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Saturday, November 15, 2014

For the Time We Have Left...

And history will repeat itself yet again. The characters have changed, but the script remains intact-a black play pulled from a dusty shelf and brought to life again on a dim stage. I shall be my father and the woman who bore my child shall be my embittered, aimless adversary. She will appear as a ragged, aged doll, rarely bothering to bother with appearances anymore. I shall be a skeleton with sunken eyes, rarely bothering to nourish flesh that is laced with contempt. Our sin has found us out. As we walked blindly to the wedding altar, we both gave vows to the devil we know. The Devil has taken the reigns and steered us into dark, uncharted waters. In the disastrous wake of our union, we will improvise some of the lines of the original script, but the lethal message will remain the same. The lesson was not learned. The players will reveal all of the ferocity of the original cast. God willing, the children of this generation will not pay as we did, the price of war. Yet if this play is allowed to run every act, they will pay; the parent war will rage on. Let us burn this script, shall we?


written in 2011


“Please just leave us be for the time we have left.”

No! You can’t say that! This game is far from over! 

It nearly killed me, that dagger, bitter womb of my fruit! I open the mail with my morning coffee and out jumps the knife, cutting so deep that every day since has been a recovery. I’m left with a dull, constant crippling pain. I’d survived every one of your blows with fierce eyes and sharp teeth. I’d slept beside wolves on the mean streets when home was no longer an option. I’d eaten crumbs and swallowed every curse you spat at me. But now this: You’re not mine. Go away. 

If I am not yours, the seed of your soul, whatever your soul’s worth, whatever that mysterious primordial bond cashes in at, than I am no-one’s-a flickering, feeble light on a cold, endless trek. No source, no destination. No beginning, a tragic end.  Close the book and call it a life.

I’m vacant. I often cower from the noisy day-to-day: 
“What time will you be home?… help me with the groceries…did you go to the bank?…Daddy can I have…Daddy what’s for dinner…Daddy…Dear…Can I…Can you…Fix this…Are you….When you….Will you…” 

Music is flat and tuneless, food tastes tasteless. There are no guests. If people passed through, I'd need to come alive and serve cheese trays and coffee and paint on a face for the occasion.

I couldn’t help but share with Dad your deeds of days gone by; how you’d cuss and curse that a B should have been an A, how Ted Nugent spoke the doctrine of the devil, how hippy hair would choke out my future, how guitar and girl dreams were simply something found in a bubble gum comic. Quit wasting your mind, gum gets made by the worthless millions! I was bursting at the seams with your wretched burden! I had to exorcise the demon memories. Dad was a good listener. Could I have truly imagined that he would write his own little book and send it off to you, a dagger of his own: Proof that you’re a lousy Mother written by J.W. Burroughs, co-written by his son.? Was it the nature of the attack that turned you sour for me, as though I myself had conspired the rag and tracked down your mailing address? Was it the poison within the pages that sickened you? Was it the person within those words that pushed you out of your window, or was it a collision of all three realities? It certainly dug well below the surface of things. Dad was a deep thinker. I was beside myself the day he pulled out a copy of your gift and handed it to me, beaming as though he’d written the next best-seller and I was the agent who 
would vindicate it all: 

“You wrote this? You mailed it to her? Are you out of your fucking mind?”

I had still hoped, embittered one, that things could be different for us. Dad decided things should be different too…finalized in his own fashion:

“I’m trying to help you out here! Throw me a bone, Jay! You didn’t deserve any of her shit!”  


“ Thirty God-damn years! Thirty years ago! Drop it!"

I half expected one of his signature backhands to silence my rebuttal. None came. Only an icy, distant stare reflected my hopeless reaction, as though the madman was contemplating, perhaps cowering at what I had just said.

"Pour me a drink. Jesus, Dad!”

And there we sat in silence, gulping Sherry and cola, chain smoking, stealing sideways glimpses of one another, pretending to watch the television as it chattered away. We searched painfully for small talk. Dad’s features eventually softened and his eyes became those of a scolded schoolboy:

“I did it for you, you know.”

“Bullshit!" I grumbled as I finally drifted off into a sitting sleep. 

I wasn’t leaving his dusty, smoke-filled cheap-wine reeking apartment that night; he needed a time-out and I had to stand guard to enforce it. 

Dad’s convictions ran through him like a deep and twisted river lined with muddy banks and odd thorny growth where most would dare not tread, but they were his convictions. He fancied himself as being voice for all men. Deep down, I applauded his efforts that day, despite the scolding I laid on him. He had his facts in order, his ducks lined up. He found the words that were stuck in my own throat and shot them like bullets at you. He was an English teacher; he knew the ins and outs of analogies and descriptive. His style was delicious, we both must admit it. He relished the thought of your total demise; that too is undeniable. I wasn’t totally with him on that sentiment, but you’ve been off of my gift list for awhile now. He crafted his raft well and took you down his muddy banks:

“Perhaps a gentle reminder of some of the landmark issues of the past might shed some light on that dim landscape you inhabit…”

Powerful prose. You chewed through every word like it was a tough steak, determined to finish the meal, determined to digest it all and get back to your feet. Dad taught you well how to get back up, at any cost, your ray of light penetrating the surface of things. How many copies of this crap, you wondered. How many copies? (“I intend to show this letter to some people we both know.”)  Close the curtains, don‘t answer the phone! The neighbors could be reading it too! The glossy pages of your Better Homes and Gardens magazine were torn and tossed into a wild wind by Dad’s love letter. You scrambled to piece them all back together so you could hide safely again. You circled and defended your wounded facade like a crazed shark, waiting for me to swim past. How does my blood taste?

