Horse Latitudes and Other Strange Airless Places

This post began to be about Horse Latitudes. I started it about 6 months ago.

Then another post came up yesterday demanding to be written, that I titled “India may not be for you”.  That is a recurrent mental phrase that has plagued me for about a year now. I could not resolve it in the writing of the post. Have not been able to resolve it as there is much obscuring the reasons for the phrase’s genesis.

When I hit the Horse Latitudes, a phrase that came up on the latter post, I decided to join the posts together then, and the thoughts as well. It recurred. Recurrence is significant. Something that cannot be ignored…signaling.

So this is a remix. And an exploration of a space without a name. With poetry and a bunch of tangled tangents.

It is true.

No one here gets out alive.

Would death be airless? 

A moment breathless

India may not be for you…

…nor Thailand, nor America, nor Turkey, nor Brazil, nor Mali, nor Spain, nor Canada…

Could be true about anything anywhere. There may be nothing for anyone in the sense of identification with place that so many seem to relish.

The transparency of the ridiculous notion of citizenships, nationalities, this face, that body, the lines through time that bring a meaning to temporality.

Having rather amorphous thoughts about the tension between belonging and home leaving. It’s a real interesting space to examine.

I read a post by James Ford Roshi where he addresses the question:

“Whose Are You?”

He was using the question in terms of deity and the theistic business of corporate oversoul as I tend to think of it. The big boss in the sky and all that. Which I don’t buy for a minute. But the question itself brings up a lot of things that have been bedeviling me for the past year or so.

The tension between belonging and home leaving is where that question resides for me.

This isn’t going to be the most inspired blog post. Nor the most creative nor even one that’s probably even interesting. Am stuck with the feeling presently of having all the creativity sucked out of my bones. A kind of missing marrow that manufactures stuff.

It’s not boredom, for there’s plenty to do and interesting things abound. It’s not depression since there is a noticeable lack of emotion including those one might label as sad or anything else.

Just kind of a flatness, dial tone, monotony…to everything. Doldrums. Or more like Horse Latitudes.

horse latitudes



the airless box the mime,

and I’m no fan of mimes,

tries to escape


This is not equanimity or balance

Another dead end road

examined and ticked off

in what may be a map making exercise

a cartographic expedition

Horse Latitudes explained:

A likely and documented explanation is that the term is derived from the "dead horse" ritual of seamen (see Beating a dead horse.) In this practice, the seaman paraded a straw-stuffed effigy of a horse around the deck before throwing it overboard. Seamen were paid partly in advance before a long voyage, and they frequently spent their pay all at once, resulting in a period of time without income. If they got advances from the ship’s paymaster, they would incur debt. This period was called the "dead horse" time, and it usually lasted a month or two. The seaman’s ceremony was to celebrate having worked off the "dead horse" debt. As west-bound shipping from Europe usually reached the subtropics at about the time the "dead horse" was worked off, the latitude became associated with the ceremony.[1]

One theory, of sufficient popularity as to be an example of folk etymology, is that the term horse latitudes originates from when the Spanish transported horses by ship to their colonies in the West Indies and Americas. Ships often became becalmed in mid-ocean in this latitude, thus severely prolonging the voyage; the resulting water shortages made it impossible for the crew to keep the horses alive, and they would throw the dead or dying animals overboard.[2] However this is extremely unlikely since horses would have been eaten and not thrown overboard.


from Wikipedia

Jim Morrison used to write about the Horse Latitudes a lot. He managed to find plenty to say about it.


When the still sea conspires an armor
And her sullen and aborted
Currents breed tiny monsters
True sailing is dead
Awkward instant
And the first animal is jettisoned
Legs furiously pumping
Their stiff green gallop
And heads bob up
In mute nostril agony
Carefully refined
And sealed over

Horse Latitudes-Jim Morrison

The journey of the horses. Their home leaving.

the awkward instant

the necessity of a jettison

but of what? of what?

Show me a sign.

There’s wild horses running everywhere

I was walking down the hill one day, from my old home and ran into a woman from Delhi who was up visiting her son. He had been newly placed in one of the boarding schools and she wanted to stay around to see that he was adjusting well enough.

She asked me “How long have you been here”

I answered “Six years” For then it was six, not more than ten like now.

She said “Oh. You belong to the place now.”

I could neither confirm nor deny that.

I’ve spent most of my life home leaving. The only thing that happens to me when I get settled somewhere is I get grumpy and gain pounds. Sometimes more of one than the other but both definitely increase.

For some time it seemed to me that it was a chronic case of discontent. That waffled with another chronic case of situational love at first sight, that is being smitten with new locations.

There is something of a home town that is written on my birth certificate. A set of coordinates of a particular event.  Though I don’t hold it in veneration as some of my relatives and friends do. They partake in the various “Homecoming” and similar types of reunion activities.

Can it be a family trait? Paternal grandfather was a rolling stone. Rode the rails with the hobos and job seekers during the depression. Left wife and children. Took up with various other women. And a lot of drink.

I met him years later. He seemed chastened. But angry.

Then later, soft and beaten by life.

Smiling the last time I saw him. Looking both beatific and foolish. He caused a lot of pain to people. Didn’t seem to understand why. Continued to do so right until the day he died and his will was read. Left my father out of the will. My father being the reason he had to marry my grandmother. My father paid for half his funeral anyways. Learned a lesson about honor there.

Maybe he was being beaten by life all along. Maybe he deserved it. I don’t know.


Monkeys are calling from one treetop to another.

For those left behind from their movable society

There isn’t much chance of survival.

Here I’ll sing along with Etta in the middle of an Indian afternoon.

I may not have the voice but I feel her.


When there’s nothing to believe in

Have faith in your poets.

The poets know.


One comment on “Horse Latitudes and Other Strange Airless Places

  1. Attractively allusive and elusive…

    The only thing that happens to me when I get settled somewhere is I get grumpy and gain pounds.

    So—why not keep moving?

    I was a homeless wanderer for seven years. By choice. Worked very well for much of that time; got to be a drag toward the end. I’ve been somewhat settled for the past three years, but I won’t be surprised if I start wandering again in a few.

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