Thursday, August 16, 2018


(I'm only guessing that Darrell wrote this.  It turned up in my computer as I cleaned it out.  It might be by several people.  It's not dated nor identified and I don't remember seeing it earlier.)

Nitanniko Si-Pin-Na-Mar-Ka.

I am not a good writer; still, a long time ago I discovered my own existentialism.  I saw one dead man walking outside this morning.  He was left over from yesterday’s fire to trace his footsteps throughout this long day.  Who said there was a purpose? Who said there was time?  Who said there was any promise?  Who decided to climb a mountain and create a god?  Who made this man apostolic? 

There is only a minute for each one of us to find an eternity of nothing.  In that moment I discovered the Sand Hills of Cut Bank and my own existentialism.  I saw a dead man walking outside this morning, tracing his footsteps this time much closer to the fire. And now I have a story to tell but first must watch one flame burn ever so quickly . . . so blindingly . . . so pointlessly . . . 

I don't know how many times
a bell will ring before I answer

it takes life
to live life

it takes death
to fear death

it takes fate
to cheat fate

it takes time
to take time

it takes love
to lose love


it takes money
to have money

it takes nothing
to become nothing

it takes everything
to deny everything

it takes you 
to erase you

it takes me
to find me

cool blue to the touch
white hot intensity

sun hot in my face
blood in the ground
there is no tomorrow

black thrush at night
cry inside my heart
dead man this morning

It's all about the game that is played out on reservations.  There are houses, kids, dogs, and a lot of trash. Not much else, but everyone is running—all running to go nowhere.  Young people try to grow up as fast as they can to spend their time running up and down the streets:  liquor, drugs, sex, and more running around—night after night, day after day. Why is that?

The answer is simple.  There is nothing else.  No jobs, no money, and very little hope.  So run even faster to pretend that life is more than that awful vision that all of us must live out each day, and the day after that.  Maybe there will always be dead men walking outside.  So what do you think?  Is anyone ready to learn just how poverty-stricken and corrupt every reservation town really is?

Poverty is a knife.  It will slash deeply into any man’s arms and legs, leaving him weak and tired—one dead man walking outside this morning.

cut some more
don't stop cutting
you have him on the ropes

There is no bandage, only the flesh and blood of some woman's child who should have been a man but could not escape the sharp blade of reservation poverty.  Then the knife goes to work on his face, leaving too many scars of pain, time, and ugliness for him to wear each day.  

there is no mask
just a worn, scarred face--
did you think otherwise?

Each scar tissue bleeds deeply into another and another until all is quiet.  Somewhere an old reservation clock ticks hopelessly, endlessly.  Then the anxious knife will slit his throat and watch him bleed freely, slowly, completely. 

You fool! 
you thought you knew what life was all about
You stupid fool!

Each drop of blood is a pathetic fallacy of a life that never happened.  Still there is another dead man walking outside this morning.  Poverty takes its time to slice through the bone and marrow of any hope of a mother-and-child reunion.  Just as poverty thrives on the reservation, each boy-child breathes and suffocates before any pretense of manhood can capture his imagination.  And his mother is left to have more children.

There is a cure for poverty—Imagination.  I know it's true.  I know how poor I once was and still am, but I found the secret of imagination when I was young.  And that has made a difference.  It is not the story of a cold, calculating brain; it is just enough imagination to dream a way out of poverty.  It is just enough imagination to know what lies inside the Sun’s lodge.  I learned that lesson from Cut Bank John, my great-grandfather.  He was a full-blood Piegan, who was a strong man at age eight.  He survived the Baker Massacre  . . .  

. . . soon after the Massacre on the Marias in 1870 some of the horses ran throughout the burning camp.  They circled back, stomped the ground, and repeated the ritual.  It was really a strange sight.  A young boy returned from the brush, searched for any of his family, and surveyed the camp—it was early, very cold, and everything was completely destroyed.  His father, mother, and other relatives lay dead in the snow.  His mind worked quickly.  He joined two brothers and their uncle.  As they left camp, he saw what the horses saw:  ghosts rising from the dead bodies . . . a deeper realization of life, death, and what happens after that . . . Years later he built a great house and died without a scar on his body.  He had a real imagination.  His shadow lingers throughout my body, mind, and heart, forming my vision and purpose.  