There was a way out for you at that moment,  Mother...a chance to leave the surface of things and find a deeper cause, a better condition. It all could have had a happy ending, I swear it. Dad only meant malevolence, but you could have been redeemed! Every soul, at some point must stop and take stock, even when the inventory is ugly. Demons can’t occupy us unless we allow them to. We can’t expel them until we see them. Did you learn nothing working in the hospital? Does a cancer patient deny his condition in the face of facts, even unto death’s door? Did not sickness, suffering, death, health, healing and hope, when all stitched together show you the greater canvas, the map that points us to a more certain destiny? Did you just toss remedies around all day, a needle here, a pill there, like an educated vending machine, no thought to your purpose?  Is your surface so solid that no depth may penetrate it? Perhaps my depth is too deep. Perhaps those rays of light that break through the surface of things haven’t fully reached me down here.

Please just leave us be…

Of course I will.

“...for the time we have left.”

Not  just yet, Mother...not just yet. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dusty Reels

Was it really you swinging around that ancient maple, lush brown hair bouncing in the breeze like a perfect partner, your summer dress spinning like a carousel, your deep set eyes reflecting sweet illimitable youth? Even through the faded film and the tired machine you jumped right off of the screen. I don’t believe I’ve ever met that girl, Mother.

He took you as his in the age of Aquarius. He had that unforgettable smile with the unforgettable space between his two front teeth. He had the charm of a stately prince; I’ve seen him cast his spell on those reels of old. He had the venom of a vicious snake; you were bitten in the end. What was it like before time froze you? Were there swing sets and drive-ins that witnessed dreams from now forgotten, Technicolor screens, the speaker boxes standing as best men at the union of passion‘s first fruits? Did he sneak up your skirt to find the entrance to love’s universe? Was he a taker or did you freely give? Were any of us conceived in a backseat? Did your dad approve of the safe information he was given on your new cause? What was the first meal offered to your prince; running home one day after studies: 

“Oh Mother, you won‘t believe…please, Mother, please!”

“Ask your father“ is what she said. Father was in charge and always took charge, you could bet another drink on it. Always another drink. You’d found your prince but Father was still King. I’ll bet it was roast beef, his favorite fodder. He’d bury it in black pepper to your whole family’s amazement. You got him home after studies, but there was a look in his eyes when he laid them on the layout...a hut at best with seven siblings. Four small walls stretched to their limits to shelter ten souls and fence in innumerable family secrets. He said nothing but you knew. You knew more than ever that something wasn’t right. You wanted to tear that bottomless beer right out of your dad’s hands and hurl it far from existence. How much did that beer cost Father? How much does comfort cost? The math didn’t add up. You never forgave the old drunk. Your prince still pined over you though. A sigh of relief. Close call. For a time, the dream blossomed. You found a little palace of your own, planned far from the home you knew. You lived where lawns looked like plastic, cheap siding was a sin and maids whispered among themselves in green spite. You confused comfort with affluence and your prince found a better paying job, rejecting the public school system for the more lucrative Catholic dole. At some point came the settling in...the burps, the snoring, the skipping of sex in favor of sleep. It was true love, love beyond the surface of things- something you hadn’t seen on a drive-in screen-a bittersweet blend.

Then came the dream‘s end like a sudden storm on a sunny beach- a bare knuckled, backhanded conclusion to the day. All you had said was that dinner was cold from sitting so long. Perhaps you'd spoken slightly too loud. How dare you disrespect! You tasted blood for the first time. Salt poured from your eyes and burned innocent flesh. The color ran from your face. You’d need a stitch or two. What would you tell them in the emergency room? Who are you? Where is my prince? What have you done with him? You smelled the beer, the elixir of demons, and you thought of Dad. But Dad never did such a thing! Dad could deliver the goods with a word alone. He followed up with flowers and sweet love songs in his cute pitchy voice. Oh, how he charmed his students with similar songs, one of the best teachers the board had to offer: 

Da-da-dum-da-dee-dee-dum…I am sorry that you’re sad. Learn the math and you’ll be glad! He’d close each number like Charlie Chaplin tripping over himself and the kids got straight A’s. Why did they love him? Why did you love him? Why did that priest love him when he asked you leave at last, as divorce was unholy? To hell with your scars! He was home on time for a month and you were back in his arms. Another sigh of relief. Close call. He promised much. Promises get broken.

There were more harms to come. He often reeked of booze and strange perfume at odd hours. Your throat was torn from trying to pull answers out of him. Perhaps he needed more love than most, you decided; just a little more love and the drunken frog would become prince once again. He showed no signs of slowing though as you cleaned faster, cooked better and laid him down often in last minute tactics of self-preservation. You bore three of us as you mastered your pain. You dragged us through our days and kept us safe within stone walled rooms of the prison by night as furniture flew and sex would not calm the storm. You added layers to your facade until your head hung low and heavy. Your tears would finally fall in hidden rooms. If you cried in plain sight, he didn’t notice anyway. Eventually you disappeared entirely, like a framed flower slowly fading into the wall from the torture of time. You looked out of your sad window into life, whatever life was supposed to be, and you planned your escape.

I must admit Mother, if you will allow me to be so bold, that you wanted him the very way he was. We all eventually draw ourselves toward the devil we know...and often times, that devil has grown since we last knew him. We all, in one way or another, seek to harvest the seeds that were planted in us when we were but sprouts ourselves-the seeds of life as we were taught when we knew nothing. Such a foundation is shaky and complex, but unmovable within us.

My dad was your dad; they were the same, save for the broken teeth and backhands that etched a vast chasm between them. Daddy dearest was the dearest you’d ever seen, and you sought his face in 
every crowd until you found the one to fill the shoe print he’d left on your grand design. 

Your memories are all but erased now, and the look of a warrior composes your face. Life will be safe behind your mighty sword. You wonder from time to time as you paint on your mask in the mirror each day, was that dusty dream even real? Did a princess once live behind these eyes? Did she  have children? Na, couldn’t be so. A sigh of relief; you didn’t miss a thing. Life was always this way. Toss those reels, it’s not me. But your heart kicks and rebels as scenes from a dozen drive-in movies flash like lightning in the corner of your eyes. You look around, a burglar in your midst, but you turn away while he slowly, carefully robs you, marking the clock, knowing the exact hour that your house will be empty at last.

