Joseph curled up on the damp sidewalk, shielding his head with his arms to avoid the bombs raining down on him. “It hurts my head! The noise is going to crack my head in two pieces. My arm is gone! I can’t find my buddy! Oh there he is, what is left of him, shattered into pieces! It is my fault! I should have saved him.”
“You didn’t help your friend,” the voice said. “You can’t be forgiven. I am watching you. Listen to what I say. Everyone is against you and you will be punished. Drown your pain. Have a drink and take drugs until you have no feelings at all. It will feel a lot better - I promise.”
“Am I still there?” the homeless man pleads. “Am I still in Iraq? Is this all in my mind? I want to be left alone to wallow in my sorrow. I have no money and have no one to help me.” He was having a temporary lucid moment but soon would be back in the land of paranoia.
Joseph was thirty years old and had spent the better part of the last six years on the mean streets of New York. He agonized, not realizing that he was suffering from mental illness. Sleeping on little pieces of cardboard and urinating on the sidewalks was a hellish practicality. He was terrified to seek out a homeless shelter seeking the freedom of no walls. He was also terrified of the people that frequented these places. With the flip of his imagination, they could become marauding soldiers out to kill him.
Joseph picked one of the festering scabs on his leg and imagined he saw little maggots sawing on his body. His hair was filthy and crawling with lice. The movement of these creatures drove him to distraction as he remembered the moldy, vermin laden food which he was forced to eat when his supplies ran out. He was positive that they still were eating through his insides.
The psychiatric facility that he had checked into once medicated him so thoroughly that he was in a drug induced haze. He felt he had lost himself for four days before he left the shelter, full of mistrust and fear that he was becoming nothing at all.
When it was cold, Joseph rode the subways or slept over warm grates. Sometimes he found shelter in the train and bus stations until he was rousted from his sleeping place. He was shivering and lonely and all alone. When his disability check stretched far enough, he drugged and drank himself silly, causing his cognitive abilities to become impaired. Under the influence, he became vulnerable on the streets to predators who stole what little possessions he had. Not being aware that he had post traumatic stress syndrome and also a brain injury, contributed to serious mental illness and substance abuse problems.
Desolation rolled in on threatening waves, adding to the drug use which threatened to obliterate him. He felt abjectly hopeless and alone. Oblivious to anyone else in his periphery, Joseph lined up his bags of clothing and items he had picked up on the street and laid his head on the dirty objects. “I’m not homeless. I’m waiting for my friend to wake up. He’s not really dead. He’s somewhere else and I will find him.”
It’s sad to say, but Joseph was one of the forgotten ones. His untreated condition was debilitating without the right medication and counseling. He was angry but didn’t realize the cause for his fury. He rationalized that his identification had been stolen by federal agents and that they were watching his every move. Tragically, he was beginning to feel a sense of satisfaction as he moved daily around the city, trying to avoid the stares of strangers.
Joseph had been so mentally beaten down that he could trust no one. Any encounters he had had with his family or former friends had been critical, judgmental and humiliating. He began to avoid intimate relationships and couldn’t establish a rapport with anyone in order to obtain the psychological help he needed. The trauma he had encountered had encouraged his homelessness which removed his ability to cope.
In spite of his hardships, Joseph remained remarkably resilient and even creative as he developed survival skills so he could function in a reduced capacity in his little world. Although he was ignored, he continued to attempt to express himself and shared his unorthodox views aggressively and assertively to all passersby who did their best to avoid him.
“If I don’t look at him, he doesn’t exist,” people told themselves. “He’s crazy and dirty and doesn’t belong in my universe.”
Since Joseph realized that they all thought he was insane, he acted even more irrational for dramatic effect. He would make snatching motions at their clothing, frightening them even more. Once in a while, a stranger would throw a few coins over his shoulder, without glancing in his direction.
Joseph’s psychological wounds were so deep that tears would roll down his cheeks in dirty little lines. He knew his actions were perceived to be strange and he heard voices that were not obvious to others. He felt someone was trying to harm him so kept his countenance angry and cross in order to frighten his ghosts away. His hands shook as he wiped the drool from his mouth. He felt rejected and mocked by others.
After all the flags, bands and parades, where is the Veterans Administration?
Will no one help this throwaway soldier? Is Joseph destined to remain a forgotten statistic?