And now I have a real story to tell . . . I don't know if this means anything to you.  But to me, it means everything.  Imagination is powerful, and I am not weak.  Poverty is for cowards and dead-men-walking, and I am not poor.  Cut Bank John lives inside my blood, and I don't have a scar on my body.  I have a vision and purpose in this life.  I understand what a vision is, and I know that I must live my purpose.  My vision is to see everything there is inside of me, accept it as part of the man I am, and then cast off the burden of this life and weigh nothing.  Then I will journey to the Sand Hills and arrive at the Sun's lodge in four days.  Natoyis!

My purpose is to write the most powerful book ever written about the Blackfeet.  I have to show that there is real power beyond the shadow of this life.  We are not reservation trash; we are not dumb Indians.  I have another purpose, and that is education.  I am the scholar from hell, the one white people dread because my mind can reduce them to mere scraps of reason.  And if they or any of these Indians don’t like it, they can go eat their frybread together and call it culture.  A third purpose is home.  I have the home that ghosts visit, so they can make me stronger in their world of shadows and substance.  Money is also a purpose.  I will never be a pitiful Indian who "gets rich" only at certain times of the month or year.   My money is old and more established.  It has Cut Bank John's life and blood stamped on it.  I like that.  

In the soul of every man is a voice from the heart, filled with love and hate, and a deeper voice from the mind seeking purpose in this life.  And the body fights to keep it under control.  Often, none of it makes much sense, yet the soul continues to struggle.  If the soul didn't struggle, there would only be despair.  Much more than all of this, I believe Napi created us and left us to survive in this world with a peculiar sense of humor and incredible strength.  He loved us and will never give us more than we can handle, but he will always challenge us to become stronger.  All of us struggle, but only a very few of us become stronger.  It's strange: we choke on our first breath of life and then choke again on our last breath of life.  It's the time in between that is important.  That is when we struggle to live as much of this life as we dare before the last breath carries each of us to the Sand Hills.  It really lasts only a few moments.

I am not finished with this life, and it is not done with me.  Long ago I left the Blackfeet reservation because it was strangling both me and most of my family.  There was not enough there.  I refused to live a life of poverty, ugliness, and ignorance.  That decision was made before I entered school.  I don't advise others to walk in my footsteps; my life is not a pattern for anyone else.  I still have a lot of life to live, and I am ready.

I have the greatest family in the world.  That is true.  My brothers are all dead, but who they were is more alive inside me than when they were living.  All of them were tall, strong, handsome, and great outdoorsmen.  I am proud of that.  They knew how to hunt, fish, fight, and dress up for a Saturday night dance.  I looked up to every one of them.   They also showed me the greatest love possible:  that quiet, beautiful understanding shared by brothers.  This world did not let my twin brother live, and that has ruined more of my life than I could ever imagine.  When he died, half of me also died.  And that has kept me incomplete.  When I die, he and I will finally become one again.  It has to be that way, or none of this has been worth the struggle.  Anyway, he died, and I lived, and I hate it but can do nothing about it, except struggle even harder to get closer to him once again.  I know he is somewhere on top of a mountain waiting for me to get there.  My sisters are hard to understand.  They have always been tough, selfish women, and that is probably what has kept them alive.  I have learned to accept them as they are and still try to be a part of their lives, not a major part, but a part.  They are lucky to have me for a brother.  

My mother is the greatest person I have ever known.  Her life was hard, a real struggle.  She had to raise seven children and hold a marriage together with an alcoholic husband.  She never knew poetry in her life, but she was more beautiful than any poem I have ever read.  Living alone has forced me to confront the real person inside me and know him as someone greater than the one I show most people.  I have nothing to say about my father other than his name was Jack Hirst.

And now I have run out of stories and will end with the only true words I know—this world did not let my twin brother live, and that has ruined more of my life than I could ever imagine.  

wind chimes in the dark

each tiny bell explodes
one endless shower of silver darts
his sleep relentlessly
its sorry lament and confession

after the flush of cool breeze
behind the recently-closed door

not the fear locked inside you
dead in the grave
not the memory of fighting you
back into my life
not the pain of forgetting you
which I’ll never do
not even you!
me watching the boy inside us hurt again!

