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Monday, December 2, 2013

Victory (?)

Oh, I should leap for this moment, Mother! December has brought her back to me! I should light a ceremonial cigar. I should strip off and crank one off for victory’s sake; an erection is the measure of a man, is it not? Grunt. All bets were off. I know which horse you had your money on. 

You're still just like your father!” 

Not quite...not quite.

There are no bells or balloons-no roaring crowds or piped in music-nothing that I imagined this moment to be. There is no need to run a final lap for show or crack the champagne. And I bear no ill will, my fair lady. 

I grabbed a shack by the lake, leaving my last hope for wife and child’s return in the old crusty house in town. The ghosts had proven too much for me. I surrendered to fate-my meager job and a spot of solitude and safe insulation- four small walls along Erie's shore. I love the water; the unassuming tide tells many tales of her own. She holds the bones of ships other secrets-life taken in many watery ways-cryptic depths ever hungry to contend with man, washed over by stories of survival and perpetual renewal. Spirits linger over timeless churning waves and ancient moonlit sands. The gentle growl of her restless shoreline finds a friend within me. 
      
The big empty still hangs over me and December’s blistering bite cannot shake me from my sleep. She taught me how to die, Mother. She’d given me new life with wedded bliss and buried me again with her sudden, sterile goodbye. Never mind the particulars; running is running. Till death do us part. She taught me how to die. Now she has returned to stir my corpse. I was settling quite nicely into my grave. Now I cannot wake. Or perhaps I simply refuse to wake, knowing the deadly potential of a beating heart. She curls up in my arms like a child returned to safety, like a prodigal lover, a hungry pup. I fetch myself a coffee, her a cocoa. I drink quickly and slip under the covers, draping lazy limbs across her. I offer her a faint smile as I play in the vast and vacant field of my mind awhile. 
     
The bigger irony of it all, of this book, of these carefully crafted letters, oh the irony-that I thought I could wake you, giver of my life! You are long passed, old ghost! I should have known! What was I thinking? Oh curse me! Oh laugh now Mother! I stepped out over the deep and tried you reel you in, as heavy as you are in so many ways. And perhaps just as you, I don't wish to be disturbed any longer either-yet still I poke and prod to find you in the dark waters and pull you to the shore. 

Close the book if you wish. But something tells me you won’t. And something tells me I’ll not let her leave again.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Open The Door

Published in Boston Literary Magazine, issue December/2013. 

Open the door and let yourself back in-
The girl you evicted for having a broken heart.
Open the door to your prison full of ghosts-
Let them mingle in your new world order.
Invite them to a sleepover,
Make quaint party pastries,
Have a sing along.

Play, oh play awhile!
Climb the vacant drive-in screen
And blow the dust from young love's altar!
Let your hair get tossed in a world without extra hold spray,
Your cakeup smear from the sweat of freedom's run.
Straddle the drunken hubby once more-
Make him a baby,
Rock him to sleep.
Taste some blood,
Bathe in tears.
Dance barefoot
On broken dreams.
Open the door-surely you see it!
Open the door-you can borrow my key.
Open the door-I'll not knock again.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Take Me Home

People pack and stack  into the musty church hall. The faces are less familiar with every year that passes. It will be the final Milton Christmas; life is too busy for the family that now lives long miles apart and stretches far from its roots. Children became parents. Parents became grandparents. Grandparents became great grandparents. First, second and third cousins spring up like strangers in the family circle. We must tend to our own. The family will scatter, despite anyone’s best efforts at keeping it confined, even for one day out of the year. Memories will change, faces will change. Time will replace them all eventually, storing them in the hearts and minds of the living, replenishing the leaves of the family tree. The odd arrival turns up the more conservative noses among us...a new-to-the-scene boyfriend or girlfriend donning the garb of the new youth. They boast piercings in odd places, tiny skirts, strange tattoos, purposely torn blue jeans.  

Uncle Ron’s brow tightens as he peers down on the gifts that pile up on the table against the stage. Surely store bought again, one and all, he quietly steams. Giving was supposed to be a deeper affair! Ron, seasoned woodworker, had gotten everyone to agree years before that presents would be personal, hand made. It worked for awhile, when the family was much smaller and Ron’s idea was still novel in everyone’s mind; knitted scarves, mittens, crochet picture frames and macaroni masterpieces brought good tacky cheer to all. Now it’s ‘89; life is fast and only Ron can truly muster the patience or the time to see such a sentiment through. He will once again stand alone but proud as a lucky recipient unwraps a toy wooden truck, or other expert creation. 

You wonder more than anyone Mother, if this annual gathering of the fold is necessary any longer. You sit  in a carefully selected corner gnawing at your nails. I watch you and wonder what drives your disposition. Your mind is on Matlock and a box of Laura Secord I’m sure...a quiet room devoid of intrusion. Social scenes rarely excite you; it’s always an in and out affair. You were always a nail biter. You drift off to a far away time and place as Christmas cheer surrounds you in a swirl of music, color, candy and laughter. Amidst the gaiety there are some family stories that will never be shared. I can see the reels turning in the lenses of your eyes as you tread back in time...