Sword grasped tightly in hand. Very ready to aim~ strike...but wait..there’s something glowing in the distance!
The weapon is placed carefully onto the ground. Soon, the knight runs away with a shiny object in hand.
Wings are heard from a distance. Coming ever closer to the little village.
Folks eyes begin to panic. A giant burst of acid balls rains over the cottages. Piercing screams of people hit with the acid is carried in the air.
The creature spots the being with the stolen precious good. She beats her wings much faster and grabs the human.
This time she won’t let the being run away with her own eggling. It was almost time for it to hatch.
The human would be a great source of protein for the little one. Mmm, the perfect snack!
Pop tarts dont lie
One minute and six seconds, without breathing was the best I could do. If there is a prize for creative suicide, I have never heard of such an award, and if suicide is considered cowardice, throw me a word for someone like me, too afraid to commit the deed. Without the assistance of a plastic bag over my head, I am just a five year old having a temper tantrum instead of a 25 year old serious about ending it all. But I have been known to fool myself more than once.
Waking like none of it has happened, vaguely aware, half in half out, the owl's lament is a part of my reverie. Mommy is in the kitchen cooking breakfast, the sky is blue and the jeans in my drawer are a size 6, loose. There is no pain, no shame and the pressure points on my teenage buttocks do not ache, because my satin skin is tighter than my little brother’s football. Jason still loves me, and people are still accepting of me, even kind, so kind their gaze lingers comfortably but they don’t stare, nor do they taunt or turn away in disgust. And then it is over, as it always is, the space between slumber and wakefulness, for however fleeting. It will take some time to get out of bed, and more often than not, I ask myself, “Why bother,” convincing myself again, that there is a diet that will work. Today is the day, and before I can boil a hard egg, the owl has stopped calling and the hawk I can’t see overrides everything telling the cherry pop tarts I put on the top shelf not to mind if they do what is required of them, making their way into my stomach barely chewed. There was a time I would have thought of putting my fingers down my throat at such a moment, but I cannot conceive that paranoia and retching aren’t twins. Sculptors don’t get everything right on their first try either.
“It’s all your fault Jason,” I would say to him if I my legs wanted to walk up to the mailbox and post a letter, a forever stamp in the right hand corner, with no return address, but no one sends letters in the mail anymore. Or maybe they do, if there is no other way. What’s the difference. Even I don’t want to see my shadow.
...desire to ask
and not to know
the answer itself
inconsequential, as I
...in this mass
draped by butcher's
...where many cooks
wipe their hands
in lieu of soiling up
...would close my sense
if I could
the mess that I
myself, am making
...with these ingredients
at once, suspect and yet,
described as heaven
the flames in a
...the carnage said to be pleasing
to the gods, in a splitting-image
“I’m scared, Hob,” says Peters.
Hobson ignores him and points his rifle into the jungle, squinting against the blackness. It is too dark to see anything. Mosquitoes whine in his ears. He fans them with his free hand.
“I’m fucking scared,” says Peters.
Hobson lowers his rifle. In the darkness Peters’s face is pale smear, his eyes like the holes in a skull.
Hobson and Peters had gone through boot camp together, but while Hobson was good enough to be assigned to the Third Reconnaissance Battalion, Peters got sent to a regular rifle platoon.
Hobson further distinguished himself during the horrendous battle of Bougainville and received a field promotion to lance corporal. When the Third Recon rotated to Aukland for R&R, Hobson had a drunken misadventure that got him thrown in the brig for a week. The colonel was so disgusted he busted Hobson to private and transferred him to the Fourth Marines as a replacement rifleman.
The Fourth was stationed on Guadalcanal awaiting the next island invasion. Nobody knew where. After the close camaraderie of Third Recon, the callow jostle of a replacement unit was jarring. Hobson didn’t know a soul and was too ashamed to make new friends. He’d been doing so well, but he’d fucked it all up.
He was standing in the chow line when Peters came up and slapped him on the back.
Hobson was overjoyed to see a familiar face. “Peters!” he yelled. “Where the hell did you come from?”
“I was with the Second Division but got malaria a week before the Tarawa invasion. They evacuated me to Hawaii.”
“You lucky son of a bitch. Missed out on a slaughterhouse, I hear.”
