Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Poem : Rachel and Vincent

Blood-flowers soaked in darkness
Glisten with Translucent pedals
Standing beautifully dead in a cold crystal vase with thick murky water
Giving life to Vincent’s dingy room
His bandaged ear now swarms with flies
And burns as a constant reminder of his obsession
An obsession of love that overtook his sensibility
His reality, for what reality ever really is
Rachel sits submerged in stillness
Nothing she hears, nothing she sees
But the moment
Absinthe drips from her drunken lips
As she drops the soft sheet that surrounds her
Like a shawl it gave little protection from the passion of Vincent’s paint brush
She could see his eyes were glazed over with quiet calm madness
Like portholes into his inner most thoughts
She could feel his stare slowly comb over her light freckled skin
Like water flowing over her body
He covered everything that was her
Like the slightest breeze in the springtime
His eyes touch her red wavy hair softly lying on her shoulders
His gaze lost in her beauty as she now lies on the bed before him
Her smooth stomach perfectly cast shadows from its muscled exterior
As she turns toward him ready for Vincent to begin
And the Absinthe is now warming her mind
Loosening what little inhibitions she had left
As she watches her lover paint madly
Trying to capture what he sees just before him
Reaching out and grabbing dust filled sunbeams that peak from the curtain-less window
Sunbeams that sparkle like the finest blue crystal in the eyes of his lover
And now Rachel is forever caught in the woven threads of his canvas
And the Absinthe flows through her body
As the bottle lies empty on the floor

Artwork By Jason E. Hodges


Poem : A Moment In Time

An old man looks back
Never looks forward
At least not more than next week
Looks back on memories, some good, some bad
But all lived in moments of time
He sits on his porch and looks out on the city
All the busyness of the world
All the bustle of the suburbs that surround him
Now a single tear falls from his eye
A tear for the once rolling farmland of green
For rowed furrows once waiting for corn
Dusty lines that lead off in a crimson sunset
A sunset of memories
A moment in time
Trees he planted that were no more than saplings
Now push up the sidewalk in front of his home
Marriage, kids, grandkids, and death
World Wars, Depressions, Booms and Bust
From Mules and collars
To tractors of gear driven steel
Now all just memories
All just moments in time
Time that can never be relived
But time that can’t be taken away
Taken away like the land he once loved
Away from the man that sits on his porch
Sits and waits for the next day
Sits with more tears in his eyes
Sits in his moments of time

Published at Indigo Rising Magazine March 29 / 2011

Monday, January 30, 2012

Poem : Getting Out Of The Booth

Love in a booth is something Tommy had to get use to
But the same could be said for Gina
The two-way mirror she smiled and looked into was a reflection she had grown to hate
As her clothes loosened and fell to the floor, so fell her last glimpse of hope
Hope that one day her life would be normal
Hope that one day she could let go of her childhood flooded with darkness
But Tommy was different
The first time Gina heard his broken voice speak into the phone
Pleading, wait, you don’t understand
I’m looking for love, not looking for lust
For once, someone is paying you to keep your clothes on
Your voice is all that I need to carry me through the drudgery of being trapped in this chair
Your voice will sooth the scars I wear on my body from that war in the desert
I use to be handsome before being burned and blown up
Now people cringe when their eyes fall upon me
Turn away with fear from my outward appearance
Stunned from his words and not able to see him, Gina sat down and picked up the phone
Tommy’s voice she heard asking and weeping for friendship
Changed all that was wrong in her life
Gina then spoke softly with words that were submerged in complete vulnerability
I’m here to listen, to talk, and I won’t turn away even if I could see you
For I am as scared on the inside as you on the outside, a mere shadow of what I once was
And so it began, a love affair through the glass with the strongest love of all
Love of the mind and the binding of souls
Her voice was so soothing to Tommy’s half broken body which held his complete broken spirit
With time, Gina stepped out of the booth, never to return to the night
Tommy and Gina would live a lifetime together in a world only understood by each other
A world of deep understanding and heartfelt compassion
Where the eyes of the present and haunts of the past no longer had a hold of their lives

Published at The Camel Saloon May 24, 2011

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Change In My Pocket

Like soap in a dish cold and clammy, her pale skin glistened in the morning light. The moon had completely fallen from the sky, and the sun now crested in the eastern part of the city. Its rays peeked through buildings to sparkle on hanging ice from rooftop gutters. While long dark shadows stretched across the ground from the barren trees lining each side of the parking lot.

As the woman stepped in a little closer and the abscess on the lower part of her neck became more visible, I recalled who she was. Last time I saw her was a few weeks ago sleeping on a park bench near 42nd and Wilson. She’s a regular here at the plasma bank.