When he died, half of me also died.  When I die, he and I will finally become one again.  It has to be that way, or none of this has been worth the struggle.  Just before he died I grabbed his faint heartbeat and tucked it into a corner of mine.  We were only three years old.  There was no reason to celebrate a birthday after that.

One old man sits closer to the fire, peeling the flesh of this life, casting it into the flames, until the bones reveal what is left, a sweet incense of purpose and doubt, atop the mountain, complete inside the heart of the other lost child.  Soogapi!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


About the same time every day I get a phone call.  It's almost always a mechanized dialer call -- you can tell by the long buzzing pause.  It's most often a woman and she has a cold pitch about a charity or about some kind of insurance scam.  Once I goofed and told off my pharmacist because she sounded the same.  It's all because I don't have a cell phone and my wired landline is in the phone book.

A few days ago I got a call from a woman who claimed she was going to help get my "book" published.  I hung up on her.  Nothing daunted, she popped up on email with her appeal, saying she was Patricia Glenwood.  She claimed: "We have discovered your book entitled “Bronze Inside and Out: A Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver (Legacies Shared)” in the Library of Congress and was reviewed [sic] by our partnered literary agents. We work as an agency for your book to possibly be acquired by a traditional publishing company.  We would like to give you an offer for the book to be picked up by a traditional publishing company and to make it available in physical book stores."

Toll Free:                         1-800-351-3529
Email Address:    
Website:                         www.Bookartpress.US
Address:                         30 Wall Street 8th flr, New York City, NY  10005

So I googled, which is what I always do, though I'm aware it's often like consulting gossip.  This time the double word was "look out."  One intrepid person went over to this address and discovered it was rent-a-desk, no printing press in sight.

"Note: Unsold copies will not be returned to you, it will be circulated to other bookshops. We deal with five major markets like US and Canada as one, UK, Australia, Africa, and Asia. We will shoulder the republishing cost of your book worth $8,000 – 12,000 and also some marketing ventures stated above. What you need to invest on is the printing of the copies of your book. The more copies of your book the better, this is to ensure that you get a maximum exposure and maximum return of investment."

The pitch sounds like someone speaking English as a second language.  Bad antecedents, bad assumptions.
Most of my books are self-published through and Amazon   If I wanted to pay a promotion company to make a fuss about my books, I could.  This "book-art" outfit is aiming at self-published books because they figure the authors are desperate to sell books or we wouldn't pay to publish them.  They don't realize that I have a specialized audience (indigenous people and those who study them) or that I really don't CARE whether I write a best-seller.  There was no mention of my daily long-form blog,, which is the real source of potential publishing for legit people who want content of a certain quality.

As it happens, the caller focused on "Bronze Inside and Out", which is published by the entirely professional if academic University of Calgary Press.  It is not self-published nor is it wildly popular, though it would do better if it were promoted.  What this cold call proposition is relying on is the culturally "promoted" middle-class idea that having a book accepted by a "traditional publishing company" is the road to fame and glory.  THIS IS A FANTASY.

There are no more "traditional publishing companies."  They died or transformed when the internet was invented.  Even libraries are struggling.  "Books" as we have known them and produced them are middle-class and middle-income, but had prestige until they started being racked in supermarkets.  At the moment Trump is saving those who publish "big books" full of scandal and intricate explanation of corruption, "self-promoted" by the television news cables.

"Bronze Inside and Out" is a biography of Bob Scriver, a Western sculptor to whom I was married in the Sixties when American Western art was popular among the sorts who are now stigmatized as white, prosperous, resource-hoarding men still hypnotized by WWII and fantasies of the American frontier.  My gradual separation from him and his life, despite my abiding love of the methods of bronze casting, is the subject.  I meant it to be a record worth the attention of people studying the period later, like now.

