The Scars We Bare
When the Day
in Evening’s gown
with starlight sequins,
counts ’20 down,
The Milky Way,
Eve’s spiral sash,
each aster spoke
the ember tales
dons her mask:
in disguise —
she, witness to
an empty page;
turn yesterday —
a (f)errous age
Didn’t miss much
I pour myself a cup of coffee, listening to the cardinals chant their methodical morning tunes, and step out onto the balcony overlooking the ivory snow-capped forests of northern Virginia. Other than the birds, the surrounding area is beautifully silent and still, wrapped in a blanket of tranquility. It's one of my favorite places in the entire house, hell, in the world. My year-long experiment of disconnecting entirely from the world was quite the challenge at first—shirking off my dependency on city infrastructure and having to learn to hunt and live off the land—but I've really come to enjoy the tranquility and solitude. It'll be a shame to head back, to pick up my job where I left off. I have to say, though, I'm really looking forward to cookie dough ice cream again. Can't harvest that from your garden.
I pack up the few things I brought with me up to my remote cabin in the hills and head down to my truck. Every week, I'd come down and run the engine to make sure it stayed in working order, but besides that, I haven't really driven the thing for a whole year.
Once everything is stowed away, I hop into the cabin and start her up again, smiling at the familiar rumble beneath my seat. I admit, like a good southerner, I've missed driving my truck.
It only takes about twenty minutes for me to head down the mountain and into the small town of Wheatfield. It's the closest pocket of people to the Devils Backbone, but still about as far away from civilization as you can get. It was my fallback plan in case my experiment failed, though as I look around, it's not much more than a gas station with what looks like a farmer's market in lieu of your typical quick-mart. I'm guessing no cookie dough there.
I pull up beside one of the two pumps and get out to begin filling up. An eerie feeling washes over me as I uncover the gas tank and look around at my surroundings. There's no one here, not that being alone bothers me after a whole year to myself, it's just something about it seems off, like I'm off balance in just the slightest but I can't tell to which side. Eventually, I shrug it off, assuming people are probably still hung over from their New Year's Eve parties last night. I move to put my credit card in the machine, but then I realize the power's off. A few punched buttons later I give up, assuming it must be busted, and just hope my quarter tank can get me all the way back to Fairfax.
As I'm pulling out, I uncover an old mp3 player of mine from when I was in college in the middle console and charge it up. This should be fun, I think to myself; not only have I not listened to music for a year, but I probably haven't listened to this thing in more than ten years. I turn on the device, grinning at the iconic apple logo that appears, then start playing the Black Eyed Peas, cranking it up as loud as my ears can handle. Boom Boom Pow and other assorted gems from previous decades accompany me along the 66 Interstate for most of the way back; if it weren't the middle of winter, I'd have my windows down, too (yes, I'm one of those people).
About a half hour into my drive, I start to realize there's no one else on the road. It's a bit early for New Years Day, I know, but still, you'd think there'd be truckers or someone. My discomfort and unease only compounds at the sight of the occasional vehicle abandoned on the side of the freeway, and of one route marker that's been spray painted so that it says Interstate 666. I give my fuel gauge another wary look, then decide to pull off at a small town called Marshal. It seems to be a little bigger than Wheatfield; they have a gas station at least, and some places to get food, or so the blue sign says.
I enter the center of the town and pull into the gas station, then get out of my truck and once again try my luck at filling up. I nearly let loose an expletive, though, when I see the pump's dead screen. With a few forceful shoves, I jam my credit card into the receiver in frustration and knock on the pump.
"Come on..." I grumble.
"I don't know where you're from, boy, but those haven't worked around these parts in months."
I turn around, startled, to see an older gentleman rocking back and forth in a chair beside the adjacent mechanic's repair center. He has a long, grey beard that almost reaches the shotgun lying across his lap and a cold stare that seems to pierce straight through me. There's something hanging from his ear; it looks like a cloth mask of some sort with the words Keep America Great imprinted in white letters. "You'll be paying in cash, now, or you'll be on your way."
I take a few steps forward and raise my hand in salutation.
