Tuesday, August 31, 2010
a day of fooling around
in Duke Nukem's world
I got quite used to the fake dimension
and cheezy 3-D effects.
Especially the depth perception parts.
The perspective is just a trick
on the flat screen,
out there there is real depth,
things actually are far away,
it takes time to get from one place yo another.
And even more time
to get back to the Whistle Stop
for a delicious 'burger and a pint o'Guinness.
So this evening when M and I
took a 3 mile stroll
along the Cedar River trail
it was nicely reinvigorating
to see the real thing.
I did kinda miss not being able
to jump ten feet in the air
while carrying 200 pounds
of dangerous weaponry.
But, in retrospect,
not having those weapons with me
was probably a good thing.
It seems that there is no reset button
out there in the wilderness.
Doug Palmer August 2010
Posted over on Feel Free to Laugh
Monday, August 30, 2010
Down in the dells and the dingles,
Its beauty still gives me the tingles.
But my old pink house
Is becoming a grouse,
With a serious case of the shingles.
Posted over on his site Stafford Ray
Prompted by Willow at Magpie Tales29; will find it listed as #41..
Stream of Consciousness
It’s all so very different from what I'd expected.
Funny really, not funny ha-ha, more funny peculiar.
But there you are,
You just never can tell in advance.
The beginning was quite ordinary.
A small family, mum, dad, and me, plus the regulation number of aunts and uncles, an assortment of cousins, two grandpas. Both grannies deceased.
I wonder why the grannies were in such a hurry to shuffle off this mortal coil before they’d had a chance to sample the easy life? Their photos show them to be a bit care-and-work-worn; they had large families, a war, and the old-fashioned type of husband, the law-giver sort, to contend with; perhaps the prospect of more of the same just didn’t appeal. Poor grannies, I wish I’d known you.
The grandpas hung around for years; cranky old men, perhaps the lack of women in their life had made them so. Sex outside marriage was not then the indoor sport it is now. One took up politics, the other religion; anything to keep the juices flowing.
You’d think such ordinary beginnings would predispose me to a life constrained by custom.
It did, to begin with, and the road ahead in my little world was straight and narrow, as the roads generally tend to be in that part of the North European plain where I come from. Ancient Roman roads, built by legionaries, for marching armies up and down on, armies meant to subdue the barbarian Germanic tribes who preferred to stick with their heathen ways deep in the forests and only came out for a spot of raping and pillaging when the mood took them.
Anyway, in spite of the straight and narrow road ahead, the good little girl turned rebellious, and a stroppy teenager emerged. Which is where the trouble started. Stroppy teenagers should be discouraged, they should be towed out to sea and deposited on a deserted island until the steaming tide of their hormones settles down. (Hormones in teenagers are a totally disruptive force : a substance produced within the body of an animal or plant and carried in the blood or sap to an organ which it stimulates).
Says it all, really, doesn’t it.
Couldn’t get out fast enough. Couldn’t get into trouble fast enough. Caused all sorts of ructions, gnashings of teeth, recriminations, accusations. The teenage drama queen had her way.
The parents wrung their hands, asking “where did we go wrong?” They always knew that all that reading under the bedclothes, by torchlight, wasn’t healthy; if only they’d put a stop to it! Parents do that sort of thing, they realize the error of their ways long after the damage has been done; anybody could have told them that book-reading would lead to no good in the end.
Which is why I ended up on this island long after my raging hormones had settled down and I am still here.
Too late to get off now.
Posted over on her site Friko's Musings
Breakfast at the Road Runner Cafe
CAFE still burning in neon after sunup,
and a bird's gangly silhouette stretched out
with speed—the sign draws me in.
The walls inside are hung with Spanish prayers,
kachina dolls, chili pepper bundles,
and a three-foot Christ sanctifies relief
from the bluster of New Mexico spring.
The waitress brings coffee and cream.
The gaunt, mustachioed cook
whets his spatula against the grill
scrambling huevos Mexicanos
with chopped green chilies, tomatoes, onion,
tortillas and beans on the side.
A whiskered man at the counter brags
to the waitress about the money he can make
selling copper wire for scrap,
and how he drank thirteen beers
the night before, and wasn't even drunk.
Highway patrolmen talk knockdown power
and calibers, a courthouse blown apart
by a fertilizer bomb in the back of a truck.
A skittish Navajo woman, Drug Free and Proud
printed on her shirt, opens a letter
and swirls ice cubes with her butter knife.
The letter might be from a son locked up
for stealing cars in Albuquerque,
a power disconnect notice, or news
her sister died of exposure out in the hills.
Maybe she's just back to the world
from a stay in detox, chewing ice
to keep from thinking she could walk downtown
and be served a bottle of gin
or eighth-ounce bag of weed
as easily as eggs and toast.
A stranger can only say so much
in the open noise of sputtering grease,
small talk, spoons clacking in coffee mugs.
If she can just hold tight to something,
those cravings will disappear the way wind
blows mountains of cloud across the sky.
She could find comfort in a place like this,
the silvery riffle of cottonwood leaves outside,
a novena candle flickering by the door
to keep Jesus lit at night, find pleasure
in good food and desert light across the tables.
The woman lays a few bills down
by her plate of half-eaten eggs,
and walks outside to the payphone.
She holds her black hair with one hand
against the lashing wind. What can a stranger say?
The Santa Fe's red and yellow engines
come thrumming west beside the highway
as I go out the door. Hang on. She turns
and I shout again, Just hang on.
Past the train is sandstone sunbleached yellow,
knobby juniper clutching at the hills.
Posted over on The Writer's Almanac
painting by Curtis Verdun
Whatthehell makes sense?
The Bush Wars inherited
by Obama? Old age?
Attacks of CRS and aches
and pains and blank spaces?
Calling things Jumbo Shrimp?
Filing things under Government
Intelligence? Endeavoring to
be engaged by rhetorical
questions? Jean-Paul Sartre?
Jackson Pollock's drippings?
Mozart's operas? My cat?
My wife? Your wife? Why
a GPS sends you only the
stupid ways first, as if you
have forgotten how to
read a map? Why does
Motel 6 rooms cost $65.00?
Why we do not fear for our
lives living in the shadows
of several fire mountains?
Why do we whistle in cemeteries?
Why couldn't I find an SUV that
was painted red instead of
government mint silver?
Why haven't I seen Bigfoot
yet? Why does no one give
a shit I saw that UFO on
the high CA deserts in 1983?
Why do I have a lot of hair
on my fireplug of a body,
and you have less on your
lanky frame? The technology
that emerges daily to help
us forget about the important
issues on this planet, and keeps
our children occupied and zoned
out during elections? Christ, I
could go on, but it makes no
sense to do so.
Glenn Buttkus August 2010
This insane image and poster that is out there
on the net, being read and seen by millions, enraged
me this morning, added several frown lines, and made
me pucker up my butt. Add to this friend Doug Palmer
being self-deprecating regarding his poem posted here
previously, and I had to rant:
Bloggers are already beginning to ask about the big event! Every year, Life at Willow Manor celebrates the arrival of autumn, my very favorite season, in classic cyber style. I am pleased and excited to announce the ushering in of October with this year's
Third Annual Willow Ball
Thursday, September 30, 2010.
A Mr. Linky widget will be provided, here at Willow Manor, several days ahead. You will be able to sign in, so attendees will have the opportunity visit your blog, in order to see who your date might be, or what you'll be wearing to the black tie event. So, ladies and gentlemen, please mark your calendars, choose a date, (last year Sir Anthony Hopkins and Johnny Depp both showed up as mine) and get out there and do some glamorous cyber shopping for that perfect gown or tuxedo and plenty of bling. Feel free to take the above poster to advertise on your blog. No need to brush up on those dance steps, since we all dance like Fred and Ginger in cyberspace.
In addition to the festivities, there will be...drum roll...door prizes chosen from everyone who leaves a comment here at Willow Manor on the day of the Willow Ball, Thursday, September 30.
