. Out to find the nooks–those mountain nooks where we climbed our way into Utah and shouted victory. Where we found broken bottles and our joy. The nooks that beckoned us into their solitude and holiness.

Rand sat in the passenger seat, silent and pointing vaguely as he guided us through the mountains. He knew we had missed a vital turn miles ago, but He just smiled and hung His arm out the window. He hadn’t drawn the road we were on. Rand was letting us go until we found the nook He knew would change us. Until we found the mountain that overwhelmed us and dropped us to our knees in humble supplication.

Avoiding an avalanche, we made our way to Montana and the Northeast Entrance. The engine had turned our wheels enough for us to finally realize, like naïve kids on a tire swing, there was no going around the Continental Divide. Then Rand relented, pointed and showed us the view and private country roads he traced to tease. He nodded because He knew we held no concern for speed. He knew we wanted to see what he was drawing out there in his solitude, and he was happy to show us. He took us, giddy as a madman.

Rand’s priest led us out in solemn procession, that old Road, with his sporadic signs to keep us going. Through mystic preparation we were carried along to insure what the Road had eagerly hoped. It was apparent from the license plate and the dirt South Dakota left on our souls and shoes; we had been baptized in gasoline and oil. This was our confirmation that we could understand the Road’s humble prayers and clever puns when he switched back over on himself in endless asphalt mantra.

The Road leads toward the Sun and swims in all of its finite blackened boundaries. The most Holy Smile. Spanning cheek to cheek with dashed and full pure teeth. Big Sur to Cadillac Mountain. Smiling to keep the traffic Holy.

* * *

The Spirit rode shotgun and read incantations out of the paperback scripture a kid at Borders recommended on his last day. The scriptures a Teacher sought to give me on my last day. Given in holy silence and sacred weight: Rand McNally / The 2011 ROAD ATLAS: America’s #1 Road Atlas. The incantations began to roll in waves of spiritual frenzy. Pouring out from guttural diaphragm like libations. Rising around the rearview like incense. Tongues on fire. We cast ourselves into the Wild Plains and Nameless Earth. The words began, unnatural and unfamiliar:

Dead Indian Pass
Heart Mountain
Sleeping Giant
Eagle Peak
Absaroka- Beartooth Wilderness
Buffalo Bill Scenic Pass
Teton, Togwotee, Wiggins, Wapiti, Dunraven, Bighorn

And the boys back in Buffalo–
Just past Crazy Woman Creek-
Who spoke late at night
And let us sleep outside,
Whose first day it was on the job
After getting laid off in Sheridan
After fourteen years of honest work
And the snow they’d seen

And how the town got the name
From a hat.
From a man
who spent his life
At the spout of the Erie Canal.

Rand whispers from the dashboard:
“^ Granite Peak, 12,799ft, is the Highest Point in Montana…”

* * *

In the silence we waited to see what would happen. We waited to see if our spells were real. To see if the omnipresent Road would see us with open ears long enough to hear our prayers. I gripped the wheel chanting, call-and-response, with the Shotgun Spirit, “Route 212. Switchbacks. Just over the Montana Border. Just before Red Lodge. Open Late May Thru Mid October.”

The Holy Road heard us, and guided us. Rand relaxed in the backseat, laughing in recollection of the time he traced this road pace by meticulous pace, barefoot as a prophet. I pulled over to join Rand laughing. We fell down on a windy rest stop, pounding and kicking the human ground until our fists bled and we stained the Earth. Pouring blood into our prayers and chants. Exchanging genes and hemoglobin and passion. Crying out to be changed. Crying out for salvation in the red valley.

Here comes Christ on a bike. Asking where we’re from. Telling us he knows where we’ve been and proving it.

* * *

Snow in the grill. In the clouds. We took turns taking shits in holes drilled into the solid, regal mountain crest. Shitting on a pew. Sins deposited directly. Removed too far to hear consequence and purgatory on the mountain.

We jumped and whooped in that windy silence. Imagining the skeleton grip of gravity loosened and we might fly and float right off into the goddamn clouds. In the same way the impossible snow-topped mountains blurred where the jet-puffed mountains began.

