From St. Pierre aux Portes to Bayou Enfer

Credit: Dreamstime

“You’re sure you know the way? For thirty silver dollars I’d hate to get lost in this damned place,” Amos Adams said.

The old man had little more than grunted since they left St. Pierre aux Portes, bound for the other side of Bayou Enfer.

“Quiet, boy, or you’ll wake the dead, or worse, the living who might lie ahead,” finally came from the tobacco-stained hole in Bub Renard’s beard.

“Listen, Bub, which way out of this infernal wilderness? Seems we’re going in circles, with no rhyme or reason.”

“Rhymes? Sonny, ask me what I knows of the to’s and the fro’s, the gives and the takes, the misses and the makes, and I’ll say, ‘That’s a good question’,” Bub replied.

“Look, there’s a price on my head and I’d just as well put YOU under as listen to anymore of your nonsense. Just get me away from here, okay?”

Then came the howls.

“What was that?” Amos said, eyes wide.

“My children be callin’, with hunger they be bawlin’,” Bub said as the sound of little feet danced toward the man judged for respecting life not enough by the one didn’t respect Amos’ so much.

When they were done, Beelzebub Renard, the guide into but never from this dark place, told his children, “If they ever ask, in earnest or in passing, mine would never be the face they’d see the last thing. They never suspect my smile’s vestigial. And their sins? Hell, mine was the original.”

My 250-word bit of flash fiction (with a poet’s splash of rhyme) for Cara Michaels’ #ModayMenage challenge.

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Why It’s Called the Evening

Sometimes I wonder why
I live so much life
when you are done
living yours each day.
As you lie in your bed,
resting and recovering
from the energy spent
being you or assuming
the role draped across
your waking shoulders,
I come to life,
in the near-sleep,
staring straight up
into the dark, where
my imagination shines.
While you sleep,
we are performing
feats unthinkable
in daytime, when
the light blinds
my mind’s eye.
It is my balancing time
between day’s dull reality
and night’s brilliant hope,
no matter how fanciful.
Maybe that’s why it’s called
the Evening.

Poem-a-Day for April 26th, an “evening” poem.

Astride the Penumbra

In a life spent standing
astride the penumbra,
the margin of light and shadow,
I’ve spent most of my days
braced against the winds
always blowing from the sunrise
toward the sunset.
While counterintuitive,
it’s been the darkness that’s
illuminated my way to tomorrows.
It is a wearying place,
cold and fraught with the hidden
and the injurious. And yet,
I’ve come to know it as I would
rising from bed and finding
my way around this room at 2:00 AM.
But someday, I hope to see you
again in bright light, standing there
with the sun at your back
and a smile on your face
reflecting the mirror of mine.
Maybe that’s why, each morning
before I stride to my post
on the melding-point penumbra and
glance at my well-worn path
melting into the darkness,
I still hopefully check which way
the winds might be blowing.

Day 20 of my poem-a-day quest. A “dark/darkness” poem. I guess they didn’t know darkness is my metier. Though it’s been more difficult to get to the writing with the Easter holiday and family visiting from out-of-state. Never said I was the perfect host, though. Just a dark one.

State of Disarray

I’m certain right now we all can’t agree
that things around here surely aren’t okay.
Online attacks, shootings, guys taking a knee,
we’re messed up in a state of disarray.

I’ve seen a lot in my decades of life,
stuff that made us crazy, yet always great.
Our history reveals days full of strife,
yet we’ve survived those times of raw hate.

But right now I’m scared of what might yet come
from the Us versus Then, Win or Die throng
that shouts down compromise like it’s dumb,
“If you aren’t leaning our way you’re dead wrong.”

Dead wrong or just dead by uncivil fray,
this new United States of Disarray.