C-R-R-A-A-C-K-K! His knuckles tear through your upper lip. You taste hot blood. Your head snaps sharply to one side. The violent motion wrings the bundle of nerves in your neck like a dish rag. Your ears squeal. Instant migraine. Your heart falls from dizzying heights and shatters on the floor of your one last hope. This is the moment of your death. The little girl who swung around the backyard tree, who danced, who laughed, who dreamt of a white horse hero, she’s running now from the merciless storm. Brooding clouds chase her down. She falls and breaks her heel, tastes some mud. Rain pelts her like a shower of bullets. Her dress is ruined. Darkness blinds her. She has nowhere to hide. She curls up on the ground and covers her face, allowing the assault to tear through her.

“MISTER BURTON! Get to your class immediately!”

The nuns grab hold of the teacher and usher him down the hallway into his home room. They insist that you leave. The final insult, the vinegar on the wound, this will go no further. There will be no cop car pulling up, no willing witnesses. You’re on your own, sister. They toss you a stern, sterile glare as though you had forced him to backhand you when you cornered him in the school lobby and howled at the moon in front of awestruck students and staff. You were just tired of it all. Did they know that the bastard rarely made an appearance for dinner, that he'd never changed a diaper, that he was nearly never sober, that he lived in the Lazy-boy when he did make it home? You hate the Catholics now. You send them all to hell as you counter their stares with blood red fire in your eyes. They hate you back. Mr B. is one of their finest. Soon they’ll eject you from the holy church. Soon we will resume our education in the public realm. You’re the sacrifice today. 

You stumble to your car.The wound grows numb. The tears dry. The little girl dies. You won’t rise from the dead three days from now. You won’t ever forgive.

“Di!  Di, you’re up!”

You're plucked from your past as a gift is pushed into your hands. You’re weak as you stand. You swallow a tear and lift your lips to form a feeble smile. You cough to clear the sorrow that swells your throat and whisper out a thank you as you unwrap some soon to be forgotten trinket. The last Milton Christmas. When will it end, you wonder. You just want to go home. You’ve always just wanted it to end. You’ve always just wanted to go home.







Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Freedom

The single most impossible thing, I think, for a writer to capture is a clear perspective of his or her own words. We often become entangled in heavily weeded sections of the story and lose sight of the larger landscape. This being a nagging reality, and one that I'm certain many writers are plagued with, I have painfully edited the living shit out of this piece of prose yet again. Bowing to the beast that is the ever growing, never fully satisfied need to create, here is a piece on freedom. How's that for irony? :)

The long. tired row of grey days has stomped all over summer. Trees hang like lazy green question marks. Lawns are all but forgotten, the weather having dampened everyone's will to cooperate with nature. Cars take to the streets out of necessity. Swimming pools are lonely. Children hide inside and huddle at Playstation's altar, building their pixelated empires, rebuilding, arranging, owning, disowning and commanding at will. If only real life were that way. 

I sip my first Folgers and blend happily into the neutral non-light that fills my room. Space that life was once occupied, that children filled and lovers spilled their fornication fluids within is beautifully blurred today and solely mine to roam without any deep thought or 
purpose. Nothing will be required of me. I'll occupy these forgotten rooms sans clothing, boasting my lizard skin. My inner chameleon is a happy creature. I can hide in open view. I belong to the monochrome. 

The big empty adorns me like a loose, friendly quilt...a patchwork of lovers, leavers, triumph and tragedy, unblemished youth and taxed age. The wine was poured, the music was played, young heat burned primal. I promised much to many, a white horse hero. I violated every vow, a hungry roaming pirate never satisfied. I pillaged my world, taking all that I found...hoarding, sorting, scrapping, ever searching for more. The fruits of desire hung like 
healthy vines always at arm's reach. Days were disposable. Time was forgotten but realized alas, when it had taken me too far to retrace my clumsy steps. I finally cursed and cried out at the disappearance of my dreams. Fueled by intoxicating instinct, I was burned by a bigger reality. Now Sheri, true home of my heart, falls from my careless hands and runs from my vacant 
pursuits.

Time, however, has a way of forgiving a man and smoothing his soul over, subtly eroding even the hardest, sharpest of stones. Now the mediation between heart and mind seems to have concluded as a strange, soothing silence hangs over my being. Beyond my window rain clouds move in like schoolyard bullies. I smile though, knowing now that their authority is a delusion. 
What a lovely shade of grey! 

I am George Orwell's Winston; the rats have proven their power. Fear has found me and given me a strange new courage. Resistance is futile but equally undesirable. Old ways will no longer do. My will is invalid currency. My vault is sealed, my economy dried up. Streams of salt, Winston's joy, flow from my eyes. I am free at last.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Featured Writer, September

LillithFaraday comes to us from The U.S.A. She's an active and excellent writer. The piece below is titled "Solitary Sam". It's a well crafted snapshot of friendship, and the roadblocks that so often jump out at us as we journey life's road with those we "trust". It's something we can all relate to in some respect, gals and guys! Check out her personal page here. Enjoy!




In reality, Sam had learned to enjoy her solitude. 

She thought that she would miss the daily texts with invites to the most mundane of social gatherings, but she was actually perfectly content to sit on the window cushions, mindlessly stroking her cat as the hours passed, and continued to pass. 

Her friends had abandoned her due to some quite unjust social indecencies, but that no longer bothered her. “Hypocrisy runs rampant in that town”, she thought to herself as she gazed out her window. 

She thought about her friend Meg, and how she had always wished that Meg would finally take that step and free herself from the self-imposed restraints of motherhood and her relationship with convenience born out of sheer desperation, and if Sam was being perfectly honest, pure laziness. 

