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.
Aches and sores.
My scars have started aching. Dull sensations that ripple up my body; they prickle when touched, reel when my clothes drag against them, itch when I focus on the feeling for too long.
This hasn’t happened before and I don’t know what to think. I thought my wounds had healed, that I could forget about them and even contented myself to spending life changing in the dark and turning away from the sickening gaze of the mirror. Anthing to avoid glimpsing a look at the discoloured skin that patches across my body. I thought I had already dealt with the worst of it; the blood crusting to an itching scab that took an age to finally fall. Not that the itch fell with them - that took much longer to subside.
But maybe it’s the changing seasons. The relief of autumn turning to the welcome dread of winter and dragging the past along with it.
I think that’s it. It’s the past I’ve been feeling. The way it weighs on my shoulders, around my eyes and in my mind as I try to sleep. It calls to me from the scars on my body, opening old wounds and letting the blood fuel whatever twisted entertainment it desires.
My scars are a reminder of the past I’ve tried so hard to forget. If not for them I could almost believe all that happened was just a bad dream. How I wish it was all a bad dream.
But the ache of old scars reminds me it was not. I wonder how I will fare this winter without the bliss of ignorance. The ignorance felt better, and I can’t help wishing my scars would quiet down, leave me be to my forgetting. They don’t want me to forget - but I want to live the easier life, so I will try my hardest to.
Au revoir oh perilous freedom...
Since pledging my troth
to the missus July 25th, 1996
after the comma error
punctuated mein kampf with disequilibrium.
Ever since the notions
of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness
coalesced within the mindscape
attributed to one
or more anonymous forebears
way before the advent of civilization
when written language preserved
(homo sapiens communicated
virtual primal groans and grunts),
nevertheless witnessing inchoate awakening
visa vis dawning enlightenment
bajillions of years after
earth, wind and fire
affected ideal environment
for Beatle browed foo fighters
Nirvana oriented proto humans
among rival capital one group
of beastie boys versus another.
Each subsequent generation embodied
propensity to acquire heavenly delight
storied primeval human associations
to wrestle with promotion
of mental, physical and spiritual autonomy.
Once self-determination awoke
animal hides did cloak
daggers if antagonism occurred
especially as high society
coaxed fibers inviting village people
to invent legislation to evoke
amity particularly once firearms
witnessed proliferation of gunsmoke
(and the Western genre as film noir)
after shoot-'em-ups erupted,
when scapegoat mustered courage
(after chomping powder milk biscuits)
bad to the bone bully underestimated chutzpah
courtesy said shy person,
yours truly did invoke
adulation and garnered
within figurative keystroke
generated winning vote
cast strictly by menfolk
if I vouchsafed would
NOT be pig in a poke
as happened countless millenniums later,
when forty fifth president
of lands slated to become
United States of America
would try to revoke
his successor mudslinging him,
(the latter, a common joe biden time),
a veritable teetotaler,
who swore, he rarely took a toke.
blue collar Scranton boy yup
blimey bloke woke up
after leaving Oval Office
early one Autumn morning
bright eyed and bushy tailed
after an eight year stint,
whereby the electorate majority
approved former occupant
of “Executive Mansion”
(circa 2020 - 2028)
admitting admirable administration
donned hat of clown
earning a living wage
and taking page from playbook of bozo,
who brought good humor and laughter,
where tragedy wrought woe
visited webbed wired wide world
(once trod upon by the noble savage
as described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
whipping out trademark Dobro,
(a contraction of "Dopyera brothers"
and a word meaning "goodness"
in their native Slovak,
who introduced said instrument in 1928)
kickass nimble octogenarian
(accompanied by the band
Tripping Up Stairs)
performed outstanding show
capering, dancing, gliding,
high jumping, et cetera across the stage
hither and yon, to and fro
contagiously gifting, letting riotous hoopla
ring out across Land of Lake Wobegon
audience of senior citizens
(including yours truly)
to shuck off mantle of senescence
(and clothes in the same process
after gaining courage
to join Barenaked Ladies)
hooting and trumpeting nouveau
rebirth of childlike spirit.
How carefree and ideal to identify
with mindset of Alfred E Neuman
Mad Magazine what me worry
unfortunately as a little boy
yours truly beset with mental health issues
Anorexia Nervosa the most serious
potential to develop healthily
self starvation eradicated
courtesy the expertise of psychiatrist
Ted Goldberg my parents did employ
subsequently eating disorder
manifested as hair obsession
with a vengeance,
when maybe some dozen years later
while completing a co-op
linkedin to enrollment at Antioch College
at facility I chose called
Chicago Ecology Resource Center in Illinois,
and who should make
a small teleporting cameo appearance,
but none other than Leonard Nimoy,
albeit his likeness manufactured as plastic
popular gewgaw enterprising toy.