If you'd rather not post on your own blog, all you need do to attend the event, is show up here at WM the day of the ball and leave a comment. Easy peasy.
So, stay tuned. I'm sure there will be lots of bloggy scuttlebutt leading up to the big day!
Bathed in willow branches over at Life at Willow Manor
magnolia seed pod from the patio at Willow Manor.
in death clothes
of an August womb
in Midwestern sun
till autumn genesis
to come forth
Tess Kincaid, August, 2009
Posted over on her site Life at Willow Manor
I hibernate in summer. Heat does not go kindly with me, so I seek the cool and dark. My creative juices run thick as sludge and I remain in limbo until fall. Last week, I felt it. That still, heaviness in the air that bodes change. It's the birth pangs of autumn and I am giddy with anticipation. I like to think it's because I was born in October, that fall happens to be my personal spring, the season in which I am resurrected into my element, when my juices flow free and fresh like the fall breeze through open manor windows. I have them open today.
Image of Willow Manor on MAGPIE TALES 29
All was quiet in the lane. Large gardens enclosed the pretty cottages, none of great size, but all of them well-kept and attractive. Cottages bought by commuters to the nearby city, retired couples or even second-homers, who only came during the holidays.
A green van, neither shabby nor shining new drove along the lane, at a steady but slow speed; neither slow nor fast enough to be noticeable, had anybody been looking. What was unusual was that the same van returned fifteen minutes later, driving in the other direction, a little slower this time.
Two men could be seen in the cab, apparently very interested in a pink cottage nestling in its garden, which very effectively hid three sides of it from the lane; the windows that were visible were shut. As it was a warm day, this in itself was unusual, the wrought iron gate was also firmly shut, a sign that nobody had driven through it recently.
The van drove on. This time it turned off the lane not far from the cottage, where a track leading to a picnic spot could just be seen. It can't have been a very busy spot, perhaps it was a little late in the summer; in any case, the van was the only car there. The driver came to a halt a little deeper in the trees than was absolutely necessary, the dark green of the van blended into the background and it became almost invisible.
The men got out, one of them carrying a small holdall. They strolled up the track and into the lane, in the direction of the pink cottage. Once abreast of it, one of the men found that he had a stone in his shoe, he leant on the wrought-iron gate, banged the shoe hard against it, making quite a noise. His friend casually opened the gate; it creaked, like wrought-iron gates that haven't been oiled for a while often do.
No answering sound from anywhere, no barking dog, no scrap of music, no laughter, just the peaceful silence of a late summer afternoon. Soon, people would come home from the city, the retired couple would wake from its nap, car doors would slam, radios and TVs be switched on, ordinary life would recommence.
But for now all was silent.
It took the men two minutes to get into the house.
The older man said:
"Remember what I told you. Don't get greedy; a quick once-over for small valuables, maybe a laptop if you see one without searching, but nothing big. Ten minutes max and we're out of here. Touch nothing, disturb nothing. In and out, ok."
The younger man nodded.
Posted over on her site Friko's Musings
and one can see it on Magpie Tales29, as Entry 18
Image by Coba
There is no rhythm in this fog.
My God, how it stills the waters!
A tragic siren walks the beat.
The chestnut had its beauty raped
And the living shade crouches in a bush.
Trees hang their leaves as if on gallows.
The air shivers in wordless drizzle,
Now a magnetic horn hoots for the lost.
Everything seems unattached; feelings grope for masks,
Seeking a tongue to shape anew the ancient heart.
No cat's-cradle stretches together little fingers,
Triggering that old wound, that forgotten joy.
Even the roots need a map to remind the child
Of simple cross-weaves, time, and the nursery rhyme.
It's bare, and on the lone stalker's ear
The dogs' collars clang through the fence slats.
Incantation hides deep in the beasts' throats.
An infinite night draws a pall across living rooms.
The patterns faded -- Where are they now?
There is no rhythm in this fog.
The gray siren; the still, still waters.
When the hikers passed the station cabin a half hour ago, I overheard them asking Jared, my assistant, directions to Yellow Pine and Johnson’s Creek. From the cabin window where I labored at the paperwork I had glimpsed the tanned complexions of the girls, the bloom of adolescence still evident in their smooth skin, on their open faces. Their light voices bubbled with excitement as they explained they were just getting away, going out into the wilds to camp, to enjoy the flora and fauna. College kids probably. Since they’d headed out up the dusty grade towards Warm Lake, I decided to take a break, to escape the impasse I’d boxed myself into in my writing. I hadn’t composed a worthwhile sentence since they appeared. I still had time before the conference, a few days to spare before the deadline for the paper, my final report on the osprey ecosystem project we had been conducting on the reservoirs around Cascade in the Boise National Forest of Western Idaho. The girls. Just as they were taking their leave, a phrase, a tone of voice arrested my normally practical mind: one of the girl’s called to the other, “Maggie, look! Do you see it? See that beautiful osprey!” The words jangled a neural chain and activated unused networks within me, circuits far afield from the ones I’d exercised in my brain on at the computer. From the cabin porch, I spied them through binoculars--ambling, carefree, their animal inclinations guiding them on, into the forest, into the hills.
Twenty-fiveyears ago I was not unlike them, but far away from Idaho’s forests--in an English woods in the heart of the once agricultural Midlands. It was during the last years of my English existence, in the years of my juvenile innocence when my enthusiasm for flora and fauna first took spark.
Beyond the shops and flats on Studfall Avenue, bordering the rows of houses along Willow Brook road, the Thoroughsale Woods remained some of the last natural treelands that geometric housing developments had not advanced upon and gobbled up. In those woods my friend, Margaret, and I hid our bikes and took long walks following the main footpaths past the tangle of brush and thickets and out among the sprinkling of ash, elm trees and groupings of collossal sycamores. It was usually the warm summer day that directed us into this wild land on the town’s outskirts, beyond which it met the farmers’ fields that cordoned the town around.
Margaret, never a Maggie to me, was my close neighborhood friend in those closing years prior to my emigration to North America. Never cut out for naturalist ways, she was more aimless than I in her reasons for enjoying these walks in the woods. She felt a collection of a variety of wild flowers, her preference being for periwinkles and bluebells, was a lovely reward for daring to forage out in the woods with me. Perhaps her mother liked the limp bouquet she’d collected. Her purse bounced on her hip and rattled with the lipsticks and compact she insisted on practicing make-up with. Crimson fingernail polish was her favorite and after she had run out of her own nails to paint, I even let her do my fingers and toes. She could spend hours sorting her make-up kit and peering into little mirrors, pretending to cover up the flaws. She was a romantic, constantly gearing herself up for romance with Tommy Steele, Elvis Presley, or any one of dozen rock ‘n roll idols of the times. She knew the songs and danced the new crazes. At 11 years, that was just not my cup of tea. Since Sadie, our common playmate of the streets, had gone away to Ireland for the summer, Margaret took up constant companionship with me during the idle weeks of school holidays.
Having her with me gave me comfort. Especially in the woods it was important to have a friend along, another set of senses for what was alive under the canopy or on the passage areas where the hawthorne trees stretched in long lines, as though some ancient farmer had set them once as hedges. The overgrown May thickets created odd cavern spaces we took cover under, from the heat or the rain, when we could safely scrape under the overhanging thorny outer growth. Not fascinated by powder and lipsticks, only an occasional collector of the latest hit records, I did share her passion to collect wild flowers--my preference, the dainty scarlet pimpernels, vari-colored scabious, and sky-blue cinquefoils. I had a book to identify them by. Many got pressed in an old dictionary or perhaps it was a heavy Bible. Memory does play tricks.
Beyond that, though, from years of our living close to the pasture fields on Rockingham Road and close to the outer village roads, since childhood my eye had grown more alert to creatures on the wing. My uncles and aunts encouraged my interest in naturalist ways long before I was aware how serious such play could be.