You’re here with me now. I can feel you. We’re sharing this rainy afternoon in the insulation of silence while the weather pelts the windows and the keyboard ratta-tat-tats. It’s just us. I am humbled by your cause. Don’t toss those ancient, dusty reels just yet, Mother; we can still push one more take through the lens.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Check It Out!

Agostino Scafidi, a literary friend of mine, has written a very interesting book, You can check out a sample here:

Dreams Fiction and Me

Agostino creates a colorful fictional work surrounding real-life dreams. There's something within the story that everyone can relate to.




Monday, October 27, 2014

A thought on memoirs...

"Families are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole."

Diane Sutterfiled, "The Thirteenth Tale"


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Daisy

My father once wrote a fiction novel. Though being fiction, having read the bulk of the 500 plus page work, I can attest that it is deeply autobiographical. It had been considered for publication, yet he was a stubborn man, plagued with perfectionism. He never turned over the work, its apparent inferiority on the literary landscape only something he saw. He would rather the words remain locked away than to face the alternative that should he publish, he may always look upon the effort and pine for just one more chance at revision. The self-loathing would have tortured him. I personally believe that he would have had none of an editor's input either, which goes hand-in-hand with publishing. He lived his life in much the same fashion-locking himself away from the world, knowing that he was far from perfect, toiling over revisions and never satisfied. 

He closed the final chapter in his life having challenged countless rewrites of this novel, and fortunately I have them all. I will, however, refer to the submitted version of the book in this excerpt. The story is called "Sweet, Baby Girl." It is a tale redemption, revenge, death and re-birth-of a villain and a heroine, of two lovers and one dream against every odd. 

My father's name was J.W. Burroughs, Burroughs also being my birth name. I will likely post more of this work, as it does deserve its place in the halls of literary fiction, despite the reality that he would surely stop me from doing so if he was here. I can see him now, angrily jamming his cigarette into the ashtray and flying over to the monitor, crying "Jesus, Jay, get that off of there!" while he seizes the mouse and deletes one more copy for perfectionism's sake, in much the same way that he deleted excerpts from his own life, time after time. 


This piece is from a chapter aptly titled   "Daisy"   (abridged)

It was that hushed, enchantingly serene time of late afternoon when all creation pauses as if to catch its breath before pressing onward into the clamour and urgency of early evening.

In the far corner of the patient sitting room, Daisy, like a ragged, wind-swept leaf was settled serenely in a generously proportioned, overstuffed wing chair adrift in shadowy yet cherished reveries-a charming diversion she pursued with ever increasing frequency. Long, hazy shafts of fading sunlight sliced through the narrow, elevated casement just behind her chair and spilled across the polished maple floorboards at her feet.

Her face, weathered paper fringed by careless wisps of silver, revealed a profound fatigue as though each breath was a frantic crusade whose sole mission was to prevail for yet one more. Clouded, vacant blue-grey eyes peered out from behind heavy lids and contemplated nothing. She lingered there, an amorphous assemblage of dishevelled blue terry-cloth, sagging stockings and worn, shapeless slippers.

And so, yet again, with an impertinence forged by more than seven decades of melancholy and disillusion, she had quit the field, abandoned the mundane cares of the ward and retreated quietly to this place. This was the sanctuary where she would ignore the vulgar mandates of the day. Here, she could once more visit the silent dusty rooms of long neglected, crumbling mansions and contemplate the sad distortions of yesteryear. It was her time to sing old, sad songs and whisper wistful tales of what might have been. It was her time to brush away the ominous ashes of days past and mark again the hymns of more promising times.

For so long she had journeyed through this veil like some sad gypsy, armed only with timid ambition and petrified dreams. The only child of humble, Irish immigrant labourers, she had been denied many of the trivial pleasures of youth and inculcated with the unforgiving sterile doctrines of perseverance and unwavering accountability. And so, two days following her sixteenth birthday, with a vigour born of quiet desperation, she had renounced all familial connections and ventured forth into a world she was ill-prepared to confront. Like a resolute, solemn child, she wove her way through a torturous succession of abusive and mercifully, barren relationships. It was a demoralizing epoch of incredible turmoil-of frenzied lust, alcohol and ten thousand screaming nights. Filled with righteous contempt she slogged through angry, blaring deserts and came to know the absolute anguish of her own mortality. And ultimately, as though to deny the awful misery of her own existence, she quietly retreated into herself and like some clever conjuror, fashioned a world filled with rainbows and faded paper flowers.

She populated the empty, blustery chasms of her life with icons of her own comprehension until, by her fifty-fifth birthday, she lay broken and confused, incapable any longer of tending her weedy gardens. Consequently she was given over to the caretakers and like a timid, startled bird, spent her days cowering in antiseptic corridors. Rationality had been usurped by schizophrenia, and soothing, sensible voices hushed the furious babble of yesterday. 
She had been set free-free to step out onto the high plane of imposed tranquility and to cavort with harmless mirages. Passion and vigilance had been transcended and reality had surrendered to illusion.

Sorrow and remorse had been cloaked in pale beauty and enduring anguished pleas for what might have been vanished in the howling winds of despair.

Slowly she raised her head and studied the room. Soon she would return to the ward and once again she would be tendered to those whose function it was to comfort and soothe and bear her away in a haze of chemical rapture. Breathing deeply, she allowed her head to fall gently to one side. A single tear rolled down her cheek and, with a faint unprotesting gasp, she departed from it all.


To Be Alone

For some, to be alone is to embrace a time of welcome, sustained reflection upon days past, days present and days to come. It is a stopover on the way to a deeper peace and a time when one may not be alone, but only if the company has been worth the journey.