Doctor Benny, my boss, is always complaining about “her kind,” as he puts it. “These people come in here with their over punctured arms expecting me to work a miracle, so they can get money for their next fix.”

Then without fail, he would wave his magic syringe and draw blood without collapsing the vein. I saw his point in a way, but I also saw him continue to take their drug rich blood, to make his money.

I did have to wonder, though, how this woman made it to this point in her life. Was it a failed marriage? A lost child? Or was it the excuses that you never hear come out of a junky’s mouth. “I like the way it makes me feel.”

Yep, I’m sure I haven’t heard that one at the center before. Honest answers are hard enough to come by in this so called Honest World. But hell, who am I to judge? I’m just the clerk behind the counter waiting for the place to open so I can do my eight hours; make my minimum wage paycheck; then go back to my minimum wage apartment, to live my minimum wage life.

The woman finally spoke, “Hey man, you got a smoke?”

I nodded with a half smile, then fished around in my coat pocket. I handed her a cigarette, then flamed its end. She drew hard on its filter making the little cherry glow bright on that cold morning.

“You know the plasma bank doesn’t open for another fifteen minutes,” I said trying my best to break the eerie silence that hung between us.

She took another hard drag, then folded her arms. “I know,” she said sharply. “I’ve been up all night waiting for it to open.” Her face now was pulled tight with stress. “Look man, I didn’t mean to snap at you. I just need to get this over with.”

“Yeah, I wish it was open, too. I’m tired of standing out here. So, you got a name?”

“Yeah, Janet. What’s yours?”

“Allen,” I said, glancing behind her, hoping Benny would hurry up and come to work.

“Allen, I always liked that name.” She pulled her coat in a little tighter. “You don’t have any change, do you?” Janet attempted a smile, but it was obvious she was self-conscious about her rotten teeth.

I knew this was probably a bad idea but I thought, maybe she could use a cup of coffee or something.

“How much you need?” I said, pushing my hand down in my pocket.

“Ten will do,” she said, still trying to smile.

“Ten what, dollars?” The words jumped quickly from my lips.

Her stranded smile fell as fast as it appeared.

“Yes, ten dollars! What the hell can I possibly get with ten cents?” She said, almost shouting.

“Sorry, I’m broke. Remember, I work here and they pay almost nothing.”

About the time I finished my sentence, I saw Doctor Benny’s silver SUV pull into the parking lot. I turned and took a few steps toward it.

“Well, the Doc’s here. Now you’ll be able to get some cash,” I said, with a little relief to my voice. I turned back around to find Janet standing now face to face with me. She plunged a knife into my side. Instantly it was hard to breathe, and I had a strange salty taste filling my mouth. I realized this taste was blood. She plunged the knife again, this time in my stomach. Then she leaned in so close, I could feel the warmth of her retched breath. She reached inside my pocket and grabbed my wallet.

“You should’ve given up the money, man.”

She ran down the sidewalk as Doctor Benny made his way to me. He called for help on his phone and then tried to stop the bleeding. It was no use. I was as cold as the snow that surrounded me. I suddenly found myself outside of my body. I was amazed at the strange shade of pink my blood had turned the snow. I was equally amazed I was on the other side. Then I saw my sister, who had been dead for years. She was standing with a smile.

“Allen, go back, it’s not time for you. Step back in your body,” she said in a whisper.

The paramedics pumped away at my chest. Lying back down in my body, I suddenly felt all of the pain at once. I knew then if I felt this much agony, I had to be alive.

“So, that was the day I died and came back to life,” I told my therapist.

“Quite a story there, Allen. Do, you mind pulling up your shirt.”

“Not at all.”

I stood and lifted it up. I couldn’t believe it. The scars were gone. A look crossed my therapist’s face I had never seen before.

“Allen, I’m going to write you a prescription. It will take a few weeks to kick in, but I promise you, you’ll start feeling better in no time.”
First Published At The Camel Saloon March 8th 2011

Sunday, January 22, 2012

True Art

For the true artist, the world is their medium… I feel that if I was homeless and destitute, I would still be making and creating art. Even if it was making tools to survive on the land or drawing in the sand, just to have it later stepped on, not noticed by the passer-by. Or the rain to melt it away into a muddy mess of dark murky water… I would be happy for the mere fact I had at some point that day created… And yes if I was homeless, I would have one hell of a cardboard sign.

I think this way of thinking is lost in the art world of today… Well at least by many that consider themselves artists… First off, the art world, the true art world, is seldom seen by the masses… It and its artist are only seen by a handful of people, true art lovers that are always on the prowl for something refreshing, not something manufactured… I guess this has been the way I’ve looked at the artists and their work I’ve liked over the years.

