Friday, December 21, 2012

She Now Runs A Store In Heaven

A few days ago, I learned of my friend Glenda Kelly’s passing. She taught English at the high school I attended. I never had her officially for a teacher because I was an ESE student. But a few times when our teacher was out for one reason or another our class would sit in with her class. She was well aware of our struggles with reading and the insecurities we faced being mixed in with her honor students. It was a strange dichotomy but one she balanced beautifully.

I can’t remember her ever calling on any of us to read out loud from a textbook, which I appreciated at the time. Yet, she did have us once write a report after watching, The Grapes of Wrath. Then we had to stand in front of the class and read our reports. At that point in my life I didn’t think I would finish high school. Although I loved the movie I had just seen, I wasn’t going to write anything to read in front of anyone. I knew I would stumble trying to read even my own chicken scratch. So, I used my time wisely and sat quietly in the back of the class drawing. Glenda’s insight into people was remarkable. She knew I hadn’t written a word. But she also knew the world I came from, and what world awaited me with few educational skills. So she called on each one in the class to give their report until she reached my desk. “Hodges, your turn.”

I walked to the front of the class with a piece of paper folded in half. I opened my paper and began to speak. Never looking up, I slowly recalled the movie we had watched. I finished and started to walk back to my seat. Then, I heard Glenda’s voice, “I need your paper.” I turned to see her eyes slightly narrowed looking at me with a half smile. She knew my paper was blank. With a wink she said, “Good job. Now take your seat.” At the end of class she handed our papers back. I tucked mine in my book and went about my day. Later, I opened my blank paper to see a C+ in red ink scrolled across the top. This was the start of our friendship.

A few years rolled by and I would see her passing in the hallway always smiling. Somehow, I made it to my Senior year, and we had a dinner at school the night before graduation. I sat with her and talked for a long time. She asked what I had learned my four years there and I jokingly said, “How to spell ‘car trouble’ from skipping school and checking in late.” Again her eyes narrowed, “Well, don’t share that please.” Then she gave me that same wink I had grown to love. We talked a little more and I said that the yearbook printers had left out my senior will. There was a kid in my grade named Jason B. Hodge. My name being Jason E. Hodges, along with a graduating class of ninety something kids, the printer assumed it was the same person. So mine was left out. I told Glenda “for once I wish someone would say my name with an S.” By that point it really got under my skin to be called Hodge. Probably from all the mix-ups over the years and yes to this day I still get phone calls from strangers looking for him. So, Glenda said “I’ll make sure you get your S when I call your name for your diploma.” Ever true to her word, she paused in the drizzling rain and called my name correctly. I can still see her smiling face as I walked up to get my diploma.  

The years went by and I would see her from time to time at the different places I worked. Usually some type of working-class job like when I worked at the carwash she frequented. She would always stop and fill me in on her family and the different things going on in their life. The years, as they always do, drifted by and I found myself working at a hardware store. She came in and bought something and I loaded it for her. I can’t remember at this point what it was but I do remember her tipping me five dollars. I tried to refuse the money and only got her narrowing eyes and the reply of “You did work for me so you are taking this tip!” She was the only one over three years of carrying everything from lumber to cement out to people’s vehicles that tipped me.

A few more years went by and I grew to become pretty good friends with Glenda’s daughter Diedra. We went to school together but never really knew one another until the world of Facebook. We had a lot of common interest but most of all she was a good listener. She always had kind words to say as well. I was going through a lot of health problems at the time with my lungs, and she was always there with good advice.

One day Diedra invited me to spend the day at her mother’s shop. It was an old wooden building full of all kinds of odds and ends. Everything from antiques to used books. Glenda had beaten cancer and was enjoying each and every day. I pondered going down to the building. I wanted to see the two of them and get out of the house but the doctors had successfully filled my head with fear about my lungs and my biggest enemy being dust.

Saturday morning came and the urge to spend the day with Glenda and Diedra outweighed the doctor’s warnings. I remember the three of us sitting and talking the afternoon away. We talked about family, literature, friends, and the past all while customers strolled through the store. Previous students would stop in and Glenda would always call them by name no matter how many years had passed since she had taught them. This was almost always followed by a hug and a warm smile. Glenda always had her little notebook jotting things down after each person would leave. I finally asked what she was writing and she said, “Oh, just this and that about the people I run across during my day.” I ended up spending the next three Saturdays there before Diedra moved away to California somewhere around the Spring of 2011.

Since then all has seemed to be a whirlwind in my life. Time goes faster and faster with each passing year. I did manage to call Diedra on her birthday this September and she returned my call while I was on my fifteen minute break at work. We didn’t have long to talk but she filled me in briefly about her mother’s cancer numbers acting up and that she might be fighting it again. I told her I would keep positive thoughts going her and Glenda’s way. A short time later, I found out Glenda’s fight had begun once more.      

Glenda was a teacher by profession but her teaching skills went far beyond the walls of a school. Her study was life and the people she came in contact with each and every day. Her example of grace, kindness, and understanding is one we all should look upon for guidance in our everyday lives. Be kind to others, for your days with them are most certainly numbered. No one lives forever and life moves at an unforgiving speed especially the older we get. Treat people the way you would want to be treated and always give of your best, all the way down to the smallest detail like pronouncing someone’s name correctly. But most of all, live every moment with meaning. Don’t waste your days with the negative, fill your days with the positive.      

For years I’ve pondered the saying “rest in peace.” As I write this and think of Glenda passing, I think these words are not fitting for her. The words should be awake in peace. Your spirit is now on the other side. Unlike this world where our feelings are constantly dictated by our body’s need for food and sleep, or being worn down by sickness, anxiety, or depression. Glenda is in a place of love surrounded by the loved ones of the past. She now runs a store in Heaven. Her inventory is the loving memories and prayers we now send her. Notebook in hand she awaits our arrival most certainly with a wink and a smile.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Poem : The Tower

The tower on the hill
With the faraway eye
Blinks red in the shadowed sky
Of early morning darkness
Like a ruby
Like a rose
Burning a thousand shades of energy
Shouting silently
Secret thoughts of serenity
With each flash
Like a beacon it calls to me
Each day’s dawn
Through the rolling fog of the faraway farmland
Falling from the end of night
I see it on the way to the factory
To the time clock
I see it glowing in the distance
As I make my way through the small town
The place of my work
Riddled with tin roof houses
And cars resting on blocks
I know this light well
Its steel frame jutting far above the forest’s canopy
Its support cables wound to the ground
With secure pulling tightness
This lighthouse of blinking
It stands on the hillside
Calling to my mind
To my memories
Through my wary bloodshot eyes of sleepless nights
Reminding me of the past and of the future
With each illuminating flash
Flashing forward and flashing back

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Poem : X-Ray Moonbeams

Bitter meals in the desert
In the colored sand stone mystery of summer
Blowing in the wind
The wind did blow that night of nights
As I chewed my meal
I felt it slipping into my blood
My bloodstream it slipped in so softly it did
Slowly melting all that I saw
And I wondered
What is this strange new world that surrounds me?
A new world incased by the old
One that has always been here, but my eyes could not see
Until this night, when I was awakened by flashes from cameras
Their bright trials streaking in the air just before me
So I walked around to see what this new place had to offer
And I heard the full moon breathing just above me
Its edge moving in and out, in and out
With each breath
Its soft moonbeams of light now shine upon me
These beams look like long sheets of x-rays falling from the night
So I took refuge underneath a mesquite bush to shade my eyes
But this only complicated matters
For it shattered the sheets crashing through the tree limbs
Turning them into tiny tumbling triangular diamonds of color
My eye’s perception of this was like peering through a kaleidoscope
Melting shards splashing the air all around me
My old mind, from the old world asked, “Is this real?”
My new mind from this new world replied, “We’ll ask Alice.”
Then I think
Or maybe a rabbit with a wound watch of gold
Maybe Alice would offer me something to drink
Something that would make me a hundred miles tall
Tall enough to give the moon my inhaler
Its breathing must have been hindered by the smog of the city
So, beware of meals in the desert
You might run into Alice or a rabbit
Maybe even a moon that wheezes with asthma
All possibilities
When the moon shines upon you with x-ray eyes

Friday, November 16, 2012

Poem : A Far Away Place

Away, away, in a faraway place
My mind does often go
Drifts and dreams
With imagination
To this faraway place
Where the hills are green and flow from my eyesight
Like green waves disappearing into the horizon
A place where streams trickle with blue water magic
Where plush treetops sway against the skyline
And small creatures scurry about
Without a care in the world
A place where clouds don’t exist
Except when I need them
To shade my morning eyes from the sun
When I lay back in the meadow
And feel its warmth upon my skin
In a moment
I’m brought back
Back from this far away place
By the morning grumbles of the boss man
“Production! Production! Production!”
I guess production is the name of his faraway place
For it’s hard for big fish to flow freely
Outside of their small pond

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Poem : Caught By The Wolf

Looking back and looking forward
Has always been the same for the blue-collars
For our fathers taught us well
Wise words of their teaching
“Don’t let you wants out weigh your needs.”
Sayings that kept us safe from the wolves
But the wolves were never dressed in sheep’s clothing
They were crafty and came in so many forms
They wore hardhats, and called themselves supers
They came to us in suits
With promises of bigger and better tomorrows
They said “No money down.”
“Your dreams can start today.”
The wolves now call themselves collecting agents
But still no sheep’s clothing
Each day I see so many that are struggling
Caught by the wolf
And the ones that are not caught
Are just one or two paychecks away
From his teeth gnashed waiting to bite
We’re working while looking over our shoulder
We’ve sold ourselves back to the factories
To the scratches of raw flesh infection
To the cut-saw
With its carbon tips braking off and flying like bullets
Yes we’re doing the best that we can to make a dollar
At least this is what I tell myself
As I see the workers that have managed to hold on
That start their morning with a beer in the shower
Their skin glows a light pink florescent
As they work their ten hour shifts
To make cheap rent and a case of even cheaper beer
All to burn away the memories of what once was for the working class

Friday, November 2, 2012

Democrat vs. Republican vs. Beetlejuice

One of my coworkers today broke the monotony of classic rock playing on the radio by telling me about her recent encounters with a one legged man she refers to as Charles Manson. This was a welcome story because 10 hours of classic rock mixed in with political commercials this time of year make 10 hours feel like 20 hours of hell.