Margaret had up until that last summer no exceptional interest in the birds that flew around in the gardens or over the fields and she knew nothing of the those in trees and hedgerows. With my new Observer’s Book of British Birds I was keyed to follow the flittering and staged flight of individual birds and for many months in those late juvenile years I had been quite content merely to identify the species--the different sparrows, wrens, finches and titmice. When Margaret could pull herself from vanities, together we would consult my bird book which I carried in a purple bag knitted by my grandmother. However, because of her loose attention she could never mind enough to distinguish the brown ones, but only those with the bright colored marks or a definitive crest. Not all the photographs in the book were colored either, which did make the verbal description much more important. Margaret was a visual girl; only the pictures seemed to interest her. The book was crisp and new, and the sized pages had an intoxicating fragrance when first opened. Margaret loved it too, the binder’s glue having the smell of fresh nail polish. I believed with time she would become enchanted with a lark’s song or a finch’s call, but, for her, four-by-five glossies of her musical idols held sway as culture worked its collective trickery on her.
Many beautiful birds had been nesting in those shrinking woodlands and we enjoyed our afternoons together because of the general excitement of the forest refuge, so I thought. I know we enjoyed the woods because of the lively movement of nature in the trees and for idling in peaceful clearings of grasses we bedded down in. If Sadie was at home, though, Margaret often stayed to play at skipping ropes with her or learning to jive to a new hit song. For her the woods presented leisure hours in which to teach me the advances in cosmetic beauty and to tell what she had learned about boys. She was a wonderful gossip and the only one I could trust. But then, at least for a short period, things changed when I showed her the mystery of the nests hidden in the inner crotches of the thickets. A year behind me in this discovery, Margaret was touched but restrained herself from full possession of the woods’ magic.
My initiation had come the year before at my aunt’s house out in the old village countryside. One afternoon in late spring, my older cousin Alan Fletcher came out where I was sitting in a low sloping deck chair. He pulled out another deck chair and stretched it out to suit his big body. Alan was very large next to me and he had a tough manner of speaking. I remember how I could feel his voice when he spoke my way. He played rugby with the local toughs on a school team. The chairs faced out towards the back vegetable garden that looked out onto the farm pasture beyond the dense hedges bordering the bottom of the yard. A meadowlark hovered high overhead, singing a distracting shrill whistle, keeping an eye on its ground nest in the green meadow tufts. Alan craned his neck to observe the noisy lark. As we sat, my cousin, never one for idle chatter with me, kept muttering words I could not fathom in his gruff yet whispered voice. “Lookee!” and “See there!” or “Over there, d’ye see it?” I did not know what he meant or what he saw for quite a while. With one hand cupped on his brow for shade, he pointed down at the hedge and said plain and straight, “The little bird, a linnet, there in nest, just midway along from the path.” I then saw the tiny yellowish bird, a little flash of red, sitting in the upper hedge. In the next moment the bird had vanished; just a flutter and it had escaped my view. “It’s there, down in its nest now. See its bit of tail?” But I could see no movement, no nest, no tail.
At this point Alan got up stealthily and crept hunched on tip-toe down the path stones, treading on the mossy clumps. He looked back at me with his hush-finger at his lips and the other hand beckoned me with a twirl of the loose fingers. I crept behind his bulky frame, fearing to tread on his massive heels changing place with long steps. At the hedge he got on his haunches and looked up, pointing out to me the dark bowl of twigs and grass the bird had matted. It was wonderfully concealed in the dark interior, a network of thorns along the branches leading inward to keep harm at bay. I wanted to get closer but Alan held me back. “Stay back,” he whispered. That was all it took to startle the linnet from the nest; it fluttered like a paper windmill to break free quickly from the cage of branches and leaf. In a panic it certainly had taken leave, abandoned the nest in fear.
Alan stood up, admonishing me about noise and clumsiness. Looking down onto the hedge top as he could with his nineteen year-old height, he peered intensely into the heart of the bowl and nodded to me. “What?” I must have said with my expression alone because he followed with “Eggs. Five of ‘em.” He lifted me up to place me aerially over the small hedge-gap down which the colored orbs could be spied. Little blue-tinged eggs, speckles on the large end, but mostly pale white against the inner bowl of twig-matter. “Linnet’s eggs.” From that time on, Alan was my teacher, my naturalist hero.
That afternoon’s discovery set my mind on mysteries I was bound to practice. For some weeks, when I had time alone from the street gatherings and when Margret had gone on summer holiday, I strived to develop the knack, the focus, to detect the quiet secret approach of birds toward their nests. And looking, I did spy many birds, and stooped and hushed to follow their hopping and flittering trails, from tree to hedgerow and up again into a tree, but I failed again and again to see them enter the brush where the nest and the eggs might be concealed.
Two weeks following the discovery of the linnet, I visited my aunt’s house again for a Sunday tea. Immediately after arrival, I stole away to the back garden. There was the nest still but something had changed. The rim was discolored with white drops and a needle of downy feather clung to the outer lip . Below, bits of white shell littered the mulch beneath the nest in the hedge and though I felt a sense of calamity, a breaking-out-of-an-egg sensation, I knew it also meant perhaps the chicks had hatched.
At the tea table, I mentioned the linnet’s nest which was a keen concern of my uncle’s who had been recently gardening right down by the hedgerow. He happened to mention that Alan was a good nester, how he was able to scout the nests from an early age, and sometimes took one of the eggs for keeping. Then he’d blow it clean for his collection. This act of plunder at first horrified me because I felt it was an awful trick to take away a bit of nature’s own like that. Uncle Fred was quite amused at my grimace and explained the care it took to pick the right egg, and only one egg, out of the nest of several, though never if only two or three, and to touch none other than the one that was plucked. Very delicate work in a thorn bush. And there was light laughter around the table, in thinking of the danger of scarring one’s hand to stick it in a thorny thicket in order to retrieve a little sparrow’s egg, for keeping and inspecting. “Quite a trick!” my mother said. “An odd sport,” my aunt commented. “Boys will do it, and then they grow out of it,” she concluded.
My mind burned with the thought of stolen eggs. After tea, I slinked away and climbed the carpeted stairs to Alan’s room. His room was musty, the stale moist air of an upstairs room, heavy with dust from his bookcases and tall cupboard. Off for weekend rugby games, Alan had left his room quite tidy for the rough man he seemed. The cupboard had a glass breakfront, the edges of the doors grimed with fingermarks. I pulled the desk chair toward the cupboard and mounted it to see into the glass case above the counter. Bronze sports trophies on marble bases stood in line on one shelf; on the next sat some old models, a sailing bark and a yellow bi-plane, Alan had pieced together from kits. On the lower shelf was an arrangement of cardboard boxes. The wood-grain pattern of the top box caught my eye. I lifted it off the shelf and it was feather-light to place on the counter. The lid came off easily from frequent opening and closing and within I looked upon a cloud of cotton wool in which nestled a set of six tiny eggs, each in its separate spot, like precious chocolates in a molded tray. The lid was labeled “Hedgerows” and each egg had a paper slip pinned to the cotton: Hedge sparrow, Chiff-chaff, Robin, Blackcap, Bullfinch, and then a small white egg, hint of blue, a few disparate speckles and the label “Linnet.” I teetered on the chair, taken aabck by such monstrous sacrilege! Had Alan taken this from our nest? How valuable must it be to have a small yellow bird’s egg as a possession? From that time, Alan’s figure lost some of its heroic lustre. I’d think : “Boys like him would do that, and love to do cruel things like that, probably get scout badges for collecting nature and boxing it up.” However evil I thought him, the mystery of the hedgerows and the investigation of the camouflaged world still lingered as a special kind of seeing that I had yet to master. The wonder of finding a hidden world. If I found a nest in the woods, would I be able to hold back my touch, or is it a magic spell that leads one’s fingers to risk marking and condemning a bird, perhaps condemning the clutch, to a coffin of twigs, a spoiled cradle. Little did I know how my destiny was being shaped.
Henceforth, with Margret as my assistant, it was my mission to watch birds and I was determined to pass the nest detective apprenticeship.