The record of sending it around is interesting.  One art historian, Canadian, recognized and praised what I was doing.  Another academic press was anxious to publish, but demanded changes I couldn't approve.  Their acquiring editor was someone I had fought and diminished earlier.  I pulled the manuscript on principle.  The next and final publisher got into a fight with the university and left to found a new publishing house.  He wanted me to break my contract and go along.  I declined.  This stuff is volatile, vindictive, and far less reliable than popularly thought.  (No money was involved.)

Originally, when publishing was invented, not as honoring for skillful writing but as producing something that would sell, the publisher would buy content from the author who made a product to be multiplied and sold.  Today the hunger for being published is so strong that the publishers require authors to pay for all research, illustrations, math analysis, indexing, fact-checking, and promotion.  Companies that do these thing separately have sprung up.

Many of today's publishers are uneducated, opinionated about what will sell, and focused on repeating whatever worked in the past.  But New York Book-of-the-Month confines are smashed.  One can "publish" many ways, not necessarily even by a "publisher", possibly as sound or video, through social media, through interest groups and not just history societies, and not having to depend on agents who live close enough to each other and the biz to function with working lunches.  Now people around the planet can visit over Skype.  Anyone can self-interview over YouTube. is a printer by demand through the mail.  You do much of the work but they maintain a list of trustworthy sub-contractors who can design a cover, edit, and promote. 

Some people are writing for a local audience and promote through library readings or special events.  One friend wrote fishing stories and traveled with boxes of his books in the back.  Most shops will not invest, but allow books on consignment if the presentation is nice, a little mini-kiosk.

As we are reminded repeatedly, the skills for writing and the skills for publishing are often highly different.  Even the skill for recognizing phonies may be lacking from many writers.  Thus, beware out there.  Check around.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


In 1920 the Conrad brothers sold their irrigation complex to Cargill which was on its way to becoming a world-wide interconnected grain manager with production and storage centers world-wide -- transportation the same.  From that moment on it was no longer a local business or even American., their website, is stunning in its extent and its slick message.  Far from a small earthen dam on the Blackfeet Reservation, it has become a world-wide operation as significant as a nation.  Maybe the United Nations.  Now it is facing something even bigger:  climate change.

To tracing the earlier beginnings a bit, Cargill got its start in 1865 when William Wallace Cargill bought a grain "flat house" in Conover, Iowa.  This horizontal way of storing grain developed from piles of grain with tarp covers, which became today's fabric giant tents with steel ribs.  Doing well, W.W. brought in his brothers to help, just like the Conrads.  In 1868 Cargill expanded to Minnesota to respond to the post Civil War boom in agriculture and railroads, deeply entwined.  This phenomenon of war increasing business also helped the Conrad's sheep business since wool was the main fabric of uniforms.

The early resource extraction businesses in Montana concentrated on gold and copper and were headquartered back in Boston with investors and bankers.  But the agricultural resources were led by Mid-Westerners who lived in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.  Their temperament, interests and methods were quite different.  If they had been asked, no doubt they would have said their resources were renewable.  It's only recently that we realize that they were and are "mining" topsoil and water, also irreplaceable in the long run.  Our illusions of virtue and thriftiness are often only short-term.

Ten thousand years ago during the dawn of agriculture when irrigation was just being invented along the Nile, the retreat of the North American mega-glaciers left ground up minerals dragged down from deposits farther north, substances that contributed to fertility, all across the prairie.  Far down under the ground they left mega-aquifers of water pumped today for crops, and across the East Slope of the Rockies they formed the channels that gather today's rivers.

Cargill's strategy was to look to both sides of their grain storage business but always to locate by railroads, trying and later dropping lumber, flour, and direct farming.  Their first railroad terminal elevator was at La Crosse, Wisconsin.  This architecture of tall silos was based on a theory of handling grain, because it flows like water.  Inside were conveyor belts with attached buckets that picked up the grain on the ground, carried it up to the top, and dropped it down one of the internal silos where it could be drawn out at the bottom when needed. Occasionally a person could sink and "drown" in a body of wheat.  Inside the elevator the air could fill with the dust of the grain, which was explosive. 