My coworker, who we will call Jane, started telling me all about Mr. Manson. She said he was constantly trying to flag her down for a ride when she passed him walking the long dirt road they both lived on. Jane’s face pulled tight with disgust when she described how filthy he was. She said he never wore shoes, or a shoe, on his one good foot, and he smelled so badly it was almost impossible to stand within 10 feet of him without gagging. But topping off all of her descriptions was her saying how one day in her home town’s convenient store she saw a roach on the floor run to him not away from him like they do with most folks. This is about the time my imagination started to take over. I pondered questions in my mind all while giving an occasional nod and smile to Jane’s ramblings. How dirty do you have to be to have roaches run to you in a store? Does Manson’s wooden foot look like it was made by the same guy that made the Happy Gilmore hand? Why doesn’t he wear shoes or a shoe? Man he must have one dusty ass foot…

Jane finally finished her tale and I went back to work. Now with yet another ad playing on the radio. I had to wonder, with all these political promises being made, what would the politician do for this one-footed, roach drawing man? If he had the power to vote would Mr. Mason suddenly become part of their demographic? Each ad I hear these days the  politician sounds more and more like a used car salesman. The only difference they’re selling dreams instead of cars. I guess the easiest way do describe my line of thinking on this is, each time I hear these ads I instantly think of that commercial in Beetlejuice. You remember, the one with him riding the mechanical bull swinging a lasso, claiming to be the afterlife’s leading Bio-Exorcist.

As the day drug on, I amused myself with the thought of the politician selling their dreams sitting on a bull with a lasso dressed like Beetlejuice each time I heard an ad. In my mind I could see them approaching the one legged Mr. Manson with their best smile, “Good day Mr. Manson. What a lovely roach you have on your shoulder. Let’s get down to business. What would it take to get you in to a new leg today? I really need your vote, you see. So, if I get your support, there may be a new leg in this for you. Well, kinda new. Well, newer than the one you have now. The only real problem it’s a left leg and you’re missing your right. But think about this. How much fun would it be to leave footprints in the sand with two left feet. Folks would always know it was you. I may even be able to throw in a pair of new shoes with it. It’d be hell getting the right one on but we could grease that bad boy up and get you where you need to go. I just need your vote and we can make your new left foot a reality. So, what do you say Mr. Manson? Can our party depend on you?”

I know after reading my absurd thoughts on these political commercials you may think I’m way off base with how ridiculous I think some of these ads have become. But listen to them for 10 hours a day loading splinter filled wood and you might see that they are sounding a little more like Beetlejuice and less like people that will lead us. But what do I know, I’m only a writer with a big imagination living one day at a time…        

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Poem : White Crosses

This time of year
When the days become short
And the air is dressed with a slight chill
I remember a friend I lost many years ago
For the last time I saw her
Winter was almost upon us
As we spoke our last words to one another
Our warm breath hung still in the cold air before us
But it’s not just this time of year that I remember
I remember those times through songs
Through words someone might say around me
Or sometimes certain places we hung out together
These things bring my friend back to me
If only for a moment
Like a photo flashing in the still frames of my mind
I see her and remember
Even those homemade white crosses
That look like a roadway pauper’s grave
Make me remember
But not only her, many more
That have gone on from me
Dropped away because their fire burned too bright
Too fast
I reflect today
On the good times though
That’s all you have left when they’re gone you know?
It’s been over twenty years now
And the good times still seem like yesterday
For we were reckless youth living life with no limits
I still see her
Wild-eyed like an untamed cat
Drunk on Boons-farm
Underneath the streetlights of the city
Underneath the moonlight of the country
Most of all, I remember her saying days before she left me
You will be something special one day
Someone people will love and want to hold on to
Don’t listen to the ones that say you should be
This way or that
Do what you believe in
And good things will always follow you
All just memories now
Cherished for I know there will be no more made between us

Friday, October 19, 2012

Poem : The Lizard King The Poet

Soft was his voice
For he spoke in a whisper
Yet, a voice that rattled with rage as he screamed to the heavens
As he danced in his madness
For Jim had seen through the eyes of a blind man
Blind to the rules of the world that surrounded him
He walked where he wanted
Wrote as he wanted
Sang as he wanted
The new king who was always a poet
Writing what he saw in the next world
The land between realities and dreams
Where the Navajo cries still drift in the sand filled wind
In photos you could see this reflected
In the dark gaze of his eyes
Look close the next time you see him and you will see what he sees
Look past his stare
The same way he looked past the camera lens
Into the world of his present and future
All of his making
His terms
But sometimes living this way can be difficult
Even for a king
For when the edge is where your footsteps rest
One step over becomes far too tempting
At this point
The limelight can quickly change to no light
A place of no coming back to this world
For kings
This is often the case
But for poets of songs their words will live on
Each time you hear them played
Now the king sleeps in the old dirt of Paris
Under marble scratched and graffiti with names of fans
Obsessed with the poet and his words of song
Generations after his life

Monday, October 15, 2012

Poem : Hope

Hope is something that has served me well
Throughout my life
But never more so than the last year and a half
Hope is something to hold on to
When the winds of pain blow without mercy
Without pity
Without love
Like a hurricane’s breeze bending trees
Into upside-down brooms sweeping the sky
And when this happens, I must seek shelter
And the only shelter to seek is hope
Hope is something that comes from within
Hope begins as a thought
Yet something you can see before you slowly turning to reality
Like the autumn leaves bursting with color
Things will eventually change with hope and time
But time is always the key
Hope takes hard work to protect
For at first you must lock it away
Far away
Hide it from the ones who don’t want you to dream
Of bigger and better tomorrows
In a box, within a box, within your heart
Far away where you have to look for it each and every day
Where no one can see it but you
No one can take it away
Then when the time is right
Open yourself up to a life of new possibilities
Reach into your heart and pull hope from your chest
And live a life you’ve only been dreaming of
Where your biggest concern is to be not concerned with tomorrow
And the past is left in the past
A life where you count the stars in an endless sky with the one you love
As the moon shines on your shadows gazing upwards together
But remember
Hope is fragile in the beginning of its emerges
Like a butterfly slipping out from its cocoon
Weak are its wings at first
And when dreams fall apart
The pain can be almost to hard to describe
Your heart feels like it’s stopped beating
Your mind races with such speed of what went wrong?
What could have been?
Or even, what has been
Your distant demeanor troubles the ones that surround you
Your blank stare is constant
For you’re still looking for answers
Yet hope takes hold of you once more
And you move through the motions of the everyday grind
Till you’re ready to try hope again
And live the life you’ve only lived in your dreams

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Poem : The Cane And Red Tree Flowers

It started out with this cane
A cane now gazed upon with happiness
It was simple really
Made in a day from scrap wood lying around
For the next morning
I was having a spot of leg cancer removed
I had to have something to walk with
For the doctor would cut deep with his scalpel
Then stretch and lace my skin like a corset
Hydrocodone was also on the menu and would make me off balance
Months went by
I healed and the cane sat in the corner
Gathering dust like white blinds in a window
Till one day I decided it was going for a walk
It had sat to long and so had I
I walked through the thick scrub oaks of North Florida
So I could try to find a way to fix my mind
Down leaf covered paths of sand
Flanked with fronds from a sea of palmettos
Gently blowing in the humid breeze of my state
We walked across planked wooden bridges
With the soft sounds of a trickle from a creek just below
Twisting and winding through limestone banks
A big buck stood just before us
Without fear
For he knew we meant him no harm
His twelve points of bone were safe
For he knew
I needed no trophies to hang on the wall
I was looking for much more than a prize
I was looking for where I had lost my mind
A doe and her fawn grazed just beyond the meadow
As red flowers in bloom blew high in the canopy
On top of one tree
On one vine
In one very big forest
But they only seem to show themselves
To the ones who took the time to look up
To slowdown in the moment, like you and I
To stop treading the waves of the waters of worry
Long enough to breath
Long enough to find our bearings
As I walked with my hand around you
My mind began to calm
Each week I came home and worked on my cane
Staining, sanding, and refinishing again
Each week my cane worked on me
Walking with me as I picked up the pieces of shattered realities
One day I will be old and feeble
Walking with something that started out as scrap wood
A cane submerged in memories of miles walked
Good times and bad
A cane walked through the hours of my life