“Didn’t feel so lucky. Had a 105 fever for months. Doctors couldn’t figure it out. They thought I’d die, but I hung in there.”
“And here you are, stuck with me in the Fourth Division with all the replacements.”
Peters looked at the ground, shuffling his feet. “My whole platoon was wiped out before they even made it to the beach,” he said in a quiet voice. “That’s why they sent me here. There was no Second Division left to go back to.”
Hobson peered at him, unsure of what to say. “No shame in surviving, buddy. You got lucky.” He put his arm around his friend. “Anyway, what I saw of the Japs, you’ll get plenty other opportunities. They never surrender.”
They started to pal around. Peters was good company, quick with a story or a joke. It was like old times, the war far away. The only thing different was that now Hobson had recurring nightmares of Japs sneaking in and slitting his throat. He’d awake covered in sweat. Sometimes he would get up and walk around the camp at night. As he passed by tents full of sleeping Marines he’d hear groaning and shouts, so he guessed other guys had the same problem. The Japs murdered sleep.
The Fourth was a disorganized mess. Hundreds of replacements arrived every week. Marines slept six or eight to a tent, and there were long lines for everything––chow hall, showers, and, especially, the latrine. A man might wait a half hour for a chance to take a shit, sitting on a johnny hole with nothing but a piece of canvas hanging between him and the men on either side, guys in line yelling to hurry the fuck up.
The good thing about the chaos wass that there were few NCOs and no officers whatsover. Since nobody was around to give them orders, Hobson and Peters killed time exploring the island, hiking and swimming and goofing off. The floral jungles of Guadalcanal were so peaceful it was hard to believe there’d ever been a war there. They’d walk through a cathedral of tree trunks, the canopy a hundred feet above them and casting a soft green light like they were underwater. All around were vines and broad-leaved creepers, spreads of gorgeous orchids wrapped around low branches. If not for the swarms of mosquitos, it would have been a paradise.
On what turned out to be their last day of freedom, they lounged on the beach drinking beers Peters had cadged from the officers’ club. The beers felt good, the alcohol loosening things up.
“So,” said Peters, “I’ve been dying to ask. What did you do to get busted and transferred out of Recon?”
“Come on, Hob,” said Peters. “Everybody knows it happened, but nobody knows why.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Be a decent fella for once. Tell me. I’ll tell you something, too. Deal?”
Hobson looked at Peters’s extended hand, then shook it.
“Ok. After Bougainville, we got sent to Aukland for R&R. I figured we probably only had a week or two of liberty before they made us start marching again, so me and some buddies skipped chow the first night and went on the town. I guess the liquor hit me pretty hard because I blacked out. I came to in the brig the next day. The MPs told me I’d stolen one of their jeeps and crashed it into a cigar store. Apparently I was trying to run down the wooden Indian but lost control. The only reason they didn’t court-martial me is because nobody was hurt and the storeowner didn’t care to press charges.”
“Jesus, Hob. And you don’t remember anything?”
“Last thing I remember was doing shots at a bar.”
He didn’t mention the scathing interview with the colonel. The colonel hadn’t yelled or even sworn at him, but the shame of his disapproval burned deep in Hobson’s gut even now. You almost make me ashamed to be a Marine, the colonel’s exact words.
“Okay,” said Hobson. “Your turn.”
“I didn’t have Malaria,” said Peters, smirking a little.
“I’d put my thermometer in my water glass and heat it up with my Zippo until it reached 110, then I’d put it in my mouth. Sometimes I’d spash water on on my face to make it look like I was sweating.” He laughed. “I’d shake and quiver. One time I even wet the bed. You can bet your ass that got their attention!”
He was so caught up in the recollection he didn’t realize that Hobson wasn’t laughing, didn’t see the look on his face.
“There was this one old bitch, Nurse Goines,” he continued. “She suspected me of malingering and laid a trap. Caught me red-handed. The shit hit the fan. They threw me out of the hospital and shipped me out within 24 hours. And here I am.”
Hobson said nothing. He was remembering the terrifying weeks on Bougainville, the Banzai charge where they’d had to kill hundreds of Jap attackers with machine guns and grenades. The endless nights when Japanese would infiltrate the lines and kill Marines as they slept. Hobson remembered the two guys in Recon captured by the Japs and tortured, their bodies left out in the open for the other Marines to find, eyes gouged and tongues cut out, their chopped-off cocks shoved into their dead mouths.