Vincent Van Gogh, and his wildly smeared colors were the first art I ever laid eyes on… A cheap copy of the Langlois Bridge With Women Washing hung in my childhood home… It was wavy and warped from hanging by a rusty nail in the thick humidity of Florida. I remember having pneumonia as a child and running a high fever for what seemed like forever… I would lay on the cool terrazzo floor looking into the blurry work of Van Gogh. Although, I was really young, I understood exactly what he was saying with his frantic strokes of momentary madness… It was at this time I knew my life as an artist had begun. Being lost daily in whatever the medium, painting, writing, sculpting, whatever it was, I was working with would be what I wanted to do for the rest of my life…

 Along with Van Gogh, there have been other artist that have inspired me along my journey… Margaret Kilgallen for her incredible talent of seeing the world as her canvas. Boxcars, walls, scrap pages from old books, she was as real as it gets… Harry Crews, who hides nothing in his writing, and who I was lucky enough to spend time with and interview… He was someone that really brought home for me the importance of helping your fellow artist… 

 Over the years, I’ve also realized the young artist, not age but time they’ve put into their work, have to have the willingness to learn and imagine… These are the true elements of getting better at your craft… You have to have the drive to create or you wont be doing it long.

For me, whatever art I’m doing today will most likely not be the art I’m doing tomorrow… This is never more true then when I’m introduced to a new medium.  

 Fellow artist and friend Kinch White peaked my interest in carving bone when I saw a photo of a Sea Turtle he had carved… I was very intrigued with his work. The piece seemed to jump out at me when I saw it for the first time… He was nice enough to steer me to a local bone supplier and I was on my way…

Working in bone was something I quickly grew to love… With anything new there is an experimental stage were you are learning what to do, but more importantly, what not to do. Like carving to much bone away from what you are trying to create… For it can not be put back once it is gone. I found that bone was incredibly forgiving and flexible to a degree… I carved everything at first but found I liked the challenge of micro art the most…

Artwork By Jason E. Hodges


Inspired by an artist yet again, Willard Wigan, but not having a microscope. I started carving as small of pieces I could. Camels in the eye of a needle, Charlie Chaplin on a toothpick. Which was a real challenge painting his mustache. I finally used one of my dog’s lost hairs lying on the floor… It was tricky to paint with but worked quite well. So if you take anything away from this, remember, art is all around us; it’s happening everyday, more so outside the classroom than in… Just open your eyes, open your mind, and create…

Artwork By Jason E. Hodges

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Careful What You Squeeze At The Doctors

Most small towns in The South, at least when I was growing up, had a doctor working in them that delivered kids and mended the sick and injured… The community I lived in had such a doctor. His office was filled with different things people would bring by for payment and or gratitude for helping them when they could not afford to pay… Everyone that seemed to be down on their luck used him because there was nowhere else to go. I found myself twice in my life very sick, no insurance, and little to no money…

The first time I went to the old country doctor I had Bronchitis and Tonsillitis… I had run a fever for days and was well on my way to getting Pneumonia… Walking into his office I said, “I only have 14 dollars to my name.” He smiled and told me to sit down. After looking me over and telling me I should have come in a week earlier he picked up his phone… He called the local drug store and started off the conversation with, “I have a sick boy here. He’s got 14 dollars to work with. No that won’t do, it has to work out to 14. Okay, thank you.” After hanging up the phone he told me to go to the drugstore and pick up an antibiotic and some cough syrup. I said I had no money to pay him with. He told me to pay him when I could. And I did just that…

A few years rolled by and I found myself with an earache and a sinus infection… I had, had it for a few weeks and I couldn’t take the pain any longer. A wife, kid, and myself were living on my paycheck of 94 dollars a week, which in translation meant, I was not going to the doctor unless I thought I was dying… I picked up the phone and called the doctor’s office on a Sunday morning. I really didn’t expect for anyone to answer but I was in so much pain I really didn’t know what else to do. To my amazement the old country doctor answered. I told him what was going on. That I had, had an earache for about a month and was now running a fever. He told me to come to his office; he would meet me there and take a look at my ear… I told him I felt bad about him having to see me on a Sunday. He told me that I needed to come in because being sick could affect my hearing. He also explained that a bounty hunter had shot and killed someone in transport and needed a doctor to sigh off on some papers that he was dead so he was having to go to his office to do so…

A half hour later the old country doctor was looking into my ear while a dead fugitive lay on a gurney a few feet away. The dead man was covered with a sheet but his long gray arms hung loosely from each side of the roll-around. It was strange to say the least.