For others, to be alone is to be cornered by one's self and made to confront every fatal flaw as the silence spills out its evidence like a tenacious prosecutor, inflicting fear of days to follow. It is a painful pit-stop that must be undertaken quickly. Such a person will almost always find someone to serve as a distraction-anyone at all will usually do. The two will call it love, but in reality it is usually a form of mutual use...girl meets boy and forgets her broken self. Boy meets girl and finds the approval of a prince in her arms, when he's always felt like a popper. Poor fellow has no idea that he did not in fact qualify to win her heart; he was merely walking past when her shadow closed in on her. Soon his embrace will feel to her like strangulation. In her haste, she had cast away the sacred vision of love in favour of a mirage, that quickly left her dry in desert dust. Soon her soft kisses will land cold and forced. She'll turn from him and he will give chase, so afraid he is of sleeping alone again. She will run without a goodbye, having never grown beyond a mere child who learned about love from a story book and a game in the woods.

Alone once more, they will each seek out another, to begin the charade again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

September's Hope

Sunshine embraces the morning, Mother, as if to apologize for its long absence. Its arrival is announced by a scattered chorus of finches, cardinals and squirrels that wake to greet the day. The approach of autumn lays its evidence with the occasional falling leaf, but still there is promise in the air of more warm days to come. The ancient maple and walnut trees that weave their way through the quiet, aged suburb are bejeweled with the dying summer's gold. Dew decorates the rows of lawns like a million diamonds. I open a large window in the main room and welcome the weather inside. A playful breeze passes through like a dancing kite. The aroma of fresh grass mingles with the subtle, earthy musk of autumn's approach-an agreeable perfume to fill my empty surroundings. The day arrives as a happy surprise, despite my fatigue. I was stirred from another brittle sleep by a pair of cardinals who'd pierced my bedroom window with their back and forth chatter.  

My wife is surely awake now, without me of course. The children run, jump, bark, bite, laugh and live while she spells out mechanical morning orders to pick up toys, clean rooms, comb tangled hair, scrub mucky faces. She likely steals a passing glance through the kitchen window, standing on the tiptoes of her petite frame and takes comfort as the golden warmth greets her. She has a long walk to work.

She hurries to ready herself for the day, finally having stolen five minutes in the bathroom. She drags a brush through soft and slightly curled deep brown hair that frames a beautiful face, draping just above her shoulders. Rich chocolate eyes fix on the mirror and she faces her age, which is noticeable only to her, really. I miss those eyes; they were wide and full of wonder. They were soft and slow to anger. They hungered, they longed, they laughed and loved. They loved me, Mother. But those days are behind us.

She composes herself quickly, needing no makeup mask for supple toned skin. Faint creases forming from the corners of her eyes map her forty year journey. Many of those lines are roads I took her down.  

With one eye on the clock that leads the race as always, she hurries through the house to deal with last minute details-bickering siblings, half-made school lunches and unsigned permission slips. Dirty laundry forms a small mountain on the landing in the stairwell, invisible to her as she sprints the familiar path. Fingerprints map children's journeys along the white-washed walls of the unassuming abode. Life lives freely here. A beautiful scent, a mixture of dirty socks, fried eggs and Kool-Aid hangs in the air. I remember it well. If I could trap and bottle that sweet perfume, I would bathe in it now. She misses nothing in the morning world; the children are safe every second and marching to their orders. Dinner is defrosting. The heap of laundry is shrinking. The after-school babysitter finally answered her phone and has promised to be more timely this time. I am far away but assuredly in my wife's sight. She could not have left every trace of me behind her. I refuse to believe that she made a clean exit, as much as she had tried. 

I'm dwarfed by the large imposing living room that surrounds me with its long high walls and crushing silence. The beagle remains curled into my bed sheets, likely finding little reason to greet the morning, now that the children aren't around to greet him back. Dust and dog hair dance in the sunlight and settle into places where life lives no more. I begin to feel the weight of my memories as they also wake to the new day and assume their place at the front of my thoughts. I retreat to the large brown couch we'd bought as newlyweds. Its faded and torn tweed fabric is worn well beyond its value now, not unlike the world I shared with her. I'll not part with it though. It sits as a rugged witness to the life, laughter and love that once graced its purpose. My memories are all that remain to cast my identity, as much as they dismantle me now. Tears blur my vision again as I gaze upon yesterday. The mountain of sorrow deep within me wants to erupt, but I stop my breath at my throat, not wishing to upset the delicate morning as I wonder of her now. I never intended to send her away, Mother. 

You could argue that point I suppose. I indeed forced a heavy hand into the fate of our love. I did break her heart. I drank my ever replenished liquor elixir like Dr. Jeckyll and out came Mr. Hyde so many times. Rarely though did I let Hyde escape the confines of my thick skull. Yes, disappointed one, I am my father's son, but not in the ways that stole your sleep, split your lips and snuck away into another woman's arms. Hers was often the heartache of simply seeing such a creature peer out from behind my hollow eyes. 

When our matrimonial path began to spiral off course, I ran to liquid relief from the tiring journey. I hid myself away in a safe corner of the confusion and there I remained, stoned and stubborn. I gradually faded into the walls, a pale shadow of a husband, only wandering from my self-imprisonment for sustenance and for bedtime stories with our little angel girl. As my fragile bride waited in tearful silence for me to return to her side, she began to weaken and wither. Autumn settled into her eyes, Mother, dimming the lights that once shone like dazzling jewels. Her lonely days grew into hopeless years. She was long gone before she actually left me-her escape already mapped out, her backup plan in place. If she'd tried to warn me, I didn't hear her through the cold steel walls of my obstinance. Now, I accept without complaint my yoke of repentance, and I shall carry it as long as I have to. Though one question plagues me now-could a truer love have have held fast, Mother, having been so tested? Should I share my burden with her, for her giving up so readily and running away without a goodbye? Four years, oh wounded one, is hardly the twelve you endured, in no less than a combat zone. What exactly is love? Did you ever solve the illusive equation, oh womb of my fruit?

There were mysteries deep within my porcelain bride that I could not easily unearth-missing pieces of complex puzzles. She was a silent and fiercely reserved woman. At one point in time, long before she'd grown on me, I simply would have called her the quiet type. Yet behind her eyes there existed a woman I had not met, and one she didn't want me to meet. 