Meg’s idea of breaking free had been as of recent, her sordid weekend affairs with that Boy. Sam snorted in disdain at the thought of “that boy”, startling the cat. 

“I can’t help that the Boy is nothing but an overgrown man-child with a severe mommy complex", she explained to her cat as he gave her a look of concern that only a cat could possibly muster and walked away. 

Sam felt a moment of sadness when she thought about Meg and the Boy, and how their perceived love for each other would certainly not last the year. She couldn't linger on her friend’s mistakes though; she had learned that you couldn't protect people from themselves, especially when they were so adamant about bringing everyone around them down to their level of misery. 

They had tried to bring her down, under the guise of friendship and support, but they had failed and disappeared back to their lives. Confrontation had never been an issue in the group before, but Sam had always hoped that Meg at the very least would have been honest about her motives. 

She could feel the anger of betrayal simmering under her calm surface again. 

It was true that she had fallen in love with someone, and yes, she probably shouldn't have left so messily and abruptly. 

But Sam had been under the impression that her friends were adults, and judging by their own indiscretions, the fact that hers paled by comparison should have been enough to grant her a little support. Even judgmental support would have been better than what she had actually received, which was nothing more than a cool, indifferent shunning. 

No, her friends were far too civilized to say anything. Females are fickle; they let their men do the public shaming. Or in Meg’s case, her Boy. 

Sam frowned at the clouds outside her window and decided it was time to get over it. 

She had lost her friends, but it was time for her to stop questioning her choices and the events leading up to this realization. 
She hoped that someday, the girls would find some sort of inner dialogue that prevented them from continuing the path of pretense and honor that they were so desperately holding onto, and that eventually that town would learn what loyalty actually meant. 

Sam sat in her solitude and planned her future. 

But first, the cat needed to be fed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goodbye

Take me back to that place, Mother...that place of empty bottles and broken furniture, of divided home and split lips, of tired hope and shattered dreams. I was but a child who saw very little through the safety of your shroud. One quick look around the landscape, I’ll take a snapshot and never ask you again. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but will it kill you to go there one more time? And if it does, is it not better to know that you faced the years that aged you far too soon than to end your days running from them?


I must see it for myself; she runs, Mother, just as you do. I never raised my father's fist, but she cowers from me now. I never came home as dad did, smelling of odd perfume at unholy hours, but she'll never again grace the marital mattress. The weight of her world, the poison of her plight, the apple that was ripped from her eye, it’s all of my making it seems...all mine. Is it really all mine?

I slam down the phone as her words ignite me. Our anniversary approaches:

“You should just go to work; you need the money." She mutters with stinging indifference. "I'll be stuck with the kids anyhow...
ho hum...but I'll see."

She sees nothing. 

Tell me, Mother, how a woman's heart breaks. Take me to where the road meets the ugly turn down that dark path. Read me the chapter in the romance novel where the plot betrays the reader and Cinderella is left crying on some curb, her dress a mess, cursing the night sky that collapses all around her, swearing herself to solitude for evermore 

Tell me why my wife can’t find a fragment of hope as I lie in pieces at her feet, a sad author offering to rewrite the final scene. You won’t tell me. You can’t. You're afraid to read your own dark fairy tale. Brave one gaze upon the years you left behind; you painted them over with gold but now the true color bleeds through and the picture is blurred beyond recognition. Could you have fixed it? Now time will not afford your effort to be whitewashed and begun anew. Now the gallery empties out, the patrons confused.

She’s on your path; I can see her off in the distance far behind your heavy steps. She’ll catch up. I can’t stop her. I can’t convince her that it’s not too late to take a chance on the narrow road back. She'll not hear me as I call to her now. 

There’s really very little left to say; you both want it this way. 

I’m defeated, though I fought well. I mapped out long impossible routes to rescue a dream. My spirit is extinguished. My feet fail me. My vision is blurred from sleepless nights. I cradle the dream while it bleeds out in my arms. I arrived too late. I hoped for the hopeless. I threw my only penny into the well. I wished upon the last star that fell from the sky and blacked out the night. I chased you, I chased her. I ran this race alone. I’m calling it a day. Sorry to have disturbed you both. I thank you for your time taken in reviewing my resume of resurrection.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Taste of Jello...Jello Biafra

Off the beaten path a moment...This one's an editorial. Enjoy.

I rifle through the racks of jeans at the Sally Ann store. It's the same old Sally Ann it always was, only now I don't shop to find my next neo-punk anarchist uniform...the faded, tight in the ass, loose in the legs and damn-all-of-society look; I just need to save some cash. I find a suitable pair among dozens, something that says: 

     "Yeah, I'm 40, but I can still kick some ass and I've got some serious night moves!"

     Uncertainty, however, hits me as I head to the register; I wonder if these Levis came by way of superstore or some other price slashing paradise, or rather, where they came from before that. Echoes of one Jello Biafra turn my walk to the cashier in this all but forgotten second hand store into a green mile. Jello journeys country wide, speaking, among other things, about why we need to reconsider supporting our local mega chains, and fast. There's a bigger price to pay for big savings. 

     1978...one of punk rock's most outspoken and controversial bands is in the works...the Dead Kennedys, fronted by Biafra.

      Dead Kennedys...the decline in American values following the last of the Kennedy reign.

