Image Credit: We Heart It
You walk past it like you walk past
the silent ones in the park,
another part of the scenery,
colorless and ignorable,
even a little dangerous.
But haven’t you always been
a little curious?
What would happen if you
looked into its face, those
vacant eyes crisscrossed
with webs of secrets, perhaps
a little haunted and maybe
looking a little too hard
back at yours.
If you stopped to consider
this shell full of lonely,
would you see its lively times
of childhood, of family
of a vitality stolen when
this house still was
But we don’t stop anymore.
To stop would require
considering yesterday when
we barely can grasp today.
So we walk on by
because, after all, it’s only
another part of the scenery.
A free write based on the photo prompt above from my friend Kellie Elmore.
All night she sat in her chair across the room as we watched television. Finally, she muted the show, looked over at me and asked, “Do you still miss her?”
I thought it was a silly question. How could I not? But I answered, “Of course I do. She was such an important piece of my life.”
“Well, what do you miss most?” she said, in that hard-wired interrogative way women have in trying to mine men’s emotions. “Playing with her, petting her, feeling her unconditional love?”
See what I mean?
I played along because she was so damned earnest and I understood she wanted to show she cared. I’m an evolved kinda guy like that anyway.
“Well all those things. Sure.” I said.
She aimed those never-miss, sapphire laser-guided eyes into me and said, “But what most?”
“Give me a minute and I promise I’ll let you know.”
So she went to the kitchen, busying herself with fetching me another beer. After all, I was digging way down to bring forth the Hope Diamond of her hope to connect at a deeper level with me. I began running the home movies of my beloved old dog and me on the tacked up sheet of my heart.
She came back into the room and quietly set a glass of beer on a coaster on the side table. She then curled herself up next to me on the sofa in that way girls do—legs and feet beneath their bottoms like nesting cranes—and smiled a softly expectant smile at me. Its message was plain: “Well?”
Women would love it if the whole other half of the planet’s population could just pull out some emotion or feeling (the coin of the female realm) just as easily as they can. In an oddly effective bit of incentive, she pulled out the cuddle card, which signified to me she expected something not necessarily weepy, but at least eye-blinking.
The funny thing is, I had her answer after my first sip of suds.
“It’s kinda a selfish thing” I said.
“Oh? Well what is it?”
“Just standing around,” I said.
Her expression turned a bit rigid and then fell like a sheet of melting ice off the church roof.
“Oh,” she said.
“No, you don’t understand,” I said. “My life no longer has those periods of…how can say this? Momentary stasis, thought, acceptance of now, that it did when my pup was alive.”
I could actually hear her blink, I think. But not the “Could you give me a Kleenex?” sort of blink.
“Every morning around dawn we’d go out the door and were greeted by a waking world. Pink clouds, tangerine windows of other early risers, hoo-hooing of mourning doves, songs of the other birds. Sometimes, I’d whistle back, just to see if they’d answer. And they DID! At night, we’d hang out and watch the stars look like they were doing the moving, instead of the clouds in front of ‘em. And all because, for that moment in my life, I could just stand there.”
Her expression appeared to be taking on a little CPR, color and warmth returning to what a minute ago had all the life of a drowning victim.
“So that’s it?” she said, still on the verge of disappointment.
“I didn’t think you’d understand,” I said. “Look, Old Fluffybutt and I would go out there day and night. She’d do her in-the-moment thing and taught me I’d better learn to do mine, because she was in no hurry. I’d feel the air surround me, winter or summer, full of snowflakes, leaves or skeeters, and I could hear it talk to me, telling me to take it easy, don’t freak, life’s pretty good. Ya know what I mean?”
“M-m-maybe,” she said.
“All the while, I would watch her and then the sky, the trees, the clouds, airplanes’ scratching the sky with their contrails, critters and birds and her loads I forgot to pick up and the shitty grass I wish I didn’t have to.
“And I haven’t done that since she’s gone. And it’s a double loss to me, maybe a triple.”
“What do you mean?” she said, perking up a bit.
“I mean I don’t have her to share it with me the way we did anymore. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a guy and his dog thing.”