She could not unlock every door of her heart for me, nor for anyone. A paralysis had spread throughout her being, that often froze her in the path of her best of intentions. She'd weathered wicked storms during the years long before our lives collided. She would only allow decided fragments of herself to be exposed. She faced each new day with a decided escape plan, should life send new storms upon her. These plans lay hidden and tangled in her innermost places. They clumsily overlapped one another as she struggled to keep her secrets in order. She suspected that most would not easily accept her illusive and often devious designs; they often wove themselves through the lives of the innocent. 


Phone calls were frequently contained to careful murmurs. She faithfully erased the browsing history on the family computer. She gave accounts of her day-to-day that often betrayed her as fragments of other stories echoed their objection in my memory. There were wide gaps in our tale of two lonely lovers. I'm convinced now that those gaps could not be closed without crumbling the very foundation of our unionLonging to believe that she was the purest of pure, but knowing that perhaps this sentiment was slightly too demanding of her, I snatched my heart back from her and retreated to the solitude that would seal our doom. 

Early in our days together, I'd reasoned that I could share my existence with her hidden world if I must. Certainly there was a thread of rectitude laced through her peculiar ways. Perhaps they involved innocent male friends, girl-only affairs or family matters. Eventually though, not even vodka could settle me into such a delusion. Over time her trail became too littered. She'd left evidence behind-pieces of her puzzle, in her careless pursuits.

I knew that her heart hungered still. Our eyes rarely met. Our words either collided or they didn't connect at all. We spent our days in different rooms and ended our nights at different hours. Silence soon hung like a dense fog throughout the house. Our love finally seemed but a spark that had shown much promise but failed to ignite a fire. 

My hope eroded and finally vanished as time poured out its heavy sand upon our lives. Beyond our front door, my fears became fact. Troubled faces approached me with heavy hearts and reluctant news of my wife's wayward travels. There were other men alas, Mother, with whom I'd shared her bed. 

I know now that her delicate survival had long required its hidden rooms. There were pieces of her puzzle that I was simply forbidden to find from the beginning. She'd never set out to deceive, dear woman. Often times, a soul simply knows no other way to survive. Hers is a heart that beats strong and pure. It simply cannot keep rhythm when her fears begin to choke her. Her willful silence in the shadow of her cracked facade finally told me the story complete. With her swift and sudden departure she erased our history and was on the run again. 

My runaway bride may never brave her way out from her hidden rooms. She may always insist to her guilty secrets that I alone must account for the long empty days and the nights of hands on ourselves. But ours, Mother, was a mutually assured destruction. Another love may wear the blame complete one day, should autumn set into her eyes again.  

I've taken lovers since she left, Mother; moments of desperation produce fools. I fucked every ounce of energy right out of myself, like a loose pistol, pounding every yesterday until I fell exhausted and only wished to remain asleep. There were no more dreams to be dreamt. There was no more love to give or receive. I was spent. 
I scold myself now for thinking I could trick my wounded existence with such a charade. I choose now to sleep alone, to starve my soul rather than feed it that which has no substance. The silent house haunts me. Though I no longer wrestle with secrets and strange tales, I wither and weaken as each cruel night arrives without her. I've abandoned my vodka. I must be more real now. She's taught me well the destruction of lies. I must never dwell in hidden rooms of my own. 

Why, though, had not love found a way? I must face my bride's looming shadow and alas confess that sometimes love, though it is the very breath of the Divine, cannot alone overcome the elements that divide two souls. 

Today however, still holds promise by the very virtue of its infancy. The sunshine has returned to chase away the threat of an early frost. Today is September's hope. She's on the tired path again. The children have set out on another day of dreams. I return to the open window and breathe deep the day's renewal. I ask the steady breeze to guide her along a solid and fruitful path today. May it carry us all, Mother.

2013

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oh Nurse...

The nurses took my shoes and gave me paper slippers after Morpheus had tried to take my marbles at fifteen tender years of age. For reasons that are beyond me, they believed that as crazy as I was to try to dance with death, I wouldn’t try to escape the hospital sans shoes, risking a few stones in my feet running away. They were wrong. Purple LSD was plentiful in the downtown core, and I wasn't missing out. Those were the days before hospital rent-a-cops, plexi-glass barricades and exit alarms. I was always back before they knew I was even gone.

They weren’t allowed to give me dope to slow my motor; I’d taken too much already. Having succeeded in securing my solace on the streets and smuggling it back to the ward, I became quite adept at containing the mind-bending drug doses that wanted to send me screaming down the sterile white-washed hallways hunting down the great mystery of life. Such a blunder would surely see me in shackles. I mastered the art of being still and silent while the acid rocked me to my corrupted core. When one's world begins to burst and break into a million delicious micro-dots before his eyes and his brain leaps out of his skull to escape it all, mastery is a must. As I curled in a lounge chair and held back the beautiful storm within, I would zero in on the magical melting grain patterns of the giant fuax-oak framed television that sat like a king's throne in the middle of the main lounge. That rustic box held court day and night to countless faces, sending forth its electronic decrees unto their broken, wayward minds. One of my cohorts was not so gifted in harnessing the ways of the purple. They harnessed him one day after he'd demolished his room in a futile attempt to hang on to the acid demon death ride I'd urged him to take with me on that lagging afternoon. Demeral would slay the beast within him and keep him down and drooling for days.

West-wing psychiatric was fitted with pink rooms and quite peaceful. For me it was a 30 day vacation, no options for early checkout. We had access to a sickly, stained smoking room, furnished compliments of 1970. The air in that room was a refreshing, hazy retreat from the unnatural odor of sterility that identifies any hospital. There was an old turntable in the smoking lounge, and two albums...Led Zeppelin and Barry Manilow. There weren't many Fanilows in Coconut College. Had they truly thought that they’d covered all grounds in music therapy with these two donated discs? Physical Graffiti will always take me back to that sunless room of smoke and solitude...that room full of empty eyes and drug-stifled screams...that room where tomorrow never arrived for any of us, and most of us didn't want it to.  Is this the best that medical thought has to offer...lock ‘em down and hope that they untangle themselves... throw them some distractions and keep them content while they ponder their plights? 

