I drove through the emptiness that is the endlessness of South Texas:
see forever and nothing at the same time, as the joke goes.

Having grown up here, I have earned the right to say it as I see it, or at least to relay what the photograph shows. The interior towns, Sinton, Taft, Bishop, Mathis, and others were dying when I lived here two decades ago. After twenty more years of neglect and two years of searing drought they look like the drying husks of the cicadas I keep expecting to come hailing through the skies like Valkyries. The abundance of flat land robs its inhabitants of frugality. If a person wants a new business, a new building is built. The business fails, building is left empty. The towns shuck their skins and a new main street, under a different name, evolves like a snake growing a new body at right angles to the old one. Old Downtown rusts, its meters freeze up, and cars park for free in Old Downtown. Christmas ornaments are dragged out and screwed in to the old sidewalks. The newer parts of town do not hold civic celebrations. Mostly though, the towns are about dead. The grain elevators are quiet, the cotton fields are brittle and dusty.

I was driving to see my brother outside of Beeville. I didn’t see him. I got to the front door and turned back. I walked back to my car, took a picture of the fence, deleted it, and drove away. His pod has a scabies infection at the moment, apparently. Even the most strict prison lockdown for poor funding or for fighting cannot keep visiting rights away, but infectious diseases can. I cried in the car, thinking of him in there, me out here. The disappointment that paints the walls in there (I have visited before) amplified in my imagination of him lying there, scratching, miserable and missing a hug from me, just on the other side of the fence. Forever and nothing out here, nothing forever in there.

So I make pictures on the way home, make art when it hurts. This hurts. Being closer, seeing the ridiculous barbed wire, being around the cynical and simultaneously listless guards, it all drives the hurt in to me in a more isolated, singular way, like a nail is driven. They, the guards, are paid to keep it impersonal and to not connect and to make prison what it is, isolation: the worst poison humans tolerate, until they don’t.

As I get closer to the Gulf again and the smell of the salt gains on the smell of the dust, I let the tide of it draw me out. I walk out to the end of Indian Point pier and make pictures of empty water. Unlike the dead fields, empty water is full of hope and all of life. In my heart I understand my work for today is this: toss my love for my brother out on that water, yes, like bread, and I am waiting.

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5 Responses to Drought

  1. Bobbi says:

    What else is there for you to do, a statement, not a question.

  2. Stephen L. Parkhurst says:

    The news of South Texas pales in comparison to the pain experienced regarding your brother. Knowing both of you from our childhood, I wish there was something I could do. Would it be possible for me to visit your brother? Maybe send him a letter or something during the holidays? My prayers are with you both.

  3. Barbara says:

    I know this pain when a sibling has been (and is) locked up ……… Indescribable, and yet you did….

  4. Kathleen says:

    This made me feel the sadness of missing a brother. Especially today, I am feeling very sensitive. I think again of my brother-in-law who said goodbye to his brother for the last time today. At 27 he spent half his life battling disease and in the end the cancer was killed, but it took his body with it.

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