     1985...Second Lady Tipper Gore launches an assault on an array of musical artists, including the Kennedys, Twisted Sister and Frank Zappa. Even John Denver is dragged in, for his hit song "Rocky Mountain High" which had nothing to do with dope and everything to do with spiritual cleansing. They are hauled into Senate hearings for their crimes of corrupting the youth of Wholesome Christian Corporate America via album content. The Kennedys are quickly put out of business as record retailers are strong-armed mafia style into dropping the band's vinyl by Gore's men in black. Tipper defends the bad behaviour, the blood of freedom dripping from her fangs. All artists are aquitted of any wrong-doing, but Jello's home is literally invaded by San Francisco police, where they hold him at gun-point while they search his home for obscenity related materials. The incident is denied by all involved.

     Biafra isn't thwarted; singer becomes public speaker, hitting a new stage with the same decisive message: In truth we trust, not government, greed or manipulated media. (post Ted Turner CNN)


     2012...a fire rips through a shoddy, sub-standard Bangladesh garment factory, claiming 112 lives. All exits were locked, as per daily protocol, to prevent workers from leaving the building. Who's the biggest client of this sweatshop? WalMart. Coming in a close second and third, H&M and Gap. The concerned corporate cats send their utmost condolences. In their defense, they ship their inspectors to these shops routinely. (Albeit with plenty of notice for the overlords.) All said, foreign foundry fires are on the rise. 

78% of Bangladesh's export revenue comes from clothing, shipped to wealthy North America...stores like Sears, Dickens, Nike and even old Walt Disney. These chains do a thriving business in foreign markets with the blessings of government hypocrisy. Want the stats on our Chinese imports? Cheap labor's always in style.

     Biafra is no mere misguided missile, simply content to dwell within society's expectations of the average antisocial punk rocker, many of them rebels with little cause. He launches only the most educated and passionate attack on government and corporate corruption. He's researched every syllable he spits into the mic, whether on the music stage or the speaker stage.

     Jello...a mass produced, easily prepared product...evidence of North America's obsession with instant, affordable gratification. 
Biafra...a now non-existent, impoverished Nigerian state...the sort of place we'd rather not think about when we hit the markdown aisles.

     Jello Biafra...a name that says it all.









Friday, August 2, 2013

Featured Writer for August, John Keats (1795-1821)

Keats is considered one of the great romantic poets, although his work received little attention during his lifetime (take heart, young writers!) Keats' work only saw publication during the final four years of his life.
Perhaps there is much truth in the notion that an artist can well operate ahead of his/her time...
or at least somewhere outside of his time, and create endearing work that although existing on the fringe of contemporary thought, can stand with room to spare as a lasting treasure for the ages. This is the case with John Keats, who's work is now widely revered, studied and analyzed. John Keats can safely take a seat along side 
Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.

A promising (and practicing) surgeon, having begun his life in the medical profession, John Keats would devote increasingly more time to his writing. His first published work: "Oh Solitude" was featured in a popular liberal magazine, The Examiner, in 1816. 
Thereafter, Keats' published works would receive mixed reviews.

In 1818, he found true love in young Francis (Fanny) Brawne. Much writing was devoted to her. It is unclear exactly how intimate the two became, although Keats left many hints in correspondence to those close to him, letters to her directly, and in his writing.

John Keats' final act fell upon him in 1820, in the form of a common illness at the time, Tuberculosis. He was advised to relocate to a warmer climate, and thus went to Greece to live out his days. His last year was shadowed by depression and longing for Fanny Brawne. 

Keats was convinced that he had left no substantial literary legacy to follow him, but with the biographical publication of his life and work, 27 years after his death by Richard Monckton Milnes, Keats was launched into the canon of great British writers, and his stronghold in the field lives to this day.


Sonnet to Fanny (1819)

I cry your mercy-pity-love!-aye, love!
Merciful love that tantalizes not,
One-thoughted, never wandering, guileless love,
Unmask'd, and being seen-without a blot!
O! let me have thee whole,-all-all-be mine!
That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of love, your kiss,-those hands, those eyes divine,
That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast,-
Yourself-your soul-in pity give me all,
Withhold no atom's atom or I die,
Or living on perhaps, your wretched thrall,
Forget, in the mist of idle misery,
Life's purposes,-the palate of my mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind


You Say You Love

You say you love; but with a voice,
Chaster than a nun's, who singeth
The softest vespers to herself
While the chime-bell ringeth-
O love me truly!

You say you love; but with a smile
Cold as sunrise in September,
As you were saint Cupid's nun,
and kept his weeks of Ember.
O love me truly!

You say you love-but then your lips
Coral tinted teach no blisses,
More than coral in the sea-
The never pout for kisses-
O love me truly!

You say you love; but then your hand
No soft squeeze for squeeze returneth,
It is like a statue's dead-
While mine to passion burneth-
O love me truly!

O breathe a word or two of fire!
Smile, as if those words should burn me,
Squeeze as lovers should-O kiss
And in thine heart inurn me!
O love me truly!

Faery Songs

Shed no tear-O shed no tear!
The flower will bloom another year.
Weep no more-O weep no more!
Young buds sleep in the root's white core!
Dry your eyes-O dry your eyes!,
For I was taught in Paradise
To ease my breast of melodies-
Shed no tear.

Overhead-look overhead
'Mong the blossoms white and red-
Look up, look up-I flutter now
On this flush pomegranate bough-
See me-'tis this slavery bill
Ever cures the good man's ill-
Shed no tear-O shed no tear!
The flower will bloom another year.
Adieu-Adieu-I fly, adieu,
I vanish in the heaven's blue-
Adieu, Adieu!