Today farmers are more likely to store grain on their farms in huge shiny bins or elsewhere in a kind of neighbourhood of bins.  Valier has big tracts of them near the housing.  People have tried to convert a bin for living, with considerable success.  To avoid dust and also dampness and bugs, motors are used to blow air up through the wheat.  When the temp in Valier drops to forty below, that's a huge advantage for the war on invading bugs which can't survive.

When using motors to move grain instead of gravity, the mechanism is a long pipe, a siphon, with a big screw inside that runs quickly and powerfully.  We see their slanted casings on wheels everywhere around here.  If one of them catches the cuff of a sleeve in the low end, it will pull the wearer's whole arm inside faster than he can react.  If he's quick enough and strong enough to pull away, he may only lose a finger or hand.  This time of harvest the radio reminds farm wives to include small plastic sacks and refrigerator packs or ice in the lunch buckets, because if ripped-off parts can be recovered intact, they might possibly be re-attached.

Back in history, a young employee of Cargill named MacMillan joined with his own brothers to form an independent but similar business and one of their sons married a Cargill daughter.  Nepotistic as this may be, it meant that the operation stayed in the joint family and has remained that way, even after W.W. died at age 64 in 1909.  The previous year his son had overseen the transaction with the Conrad Brothers that meant they owned the Montana Western Railway, Swift Dam, and the Town of Valier (though not directly, but as the biggest local operation).  In short, the Pondera Canal Company.  (Pondera is an inept spelling of the French pend d'oreille or ear pendant, earring.)

By 1928 Cargill had branches in Canada, beginning the development to the world wide operation that it is now.  When WWII began, Cargill had to close its offices in Copenhagen and Rotterdam, but now the opportunity was shipping by sea.  They contracted with the US Navy to build ships.  By the end of the war the operations included Argentina and Brazil and was invested in the development of hybrid seeds.  They took on the shipping of salt up from the Louisiana origin up the Mississippi River to sell in the Midwest.  They now produced feed for livestock and poultry.

In 1956 they began to do research and in 1957 they were using an IBM 6560 computer to help with it.  The acquisition of related materials and their transport to market, possibly via processing, continues around the planet.  This helps such a sprawling operation maintain its own culture in so many different countries.  This abbreviated version of the list is on their website.  They would be honorable for a nation.

"True to the Midwestern consciousness  is a set of Guiding Principles for all employees.  
We obey the law. ...
  • We conduct our business with integrity. ...
  • We keep accurate and honest records. ...
  • We honor our business obligations. ...
  • We treat people with dignity and respect. ...
  • We protect Cargill's information, assets and interests. ...
  • We are committed to being a responsible global citizen."

Today Cargill is one of the top few food corporations in the world.  Consult their website to see how they organize their multiple interests.  They are more powerful than most companies despite -- or maybe because of -- their conservatism is matched with vision.

Monday, August 13, 2018


Thimble, the little "silver" kitten, who survived Tuxie's previous batch of kittens before this one, went to the veterinarian today and the last I saw of him was carried to the back room in the big hand of the vet himself.  It's a little purposeful death, not uncommon, but it raises a lot of questions that are often ignored because they are painful.  Remember throughout that I live in a tiny village, thirty miles from any veterinarian, have an income at poverty level (which means I have no business keeping pets at all), and drive a pickup that is marginal -- to flatter it.

Valier, the town, has too many cats because people think that kittens can be dropped here as though we were a humane society.  The upshot of so many cats is an epidemic, which is almost inevitable.  Feline cat respiratory disease is said to be non-fatal, except maybe for small kittens, and has a vaccine that is 30% effective, assuming it is administered.  The truth is that many of these cats are wild creatures, untouched by people, maybe fed, maybe given access to a sheltered spot.  Their kind has evolved to be in and out of domesticity -- some confined to one or the other. There are many degrees and they change with the circumstances.

I have no business even "having" a cat.  When I acquired two properly kept cats (spayed and vaccinated), I installed a cat door.  That has meant access to the local feral cats-- I've written about them before.  In twenty years, generations have come and gone, variously welcome and happy.  Sometimes all the cats just disappear, usually summer.  In winter I can't keep from putting rugs in the bottom of cardboard boxes and even adding pet warming pads, donated by Richard S. Wheeler, the writer.  Then I find as many cats crammed into the boxes as will fit.