“No, dear,” she said. “It’s a very, very human thing.”
She hugged me, kissed me warmly and went into full cuddle mode, making these little happy noises as if she’d just enjoyed a fine meal. I’m sure she thought she’d made that brass-ring connection with me. Or a gold one.
I still really don’t think she understood ol’ Fluff’s and my deal, because she’s a woman, ya know?
And not a dog.
It was late my freshman season, a roadie in Baltimore, the first time I saw coach go that completely off the rails—eyes bugging out all pink and blue and shaking like baby rattles, face shining and tomato-red, and this vein, big as your finger, bulging down his forehead.
Now I’d seen him plenty pissed before, like the time I snuck a teeny sliver of soap into his post-practice whirlpool session, which ejected suds all over the training room and put naked coach slippy-sliding onto his ass after a performance like Bambi on ice.
“You motherf—ers better have come to play tonight and don’t embarrass yourselves in front of this crowd, because they will eat you for f—–g lunch and run your asses back to Syracuse,” he screamed and pounded his fist into his hand again and again.
After another ten minutes of chalktalk-less ranting, screaming, sweating and more profanity laced with face-to-face accusations of certain Oedipal freakishness, he croaked out, “Now go out there and tear a new asshole into those motherf—ers,” spun on his heel and nearly tore the locker room door off its hinges as he stormed the court.
I guess I was still kind of bug-eyed when I looked over at our trainer, Buddy Larocque, poking his head like a gopher above the pile of towels in his arms, where he’d been smothering a laugh, as he said, “Get used to three more of these kid…he always goes off like this every year when we play here in front of his mom.”
I’m not really sure if it was watching Coach Jim Boeheim’s recent wig out at Virginia or remembering my old football coach in college (I actually did the soap bit to a senior who treated us freshman like you-know-what) that brought forth this quickie in response to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt, Furious.
As I recall, it started that night at that Christmas party. I was the guest of Angela, a new girl I’d met in the food court during breaks at mall. She said she worked at the toy store. And believe me, this chick looked like the angel you’d want perched on the tippy-top of your Christmas tree,
“Try some of our wassail, David,” said Mr. Caligari, who Angie ID’d as her manager. Now, I’m usually a Miller Light guy, but hey, it was the holidays and I was his guest and all. Plus, with a chick as fine as Angie, I needed a little extra courage.
After a couple of those spicy punches—okay, six—was when I was hit with a spinning sensation. There was a flash of light and then…nothing. Not black nor darkness. Nothing.
Some time later, the tickle and chill of cold sparkles upon my face brought some hazy lucidity back to me. I saw a pair of black boots walk by me, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why they were walking up the cold wall upon which I was resting. That was when I discovered my point of view was skewed by ninety degrees. I lifted myself off the snow-dusted sidewalk to get a better view of where I was and who belonged to those lovely limbs stuffed into clicking-along black leather.
Once on my feet, I staggered with the wooziness of a landlubber his first time at sea and I couldn’t quite catch my bearings. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the snow cast this neighborhood in a twinkling cloud, a disguise behind which I couldn’t tell if I was in Albany or Albania, Arbor Hill or Ann Arbor.
I felt a little steadier on my feet, so I peered through the snow at what appeared to be Angie, my angel with the seriously articulating architecture, striding sinuously up the street. The girl moved like she was on rails. I recognized those boots, but then split my gaze from the mesmerizing seesaw of her denim-hugged seat and the hypnotically spinning umbrella she carried on her shoulder.
My uncertainty with the surroundings and hazy grasp on everything in general urged my feet to take chase after Angela, follow her tracks and get some idea if a truck had hit me or some of her boss’ wassail.
But my feet wouldn’t work. Well, that’s not exactly true. I could spin them like crazy but I could move forward only a foot or two, like I was treading water.
“Angela,” I called, “What the heck’s going on? Where are we?”
But she just kept walking, but not walking. Her feet moved, but she wasn’t going too far, either, despite the footprints that trailed her like my once-hungry-now-frightened eyes.