As like before the doctor asked how much I had to work with? I said 40 dollars altogether. He said 20 would set things right between us for the visit. He wrote out a prescription and I was on my way

A few years later the old country doctor passed away. I was sad to see him go for I knew there wouldn't be another doctor like him again in my lifetime. His family was having a garage sale at his office. They were trying to get rid of all the stuff he had accumulated over the years. His old building looked like it was a cross between a library and a museum. Books were wall to wall and collectibles were lying on display with hand written price tags.

As I walked around quietly, looking at all there was to see and reflecting on the passing of the town's doctor, something shiny caught my eye. Waking over I looked down upon a small end table. Atop were 3 items, an old metal ice-cream scooper, an ice pick, and some type of strange metallic gun with an egg shaped barrel. I pondered for a while what it might be. I had never seen a gun quite like this one, and why would it be in this doctor's office? A man stood next to me looking at other things for sale. I didn't want to pick it up not knowing what it could be. Was it a cake decorator? Some strange eggbeater? A party favorite that you made noise with? I thought. Finally I reached for the strange looking gun. Picking it up, it felt cold to the touch. I could see it had some type of trigger on it as well. Is it some type of ice maker? What the hell is this? I thought. I could feel the stranger's eyes now on me. With a heavy stare he waited for what was to happen with my new found discovery. So with all the caution I could muster, I squeezed the trigger and watched its end pop open like a Y!!! I instantly knew what it was; I didn't know the name, but I knew what it was. I dropped the speculum back down on the table. The man next to me, who was much older and laughing hysterically at this point said,“You know what it is now.”

I said goodbye to the old country doctor that day, and became a little more worldly in the process...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Surviving The Suwannee

Ten years ago or so a friend and I decided to go on a 63 mile hike down the Suwannee River… We packed our gear and hitched a ride to a place in the river called Big Sholes, North East of White Springs Florida… I tried to make my pack as light as possible, just a few canteens of water along with a conversion kit so we could drink out of the river, matches, a little bit of light weight food like, breakfast bars, a raincoat because it was the dead of winter and staying dry could mean not getting hyperthermia. I also carried a hatchet and Swiss Army Knife… One thing I didn’t bring was a tent… I knew it would add a lot of weight to my pack… I gambled on not encountering rain in the middle of winter but that was a gamble I would soon regret…

We were dropped in what looked like the middle of nowhere. But there was a calm that quickly seemed to drape over us; lay softly on our shoulders reassuring us that we were in a far better place than the busy streets of the city. We had no cell phones, no reminders of the outside world except for the occasional jet plane dividing the baby blue skyline… It’s smoky trails streaking the horizon. Like stick clouds of cotton they hug, then slowly drifted away…

Making camp down by the river the second night I realize we were not alone… It was dusk and would be dark soon. I made a quick lean-to out of driftwood and palm fronds. Then worked on making fire. The fire was soothing to my cold hands and the soft sand was as good as any bed I had laid in before, at least it felt that way to me after a day of nonstop walking.

Sometime during the night I woke to the sound of something close by. I shined my light and scanned the river bank. I couldn’t see what was making the noise but I did see what seemed like a thousand eyes staring back at me… It was hundreds of spiders… I had never seen something so amazing. Their crystal like eyes glowed like diamonds in my flashlight’s beam… I clicked my light off and hoped they had somewhere else to be than crawling on me in my sleep…

The next morning I saw what was making the sound. There were raccoon tracks on each side of me in the white sugar sand where the animal had made its way down to the river to drink. And that’s exactly where I was going to do the same… The river’s water was stained from the Thick Bottom Cypress that grows on the edge of its water… Their gnarly roots pierce the water’s surface like dull daggers. Holding the water up to the light it kinda resembled 3 week old tea, but it was treated and down the hatch it went. Bitter but good…
Just on the other side of White Springs, I saw a man near the trailhead much lager than me… He was well over six feet tall and built with tick ripped muscles… He wore a white robe and his bearded face was dirty and pulled tightly with expressions of hardships… His eyes wore a rugged stare. On his shoulder was an aluminum cross, plenty large enough to crucify a grown man on… He was dragging it step by agonizing step… The cross’s exterior was dressed with writing from top to bottom. Scriptures from the bible written with the utmost conviction… We kept walking and so did he…

Long after the burning sun had fallen from the sky, and the bats had awoke for the night we walked into the Spirit of The Suwannee Campgrounds. Getting a campsite we collapsed down on the edge of a lake. We shared a cold can of spaghetti then slept on the ground. We were to tired to set up a tent or make anything in the way of shelter. About five in the morning I woke to the sky opening up and cold raindrops stinging my skin. We grabbed our packs and made our way to an overhang. After the rain had cleared my friend said he was pretty sure he was running a fever. At that point we were roughly 26 miles from his truck and an extra tent. We knew if we rented a canoe we could make it to the truck by sundown… We could then drive to the nearest town for medicine to stop his fever.

