Africa Lyrics Challenge Winner
Whoa. Guys, check out ALL the entries in this challenge. I actually, honestly, for-real enjoyed each entry, and for the first time since judging challenges, I had incredible difficulty picking a winner.
In the end, I chose Kingslayer's entry: https://theprose.com/post/781456/moonlit-wings
Nice job to everybody who participated, and I sincerely mean that.
Read all of the entries here: https://www.theprose.com/challenge/14351
The Disease and the Cure
In the grand scheme of space and time, humanity stands at a unique crossroads, embodying both the role of a disease and a cure. I wanted to share my thoughts and perspectives in the following essay.
The Disease: A Tale of Destruction
Humanity, in its relentless pursuit of progress, has often fallen prey to the darker aspects of its nature. Our industrial advancements, though monumental, have led to the degradation of our planet. The forests that once flourished are now dwindling, the oceans that teemed with life now choke on plastic, and the air, our lifeblood, is thick with pollutants. It's like we've become a relentless force, consuming and destroying, often forgetting the delicate balance that sustains life.
Moreover, our social fabric isn't immune to this destructive bent. Inequality, conflict, and a lack of empathy are the viruses we've let loose upon ourselves. It's as if we've become disconnected, focusing on what divides us rather than what unites us. This aspect of humanity, driven by greed and short-sightedness, mirrors a disease, eating away at the very essence of our planet and our societies.
The Cure: A Vision of Hope
Yet, within this bleak portrait, there lies a beacon of hope. Humanity, as much as it is a disease, is also uniquely equipped to be the cure. Our ingenuity, the very trait that led us down a path of destruction, can also pave the way for redemption and restoration.
We see this in the surge of renewable energy, in the innovative technologies that aim to reverse environmental damage, and in the growing consciousness towards sustainable living. There's a shift happening, a realization that we must harmonize our actions with the natural world. It's a race against time, but one that we are increasingly gearing up to win.
Beyond the environmental aspect, humanity's potential as a cure shines through in our social endeavors. Movements advocating for equality, compassion, and unity are gaining momentum. We are slowly rewiring our societal structures, fostering communities that are inclusive and empathetic. This shift, though gradual, is a testament to our ability to overcome the darker aspects of our nature and forge a path of healing and growth.
Embracing Our Dual Role
This duality of humanity as both the disease and the cure is not a contradiction, but rather a call to action. It's a recognition that we hold the power to shape our destiny, to correct our course, and to redefine our legacy. It's about acknowledging our faults while embracing our potential to bring about transformative change.
In this journey, every individual has a role to play. It's not just about grand gestures, but also about the small, everyday choices we make – choices that, collectively, can lead to a profound impact. It's about being conscious, being responsible, and being proactive.
As we stand at this crossroads, the path we choose will define the future of our planet and our species. Humanity, with all its complexities, has the unique capacity to be both the architect of its downfall and the harbinger of its salvation. The choice is ours, and the time to act is now.
Windy winter mornings
Morning breaks through the guise of sleep. They have laid there resting for a long while but sleep has not seemed to reach me. The time spent in that state is now time wasted - and not even wasted comfortably. The window that had been left open in their exhaustion now lets a cool breeze permeate the room, spreading past many layer of blankets to kiss at the arms and legs beneath. Light jumps in too, through the blowing blackout curtains flapping heavily with each gust.
Todays morning is cold and bright. The cold is something he likes. How he wishes to embrace it fully in all its icy delight. He wonders how long he could walk in the cold, how far he could get. Could he pass each street twice, then thrice, till there was none new left to see? He wants to leave, to see, but is kept by her desire. She who is only annoyed by the air which penetrates her perfectly warm darkness. It has probed her awake, and now keeps her there as she tries so hard to avoid the coming day. She wishes desperately to be left alone.
They do nothing for a long few minutes. Just lie in the warm-cold contrast. Sleep will not visit again, not like this, so they stall in the in moments between. Then, he leaves the bed and lets the chill take him. Winters day is waiting, and its expected to be windy. Even so, he ‘forgets’ to bring his coat when he makes his way outside. When that first gust of wind hits him it stays to rattle within his very core. Dead leaves fall around me in artful, cascading waves as he wanders down the back path. How cold it is outside, but how utterly warm he feels.