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Poem : Waiting

They say time is a funny thing
But I guess it would depended on who’s keeping it
When your waiting for a flower from Eden to bloom
Or for moments of memories to turn
To days of good lives lived without worry
Without fear
The clock hands crawl to what seems
Like the speed of a standstill
And that’s not funny at all
It’s the small things that sustain me
Yes the small things are what I hold on to
Like a button
Like a stone
Like a bookmark
Like a photo
Like a coin
Things that are meaningless to most
But priceless to me
Held in a box like Jem and Scout’s box of treasures
But mine was not found in a tree
Nor from a blond neighbor named Boo
Not even from a book about killing a bird
For mine is not fiction
It can be held in my hand
Looked at and remind me the good times of the past were real
This is what gets me through as I’m waiting
Waiting for the tides to come in
Without the undertow of constant erosion
Eating away at my soul
Without wave, after wave, of circumstance cutting me down
Pounding the walls that surround me
Yes, I can’t find the humor in the tick tocks of time
But one day my smile will have no end
Then the clock will move faster than ever
For I will never want it to stop

Friday, October 5, 2012

Poem : The Dead Horse

He is my greatest fault
My enemy
But is he?
I beat him then resurrect him
Like Lazarus
Then beat him to death again, and again
But don’t mistake my words
I am no God
I am just a man beating a dead horse
Or so the saying goes
But sometimes
My dead horse will convince me that beating him
Is not my fault at all
That he is not my enemy
That I’m only crossing my T’s and doting my I’s and such
That it’s become second nature to me
To check, double check, and check once more
My dead horse tells me it’s from my up bringing
That my father use to beat his father to death as well
Oh how I wish I could stop and sometimes I do
Sometimes the anxiety that lives within me quiets for a while
And I can put down my stick
And the dead horse is safe to graze for a day
Or maybe a week
Maybe a month
Then something happens to awaken that demon
The demon of anxious what ifs
The demon who steals my breath with his pitchfork of asthma
Makes my insecurities grow with speed
But now I think
The dead horse might be on to something
Beating him came about from protection you see
He’s kept me safe with routine
With checking twice then doing once
Without mistakes
All was taught to me by my father
My mother
Both were Depressionary children
And beating a dead horse kept them in sync with staying alive
At a time when mistakes might have meant the loss of a meal
The loss of a job that could have been worked
When you’ve experience hunger to the point of
Cooking the seed for the next years crop to feed your kids
Or eating half eaten apple cores you’ve found on the ground
Then you will defiantly beat the dead horse for comfort
Like they did
And you will pass this way of beating onto your children like me
To continue and ponder in the form of this poem
And conclude it’s just the way I am

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Poem : Butterflies Of The Night

I see you each morning
As the moon falls from the blackened sky
As it casts it’s x-ray light upon the shadowed clouds
Floating puffs of dark cotton
Cotton clouds lined with blue smears of moonlight
Splashed underneath with the finest shades of purple
I see you I say
You and your kind
Swarm underneath the 235 bridge
Coming home to hang under its stone columns
Its giant cement pillars holding the roadway above
Fluttering with such beauty
You do
As you fly in the thousands
And I wonder
What gives you your flutter?
Are you drunk?
From the fermented fruit
Left to rot in the fields waiting to be turned under by the plow point
Left by the migrant workers moving on to the next crop
To the next town
Or is your wobbly way of flying from the nectar of night flowers?
Open and waiting for you to pollinate
With your small pointed tongue
Feeding all night on their sweetness
Yet giving life to us all
As you move flower to flower
I wonder these things each morning I see you
I see you and wonder each morning these things

Monday, October 1, 2012

Poem : Muscadine Wine

The wine that drips and falls from my lips
Comes from the perfect arched arbor
It pours so slowly
Taste sweet to my tongue
Like sugar
From that Red Top Cane being milled in the fall
Yet a little bit bitter all at the same time
That sweet southern Muscadine Wine
Intoxicates me like no other
Has me drunk for days
Washes away all of my troubles
Even if only a sip
Is the color of my Muscadine Wine
Tall is the bottle it pours from
Smooth is the feel of it going down
Taking away all of the stress
All of the worry
At times
That I hold like Atlas holding the world
This Red drink of life gives me comfort
For days through hardships
Most would fall under
Most would break
Not me
Cause I’m still holding my bottle and drinking my Muscadine Wine

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Poem : Playing God And Paying The Devil

I squat down to watch as she sits on her web of misfortune
The widow with her orange belly shining so bright
Against her body
Black as midnight with no moon in sight
I watch her listening to her web’s harp being played
Its silken strings sparkle like crystals
In the warm morning sunlight
Music being made from moving about
As the fly plucks her harp again and again
He plays his song so soft
Only she can hear its distressed melody
Its terrified verse
Its quivering chorus
Yet the fly is honest in his thrashing
For he knows undoubtedly
He’s invited the widow for dinner
Now her black legs with spiked ends start their stepping
Moving with speed to greet him
Closer and closer
As the fly continues to play his sweet song of struggle
Faster and faster he moves
Till a stick from the hand of my holding
Pulls him from the web of his demise
I watch him fly away free till he disappears from sight
I stare off into the distance where I last saw him
And think of the good deed I’ve done
I look down to my hand that is now on fire
To see the widow’s two fang marks and her slipping away

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Life Going By

Some days I miss my nephew greatly. He’s doing a five-year stint without parole. To those that really know me, I’m much more of a sensitive person than most would think. Right or wrong the absence of a friend or family member to jail or whatever circumstance keeps them from seeing you is something very hard on me. It is the worst type of misery for I know firsthand how short life can be… So, if you are with someone you love, appreciate them and the moments you have together… Don’t be afraid to tell them either… In life we sometimes don’t get second chances, and sometimes we don’t realize the first ones are standing right in front of us…

When I was in my early twenties, I worked in a small town hardware store doing the best I could to stay afloat on what little that job paid. It was not far from where I lived so spending little on gas was a plus. I also had to air up my tires each morning because most were flat by the following day… 25 cents a day was much better than four new tires…

Although I wasn’t paid much in money, I was paid tenfold in wisdom by two old men that had nothing better to do but drink the free coffee and hide from their wives, kids, and grandkids that they claimed would drive any man crazy. Truth of the matter, their families were probably happy to see them disappear each morning. Both were a handful.

Old Man Slim came in each morning to hover around the coffee pot but not before he walked past it headed straight for the restroom with a slight sucking in posture to his butt and a tiptoe stride to his walk. He would step out 20 minutes or so later complaining that the paper wasn’t fit for a man his age. Then he would make his way to the coffee pot and sit down and talk about life and what it meant to him at his age. He was 94 years old and could account for every minute and some days he did just that.

Slim was the only WWI Vet I ever knew. He said once to me, “You would have not wanted to be where I was when I was your age. The company’s commander would give the signal and the sergeant would blow his whistle. We would climb out of our trench and run straight into the German machineguns. The ones who lived found themselves in the German’s trench fighting, stabbing, and clubbing their way to what was considered a victory. Really we were just trying to stay alive. It’s been 75 years now and I still wake to that damn whistle sometimes in the night. Yeah you wouldn’t have wanted to be where I was when I was your age.”

I understood what Slim was trying to convey to me but still it was a heavy trip to hear his confessions of the things he did in war while the whole time watching what he had seen so many years before play over in his dark eyes. But Slim made it out, had kids, grandkids and made the most of those 75 years after the war.

Uncle Buck ( No relation as far as I know) was another one of the hardware hangout gang of old men. He was the son of a riverboat captain. His father was a violent man when he drank. One such night he tried to kill Uncle Buck with a kitchen knife after drinking half a bottle of whisky. Buck was 14 years old when he wrestled away from his father and jumped from the boat into the waters of the muddy Mississippi never to see him again.

Uncle Buck was not quite as old as Slim but he was old enough. Buck for some reason took a liking to me instantly calling me The Two Tone Hippie. My hair was long and was bleached months before. My roots needed a little work.

Uncle Buck reminisced about his 35 years on the railroad or his first love who had died 20 years earlier. He said he didn’t know how he made it through the loss of her. That it ate away at him for what seemed like a lifetime. Making his stomach turn in anguish of not being able to hold her ever again. There was no doubt in my mind if he could go back to those days, no matter what the difficulties they were going through at the time, he would have without hesitation. He claimed he had finally gotten over losing her and he’d moved on and married another. But the strain on his face as it pulled tight just talking about her told me different. Uncle Buck was one of the most foul mouth big hearted men I ever knew. Most couldn’t see through his rough demeanor, but I could and I learned a lot about life and picking yourself up when you’ve been knocked down by the world from him.