Walking up to the canoe outpost our faces dropped when we saw the sign that said the post was closed for the month of January… We sat on the porch out of the rain and thought of what to do next. Suddenly an old truck pulled up in front of us. A man with a rough looking exterior stepped from the cab… A P-38 can opener, ( also known as a John Wayne ), hung from his neck. His skin was spotted brown from years working as a river guide. He was one of the owners and was nice enough to rent an old canoe to us if we promised to bring it back. We happily said we would, and off we went down stream in the drizzling winter rain. 6 hours and 26 miles later we rolled into Suwannee River State Park…

After setting up camp and realizing we had not seen a warm meal in 8 days or so we made our way into town. We grabbed the necessary medicine to stop my friend’s fever then drove over to the local pizza joint. As the waitress took our order a woman, with eyes wide and combing over us with pity walked over and handed us a coupon… “You boys need this more than us… Please take it.” We thanked her and I instantly thought, she thinks we’re homeless. I guess we looked it. We hadn’t had a bath in a week or so and we had been sleeping on the wet ground.

After what had to be the best pizza on the planet we made our way back to camp. The extra tent my friend had in his truck leaked badly. I had to put on my rain jacket and sleep on a lawn char inside it to stay off the 2 inches of water that was on the tent’s bottom. I wasn’t complaining because it was 30 degrees outside that night, and a leaky tent is a whole lot better than no tent…

As I laid there watching the rain drip in on me, I thought back to all the sights of the trail. The endless sky’s reflection in the flowing dark water of the river… Hawks screaming overhead, assuring us we had not gone unnoticed by nature’s watchful eye. Hundred year old clay catch pots from an old turpentine harvest, Confederate trenches still dugout and scaring the hillside, and deer running in abundance through the scrub forest and lower flat bottom.

I finally drifted to sleep knowing now there was still the possibility of living free. Far from the constant rush of society in this thick North Florida Landscape, with its shadowy river called The Suwannee…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Roosters and Rattlesnakes

Some of my first memories growing up on a farm were of my father butchering animals we raised for food… Rabbits, pigs, turkeys, and every once in a while a chicken… It was rare for my father to kill any of the chickens though, because they provided eggs daily… When you had 7 kids to feed, daily eggs were a necessity you couldn’t afford to give up… It also wasn’t often we were lucky enough to have a hog or other large animals to provide us with so much food… It was usually something my father brought home that someone had too many of… I’m sure they said, “Let’s give it to the Hodges; they wont pass it up…”

Once he came home with 75 roosters that someone was getting rid of, and he butchered all of them in a day… I was young but the memory of their headless bodies running about in an awkward unbalanced stride spurting blood, and the aroma of boiled feathers is something I’ll never forget… But it meant we had food to eat for months to come… My father taught us at a young age that these animals were food, and our other animals were pets, or had a specific job to do on the farm…

He was what some would call a religious man, I would call a spiritual man… His religion or him for that matter was not found inside a church when I was growing up… Yet, he was in touch with the goodness and hope that can not be seen in this world, yet can be felt immensely if one just quiets their mind… By example he showed me that God and positive thinking on the edge of hope along with acquired skills from struggling were all intertwined when feeding your family working 7 days a week… All of these things were something abundant in the harsh rural landscape we called home… I watched with amazement one afternoon, him lay hands on and pray for an old rooster we had as our pet for many years… The roosters foot had become crippled… It was knotted and twisted and as big as a sweet potato… My father for weeks would come home and feed him by hand and give him his own water bowl… We had acquired a younger rooster about the same time… He was twice the size as the old one, and as most young males are, cocky with the ladies in the hen house… He would chase them, and harass them constantly… He also was very cruel to the old crippled rooster who could no longer move around; pecking him whenever he would pass bye… But this would not last long…

My friend and I were out playing in the yard… In the background we could hear the young rooster at it again running the hens… The old rooster sat not able to move, helpless to defend the hens he had protected for so long… We stopped playing for a moment, for suddenly there was one loud screech that broke the silence of the afternoon’s heat waves… We could see something struggling to move on the ground… We ran over to see what had happened… The old crippled rooster laid on the ground. His 3 inch spur attached to his clubbed foot, was still sticking in the young rooster’s head… Punched into one eye and out the other… The old rooster waited patiently for just the right moment to get his revenge… His hens would be harassed no more…

