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Spiritual - a tribute to Brokeback Mountain

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Published on Oct 18, 2007

From BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN STORY TO SCREENPLAY:
"The most difficult scene was the paragraph where, on the mountain, Ennis holds Jack and rocks back and forth, humming, the moment mixed with childhood loss and his refusal to admit he was holding a man. This paragraph took forever to get right and I played Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny's "Spiritual" from their album "Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories)" uncountable times trying to get the words. I was trying to write the inchoate feelings of Jack and Ennis, the sad impossibility of their liaison, which for me was expressed in that music. To this day I cannot hear that track without Jack and Ennis appearing before me. The scraps that feed a story come from many cupboards.
-- E. Annie Proulx

THE PARAGRAPH...
What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time that distant summer on Brokeback when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger.
They had stood that way for a long time in front of the fire, its burning tossing ruddy chunks of light, the shadow of their bodies a single column against the rock. The minutes ticked by from the round watch in Ennis's pocket, from the sticks in the fire settling into coals. Stars bit through the wavy heat layers above the fire. Ennis's breathe came slow and quiet, he hummed, rocked a little in the sparklight and Jack leaned against the steady heartbeat, the vibrations of the humming like faint electricity and, standing, he fell into sleep that was not sleep but something else drowsy and tranced until Ennis, dredging up a rusty but still useable phrase from the childhood time before his mother died, said, "Time to hit the hay, cowboy, I got a go. Come on, you're sleeping on your feet like a horse," and gave Jack a shake, a push, and went off in the darkness. Jack heard his spurs tremble as he mounted, the words "see you tomorrow," and the horse's shuddering snort, grind of hoof on stone.
Later, that dozy embrace solidified in his memory as the single moment of artless, charmed happiness in their separate and difficult lives. Nothing marred it, even the knowledge that Ennis would not then embrace him face to face because he did not want to see nor feel that it was Jack he held. And maybe, he thought, they'd never got much farther than that. Let be, let be.

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