Courtesy the most flimsy tenuous
designs linkedin to above lines
availed and linkedin thru
Unitarian Church affiliation while a youth,
(now negligible participant,
who would never join any group
that would accept me as a member)
an important connection throve with 1996
Norristown Area High School alum
Frankie Augustine Junior a brain,
plus admirable ruler
of tribbles and klingons to boot.
As an otherworldly webbed wordsmith,
I befriended said lad,
who became best earthling chum,
whose birthday (January eleventh
nineteen fifty nine) two days before mine,
our camaraderie did rattle and hum
until he attended Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute (majoring
in nuclear engineering)
landing himself a plum job.
Our friendship since foundered
unlike the enterprising television show,
which captured the imaginations
of countless young and older people alike.
By 1986, 17 years after entering syndication,
Star Trek considered
the most popular syndicated series;
by 1987, Paramount made $1 million
from each episode;
and by 1994, the reruns
still aired in 94% of the United States.
The pill bottle was in the console of my car in the driveway, and I was walking outside to get it. I was so weak and so tired and so very thin. I only made it as far as where the sidewalk meets the porch when my cat ran up, made a small sound, and rubbed his cheeks against my legs furiously. His fur was warm and the sun was low in the sky when I sat down and scratched behind his small ears and then hot tears came falling. I was the kind of sad that doesn’t make tears, and I was ready for it to end. Then the affection of a gray cat broke me. That’s how I knew I was going to be okay. That’s when I knew God wanted me.
Limerick of the Week # 30 (Special Halloween Edition): Blood Bath and Beyond — One Day Only
--What's Halloween stuff worth the day after?
Once a year the once-a-year sale opens
Selling screams and shrieks and similar notions
Called Blood Bath and Beyond
For the morbidly bound
For crap as worthless as next-day's potions
Miracles are Dyson Spheres
Surrounding the possible, but severe enough
Wishes made of rainbows and cream puff
And reasonable doubts disappear
Faith is a thing convenient
So we can make passable
The things that aren't possible
And pray to unlikely ingredients
You can change water into wine
Just add dimethyl dicarbonate
And calcium carbonate
And sugar and yeast in Canaan time
Diseases are defeatable
So, you can cure leprosy
With multidrug therapy
Just one of many treatable
Drogo and Gerard Majella and Pio
Bilocated to make their cases
For beatification on a sainthood basis
But now recants, our Galileo
We couldn't abide eccentricism
And were told to consider levitation
Instead of relating effect and causation
And never refute heliocentrism
Malodorous was ol' Lazarus
Both alive and when, dead, he fell
So by the smell, you couldn't tell
Whether he lived or was cadaverous
You don't need miracle-schmiracles
No, to be close to your God
You just need to plod
In kindness and embrace the empirical
To Go Out or Not to Go Out, that is the Question
One Thursday after work I dropped by a local “Cheers” type tavern that I used to frequent (I am a notoriously reluctant cook) for some chicken tenders and the Hornets game, none of which was as easy as it sounds, as I was landscaping back in those days, meaning I had to go home, shower the grass clippings and fertilizer off, re-dress, and go back out when I’d just gotten off work at 6:30pm and had to be back at the shop in the morning at 5:30am.
TJ’s, in Pineville, NC is… or maybe was… a truly great, if fairly typical, watering hole; small enough to seem intimate, friendly waitresses, good food, pool tables, darts, and TV’s… you know the place. Barely awake, I was washing my fries down with a cold beer when the waitress brought me another one, along with a note on a napkin, “Boring game. When is someone going to score a touchdown?” (It was a basketball game.)
There weren’t a ton of people in TJ’s that night, and many were coupled up. I was able to narrow the possibilities down to three or four suspects, but none seemed to be paying me any mind. Now, as I stated earlier, I came to TJ’s for dinner quite often, and I knew my waitress Allison pretty well. Well enough that she didn’t hesitate when I asked her which one sent the note. ”That one, up there.” She even pointed, to my embarrassment.
The woman was sitting with a friend. She was obviously a little older than my twenty-six years and was dressed as though she had some money (and probably a husband), but this was not my first rodeo with that type, so I asked Allison for a pen anyways and, being more a reader than a writer, I quoted some old, remembered poetry on the same napkin she had used and sent it back via it’s original courier.
Perhaps I could stick around a little longer.
Being a bit flushed for shyness, the woman was soon at my table. “Did you write that?”
Ahhh, a quandary. Technically I did write it “down”, but? So I smiled instead of lying. “That was Shakespeare.” She returned my smile, and sat without invitation. She ordered another round, and waved her friend over so that they could both pepper me with questions. It was soon 10:30, the ballgame on TV was over, my eyes were heavy, my 4:00am wake up alarm getting closer, and closer.
”I have a boyfriend,” she said.
I was also “sort of” seeing someone. “O.k.”