Friday, July 19, 2013

Featured Writer, July 2013, Leonard Cohen

The following passages are poetry excerpts from Leonard Cohen's Book "The Energy Of Slaves" published in 1972. Excellent Read! To understand some of these writings, it is helpful to peer into his life at the time of publication...climbing the ladder of commercial success with his music, questioning the validity of the music industry, questioning his own place within that business, questioning the onslaught of friends, fame and fortune, (the latter two which he despised in many ways) and becoming a new father when domestic life was certainly a suffocation for him.
To top his emotional state, he toured heavily throughout Europe and North America, fuelled by Mandrax and LSD. He also felt that his recorded work should remain only in recordings, and initially only toured at the behest of his record label. Leonard, at one time believed that replaying the music in a live format turned the songs into a mere commercialized effort, thus betraying the purity of his songs.
That said, Cohen has secured legions of devotees, especially in Europe, and has ever been filled with gratitude for his audiences. He has even taken his touring into mental hospitals, as to connect with all facets of society, especially those who had minimal privilege.
From the 1970s era was distilled "The Energy of Slaves", he himself feeling like a slave to the music industry, and others, slaves to money, power and fame.
Leonard is a true artist; honest, eloquent, often brutally frank and deeply concerned about the integrity of his life's work. 
Thank you, Mr. Cohen!

*most of the poems in the book were left untitled, and as such, I have simply inserted the word "poem" to divide the writings

    *I have searched in vain for this book, and only a borrowed copy was afforded me. I do believe it is out of print. I strongly encourage readers however, to purchase books whenever possible, whether digital or print, and support their creators!


Poem...

I know there's no such thing
as hell or heaven
I know it's 1967
but are you sleeping have you slept
with any of my friends
It's not just something I want to know
it's the only thing I want to know
not about the mystery of God
not about myself
and am I the beautiful one
The only wisdom I want to have
is to know if I am
or if I am not alone in your love

Poem...
I left a woman waiting
I met her sometime later
she said, Your eyes are dead
What happened to you, lover
And since she spoke the truth to me
I tried to answer truly
Whatever happened to my eyes
happened to your beauty
O go to sleep my faithful wife
I told her rather cruelly
Whatever happened to my eyes
Happened to your beauty

Poem...
I walk through the old yellow sunlight
to get to my kitchen table
the poem about me
lying there with the books
in which I am listed
among the dead and future Dylans
You can understand
I am in no hurry to make the passage
The sunlight is old and yellow
a flood of what I laboured
to distill a tiny drop of
in that shabby little laboratory
called my talent
I stand here dreaming in my sweat
(you would fall in love with me again)
dreaming of a tie a shirt
a white suit a life
a new life in a warm city
far from the envious practice
of written speech
O look what the summer
has done to the daisies in my yard
Their skeletons must look like scrap and junk
to many lovers of the cabbage
(and to be perfectly fair
even to many lovers of the daisy)

Poem...
You are almost always with someone else
I'm going to burn down your house
and fuck you in the ass
If you have the presence of mind
to look over your shoulder
you'll see me swooning
Why don't you come over to my table
with no pants on
I'm sick of surprising you.




FIRST PUBLISHED 1972
© 1972 BY LEONARD COHEN
JONATHAN CAPE LTD, 30 BEDFORD SQUARE, LONDON WCI
ISBN Hardback 0 224 00787 4
Paperback 0 224 00817 X
PRINTED AND BOUND IN GREAT BRITAIN
BY RICHARD CLAY (THE CHAUCER PRESS) LTD
BUNGAY, SUFFOLK
PAPER MADE BY JOHN DICKINSON & CO. LTD

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Three Beautiful Losers


How could I forgive him? You steam and foam at the mouth, Mother, as you spit the ultimate question. What single saintly act was so profound as to erase one thousand other acts that when patched together form the picture of your permanent sorrow? And how could I forgive him for making me merely one more piece in his plan against you? I was a throwaway pawn, I’d known that all along; the last child to leave you for him. Ironically, he was also my pawn in the game…the strategy that was supposed to set me free and put you in check; at least I tried. 

“Get him out of here!” you cry. He’s dead and gone! Don’t resurrect him now!”

    You’d waited decades for his glorious passing. Did your sorrow go up in the smoke of his cremation, as you so hoped? Did your air get a little cleaner when he stopped breathing it? How could I forgive him? He stomped on our hearts and stole our future. How could I forgive you? You took every ounce of his pain and passed it around; it was too much for one person to choke down. How could I forgive myself? I spent decades drinking the both of you out of my vision, kicking my liver and my brain like it was their fault. My children hide. My wife cries. The beagle has taken up residence under the television stand. 

Now, Mother, all three of us stand over this cesspool of tears, three beautiful losers, throwing stones into it, distorting our own reflections

           Why should I take the lead now in cleaning the mess? Tell me, Mother, why?

Now we’re standing at this murky pond of the past:

           “Been awhile, hasn’t it, Kay?” He grins like a guilty schoolboy.

            You look away in determined silence, tapping one foot, furious that I’d dragged you both together. He looks right at you, knowing that his eyes are burning right through you. He becomes Charlie Chaplin and trips over himself for your bitter amusement, falling to his knees:

     “Oh, my darling Kay, why have you run away?” Da-da-dum-da-dum-dee-dum

     You turn and offer derisive applause, with renewed conviction that this clown is to blame for your every tear, your every twitch. 
     