Secret Society of Secrets Appraisal for Secrets Release Society
Thank you, everyone, for attending this week's meeting of Secret Society of Secrets Appraisal for Secrets Release Society. As you know, we meet each week to release, that is, declassify things that have been held secret until their expiration dates.
Hereby is the report:
"There really are UFOs." This secret is not ready to be released.
"Elvis isn't dead." This secret is--I repeat--IS--ready to be released.
"Mississippi isn't really a state." This secret is not ready to be released.
"Mississippi isn't really a state you want to live in." This secret is ready to be released.
"COVID-24 will be here early." This secret is not ready to be released.
"Taiwan is preparing to invade mainland China." This secret is not ready to be released before Friday.
"The Speaker of the House is from Louisiana." This secret is ready to be released.
"The Speaker of the House should never be from Louisiana." This secret is not ready to be released.
"The Illuminati have discovered anti-electricity." This secret is not ready to be released.
"Elon Musk has been kicked out of the Illuminati." This secret is ready to be released.
"You can take it with you." This secret is not ready to be released.
"You can even take other people's stuff with you." This secret REALLY REALLY is not ready to be released.
"There is an 11th Commandment, concerning Bill Cosby." This secret is ready to be released.
"Donald Trump can't take a joke." This secret is ready to be released.
"Joe Biden can't get a joke." This secret is not ready to be released.
"A guy named Jim in Akron can't get a break." This secret is ready to be released.
"There are other fish in the sea." This secret is not ready to be released.
"There are some John Does buried under the grassy knoll in Dallas." This secret is ready to be released.
"The Dalai Lama goes bowling with the Pope regularly." This secret is not ready to be released.
"The Dalai Lama is a better bowler than the Pope." This secret is not ready to be released.
"Women are from Venus." This secret is ready to be released.
"Men are from Uranus." This secret is not ready to be released.
"Only Nancy Pelosi is from Mars." This secret is not ready to be released.
"Hitler was never, ever right!" Why is this still a secret? Why must it be released--YET AGAIN?
And there you have it, Keepers of the Secrets. Remember, next week will be a special meeting to decide on whether to keep secret this whole business about, well...let's just say, keep it to yourself till then. Or else. (Just kidding. Not really.)
Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry [Free Contest!]
This poetry writing contest rewards one unpublished poet with a cash prize and publication. While self-published poets are not eligible, editors or anthology contributors are welcome to submit!
Word count: At least 50 pages
Closing date: 01 December 2023
Happy Black Friyay
An Afternoon Visit
Nels paused briefly, huffing a breath into the biting wind and massaging his cramped leg. Snow collected on his sparse gray hair, tickling as it melted down his cheeks and dripped off his nose. Chilled wet fingers searched the neck of his wholly inadequate coat and dampened his shoulders. Not the light, fluffy, picturesque snow in which kids played. No, this was mixed with small, icy pellets propelled by a driving wind. Wind that shoved him off balance as he started off again.
Crystals stung his face and unprotected hands that, stiff with arthritic pain, were fastened to two plastic grocery bags. He reconsidered his decision to venture out into this kind of weather, but it was way too late for second-guessing. Ankles aching and feet burning from the wet cold that seeped through tattered leather boots, he determinedly plodded ahead on weary legs and aching knees.
It was customary for Nels to remain indoors for weeks at a time through the heart of winter, other than infrequent trips to the store for necessities, that is. Today was an exception, when his cravings overrode common sense and he succumbed to his indulgences: three new puzzle books and box of crackers for the chili now cooking on the stove.
Oh, yeah, a package of store-baked cinnamon rolls.
Groceries had been his excuse but not his motive for venturing into the near-blizzard conditions. Something in the back of his mind had nagged at him all morning. Something significant, something hovering just out of reach no matter how hard he grasped for it. So, rather than continuing to sit at home worrying over the something he couldn’t recall, Nels decided to take a walk and hope the exercise would loosen his mind.
Plodding through drifts, laboriously now, he nestled his chin inside the wet collar of a tattered 35-year-old coat, a Christmas present from Katy that he continued making excuses for not disposing. Sure, he had newer and warmer coats hanging in the closet, but preferred memories to warmth. Getting rid of it, even worn out as it was, seemed disrespectful.