One hot afternoon as we two girls lay back on a grassy rise before the line of hawthornes, I stared across the sunny clearing, the brim of my straw bonnet shading my squinting eyes. Focusing on movement, I began to say things to myself in whispers. “There’s a thrush.” Margret would look up, “Where?” “Wait a second. There, over there by the outside bush.” I couldn’t take my eyes off the position, but often the thrush would vanish without my seeing. It occurred to me to move closer and to remain still. I thought of our bright frocks of bold color and how obvious we must be in the open. From this point on I realized the need for camouflage. Margaret was delighted to organize our dress, to pick out suitable country-drab clothes, khaki shorts or gym slips of brown cotton. She thought it all quite exciting, dressing for bird nesting, blending with the hedge, the twigs and branches. By contagion she had also felt the mystery in the woods air. Openings.
To get a closer perspective on our prey, we took to the thickets themselves. We crouched within a cave under the hawthorn trees, settled into comfortable positions, able to lie supine and look upward to see the birds enter from the bright air above. The foliage was very dense but no telling how nests might be close at hand.
Small wrens entered the cavity of brush, sat nervously, and most exited, but one smooth brown inch-and-a-half ball of feather and flitter came in to stay. It shot with a single hop flight into a leafy crotch and settled in its place, its spiked beak stuck forth above the lip of the nest it cradled in. Like mine, Margaret’s eyes grew large and I cautioned her with the hushing finger to stay as we are, just looking. Beyond the spell of the moment, Margaret stirred, uttered quiet whispers and even broke into a little laughter. I remember how I shook with joy; I couldn’t keep myself back either--the laughter was a most natural release. The noise did not at first frighten the nested wren, until we slowly moved forward, I above, scaling the lower branch to reach up for a closer peek. Within view of its bead eye, one step to reach to get on a level branch, I twitched my head to pull away from a sharp thorn that pierced my scalp. The branch shook and the bird made a hasty, panicked departure. Still within nest position and able to crane through one more small opening, I grew breathless as I looked upon the smallest eggs imaginable, six whitish marbles in a smooth mossy bowl woven closely around with fine grasses. I climbed down to allow Margaret her view and cautioned her from touching any of the clutch and spoiling the nest. She was obviously too struck with awe to want to play with the nest or its contents. She only gazed as I had done and sighed a long “oooh.”
Margaret never met Alan, and marveled that a boy, almost a grown man, would even think to collect such eggs as trophies of the hunt. It was a very savage hobby in her mind. It was peculiar and yet we were half-way obsessed by its encompassing spell. We made some decisions about the hunt and stuck to our habit of watching. Over the months following that last summer I lived in Corby, the housing developments invaded the empty pasture land, ever closer to the woods. Then trucks and equipment began to encroach upon the woody verge and and we saw then the wild land would surely vanish in a couple of years and become filled up with semidetatched house blocks.
Through the final week of holiday before school commenced, Margaret and I continued our rambles into the woods, which season happened to be my last summer in England. Alan, who had guided me into my first indelible mystery, left for university and after he cleaned out his room, he showed me his egg collection. He even gave me the patterned box marked “Hedgerow”; he gave it to me for safe keeping. “Perhaps you’d like to keep this for us,” he said. He opened the box top and pointed inside: “There, there’s the linnet’s, remember?” Oh so little did he know! Strange emblems as they were, I grew to love the weightless shells, to handle them, inspect them.
I never saw Alan again until shortly before my parents and I were readying for emigration to Canada and I never really said thank you enough to him for his box of eggs. Who knows the meaning of a gift when it is first given? Who knows the power of yesterday the next day, the next year? For Margaret, the box had a stigma of black magic and she refused to examine its contents closely with me. In fact, from that time forth, she kept apart from me and naturally, gradually began to pull away from my companionship because I would soon flit away from these houserows we’d played around. Seeking mysteries was one thing, but Margaret had to think practically, especially about which friends to club together with, now it was certain I had no choice but to be whisked away.
With change came considerable loss during the days as we neared emigration from England in spring of the late 1950s. I could no longer look forward to summer, the woods, the birds and their nests. Everyday approaching D-Day I had to improve my ways of seeing with fresh understanding what might lie ahead and less what lay behind. No friend was going on this adventure with me. It was all choices, very difficult ones for me as a naive 12 year-old. Of course, many of the choices were my parents’ demands. How I watched in shock as they took away what I had believed would be forever solely my belongings. To throw off needless pain I accepted their decisions. Only a few of my favorite keepsakes could find places in the limited luggage and I felt the pressure to make choices as a new force in thinking and memory. Of my books, which few must I cherish? Could I take the large dictionary in which I had pressed the tender wild flowers, for-get-me-nots and scarlet pimpernels, periwinkles and marsh-marigolds I had picked, learned by name, and carefully preserved? No, Mother said, it was much too heavy. With that choice taken away, my insight to meaning grew ever sharper.
Since I had withdrawn from school, I was waking the last mornings of home in a strange holiday state. From first blinking I awoke alert, without my mind harnessed to actions of the ordinary day. Known rituals were actions of the past. The rituals of meaningful action had narrowed to the behavior of my parents and me. No longer the need to drag my everyday self through habitual expectations. In those closing days of curtailing that old life, I realised how so little I did before had had a chosen purpose.
The mystery of the last summer, the adventure with Margaret, was just my breaking through the first veil. How much of life was conscious living? I mean, did I choose to go to play games in the street with my friends, with Sadie, with Margret, with anybody? Not really. Skipping ropes, ball games, aimless bike rides into the fields, the ambling into woods--we enjoyed these as instinctual exercise and exhilarating play. Child-time, the hours we spent skipping ropes in time. With other friends I played on swings--mostly going forth on whims, simple movement, wonderful accidents of childhood motivation. None of it seemed deliberately chosen. Before long I would take myself from all these friends and from the only neighborhood I had ever known and depended on. Soon no more house, no home. No room to invite friends to play in. Necesssity. It had to be. Mother and Father had explained it to me and I understood the plan. This was, so I was told, the withdrawal period, the time to sell all and clear out--furniture, mirrors, radio, curtains, rugs and carpets, beds, settee and chairs, pictures and ornaments, the upstairs hautboy wardrobes; in fact, my parents were bargaining off the whole inventory of our home down to crockery and kitchen pans. They would sell my books, my games, my clothes, my toys.
My natural place in the house diminished with the dwindling of my possessions. A world was being dismantled and I had better make ready for the unknown. I had to read each day with different eyes. In abandoning that comfortable habit-driven existence, I was facing a new and unimagined life among strangers. How it irritated me when my pictures were stripped from the wall. My pictured past was fading. They vanished with the frames which were too brittle and heavy to pack. Of the new geography, which I had not chosen--some far off place in British Columbia in Canada--I had no vision where we would settle in a few weeks time. My choice was to settle for a few tangible essentials.
In the new land, all else we would purchase with the cash from the sold goods, and new place would be refurnished, an attempt at settling another home. A home beyond my imagining. Yet, down the line would come school anew, evenings of reading and homework, and perhaps riding bicycles, in predictable patterns again, at times appointed for me. Who would I find as friends? How does one make brand new friends? More mysteries, awakenings lay ahead and even some lively actions I must choose, actions I had once done half-asleep. The everyday sleepwalk was decidedly in the past as I struggled to confront things to come.
When my furniture went down stairs and out the door, I felt the abandonment of all ownership. In the furniture wood, especially the cupboard of my kept objects, I used to read the grain and varnish patterns as musical compositions I imagined being lavishly performed. The cupboard’s contents Father had stacked along the wall--a pile of jig-saw puzzle boxes, some folded sweaters, and photograph albums plump with snapshots of all facets of my past life. Mother took care of the albums. Soon the bookshelf vanished and with it most of my girlhood novels, my boxes of old postcards I’d collected. My heart vibrated and my memories were on fire. With the daily disappearance of dear objects, pasttimes and playthings, cloth dolls and furry animals, each fond thing immediately took on meaning by its absence, its associations revived and amplified, and the associations went to floods of memories. Though, when the dolls were put out for sale, I realised then that dolls had long ago lost their pull and charm. I felt my mind opening to make only choices that would count. The awakening grew brighter as my room became sparer and so spacious that sounds had an uncommon hollow brilliance. I remember thinking: I still have my bed and its covers. If I spoke in the nighttime or the daytime, just to hear my changing self, I heard someone else’s voice echo in the emptiness. This returning voice possessed a treble tone, high-pitched and of weak projection. Then nothing.