The Road took us by the wrist like an expert child who knew every nail hammered into the deathtrap playground. Leading us to the hideouts. Showing us how to scale the edge of the wood where no one was ever intended to climb. And our mothers died watching us, reading Readers’ Digest in their uniform minivans. We rolled back and forth in the mist. State Road, SR294 through the cathedral ventricles of Heart Mountain. Pumping back and up and forth and down toward SR296. The wipers skipped across the glass, beat by the wind.

* * *

I woke up in Cooke. I woke up in snow. Writhing over how Rand figured out that Granite Peak is exactly 12,799ft tall and not 12,800. Who can fathom the trigonometry of a mountain? Was it measured on foot, Rand? Counted off heel-to-toe? Did you use a measuring stick? The red, yellow, and green kind I won at a family picnic some childhood year? Is that how you ended up with such an accurate and pristine number?

However, it wasn’t the number that kept me up entirely. It came down to the absolute-truth-of-religion that there are no roads leading up to Granite Peak. It exists. In the middle of a green-spotted space. In the middle of Custer National Forest. I sat down at the table with Rand and he showed me that I existed as well. On the line. In Cooke. Rand showed me the distance.

That night I shaved for the fist time in a month. Shaved my whole face until it was smooth and bleeding for the first time in maybe a year. My brother taught me how he refers to his face like map locations when he shaves. I trimmed nose hairs on the Continental Divide.

I sat down on the firm, nylon hotel comforter. The Cooke City Courier was on the nightstand, next to the courtesy phone. It told the stories of the eighty-eight folks who live there year-round in stark black and white.

Nine point font. Absent of paragraphs. The town scroll. Title, written in Scroll. Printed off the HP on the front desk where we stole the last room.

We were too early to be tourists, so we shot pool with the Mountain-Dweller who ran the Super 8 where we stayed. He taught us the tricks of the trade. In the morning he bounced his martyr son on his chest and taught a girl how to pour coffee when all you have are grounds.

At the bar that night I talked to a man named Phil. He was the only gay human in the town, originally from Billings. He told me he has a house there, and I imagined a lover. Billings is on 90, and was on our way when we were planning to adventure in Glacier National Park. Phil told us he came down that way from Billings a week before, and warned that 90 had been closed for the last three days with snow. Said we shouldn’t head North until August. But we hadn’t planned to stay in Montana another day.

The bartender took our order for burgers on a napkin. Some stranger in a Budweiser hat cooked them in a kitchen. We ate and died and laughed. We thought it was a joke that the world’s best burgers were hidden in some lonely town on top of a mountain. We drank the cheapest beer and Phil ordered Long Islands for himself. He asked where we came from, and I told him from some place out East. He asked us how we got there, and I showed him the Road.

Placing a careful napkin on his drink, Phil left our conversation to help a woman with a pregnant horse. The steed was freezing down at a stable with no hay. Phil had a few bales. He said he’d be back, and the woman said her horse would be a happy-happy girl. But we drained bottles watching extreme snowboarding and hunting videos that had been shot outside. People flying on mountains like strange beasts and the man-who-looks-like-your-friend’s-uncle grabbing a dead deer by the head and making it talk.

That dark mountain night ended with us wading through the snow in gym-shorts and hiking-boots. Screaming and cursing the wind and snow. Eternal infants in the infinite and multiplying eyes of the wind. And I never saw Phil again.

* * *

Back in the room, we stomped off our boots. I showered for eternity. Through the steam I hollered a joke about how we thought it would be weeks before another shower. The last ones we stole from a lonely old farmer in South Dakota. He cornered us in the stall and invited us to have dinner with him. We were on the road the second he disappeared. I joked about how my stolen shower trickled so pathetically it could’ve been the old man weeping over my naked body, like some cruel prank. The Spirit laughed and brushed his teeth with mountain water.

We tried getting a signal on anything with a battery that night to let our families know we were trapped in Montana, just atoms away from Granite and Old Faithful. I told my brother about the splinters we got getting into Cooke, my dad about the oil change, and my mom about the consistency of the snow and the inadequacy of our sweaters. That night my brother back East told me I should walk to the top of Granite Peak. He asked me where the Road ends.