And as he had forsaken warmth for memories, so had it been with the chili awaiting him at home. On days like today, the can of beans and meat evoked childhood memories. Memories of being greeted by a pressure cooker with petcock dancing and rattling on a geyser of steam, hissing a spray of spicy aromas throughout the house and coating the windows with moisture. Memories of mom ladling the chili, served with a side of homemade butter-soaked cinnamon rolls.
Well, it had never really been that way, Nels silently acknowledged, but that’s the way he wanted to remember it. That’s the memory he wanted to recreate with store-baked cinnamon rolls and canned chili.
Katy would have been irked had she been here. Hell, she wouldn’t have let him out of the apartment to begin with. Not only because it was foolish to venture out into the storm, but spending money on cinnamon rolls and puzzle books was completely unnecessary, considering their subsistence on a wholly inadequate income.
Crackers - now that could be considered a necessity.
However, Katy wasn’t here and would never know since he paid in cash and threw away the receipt. Nor would she know that he had given what little change he had to a beggar woman loitering around the grocery store entrance. Nels reasoned that only authentic beggars panhandled in this kind of weather, while scammers migrated to warmer climates.
No, Katy would know nothing of this day. Hell, Nels smiled wryly, given a week and he wouldn’t remember today, either.
But with a new grandbaby about to make his appearance into the world, Nels had taken out a credit card he couldn’t be repay and bought Katy a round-trip ticket to Texas. At this stage in life, being practical was no longer practical. Considering all the money he had thrown away on life insurance, he might as well get a return on his investment. Let the life insurance pay off his debts when the day came.
Pausing to catch his breath in the shadowed lee of the apartment complex, cold quickly tightened its grip. Even though the sun could the neither be seen nor felt, the shade nonetheless made it colder. Looking up to the seventh floor where his corner apartment set dark, Nels dreaded a long climb that would be tougher than the four blocks of snow drifts through which he had just trail-blazed. His knees throbbed at the thought and he cursed the building managers for not fixing the elevator. For nearly two weeks, the “out of service” sign set taped to the doors with no estimated time of repair. Then he cursed them for the piss-poor insulation and he cursed them for the damned baseboard heaters that were as ineffective as they were hard to regulate. He cursed the snow and the cold and the age and the loneliness. And he cursed himself for allowing Katy to leave.
It felt as though she had been gone for years not days. The bed was cold at night, and the apartment lonely during the day with an emptiness that television and radio merely punctuated. He had stacks of books to pass the time, hundreds of them. During the summer he made weekly visits to the thrift store and returned with sacks of novels costing a dime or quarter each. Then, during the long winter months when it was too cold or dangerous to go out, he and Katy hibernated, reading.
Nels massaged his gloveless hands, careful not to drop the sack of puzzle books and crackers. And cinnamon rolls, can’t forget that.
Gnarled hands that once been strong and wrinkle-free, tirelessly carrying everything from lumber and toolboxes to fly rods and shotguns, now cold, stiff and weak. In his youth, he could run up a ladder with two bundles of asphalt shingles balanced on his shoulder. Now he doubted that he could even climb a ladder. Fingers that had been nimble enough to pluck songs from the guitar for hours at a time were now inflexible twigs with bulging joints made red and painful from a couple of light grocery bags.
He had once a good paying job and naively believed it would last until retirement. Laid off six years shy of that retirement, Nels contracted a staph infection that depleted their savings and investments. He and Katy eventually sold their house to escape the mortgage, relinquishing forty-six years of memories to strangers. Thereupon forced into an unassuming, run-down apartment complex.
Nels had spent his retirement working for the Department of Agriculture as a bean inspector, but last summer had been his last summer and he knew it. Wearing hip waders and logging more 20 miles a day, teams walked row after row of bean fields searching for blight. Damnable disease that, if found on even a few plants, usually meant the entire field had to be plowed under. Walking was no longer joyful, whether it was summer bean fields or winter sidewalks.
Sure, the kids offered to let Katy and him move in with them, but having grown up in a multi-generational family, Nels vowed never to put their kids in a similar situation and politely, but firmly, rejected offers. And that’s where Katy was. Mothering a daughter-in-law in the Texas sun and the Texas warmth. It had been his Christmas present to her, giving her a break from a life as dreary as the winter she was escaping.