I faced all the last changes with stoic resolve. What else could I do? When it grew harder to hide my fondest souvenirs for the limited steamer trunk space, the moment of greatest alarm sounded inside me: Choose now from the cache of objects; pick precisely those favorites to take with you, NOW. Of all the things, first I picked a car, Tony’s car, a fine wooden toy car which I had cherished for its smooth-sanded surface and its sawn-wood smell. After littleTony died, his mother gave it to me, I was told. I could not remember Tony’s face. But his car, so carefully carved by an artistic hand, it would run like a racer with the slightest push along a polished floor as if the wheels spun on smooth bearings. How odd a choice, Father said, but Mother understood. Next, I selected my nature books, the small Observer books for identifying birds, animals, fishes, butterflies and moths. Of course, I had become attached to Alan’s collection of blue-, white, and gray-mottled birds eggs from hedgerow nests. These darlings I saved in the same ornamental box re-stuffed with fresh cotton wool, and I most certainly chose the book of birds eggs I learned to identify the species with. The rag Teddy Bear, the cartoon golliwog, and the iridescent pillow would go only as packing , soft cushions around boxes, books and toys, to wedge them and keep them from crushing the breakable things. Sadly as it happened in final choosing, the eggs were not allowed, being too fragile, Father said. The box I gave to Margaret who went to the woods with me those warm summer days to watch for birds and find nests. She didn’t really want the wretched things, but nevertheless she received the box, knowing well its meaning. What else was there? Another toy--a silly thing really--I found no way I could part with a mechanical merry-go-round, made of light tin shapes, brightly colored in shiny paints, and all set under an ochre cloth umbrella that appeared to twirl on the central spindle driven by the wind-up spring that sent the horses and riders bobbing around and around. This was a birthday gift from Margaret when I was six. Silly? Perhaps. I saw it as a need. It was its spiralling, kaleidoscopic beauty I loved to gaze at when I felt troubled at heart or ill in bed. All the other things, either clumsy in shape or too dangerous to take--my iron Eiffel Tower shilling bank, my glass bottles of perfumes I’d begged from my kind auntie, a heavy box of my record albums--all these I gave away to friends I knew liked them or who would feel happy to receive something. Margaret wanted only “Jailhouse Rock” and Frankie Vaughn’s version of “Green Door.” Sadie and the others loved the unexpected gifts. I felt swelling elation to give away what I chose and to whom I chose.
Eventually my bed went, and I lost my rational place in the house of bare cupboards, resounding floors and booming ceilings. Of home nothing was left. The boat we were notified had docked in Liverpool and departure was as scheduled. Luggage could have been shipped ahead if Mother and Father hadn’t been slow to pack their life’s remainders into the large trunks. Choices had been hard for them, too, as time rushed us towards embarking upon the ocean liner to take us away on our trans-Atlantic journey to Canada. Our bodies, individually, would move out to join the cargo of our worldly goods packed into three stacked trunks and a set of bulging luggage which sat layered in the black taxi purring at the curb. Each of us would be stepping forth for the last time out the front door, Father pulling the handle to; then off the threshold each would step, then out the front gate, Father clicking the latch behind; finally onto the well-know flagstones of the pavement and away onto new roads.
After two days limbo, a stayover in a hotel in the grimy city of Liverpool, which we had never desired to visit, the eve of sailing arrived. That night we went to a picture house to see Bridge on the River Kwai. Next morning I scaled the gangway onto the ship, and while we searched for our cabins, I heard the horns sound and felt a huge movement as the vessel made leave from Liverpool’s gray harbor. Later, on deck, leaning over the railings, I scanned the haze beyond the wake, but the sliver of shore and the green cliff tops I expected to see had already vanished on the home horizon.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
River City Blues – Part II
Ignoring Dad must’ve done something to his masculine ego, because only a couple weeks after Ms. Sandee stopped pushing herself on Dad, he started paying a lot more attention to her. It was kind of hard to watch. He’d come home early, suspiciously clean, and follow her around, complimenting things she’d done, like, “You sure scrubbed that toilet white,” or “you can hardly tell where that pan caught on fire when I was cooking fish the other day, after you cleaned the scorch marks off it.” But mostly, she just snapped at him to get out of her way.
His next attempt at seduction was bringing dinner home. It was takeout from Corky’s (the original), of course. He brought it before Ms. Sandee left for the day, which meant he showed up with dinner around 2. p.m.
“Stay and have it with us,” he said, as she eyed the aluminum bowls. “I got extra.”
“I have to take my mother to an appointment,” she said. “Also, you know, I’m a vegetarian.”
Dad paused. “Well, there’s chicken,” he said. “And it’s real lean.”
Ms. Sandee adopted a long-suffering smile. “No thanks, but you enjoy it.”
Dad’s face dropped like a sunset. After she left, Dad slapped everything into the fridge, grabbed a beer, and consoled himself with reruns of Jerry Lawler wrestling Andy Kaufman. I stood in the kitchen, eating directly from the aluminum bowl, listening to the audience boo and hiss.
Next, it was flowers. Sort of. Dad hated flowers. He thought they were a waste of money, but everybody knows you’ve got to buy flowers for a lady. So, a couple days after the dinner fiasco, Dad came by and picked me up up early and took me to Wal-Mart.
“Son,” he said, on the way over, “You like Ms. Sandee, don’t you?”
“Yes sir,” I said.
“Would you like to see more of her?”
A feverish heat washed over my face. “Absolutely,” I said, emphatically.
Dad nodded and didn’t say another word until we pulled up to the Garden Center at Wal-Mart. We hopped out and went inside. A man approached and asked if he could help us.
“No, thankee,” Dad said. “You’re a little too butch.”
We left the man behind, and Dad kept walking until he found a female employee.
“You’ll do,” he said, as he approached her. “I need something for a lady,” he said.
“Okay,” she said.
“A plant,” he said. “Flowers.”
“We have a flowers section,” she said.
He shook his head. “Waste of money,” he said. “Flowers are already dead when you buy them. Why give someone you care about dead things?”
“That’s a point,” the girl said, clearly confused. She looked around for a moment, then took us over to some bushes. “Hydrangeas,” she said. They were tall and lush, mostly with either pink or blue flowers.
“That’s nice,” Dad said. “Classy. Which one should I get?”
“Which one do you want?” the woman said.
“If I was buying this for you,” Dad said. “Which one would you want?
The woman blinked and then turned to the flowers. “I like them both,” she said.
So, a man who wouldn’t pay an extra ten cents for name-brand paper towels bought one of each.
“How much of a discount will you give me for buying two?” Dad said.
* * *
“These are lovely,” Ms. Sandee said, when we brought them home. “I’m surprised at you, Ed. I didn’t know you had such good taste.”
“I just thought, ‘what would be as pretty as Sandee.’” His face flushed bright red as he hurried to finish, “And they didn’t have anything, so I got these instead.”
Ms. Sandee flashed him a smile that sent me to the bathroom with another “cramp.” When I came out, they were outside. Dad was digging a hole while Ms. Sandee directed him. Then Dad put one of the plants in the hole. He’d already planted the other one. He finished and stepped closer to her. She put her hand on his chest and pressed into his side. It sent a shiver along Dad’s spine; I could see him shake, briefly. There stood there, a moment, looking at the plants. It was kind of sweet.
A couple days later, Ms. Sandee stayed for dinner. She wanted to cook, but Dad wouldn’t let her, which meant we had take out. But this time, it was Italian, which, in Dad’s mind, equaled ‘fancy.’
