don’t look for me
you will not find me
she wears long sleeves now
to hide her crepey skin
trying to keep me a secret
but it does not work
because they remember me;
the so called “friends”
from back in the day
on the street corner
when she wore less clothes
the mini skirt
the spike heels
the fish nets
when her skin was tight
so so was I
in full view
black with shades of red
the grim reaper
hidden under the stained cloth
it is near the end
I am at her mercy
am I forgotten
as I unable to know
hoping to be the last thing she thinks about
as she looks out the foggy window
at a dogwood tree
in the distance
it is blurry
and so is she
with the white blossoms
as they drop to the ground withered
atop the ash heap
where we belong
I SPy wiTH my LiTtle eYe
One life to live. Me and my story. How can I see it any other way? You are no longer here to hear about what you did to me, or observe the scars. If you were, would you care? What does it matter? Red is the color of blood, divided by air is the color of nothing, and I am the only one still breathing so where is the evidence?
Why didn't you just get in the car and go rob a bank, or pull out a six gun out of thin air and shoot me in the head? Every day I get to wake up and remind myself to be grateful that you didn't, and then I go about my day singing a song that you never heard, so who exactly is it that has the last laugh?
But I was not there when you were burned at the stake, when you swore that you would never do to me what they did to you. Unanswered questions are like unread fortune cookies, fine print thrown out in the trash, along with the chopsticks and brown bag stained with grease.
It's okay. I forgive you. There is no time to waste on the past, not even a nanosecond, because if I do, I remain guilty.
DUCK DUCK GOOSE
Heartbreak is the short end of the stick, the ash in the pit, the Johnny Come Lately to the rainbow behind the brick wall in stocking feet, where the heartbreaker sits in a Lazy-Boy, swiping right without blinking, after vacuuming up all the dust in the room.
Day after day I watched them fly above me darting in and out of my line of sight beyond the longleaf pines until they were gone.
"Come back." I would whisper. "And take me with you." I used to believe my yearning to be a bird had something to do with jealousy before I recognized the absurdity in comparing my desire for freedom and their quest for survival.
If I am a birder, and I wish to claim that I am, I am an inept one, because I am not sure I could point out the specific differences between a raven and a crow beyond the color black. With hawks and eagles, although I've done my research, if one flies directly over my head, I choke. Unable to differentiate before I lose sight, I consider myself an embarrassment to my country of origin. If I only paid more attention to details I would easily identify the most pictured bird in the US of A as the bald eagle, for shards sake. On coins, on paper money, on postage stamps, in the logos of Federal Agencies, and as a shining example prominently pictured on the one and only great seal since 1782. And then there is me, in 2022, in broad daylight, looking up like it's dark, as ignorant as a babe in the woods, longing to be a species I can't even identify. But ask me to do something stupid like a blind taste test between Miracle Whip and Hellman's Mayonnaise and I'll nail it. Go figure.
But I can definitively state the difference between a male and female cardinal. That tidbit of information grabbed me and stuck. If cardinals were humans, it would be the males wearing the bold slinky red dress and the females wearing the dull drab brown t-shirt. I don't know why, but that struck me as odd. I suppose because I am narrowly perceiving sexuality from a human heterosexual standpoint. Find me a bird that would fault me.
So I woke up this morning, low and behold, to find a message. It was not written down. It was not spoken, yet it was clearly understood telepathically from an unknown entity. I am to be gifted a supreme power to become whatever it is I desire to be. It is not like me to be prone to balderdash. But this message was different from anything else I have ever experienced. No joke. It was all consuming in a junkie meets heroine kind of way. Otherwise, the message was vague, about as specific as the contents of my kitchen junk drawer. Typically, when my eyelids open, like most of the world, I am about two drinks into a jag, semi-conscious, half in half out, so I was already in a compromised state, unwilling to deliberate the implications, rendering me ripe for the picking. It was then that I was distracted and pleasantly aroused by the dawn chorus of the blackbirds, and they led me to impulsively decide my fate; "I am going to be a bird. Not just any bird. A fricking big, bad ass, great seal, bald headed, US of A eagle. And I will fly wherever the hell I want without a care. No bills, no taxes, no stinking rules. Just me and the great big endless sky from sunup to sun down, winging it, where there is no such a thing as a dirty job, demanding girlfriends, party affiliations, Kim Kardashian, Sean Hannity or commercials squawking in the background; AFLAC."