The thought of Peters malingering in the hospital while his whole Division got slaughtered on Tarawa made Hobson feel sick. The fucking coward. It was unbelievable.
Hobson stood up. “Fuck you,” he spat. He started back to camp.
Peters ran after him, calling out “What did I do?” over and over.
Gunnery Sergeant Snope was sent from Camp Lejune to whip the Fourth Marines into fighting shape. Snope was a career Marine, a real leatherneck.
He knew all about Hobson’s time in Third Recon and why he got kicked out. He also knew about Peters and happened in Hawaii.
He knew everything.
Snope put his iron face an inch away from Hobson’s and said, “Hobson, from now on you are that man’s shadow. Peters is your responsibility. He’s a coward and a fuckup, but he is still a Marine and Uncle Sugar spent good money training him. You fucked up too. Your new job is to turn that man into a fighting machine. You do that and maybe you get your stripes back. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes Gunny!” Hobson yelled.
The next five weeks were a hell of weapons drills and forced marches and rifle practice and landing practice and field exercises in the jungle. Outwardly Peters seemed to be getting his shit together. He was a fair shot and a quick mover.
But he talked all the time and perpetually asked Hobson about combat. “Is this what it’s like, Hob? Is it like this?”
It drove Hobson crazy. He longed to tell the fucking coward that a field exercise was nothing like combat, even if it was held on Guadalcanal. There was no enemy in an exercise, no terror, no real danger. Nobody died or got mangled.
But ever since that conversation on the beach he loathed Peters and refused to speak to him. Instead, he shoved him and used gestures to get his point across. Go there. Do that.
And then Hobson stopped talking altogether. If given a direct order, he’d scream SIR YES SIR, but other than that he never said anything. Careless noise is fatal, he told himself. He armored himself with silence.
Hobson’s dogged speechlessness seemed to nibble away at what courage Peters had. Peters became even more talkative, needier. His movements were uncertain. He flinched a lot. Hobson remembered what Gunny Snope told him and watched Peters like a mother hen, hating his guts more than ever.
The field exercises continued right up until the Fourth Regiment was ordered aboard ship to sail for a secret destination. The exhausted men shuffled up the gangplank carrying their rifles and combat packs, eyes hollow and backs bent.
The vast chambers below deck were twenty feet high. Despite its enormous size, the ship’s interior felt stuffy and claustrophobic. It was dim and hot and reeked of diesel fuel. Hundreds of closely spaced bunks like library shelves ran floor to ceiling with narrow passages between them, a few tables and benches bolted to the deck here and there for meals and poker games.
Two days before the landing, Sergeant Snope pulled the combat veterans aside and gave them all cigarettes.
“Listen, men,” he said. “On Tarawa six out of ten Marines got killed before they hit the beach. This landing will be worse. You Marines need to be a good example to the new guys. Help them, especially that first night.” Snope smiled. “The good news is that anyone who survives that beachhead will be a hardened veteran by dark.”
But the landing on Guam was virtually unopposed. The Marines splashed up onto the beach and into the jungle without a shot being fired. The new men were relieved, laughing and joking and playing horse. They joshed the combat veterans, accused them of exaggeration. You assholes were just trying to scare us.
Hobson knew better. He’d heard scuttlebutt that the Japs were changing their tactics, giving up the beachheads to lure the Marines into slaughter. He remembered how they’d hide in the jungle and bide their time, waiting for nightfall. On Bougainville they were invisible shadows that slipped into foxholes to slit the throats of the Marines they found there.
Hobson remembered the terrible morning he awoke to find his best friend Jacobs dead next to him, blood everywhere, neck gaping like some hideous mouth. They’d killed one and left the other alive, just to scare the shit out of him.
That was what was in Hobson’s nightmare every night. He’d never told anyone about it, nor would he.
The regiment marched five miles inland where Captain Fish ordered them to dig in for the night. Peters was pale, but mercifully silent. They unfolded their entrenching tools and quickly excavated a hole in the soft and spongy ground.
Now in the dark Hobson fingers the stacking swivel of his M-1 where the metal joins the walnut stock. Next to him in the hole he can feel Peters shaking.
“I’m scared, Hob, whispers Peters. “Fuck me, I’m scared.”