“Plus, she can have hers ‘vegetarian’ and I can have mine with meat sauce,” he said.
Since it was a “date”, Dad dressed up, which meant that he slathered himself in Old Spice, put on a clean shirt, and exchanged his work-pants for a battered old pair of khakis. He also donned his cowboy boots. This was only the second time I’d seen Dad dressed up like this. The first was Mom’s funeral. I think he actually wore the same shirt.
That whole evening, he doted on Ms. Sandee, and she seemed to enjoy the attention. He’d unscrew the top to pour her more wine, or pass her a breadstick. She’d rest her hand on his and say something polite. Watching them, I realized that being sincere with a person meant a lot more than being suave. After dinner, Ms. Sandee turned to me and said,
“Time for you to go to your room so your father and I can talk.”
I went as far as the kitchen and hid behind the door.
“I appreciate everything you’re trying to do, Ed,” Ms. Sandee said, “But I don’t know.”
“What don’t you know?” he said.
“If you’re ready for this. Do you mind me being blunt?”
“No,” he said. I could hear a tremor in his voice.
“I think you’re still in love with your wife.”
He was quiet for a long time. I was a little afraid they’d heard me make a noise or something. “I do love her,” he said, finally. “And I always will. But that don’t mean you and I can’t get together.”
“I need you to bury that ghost,” Ms. Sandee said. “You’ve got your son and wife already in your heart. I’m afraid there’s not room for me.”
“She’s buried,” he said. “But from time to time, I need to visit the grave.”
She was quiet again. I caught myself holding my breath. It was strange hearing Dad talk like that about Mom. After she died, he’d sat me down and talked about the whole thing, explaining what would happen with the funeral and everything.
“She’s not coming back,” he’d said. “But you and me, we’ve got to stick together.” Then he sort of roughed up my hair and said, “I love you, boy.” Hearing him say that made me a lot more scared than anything else had. And that was it.
Finally, in the living room, Ms. Sandee spoke. “I can live with that,” she said. I couldn’t hear anything else, so I went back to my room to think.
Posted over on Troubador21
CL Bledsoe is the author of two poetry collections, _____(Want/Need) and Anthem. A third collection, Riceland, is forthcoming later this year. A chapbook, Goodbye To Noise, is available online at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. A minichap, Texas, is forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press. His story, "Leaving the Garden," was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for Story South's Million Writer's Award. He is an editor for Ghoti Magazine http://www.ghotimag.com He blogs at Murder Your Darlings, http://clbledsoe.blogspot.com
Image by mklein
River City Blues – Part I
My mom died when I was eight. We were close when she was alive, or so people tell me, but I barely remember her. I was raised by my dad, a gruff factory worker, the kind of guy who changed his own oil and thought just about anything could be fixed by hard work and exercise. He was afraid that mom’s death would turn me into one of those kids he saw on TV or hanging around Young Avenue—face painted white, hair dyed black, chains and girl’s jeans. So he raised me to be tough. It was all Grizzlies football games and cars, with dad, fishing on the weekends out in the country and chores during the week. Maybe that was why I’ve always preferred the company of women.
Since he worked all the time in the city, after mom died, dad kept me in daycare or various after-school programs until I turned twelve and he thought I was old enough to handle some independence (i.e. he didn’t want to pay as much anymore). Then he hired a woman to take care of me and the house. Her name was Ms. Sandee Lawler. She lived just outside of Memphis and made the commute into the city everyday. I called her Ms. Sandee. Ms. Sandee was probably in her forties, but, for me, being ten when I met her, anything over the age of 22 or so pretty much equaled “old” to me. Ms. Sandee was a full-figured woman who carried it well. She had smooth skin, tanned but not leathery. Her hair was brown with a hint of grey, long and smooth. I loved to look at her hair. Sometimes, she would take a nap in the afternoon, and I would go over and touch it. I know that’s weird, but I was a kid, what can I say? It reminded me of my mom’s hair.
Ms. Sandee looked to be a solid ten years younger than she was, but I didn’t realize that at the time, young and naïve as I was. All I knew was that she was amply endowed up top, and wore low enough tops that when she bent over in front of me, I saw enough to make me feel funny.
Ms. Sandee was an incurable flirt. She flirted with my father, a confirmed bachelor a couple years younger than her who dealt with her advances by hiding from her. She wore more and more revealing clothes, and he left earlier and earlier in the mornings and stayed out later and later. I didn’t mind. Whatever attentions my father refused, she gifted to me, in certain ways.
“Why don’t you smile more?” she would say. “You have such a pretty smile, I bet the girls just melt when you smile.”
I would stare at her dumbly until she shook her head and walked away. No girl had ever paid any attention to me. Mostly, the only attention I got was dad yelling at me to “do it again, and get it right this time.” The next time I saw Ms. Sandee, I’d smile as wide as I could for as long as I could. “Don’t smile THAT much, Adam, or people will think you’re slow.”
“Why don’t you dress nicer?” she would say. “You’re always wearing those dark clothes. They make you look sick. Wear something lighter to show off those pretty eyes of yours.”
I would look from my black shirts to my ragged jeans, all of which dad and I picked out at Wal-Mart, and she would shake her head. The next time we went to Wal-Mart, I’d pick out green slacks and a baby-blue shirt to impress her. By the time I got home from school, they were stained with my blood from all the kids picking fights with me and I’d been suspended for fighting back.
“You need a girl with patience,” she said. “Who won’t mind waiting for you to catch up. You’re sweet, and you do what you’re told, and you’re going to be a real looker, just like your father.”
I didn’t know what that meant; I just liked it when she paid attention to me.
As the months passed, Ms. Sandee became more and more desperate for dad’s affections. I think it was because she wasn’t used to being ignored. Whenever we went out together to run errands, go to the store, pick up laundry, whatever, I’d noticed that men looked at her, opened doors for her, struck up conversations with her. I think she probably could’ve had her pick out of dozens of men, but something about my father drove her wild.
One morning, I woke up early, around dawn, and Ms. Sandee was sitting in the kitchen. She was wearing a long coat. It was August. I was still half-asleep. I thought it was strange, because she didn’t usually get there that early. In summer, she usually came around 7:30.
“Where does your daddy go, so early in the morning?” She asked. She seemed agitated.
I shrugged. “He says it gets crowded around here if he sticks around.” It was yet another thing I hadn’t understood.
She sighed, “You want a hotdog?” she asked.
I sat, and it took a little while of watching her bending down to retrieve a pan and pending over in the open fridge for me to realize that she wasn’t wearing anything under that coat. I didn’t know why this would be, but I could think of several possible future scenarios this might lead to.
“Your hotdog’s done,” she said. “Come get it.”
“I can’t,” I said.
“My leg’s asleep,” I said.
My “leg” “went to sleep” so much those days that Ms. Sandee dragged me to a doctor, against my father’s wishes. It wasn’t that he had a religious stance against doctors or anything like that; he was just cheap.
“Walk it off,” dad said.
“He’s got some kind of circulation problem,” Ms. Sandee said.
“It’s cause you’re soft on him,” dad said. “His leg never goes to sleep when he’s around me.”
The doctor couldn’t tell Ms. Sandee anything.
“You need exercise,” she said. “All you do is sit in your room or run to the bathroom all day. Let’s workout together.”
I imagined her doing jumping jacks in a tight-fitting workout uniform.
“I don’t think that will help,” I said.
We would exercise for maybe five minutes, and I’d try to sneak out to the bathroom.
“Work it off,” she said.
I had no choice. I had to keep exercising. And it actually helped. A little.
The other thing I got from Ms. Sandee as a direct result of my father spurning her advances was advice:
“Don’t just jump on a woman, or you’ll scare her. Build a relationship. Show her you’re a man, but that’s not all you are. Make her laugh, and she’ll make you moan.”
To be honest, I didn’t really know what to do with it at the time. Ms. Sandee laughed at me all the time, usually when I didn’t want her to. She didn’t seem to be close to moaning for me any time soon. Still, she kept chasing dad and he kept running away. Finally, when I was 15 or so, she sat me down and asked me a question.