Day 14 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a-day challenge. Supposed to be a “state” poem. Fuck that. Just know that I HATE politics, having worked closely outside and inside that disgusting sausage factory. So I always make it a point to not take sides. I’m just pointing out right from wrong. Right now, too many people are just behaviorally wrong. Let’s at least try, for our nation’s (and world’s) sake, to step back, take off our myriad hats, and work together to restore this to being a nation OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people…ALL of the people. I pray we can do that before I die and my granddaughters miss out on what I was lucky enough to share (at least I believe I shared to the best of my being) in my lifetime.

This stuff is killing me, keeping me awake at night and spinning my already hideous gyre of depression into a deep-dive death spiral. It’s crippling me. If some day soon, you notice I don’t visit you anymore (as I’ve seen myself approaching more and more lately) you’ll know all of this strife has become just too much for me and I can’t be me anymore. Today’s poem was not that me. 

The Art of Losing Your Mind

The blanks outnumber the faces now.
Too many of their names were erased
by nightwind after nightwind
when I no longer talked to them,
of them.
I remember you, but not really.
You’re a placeholder of
emotion
I never understood and now
stand no chance of recapturing.
How can I recapture in this art
of artful remembering what I
never truly captured first?
And so, you are lost to me,
and so is he, she and them,
this population of my mind.

The diaspora of the beautiful
and the profane,
the angelic and the insane,
washed away by the rains
pushed over me by the fears
I tried to escape
by not closing my eyes
in this battle that’s left me old.
Even if I’m shown a
photo and reminded
“This is…”
the you I see will more than likely
be blown away
by the sleepless nightwinds
and the forgotten dawns
left to me.

Day 12 of Poem-a-Day April.

After the Fall

They tell you that falling is easy,
it’s getting back up again that’s hard.
But when the fall is such a long one
that you haven’t found the bottom yet,
or it hasn’t found you,
that can be as hard on your mind
as the concrete covered in shattered dreams,
broken promises and slashed hopes
you’ll eventually find at the bottom
on your virtual (or actual) corpus.
That’s because there are shards
of all those things stuck to the walls
past which you fall. All the history
that you can see and consider,
awake, asleep, eyes opened or closed.
Funny thing is, after the fall,
you can use all those things to climb
your way back up as far as you can
before your next fall.
After the fall, there’s always another,
but that means you crawled away
from the previous one. Come here,
take my hand and I’ll show you.
Aren’t all these broken things pretty
flashing by when the moonlight’s right?

Day 6 of my poem-a-day challenge. This is the “After _______” poem.

Black, Two Sugars, Shhh…

“Why do you do that?” my girlfriend Sara asked.

“Do what?” I said, since I am a simple man.

“Why do you insist on using that cup every day? Even after you’ve washed it, it’s still a stained mess,” she said.

“Because,” I said, since I am a simple man and she probably wouldn’t appreciate my mansplaining.

“And that’s it? Because? What the heck does that even mean?”

“It means it’s more important to me than some shiny new cup. I’ve had this cup for twenty-some years,“ I said.

I stared into the coffee, black as the nights in the Arma Mountains, when to make any sound would offer Taliban fighters enough intel to blow you away, or even five of your buddies.

I was about to take a sip when Sara noticed more of the interior of the cup.

“I mean, look at that. It’s so scratched and stained, I don’t know what to say except ‘Why?’” Sara said. I’m sure she was just trying to plumb the depths of my male mind.

She was right, though. Its interior wore the dark scratches where thousands of turns of a spoon or field knife had stirred two sugars into it. If we had sugar.

Finally, I took a sip of my coffee and it scalded my tongue. Again.

“Damn it, Sara. I keep it because it’s important.”

“Gahhh,” Sara huffed and stalked away.

“If only…if I had held my tongue,” I thought. With Sara, too, for that matter.

Wrote this 250-words of less story for Siobhan Muir’s Thursday Threads feature. I was supposed to use the phrase “if I had held my tongue” anywhere in it.  Oh, and somehow think of a wee story in which to place it.  No idea where it came from.