The Winds Came Up Today

The winds came up today,
shaking the old man awake
when they tousled the curtains
across his drafty window.
The winds came up today,
bending the trees,
in full late-Spring flutter,
to wave their frayed flags,
some spitting out their whirligig seeds
to fly from there to there.
The winds came up today,
tipping birds in yawing flight
from the old man’s house
to the school, where
cheering kindergartners freed
their new butterflies
each from the safety of
its cracked chrysalis.
The winds came up today
in front of the old man’s house,
tearing away the tag
on the wheelchair by the roadside
which said, “Free, no longer needed.”
“The winds came up today,”
the nurse said to the old man.
But he already knew
after they whispered him
awake from the drafty window.
The winds came up today…
Only the winds.
Only the winds.

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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.

Leaving the Nest

What’s it like to be free,
to no longer feel the weight
of it all upon your shoulders,
not bear so much upon your back
of what you can’t even see?
Is it like a life spent in the sky,
unbound from that which would
bring you down among we
who think we’re un-free?
We are silly sometimes,
wishing we were loosed from
our chains that truss us
to the day-to-day track,
expecting an oncoming train
that may never arrive atop us.
You thought you might be free
when you flew off from your
nest built of broken promises,
and curse-propelled spittle.
But that wasn’t freedom.
That was escape.
And the only escape that makes
us free is the one where
the spirit slips the ties
of You and Them, You and Me,
You and its nest over which
all bid adieu with a quiet “Amen.”

Day 23 of my poem-a-day NaPoWriMo quest. Had to take some time away because all my girls were in one place at once for the holiday. Priorities, y’all.

BINGO

On August 5, 1971, if you asked one of us ’52 Leap Year baby boys what his lucky number was, he’d probably laugh a nervous laugh and tell you 366. Though any number from 200 to 366 would feel quite charmed. On that date, I already carried what you might call an unlucky number, 1-A, Draft Eligible. Like the others, I waited to see where my birthday landed in the Selective Service’s Draft Lotto, a government-sponsored game of chance most guys hoped to lose. When some suit in a suit pulled my Lucky Number — 46 — I was fairly sure I or my commanding officer would one day soon send letters to my parents from an APO somewhere in Asia. At my Draft Physical, where medical corpsmen poked and military doctors prodded lucky losers, one doctor discovered this, and another verified that, which changed the right-hand half of my unlucky numbers — 4 and 6 — into a luckier letter — A. This 4-A spared me the fate of most of my peers huddled close as brothers on that dark January day in downtown Albany. But in the years since, when I observed so many of those guys come home casualties of that life-changing gamble the U.S. forced us to play, I feel conflicted about my eventual Lucky Number. But for one day before or after our births, we all could be sitting here unharmed, pondering the cosmic vagaries and auguries set in motion by the casual spin of a giant bingo drum.

On Day 8, of my poem-a-day NaPoWriMo challenge, I was supposed to write a “lucky number” poem. I’m not sure this qualifies, but we’ll call it a prose poem.  It’s not what I wanted to write, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind. Blame my cock-eyed depression-stoked version of survivor’s guilt.

The Stolen Years

It’s hard to calculate the lost years,
since I’m not sure if I should count them
one by one or exponentially against
my sell-by date or shelf-life.
What does it matter? They’re gone.
I could make a good case you stole them,
with your easy intent to hurt,
with your puerile propensity toward
always feeling the aggrieved
when you’re actually the aggrieving,
with your win-or-lose, life-or-death
binary way of looking at life,
just as long as you’re the one
on the plus side of the ledger
when the buzzer sounds.
But what does it matter? They’re gone.
I’ve tried recovering them, casting nets
like this one to capture my lost good life.
But like my life, they’ve gaping holes now,
through which so much has slipped
I can’t seem to hold them.
And as I sail west toward that horizon,
I have to admit, they’re gone,
and it matters.
It matters like hell.

Day 5 of Poem-a-Day April. Today’s prompt: a “stolen” poem. I just sat down ten minutes ago and these thoughts came rushing to me. I’ll choose not to parse their meaning, though in my present state of disrepair, I’d no doubt get even my own meaning wrong. Nevertheless, here it is. Number 5. You may discuss among yourselves.

Before We Get to Trail’s End

I do ponder what’s to come
out ahead on this long hike.
Maybe because I can sense
trail’s end could be just over
the next rise. Whether toward
sunup or sundown I don’t
even guess, since I keep my gaze
low, to the right and the left,
lest any roots or hoodoos
choose to trip my dragging feet.

I’m not racing anymore
to eventually get where
we all shuck our loads and sleep.
Who’s to say who’s a winner
or loser when we all get
the same prize at the finish?
Did I mention how I try
not to look behind myself
to see which racer’s making
that final kick to beat we
mere stumblers, our packs chock full
of the aches and memories
we’ve picked up along the way?

And while I’d like to recall
the places I’ve been and the
things I’ve seen out behind me,
this road’s been a curvy thing
so one can’t look back too far
anyway. Perhaps when I
hit the finish line, I’ll peek
inside my pack and all those
memories will come tumbling
out for me to see. I hear
that’s what happens anyway.
But wouldn’t it be so great
to share a li’l sneak right now?

Let’s.

Footprints in the Snow

As I descended into the basement,
lit only by a ground-level window,
I mused on my soon-enough internment.
Oh, I know. How morbid, depressed. How Joe!
Guilty as charged. But sometimes I ponder
any non-spiritual afterlife
that may come my way like I ponder those
piles of my life living under the stairs.
What’s to become of us, the dusty stuff
and I, once I trip on a rainbow?
So today, I began throwing away
bits of the life I never really had.
Yellowed newspaper stories I wrote when
I knew not how to be a reporter,
stories quoting me when at last I did.
Books of knowledge I didn’t really need
and second place trophies that showed I did.
Pictures of my young face, aged face, old face
chronicling how I forgot how to smile.
And dust, so much dust, maybe dust to dust
of someone else who one day figured out
we walk through life and all we really leave
behind us are footprints in the snow.