My great-grandfather was another man that lived into his nineties. He had a time in life separating his heart from what was really good for him. He made and ran moonshine for years without getting caught but once his two sons got involved, things began to change. His sons, my grandmother’s brothers, were eventually caught and the judge gave them the option of going to prison or going to WWII. They chose the war and their first day of combat was Normandy Beach D-Day. They survived and came back after the war only to get caught again running shine. This is where my great-grandfather thought with his heart and not with his mind. He struck a deal with the authorities since he was the one they really were after, to take both of his son’s sentences. My great-grandfather went into prison when he was 71 years old and was released when he was 81. He lived on seven more years smoking rolled cigarettes and mountain tap-dancing on his porch when the mood struck him.
So now as I type these words out and remember Slim, Uncle Buck, and Great-Grandfather, I would say to my nephew, “Hang in there. Your time will pass. Do what you can do; what you have control over in your life. Be aware that thinking too much with your heart and not thinking with your mind can sometimes get you in trouble. But don’t be afraid to follow your heart. It might lead you to the right person in this life. Most of all, life goes on. I’ve said it a million times and lived by the philosophy, “A Moment In Time.” Good or bad it is that moment in time we live through that becomes a memory etched in our brains and can’t be taken away. It was lived and will forever be. And there are many more moments to come. Many, many, more.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Take The Good From The Bad And Write

We think tattoos are forever. We think certain memories are forever as well… How could either of these fade? How could we ever forget certain people or events and places that have been such pivotal moments in our lives? But as the wheels of time grind on and circumstance washes over me, I realize tattoos do fade into an unreadable mark of beauty and our memories also fade by the time we reach the old and wrinkled stage of our lives. I believe it happens to a lot of folks but not for the writer or poet. It's our responsibility to write and recall the world that surrounds us until we can’t do it any more.

I recently took a job in a factory that makes cabinets, countertops, trim board, and fireplace mantles. I’m in shipping and loading which means for 10 hour shifts I’m lifting anything from cut lumber filled with splinters and sharp edges to finished cabinets and countertops weighing from 20 pounds to 200 pounds. Pushing and pulling them into long trailers steaming with humidity as the hot Florida sun in the parking lot cooks its steel outside. This has become the everyday norm for me. Down here in the south we were hit hard by the economy falling in Sept. of 2008. It seems it has been a slow recovery and sometimes you have to take what is available even if it’s something that makes every part of your body ache while making the almighty dollar. But there is a bright side to this work… The real pay off is being a writer and working in the factories or digging ditches like my last occupation. The people I’m surrounded by are colorful and full of life, mostly because it is a job they might not go home from. I’d already heard the horror stories way before taking this job. Mill-saws with their carbide teeth breaking off and flying like bullets through the tin roof above the cutter or into the cutter; femoral arteries being punctured by long dagger like wood splitting from the saw blade hitting a knot. I’ve even known men that have lost an eye and even lost their life because of these mill blades. So, taking the job, I was well aware of the dangers but I also knew the rewards that could be gained in my writing by working among these man and women who risked life and limb day after day.

I try to always take the good with the bad. This has been my philosophy for many years along with, you don’t know what is coming around the corner, so be optimistic, the tides will eventually change and tomorrow might be the best day of your life.

The first couple of weeks though working this job was a challenge. An Ozzy Osbourne quote rang in my head as I tried to make sense of this new environment. It was from a documentary called, God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. As a child he was raised in Birmingham England. A place where kids growing up had very little choices. When you became an adult you went into the factories, jail, or the Army. Ozzy was working at one of these factories when he had a conversation with a man.

“I remember being in a factory and one bloke I’d say to him, How long you been working here? And he’d go, ‘Oh 35 years this year. I’m retiring and I get a gold watch.’ I thought, f***ing gold watch. 35 years of your life you’ve been in this f***ing factory, 35 years of your life.” Ozzy Osbourne

At least this is what I could make out Ozzy saying. He’s not the easiest person on the planet to understand but I knew exactly what he was talking about those first few weeks of work.

The oldest worker there is 10 years older than me. It’s not a place to grow old and gray at least not with it matching your true age. As I grew to know this man, I asked how long have you been working here? He smiled showing what teeth he had left and looked up toward the ceiling with his grayish blue eyes as to think, “Hmmmmm about 5 years this year.” I then asked how old he was. He replied, “52, no wait 51, I’m 51.” Again he smiled showing most of the few teeth he still had. An hour or so went by and out of the blue he stepped from the assembly line and said to me, “10 years. I’ve been here 10 years not 5 and I get a gold watch in a few weeks.”

Now two things raced through my mind, Ozzy’s voice reminding me how short and precious life really is and to not waste a second doing something you don’t want to do. And this man’s been here so long he not only can’t remember his age he can’t remember how long he's been here.
As the weeks rolled on Ozzy’s voice started to quiet in my mind. I knew with a job, any job, comes money and options even if it’s not a lot of money or options it’s something. But the biggest for me is, if you want to be a good writer you have to go where real life is happening. You have to take the punishment from the heat of the day and the fatigue of long hours to mean what you want to say. You also have to have enough drive and determination to sit down after these long days to type out what’s inside you. Even when your hands don’t feel like closing from being banged around and cut up from lumber.

So as the next week of work begins, I will be waiting to take the good from bad. I’ll be writing my next book in my mind as the mill blade spins into a dull blur of death beside me and the nail-gun shoots in perfect repetition from the man’s finger who doesn’t know how old he is or how long he’s been working there. Yes, I’ll be writing in my head and on my lunch break. Then coming home to punch the day's scribbles into the computer. All because I’m a writer and this is what I do…

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Poem : L O V E IS?

Love is many things
And sadly
Some will go a lifetime without ever knowing what it really is
Or worse
Watch it slip away like a leaf floating in a stream
Love is a powerful force
The strongest I believe
So strong it washes away all the mistakes
All the hurt
All the uncertainty in an instant
Melts it away
Like footprints in the sand lapped softly by the gentle waves of the sea
Love mends with precision
Precisely putting the pieces of broken hearts back together
Love is understanding
Love is to look inside one another
To see the real person and love them with all that you have to give
To look past the curtains that were drawn
The walls that have been put up
And to see
I mean really see who they are in their spirit
Their soul
To gaze upon the real beauty within
For the outward will fade with time
Love is not taking one another for granted
For the sands of time might stop falling for you tomorrow
Love is letting go of all the chaos around you
Come in from the storm and seek shelter
Shelter inside one another
To feel each other’s emotions
To have butterflies floating inside you and your heart beat so fast you want to pass out
It’s taking the time to realize somehow you’ve made a wrong turn
Backing up and working together
To make a new path stronger than before
Love is communication
Love is all of these things
But most of all love is a powerful thing

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Poem : The Writers Of War

The poet reads, For Whom The Bell Tolls
And wonders
Is this war?
Or is this poetry?
Hemingway and Gellhorn
Entangled in the bullets or war
Behind the barbwire coiled like springs
Lying for miles across the Spanish countryside
Two writers wrote without hesitation
When the sour smell of death hung all around them
Hemingway and Gellhorn continued to write
When the bombs falling on the front
Shook the tables on which they typed
Hemingway and Gellhorn continued to write
Two lovers
Two writers
Living life without the fear of tomorrow
For fear
For them
Had to be not living their lives to the fullest
On the edge of humanity
For they were the eyes of war
Reporting what they saw on the front
Seeing what the whisky could not wash away from their minds
Battlefields drenched with blood of the dying
War orphans roaming the streets
Mothers weeping over their sons not coming home
Lying dead on the hillsides of Spain
Hemingway and Gellhorn
The writers of war

Poem : My Father Wasn’t A Hippie

My father grew up on the edge of nowhere
You know
Out there
Where the sweet southern sunset slips into the horizon
That tawny burning ball that brings on the night and awakes the next morning
You know
Out there
A place where cell phones still have no service
He left school in 6th grade to cut tall yellow pines for timber
Deep in the black waters of the Okefenokee
With his father and brothers
Hacking away with sharp shiny axes
Or Crosscut saws cutting
Pulling ‘til their arms were on fire
Until the tree twisted and fell to the ground
Just to be cut once more
Then the mules were geared up for the dragging
My father guided them through Cyprus knees and mud
With the dreaded cottonmouths slithering along the swamp’s surface
And the gators lining the banks of the water
My father was far from a Hippie
He was a North Florida Plowboy
Growing up in the Depression
With pockets empty and bellies the same
He could not afford much
But he could afford a hair cut
My father Wasn’t A Hippie

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Poem : Mice In The Attic

These days it seems
There are mice in my attic
In my walls
Under my floor
Scurrying about
These mice remind me more and more of the people I see
Well, people remind me of these mice
Tiptoeing with tiptoes of quiet
Not wanting to step too loudly
Dancing around subjects of discomfort
With silence
With whispers
With perfection
For if they
Shriek too sharply with shrill sounds that shiver my spine
I would know
I would hear what they were saying
And this, would not do
So they walk and talk
And gossip among themselves
And spread their disease
Quiet like the mice in my attic
In my walls
Under my floor