With his mind on past regrets, Nels was surprised to see the oiled bronze numerals 703 before his eyes. Balancing on trembling legs, hands shaking from cold that wouldn’t release, it took two attempts to unlock the door. Aromatic chili, the best comfort food on a day like today, greeted him.
An old, dark, dated apartment, it was nonetheless affordable. Affordable, that is, when he skimped on necessities like the two prescriptions he hadn’t refilled in over a month. Stained yellow carpeting, faded purple drapes, cracked linoleum, and three ceiling lights that served as cemeteries for flies, moths and mosquitoes. But it was home and it was the best he could do.
Winter’s puss oozed from his clothes, leaving one watery trail to a kitchen counter of chipped veneer where he deposited the groceries, and another to the bedroom where he donned a fresh set of clothes after toweling himself dry. As much as he wanted a hot shower, he would wait until bedtime, that way it would keep him warm long enough to fall asleep.
Returning to the kitchen, Nels noticed the cat bowl was still filled with kibble but the water bowl was dry and lined with white deposit. Mistoffelees still hadn’t eaten, but thankfully she preferred dry food to the canned stuff that stunk up the place. He and Katy had renamed her a few years ago because, like the "Cats" character, Mistoffelees was a magician with a terrific disappearing act.
The chili had cooked dry and the sauce crusted over meat and beans. Not nearly as good a cook as Katy, he could nonetheless survive on his own. Scraping the lumpy brown paste into a bowl and wishing for sour cream to soften it, Nels dropped a stack of crackers on top. His hands hurt too much to crumble them.
Carrying the bowl in shaky hands, Nels took his lunch to the pair of recliners that set before an electric faux fireplace. Heavy Afghans that Katy crocheted years ago lay draped over the backs of the chairs, to be used when the chill became too much. Dropping heavily into one of the two recliners and nearly tipping his bowl onto the floor - he would have if it hadn’t been cooked to a concentrate - Nels recovered, cursed his infirmity, and set it on the end table next to a “Gunsmith” Western.
For long moments, he sat gazing at the swirling snow with a sense of accomplishment. Yeah, walking to the store was stupid and it didn’t do anything to loosen his seized mind, but he had cinnamon rolls, puzzle books, and that sense of accomplishment.
Spooning one bite after another, pausing between thoughts, Nels prepared himself another solitary afternoon. Maybe tonight he’d call Katy if she wasn’t too busy with the babies.
Focusing on the wind-whipped snow, Nels became aware of Celina only by her reflection. Seated on the love couch, she sat watching him from behind with those compassionate yet penetrating eyes. A stunning young woman whom he couldn’t adequately describe other than her long, blackest-of-black hair that seemed to be in constant motion, riffling from imperceptible breezes. No longer startled by her unannounced visits, he welcomed the peace that she brought.
Celina’s visits had increased in occurrence but not duration, and she always wore that unfashionable white kimono entirely inadequate for winter. Her tanned complexion gave him the impression that she was a California or Arizona transplant, and he didn’t want to insult her style by telling her that those clothes didn’t cut it up north. She sat in a comfortable sprawl watching him. Sometimes he found her sitting in the recliner next to him, sometimes she just stood.
Perhaps she had been loading laundry when he arrived. Had she watched him towel off his butt-naked, wrinkled, bony body?
Okay, so there was a time when he was damn good looking and would have been proud to show himself off to any woman. Hell, he had worked most summers without a shirt, taking pride in the attention that it garnered from passing women. Now, he lived within a shriveled embarrassment best hid by bulky clothes.
“Hello,” Nels pleasantly spoke to the reflection in the window. “Would you like some chili?”
“No thank you,” Celina said and smiled. “But it smells delicious.”
“You’re just being kind. I didn’t think you people were supposed to lie.”
“As I said, it does smell delicious. How it tastes, well...” she shrugged and smiled.
“Mistoffelees hasn’t eaten today, have you seen her?”
“She is no longer here.”
“Hm.” Nels took another bite and wished for a bottle of Dos Equis, but it wasn’t worth another trip to the store. Besides, he no longer had money for a bottle, much less a six-pack. “I didn’t see her go out. Maybe I’ll crack the door open for when she decides to come back in. She likes to wander up and down the hallway, you know.”
“You sound weary.”