* * *

I couldn’t sleep out of ascetic devotion, being so close to the mountain. I looked out at the silhouettes. Dark cutouts in the local universe. I strained my eyes to see the mountain skin in the brightness of the snow. I could see my face reflected in the window. Behind the screen, the fog from my breath congregated on the glass. I turned the radiator up slightly to warm my toes and leaned against the nylon screen to see how snowcapped the car had become. In my reflection, I caught a glimpse of Granite and his brothers curving over my cornea. The mountains reaching, in all of their light, into my brain. I wondered how long it would take to travel from my eyes to their summits. I wondered why, when I can see the mountains on my eye, it isn’t easier to get to them.

Unable to climb the mountain from my window, I turned away and cracked the spine of the Atlas. I sat with the light coming from the bathroom and read the notes Rand had jotted between the lines. I determined how close I could get to Granite with the help of the Road before I would have to abandon asphalt and engine and turn to skin and earth. Walking toward the Granite’s temple.

* * *

I went into the bathroom to kill the light. Settling into our mountain nook under generic covers I whispered to the Spirit, “We’re out here. Trapped in the wilderness and alive.”

The Spirit smiled and said, “I could be a Ghost in these mountains.” And Rand pointed North.

* * *

I didn’t know where the manager’s son had slept that night. I would have crept down next to the crib and read scripture over his body. Raising Atlas high over the small form. No angel to grab my wrist. A tribute to the Road. A martyr for his town.

One day, wading through snow, the Road would call to him, and he would follow.

  • He would take up his incantations.
    He would lead the Nation of Wanderers.
  • _ Kevin Kaminski 2012

    Conquered

    They climbed for a day,
    maybe less.
    The wind in their hair.
    The men laughing.
    One boy brought a flag
    from his hometown.
    They took pictures
    and waved
    at cameras.
    Smiling with giant teeth.

    The boy with the flag
    searched for a place to hang it;
    for a place to write his name.
    He could hear cheers
    from the other side
    from his friends.

    We did it.
    He could hear them.

    He turned back
    to shout
    and lost his footing.
    The flag
    flew.
    His skull
    scattered his name
    across the mountain.

    _ Kevin Kaminski 2012

    Applause for Parking

    When there’s a Tiger’s game, there is no parking in my neighborhood. Period. With the exception of miracles. Like today, when there was one, solitary space right in front of my door. I was admittedly excited. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was supposed to park seven blocks away and have to move my car when the game let out at 11.

    I started out a little rough. I might have cranked the wheel somewhat overzealously. Cutting in a little too deep, and all with some guy across the street staring at me. I was embarrassed, so I had to keep going. I waited for that nudge to let me know I fucked it all and hit the curb with my back tire. I leaned forward hoping not to scrape my bumper on the car ahead. But nothing came. No bumps or scrapes. I pulled forward slightly to even out the space, and looked around to make sure everything was in its right place.

    That was when I noticed him. The man staring was now closer, and his jaw was hanging. Thumbs up, jumping, applauding occasionally. This is how all good parallel parking jobs should end. He couldn’t believe his eyes. I turned off the car and started getting my things together, and this guy was still laughing on the curb.

    In my sheepish bravado I cracked the door and said, “That’s how it’s done.”

    “Oh my god man!! I was watchin you and I thought you wadn’t gonna make it! But you kept goin’ and man! Like you’s on a thread man! You just popped it in there!” He stepped off the curb, and at this point I realized that this wasn’t a Tigers fan who was leaving early. This was one of my homeless neighbors.

    “How long you been drivin’ man!?”

    “Umm… A long time.”

    “Oh man, I wish I had a camera! That should have been on T.V.!”

    “Hah, yeah. Well. Maybe not that impressive. I didn’t think I’d make it.”

    “Hey man, listen…” the invariable words came. “Do you have anything you could spare? Change? Even if you have Canadian change.”

    I don’t think I look Canadian, or at least I hope I don’t. But I figured I’d grab a handful of my meter change, maybe an hours worth, and help him with whatever.