When the formerly feral cats are pregnant, warm is not enough.  I wake up to find a mess alongside me in the bed -- and kittens.  Sometimes totally unexpected.  If I'm lucky, they will tolerate being moved to the bottom of the clothes closet in a proper box and not move into the laundry basket on top of the laundry.

"Pets," like everything else, are formalized and theorized and based on life in an apartment where cats don't go outside but stay alone all day and then are at the bidding of the humans.  The recommendations of the owners, their cute YouTubes of endless saved hopeless abandoned kittens (so nice to play God), the equally endless things to buy, are misleading and corrupting, making living creatures with lives and fates into toys and puppets.  But I have to admit that I'm tempted to buy a water-bubbler for the cats.  And I wept at the vet's though I tried not to.

I've never seen an injury like Thimble's, the covering of the lower jaw torn off, exposing bone.  There was no tissue the flap could be reattached to.  I theorize a tomcat got him and tore it loose.  Or maybe it caught on something and tore away but there was no sign of a hook.  I tried to squirt water on it and into Thimble's mouth, with little success.  I'm not a good nurse.

I should have taken the almost-cat to the vet last Friday, but the temp was 100ยบ and the pickup was in the shop.  The vehicle is not air-conditioned and the carry-cage is solid-sided so it can get hot inside.  The cat would have died in transit.  I thought about superglue to fasten the covering back on the bone.  (The stuff can be used to close wounds.)  Then I thought maybe it would reattach itself.  He slept with the flap pressed back where it ought to be, and I hoped, but then he raised his head and hope turned away.

Now it's over and Thread, the sister, comes to occupy the niche that Thimble had filled.  She doesn't quite fit.  She's softer and plumper, but her disposition is restless and distracted.  Attachments to living things are unique, not interchangeable.

The vet opened his computer to my account, which is entirely on credit card since I never have money.  He goes by the names of the cats and it took him a minute to find Thimble.  (I had called in ahead.)  The last cat was the one I called "One Ball" because he only had one testicle and got beat up all the time.  He was a very unhappy cat with no niche.  An animal weed.  I hope I called him something else for the sake of the veterinarian, who is a nice local guy.

The cats who are still here -- when they are hungry, since in summer they prefer to sleep in the abundant grass -- are Thimble's mother, Tuxedo, and the Blue Bunny, Tuxie's mom, who was so enamored of Finnegan -- that big bar-fighting stud who disappeared, thank goodness.   I say to Blue Bunny, "bunnybunnybunny" and she says "mrphff."  She'd smile if she could.  We all miss the Thimble.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


A small but popular story pattern (so maybe it's not small after all) is the kernel of a notion about Courtly Love that developed during the same time period as the paradigm-disrupting Protestant defiance, national revolutions, and mob challenge to the elite.  Thus it bridges holy devotion with worldly love.

The power of sex mixed with love crosses the class and culture boundaries.  Usually a poor but virtuous woman who has what the Middle Class values (religiosity, faithfulness, self-control, victimhood, beauty, maybe fertility) jumps to the Elite, or at least High Middle Class because of loving a man who is exceptional, either high-born or a genius of some kind.  This is close to the person who redeems family through achievement.

I'm vulnerable to it myself.  Twice the irresistible power of this story seized me early in life.  In college I was a scholarship student among the high-powered people at Northwestern U who couldn't quite get into an Ivy League university.  My usual strategy of being "creative" and somewhat zany didn't work, but I easily attached to a small town prince (daddy was a big shot doc) of purported genius (he directed one memorable film).  The situation was diluted since he already had a small town girl friend who was not giving him up -- and he might not have liked girls that much anyway.  But we were very useful to each other.  It was a pleasure, rather than a passion.

The more "serious" relationship of the Sixties included a short marriage and was to a major older white figure on the reservation who had an eye infection that threatened his career.  Locally they considered him "renown"[sic] -- they never heard nor used the "ed" at the end.  A double or triple cultured man, he was a musician (which was multiple in itself, a public school teacher but also part of the nightclub jazz scene); powerful establishment white; yearning wannabe Blackfeet, already participating.  I went along for all three.

