REPORT A PROBLEM
Potential for light at the end of the ramp led me to answer the ad regardless. Now I have the job, a signed contract, and must write a letter of notice to my nemesis. Should be easy. Then why have I spent all day procrastinating? Dear Lucy, I quit. Simple, uncomplicated, no question as to meaning, even if a bit brusque. I could always be nice…might give her a shock. Don’t want her gray to come back. Nothing evil so my bridges don’t burn. Conventional? After serious consideration…fifteen minutes, at least…I’ve decided. Write it tomorrow. New day, uncluttered brain. Potentially.
A day in the used bookracks and a bottomless cup of tea. Strawberries and watermelon, garden salad, old magazines, and a dear friend to share the procession of book after book passing from rack to table back to rack or YES pile. Rewards. Doorways. Fodder for the pen. Archeology of the printed word. We are gluttons, gorging ourselves on minutiae and rhetoric. But you need that copy of Malleus Maleficarum, and Cunningham’s guide to gems and crystals has been on my wish list forever, not to mention that book on aboriginal myths. Just don’t let K grab our discards, yet.
She runs, chases Daera and her litter to shelter beneath the arms of Kastanea. Tiles shatter, thrown by the heated breath of Mother Spirit. She huddles, her tiny frame shielding the Bondees against the fury of a world in flux. Mountain rain roars, rolls over the ridge like Kue on a rampage. Auka scatter, tails flapping, slapping against air thick with wet leaves. Angry clouds mock attempts to hide. Atesas bend, scrape their last petals across tips of shivering grass. Waves of fiery ice sail limbs, tear holes in mother soil. Cacophony reigns. We who are the last embrace Shedara.
I’ve got a piece of Pompeii. I hold it in the palm of my hand; it is soft, this pumice formed from the bowels of Vesuvius. Light, pockmarked with air holes, it speaks of fear, despair, nakedness, death at the hands of a relentless, unforgiving enemy forged from the pandemonium of Chaos himself. Shaped like the tiny images of brain matter from the pages of anatomy texts, I am tempted to crush it with the force of an anger stoked for two thousand years against the unmitigated waste of life. What right do the Fates own that allows such squander?
The eyes peer through the opening, seeking knowledge of the outside. Trapped beneath dense crust, they search the haze above for intimations of life beyond their world of weathered stone. What secrets do they guard, these watchers from below? I imagine habitats carved from the bowels of rock, ragged spires ground, honed until the faces of millions glisten, reflected in prisms of pink and gold. Glow lamps hover, cast shadows into caverns dotted with lichen-covered pebbles, their aura creating an image of glittering stardust. Music glasses hum with unspoken words of generations. Transcending space and time, I grasp the stems.
Coupons—champions of modern confidence schemes, bits and pieces of mundane existence. Coupons for pizza, eyeglasses, and ear wax remover. Tune-ups, tanning, and toenail clippers. Coupons for…(fill in the blank). If I had a choice, what would I want? Something other than food or beauty products, something inimitable. Discounts on submartian property? Skiing on the ice moon of Jupiter? Tire rotation and lube for my rover? Or should I opt for today’s special, an all-in-one steam cleaner for home or office with the face of a giant mouse, just 59.99 for a limited time only at my local Big Lots…
In the Unwritten Age, no monstrous carnivores thundered across fertile valleys, no hominid-like beings wrestled for survival amid exotic surroundings. Yet within less than a heartbeat in time, their civilization sprouted, adapted, and thrived along waterways, canyons, and foothills teeming with animal and plant life. While other societies of the planetary system struggled with harnessing elements such as fire, they labored over the nuances of written language. Shrouded beneath layers of myth, theory, conjecture, and the ever-present shifting sands of their world, the rapid progression of their culture remains one of the most enduring and captivating mysteries of the cosmos…
a moment of eloquence in the midst of ambiguous fuzz talkers who cringe at the thought of happy poetry, as if it comes from outside instead of spreading its liquid fire through veins and capillaries aching for quintessence in the midst of hollow babblers who pick at our joy, slice and excise it until the grace it brings cannot reach our hungry consciousness, until we watch its calories and limit its grams, relegate it to a corner of our being, shower it with antibodies, when all we need to persist and subsist among conflicts and regrets is some joy.