Spoon trembling in his hand, he mouthed another bite. “You didn’t catch me on a good day. Do they train you to be this formal? No, forget it. I’ve asked before so don’t bother answering.”
He waited for a response that didn’t come. “I shouldn’t have gone to the store but there’s something I need to remember. I thought the walk would help.” He looked at her a moment before adding, “I miss Katy.”
“You will see her in twelve days.”
“Is that what her itinerary says? I can’t find it. Must have lost it somewhere.”
“She is not coming here, you are going to her.”
“Hm. So, who’s going to look after Mistoffelees? I don’t want the hassle of taking her on a plane even if I could afford it. I’m sure as hell not shipping her in cargo. Do you know how many animals those airlines lose or kill?”
Celina waited for him to continue.
“But I guess if it gets me out of this damned weather, I can’t complain too much. I used to work in these conditions all the time and without complaining one iota. It was just what you did, no questions asked. Now people work from home and bitch about flex time. Put them back in my day and see how they do.”
Celina remained quietly listening.
“Weather never used to bother me. Got frostbit too many times and in too many places to count, but I guess my tolerance went with my body.”
Celina smiled. He liked her company, just wished she was more conversational.
“Sometimes I hear Katy in the other room, but of course she isn’t here so it must be Mistoffelees even if I can’t find her,” Nels said.
“There comes a time when you see more with your mind than with your eyes.”
“Obviously, since my eyes are shot to hell. Reading as much as I do probably makes them worse.”
Celina shrugged as if eyesight was inconsequential.
“Are you here to clean or visit?” Nels said.
“Then stay longer this time.”
“I cannot. But then you know that.”
“Not good enough.” Rotating his chair to face her, Nels struggled to hold the bowl in shaking hands.
“I know being alone is hard,” she said as if reading his mind.
“Shit. Loneliness ain’t the half of it. When you get to be my age, you see that time’s running out. You don’t have much to look forward to, so you spend all your time looking back. You take account of your life, and what do I have to account for? Look around. Some old worn-out furniture, a few pots and pans, chipped dishes, old clothes. Just look around, will you? This is all I have to show for my life.”
“The past has nothing to offer you. Life is not about what you have, it’s about what you do. Even more than what you do, it’s about who you have become.”
“And what’s that? A crippled old man who takes government handouts and gives nothing in return. Hell, Celina, I wanted to make a difference with my life.”
“Do you think this is the sum total of your life? A run-down man in a run-down apartment?”
Nels couldn’t hold the intensity of her deep, piercing eyes and looked away.
She continued. “Your life has been a fine example. How you conducted yourself, how you inspired others through nothing more than a good outlook and good heart. You weren’t torn down by the challenges of life, you stood up to them with grace and dignity. Those are the things that have made the difference. If anything has made your life worthwhile it is that, not possessions.”
“Wonderful philosophy,” Nels said sarcastically and scraped congealed chili from the bowl. “My epitaph can read, ‘he was a fine example’. Apparently, what’s important to you and what’s important to me are two different things.”
“I had dreams and goals for my life. Dreams and goals that never panned out. If I failed myself, how is it that I didn’t fail everyone else?”
“What would your life been like had you achieved those dreams and met those goals? You have had every opportunity to give up what you had, in order to search for you didn’t have. Would you have given up Katy? Given up a fine family of children and grandchildren? Thrown away your legacy for superfluous desires?”
“You know the answer better than I do. Hell, I can’t even remember most of my life. I don’t know where all those years went, they just came and went so fast. All I know is that I’m tired and aching and I’m worn out.”
“Think seriously on what I have said. You do not view your own life as others see it.”
“So who’s version of my life is the right one?”
“See it from my perspective.”
Nels sighed, scraped his bowl clean. Was she right? He had always trusted her opinion.
“Ten more days, huh?” He said and searched for reassurance. “Will you come to dinner then? Katy is still a helluva cook and it won’t be burnt chili from a can.”
Celina smiled. “Ten days it is. Do you feel better now?”
“You always make me feel better. I don’t know why you bother. It’s like a spiritual massage,” he smiled for the first time that day. “Yeah, that’s what you are, a spiritual massage."
The doorbell chimed, breaking the mood with an electronic singsong.
“Wait here,” Nels told Celina and stiffly rose to his feet. “I won’t be long.”
He opened the door to a young, well-dressed man who stood patiently waiting.