I hated those nurses with my intelligent mind; their attempts at group therapy only agitated me with their simplified, happ-i-fied, feel-good format. I didn’t need windy dissertations on turning my frown upside down and finding rainbows behind the clouds. Then again, if this was the school of life, we were truly just a garden of children. All that those nurses could really offer me were their gifts of beauty and youth for my blurry eyes. I loved them for that. 

My assigned therapist possessed both in ripe abundance. I met her, Mother, in my room each night when the lights were out and the doors were secured. She'd wander in during her usual room-check. Her tiny flashlight would go dark as she fumbled with the buttons on her form-fitting denim girly overalls. Her delicious red hair would fall from its professional pins, a waft of cherry filling my hungry nostrils. She’d climb on top of me with careful, catty moves. She’d take my hand and allow me to help her remove her evil bra. Her breasts would be painfully pointing right at me as she slid out of her clothes and found my full attention. I would not last a mere minute, but she understood. She hadn’t the time to waste anyhow without her absence being noted on some official medical pad. Her pleasure would be found in my relief. She’d be gone just as quickly as I came. I'd rehearsed this moment a million times. I still relive it to this day. I had to time my dreams meticulously in the last-stop ward; bed checks were random. I learned to listen for the doors of other rooms opening and closing. I would watch for the flashlight beam lazily hopping down the hallway through the space under my door. I knew when she was getting closer. I was never caught. I wonder if she knew that I watched her, my gratitude spilling out on starch white sheets. I’m sure that the housekeeping department was well aware of just how sticky sweet some of the nurses could be. This is what I took away from my psychiatric stay, dear woman.  This was true knowledge. Dusty old doctors, it seems to me, do nothing but take notes and look important...pass out pills and head South to bathe in the spoils of sorrow. The world needs more nurses. 
       
Now a lifetime later, I am a caged animal once more. My estranged wife, crippled by cowardice and spite, grants me no time with my priceless little girl. For reasons that are beyond me, she believes that as crazy as I am for having walked so many tightropes in life, I won’t resist her sudden suffocating constraints. I left her as she had left me...with stinging words and worst wishes. Shame to me, Mother. My heart has its black spots. Now she counters my crass sentiments with blind, raging retribution. I cry out to her, pleading for a cease-fire, yet she hears not a word I say through the noise of battle. She has the system on her side...the system that failed you, Mother, when Dad was dealing his blows. The political pendulum has swung at last, yet only to an equally imbalanced extreme. A man is a beast, and a beast always. A woman is but a delicate bride, capable of no harm, even in the face of the ugliest of evidence to the contrary.

She grips our girl's unclouded innocence like a weapon of war, lacking the courage for one-to-one combat. She will win at any cost; her ego is a famished beast. A new beau, likely as undeserving of her dark world as my baby girl, holds her steady on the battlefield. He knows nothing about me except that I am the enemy, by her decree. He knows nothing about her beyond the dictates of his blinded heart. His eyes will be opened though, as the war rages on. He'll seek cover eventually; they all do. She's learned to keep a few good men waiting in the trenches, ensuring that she's never alone. She'd found her latest love long before we'd parted ways, Mother...long before our bodies stopped sleeping as one. It would take even longer for me to see who she really was behind her dark evasive eyes. I would guess that her new cause knew no more than I about the slight overlap in our paths. Along her reckless trek, she trusted one too many souls with the burden of secrets she so grips and guards. As I lay wounded in her long shadow, I take comfort, Mother...the Almighty will not pervert justice. Truth will win. It will always win.

As her narrow eyes tunnel in on me, she sees not the full scope of the battle; she fights a far more fearsome opponent than me; she wages war with herself. She's tangled and twisted in her nagging fears, her displaced yesterdays, the broken, jagged reflection in her mirror. The woman who looks back at her taunts her and teases her, telling her that she's weak and unworthy of her dreams. I once ripped at her dreams like a razor-clawed hawk as I waged a war of my own. I finally stopped in mid-flight and changed my course. My heart is not the heart of a warrior. Now I pray for her peace. In many ways, Mother, I do not deserve peace myself. All the same, her ruthless offensive is a missile that will ultimately circle round and aim itself toward her. When the war is over, nobody will have won. All that will remain will be ashes and smoke, innocence murdered and old age mocking us. She will stand alone, denying her wounds while she bleeds out onto the black mud, giving back to life, measure for measure, what she took from it. I must protect our little girl. My blind, embittered bride throws her to the front lines of the battlefield to serve as a shield for her fragile front. My wife is you, Mother. I can see your reflection in her vacant, distant glare. I can see your scowl in her tightly pursed lips. I can hear your curses under her breath. The world needs less brides.

Yes, I am a caged animal once more. I hate that I scream from these pages, knowing that my words only fall like a million firecrackers, burned out and forgotten. It’s been a colorful display, but will it be worth the cleanup? I hate that my 20s have given way to my 40s, that my generous silken mane and flawless face have morphed into a barren wrinkled dome, that my eyes have sunk, my back has slunk, my brows fall out. The talons of time grip me and pull me to the earth. I cling to Led Zeppelin now...two dinosaurs taking solace in one another amidst the unwelcome evolution of things. My dreams are tarnished now. As much as I scrub and sweat, they never seem to shine like they once did. But I have a few more fireworks yet to ignite. I learned long ago to always keep a match or two in my back pocket; all is not lost! The world needs more dreamers.

I often wonder, as my capacities seem to fade, where the answers lie. Or do answers even exist for people like us, Mother? I knew the moment I woke from death so long ago that I would grow to be a shadow among my peers, a weed among the flowers, a ghost among the living. I will always be a square in a room full of circles, like the old Sesame Street sing-along: One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong. Should I call Bert and Ernie? I'll bet that they know more than one hundred years of stiff white-coat research into the hopeless human condition that fills meaningless volumes and keeps pharmaceuticals high on the stock market. 