Candle, candle, burning bright Whispering in the evening light
She hisses behind me, fans herself
stretches toward heaven, when
I’d rather she be tamped down
cold and barren
I turn to face the crackling
laughter of her flame
taunting me despite the water
in my glass
I pour—her life withers
and I move to go,
free from her sizzling barbs;
then a spark streams past my ear
The serpent rises
hisses her song at my back
Candle, candle, burning bright
Whispering in the evening light
Keep me safe within your sight
’Til the morning chases night.
Foliated curves buffed smooth
glisten in reflected
streetlight. They beckon, but steel bars
over plate glass, a rusted padlock,
hang between us. Pink-tinted
tubules dance in shadows of passing
cars. I close my eyes, listen
as their ancient moans resonate,
beckon mourners, summon
Poseidon from slumber.
I search for the hours; instead
I find a caveat—
Ocean mysteries line my lair;
Draw thee hither, if thee dare—
tempting the children, no doubt.
Sedate sandalwood, biting myrrh,
ooze between cracks. Candlelight
floats in darkness; bells cackle.
She holds the door open, stares
at my bare feet. I smile, walk inside.
How long before you notice the vacancy of his touch? The one who loves you in spite of the confused upside down look you sport when you’ve forgotten yet another appointment, or worse, left your gloves in the taxi again? Your fingers ache in memory, long to feel his head slide beneath their tips, ears tucked in the curve of your palm as he slips along your arm and bumps his nose against your elbow, all the while fixing you with a liquid stare from yellow eyes, trusting you not to spill your blackberry tea on his whiskers. Farewell, friend.
On Being A Pariah: There are worse things than being slighted by a zealot with an attitude seven dress sizes larger than Mama Cass. It will pass, and she will survive, floundering her way, so full of herself, slimy and slippery. Yanking urgently against barbed hooks, she refutes understanding as if to do so weakens her hold. Incensed that I dare consider elsewhere more appealing than a day having to ask permission to use the loo. Yet sadness worms its niggling way into my soul and here I sit, bereft of sleep, wanting more than calculated snubs closing this chapter.
Time, the definitive enemy—it haunts every overture, movement, finale. Five grins, five hopes, five dreams depart for paths unknown, released from protective custody. They are gone, these youthful beings, aiming their wings toward new adventures. The miniscule part of me that goes with them…how is it possible they’re ready for what awaits them, when I am not ready to let them go? When is it ever enough, that which we give them? What more could we have done? Will they remember? I gather their scribbled thoughts and reflections, savoring morsels of anguish and wit. I will remember for them.
I was part of you, next to you, matching
stride for stride, a finale to your overture.
The day I couldn’t keep up I thought
your legs had grown.
She was tall and slim as I never was.
When you stopped liking my clothes—
too dark, loose—I bought red and spandex.
I lost weight, changed cigarettes, coated
my face like a mannequin.
I thought music would deliver us,
but you burned my cassettes,
ash spread like black snow
around our bedroom. I left you cursing
in the rubble of what we’d become,
a severed trunk writhing in your stupor.
My Last Hot Date
Tight black suede skirt, side buttons;
collarless white silk blouse, dolman
sleeves—my charge card groaned.
Buy them, Janice said,
along with new sheets.
We dug in the back of my closet,
unearthed 60s spike heels
the poor boy hat
from my first dance
love beads and mood rings
a plethora of eyeshadow colors,
nail polish, lipstick and rouge.
Teased and permed,
tweezed and creamed,
groomed until my face
I stood in the mirror, eyebrows
and arches crying.
Then you appeared in the driveway—
bearded and trim, sweatered,
smelling of English leather.