Monday, July 16, 2012

Poem : Stripped Away

Sometimes I get the blues
I mean the real down and outs
All I can do is play my guitar late into the night
Bending the strings
Into a course of moans and cries that drift away in the darkness
Making them speak so I don’t have to
When my voice is too sad to talk
When I feel stripped away
By life
By luck
By no luck at all
Layer by layer
The feelings fall from me
Until I feel nothing at all
Stripped away
Like the dead ear from a stalk
Dried up and fallen from life
A life of who I once was
Or at least can still remember
So I play these six strings
Even when I don’t feel like picking the guitar up
When my arms feel weak
From depression running through my mind
Through my body
That I can barely hold them up
And all I really want is to sleep
But I can’t sleep
For it was stripped away too
Long, long, ago
Stripped with the utmost perfection
Like a lot that was apart of my life

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Poem : Stars In The Sky

As the twilight begins its freefall into complete darkness
When the stillness is only interrupted
By the fog rolling in on the land
I sit outside and remember
Remember my friend from so long ago
For he has left me today
Now his memory is all I have left
I can still see him
In a clip from a scratchy home movie
Out of sync with his words
Yet priceless now that he’s gone
His image captured before good technology
When everything seemed a little more rough
Not as refined
A time when the stars and moon meant something
For we were taught as kids
That’s where you go when you die
“Up there,” My father would say
Pointing high above him
To a thousand pinholes of light called stars in the blackened sky
Yes, it was a time when people actually looked up and imagined
Not type in a description and wait for the flawless image to appear
Appear on their flat screen
Powered by a search engine
When people walked among the wildlife
Without fear that the wildlife would ask them for change
When people weren’t so caught up
In what the world wanted them to be
It was simple back then
It’s just simply painful what we’ve become
Or at least what we strive to become
Yet none of it will bring my friend back
But nothing can take his memory away

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Poem : Dreams Of The Past

I once fell asleep in a boxcar
Crawled in to get out of the weather
Seeing my breath in the air
Seeing rain fall from a blackened sky
Made it an easy choice for the making
This box of steel wheels of rolling
Would be my home for that moment
But the boxcar was not rolling
And I wasn’t a Hobo
I was not even a poet
But my mind was taking in all of the world that was around me
Sub-notes for the pen
For the paper
That would follow years later
A slide-show that every writer depends on
For if you are not in this world taking your punches
Your writing will be dull and tasteless
You have to experience it
All of it
Good or bad
Feeling those cold nights when alcohol fools your body
Into believing your outside is as warm as your inside
Burning from cheap rum in a bottle
With friends that were alive but less than savory
Looking back
Is the only way I can see the wild ones
From that time and place where we didn’t care about tomorrow
Some passed away and are sleeping
Sleeping in the sweet southern grounds of our home
Some went to prison never to be free again
Few escaped either fates handed out by the card-puller of destiny
Yet sometimes I still see them you know
Working together or just hanging out
Like nothing was ever the different
Then I wake from my dream sick from the realness
The realness of it all is too much to stomach
And now I sit sleepless
Listening to the rain fall outside my window
When I know the same rain is falling outside of their cell
Or down on the plush green grass of their graves
And I remember that time in the boxcar
With no where to go
It’s corrugated steel walls were home for a day

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Poem : Walking Dazed In The City

Blue shadows seem to smear softly on the inside
Inside the refection of a blackbird’s eyes
The dust covered raven
Looks inward to the depths of my soul
As I walk past him with a racing mind
Dopamine pushed to the limits
The limits one puts on obsessive thinking at full speed
God speed
And I know, it can’t be turned off at this point
Flowing like the Amazon
The muddy brown river of power
So, I keep walking and looking for the city I once knew
Hoping I will start to calm down
To relax
Yet all I see is the decay of this once bustling place
Brown glass from broken beer bottles
Scattered in the streets from last night’s brawls
Shining like diamonds far into the distance
And the buildings of old are still standing
With their red-fire-clay-brick and mortar of gray
They seem to be waiting for something
Perhaps the wrecking ball
For they’ve grown tired of housing the drug users and homeless
Sleeping in their bowels of darkness
With rats crawling about
Or prostitutes working for their next hit of rock
And their outside walls are lined with dark shadowy holes
Where windows once were
Where hope for the working class floated right out of
Long, long, ago
When the jobs all disappeared
So, I sit and wait for the bus now
Looking out on the streets of the city as clouds roll in from the west
Asphalt stained with hot drips of oil and leaking transmissions
Run with a multi-colored display in the afternoon rain
Streaking before me like melting purple violets in spring
Like the smeared green wings of a hummingbird
And I wonder, are these colors floating on top of pollution
The tears of the city
Or has the city stopped crying all together
Knowing the jobs may never return
New homes, shiny new cars, and baseball on Sundays
All just a memory now

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Poem : The Arts No Longer Wish To See

The arts have gone underground
Actually, they’ve been underground for quite some time
They’ve become blind
Like a mole
They no longer wish to see what the world is calling art these days
They no longer can bear the sight of it
The sound of it
The bubblegum shininess of it all
Choreographed primetime perfection
All to make a profit
The art world misses the roar of Bukowski
Even he can’t get sleep these days
With all the tourists coming to take photos of his grave
I wonder if they even have a clue what he went through living as a writer
If they did, they would let him rest
And the arts can’t be happy with our schools
Our institutions of learning
The budget cutting powers that be
Smile with sharpened scissors snipping away strategically
At what they believe is unneeded education
Art, music, and drama
For the kids get plenty of entertainment after school
Sitting on a couch watching the flat screen
Getting up each time a commercial comes on
To stare aimlessly into the fridge for what to eat next
Again, choreographed primetime perfection
All to make a profit
Spotless unflawed reality TV
As far from reality as one could get these days
So I ask, who will be the next group of writers?
Of artists?
Of musicians?
Will there be a creative revolution that brings them to the surface
Like Kurt Cobain and the crowd from Seattle in the 90’s
When it seemed the world was immersed in commercial boredom
Top 40 hits and best selling authors
Who will be our next Burroughs?
Our next Crews?
Our next Nin?
And bring the arts back above ground
At least enough to inspire the next group of youth
Or will the arts lay low
Like leaves of grass for the next Walt Whitman to write about
Without a care in the world

Monday, June 18, 2012

Poem : Tug Of War

I can live in the past no more
Nor can I live in the future
And one, may never will
The present is all I can focus on
For the tug of war of what was
And what might be
Is ever so gently tearing me apart
Right down to my bones
I feel it
Deep inside
This constant feeling of being pulled
Yet, I clearly see this tugging rope starting to fray
And the pit-of-maybe in the middle is murky
Neither side of me wants to fall in
Yet I tell myself in the most convincing ways
Those waters of what if
Are far worse than they actually are
I know there’s promise on the land
And the applications have been filled
Turned in with an enthusiastic smile
Yet my phone sits silent
Not a buzz
Not a ring
Not a text
Just silently sitting as I look to the clock
And watch time melt away

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poem : Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse once moved over the land of the Sioux
Like the hailstorm he painted on his face for battle
White spots with a jagged line of lightning running down one side
Crazy Horse defended his home
His people
So long ago
Now he moves freely over the land
Like a hawk
Like a wolf
Like a buffalo
For he is the wind riding on the hopes of his people
Moving with them in spirit
For the Black Hills have still not returned to the Sioux
There’s too much yellow iron in the ground
And thoughts of plentiful black gold for that matter
The ground is rich with uranium
Making the nuclear power proponents smile even when they sleep
Crazy Horse, they say it’s the way of the future
Yet, they, never look back to the treaties of the past
Fort Laramie was signed in trust was it not?
Yet they only see the money making potential
Of power plants puffing away on the plains
Producing energy for heating many fine homes in the cities
While your people fight off the cold living in tarpaper shacks
Sleeping in rusted out cars abandoned in fields
Underneath a star filled winter sky above
The poorest of the poor they are
Still suffering
But still holding on to you and the memory of their forefathers
For the memory can not be taken from them
Like everything else they’ve known
I wonder at times if the same land takers of old
Tried to lay claim on parts of the spirit world
Passing over, did they see something valuable in the air?
Or maybe in the clouds
Then say the spirit world was now theirs
I know
This sounds as absurd as them telling you and your people
They owned the mountains
The streams
The trees
The earth

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Poem : Spirits Of The Plains

Panic came in the form of reporting
Hysteria came in the form of a bullet
The great Sitting Bull was dead
The Ghost Dancers with shirts of protection
Fled Standing Rock Reservation that cold day in December
Chief Big Foot, Sitting Bull’s half brother
Led the Lakota away
Away from the chaos and confusion of gunshots
Away from a life of food rations and disease
Of sick dying children
Big Foot was looking for help from Chief Red Cloud
Hoping he’d protect them some way
But was soon cut off by the Seventh Calvary
Who disarmed the Lakota
Then had them make camp
Soon the Sioux were completely surrounded
Soldiers waited with field-cannons pointed at teepees
Teepees filled with Indian families
The absolute carnage that followed
Would become a scar on what we know as humanity
When the shaman
Yellow Bird
Sang out to the spirits of the Plains
The massacre began
Cannons shook the earth with their fiery blast of destruction
The soldiers’ rifles cut through the people trying to flee
Cries from the dying fathers, sons, and old men alike
Mixed hauntingly with the gun smoke in the air
Cries of infants in dead mothers’ arms
Mothers shot so close the gun power blacken their skin
Grandmothers lay still in the blood soaked snow
No longer able to comfort the young children crying
Then came the silence, eerie and endless
The cold wind moaned as it blew over the dead
Tears frozen from falling in the frigid conditions
Glistened like crystals on pain stricken faces
Eyes wide open with all of deaths’ knowing
Children were called to by the soldiers
They were told it was safe to come out of hiding
Only to be surrounded and shot
Big Foot laid frozen and stiff
He could no longer help his people
20 Medals’ of Honor were awarded that day to these soldiers
This is something I will never understand
Yellow Bird whispers in the wind
As the sad snow drifts over the mass grave at Wounded Knee
For the Sioux’s spirits still move on the Plains

