Just a Misunderstanding


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.

Songs of a Castaway


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 want 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?

Shadow Play

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.

The Crush


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.

Strength in Numbers

A Five Sentence Fiction

(Warning: This story contains strong language.)

Stooped with pain, the old man strained to lift his two plastic grocery bags upon the bus stop bench next to a drowsy young man whose heavily muscled arms bore the illustrated truth and imaginings of a life spent in Darwinian street survival.

“Say, old dude, gimme dollar, a’ight?” the young man said in a tone and posture that carried more threatening certainty than a questioning request.

“I have no dollars to give you, young man, but I can give you some of my food, an apple or bagel perhaps, because that’s how I was taught and because you remind me of someone who would always pet my dog Misty when we walked through the old neighborhood,” the old man thinly smiled and said in a hoarse whisper.

Another young man, not so big as the first, but with a sure look of malevolent resolve in his eyes, entered the bus stop and laughed when he jostled the old man, spilling his hat and groceries on the ground.

“Hey, motherfucker,” Randall Jenkins, late of lower Livingston Avenue in Arbor Hill, stood and said with the cool confidence of the power of memory, “you’d best pick that shit up for my man Mr. Malowicz and get the fuck outta here before we kick your narrow, stringy ass way the fuck over to Madison Avenue.”

A lunch-break Five Sentence Fiction based upon Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word STRENGTH. I put a bunch of what I thought were instances of that word in this piece. Can you find them?

A Thing for Words’ 3rd Birthday

Birthday cake 1

Today marks the third birthday of this little corner of the WWW called A Thing for Words. It was born of a desire to share my writing with other writers, but has grown into something even greater than than that. It’s become a home.

If you had walked up to me three years and a month ago and said I would one day be the proprietor of an Internet presence upon which I’d have hung something like 350 pieces of writing in 36 months (more than 300 of which would be poems, for God’s sake!), I would have laughed at you. And I didn’t laugh much back then. I’d never believe I would venture into the pirate seas of the blogosphere. However, even squirrelier, there is no way I could see myself writing 300-some poems…ever.

As I prepared to touch pen to paper in drafting (As usual, One-Take Hesch on the job) this bouquet to A Thing for Words, it came to me that I may have built this house, painted, papered and peopled it with my scribbles and blood-drop dribbles, but it’s been YOU who have made it a home. Because of you, my kind and generous readers, there is a pulse in the body of of this place. Your visits, “likes” and comments keep me at this exercise in therapeutic phlebotomy I try to conduct a couple or so times a week. Thank you for helping me find Me.

And so, friends, here I raise my glass of virtual brew on the occasion of the third birthday of our place together out here in the scary old World Wide Wilderness. You have made it a less scary place. You’ve helped make it home. Now, who wants cake?

Their Life’s Blood


“In the old days, we used to empty the sap buckets by hand into big ol’ vats on sled runners, instead of runnin’ through all this tube stuff that makes the damn trees look like my uncle Edwin when he was on life support,” the oldtimer said to his grandson.

“We’re just maximizing our resources, Gramps, and making the most from what we’ve got here in the sugarbush,” the young ag-school graduate replied.

“Just ain’t natural to suck the life’s blood from these old trees with a vacuum pump when the rest of the process hasn’t changed that much since the Micmacs  and Abenaki cut the old ones’ bark with hatchets like this, and put the spirit sap to the boil even before the first white man set foot in these mountains,” said the grandfather and limped away.

“Yeah, well, if the Micky-mackies had vacuum pumps like this maybe they would have been able to get forty bucks a gallon for Vermont Grade A Amber from the Frenchies and they’d still be here, wouldn’t they, Gramps?”

As the oldtimer and his grandson trudged down the hill from the sugarbush, the grandfather thought he saw the pained faces of the old ones within the clouds of sweet-smelling steam from the boiling shack and thought, Forgive him, my friends, he don’t know no better and probably will never realize you’re still here until after the great Axeman takes this old believer to join you, too.

Here’s another combo platter of a short-short based on my friend Heather Grace Stewart’s prompt of the maple sugar harvest and Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction suggestion of the concept of ACHE. And then, son of a gun if my dear friend Kellie Elmore didn’t use that photo up there up for her Free Write Friday prompt, asking me to tell his story. And I did.

We’ll Be Somewhere When I’m Done

I emerge from enveloping shadow and hear
my feet slap the pavement, feel my breathing
deep and even. Brownstones whiz by
my fluttering eyes and I recall the last time
I whizzed this effortlessly was forty years ago.
A rumbling regiment of cavalry cuts off my route
at Lark Street. Smart in their dark blue uniforms
trimmed in gold, black hats sit jauntily upon their heads
just as the riders perch with élan upon cantering steeds
that match their headwear. The echo of this mounted
all-baritone chorus out of a John Ford western
follows me north. That’s when I see him again,
standing on the corner, at the corner of my eye,
and spy him through the open doors of a UPS truck.

Turning west toward our old place, I sense his back
quickly turned toward mine. A bus grumbles by
and I catch a new aroma, its exhaust like coffee
from the kitchen. I snort, lift my head from the pillow,
realizing with pounding heart, I have run my covers off
in dreaming my first dream in months, or at least
first I can remember. When I slap my feet upon
the cold true floor, I realize I do not like your
night-time dreams. To me they lack meaning,
a beginning or an end. I prefer my waking ones,
like this one, in which you and I may not know
where I’m going, but I’m pretty sure
we’ll be somewhere when I’m done.

An unfortunately true retelling of one of my fever dreams from last week. In truth, I do not dream much, at least anything I remember upon awakening. But if this foolish thing was any indication of what I’m missing, maybe I’m better off. At least the colors were nice, though.

Writer’s Lament


Today I felt like I emptied out
my whole damn bag, reached in
and grabbed nothing but burlap.
This happens from time to time,
but it occurs more and more
these days. These nights.

They’re the empty windows I see
as the train of fictive thought
blows past me in the dark.
No faces, no people, no stories,
just a dizzying necklace of  lights
with no illumination.

We all go through these long nights
of emptiness, no feeling, no sense.
And just before I throw the hopeless,
helpless sack against the wall,
I felt this thing stuck in the weave…

Here’ s my (hopefully final) sickbed poem, a 100-word Drabble, in response to a Word Bank prompt from my friend, the talented Kellie Elmore. Kellie said I could use any or all of these words — train – burlap – fiction – pearls – vertigo — or use them as inspiration. As usual, I took the biggest bite. Free Write Friday with the flu, baby. Don’t try this at home.