“What can I do for you?” Nels said. “No offense but if you’re a missionary, I’m not in the mood.”
“It’s me, Jared.”
“Well, Jared, whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying.”
“Tony, your youngest son? I’m his oldest boy?” He prompted.
“What the hell you talking about? None of my grandkids have even started school. In fact, Katy’s helping deliver another one now.”
“That was twenty-two years ago.”
Nels briefly saw the man’s resemblance to a buried memory, then the memory was gone.
“Remember? We’re moving you to a new apartment,” the man said, his eyes soft with compassionate pain. “I’ll help you get your things ready. Dad’s been reminding you for almost a month that you’ll be moving to a new place, a place where you won’t have to be alone all the time. No more stairs or broken elevators, no more cold-as-hell apartment that you can’t afford to heat. Do you remember now?”
Nels stared at the man. He remembered agreeing to something, something he didn’t want to do, but had no other option.
“Dad’s signing the papers as we speak.”
Nels shook his head slowly. “I don’t know why I would agree to moving without talking to Katy first, and I know we haven’t discussed it. I’d never do something like this without first talking it over with her.”
The young man sighed heavily with resignation.
Nels continued, as new revelation came to him, “are we moving to Texas, to be with the grand-babies? Celina told me I’m going to see Katy next week so she must have already moved, but I thought she was just visiting.”
“She visits me several times a week, but never helps with anything around the apartment. She’s in the living room now.”
Puzzled, the man stepped past Nels and into the compact living room.
“There’s no one here.”
“Must have left. She does that a lot.”
“Well, there’s nobody here now. Have you started packing?”
“Why would I do that?”
“Never mind,” Jared said patiently. “I’ll just get your clothes and bedding for now. Dad and I’ll come back tomorrow and finish packing.”
“Make sure you don’t forget my books. And cinnamon rolls. Do you remember your great-grandmother’s cinnamon rolls?”
“No, grandpa. I was five when she passed away.”
“Shame. And don’t forget Katy’s things, either. You know she’ll be wanting her stuff.”
“Sure, grandpa. Anything you say. You just let us take care of everything.”
“It’s a helluva day to be moving.”
“Yes, grandpa. It is at that.”
The Kilimanjaro in the Savanah
"It's not what you are called, it's what you answer to," African proverb.
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you, There's nothing a million men or more could ever do, I bless the rains down...
-- Sexy ambiguous song.
-- But what does it mean?
I seek to cure what's deep inside, Frightened of this thing that I've become...
"It was written in ten minutes," it didn't matter who broke the silence... it was our conversation already underway. Us, watching TV, like when the song was written.
We were reclining on the loveseat. White skin over black, twist of arms. Our hands locked. Hair upon shoulders, in repose, for a moment. Our moment.
"White man's guilt. Kilimanjaro is the peak of greatness, nearly unsurpassable. The Serengeti the vast formable seeming empty, a plain with a miracle of life, in otherwise arid desert. We brought a Spiritual people down, to our level. The cradle of Civilization, and we've IMF'd them into sick orphan beggars. "
"Like maybe it's apology from artistic souls to... the continent? Heartache for bringing Religion, and contaminated Polio vaccine... Africa as a meter of our own social and cultural immunodeficiency. Faithlessness. A beautiful people nearly wasted in the outbreak of AIDS, stigmatized by color, by that black 'gay plague.' And this tumult was weighing on the conscience, emerging in the love lyrics..."
"The song came out in 1982. First thing that pops to mind in correlation is the Live Aid Concert."
"Did Toto play?"
"Dunno. That was 1985. The continent was drought stricken. A starving people, and they brought them music..."
"That's almost a beautiful thing... except could Africans hear it?"
"A show. Do you want a hit?"
"No, Is that it then? Africa ...waiting there... for a release? for a drug, a pharmaceutic? or the kindness of Lady death?"
"No sense waiting for the ladies, ha."
"Haha. Dave take your clothes."
"In a hurry to get out of here man?"
"Naw only... She's coming in, 12:30 flight... "
"Oh. yeah forgot."
Gonna take some time...
"Sure, I get it, I get it, no prob. Til next time."
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you...
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
Hurry boy, she's waiting there for you...