Sometimes the unbelievable happens in nature… I’ve seen it with my own eyes… One of the most bizarre things I saw as a child still baffles me to this day… Because if anything would have gone differently I would not be here typing this out… I was outside I think I was everyday of my growing up years playing in the backyard… I had grown tired of my surroundings and decided to walk through the high summer grown weeds to make my way to the woods for a bigger adventure… As I started toward the trailhead there was a chicken standing in my way… Walking toward me… It was acting strangely like a rooster would do, like it was going to attack me… I was very young but old enough to know if an animal was acting like this you left it alone… Simple enough, I thought, I’ll just walk around it… To my surprise it moved with me; blocking me off with it’s strange cackling… That damn thing looked like a baby T-Rex… What is your damage you crazy ass chicken? I just want to go to the woods and play… Then something slow moving caught my eye… It’s muscled diamondback body was making its way into the weeded filed just on the other side of the chicken… It was well over six feet long and I would have walked right into it if it were not for this bird…

I made my way inside to get my father and my uncle Bill… As they made their way into the tall grass with garden tools looking for the snake my brother jokingly said it was probably a harmless corn snake… About the time he said this the familiar sound of rattles burst into the air… My father and uncle seemed to be suddenly dancing on top of the weeds… I never saw my father not kill a rattler no matter what the size… But this Buzz Worm he decided not to tangle with… He said two things when him and my uncle were safely away from the snake… “That thing was huge!!!” and “We’re going to let him go…”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dear Mr. Jones

I wonder at times, Mr. Jones, how many people know of you. Certainly they know of the town that bears your name - Jonesville. Could you have ever imagined the amount of people that now call it home, or the four lanes of traffic that speed hurriedly through?

Most go about their everyday lives with work and family, satisfied with Jonesville being a place of refueling or grabbing something for dinner. But some of us still remember the narrow two lane road that stood in front of Rosie’s Bar… Or even further in memory when it was the Farnsworth Store, the only place for miles to buy necessities…Or maybe some still remember The Jonesville Mall, with its planked wooden floors and antiques for all to see.

I wonder Mr. Jones, how many know you were the first postmaster of this town that bares your name. Or that you walked with a limp, compliments of Sherman’s Blue Army, a wound that would hinder your steps for 49 years…

Yes Mr. Jones, things have changed greatly in the last few years… But it’s changed drastically since you arrived on horseback from the thick woods of Alabama so long ago. The farmland has all but disappeared. The homesteads you helped settlers acquire are now shops and subdivisions, sidewalks and streets, all what these people call progress…

Some of the farmers have gone to farming new houses… It seems to be a better crop than beans… Some couldn’t hold on anymore… Some passed away and the land was left to the next generation to be split and divided… Sold quickly it was for the fast money of making…

And still Mr. Jones in this fast moving place there’s not even a sign marking its history… No words of your story, pressed out in stamped lettering, standing along the roadside… No words that would say your eye’s were sky colored blue, or your wife’s name was Virginia, or that your first name was John and your middle was Joseph, or that you were wounded 7 times in that war between the states… No there’s no sign at all…

Sorry Mr. Jones, for closing this letter so abruptly… But my teardrops are now falling like diamonds of sadness… For my memories are all I have left… But I’m sure this is not The Town you envisioned, so I know my tears are not falling alone…

Monday, January 9, 2012

Those Fish Were Dynamite

One hundred some odd years ago Alachua County, the land of my growing up years was bustling with wild ones… Especially the western part of the county. The economy was thriving from the phosphate mines that were in full force… Miners, ladies of the night, Civil War Vets, turpentine workers, and the railroad were all contributors to this rough environment… But the largest population of wild ones were the miners, at least until WWI. 13 of the 14 mining companies were German owned… Pulling out and returning home they left behind large open pit mines for us as kids to explore, swim, and fish out of 60 years later…

30 years has past since the days of walking tight winding trails down to the bottom of abandoned limestone quarries… So much fun was it to fish and burn our skin to a dark brown in the Hot Florida Sun…