And so it was, just like I had made a wish to a genie in a bottle, and away I went. Conveniently, my starting point was a nest, in a tree, right behind my house. Thankfully an empty nest, otherwise my freedom ride would have come with inconvenient complications. It hadn't occurred to me that an eagle could also be a father, or a mother like a human. It has always been my desire to fly solo. The only aisle I want to walk belongs in a retail store. Marriage, children, the whole picket fence minivan thing; not for me.
It might have been a good idea for me to have gotten up and contemplated my thoughts about such a major life decision over a cup of coffee. At the very least, I should have turned on the weather channel. Hindsight is, as they say 20/20, since little did I know, after several hours of sublime soaring, the sky started to darken. It almost didn't matter, because I believe I had already scratched the itch, and released the beast, until the wind began to knock the shit out of me. It was then, just in the nick of time, that my research from when I was a human paid off. Eagles, as it turns out, are the only birds that fly into a storm, using the wind to lift them up to an altitude above the storm. How smart. No wonder they landed their likeness on every dolla-dolla bill.
I had to remind myself a couple of times to rely on what I learned about eagles, instead of the lingering thoughts of my previous human brain where fear makes us do all sorts of weird shit, like avoiding bridges, climbing Mt. Everest, and steering clear of intimate relationships, and it worked. What a rush. It felt like I had been shot out of a circa 1782 cannon grabbing onto the back of a 2022 space shuttle after lift off. It was wild to look at the storm beneath me as I just lifted and lifted up, gliding like a mofo pro. Funny thing was, I never got tired, another advantage of eaglehood. Maybe my rash decision was the best decision I had ever made. Still, I felt curious and that same familiar yearning returned right after I knew the storm had passed. There was this lingering thought, perhaps it was just another nagging human mental atrocity, but it was strong enough to make me want to return to the nest. After all, isn't that what all birds instinctively do anyway?
When I arrived back in my old neighborhood, I realized, it really wasn't the nest I wanted to return to. It was my old bed. I can't say why, because I still wasn't tired. So I thought, "What harm could be done if I plopped down in the nest, and took a peek into my old bedroom through the window? After all, I was now in possession of the proverbial so-called eagle eye. So why not put it to use to quell my curiosity? I wanted to know if there could be someone else sleeping in my bed.
Don't ask me how I knew, but I knew after I took one look. At that point I wasn't sure who had been given the gift of the supreme power. Was it given to me, or was it given to the bald eagle that had lived all those years in the nest right behind my house, because there he was, in my human form, in my old bed. And he wasn't alone. Lying next to him was a beautiful woman. Not just any beautiful woman. It was my ex-girlfriend. The one I dumped when she said she wanted to get married and have kids.
But either way, I will have to assume things worked out exactly as they were meant to be, because suddenly my yearning stopped. It was replaced by extreme hunger. I flew off, away from my old life, hunting for a small mammal without a care except for the conundrum of how the meat was going to taste without any mayo.
My cup runneth over
"But it's all you have."
"If it was a crumb I would halve it for you. Hunger is only temporary..."