"Hey Bert, grab us a beer. Today’s episode has been brought to you by the letters “Fuck it” and the number “0"."

I suspect that my condition of completed sorrow has simply been tossed onto the pile of some collective hunch, where Prozac has the final word. It seems to me that all I do is take notes and try to look important, like some literary snob, passing down poisonous prose and heading South to bathe in the spoils of sorrow.

Oh Nurse...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tell Me Love...

Tell me love, of your softest place. Show me where life rests soundly on the quilt of your patchwork of dreams, where even the sharpest blow is absorbed and silenced, where unseasonal warmth swallows all that is cold. Show me the heart that breathes new life into frozen soil like a first spring sun that draws new roots onward and upward to outstanding heights, to bring life upon life upon life-a twig borrowed from a branch for a baby bird, a seed that falls and rises again. 

Oh shame to me, I've only seen the reflection of such a place in your eyes as I passed you in the hallway on my way to better things each morning, wearing my heart like a knight's armour, certain of a new battle just beyond our front door. I would come home and cry that the day was so long and unkind, walking clean past your open arms on my way to dreamless TV and flat warm beer.

Let us go far away from here.

Let us take an autumn day and throw dying leaves like party candy for fearless children.

Let us conceive a new love on an old beach, though the unnumbered grains scratch and burn at copper skin. Let us erect a flag on the sandbar, for the tide to steal and rank us among the eternal waters.

Let us make a pact on a broken hill, a future from a burning house, let us polish our style in a dusty room.

Let us...wait a minute; strike all of that. Put your clothes on...you look like a fool. And I am a clown who lays beside you...my balding skull shoving hair out the sides like a defective Chia Pet...cha-cha-cha-chia. My smile is painted on. My limp neglected manhood bows to you like a scolded beagle, shivering in the February air, apologizing for being less than triumphant. I should never have invited you back. Your lies are too heavy, my rage burns too hot. Your memory is too long for the sins I've forgot. Love has failed us both, for Love has not guarded this sacred altar that has rusted and decayed from a million tears. Love has not guarded us from ourselves. Your splendorous September dress is yellowing now. The rented tux I wore surely found a man better suited for the job. I hope he didn't catch a curse before he took it off on that first magical eve, to lay with his new eternity. The fabric wedding bouquet is scattered all over Kerr Ave. I did it some justice with two steel toes and six cold ones. Love has failed. Love has failed. You have failed. I have failed. Call a cab...and grab a pizza if you want...go to Franco's; he'll fill you up for cheap. I'll give you the money, whatever it costs. Whatever it costs. Please just get lost.


Tell me love, when you've landed in town. Have the child ready; I'll be around.

2013  SLM

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Poetry

Please join me on my newest page, "Letters Home, The Poetry". This page will focus only on poetry and include some very provocative and passionate guest writers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rule Yourself First by Christopher Reilly

This piece comes to me from my literary friend Christopher Reilly. This short but powerful work struck me immediately, and I was compelled to share it. The tone is delicious, the message short and directly to the point, revealing a powerful viewpoint. Find more of Chris's work in the link below. I will be showcasing much more from this very skilled and passionate poet!


Once you have been properly imprisoned
you can make friends with the rats,
get yourself elected governor of the cell, 
rule your domain.

Take your time to feel the cold stones
beneath you, mark the time
with hoarded chalk,
relax into your shackles






http://chrisreilleypoems.blogspot.ca/2014/09/why-did-you-lie.html

Alive

Someone once asked me: "How did you learn to live?"

I said: "By Dying."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Midnight Call (escaping Eden)

She makes a call
to an ancient friend 
who's weathered hands
will come to render
unto her 
the poison sweet
the stuff that brings me 
to my knees

He brings infection
for my wounds 
They huddle as they 
plot my doom
He brings to Eden
her fruit of choice
Taste, my sister 
raise your voice

I too have called on
someone dear 
He's not met me 
but he's near. 
He's been there 
and he's been here, 
right where I stand
in Eden's tears

I'll share his words 
so perfectly 
matched to my 
calamity
I cannot say it
quite like him
so I will go 
and let him in...





Slowly I married Her

Slowly I married her
Slowly and bitterly married her love
Married her body
     in her boredom and joy
Slowly I came to her
Slowly and resentfully came to her bed
Came to her table 
in hunger and habit
     came to be fed
Slowly I married her
sanctioned by none
with nobody's blessings
in nobody's name
     amid general warnings
     amid general scorns
Came to her fragrance
     my nostrils wide
Came to her greed
     with seed for a child
Years in the coming
and years in retreat
Slowly I married her
     Slowly I kneeled
And now we are wounded
     so deep and so well
that no one can hurt us
except Death itself
     And all through Death's dreams
I move with her lips
The dream is a night
     but eternal the kiss
And slowly I came to her
     slowly we shed
the clothes of our doubting
     and slowly we wed

The Unclean Start (abridged)

I went down to the port with my wife. On the way down I accused her of continuing her relentless automatic assault on my being. I knew this was not wise. I only meant to rap her on the knuckles and direct her attention to her habitual drift toward bitchiness but I lost control. There is no control in these realms. I became a thug. Her spirit armed itself and retaliated massively...You kill. It is your nature. Observe your nature...










"Slowly I married her" and "The Unclean Start" copyright Leonard Cohen, 1978, from book "Death of a lady's man" Photograph copyright Leonard Cohen






Sunday, September 14, 2014

How

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 in the parent war. I’d known that all along. I was the last child to run to the enemy side. Ironically, he was also my pawn in the game…the strategy that was to break me out of your barbed wire prison...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. I'm bitter and defeated. My wife cries. The beagle has taken up residence under the television stand. Not even Mr. Bubbles jumps to the glass anymore when I bring the flakes.

All three of us stand over this cesspool of tears, three beautiful losers, throwing stones into it, distorting our own reflections.

We stand silent and awkward at this murky pond of the past. Dad grins like a guilty schoolboy:
  
“Been awhile, hasn’t it, Di?” 