       He grabs you by a leg while he’s down on bended Chaplin knee and pulls you into the pool of tears, dragging you deep. You kick and scream and struggle for air. He’s not letting go. He didn’t go up in a puff of smoke after all. The crazed killer of dreams has come to call from depths unknown. Your eyes leap from their sockets. Your extra hold hair floats away from your head like thousands of desperate fingers clawing at the surface. Your cakeup floats away from your face, clouding any possible escape. Your heart begins to beat again. 

“I knew it!” you cry as you feel the bottom with your feet; I knew it: words for your final exit. You gave half of every day to knowing he’d return to take you down, force you to taste that first drunken smack again. You didn’t know when, you didn’t know how, but you knew it to be true. What you didn’t know was that he was always in your shadow; you yourself invited him. I stand on the muddy shore and allow the crime. I brought you here; this was part of my plan, for both of our sakes.

           Dad often discussed the state of affairs between the two of you:
  
          “Jay, it’s been over thirty years. She said she was only going out for milk and bread. Do you think she’s coming back? I was thinking of dating again, but I want to be sure.” 

            I’d roar with laughter while he did a drum roll in mid air, beaming with his inimitable goofy grin. 

           Perhaps I should be a little harder on the guy; his comedy only had merit in the moments long after the dreams he’d broken were swept away and all but forgotten; long after the blood had dried and the dust had settled on yesterday, covering it in a blanket, putting it to sleep so that we could peek in on it from time to time without fear.

            But Mother, Dear Mother, you wear yesterday like a slave’s collar! The weight of it chokes you and pulls you closer to the dust from which you came and to which we all return. There is precious little time now, Mother. Tear it from your neck! Toss it into the pond and let it sink and be seen no more! Make a break from the chain gang and run to the hills! Let time forgive you, as it has me, for tossing it to the wind and assuming it would always be there while we played blame games and hung our loathing like a dream catcher, becoming tangled alas in our own nets.


















Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mother, The Nurse and The Lady in White

This is the opening chapter to the memoir. It has just been selected to appear in Cactus Heart Press's Issue #4 Thanks for reading, one and all!


I clung to the shore, but Morpheus held me fast in his undertow. If I could but open my eyes his hold would loosen. My lids were heavy, my body not wanting to leave the warm wet blanket of permanent sleep as a thousand snakes slid out of the water and lingered on my skin, preparing their strike. We twisted and turned in the tropical bath; a dance for the gods. I saw my feet like two small detached pillars planted miles away. She rose up between them, larger than the universe itself. She wore white. Her face was the sun. Her hair, delicate fingers plucking beads of light out of the darkness. Her eyes saw every yesterday, her smile assured tomorrow’s arrival. 

     “Wake up!” A lush, liquid, resonant voice no mortal could conceive.

     “But I cannot.”

     “Wake up”

     “What if I don’t wish to wake up?”

     “You must.”

     “The world is ugly.”

     “The world is beautiful.”

     “It’s a mockery.”

     “It’s art.”

     “I am not art. I am nothing”

     “You can be anything. Open your eyes.”

     “I refuse.”

     “Not this time.”

     The shore of my death dream suddenly shrank into a vacuum. The snakes shot like lightning into the unseen distance. I bolted out of bed. Oxygen hit me like a knockout punch. I found my feet and struggled through my doorway, feeling walls, finding the hall 
that spun around and around, mocking my journey. I found the shape of Dad sitting there, stealing a moment of solitude before the workday began. He leapt from his chair:

     “What is wrong with you?”

His voice was drawn out in stringy, syrupy threads that echoed from some far away place.:

      “Jay! (jay-jay-jay)What (t-t-t-t)  have you done (ne-ne-ne-ne)?”

      “Oh, e-e-e-t-t-th-h-e-e-er…fa-a-a-t-t-t-ther…for-r-r-g-gi-i--i-f-f-f-o-r-r-g-g-o-o-t-t-t-f-o-o-r-r-g-g-g-e-t-t-f-f-fu-u-u-u---smok-k-k-n-n-n-e-e-ed-d-a-a-a-s-s-smo-o-o-k-a-a-a,-s-s-h-sh-sh-shi-i-t-t-t -I’m-m-m- gon-n-n-n-n-na-a-a-a…"

     “Jay! (ay-ay-ay)” He gripped my shoulders, shaking me frantically.

     “ 33 + 3 x@ x 7 x 7= &*#$=r=r=4=*?"                                                                  

     Dad darted for his car keys and threw on a jacket:

     "Follow (ow-ow) Me! (me-me)"

     “Huhh? 7? 9x $? Wha-a-a-t--i-i-i-s-s-s-wa-a-a….”

      I landed in his car somehow.

      Hospital. Back Door.

     “Drink this! You have to drink this!”

     The doctor cried frantically, his voice bouncing like a hard rubber ball off of the cold walls of the last stop room. A red plastic cup forced my mouth open and rancid liquid chalk rushed down my throat like a tidal wave. I want bubblegum flavor for my death 
watch, not standard issue overdose goop! 

     A sky full of eyes shot down on me like stars in my dark night. The aliens were probing and prodding, talking in gravely gabble, consonants and vowels colliding. 