“Would you say your father was very close with your mother?” she asked. “I don’t want to stir up any bad memories, for you.” she added.
I’d never really thought about it before. “I don’t remember much,” I said.
“What do you remember?”
“She was always laughing,” I said. “We used to take long family drives out of the city/ On Sundays. They held hands everywhere.” I shrugged
She nodded. “They were in love,” she said, simply. “And your father still is in love.”
She looked sad when she said it, like she might start crying. “I love you,” I said.
She laughed and grabbed me in a hug and smothered my head with kisses. “I love you too, Adam. You’re like my own son to me.”
But that’s not what I meant. I meant that I loved her, just like dad and mom, or her and dad. I don’t think she ever figured that out, which is probably for the best. But things changed, a little, after that. She wasn’t nearly so flirty with dad. He wasn’t in such a hurry to leave in the mornings, and he didn’t stay out as late at night. It was like she was finally taking her own advice about not scaring people away.
“Some people take time,” she said, “and patience.”
I knew what she meant. As long as it took, I was prepared to wait for her to feel that way about me. Or so I thought at 14.
Posted over on Troubador21
like old gardens
can be brought back
to life, and often are
with new occupants"
There are those amongst us who believe
that as we struggle with our first few
gasps of Heaven, wearing our past like
tattered rags, we all desperately conjure
up houses that we once lived in;
extant and vibrant in every detail,
down to the thumb tack holes and crayon
art on the walls, complete with odors
and scars, familiar yet sad and empty,
void of voices, without pets and pests.
I visit the houses of my life in my
mind daily, shuffling them like a pack
of Tarot cards, for I lived in a full
pack, raised as urban nomad, barely
able to unpack my comic books before
it was time again to strike the circus
tents, and get into the caravan on the
move to the next adventure, the next
Their names and faces are all there;
Ballard, Georgetown, Burien, White
Center, West Seattle, Renton, Kent,
Covington, Lynnwood, and Lake City;
all with different houses, different
schools, different challenges--ever
the renters; never claiming ownership
of wood or tile or turf or brick or
If that were not enough, now I drive
about the Northwest chasing ghosts,
with my arthritic hands gripping firmly
on the steering wheel, searching for
those houses I keep dreaming about,
knowing that somehow I lived in them
once too, in other dimensions, in other
lifetimes--and oddly they are the
abandoned hulks that call to me,
not the myriad brick-a-bract domiciles
of my shimmering youth.
Glenn Buttkus August 2010
Posted as #35 over on Magpie Tales #29
Image by Kochubey
i lived there
I dream the familiar floor plan,
watch current residents
follow the muffled echo
of my former steps, shuffle
zombie-like, on the footprints
of a dance-step diagram,
up the gray halls, sullen, void
of laughter or tears of years spent,
absorbed in walls and rugs
mothballed in domestic memory.
Flies lie dead in the green
glass of the bathroom light
and one fluorescent bulb
above the kitchen sink blinks
and starts, but no-one sees,
or wants to see, the ghost town
of rooms, playing widescreen,
silent with no subtitles,
remote long lost, since I removed
and took its essence in my heart.
Tess Kincaid, August 2010
Posted over on Life at Willow Manor
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The Wanting Soil
My neighbor has a garden full of filth. Tomatoes choose their shape for a reason. Vines, tendrils spread unsuspecting soil to gain entrance; I know how they throb (not personally, of course). Zucchini, eggplants swollen purple. Watermelon full of seeds. Husky corn poking into the air, looking for clouds to part. I know what's on his mind. "Eat" indeed. "Grow," yes. I've seen him out there; I know what he's up to, and I'll have none of it. No matter how much stink of sex his roses dump into the air. No matter how much of Father's sun his lascivious garden eats.
My neighbor has a garden full of filth.
Tomatoes choose their shape for a reason.
Vines, tendrils spread unsuspecting soil
to gain entrance; I know how they throb
(not personally, of course).
Zucchini, eggplants swollen purple.
Watermelon full of seeds.
Husky corn poking into the air,
looking for clouds to part.
I know what's on his mind.
I've seen him out there;
I know what he's up to,
and I'll have none of it.
No matter how much stink of sex
his roses dump into the air.
No matter how much of Father's sun
his lascivious garden eats.
Posted over on Eat A Peach
1. Cortney's inspired prose poem.
2. Line breaks by Glenn Buttkus
Earl Melbourne Carpenter
My cousin, Jim Currie is a writer, a mensch, and that honest man we all seek when we perform in a show, or write something, or sculpt something, or polish our car, or grow facial hair. But honesty is a quagmire of daggers that too often plunge into the softest and least protected parts of our ego, of our heart, maybe even our essence; but that is doubtful when we abandon the monkey mind of the right side.
Who amongst us has not solicited feedback from a friend, a spouse, a girlfriend, or relative whose opinion we convince ourself is essential? And when the lips move, and the feedback is negative, which it certainly can be, there are few pains that rival that which erupts in your chest, squeezing your heart like a lemon. So what is the answer. What does the wise writer do?
We do not write in a vacuum, nor would we want our words to fall into muteness in a windstorm of criticism. I have been sending my poetry, and some other writings, to Jim over the years. Mostly he remains silent, stewing in his own juices and not sharing the bouquet with me. Recently I sent him two of my new poems and he responded that he is at a point in his life where he no longer enjoys poetry, or the criticism of same. I asked him to elaborate, and his response was classic; very honest, and it cut deeply into the first three layers of my artistic epidermal. But re-reading his response several times, I began to see and appreciate the wisdom in his views. He still calls me "Butch", my family nick name. I answer to that name only seldom presently since most of the family have moved on to other planes. His uncle, my grandfather, Earl Carpenter, was an inspired artist, landscape painter. He and I loved him.
No need to take offense to my views about poetry. You asked and I replied. And anything I said wasn't meant to be specific to your own poetry. I don't even know if it applies to you. I didn't fully invest, in part, because I didn't want to create this kind of relationship. It's too damn tricky. Imagine Earl shedding his work for others to give him feedback on? He only had that relationship with two people. I'm sure that was intentional. It requires great delicacy and confidence unless you (i.e. anyone) is prepared to be ripped. In my case I don't want to be ripping anyone or compelled to offer praise if I don't feel the inclination.
People are very sensitive about their writing, and I'm no different. I've learned over time not to solicit opinions unless I have a student-teacher relationship with them, they're an editor, or the one person who I allow to rip me and praise me because I know it's all for the good. Of course, this doesn't mean she doesn't occasionally piss me off or that sometimes I simply know that she is wrong and move on. I do listen to her, though. Over time I learn to discern what is her own subjective bs and what is veritas. I'm sure she finds all of this quite exhausting, which of course is one of the reasons I don't set myself to do the same for others.
I can't afford to have this relationship with others, nor would I really want it. It's occasionally stressful and always makes for complication.
Writing can be a very lonely art, but we do it because there is no real choice. A big part of commercial writing is developing a rinpoche-like detachment. You realize that you're operating in the world of aesthetics in which most standards are subjective. Increasingly I gravitate to writing that is unpopular and out of date, so my opinion should be of no consquesnce.
Enough said on this subject. I would rather discuss ideas than be any kind of a literary critic.
Across the bridge, down the slope,
Next to the concrete ballast,
We made our way to disclose
The secret words.
Beneath the bridge, by the sound,
Next to the concrete ballast,
We made a place to resolve
The secret joy.
Beyond the tangled tide-line,
Shadows shifted over the pebbles.
Shadows, the hands of time, hands
That took us in the sunshine,
That moved us in the sunshine, hands
That touched us.
In the sunshine, blue irises,
Ringed with fine haloes of bronze,
Gleamed across the light, light
That burned us into twilight,
That charged us into twilight, light
That touched us.
Beneath the bridge, under our feet,
Sandy life jumped in convulsions.