My ankles straightened.
You disappeared between frozen
pizza and potpies. I searched
through curry and chipped beef,
found you behind bagels, but
you slipped away, slithered
beneath polybags of collard greens
and okra, aimed for fish sticks
and cheese ravioli, then escaped
into ice cream novelties. I dug
through banana pops and Rocky Road,
unearthed empty cartons of toasted
almond crunch, yogurt sundaes.
Shoving aside biscuits and pie
shells in the wake of my cart,
I beat you to home fries, onion rings.
Stepping from rows of twice-baked
potatoes, you tossed strawberry
rhubarb pie on top of lettuce.
Dairy’s next, I said.
They will not let me go. It’s an obvious, unmitigated conspiracy. An attack of “By the way…” as if they sit up nights calculating ways to make it impossible to complete the final stages, the closing paragraph to the year’s chapter. Walls are bare; desks emptied; bulletin boards devoid of all push pins, staples, and paper; extraneous computer files deleted; books returned to their proper location; office supplies packed and stored; mailboxes cleared…oh, but what about…did you… could you just…you mean we didn’t tell you? Due to [fill in the blank], your paycheck won’t be ready for two more weeks.
The attitude that mainstreaming and inclusion are all that are required to help special needs kids to succeed is, in a word, twaddle. These children need to learn adaptive techniques that will help them work through the barriers their individual learning differences create. Some require one-on-one instruction; some require brushing. Some will never learn to spell—they cannot hear or see phonics. Most public school systems do not have the necessary budget to provide these services. Without the individualized attention offered at private institutions, these students will fail. Yet some would remove their only chance to learn how to learn.
Steve pulled his jacket tighter and turned a round-faced, painted-doll grin toward Miss Sarah. She stood in front of the beveled glass entranceway, beefy arms braced under a heavy bosom. The rest of the regulars hung around on the sidewalk, smoking. Steve hated smoke. It made his eyes twitch.
“Don’t want to go,” he said.
Miss Sarah clapped her hands. Steve cringed. He thought of a ruler slapping against the side of a chalkboard.
A wind gust caught bits of paper and sand into a miniature cyclone in the alley next door. The corrugated roof of the storage shed rattled.
You fell to Earth as Hussein
fell from grace; the sparrow sang,
and for a moment the world smiled
We breathe the sweetness
of restored faith
as plumes despoil the dark regime
Like a drop of colored
dye to a sallow eggshell
you bring a blush to the living
unmarred by the vanity of man
unfettered by the breath of Discord
In the bloom that returns
to the meadow, you hold
posterity’s dreams; we welcome
your dawn light
May the songs of the spirits
line your nest with wisdom
and healing, inner sunshine,
creativity and joy,
generosity and grace.
Midnight in the garden of light
Palm fronds glide, slide sideways, undulate through air currents. Candelabro colgante: pearls of the ceiling, aged iron and silver leaf against alabaster sky cage candles within beaded crystal. Articulos necesarios: cut glass glow globes, inspired patinas, blend art and utility. Flicker flame threads reflect amber, blue, soft pink; spirals and bent tips dim beneath rice paper shades. Sponged and mopped, ragged and rolled, chiseled frosting swirls, glistens atop sconce shells. Shadowed whistling resonates, tinkles glass, invading hearth and home. Icy hands pass, flip switches…filaments fade, surrendering to night’s bloom. Gray is my favorite color.
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
(II Corinthians 5:8)
Birth, growth, death, hopeful rebirth…the drama of life enfolds, etched on carved slabs of granite and clay. Ghost tours and midnight walks in a garden of sleeping souls...pirates and damsels in distress, fathers and mothers and unnamed offspring, saloon keepers and mayors, victims of bacteria and time. Their chambers echo with the footsteps of centuries. We whisper beneath noble oaks sheathed in the ethereal drapery of silver filaments, ever mindful not to wake the resting children.