      “Vomit! You must vomit now!”

     But you just told me to drink! Which is it? You make no sense, alien doctor! 

     The strangers conferred: “He’s not throwing up.”

      “No, indeed, he’s not!”

      “He must throw up. He simply must!”

      “Yes, yes, of course!”

     A bright light. A thousand watt invasion. Was it the light of man’s creation or the sun of a new world? Had the angel lost her fight with Morpheus? 

     The tired hands of time: tick…tick…click…clunk. Stop. Sleep.
      
     24 hours...
                                                   
     “You’re back!”

Chirped the chipper young nurse, bouncing like a butterfly around my room, drawing the shades, cruelly inviting the sunlight to join me. I stole a glance. My world had stopped spinning.

     “Should I not be back?”

     She leaned in close to whisper serious words that made her uneasy:

      “We didn’t expect you to be joining us again.”

     She raised one eyebrow and tilted her head in a soft scolding, motherly sort of way:

      "We're going to have to put you on careful watch."

      “Watch what? Watch me run out the door in my backless gown? I had too much fun, fuck off! I can walk, I can talk! I'm fine!”

      Closer still, deeper whisper:

     “You tried to die. There was enough…well…(look around the room, gather your secrets) enough stuff in you to take down ten men.”

      “But…but wait a sec…”

      My throbbing skull held me to my pillow. My words struggled against a sticky tongue.

     “We’ll check in on you. You just rest.”

      I caught the clipboard with a newborn eye as she leaned in: 1600 mgs. Attempted Suicide. Manic Depressive.

     My dealer had given me eight enchantment pills. They were for life, not death! Why did anyone dope himself? He’d handed them off quickly on a forgotten corner, always in a hurry, always doing business: 

     “Here you go. You earned it, soldier. (runner, seller, fall 
guy, fool.) Just like bein’ drunk! But Be damn careful with them!”  

     He said to never take more than four. I started at three of course, waited an hour, no glow. Four, nothing. Five, six and seven, same. What is this crap? No wonder it was free! Eight was the magic number, gathering the other seven and coursing quietly through me while I slept; commanding every blood vessel, steering me into deep, dark, uncharted waters.

     I’d went to the city fair and eaten too much candy. It was suicide by simple self-amusement, but they’d never believe me. They thought I was a ghost. I was indeed dying to the world they knew. I was indeed trying to break through the surface of things.

     They let me have a guitar in my room, but I could imagine their whispers, which they later admitted to:

     “I think he has drugs inside of it. His friend brought it in, right past our desk.“

One young nurse to another.

     “Right past our desk?“

     “He was walking rather quickly.”  

The sudden awareness of their own naïveté would redden their brows.

     “Go to his room and have a peek.” 

     “No, you do it!”

The pair likely listened briefly to the broken bird beating the strings, stretching his wings, struggling to sing:

     “Well, perhaps it will help him. If he’s taking drugs we’ll know.”

     “It’s shift change anyhow soon. Just make a note of it.”

     “Sure. (What form is that?)"

     Across the street to Occupational Therapy I walked daily with the chain gang. We’d construct cute trinkets and hear pretty praises. We’d throw bows on baskets and fashion candy dishes from wooden craft kits. It was the first day of school, every day, for us, the souls who’d wandered beyond the barriers of life. We, the candy dish crew, had fallen, all but forgotten by the wayside, tripping and rolling away from the human race. We were handed hobbies as consolation prizes. Is there a diversion factory somewhere that specializes in basswood cutouts, ribbons and blueprints for those who can’t quite finish the marathon? Does our cause feed families?

     "Off to work, Dear. See you at five. Cuttin’ soap holders today; can’t wait!"

      The world turned in our absence as we sat in the safe insulation of our stumbling blocks. Our biggest worry was keeping non-toxic glue out of our fingernails and making the tough decision between jelly beans and ju-jubes that would fill our creations. I was fond of both, and always torn. I never shared. The true mark of a man is how much candy he’s willing to part with. Shame on me.

     I saw you there, Mother, in your padded foam cubicle, not far from the padded cells, scribbling life sentences with educated guesses. You decided who was crazy and who was just lazy. Did they give you my file? I was your specialty. I can hardly blame you for paying me no mind as I walked down your office halls to the candy dish factory, inching back away from death. You live on the surface of things. I could never expect you to jump into my icy water; you would surely perish. Surely you found me in one of your books, I know I’m there in black and white. But you knew if you reached out your hand, I might pull you in.

     You tried. You braved your way to the fourth floor of the hospital; the floor where death lives, where I was given back my marbles by the great Mystery, where I was to succumb, according to all logic.You sat with me in silence, drawn there by a flickering 
instinct, searching, but knowing not what your instinct had called you to find. Ghosts crowded the room. You saw them. Was your father among them? You stayed as long as you could. It was a brave attempt, sticking your foot into the icy water through a soft spot in your world. 

     Dad was there too, almost daily, with candy bars and magazines. It seems that death brought you both closer to life for a time.

     They were baffled by me. They were sure it was impossible that oxygen ran through me and that I could pronounce the most intricate of words. I’d told them about the Lady in White, and they nodded and smiled. Helluva drug, eh kid? I can see you nodding and smiling too: 
     
     "Angels live on Christmas trees! Don’t be silly! Call your shrink!"

     We are tied to the Infinite; the Great Equation that numbers dare not approach, the great I Am, the great You Aren't, the One who could crush us to dust with his baby toe but who kneels right beside us as we chase our days.