"Excuse me, sir, but do you have any idea what's going—"
The man pumps a round into the chamber and stops rocking.
"That'll be far enough, young man," he says ominously. I halt in my tracks, feeling the blood rush out of my face. What is this guy's deal? Is he actually going to shoot me?
"My deepest apologies," I stammer, somewhat surprised at the sound of my own voice and embarrassed by my atrophied speaking skills. "I'm not from around here. I've been away for a year now. Took a personal sabbatical up in the mountains."
The old man chuckles, low and slow at first, then deeper and heartier, each rolling wave bouncing the shotgun on his belly up and down. When I show no signs of reacting, he wipes his eyes and puts his feet up on an overturned Home Depot bucket.
"You mean you skipped all of 2020 by hiding up in the hills? Picked a hell of a year! Boy, you kill me."
I give him a confused expression and take a seat on the curb of the pump.
"What was so bad about 2020?"
At this, the old man doubles over and laughs so hard it's little more than a wheeze. It takes him several minutes to compose himself, during which he waves his hand in front of his face and has to take several breaks to spit out his dip.
"Jeez, you're not kidding are you?" he says, his face as red as a tomato. "You heard of COVID-19 at least, ain't yah?"
I wrack my brain, flipping through the archives of last year's memories.
"You mean that Chinese disease?"
"Huh, it ain't Chinese no more. Hell, listen closely and you might just hear it singing the Star Spangled Banner. Killed nearly a million of us, infected almost a third of the country. People just stopped coming out after it mutated and they started calling it COVID-20. Still wait'n on what that'll look like."
"Jeez. That's awful."
"Aw, buttercup. That ain't the half of it. I'm not much of a businessman myself, but I'm sure you can imagine what happened to them folks up on Wall Street when everyone stopped going to stores and shops. Anyways, they said somethin' 'bout the next depression and everyone just kinda lost their minds after that. You got food riots, race riots, anarchy riots, riots just for the hell of it. Whole damn country just about fell apart. Some states still tryin'a get control. 'Round October, November you got yourself some killer hornets, them terrorist bombs that took out the power grids 'cross the country, the asteroid we tried to blast away but just ended up turning into a dozen more than rained down on California and Nevada, half the troops we got left fight'n heaven knows which crazy dictator now in the Middle East and the South China Sea."
I have my head in my hands, dizzy from everything he's saying. There's no way all that could have happened in one year, but still, how else do you explain what I've seen so far? What reason could this man have to lie to me?
"So, what about DC? Fairfax?"
"Oh yeah. Good chunka her burned down with the riots. Arlington. Alexandria. What's left got looted soon after. You can understand why I've got Sheila here now, eh?" he says, patting his weapon.
After pondering the man's words a few moments longer, I stand up and make my way back to the truck.
"Where you headed, son?"
I open the door and step up into the cab.
"I'm headed back to the mountains."
He grins and begins rocking back and forth in his chair again.
"Good choice. Happy New Years, kid."
there’s a raging fire going on inside my head, so forgive me for not staying positive
you can’t remember the last time you were whole/it’s like you break yourself into sizable bits/digestible/you tell yourself/breathe in, out/rinse, swallow & repeat/ dinner sits heavy in your stomach. it was stale chicken, sterilised under flickering tubelights of family dinners you wished were less lively. they are more often than you would like, followed by shrivelled cards, in the back back back of your wardrobe. the games wardrobe, it was called, as if they weren’t stewing there, neglected and misused. do you remember that feeling?- of being elated, transfixed by the simple beauty of a board game that hadn’t been played yet? they are birthday presents from companions who you have forgotten to call, still frames in your mind .