Boats passed through the streaming narrows,
Twisting across the swirling eddies...
We kissed in choruses of kisses...
Quietly the sky soothed a sundream...
Two clouds drifted by...
Words, tears, smiles, kisses, kisses...
Under the bridge, up the slope,
Away from the concrete ballast,
Pushing with panting sighs and smiles,
We drew apart from the place
Of secret words.
Beyond the bridge, down the road,
We made our way absolved
From secret joy.
and then there is Naomi
And then there is Naomi. Naomi Swinton (sometimes known as monsterchild but who’s name really indicates one is in the presence of “one who outshines the sun”), mother of these two kids and my partner in crime and everything else. Red haired, freckled, left-handed, with a galaxy of reverse freckles starting just above the space between her clavicles (which a French woman told me has a name that means “the place you lick the salt out of”). Those reverse freckles run, spray, licks around the curve of her neck. A stark, wild sight in summer when all the rest of her glows red.
And then there is Naomi.
(sometimes known as monsterchild
but who’s name really indicates
one is in the presence of
“one who outshines the sun”),
mother of these two kids
and my partner in crime and everything else.
Red haired, freckled, left-handed,
with a galaxy of reverse freckles
starting just above the space
between her clavicles
(which a French woman told me
has a name that means
“the place you lick the salt out of”).
Those reverse freckles run, spray, licks
around the curve of her neck.
A stark, wild sight in summer
when all the rest of her glows red.
Posted over on his blog Mine Enemy Grows Older
1. Prose by Rick Mobbs
2. Line breaks by Glenn Buttkus
Painting by Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven
Death and man.
Death and armadillos
and deer, racoons, possums, rats,
cats, dogs, and one coyote,
all lying in rigor, with limbs splayed
awkwardly, lying patiently,
waiting for the ravenous raven
and peregrine to drop down
lightly next to them, needing to dip
their beaks and talons into the still
warm flesh of the roadkill entree.
Death can out-wait us all,
standing, sitting, crouching feral
and lethal just behind us, like
a gray edge on our shadow.
But Death does not have a skull’s face,
or a demon’s, or a devil’s, hell no,
often it looks like Robert Redford
on the classic Twilight Zone,
a fair-haired youth dressed like
a policeman, greeting us with a smile,
holding out a warm hand of greeting.
Death is just a doorway,
the Grand Transition rivaling birth,
another journey, prep work for rebirth.
Do not fear Death, for it does not
ride a pale horse--it is the steed itself,
muscled white and beautiful, like the
unicorns of legend, nostrils flaring,
withers writhing with anticipation,
waiting for you to leap onto its
wide back, grab a handful of silky mane,
and will it into a gallop, and you
ride that equusian rocket deep
into the billowing brilliance,
creating a sonic boom
as you pierce the veil.
Death and armadillos
possums, rats, cats,
coyote, all lying
rigor, with limbs
splayed awkwardly, lying
the ravenous raven
drop down lightly
needing to dip
talons into the
of the roadkill
wait us all,
feral and lethal
like a gray
shadow. But Death
a skull’s face,
or a devil’s,
it looks like
the classic Twilight
haired youth dressed
greeting us with
out a warm
Death is just
Grand Transition rivaling
prep work for
fear Death, for
ride a pale
the steed itself,
beautiful, like the
nostrils flaring, withers
waiting for you
its wide back,
of silky mane,
into a gallop,
that equusian rocket
billowing brilliance, creating
as you pierce the veil.
Glenn Buttkus August 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
"Mariner" by H. Hamampour
Sunk to the eyes
in billowy bubbles and epidermal brine,
lying languid and long amidships
in my ancient porcelain bath tub
whose brass dragon’s feet
perched like clawed fists
at each smooth white rounded corner
on a trivet of rough-edged bricks,
stained tangerine orange
and melon yellow
after ages of sediment had dripped
hotly onto their exposed flanks,
all atop a copper meshed grate
where the soupy overspill
of old skin, garden soil, and concrete dust
could flow down searching
for the fellow pipes and portals
of other drains, and lustfully mingle
with the rainbow rivulets of run off
from strangers, mysterious women,
crippled mailmen, dogs,
and a black five-foot boa constrictor
we knew Ames kept on the second floor--
I felt at absolute One with the sea
within, gleaming with salt particles
at the sub-atomic level, and the body
of ocean only blocks distant, and even
the gushing of my own blood pumped
around the meat engine that housed me;
submerged yet afloat,
weightless yet powerful,
a captain, a titan, a Mer-man,
staring into the blank face
of the tub troll, with the pewter faucet
as proboscis, and my own toes
as misshapen wrist digits, he
who always attended me
and accompanied me
on my daily sailings.
Glenn Buttkus August 2010
To be posted as well on Magpie Tales 28
Hypericum and Crocosmia
I love it when things come together.
Alone, we are nothing,
We are ordinary, everyday clay,
not "the stuff that dreams are made on".
But put us together,
and we are twice as strong,
twice as beautiful,
we give and take twice as much pleasure in
simply being alive.
Side by side,
hand in hand,
a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved,
a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled
Posted over on her site Friko's Musings
Painting by Charles L. Peterson
Ode to the Yard Sale
A plastic rose
To the sky.
And two friends,
The salvageable heart,
The front lawn –
A couch, a beanbag,
A table to clip
To the moon
Rent is due
On the lawn,
The shirts we've
Looked good in,
Taken off before
We snuggled up
That almost made
It'll be a good
And the pitcher
Blue in the shade,
Clear in the
Scotch the color
Falling at our
Get us through
Rush of old
Ladies, young women
On their way
To becoming nurses,
Tea bag. It's an eager day:
Wind in the trees,
People will arrive
To open up coffee
Pots and look
In, weigh pans
In each hand,
And prop hats
On their heads
And ask, "How do
I look?" (foolish
Beautiful to us).
And so they
At the clothes,
And pepper shakers
For their tiny music,
As we sit with
And grow sad
That the ashtray
Has been sold,
A lamp, a pillow,
The fry pans
That were action
We cooked, those things
We threw so much
Love on, day
Sure they would mean something
When it came
Posted over on the Writers Almanac
Monday, August 23, 2010
anyone lived in a pretty how town
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did
Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
Posted over on Poets. org
Image by fotoevia
there are so many tictoc
clocks everywhere telling people
what toctic time it is for
tictic instance five toc minutes toc
past six tic
Spring is not regulated and does
not get out of order nor do
its hands a little jerking move
over numbers slowly
we do not
wind it up it has no weights
springs wheels inside of
its slender self no indeed dear
nothing of the kind.
(So,when kiss Spring comes
we'll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss
lips because tic clocks toc don't make
a toctic difference
to kisskiss you and to
Posted over on Poets.org
you must know a little
you must know a little
about the gravitational
pull of ignored
things. with layers
upon layers yet
to uncover, and
heaviness like a
twist of hair
the larger the
mass, the stronger
Yi Ching Lin
Posted over on her site Yi's Bits
Image by Carl Moser
On one of those birthdays of which I've had so many
I was walking home through the park from a party,
pleased that I'd resisted mentioning the birthday—
why hear congratulations for doing nothing but live?
The birthday was my secret with myself and gave me,
walking under all those trees, such a strong feeling of
satisfaction that everything else fell away: party sounds,
the hostess who stared and as suddenly disappeared
on seeing her husband walk in with a young(er ) friend;
another guest examining garment labels in the room
where I went to leave my jacket; one of two waiters
balancing a trayful of foot-high champagne glasses;
a bee-like buzz of voices I ought to have enjoyed
but heard as foreign babble, so remote it was from
a birthday, so empty of import nothing would remain.
I got my jacket, waved from the hall, pressed Down.
In summer the park, for an hour or so before night,
is at its greenest, a whole implicit proposition
of green leaves, a triumph of leaves enfolding me
that day in a green intimacy so trustworthy I told
them my secret: "It's my birthday," I said out loud
before turning away to cross the avenue.
Posted over on the Writer's Almanac