It was just about that time I felt the ground rise up under me, and the light got brighter. The entire neighborhood started spinning and quaking like Magnitude 7 or 8 SoCal temblor. Then everything stopped. Just like that. Well except for the snow, which was swirling a blizzard, even though I couldn’t feel all that much cold nor wind.
“Angela,” I called once more. “Have I died?” That’s when I heard it. A ratcheting metallic sound, then chimes, followed by a muffled voice.
“Oh, Mommy, it’s the beautifullest snow globe ever!” the voice said.
That’s when I looked up and saw this little girl’s face in the clouds.
I know, I’m a little late for my friend Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday fun. It’s based on that picture at the top of the story and this scenario: “You suddenly find yourself standing alone on an unknown sidewalk in an unknown place. It’s night and snowing and the only other person around is walking away from you….”
Only had the chance to hit it at lunch, but here you are, Kell. No time for edits and it kinda got away from me.
In the dark, ceiling-staring
into the nightly abyss,
I became not-alone.
Twilight dreams before sleep
projected a life of never be,
but would never leave
in the soft dawnlight glow
behind my hooded eyes.
I lie there thinking of
the living, the dead
and the one beneath
those covers who was neither.
With one more sigh,
t’was then I saw them,
short strings of expression
rising from my body,
five knots in the first,
seven on the next.
They repeated over and over,
a rope ladder I climbed
past soft women,
and hard worlds,
elevating my spirit
and body to a near-waking
breath and breath
exhalations of unrhyming song.
The blood-rush in my ears,
wave upon wave, sounded like
“Wish, which, wish,.”
To which I replied,
“This, these, this.”
My young friend, the terrifically talented Anthony Desmond, makes his official debut as a member of the dVerse Pots Pub crew the afternoon of March 4. He is asking poets to write a poem that is influenced by certain times in our lives that made us the poets we are today. I originally wrote something mopey and dark, but decided to toss it this morning. (I’m a foolish artist, aren’t I?) This piece came to me, like the time my first “real” poem, Night Writer, did. In fact, it practically is the story of Night Writer. Welcome aboard, Anthony. Hope I did right by you.
Each day I enter this mysterious place,
where a wizard looks at the magical amulet
around my neck, almost a cameo
of my younger self, and waves me
into this Domain of Invisibility.
While I walk unseen these dark hallways,
its inhabitants shuffle their papers,
or peer inside up-tipped coffee cups.
But mostly they focus upon the wall
directly behind me, like I was
the lens of a spectacle.
I sit in a magic cell where people
walk by and must never see me,
otherwise I’m sure they’d say so.
I receive their messages in their magic eye
upon my desk, sitting, staring at me all day.
I return each day for the miracle of
that small bit of money which appears
in my bank account each fortnight,
and the other where a piece of mortgage
disappears each month.
But soon, I must leave this place
for the open world. Invisibility’s taken a toll
upon this old man. I wish to spend more time
with those who concentrate their warmth
of vision, touch and voice upon me.
I’m not so sure it will be an easy change
from my transparent way, to
this someday life of opacity,
but it will only be for a short time.
Soon enough I’ll be invisible again,
when all of the others around me
will be invisible too.
Just as McCain ambled into its circle of light, Jenkins spit into the campfire and didn’t look up as he said, “Ya heerd about ol’ Stonewall?”
McCain poured steaming chicory coffee into his tin cup and said, “’Course, after the accident where some of our boys mistook his party in the dark for Yanks, tragic misunderstanding, an’ sawbones hadda take his right arm and I heerd he’s doin’ some better.”
“Well I jest heerd ol’ Blue Light took a turn Saturday an’ died of the pee-numonia this afternoon,” Jenkins said, still staring into the flames.
“Lord, no…that such a gallant man who pushed our asses to those great victories in the Valley—Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys and Port Republic, all in jus’ two weeks–should be kilt accidently by his own boys who thought his party was Yanks!”
“Yep,” McCain said, sending another sizzling spit into the fire, “an’ I was there at Front Royal, where my brother lost a leg, an’ at Winchester, where I was nipped in the ribs, an’ at Cross Keys, where Lanny Beachem jus’ disappeared, and at Port Republic where the Federals killed my pa, and there in the moonlight at Chancellorsville…and whadda ya mean ax-ee-dintly?”