She leaned over the table then and kissed me. It was a really long… really, really nice kiss. It was such a long, nice kiss that I had the feeling her “boyfriend” might be on the way out.
We are married now. I am telling this story because today is Pooky-Bear’s and my 24th wedding anniversary. That simple decision to go have dinner and watch the ballgame changed my life forever for the better.
There is a simple morale to my story. If the choice is to stay home, or to go out? Always go out. You never know what wonderful things might happen.
"Let me cook for you."
She smiles, sitting back in the oversized recliner. I hand her a box of More cigarettes and cheap Bic lighter. "Sorry, I don't really have an ashtray. You'll have to use one of these bowls." It's a Fiesta, dark blue. It belonged to her back when she lived in Savannah. I babble a little as I continue. "Mores are hard to find now. Hell," I pause, making eye contact through her large framed glasses, "I mean, heck, uh...well, my Walmart doesn't even sell smokes anymore, but I never picked up the habit, myself."
"It's ok, sugar." She grins, and she says shugah instead of sugar and it's a voice and accent I've not heard in forty years. I get a lump in my throat.
Pressure builds behind my eyes, and I turn away before I lose the reins on my emotion. I busy myself with tenderizing cubesteak before dredging it in flour.
I feel her watching me in the kitchen. It's not an uncomfortable silence, but I don't particularly like the smell of the tobacco. It isn't unpleasant, per se, because it's tied to early childhood memory. Other than the nostalgia, though, it isn't great. I try my best to ignore it, getting lost in the prep. I decide to ask, since it's the elephant in the room.
"Where have you been?" I look up from the stainless steel bowl filled with flour and beef.
She sighs, flicks ashes into the empty bowl. She reaches over and takes a sip of instant tea from the Coke tumbler that looks like stained glass. It's Lipton, because I couldn't find Nestea. The cup wasn't hers, but it is one that looks just like what she used to use. I bought it on eBay a few years ago because it reminded of her. I say none of these things, waiting for her to answer me.
She clears her throat and looks up at me. "I can't talk about that, baby. Just know it's a good place."
"Like in that tv show with Kristen Bell?" I half-joke.
"I don't know who that is."
Of course she doesn't.
"So there aren't movies where you've been? No television?"
She smiles sadly. "I can't talk about that, baby. Tell me about you."
We have decades to catch up on in just a few hours. I fill her in as best I can. I try to describe the influence she's had on me.
I try to describe the impact her absence has had on me.
I'm not sure I do a great job, but she finishes her cigarette and gives me a hug. I try not to get flour on her gingham shirt.
For a moment, all I smell is her Worth perfume. All I feel is the warmth from her arms. The world falls away and my grandmother stands with me in my kitchen, and I feel like I'm an eight year old again.
I don't particularly like feeling like a kid again, but I do like the feeling of my whole world being filled with the love and tenderness of a grandparent.
"Let me help you in here," she says, tenderly.
I feel a little like she doesn't trust my skills, but I welcome her. Together, we laugh and work and clean as we go.
"You still love corn and peas?" she teases me, stirring.
"Yes ma'am, but I don't fry much." I lay the cuts of cubesteak in bubbling grease.
"I know this used to be your favorite meal. I hope you have French's."
"It's the only worcestershire I buy," I laugh.
The meal is prepared and plated and we sit at the table. I had to clean it off; it's been nothing more than a catch-all for years. I usually take my meals on the couch, watching television. She tells me stories from her youth that I've never heard; featured prominently are tales of she and her sister back when they taught school together just out of college.
She asks me about my education and job, and I tell her about the things I've done and the degrees I studied.
Her eyes mist and a single tear forms. She tells me how proud she is to hear about me finishing college and making a career.
I'm forced to admit that her career and mine share some parallels, and I have to name the influence for what it is.
I ask her how much longer we have, and she just smiles sadly.
"Not enough, sugar."
She holds my hand, and her grip is strong and sure. I remember the last time I held it, the sounds and smells of the hospital. I remember the strength of her grip then, how she put on a good show of being fine. How I thought, somehow, that she'd be home in a few days after some treatment.
"I was a dumb kid," I blurt out.
She laughs at me. "No, you were just a kid. My job was to protect you."
"But you left me," I couldn't help but cry. Tears explode, and I'm a wreck.
She wraps me in those strong arms again, and decades of grief flow.
"I'm proud of you," she says. "You did a fine job." I almost think she's talking about the meal, but I look at her and I think she means something completely different.
"How are you here?" I have to know.
She reaches up and wipes away my tears. "Oh, baby. This is a dream, but that doesn't make it any less real."
I wake with a start, content.
I swear I can almost smell Worth perfume and More cigarettes when I sleepy-stumble into the kitchen.
My heart skips a beat when I notice ashes in her old blue Fiesta bowl.