One particular day as my friend and I arrived at the bottom to do some fishing… We heard what sounded like voices in the thick brush that grew on the other side of the water from us. We had always wondered what was on the other side and if it was possible to get there without having to swim… The only way down or up was the narrow trail which dropped off from top to bottom at least 500 feet… It was impossible to get to that side. So who was there and how did they get there? We wondered… Finally a voice called out to us… “You boys need to get gone! We’re fixin’ to fish!” the man yelled… “We ain’t done nothin’ wrong… We fish here all the time!” I yelled back with a little fire to my voice… I wasn’t going to be run out that easily… Then I heard the two men start to laugh… “You boys don’t understand… We’s about to do some Dynamite Fishin’ so you two need to get gone…” My friend and I understood the man clearly at this point… But as all kids do, we couldn’t miss any of the action… I called out again in a voice dripping with excitement, “You mind if we watch?” The to men began to chuckle. “No, we don’t but you need to get back to the top…”

We grabbed our things and started to scurry back up the trail. The adrenalin was coursing through my veins. My carotid artery felt like a think heavy rope in my neck as it pumped rapidly… Not knowing when they would light the fuse was part of the rush… Finally we were at the top of the mine, sitting, waiting for what was to come. Still unable to see the men, we only saw the sticks of dynamite bound together, twirling end over end through the air, then disappear into the water’s surface. Pushing my little fingers into my ears I waited for what seemed like hours, then, BOOM!!! The ground shook beneath me… All the little rocks next to me rolled around from the vibration… Then we watched the massive wall of water mushroom into the sky… Fish and what looked like parts of fish started to fall from above… Fish also started to float to the top of the dark water that was still rippling… As we made our way back home I thought, Man that was better than any Forth of July I ever saw…

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Luck Was On My Side, Sometimes...

Growing up in the open farmlands and scrub thickets of North Florida, there was always an adventure to be had. My connection with the land and my understanding at a young age that it provided all we needed to survive, by way of food my family grew on it was one in the same… This open land also gave us what we needed as kids for entertainment, by way of letting us run free on its landscape and providing plenty of material for some good old homegrown fun.

From deep in my mind some of my first memories were of making bows from Smooth Barked Mimosa Trees. Actually, everything was made from these trees growing up. Bows, arrows, spears, lean-tos; you name it we made it from these trees. Our arrow tips were pieces of broken glass or broken flit from plow-points hitting large rocks while ripping furrows for planted pines in neighboring fields.

We became expert shots with our bows. Placing our feathered arrows precisely where we wanted them to go. So much so, that in complete faith my friend and I would stand across from one another, legs spread apart, and shoot arrows between each others ankles. Placing these razor sharp projectiles in the sand between our feet. We had complete trust in our skills but my mother, ( The Penguin ) not so much. One day about the time I let an arrow fly I heard her becoming momentarily unglued, “What are you doing darn it all?” She shouted in a furious voice. Of course I would have to be the one shooting when she walked out the back door of our home. I turned my head slowly to see her down turned lips and squinted eyes staring right through me. “I think it’s time for Brett to go home.” She said pointing toward the front gate…

Sometimes I was lucky with mishaps and sharp objects gone astray, and sometimes I was not. As I said, as kids we made all kinds of stuff to keep us entertained. I preferred bows to make and use, but I never passed up an opportunity to make a good spear if I ran across the right material. Throwing hatchets and knives were another great past time in my youth.

One particular sheath knife that I had thrown 437563528349 times and rattled off its handle seemed to go perfectly hand and hand with an old broomstick lying around. Cutting a grove at the stick’s end, sliding it into place, then binding it with cord; I was ready to try out my new spear. Its eight inch blade glistened in the afternoon light. As I strolled around the backyard, I looked for a good target to try my new toy out on. Then I saw it with all of its glory… An old milk jug sitting on the ground. This would be perfect I thought! But I have to make it a little more of a challenge… I set it up on the branch of a large tree. Steeped back 25 feet or so, I took careful aim, and sent my spear flying… Oh the splendor of it all, flying through the air. So graceful it was until it missed its mark… Grazing the limb beside it… I watched in horror as it launched like a rocket into space… My face dropped as it started its decent toward my father’s work shed. Blam was the sound of the eight inch steel blade punching through its top… And there it was sticking strait up for all to see… I think for at least 30 seconds I watched the back door wide-eyed… For I knew my father and The Penguin with the rest of the family were eating dinner just inside that door… I excepted the wrath of my father holding his belt or The Penguin walking out with this flat board she enforced marshal law with… Perfectly painted across it’s top were the words “Heat For The Seat…” All of us kids I think still suffer from P T S D… Penguin Traumatic Stress Disorder… Her and that damn paddle could make you feel like you had been wearing sandpaper underwear for a week…