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Poem : Sandhills Of The Sky

As I walk with soft steps of silence
I listen to the Sandhill Cranes throwing their calls
Their calls of echo high above the forest’s canopy
Back and forth to one another
As they circle in the sky above me
Round and round
A blur of sound filled images along a crystal blue backdrop
Moving with grace
I stop on the bridge and think of the long travel they’ve made
To float in the sweet skis of the South
To walk on the sandy soft shorelines of my home state
The great state of Florida
To move quietly on the edge of the murky cypress stained water
Combing the water’s edge looking for their next meal
With their crook-necks bent like a waterspout
And their long sharp bills so perfectly pointed for poking
Stepping and looking
And looking
As they make their way through the shadowy woodland
To frolic in fields with their flocks of feathered families
The mighty Sandhill Crane
A beauty to behold

Friday, June 8, 2012

Poem : The Rabbit of Longleaf

The rabbit
The hare
Sits frozen on the edge of the longleaf pines
Waiting with perfect stillness to burst into the brush
Into a sprint
With her bright white cottontail a showing
If danger moves upon her
For the hawk is always gliding in the sky high above
Constantly moving and looking for its pray
So she blends into her wooded surroundings
Her fur reddish brown from the sun-cast rays falling across her
Her nose moves up and down rapidly
As she smells all that drifts in the wind
Her world
My world
Our world reflects in her eyes
Her eyes so brown
So shiny with darkness
Still as a statue she sits and watches me
Stares at me
Knowing, I see her
The hare
The rabbit
Who now has disappeared from sight
Hopped away when I took my eyes off her for a moment
Gone to the shadows that fall with the night

Poem : My Retina’s Weeping

Our reality is our perception
At least I think I’ve heard this before
But maybe I’ve imagined it
It’s hard to say at this point
But it does sound vaguely familiar
What wouldn’t by now?
For the rust has set into my mind
Slowly growing with its red flaky colors
Its layers of decay ruining what good thoughts that are left
Masterfully melting my magnificent memories away
Making me wonder, where did I go?
Am I still on the path less traveled by?
Or would Frost turn away from me now?
The world seems to be changing without me
The news seems to be more shocking than ever
But the reporters are still just as asleep
The casters of news are snoozing while sitting
While talking with a smile
They sing from my fluorescent glass screen
From this box of purchased information
This golden calf
This Albatross
And my eyes are now so tired
Stinging from all they have seen
My ears are quietly bleeding from all of the promises I have heard
The lies that fall so easily from their mouths
It seems nothing will be getting any easier
Even I seem to be caught in contradictions
And fear easily consumes me now
Like a flesh eating virus making my soul rot from my bones
And the birds are now flocking together
All species huddle, waiting for the cold darkness to blow
The animals run wild through the parks of the playing
For shiny new homes have taken their land
Someone shouts, “Animal Control should be called at once.”
I instantly think, “Is there a people control? A building control?”
Maybe they should be called instead
Unlike the people, the animals know the storm is upon them
It’s been blowing for quite some time

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Poem : Spiders

Dear Mrs. Widow of Blackness
Your bite was cruel and filled with pain
But honest was the venom you pushed into my skin
Burning like coals from a fire
Your body glistened with darkness
With a splash of crimson across your underbelly
The triangle
Your sign of death or pain filled with sweat shaking agony
To the ones that come too close
Or don’t see you at all
My leg felt the venom of your small biting power
Making my muscles pull tight as my body slipped into anguish
Yet, still, your bite was as honest as honest could be
Unlike your cousin the Fiddle-Back Recluse
Who would find me next with all of her looking
Sinking her hollow fangs in without any warning
She came to me wearing a sweet veil of deception
A veil of deceit
Crawling slowly across the top of my skin
Softly crawling like a whisper from the lips of the dying
My skin never feeling her touch
Quietly she moved in for the strike
Then a red ring appeared
Circled like a bull’s-eye
Cutting off the blood flow to its center
Making the meat on my thigh rot with the black stench of death
Yet your poison had truth to its decay
Something impossible to see at first
But aren’t most things in this world of ours?
For, way before this hole closes over
Before the scab falls from the skin
You have to scrape the dead tissue
Get rid of the rot from the past to grow anew

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Liz Worth : Amphetamine Heart

Some folks say, the great Blues player Robert Johnson stepped out on the rain swept crossroads of Mississippi to make a deal with the devil. Some say, this deal of soul selling for fame gaining was eventually paid in full, and this is where Johnson’s unbelievable talent came from. I say, it came from hard work. Hours upon hours of practicing his craft with such passion there was nothing else that mattered in his world.

To me, the artist’s work is an exact reflection of the time they’ve put into it along with the sacrifices they’ve made on the road to becoming published that most people don’t see. Lack of sleep, social interaction, friends, family, and even food at times. Working jobs no one wants but the writer happily takes because it pays the rent and allows them time to write. Living among the unwanted in a rundown part of town in some dingy one room is all part of the gig.

And if for some miraculous reason you do become successful as a writer or artist you are instantly looked upon by the majority as someone who has been given an incredible gift from the heavens or in Robert’s case, you’ve simply made a deal with the devil. When really it takes years of hard work and self isolation to learn how to write while being thought of as lazy or a dreamer who will never make a living at being a writer.

Whatever the case may be, Liz Worth is someone very special to the writing world. Someone who has perfected her craft. Honed her skills in such a way that her poetic words will resonate with you long after you’ve read them. Sinking into your mind with the soft subtle imagery from a true wordsmith, but at the same time hitting you like a sledgehammer with the most honest depiction of the world around her.

She sees everything, feels everything, then masterfully punches her keys into poetry that is so tangible the reader feels as if they are in the poem themselves choking on the truth of it all. She draws the reader in so perfectly they hear the buzz of the city’s streetlights clicking off at dawn, or smell the warm scent of liquor drifting to the ceiling with the smoke from a flamed cigarette.

Liz is fearless in her writing which is very rare these days. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, whatever Liz writes, I’m going to read.

After reading Liz’s first book, Eleven : Eleven I had no hesitation about ordering her second book of poetry Amphetamine Heart. As my eyes combed over each line I quickly realized this was one of the best works of poetry I’ve ever read. Worth’s way with words is something truly magical. In my mind I could clearly see someone like The Motorcycle Boy from S. E. Hinton’s Book Rumble Fish, sitting back on his bike and reading Worth’s poems, then blasting down the street listening to her words play softly in his mind.
Yet I saw more than this image. Worth’s words helped me to look deep inside myself. Back to blurry nights pulling hard on the end of a bottle. Where it seemed there was no end in sight, at least one that didn’t end up in an early death. But I also saw in Amphetamine Heart the true beauty in living your life with all you have to give. Embracing the world that’s around you, and stopping to notice the good things no matter how small or insignificant it may be to others. Stop. Take the time to look if only for a moment and enjoy them.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Liz Worth has done just that with Amphetamine Heart. She has bled out all that was inside her for the world to read. This book is truly a masterpiece. A book I will read again and again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Poem : Downtown

I awoke today to the unpleasant realness of it all
Downtown is gone
All but disappeared
Disappeared to the steel teeth of a dozer
To the slow sure swing of a wrecking ball
Fallen brick by brick to the sourness of money
Or making money I should say
Changed forever for the prospect of a dollar
Even the homeless now pay-up for a permit to beg
And building’s that once shadowed me from the scorching afternoon sun
Are gone
Long gone
Gone to this thing the people call progress
The awnings and overhangs that once sheltered me from the rain
Shelter me no more
No more is the thought that I can stop for a minute to get dry
For now, the eye in the sky sends someone out to politely tell me to leave
It seems shelters of any kind cost something these days
If you’re not a customer, you better keep walking
No longer do I see hand painted signs standing out with such beauty
Their bright burst of creative color has been replaced by neon and plastic
No longer do I walk on the sidewalks cracked from the pressures of time
Or see scratched written names from kid’s small fingers dressing the once wet cement
Followed by years scratched in older than I
Now all that I see is perfectly dull
Everything is nice and new and full of no character
Shiny and clean
Just the way big business likes it
Passing through now is like being lost in a land of the future
A land I would have never imagined
A place so bizarre when compared to the good memories of the past
What a strange new place my town has become
Or now is it my town at all?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The River’s Void

April looked peaceful lying in soft linen. Her blond hair flowed around her pillow, her skin was smooth and flawless. Her rich full lips were a nice shade of scarlet. As David watched her, a voice broke his thoughts.