2023 NOV 19
I hear the drums echoing tonight... The night life of the village flickers, with the scent of sweat and meat and debris. There are so many of us circling the streets, mostly mongrels in a world purporting to hold the reins of the pure bred.
I lie close, in partial shadow, light catching the white of my collar. The night is holy.
I've flashed my teeth at the cautiously advancing stranger. We are not unfriendly. The beads and skirts make a tzsik-tzsik, swsss, but she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation: Aidi, Aidi...? I don't understand ...Coming in 12:30 flight...?
...and she is drawn back inside, the door open, like an invitation, but I press on.
Dark bats pierce the night sky with a sound unmistakable for any other. Moonlit wings... and sonar. I can hear it. I begin my round again, another path. Feet, and faces. There is lament, recognized, in searching eyes.
I stopped an old man along the way, hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies... he saw that I am lost; I am "owned."
Raising a ragged finger, he turned to me as if to say, "Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you." But he is mistaken. He has pointed to an empty hut, miles down the road. He cannot know the hunger, implanted by instinct in the heart, to keep account of the familiar and unfamiliar. He does not know the smell of life, of illness, of encroaching death. He does not know her scent. He does not know the trail.
He has identified only the rumbling in the stomach, the chill in the evening, the rustle of paper before the fire. He is kind, but modern.
Existence is different in so many ways, I can see it in the changing artifacts that overwhelm perception. How quickly things change. Metal birds fly overhead. Men are talking and making no sense: Gonna take some time to do the things we never had. Things bonded to people, taking them.
They had hopped into a beast they called Jeep; its red eyes disappeared into the night.
But I have this one distance, like a leash, in my all my lifetime it has not changed. The grounds out beyond, and then to the yard, I have walked. The home is shuttered. She may be back. She may be not. I will cross, her motherland, back, to our garden. I will watch. I will listen for her weathered voice.
Her tired tongue garrulously singing I bless the rains down in Africa, I bless the rain...
And I can feel it pensive in the atmosphere, hanging with me, and sure enough oversized drops dot the dust of the road. I've made it back to her dry wind-swept stoop and settle, nose on paws, watching the silhouette of our Serengeti.
I wait for God over Kilimanjaro. I wait with hope for tomorrow.
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus over the Serengeti @Ferryman
I hear the dust devils echoing tonight. The moons, Deimos and Phobos, hide the stars that sent me here to desolation. Mars is nothing where even a hundred men would ever go. There are no rains down in the plains of the Shield. Some wild xenobeasts cry out in the night as they grow cold, longing for sunrise. And hopefully, not for me.
I know that I must do what's right, as sure as Kilimanjaro on Earth rises like Olympus above the Tharsis Shield. I seek to cure the fright that's deep inside, the fright of what I am, that took me away from you — something a thousand men would never do.
I curse the arid ironscape, the new, improved WD-41. I miss the rains that never come. Olympus Mons calls to me, so I'm gonna take some time to do a thing I've never done. Something a million men would never do.
Mars taunts me: Hurry boy, Olympus is waiting there for you.
They let me go. Four years of my life. Gone.
I didn't get to say goodbye, and no reason was given.
It's half past midnight now and I wander the maze of streets, ignoring the cars slowing down and the whispered propositions "How much for the night?" A dancer's craft is never respected.
'What's the difference?' you ask. The real-life pretty woman clad in 8-inch platform heels clanking the pavement and eyes seemingly longing for some solitary company.
I wanted to be in the ballet. Dreams of Giselle haunt my sleep, a tease of what could have been. Becoming the tease was the only resolve to cure what's deep inside.
When you can't dance, the only option is to fly by the wings of a needle, and I sought sweet salvation. Along the way, I was stopped by an old man "It's waiting there for you." He wrapped two bone-chilled wrinkled hands around one of mine and chuckled.
"No, I'm waiting for it," I sigh.
His face turned to stone. "What if you are it?"
Abruptly frightened of this thing that I've become, I yanked my hand away from his. I was falling, shot from the sky, bracing for an impact that I couldn't find, the abyss had no end.
I know that I must do what's right, but how could I do that when I was numb to what was wrong?
Upon landing, the rising sun brought rain, cleansing the sins of the night. I lay prone on the grass, free of all troubles. A new day. I pick up the needle again "It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you," I said aloud and sunk deeper, ready to fly once more.