Anyways… I realized no one had heard the spear hit the shed. I had to act quick… Going behind the shed I grabbed a ladder and quickly climbed to the roof. Pulling the spear from its top I saw the punched hole just waiting for the discovery of my father… What would be water proof and the same gray color as the shed’s metal exterior? You got it, duct tape was what I used, and it worked well… Until about twenty years latter when I was working in the shed with my father and he looked up and spotted the small patch… Looking back at me he said, “Boy…” then shook his head with a slight smile and walked away…

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Poem : The Fortuneteller

The Fortuneteller’s eyes narrow
Struggling to foresee what the future might be
On the hands of the workin’ man
Broken and cracked from pushing a shovel
Blistered by the swing of a sledgehammer
Worn and weathered from gripping a buzz saw
As its jagged teeth chew through rough-cut timber
The sap covered hands of the pulpwood cutter are impossible to read
Masking his sight-lines the sticky resin does do
Missing fingers tell a story not familiar with fortune
Hands scared by a life lived in labor
A mishap here
A mishap there
When overtime outweighs fatigue
When exhaustion overcomes reason
When coffee and cigarettes start the day before sunrise
And the sun falls before the last timecard is punched
The fortune is hard to read in the sweat soaked eyes of a steel man
Twelve hours welding in a shipyard did he
Fusing metal with sunlight on a stick
Fading his eyes to an unreadable gaze
Breathing hot iron fumes swirling around him
Rusty lungs are just part of the gig
His blue tip wrench cutting steel with ease
The fortuneteller struggles to read any sign but a future filled with scars and sweat
But sees the working-class living free
Far from the sharp teeth of fortune

Friday, January 6, 2012

Poem : This World

This world is made by us
Absolutely lived by us
No one but us
Lived by our perspectives
What will we choose?
Will we choose to listen to the all knowing of the norm
Or listen to our dreams, our hearts
Listen to the dreamers, for they are speaking to us
Listen to the words whispered by the poets of the past
Take hold of visions laid down so long ago
For us to understand
Become poets of now
Say what needs to be said
Living in word-worlds we all should be living
For the dreamers are few and the rest are many
So many live with the thoughts of post existing
Hopes of the next world being the grandest of grands’
Or fears of the fiery flames of a living inferno
Living in what we call death
The hereafter
Not realizing
Anything here or there is what you make of it
Like punched keys on a typewriter
The words are made by the typist
By the mind that put them together
Stop living with the what if
Simply start living
For if you spend a lifetime without opening your mind
Your mind will be just as asleep in the next world

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Poem : Burlesque for the Dancing

The show of all shows
A show of sights and smiles
For the seeing watch with glee in their eyes
Winged feathered fans freely flowing about
Fluttering with ease
The long legs of an angel
Move with precision
Dressed with heels of perfection
Hosed with net-diamond nylon
Pulled over the muscled legs of a dancer
Flawlessly slid into place
Gartered and belted with hook-springs of holding
Corsets laced with tightness
Sucked in with the shortest of breaths
Lovingly tightened
Pulling into a contour of eye catching beauty
Velvet top hats
Skirted with the softest lace veil slightly hiding her eyes
The dancer
Her style is one of class
No poles to climb
No laps of sitting for dances of pleasure
For she controls their gaze without showing it all
Leaving their mind to wonder what lies beneath her pink feathered fans
Wondering what if?
And what could be?
Imagining the next move of her graceful movements of mystery
Making all in the crowd hope the song never ends

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Poem : Osceola’s Footsteps

As I walked near the Prairie called Paynes, a hawk took flight
Soaring high above me
With wings outstretched
Gliding through the smeared colored skyline
An incredible wall of blue and pink color
Splashed with crimson drip bead running off cloud cotton undersides
This falcon of flying called out with an echoing screech from above
Called to the spirit of Osceola
Over the land he once roamed
I kept walking and looking
For I knew he must be awakened
For voices now whispered in the forest all around me
Voices of Seminole mothers hiding from the soldiers
Begging their children not to make a sound
The sun
The fiery alabaster ball in the sky
Seemed to be guiding my way
Peeking through treetops with small beams of light
Casting shadows of movement of a people gone by
Awakened were the footsteps, the footsteps of time
In a place where the coyotes move in the darkness of night
A place where the eagle sits looking over the water
The water that waves from gators gliding along its surface
As I walked the trail, the footsteps grew louder
And the whisperers kept pleading
I felt the spirits of the old ones
Following right along side
Drifting with me
As alive as they were so long ago
It was then I thought of the last ones who resisted
Osceola and his people defied incredible odds
He would not be pushed back anymore
Sitting down underneath a cracked-bark Live Oak
I closed my eyes and thought, five hundred years this tree’s been standing
It is the last living thing
To see Osceola and his people live wild and free