For JB.


On the edge of the sunlight
I stopped. I thought I saw you in the shimmer.
Before me endlessness; endlessness behind,
The Playa baked flat in a lunar meringue
Stamped down by the feet of all those who had come before, and dreamt,
And sang their ancient songs to the stars.

But no, you weren’t there.

I pushed back off into the parched and brutal air,
Pedals wheezing like landed fish,
Past images of beauty and visions of the damned.
A giant scorpion. Temple of Memories.
Baby Jesus eating Ben and Jerry’s from a cone.
And how exactly do you adopt a gnome?
Each one a different world, a silent wow,
Which only the wide eyed child in us can know,
Until I reached The Man.
Faceless, he stood facing the City
Under the relentless blue of the sky.
An empty vessel to fill, a blank page on which all our histories will be written,
All our hopes and fears,
The thick dust of our significant insignificance.

Live well knowing you will die
Live well knowing you will die


On the edge of the firelight
I stopped, and thought I heard you call me by my name.
Nameless voices swirled around me in a thousand tongues
Each muttering their prayers and curses before this altar of fire
Each gazing on The Man’s blank pain
His martyr’s arms raised high against the hiss of flames.

But no, you weren’t there.

A sudden crack of muscle and snap of bone
And The Man stumbles, goes down into the fiery heart.
A cheer goes up.
And the City runs forward to meet its future,
Each Citizen searching in the white heat for the one true thing.
Some dance naked, bodies golden in the glow.
Others drum or chant or stare.
A woman, unreachable, beats out her agony with sweaty fists.
Nearby a brass band plays – Basin Blues from a tuba on fire!
I circle the fire, my face ablaze, eyeballs boiling in their sockets
And gaze at where He once stood.
But all I see is that moment before, when He stretched out his arms.
Was it defiance or surrender? I don’t know.
A fatal embrace or a setting free?
Which one is it? Must I decide?
Is this the phoenix rising or a funeral pyre?
Sudden tears sting my eyes.
Around me, a million tiny sparks shoot up into the night sky.

Live well knowing you will die
Live well knowing you will die.


On the edge of the moonlight,
I stopped, and thought I felt your heart beat beneath my hand.
Your body shifts and turns, stubble rubbing hard on my chest.
A smile comes out of the darkness.
The glowsticks on your wrists look like slipped halos from fallen angels,
ghostly hoops touched by the divine.
Outside the tent the City’s alive with pleasure.

And yes, we have all that in here.

Dawn creeps, then rushes to be done,
The sun leaping up over the horizon.
But no Man this time to greet it and salute the new day, risen from the ashes.
No still point of a turning world,
Except for me.
I feel the stillness now, this gift you have given me.
You are my history. You are my future. Hopes and fears.
Now you are all my significant insignificance.
You laugh out loud.
I know you think I’m ridiculous and so do I.
But then you pause; you reach up to kiss me; you let me dive deep, deep into
your dark brilliance,
Your wrists glowing softly as you whisper in my ear.

Live well knowing you will die
Live well knowing you will die

by Nicholas McInerny

About the author: Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.