I am a night bird, seeking the cream that churns behind a dusky shroud of fear. Elusive, the treasure mocks paltry attempts at poetic turn of phrase. Words grapple for breath, sink beneath uncertainty. Thoughts resonate, overlap; nodding off, I clutch at violin strings, ears straining to tap into the music of stars. Distant compressors hum; a solitary nightingale answers, her song chiding, reproachful. I am the sound of the one hand clapping, the hand that pervades the universe, the keeper of sacred law. Sublime in my silence, I am the gateway beyond knowledge toward revelation. I cannot be caged.
Bill is her friend across the square, the bartender; she sort of drinks a little too much, but she’s not an alcoholic. Just likes her sauce now and again. She refuses to drink alone, so goes to Bill’s after she closes the diner. I don’t really want Bobby to die…in fact, I want Mary Jo to hire him, maybe help him out, keep the future sort of unknown right now. Just leave it open. Her helping him would be all right, I think. Mack is still the bad guy. Bobby helps the deputy...that’s how Mary Jo begins to respect him.
There has to be some reason she trusts Bobby. They could have a bit of a showdown about him leaving her, and that’s how she figures out what Mack did. She and Bobby figure it out together, then Santana gets involved...he’s already investigating Mack. Sort of a mole. Bobby comes back to town after being gone fifteen years. that would make her 32, but she looks 52. She’s had a hard life. Momma was killed when she was a teenager, Daddy ended up in prison for the murder, although it was Mack who killed her. Only herself to depend upon.
Mack has a “thing” for Mary Jo, something she ignores. He’s a psycho. At first I made him a monstrous Porky Pig, but now he’s a small, wiry evil guy. “Small man’s syndrome” comes to mind. They’re worse than the overstuffed bad guys. More to prove. I picture him as this greasy, weasely guy in a leather coat. Santana can’t stand him, although he pretends to be friends. Bill’s aware of Santana’s true feelings, maybe he suspects, but he’s wise enough to keep his mouth shut, see what happens. You realize of course this story has taken on novel status…
I sliced the bejeebers out of it. Only four of the original 26 pages left. I’ll add stuff back as it comes up. It takes a lot of licking to get it kicking…much ends up on the cutting room floor. But it’s vital; keeps the story clean, clear, out of the ordinary. The first round helps get ideas on paper, then you cut the junk to the true story, add details. Sometimes you need to go back, stick things into the beginning so it flows better. We are nothing if we don’t have a lot of words at our command...
Offering to dance in the dusk singing my praises doesn’t change the fact that you look more like a bear scrounging through my fridge than a hominid with hunger pangs. You trill and warble, accuse and scold, claiming your attentions are honorable, forthright, that all you want is a togetherness of convenience, a trophy to flaunt at bar mitzvahs and weddings. You say separate beds, no sex, not even a handshake…I shrink from the creeping vines of your fingers waving in my face. You belong in a museum, an alabaster bust on some column, dusty and forgotten, without a bulb.
A lone black widow creeps
beneath the overhang,
settles comfortably, having safely
stored her stiffened mate
for a late night snack. No
gravestone marks his passing.
Gray and silver, mossy
blond threads lap the shelves,
mask eyes tracing my crawl.
Caged within beakers
of glass and formaldehyde,
they wink and smile,
laugh at my swollen nostrils
dripping red on pristine tiles.
Shrunken and pierced, tanned
and pale pink, they watch.
I grapple with my brow,
fight the tangle of thoughts
twisting and losing
control. My skull defies me,
denies me clarity.
What I would give for a drill bit.
Horses don’t care how their blankets drape, whether they should ditch the straw hat in favor of a velvet bow braided through silken tresses, if silver or gold shoes look better on toes at night instead of black, or hope for the chance for burial next to their favorite sire or mare. Like the night bird who sees through shadowed layers, horses touch the wind, savor the earth, embrace the sun, unencumbered by wordless pages, unfettered by fear of death, knowing in spite of science that energy does not die, that it merely changes form and therefore they are immortal.
The Tip Jar