Dipping into my penchant for American history again, and maybe a little conspiracy, in response to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt, Misunderstanding.
Out here in the wide and wet,
the winds still whoosh but the waves
don’t lap. There is no shore,
just the wander and wash of lifting,
dropping, pushing and pulling in any
and no direction at all.
Here floats the castaway. The jetsam
from a tall white cruise ship painted
with gilt names like Society or Propriety.
Or maybe tossed from a tramp steamer like
the S.S. Familia. Doesn’t really matter.
We float out here under sun and star,
among the same sharks, whales,
and schools of shining somethings.
There come times it gets lonely, though,
when all the humanity you hear is
gasping as you swim and swim looking
for a place you can rest your feet,
listening to your voice singing
off-key shanties taught you by angels
inside your head.
One night, I swam near once-distant lights.
A shore of dry earth stretched before me,
where tramplers raised dust and a constant
dissonant holler, angry and confused
as gulls in a hurricane.
I asked did I really wanted to set
my feet down among that, when out here
I’m free to just watch, and the angels
and I could make up more songs about
what we see, hear and think of it all?
And so we swim.
A little wake-up Free Write Friday (actually Sunday) poem based on a GIF prompt set by my friend Kellie Elmore. This one came straight off the pillow, so you all can decide if it’s the remnant of crazy dream or the truth of first-light consciousness. Does it really matter?
Behind the pink scrim, shadow play performers gesture about the stage in indistinct silhouette to woodwind accompaniment and the plucked bass string of my pulse.
Here and there, flashes of halos bounce against the screen, but instead of blinking I open the curtains.
Before me I see lakeside willows waving and the glaring pitter-pat of the Star’s face upon that shattered mirror of water.
It falls warm upon my cheek like your touch, and I can’t help but close my eyes again.
“What are you smiling at,” you say, as I lean back, humming the score of Nature’s Ombre chinoise.
Here is a 100-word, Five Sentence Fiction drabble prose poem that I am sharing with Lillie McFerrin’s troops (Prompt: SUNSHINE) and with my friend Victoria C. Slotto’s call at dVerse today for and Object Poem, where we look at something quite ordinary, but in a different way. Hope I haven’t jumped too far from their requests…these pain meds and all.
Friday afternoon, in the crush of the elevator, 16th floor, wedged into the corner, I feel the warmth glowing off that girl from Audit’s body and the air around us bursts in my head with the heat and sweat of blatantly reminiscent proximity and recharged perfume.
Ms. Bevilacqua, yeah that’s her name, steps back and bumps her rump against my thigh and my neck tingles like the first time I’d gotten the courage to dance with Her, forty years ago. My heart kept clanging against nascent breasts at the touch of her fingers full of rings brushed against my bare neck. In uncool gasps, I inhaled the aroma of Her hair that night, my one line of conversation a choked, “Thank you. See ya Monday.” But, really, I saw Her staring at me from my bedroom ceiling for all the next three nights.
The elevator doors open and three more employees enter on 12, and Ms. Stacie Bevilacqua is pressed tighter to me now. I’m sure my face is as red as when I would linger with my head upside down “searching” for a book under my desk, but actually watching those to-me perfect legs hang from saddle shoes toe-tapping the floor, and hoping for a spoonful of thigh should She turn to her girlfriend in the seat behind Hers.
You think you forgot after all this time, until a certain bump, a brush of skin, an echo-whiff of might-be Charlie perfume opens the doors. There’s the old sinking feeling again…probably just eight more floors of elevator drop. So you open your eyes and Stacie is shyly smiling up at you. Funny, but the elevator doors are still open on 12, and you just can’t help but smile back and whisper, “Thank you. See ya Monday,” when she gets off on 3.
My friend Kellie Elmore gives readers of her blog a different prompt each Friday. Her FWF ~ Valentine’s Day prompt was to free write the feelings of first love. I thought I could just whip off another 100-word poem, but I guess those feelings run pretty deeply.