Hobson says nothing. He takes out his Kabar and jams it into the wall of the hole, keeping it handy.
“Fuck me I’m scared,” says Peters, louder now.
“Shut that man up!” calls a Marine down the line.
Peters is yelling now. “I’m goddamned scared! I don’t want to die, Hob! I’m scared!”
“Fuck’s sake!” hisses the Marine in the next hole. “Shut the hell up before you give away our position!”
Peters rocks back and forth, yelling “HOB I’M SCARED” over and over. Marines in other foxholes take up the cry to silence him, cursing him and Hobson both.
“Shut up, Peters!” says Hobson, the first words he’s uttered in weeks. “Please shut up. Everybody’s scared.”
“I’M SCARED!” screams Peters. “OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD!” He sounds inhuman.
“SHUT HIM UP!” yells the neighboring Marine, panicky.
Hobson grabs Peters by his shoulders, but Peters just screams and claws at Hobson’s face. Hobson punches him in the jaw, trying to knock him out.
Peters shrieks and flails like an epileptic. Hobson hits him again, but Peters has maniac strength and won’t go down.
“Just shoot the motherfucker!” yells a different Marine.
Hobson hesitates. He picks up his rifle and points it at Peters.
Peters’ s eyes are wild. He screams and screams.
Demons in Your Head
I should have listened, instead went against better judgment.
Little did I know it would lead to unwanted events of a vicious tornado.
You came in and within moments time, you’d be gone leaving a destructive mess.
You would always resurface and maybe it was the empty promises that always lead me to letting you back in.
Over time, your lies became transparent and when you were called out, the demon living inside your head tried even harder to get smarter to keep up his façade.
With each passing moment it only got worse.
A wrenching game of emotional torture formed on a foundation of deception and lies that I allowed myself to sink in it all.
It was only when reality slapped me in my face when I was the center of your lies, so that your demon and you could continue to keep blinding everyone else.
Now, I know that the conflict between you and your demon is impossible to try and even stop. There’s no place for anyone in your life besides the creature that whispers in your head. Until he is dead and gone, your life will continue on this painful vicious cycle.
We need more things.
OK, no prob
Let's build this bot
Let's turn this knob
A rush of industrialism my friend!
We'll make things faster
We'll progress, in the end
We need more hands
OK, no sweat
Let the labor force study
Let them wallow in debt
A surge of willing workers abound my friend!
We'll make things smarter
We'll progress, in the end
We need more power
OK, on it
Let's mine this field
Let's frack this $!@#
A bedrock of tappable energy my friend!
We'll make things harder
We'll progress, in the end
We need more supply
OK, right on
Let's drain this lake
Let's chop the Amazon
A motherlode of natural materials my friend!
We'll make things cheaper
We'll progress, in the end
We need more time
Uh-oh, too late
There's no more earth
A graveyard of plastics await us my friend!
We'll make too many things
To progress, in the end
I write for you,
The scribbles from my pen delight your eyes,
Hope begins to swell in me,
Joy drips from my veins.
I write for you,
Like an attention starved child,
The ink fresh with excitement,
The longer you read the wider I smile.
I write for you,
Addicted to the encouragement,
Pushing you to continue on,
I need this more than I ever had known; its a feeling that I’ve never missed, it has found itself a home in my chest.
I write for you,
You’re reading too fast,
You’re not understanding the spaces in between the nonsense,
I need this, please, my work demands more than a momentary lapse.
I write for you,
The font is bolder so you see it’s deep,
The meaning is louder so you don’t have to think,
Desperate becomes my own pens’ ink,
I WRITE FOR YOU,
YOUR NODS DON’T FEED ME AND NEITHER DOES YOUR LAUGHTER,
YOU’RE NOT READING IT RIGHT,
I NEED YOU TO BE THE HAPPY I AM AFTER!
I WRITE FOR YOU,
THE LIGHT FONT REPLACED WITH RED,
COMPLACENT YOU PUTS ME BACK IN MY HEAD,
I CAN’T BE IN THAT PLACE ALONE, NOT AGAIN!
I WRITE FOR YOU,
THE LINES ARE BLURRY AND UNREAD,
MY SKINS LIE WADDED UP IN A PILE UNDER YOUR BED,
I AM LOST WITHOUT YOU, PLEASE READ THEM! PLEASE READ THEM! PLEASE!