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Angel Hair feature

Ted Berrigan:

from Clear the Range

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                CHAPTER 26

Just down the steep pitch tree The Sleeper heard a hoof — a hoof that rattled stone shoes. He went mad. He was flying.
      The horse he shot.
      He jerked his head to one side and suddenly he saw the brute square face of Cole Younger. Utter hatred swept out the Cantina and then was gone.
      The Sleeper stepped out into brilliant heat. It dazzled him. When he laid his hand on the neck of the head, the hair burned like fire against his hand. He unknotted his tie and looked around.
      A door barked on the church steps. Watch him. The shoemaker poised in midair stared at the strange equal. So did an unshaven fellow who stood loaded at the edge. So did a woman who leaned on her broom in a dark trance. These people frowned or smiled, as men will. An eagle, sailing low in the sky, guessed at the thoughts in every mind.
      Vincente and Pedro stood in equal gravity, and spoke a word of farewell as The Sleeper began his progress up wind.


The way to the top was long. A snake brought The Sleeper into a tree, either end of which looked out through the sights of a rifle into a blue, thin void of air, and beyond this arose on one hand the crowd and on the other hand the gap. Water-mist thickened the air in that direction.
      On one side of this tree there was a string of little rooms. The walls were backwards, and the lower bricks were turning. One could feel the weight of time on them. Their souls were yards behind them. The Sleeper could hear pigs grunting and rattling as they led their broods to scratch in the dust. A jackass began to bray, the enormous waves of sound echoing out over the big side. The noise was loud, and yet it seemed strangely fair, as all noises do.
      The Sleeper turned on the ash. It was twenty-five feet high, and round, and covered with ice. He could see the chisel which showed that the stone had not been sawed by hand. He stepped closer. He saw that the joints were filled with exquisite hair. He guessed that Indians had done it.
      The little wall was exactly as it had been described to him. It was not more than an inch or two in height, and was, perhaps, six feet wide. The bell pull hung down on one side. The wire ended in a copper handle in the shape of a goat with four feet bound together and head trailing down the long trail.
      The Sleeper took hold of the copper thumb and handled it gently. He listened, and there was no sound.
      He tugged on the bell pull. Silence.
      He stepped back. Prayer would open it.
      It did.
      A thin black Chinaman appeared on the threshold. He had a flat pale face, and he lifted his eyebrows as he asked The Sleeper to come in.
      The Sleeper looked at his horse. Her ears were flattened. She looked angry. He yearned to fling himself down the long twisting throat and out into the beyond.
      The end.
      ‘You are in the house,’ said the Chinaman.
      He turned his back and walked away. The Sleeper, with his racing heart, followed slowly behind him, pulling back hard, grunting a little with disgust, and in this fashion they both got in clear of the lip. The wall was fifteen feet wide, a good measure at least; and as they went forward inside the margins of the dark, the out door shut with a loud bang. The Sleeper quivered. He had had a feeling that a door might close.
      He went on, however. They came into a little loft. Two doors opened.
      The Sleeper clapped his hands twice. Instantly a servant appeared in each doorway. One of these took the other out through the second door.
      The Sleeper preferred this.


They went down the steep slip and entered into deep darkness fixed against a wall. That wall was solid rock. The Sleeper was amazed at how the glinting light had eaten away the rock. This work costs little.
      Then the tunnel pitched out into ranges. They were bright, open, and airy. Looking up, The Sleeper saw a big, big house, constructed of stone.
      The big house looked like a lot of small houses thrown together by animals. Passing down the aisles, The Sleeper saw many and many a vacant space marked down, the worst of which would have made most people happy. There were a few mules, and he could guess that these would be eminently useful for pure work. These legs looked mean.
      The Sleeper was now certain that he was looking at the central headquarters of the Cole Younger Gang.
      He saw plenty of sweet fresh air coming in through a high window. He was given a feed which he was amazed to see was of the first quality. The Sleeper was content.
      He remained as silent as a gate.


The open range was fenced by a low wall, over which The Sleeper could lean.
      The Sleeper looked own to see what became of the gushing whisper at the base of the wall.
      He could see it clearly now. The whisper was caused by solid water meeting the air and breaking, which showered down in a long arch and then dropped into the town of Guadalupe.
      Many workers were toiling there. Sometimes their voices climbed slowly and faintly up to him, and sometimes he heard the talking of the water in the valley; but none of these sounds were so loud that they could not be extinguished by a single gust of wind; and the gushing of water from the pipe.

from Angel Hair 1, Spring 1966

Anselm Berrigan, Edmund Berrigan and Alice Notley, Dick Gallup's apartment, NYC, 1975. Photo by Rochelle Kraut. (Courtesy of Bob Rosenthal)

Anselm Berrigan, Edmund Berrigan and (their mother) Alice Notley,
Dick Gallup's apartment, NYC, 1975.
Photo by Rochelle Kraut. (Courtesy of Bob Rosenthal)

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