"It’s time."

The usher helped David to his seat, while the pallbearer closed the casket on April. David desperately tried to wipe the tears from his eyes as they laid his partner in the cold winter’s ground. Tears from the heart were something even the toughest detective from the hard streets of New York couldn’t hold back. Today, he couldn’t shut them out. David was not only putting his coworker in the ground, he was burying his lover, his best friend.

Late nights had been spent discussing their future. Something had to be better for David and April than the brick-city madness they were living in. They’d dreamed of a quiet setting somewhere in the horizon, a farm house surrounded by green prairie with not a neighbor in sight. But sometimes, dreams have a way of staying dreams between two people forever.

The day of April’s untimely death, as David remembered, was cold and bitter. It was the kind of cold that went straight to the bone. April had worked the lower Eastside for the past three years, shaking down two-bit criminals, street walkers, and hustlers. She was on to one such hustler that morning.

Crossing Fifty-Second and Norman, April spotted the perp. An eye witness later recalled in the police statement that April was sipping her coffee slowly and watching a strange looking man from a distance. His face was rough and hardened from years on the street. A green tattooed teardrop hung from the corner of his right eye. This was a symbol April had seen before in her work on the street. It meant this man had taken a life at some point, then proudly marked himself with the tear of death for all to see.

Suddenly the man turned and started to run. The chase was on. April dropped her cup and ran after him pulling her gun and radio, then called for backup.

"Suspect fleeing west on Norman toward the Blue Water Docks. I need back up and I need it now."

Rounding the corner she couldn’t see the suspect anymore. Then something caught her eye. It was a movement from above. In front of her, pipe link scaffolding reached into the skyline like some sort of a metal giant. April started to climb. Pipe by connecting pipe, platform by platform, April kept moving, never looking down from fear. Finally, she reached the top and was face to face with her foe, his outstretched arm gripping a pistol.

With her gun drawn April said, "Look man, there’s no way out of this, just drop your gun and turn around."
The man stood silent for a moment, gazing at her with his bloodshot eyes.

"Look, I’m telling you for the last time, drop that gun," April demanded.

The man gave her a half-hearted smile, dropped his gun, and turned around. April walked up slowly, pulling her handcuffs from the belt that lined her waist. This is when David’s and April’s dreams forever stayed just dreams, when their hopes turned to horror.

As she approached him, the screeching tires of the backup police cars filled the air. They were on the docks below. At this point, April made a crucial mistake. She took her eyes off her subject just for a second. It was all the time he needed to turn and put a six inch knife into her abdomen. April slid from his cold metallic blade as the man grabbed her gun. The cops below watched in shock as April was shot in the back, then pushed from the scaffolding onto the docks of the river below. April was gone forever. The killer slipped away into the rooftops of the city.

Coping with April’s death was easier for David in a drunken haze. He spent dark days in his apartment staring into the bottom of a bottle, then waking up on the couch just to do the same all over again. David felt he was going insane. He had even gone so far in his madness as to build what he called his "Communication Box" out of an old transistor, a few guitar pickups, and any other electronic parts he thought would help him contact April in the next world.

David was up for hours soldering circuit boards and wrapping magnets with copper wire, hoping to break through, yet nothing happened. David’s frustration built, and madness carved away at his very existence.

"Let me see her again."

He screamed at the ceiling as if yelling to the heavens. He slammed his fist into the coffee table, not feeling the pain of glass shattering beneath his rage. Then retracting into a fetal position to cry over his overwhelming feeling of loss, he didn’t care who he had to provoke to hear April’s voice again. Heaven or Hell—it didn’t matter to him. He just wanted her back.

By this time, David hinged on any late night sounds that came from his Communication Box. Static or not, he was all ears. Drifting to sleep sitting up then waking in a cold sweat thinking he had heard her voice trying to make contact. But still no April. David was beginning to realize he had hit rock bottom.

Early one morning, a knock came to his door. David crawled off the couch. He glanced at his watch.

Who could it possibly be this time in the morning?

Opening the door, David was stunned to see his police captain.

“Captain, what are you doing here?”

David motioned for the captain to step inside. Walking in with the look of disgust he said, “I’m here to tell you to pick yourself up. This has to stop. You need to pull your ass together. April would not like what you’ve turned into.”

“How would you know anything about it?” David fired back.
The captain’s face grew cold and his brow narrowed. For a split second, he looked as if he wanted to smack David in the head.

“Look, David, you’re not the first person to experience this kind of loss. You either stop living or you pick yourself up. Remember you’re NYPD. People who haven’t given up on their life yet rely on you. Don’t forget the man that killed April is still at large.”

David sat motionless for a minute, rubbing his unshaven chin.

“All right, captain, I’m coming in.”

“Okay, eight o-clock Monday. Between now and then get your ass to a shower and sober up. By the way, you’ll be breaking in a new partner.”

“A new partner?”

The captain turned and walked away saying, “Monday, David, don’t be late and don’t be drunk.”

Back on the street looking for the suspect and looking for revenge, David finally woke up from his grief. David’s new partner, Jessica, was a little overbearing at times with her by-the-book enthusiastic ways, but David also realized that sunlight was a little overbearing at this point. Just getting up and facing the day was rough. However, it was nice to be back on the beat. He felt it was one of the only things he had left after his love was ripped from his life.

Walking down Norman, David asked Jessica if she wanted some coffee. She nodded and then walked across the street to wait on the park bench. David went inside a little coffee shop and stood in line with the rest of New York, or at least this is the way it felt when people were between him and his morning java.
A very well-dressed, soft-spoken man was standing in front of him. He looked to be in his thirties, yet he walked with a cane. Strangely enough, he did not have a limp. David noticed oddities in people. For a detective it was his job to analyze the world around him.

The man turned and spoke. "I think this line is going to go on forever. It doesn’t seem to end."

David smiled and kept chewing his gum.

"You’re a constable I see."

"Yep, a detective."

"You must stay busy in a city like ours."

"Yea, you could say that."

The two men kept up this small talk conversation until both were drinking their precious morning coffee. Walking outside David went to bid the man farewell, but before doing so he asked the stranger his name.

The man turned and said, "The next time you call into that Communication Box of yours, know we’re always listening."

David felt faint. The last thing he remembered was the stranger’s smiling face as he fell to the ground. The next thing he saw was his partner Jessica looking over him.

"David, you okay?"

David sat up somewhat confused. "Where is he?"

"Where is who, David?"

"The man with the cane. The man I walked out with."

"You walked out alone. I watched you. You looked around, and then collapsed."

"Yeah, maybe." David put out his hand and Jessica helped him to his feet. "Look, don’t say anything to the captain about this."

Jessica smiled. "Don’t worry. I won’t mention it. You’ve gone through a lot the last few months. It’s going to take some time to get back in the swing of things."


David kept working April’s case. As the days went by, he couldn’t help but think about the strange man from the coffee shop. Early one morning after following a lead that went nowhere, he decided to walk over to St. Michael's Cathedral. David felt something was drawing him there, but what? As he walked in, the hair stood on the back of his neck. He felt something wasn’t right. Something was there with him. Looking up and suddenly chilled with fear, the stained-glass figures seemed alive and to be looking down at him. As he approached the Communion altar, he saw the man from the coffee shop. Sharply dressed, brim hat to boot, his dark eyes searched David with a hard stare.

"David, sit down," the man said softly.

David could not believe what was going on. He walked over and slid into the long wooden pew next to the man. Shadows danced toward the ceiling cast from slow burning candles. A giant wooden crucifix hung in front of them. David’s mind raced with thoughts of who else could be lurking in the dark corners of the cathedral. What have I done? David thought.

"You’ve done nothing wrong David, and no one is hiding in the corners. David, I’m here to help you make things right." The man said while rolling his cane with his fingers.

David was quit for a long moment then pointed with a shaking hand to the crucifix "Are you one of his?"
The man smiled. "I was around long before he came to save the world and long after the world so happily nailed him to a cross." The man said, as he pulled a small silver hip-flask from his coat pocket, then took a long draw from its mouth.

"Like I said David, I’m here to help you. Whether you knew it or not, you called out to us. Over and over again you spoke, yelled, and even screamed into your Box trying to make contact with the other side. I know what you’re thinking—why didn’t April come back? Why are you stuck with me? Well, it just doesn’t work that way. Chaos would ensue, if this were allowed."

"I just wanted to hear her voice one more time." David said, his eyes welling with tears.

"I know David, but we are not allowed to see anyone that could recognize us from our previous life. It would just cause too many problems."

David started to get cold from the draft that crept in over the marble floors. He folded his arms in discomfort.

"It’s a little chilly, even for me." The man rubbed his smooth white hands together. The gold ring on his finger seemed to jump out visually against his pale skin. He gestured for David to stand.

"Let’s take a walk. At least outside we’ll be moving. Get the blood flowing, you know?"

"Yea." David said slowly in a drawn-out voice from the mans choice of words.

The two men strolled toward the doors of the cathedral. The stranger’s cane tapped the floor with each passing step. Out in the street, it seemed as if they walked for hours talking about April’s Killer.