In the later safe Civil Service job of Animal Control officer, a sort of auxiliary County Sheriff Deputy -- low class in that law enforcement hierarchy -- then Education Coordinator, legal management.  Instead of continuing to move up, I jumped to clergy person, going in the back door (UU seminary) of the University of Chicago Div School.  Key vocabulary, major patterns, no love, no regret.  

American denominations are socio-economic. People within each group are pretty much the same.  Unitarian Universalist is one of the fanciest, daring to be "atheist" because everyone is at least Middle Class and highly educated, mostly liberal.  A little like the believing Episcopalian/
Anglican folks.  Ground level are Mormon, Christian Science, Unity, any Bible-based evangelical mega-church where everyone thinks attending will make them rich.  I didn't fit with UU's.  Not classy enough.  Too many questions.  A loner.

Then marking time as clerical with the City of Portland.  Now a writer for twenty years.  "Are you published?" they all ask.  They don't know what "published" is.  Before the business collapsed, it had stratas of class -- Trash, Big Books, Novels, even Poetry.  Most people have to be told which is which.  Cultures of reputation, not participation.

The stories themselves are so often about the not-quite-mystical, not quite conventional, Courtly Love violation of boundaries.  Romeo and Juliet.  A person could write a pretty good novel about a "Jesus-girl" who tries to save a wild artist and is pushed through tragedy and confrontation to lose him but find herself.  This is the Enlightenment, acceptance of rationality and Western high standards usually tied to the early Greeks, leaving or transforming passion because you can't trust emotion.  

Or you could do gender-reversal or even gender sameness, like "The Fancy Dancer," Patricia Nell Warren's tale (beloved by many around here) of a tribal man on a motorcycle (no horse) who seduces and enlightens a gay closeted priest.  There are so many opportunities to play religious cultures off against biological desires.  In fact, if skillfully enough written, the result truly is close to mysticism, unaccountable and stirring. Christians feel that Christ's love is somehow involved in earth-bound human relationships and making love is a transcendent act of communion.  Think you can argue with that?  Good luck.  It feels so compelling.  We long for it.

Great resonance exists for veterans of combat where heightened hormones promote intense relationships of safety and praise with whatever gender or nationality or class, maybe not even involving sex.   Not many have approached love between adult fellow combatants, maybe from opposite sides, but the effort to make it convincing might be pretty powerful.  Barrus' "Anywhere, Anywhere" which Michael Boyd put onstage is an example.  Maybe stories involving worshipful boys, searching for meaning and belonging.   Maybe teacher and student.  Maybe Lolita, though that was one-sided as far as love goes.

The trope shows the lesser person -- usually the woman -- coming to power, becoming the consort to the king.  Sex can power the drive to know everything about someone else instead of oneself, which gradually becomes love.
What it feels like is hypnosis, the opposite of alienation, a merging.  Totally unrealistic, but it becomes realized -- very powerfully.  Quite beyond the cultural pattern that we see again and again onscreen, in books, paint and song, is something quite different.  More.

Dissociation is an involuntary unconscious move caused by extreme stress or danger, beneath the regular mind, taking a person's mind into a place quite unrelated but protective.  It is a survival reflex that can last lifelong as a kind of PTSD.  But it has an opposite, which does the same thing in a much happier way, anchored to something in reality, still almost obsessive.  

I propose that what is happening physiologically is access to the earliest patterns of what life is all about, as recorded in the earliest laid-down pathways through the brain even before birth, and generally focused on the first attached/
bonded person, usually the mother, who is the baby's world before birth.  To pull away for growing up, the obsession is overlain with new information and new connections among cells, but it is still there.  In the most extreme and delusional kind of love it is reactivated and can bring alive the deepest feelings of attachment.  Someone who responds to this love with caretaking, shares the primordial dream.  In Courtly Love sometimes it is the male knight who saves and other times it is the loving maiden who shows her power to save.  Gender does not matter.

In a contemporary world where people act like sex is a mere handshake, this pattern can persist, so it can't be only sex or money or whatever.  Once in a while there might be real, deep, passionate commitment.