    “Thanks man. I’m just hungry. Is there anything else you could spare?” He stepped a little closer to my car, and perhaps my body language changed to become more guarded. He assured me, “I’m not trying to get too close man, I’m not like that. I’m just hungry.” He assured me.

    There’s always the follow up, and I always wonder how much courage or destitution it takes to start asking strangers for money, and then how much more desperation it must take, after they have given you money, to ask, immediately, for more. Is a tolerance built up over time where it simply becomes second nature? Does this man meet so much rejection a day that it doesn’t matter to him to ask again? Perhaps he finds that the follow up is even more successful, that it preys and weighs a little more heavily on a conscience that knows there is more-where-that-came-from.

    “That’s all I have for change man, I don’t carry much of it.” A lie, followed by a truth.

    “That’s okay man,” he sulked as I grabbed my bag and prepared to leave him and disappear into my many walls, leaving him with his none.

    “Is that food!” His face aglow.

    “Oh, um. Yeah. (I actually forgot I had brought that home). Here.” It was embarrassing and sad that I had forgotten I had a meal sitting on my passenger seat while this man had no idea where his next one was coming from, which was ironically coming from my passenger seat.

    “Thank you!”

    “Have a good one. Be safe.”

    We both left the street. Ascending the steps to my door I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d know how to use the chopsticks that were lying across the food in the container, or if he’d just use his hands.

     

    _ Kevin Kaminski 2012

    Driving Home, Windows Down.

    I drove directly from work to Traffic Jam in Midtown, Detroit. My roommates were there, finishing what appeared to be filling meals of burger and barbecue. I ordered a stout and checked some articles about the “new” iPad. They didn’t give it a distinctive name and it seemed to make some analysts uncomfortable.

    I didn’t say much at the bar. I stood and looked at the obvious segregation. A room of blacks, a few single white guys, and a couple of couples around the corner of the bar. I couldn’t stop eyeing one beautiful girlfriend, wondering if I’ll ever be willing to blend into someone the way she was.

    I found my way into my second glass. Finally decided to sit on the stool I had been eyeing for some time. It had a coat, but no person. I noted the wood grain of the bar and the 11 o’clock news playing silently overhead. Exhausted, we cleared our tabs.

    I drove alongside my cousin on his bike and we agreed that we would both go bald because of our genes. Our roommate Alex showed up shortly after speeding to catch up on his mountain bike, and speeding up to meet the pavement. It sounded pretty bad, but a few drinks keeps you loose. He got up and we laughed. I left the two behind and made my way down Woodward.

    I had the windows down, and it always makes me feel that I’m driving faster than I am. I sped up to each red light. Sitting. Waiting for the gate to lift. I felt the wind. In some ways, I saw the wind squeezing its way through buildings and narrow alleyways. Pushing its way toward my driver side window.

    There’s something to be said of the wind where we live. It carries our dirt and scent. It carries our screams and hollers. As I drove home with the windows down, I was covered in wind. Buried in it. Led by the power of Detroit, directing me home.

     

    _ Kevin Kaminski 2012

    Into the Dust

    I draw your face with sandstone
    On sandstone
    Sloppily.
    It looks like no one
    But dust.
    We laugh
    And you destroy my artistic abilities with your words.
    I am no Monet, VanGoh, or God.

    We lay our bodies down
    In the desert sun
    On dust.
    Waiting for the sun to cool our bodies
    So we can wander home
    In blind darkness.
    So we can drive back to our room,
    On empty
    Going 90.
    Through the black
    Construction paper night.
    We cut through.
    Going fast.

    I stand on the horizon
    As you put your arms out
    Into the wind
    And we holler wildly
    Into the invisible power.
    We cannot hear
    Except the sounds of rushing water
    Cutting deep
    Into the earth.

    We gather the red dust
    In our hands
    We release it.
    It flies.
    It never touches the ground again.
    We are giant egg timers
    With all the time in the world.
    So we throw stones,
    And they too,
    In all their weight,
    Never hit the bottom.

    I stand miles away
    Looking out in a crazed wonder.
    I leap.
    And you cautiously watch
    To see if I too will hit the ground.

    _ Kevin Kaminski 2012