pink-tinged perfume wafts through the humid air and tickles your nose. your retainer collects dust on a shelf you forgot to clear out before your 15th birthday, the one you couldn’t celebrate. you ask yourself- is this what i wanted? to be an extrovert among introverts, an introvert among extroverts? the outside of conversations, articulating emotion but never quite getting those, those thoughts of yours across this faulty abyss of solitude. they call you witty, she’s a funny girl, isn’t she? but what they don’t know is you staining your felt soft toy’s tiny limbs with the brine of your saltwater tears. they don’t know about the sleepless nights you’ve spent-migraines that shake your head till it hurts/the blinding lights from your bathroom window/it penetrates into your young skull/you knock your sweet head against the silver medals/the ones, you know you didn’t deserve. participation trophy/consolation, the only respite that your plain walls may be adorned, at last. for why should mediocrity be rewarded?
you are not ordinary/no, no, not extraordinary/ but extra ordinary. keep your head above these tumultous, rage-filled waters, and maybe, just maybe, some semblance of adulthood shall make it out alive. inhale, exhale, reach above the surface as the afternoon skies embrace your flailing arms.
Choose Life, not Death
there will be no
because we are fighting
in a plagued world
there is no
as it is an
i and i
January 1st, 2021
is no different than
July 13th, 2020
why must we continue on
swords into each other's backs
like we have not experienced
the same parasitic
p a i n
that eats away at our life?
is a gift
but we treat it like we treat our food
throwing it away because we can.
do we really want a
becuase all of the suicides
and heynis crimes
scream that all we want is death
(don't you get tired of your ears bleeding and your chest heaving?)
it isn't fair
how we treat human beings
because we think it is
"they are not like us".
I hope that we wake up from this sleep
and realize that indifference
was all but monster
we placed in our heads
(like the ones we feared as children).
there will be no
unless we end
this loop of death
(of destruction and difference)
and make time mean something again.
what's your choice?
Dial 0 for Operator
….Sometimes my mind is working on all four cylinders and sometimes it is not. The fact that I remember that there are four cylinders in an engine and my use of the metaphor itself is an indication that I am having a good day; as of this minute anyway.
Perhaps it is not a surprise, or maybe it is, and my kid sister, who is ninety-five by the way, let the kid out of the bag, or is the cat out of the bag? Either will do. Anyway, she sent me a letter in the mail. The letter carrier just delivered it, and when I saw the return address from our home town of Ding Dong, Texas, and yes it is a real town; look it up on one of your doohickey, thingamajig’s that you carry around with you everywhere and call a phone, but you rarely use it to talk to anybody, so I guess I should consider myself lucky that you are talking to me right now. When I was your age, phones were attached to the wall and the only way to connect was to dial 0 for a real live operator. If the party you were calling was not home, you had to try all over again because messages were only delivered by the United States Postal Service, same as I just received from my sister.
So it says here in this letter in my sister’s shaky old lady handwriting that she is sorry that we cannot be together for my big day on January 15th, 2021; that she won’t be able to be celebrate my birthday with me, so I guess that means my family is planning one of those Veteran’s Hall celebrations, down in the basement with paper plates, lasagna, and birthday cake like they did for my 90th, and I’m not kidding, maybe it is wishful thinking on my part, but I totally forgot that I am going to be one century old in two weeks. Leave it to my sassy sister to so boldly point that out.
Since you now know my age, imagine this tidbit of information; I was born just months after the 19th Amendment to the constitution gave women the right to vote. And now we are finally going to have a female Vice President of the United States inaugurated just a few days after my birthday and she’s a dark skinned woman to boot! I still remember when we couldn’t drink from the same water fountain, something I don’t mind forgetting about on one of my bad days. When your memory is slipping, like mine, there are certain advantages that come with the disadvantage and don’t I wish that I could choose how to work that system.
And hey. Can you do me a favor? Can you call me from that thing of yours that actually does dial my phone number? I’d really like to be reminded in case it’s a bad memory day for me on January 20, 2021 to watch the inauguration this year. Okay?
Better yet, come by. I’ll save you a piece of leftover birthday cake and we can watch the inauguration together and then if you would be so kind, you can show me how to work the calendar on my phone. Something tells me it’s gonna be an eventful year.