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 Di, what happened to you and I?” 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 own 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. There will always be blood trickling from your split lip. 

There will always be a broken TV. There will always be shattered glass, a shadow to run from, a corner to hide in. He was always in your path; you yourself invited him. I stand on the muddy shore and allow the crime. I brought you here; this was part of my plan.

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! 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.







Friday, July 25, 2014

In my defense...

Should I really come forward and defend myself? I have, after all, told the truth. Some who stumble upon these pages, and may have seen themselves within them, though they will never be named in this impassioned but tired tale (most of which does not appear on this blog) are bitter that I have shed some light on a life that involved other people...that involved them. Lives seem to do that. I respect both sides of the coin, of course, but I shall continue to etch the stories of heaven and hell, of hope and love and loss, without apology. This is the only landmark I may leave, as I am rather useless at most other creative ventures. This is the only way that I may truly spell my own name, and the only way I may find a flickering light as I tread back to stormy years with family, friends and lovers alike, as I confess countless regrets of self-destruction. I was always the biggest fool among the characters I've carved out in every chapter, and rightfully so.

Such was a similar case when Leonard Cohen wrote his book "Death of a Lady's Man"...a book of poetry largely focused on his broken relationship of the time. In fact, the source of his sorrow still lived with him while he penned this dark but breathtaking journey. This is what she had to say:

"Living with a writer, you feel that it's all a white page, that it's all a rehearsal, that the author has the right to pause, erase, repeat, vary and repeat again. So I let him. Leonard found solace, purpose and comfort in the deconstruction and complaint of daily woes. I wanted to be a good audience and company, not just the reactive wife, although the last was inevitable at times of course." 

Here is an excerpt from that book:

This Marriage

"I said because it is so horrible between us I will go and stop Egypt's bullet. She said, that's beautiful. Then I can commit suicide and the child falls into strangers' hands. Great, I said. Yug, yug yug she said. What you did to me, I said. The lonely, we said. The nights of hands on ourselves. Your unkindness, we said. Your greed. Your unkindness. Your bitter tongue. Give me time. You never learn. Your ancestors. My ancestors. Fuck you, I said. You shit. Stop screaming. I can't stand it. You can't stand anything. Nobody can live like this. In front of the child. Let him learn. This is no good. Yer fuckin' right it's no good. This kitchen was once beautiful. Oil lamps, order, the set table. Sabbath observed. That's what I want. You don't want it. You don't know what I want. You don't know anything about me. You never did. Not in the beginning, not now.

In the realms where this marriage was sealed, where the wedding feast goes on and on, where Adam and Eve face one another, the foundations are faultless and secure, your beast's hair flares like black fire upward and your breasts, now in maidenhood, now in motherhood, draw down my face, our hunger blessed by sun and moon, a ring of dancers round the house where within the room is hid, where within the bed is undone, whereupon the hunger's joined, where within the hunger speaks precise instructions to the chosen ones who cannot leave each other."

Leonard Cohen, "Death of a Lady's Man" published 1978

I'll add one more from the same book. Bear in mind that he still lived with one of the major subjects of this book while he wrote it-his wife-his muse...

Death To This Book

"Death to this book or fuck this book and fuck this marriage. Fuck the twenty-six letters of my cowardice. Fuck you for breaking the mirror and throwing the eyebrow tweezers out the window. Your dead bed night after night and nothing warm but baby talk. Fuck marriage and theology and the cold goodnight. Fuck the idolatry of anger and the priests who say so. How dare they. How dare they. Thanks for your judgement on me. Murder and a fast train to Paris and me thin again in my blue raincoat, and Barbara waiting at the Clancy Square Hotel. Fuck her for never turning up."


Of course, Leonard Cohen wasn't the only one to bring people close to him into printed word in a perhaps questionable fashion, and I will write a second part to this post to further underline my defense.



The burden of a memoir is heavy and not without consequence, but the truth is the truth and within the truth is a story. In my case, it is a story of a man who is like many men..who has loved, laughed, cried, died and woken again to live another day. I am not alone among you in such an experience. And you are not necessarily alien to my tangled words; it's safe to say that your own reflection, if even very faint at best, is within the pages. It is the story of a man who had the best of intentions in the worst possible circumstances, and who had the worst of intentions in the purest of situations...a man who was betrayed and one who betrayed. It is the story of a pirate, of a vampire, of a Romeo and a Juliette...of a circus freak and a cop, of a drugged-out bum and a sharp-dressed man. It is the story of a mother and a child, a devoted wife, a drunken husband, a beagle and a goldfish, a hopeless hope and a final prayer from the depths of hell. It is a story of perfect love and of bitter hatred. It is the story of many people...for without many people, there is no story. Finally, it is a story that has been published in part and will be edited in full and hopefully cut into black and white pages for all time, many times, very shortly...thus it is one I will bank my life on. I will stand among my critics with a stone face and an iron conviction. I have already faced my worst critic..myself; the broken mirror lies at my feet and I tip-toe around my own blood. I will mark my words in my subsequent posts...the stories within the story..the stories that sit on an editor's desk (while I gnaw at my nails awaiting a reply, wondering if honesty really is the best policy)...the stories I was afraid of most, but knew I had to tell once I had dragged all of the players to the stage. It may get dark in here, dear reader, but I will absorb the cost for turning out the lights. If you hit a wall of your own along the way, do not blame me...simply enjoy the view. You will find your way out if you are looking for it...or you may stay awhile.

There is no purpose in painting a broken house that it may look better from a distance. Let us not fool ourselves nor one another. Let us brave our way inside of that house and understand how it began to crumble, and how we can fix it. Let us embrace the ugly and learn how to make it beautiful. May others who have lived, or now live in broken houses, take comfort in a few simple words read from a forgotten book, as they sit behind their own weakened walls while the winter wind howls. Let a nameless name and a faceless face ensure them that the universe has not ignored them. Let us draw closer, not further apart. As Mr Cohen so famously coined: There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."

Let us not paint over the cracks.