"David, you’re close to finding the man that took your April. But, understand death surrounds this man like a thick rolling fog. There is no goodness in him, none." the man said. "Go down to the warehouse district and you’ll find an old acquaintance of hers. Someone April worked with years ago."

"In the warehouse district?"

"Yes, the warehouse district. The acquaintance is a washed up fashion designer by the name of Louie Loose Fingers."

"What?" David interrupted. "He doesn’t sound like anyone April would have known."

The man put up his hand. "Give me a chance to explain. Louie was one of the top designers in Manhattan until his habit became too much. He quickly went from the upscale northern tip of New York Bay, the heart of the never-ending lights, to the lower Eastside, where the park benches are always full and stomachs are always empty."

David rubbed his temples as his face pulled into a strained smile. "Selma Kicks, that’s what she called herself. That was a long time ago." David said looking away in the distance as if seeing some fading memory.

"I knew she did some modeling years ago, but she never mentioned this guy Louie."

"Some people are best left in the past. David, find your girl’s killer." The mysterious man said as he handed David an address. "Remember, death surrounds him."

Their conversation was interrupted by a familiar voice. "David, who are you talking to?"

David turned to see Jessica coming up the sidewalk. Looking back, he realized the man had vanished. David knew that Jessica was already suspicious of his odd behavior. He couldn’t say that he was talking to an apparition. She would think he was mad.

I need to come up with something, anything.

"You know, I was just talking to myself. I do that sometimes for some strange reason."

Jessica smiled but didn't reply.

"Look, I’ve gotten a lead on April’s killer," David continued. "We’ve got to go to the warehouse district."

"Kind of sudden, isn’t it?"

David buttoned his jacket against the cold wind that had started to blow. "Not really. We’ve been working the case for weeks. I’m not surprised people are starting to talk."

Jessica followed him back to the squad car.

He opened the car door and turned to her. "Where’s your car?"

"The captain dropped me off down the street," she replied.

David groaned. "Am I in trouble?"

"Nah, I told him we had arranged to meet down here," Jessica said.

"How did you know where I’d be?"

"Just a hunch."

David frowned. He wasn’t sure what to make of his new partner. As hard as he tried to dislike her, it was becoming more difficult.

The two of them arrived at the warehouse district and started to look for 2076 Hanger 13. After a long walk down the wooden planked pier, they arrived. Stepping in through the door of the seedy warehouse seemed a little overwhelming for Jessica. She had not been a detective as long David had. He hoped she was up for what lay ahead.

Louie’s warehouse was filthy with a heavy stench that hung in the air. Bottoms of soda cans were cutout and burnt from preparing his prescriptions. Trash covered the tables and floor. David looked with a heavy eye at Louie sitting at a desk in front of him.

His clothes hung off his boney figure. His pale eyes were slightly sunk into his head and glazed over like an old fish in a supermarket. His dry skin was ashy and adorned with red open abscess. Obviously, he was hooked to the gills. Louie was cutting photos out of magazines and then pasting them into an old book. Women, men, subtitles, it didn’t seem to matter to Louie. In fact, it didn’t seem to matter that David and Jessica had just walked in to his world.

"Hello," David said in a low, non-threatening voice. He could not afford to start off on the wrong foot with this man. Criminal or not, he could lead David to April’s killer.

"Well, now, you here to bust Old Louie?" He said in a scratchy voice.


"Good, you would be hard pressed, anyway. I’ve got a prescription for all this medication. I’m under the care of a doctor, you know."

Yea! Doctor Death.

We’re here for some information on a case we’re working."

Louie continued to work on his project, cutting and pasting very slowly.

"And what makes you think I would help you?"

"My fiancée." David paused for a minute, as he was choking up.

Jessica spoke. "His partner was killed about six months ago. We heard you may have some information."

"Who was your partner?" Louie never looked up from his book.

"April, but you knew her as Selma Kicks."

With a sigh Louie began to tell of a time that once was in his industry.

He said there were many models but none more memorable than Selma, explaining she had beautiful features, flawless skin, and a walk to die for. She had it all.

Louie looked up at David, his rotten teeth exposed between his cracked lips. "I heard about Selma’s death. Might have some info on her killer."

David leaned in closer to the reeking man. "Who is it?"

Louie shook his head. "I said might. Don’t know for sure. He’s a slender man, taller than you, blond hair, rotten teeth." He laughed with a gurgling smoker’s voice. "But don’t we all?"

David was growing impatient. "Just tell me about this man."

"He stays down at the old Johnson Center, run down place about three blocks from here." Louie motioned south from the warehouse. "Can’t miss the place, and can’t miss the fella. Lost three fingers on his left hand. Don’t know his name, but you’ll find him."

"Is that all you can tell us?"

"You’re sure pushy for someone that needs my help." Louie paused, cut his eyes at David, and then continued. "He works for the mob as a hired gun. That’s all I know."

"I appreciate the information. Just one more thing before I leave. Why?" David motioned toward the drug paraphernalia and magazines.

"Cut art is a coping skill for me. It’s how I deal with the everyday pressures of life. Falling from a life that once was is not easy, especially the one I was in. The champagne, the limelight, I had it all at one time and pushed it right into my vein. Drugs are a horrible thing, a demon that some of us will never shake. A demon you get used to seeing each and every day. He is always waiting for the next hit. Now I beg for change, for food. All I have now is a habit and a few good memories. Selma is one of those memories."

Dead silence hung between them for what seemed like forever with just the click of the second hand on David’s wristwatch, clicking through moments of deep and heavy thought.

"Well, David, you may need a coping skill before it is all over. Go find your killer. Find him, and put him away for what he has done." Louie turned his attention to his magazines.

David and Jessica walked through the warehouse and back outside. For blocks, no word was exchanged between them. They were headed into the badlands, the lower Eastside--April’s old district. David knew he was taking his life in his hands walking these streets. Finally, they made it to their destination, the Old Johnson Center at Sixth Street and Main.

The color of the brick building resembled an old tabby cat. Rust stains ran down its walls from the fire escape discoloring the sidewalk below. Windows of broken glass lined the front like jagged teeth in a darkened mouth.

The two of them made their way inside. A terrible feeling came over David that he had never felt before, but he was driven to find April’s killer. Fear of the unknown wasn’t going to stop him at this point. Jessica walked slowly behind him. Both of them were ready with guns drawn. The sand and trash that littered the floor felt as if it were moving underneath them with each step.

"We need to make it to the top floor. That’s probably where he is," David said in a low voice.

"How do you know that?"

"I don’t, but that’s where I would be if I were hiding out. You can see everything from the top floor. You can hear everything from the top floor. So that’s where we are going."

Step by step, they made their way to the top. It seemed as if their legs were going to give out. After twelve flights of stairs, they just wanted to finish their climb. At the upper level David signaled Jessica to turn down her radio before they moved down the hallway. A slight breeze blew through the building’s hollow shell and made old newspapers dance in the air in front of them. The old crystal chandelier in the hallway marked a time that once was when people crowded the ballroom below.

Something suddenly caught David’s eye, a movement in a room just ahead of him. It was a man, but not who he was looking for and certainly not who he expected. It was the man from the coffee shop. He gazed at David with hollow eyes. Then he motioned for David to look in the room he was standing in.

"What is it, David? Why have you stopped?" Jessica asked in a low voice.

"April’s killer is in that room." David pointed forward.

"Wait, how do you know?"

"I just do. Come on."

As they rounded the corner and entered the room, the killer waited with his gun drawn. David was now face to face with his fiancée’s killer.

"Put it down, man," David yelled.

The killer said, "I knew you would come for me after I put my knife in your partner. In fact, this is her gun. How ironic would it be to shoot you with her gun."

"Shut up and put the gun down."

The killer smiled. "You know she begged for her life."

David looked at the man from the coffee shop which no one could see or hear but him. Shrugging his shoulders, his mysterious friend said, "I think comments like that trump the law, don’t you?"

David looked back at the killer. There was an eerie silence between them. This man was no good. He only lived to bring misery and death to others. David knew he was sworn to uphold the law. He was torn between what was right and what was law. But David wouldn’t have to wrestle long with his thoughts, the killer squeezed his trigger, firing in David’s direction. The flash from the guns muzzle in the dark room was almost blinding. David fired back but something strange happened. His gun didn’t fire.

What is wrong with my gun? Why won’t it fire?

Jessica’s gun was working just fine. She shot at the killer. David glanced at the man from the coffee shop. Calmly, he said, "It’s over, David. It’s time."

David looked back at the gun fight and the killer was lying on the ground lifeless but so was David. Horrified, he instantly realized why his gun didn’t work. He wasn’t able to pull the trigger because he was dead. David could see Jessica trying to resuscitate him.

The man from the coffee shop spoke again. "Someone is ready for you to cross over."

David couldn’t believe what he saw. It was April standing in front of him with a smile that David had longed to see again. Her eyes were full of happiness and her arms were ready for his embrace.

The man spoke once more. "You see, David, sometimes dreams have a way of staying just dreams between two people when one of them is suddenly taken away. And sometimes the dreams are just meant to take place in the next life."