But the one thing that has me stumped is the reason my sister has used to not come see me. She said although she is healthy enough to fly, she can’t take a chance because of Coronavirus. Coronavirus? Is it just me? Did I hear about it on a day I was misfiring? Have I forgotten some important information or is my kid sister taking advantage of my blinking brain with her blinking brain and pulling one over me? Do you care to explain? Maybe it will come back to me, maybe it won’t. So if you could help an old lady out I’d be much obliged.
…...Oh….What’s that you say?….Right….Coronavirus….Nevermind. It just came back to me. All of it. It is the reason why I am sitting here all alone talking to you. All my kids claim they want to protect me by staying away, and I believe they do, but I also wonder if they might feel a little relieved to leave me off their to-do lists. So I guess my sister did not spoil any big surprise since parties are still a no no instead of a go go.
But it’s okay to be all alone. Really it is. I’ve got my books and I’ve got my cat Fergie here with me keeping me company and my groceries are delivered by this nice young fella. He always wears a mask that says BLM and at 100 years old, I am fully aware I could be six feet under all alone, so why should I complain when I’m still sitting upright, breathing air and talking to you.
….Who did you say you are again?
Times Square is empty of people.
No ball dropped.
No celebrations held.
No joy. No love. No nothing.
We have a new president but it doesn’t matter, Who would have ever predicted that the virus would run rampant across the country as well as half the world and annihilate ninety percent of our population in a matter of weeks.
We had an early winter ... too early. October brought in heavy snowfalls and blizzard conditions unlike anything ever seen before, and because of this, the virus mutated into well over two-hunred different strains, making it virtually impossible for scientists to not just create a cure, but keep millions of people alive in the process.
What makes this even worse? The Bubonic Plague has somehow crossed shore lines and waterways to find a friend in the virus. That was mid-November. By the near end of December, over two-hundred million lives were lost, with another sixty-five million either in hospitals, nursing facilities, tempoary shelters, or housed up like a drum in their own homes.
Those who haven’t died from this are also dying from starvation because every speck of food has either been bought out, or stolen from supermarkets across the country. The same can be said for the rest of the world, and as of yesterday, the thirty-first, the last live broadcast said the worldwide population is estimated to be below two billion people.
... and the snow is still falling.
Ofher people are dying because they are literally freezing to death. The old as well as the young. Electric companies have either powered down or just fliupped a switch and left everything behind. Clothing stores have been vandalized for heavy winter wear just to keep the body tempertures to near normal.
Cars are stalled on city streets and major highways, because there is no more fuel to keep them going. It’s the same thing for planes and trains. The safest travel would be by bicycle or on foot ... but to where? Be it directly across the street from you, or in another country, it is all the same.
What few people trying to survive; cluster in small groups, raiding places for what they can get. No one bothers wearing a mask any longer and social distancing has become social survival.
Today, in what I fear is the beginning of the last year for all of humanity and that the End of Days is finally upon us.
I wish you the best of luck wherever you may be. Luck is all we have left.
Sadly, I wrote yet another poem. More words. More thoughts. And for what? Who will read? Who ... will even care.
I guess this year it would be far better to say, “Happy Last Year.”
Just an Observation
We are born.
reserved for what?
Like the Titanic,
we know the ending.
Why be born,
to just die.
Fifty years after the fact;
maybe one person will care.
Perhaps, the day after,
no one will.
The clock on the lighthouse banged loudly. There was nothing new about the new year. It was just like any other time that came and vanished.
I walk on the shoreline, thinking about the days ahead. The world had already seen the worst time during the pandemic outbreak. The waves of the sea make my spirit dance in jubilation. Yet, behind my skull, a doubt rings like a raging alarm clock that something else will happen, or nothing would ever be the same again.
Needless to say, I keep walking, trying to distract myself from thinking the worst of humanity. But I know deep down, I’m correct to fear the unknown, to be pessimistic that nothing will be the same again.
As we’ve seen it, the world is going crazier by the day. I am part of it, a walking dead zombie who’s tone-deaf and numb to his own doings and the effects of his environment.
The year 2021 doesn’t mean anything; it’ll just be another glimpse of time that will soon be forgotten like the craziest year prior to it, which took countless souls by surprise to the unknown world of chaos.