    I woke up from death; I close my case. It was years before I  remotely respected the magnitude of the whole mess; some lessons are stretched across many miles, like fine wine, time being the only true mark of quality. It is that journey, Mother, that has led me back here to you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Open The Door



     Open the door; it’s cold out here and Dad’s drinking beer!
Open the door and let the flightless bird in! Open the door and let yourself back in; the girl you evicted for having a broken heart! Open the door to your prison full of ghosts; let them mingle in your new world order. Invite them to a sleepover. Make quaint little party pastries and sing a Catholic prayer together. Open the door to every yesterday and run inside and play awhile; taste some blood. Bathe in hot salty tears. Step barefoot on broken beer glass and feel the sting of life. Let first love stain your favorite dress. Let the furniture fly. Straddle the drunk hubby; make him a baby to rock him to sleep. Dance around the maple tree again. Let your hair get tossed in the wind in a world without extra hold spray. Let your cakeup smear from the sweat of freedom’s run. Climb the vacant 
screen of the old drive-in and blow the dust from love’s altar. Climb back into your father’s lap and offer soft embrace while he slumps, slurps, drools and belches beer. Sing him a lullaby. Love him to death. Open the door; surely you see it. Open the door; you 
can borrow my key. Open the door, lest time and tears turn to rust and seal it at last like a cement tomb. Open the door, my name is Son.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ladies Man


Her name was Linda; petite, porcelain, dirty blonde, slightly jaded just as I. In a twist of circumstances, she was more to me than a show piece. At a fork in the road, a new life lesson; things aren’t always what they appear to be.

Like those who’d gone before her, it was her who had found me; 
I never chased. But I quickly hungered for her. I found solace in simple gestures…holding hands, a stolen kiss in the high school hallway, a walk under the downtown bridge to kick clam shells and sip cheap whiskey. Her voice was a soft song in my ears; it didn’t really matter what she said; her tone was playful and gentle, her words dancing off of her tongue like a delicate Mozart Minuet. Some girls just have it, whatever “it” is. Or perhaps the “it” factor is merely a man’s mind ignoring what isn’t “it” in a woman. Her tight Levis and tiny shirts perfected her, though I swore to myself I’d wait if need be, to unwrap my gift.

It wasn’t a long affair, and there’s a reason for that. To say that I knew anything about love is to say that Cupid should be Pope. To say that I knew how to read people is to assume I knew anything at all about my own tangled mind. To say that I should have seen this one coming…well, I won’t say it, thank you.

What should have been the beginning was the end. Two months into our affair, we found ourselves sitting at her house on a school night, somehow suddenly struggling to make conversation while her TV set babbled for no-one. I tried:

“That new Warrant album…sweet eh?”

“Uh-huh.” She was blank and fixed on the TV.

“Man, McMillan’s a royal bitch! I hate English class!”

“Yeah.”

Three hours! Three hours, each minute more painful than the last. Each minute saw me scrape my mind for new small talk, the usual flow of our dialogue now suspended in unfamiliar, awkward silence. What had happened? 

I eyed her with animal instinct. Her perfume was almost narcotic in its pull. Her bra strap peered out from a loose fitting shirt, inviting me into its sacred purpose. A pair of breasts is the ultimate symbol of life, of love and sweet longing! A pair of breasts could start a war and stop it again! Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime. Show a man a healthy rack, he’ll forget that he was hungry in the first place!

I wanted to explore her secret places, invade her outright! But I swore to be a gentleman. This could be love. Love could take offense to such a strong front. But are there really any gentlemen in the world, or are we simply patient hunters, becoming ever more refined at getting what we want, whether flesh or immaterial pursuits?

She didn’t want a gentleman. She really had no use for love. She knew too well that beginnings usually had endings; that a hello was almost always followed by a goodbye. Nothing was certain, nothing was safe. Her dad had left, and so would every man. Men were for fun…like carnival rides; enjoy them, squeeze out every thrill, move on.

She moved on. My sincerest moment to date, my utter resistance to self-seeking was dropped like an unused ticket. She went so far as to offer me no parting words, no explanation, underlining her contempt that I hadn’t given her what she’d came for. I left the awkward evening with a quick unnecessary kiss and relief that I was leaving. I heard the news that it was over from a friend of hers the following day:

“You never made a move on her, silly man! Are you afraid or something? Do I have to show you how it’s done?” Her adorable and devilish friend spelled it out for me behind an old church hall,
finding her way down my front side with warm, experienced hands and a playful giggle. She brought me to full attention:

“How do you like those bananas?”  

I allowed the hormonal heat of the moment, which continued at her house.

Afterward, a new feeling. A strange, uneasy, subtle self-loathing. Between the two women, I was merely a toy, a carnival ride. My Romeo had been duped. Lesson learned. It was inevitable that the user was used at last. It was simply time for the champ to take a knockout punch. I didn’t complain too loudly about the sudden sting on my heart; I didn’t want the unseen forces that had changed my game to deal me another bad card. I thanked the fates for dirty school girls and carried on. Of course, youth is a fleeting thing, and lessons are often fumbled during the race. When you’re young, you tend to laugh at time. As you age, time tends to laugh back. Lessons are learned best when we look behind us.

That said, there was a new love waiting for me on the outer edges of my horizon; a love that would deal me a trump card and close the table for all time.