I believe at a time when a war is raging across the pond, this incident is getting much more attention than it should, but after all we Americans are a curious lot. I read this on Facebook today and I thought I would share:
***Written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (UCLA ’69)
"When Will Smith stormed onto the Oscar stage to strike Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife's short hair, he did a lot more damage than just to Rock's face. With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community. That's a lot to unpack. Let's start with the facts: Rock made a reference to Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, as looking like Demi Moore in 'G.I. Jane,' in which Moore had shaved her head. Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia, which causes hair loss. Ok, I can see where the Smiths might not have found that joke funny. But Hollywood awards shows are traditionally a venue where much worse things have been said about celebrities as a means of downplaying the fact that it's basically a gathering of multimillionaires giving each other awards to boost business so they can make even more money. The Smiths could have reacted by politely laughing along with the joke or by glowering angrily at Rock. Instead, Smith felt the need to get up in front of his industry peers and millions of people around the world, hit another man, then return to his seat to bellow: 'Keep my wife's name out of your fucking mouth.' Twice. Some have romanticized Smith's actions as that of a loving husband defending his wife. Comedian Tiffany Haddish, who starred in the movie 'Girls Trip' with Pinkett Smith, praised Smith's actions: '[F]or me, it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives.' Actually, it was the opposite. Smith's slap was also a slap to women. If Rock had physically attacked Pinkett Smith, Smith's intervention would have been welcome. Or if he'd remained in his seat and yelled his post-slap threat, that would have been unnecessary, but understandable. But by hitting Rock, he announced that his wife was incapable of defending herself—against words. From everything I'd seen of Pinkett Smith over the years, she's a very capable, tough, smart woman who can single-handedly take on a lame joke at the Academy Awards show. This patronizing, paternal attitude infantilizes women and reduces them to helpless damsels needing a Big Strong Man to defend their honor least they swoon from the vapors. If he was really doing it for his wife, and not his own need to prove himself, he might have thought about the negative attention this brought on them, much harsher than the benign joke. That would have been truly defending and respecting her. This 'women need men to defend them' is the same justification currently being proclaimed by conservatives passing laws to restrict abortion and the LGBTQ+ community. Worse than the slap was Smith's tearful, self-serving acceptance speech in which he rambled on about all the women in the movie 'King Richard' that he's protected. Those who protect don't brag about it in front of 15 million people. They just do it and shut up. You don't do it as a movie promotion claiming how you're like the character you just won an award portraying. But, of course, the speech was about justifying his violence. Apparently, so many people need Smith's protection that occasionally it gets too much and someone needs to be smacked. What is the legacy of Smith's violence? He's brought back the Toxic Bro ideal of embracing Kobra Kai teachings of 'might makes right' and 'talk is for losers.' Let's not forget that this macho John Wayne philosophy was expressed in two movies in which Wayne spanked grown women to teach them a lesson. Young boys—especially Black boys—watching their movie idol not just hit another man over a joke, but then justify it as him being a superhero-like protector, are now much more prone to follow in his childish footsteps. Perhaps the saddest confirmation of this is the tweet from Smith's child Jaden: 'And That’s How We Do It.' The Black community also takes a direct hit from Smith. One of the main talking points from those supporting the systemic racism in America is characterizing Blacks as more prone to violence and less able to control their emotions. Smith just gave comfort to the enemy by providing them with the perfect optics they were dreaming of. Many will be reinvigorated to continue their campaign to marginalize African Americans and others through voter suppression campaign. As for the damage to show business, Smith's violence is an implied threat to all comedians who now have to worry that an edgy or insulting joke might be met with violence. Good thing Don Rickles, Bill Burr, or Ricky Gervais weren't there. As comedian Kathy Griffin tweeted: 'Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.' The one bright note is that Chris Rock, clearly stunned, managed to handle the moment with grace and maturity. If only Smith's acceptance speech had shown similar grace and maturity—and included, instead of self-aggrandizing excuses, a heartfelt apology to Rock."
Whatever will be will be...
I usually like to get the creative apple juices going on challenges I enter, but not so on this one. I will be direct and to the point.
"Can you be friends with a person of the opposite sex whom you're attracted to?"
I say a hard NO! Or should I ask, what do you mean by attracted?
I say if the person of the opposite sex makes you applesaucy and you are already in a relationship, walk away, to a avoid the temptation, if monogamy is something you value.
If the person of the opposite sex makes you all applesaucy and they are as dry as a bale of hay for you, who are you kidding. You know you are keeping them in your life hoping they will have an epiphany and volte-face.
If the person of the opposite sex makes you all applesaucy and you conjure the same response in them, I say carry on with the friendship and que sera sera.
Stop looking at me….I said stop looking at me. Yes. You. Yeah, I am talking to you. How would you like it if I kept staring at you? Since you know I don't have eyes, do you not see the disparity? I was born at a disadvantage so is it fair for you to exploit me?
I know what you are thinking. Where did I come from. The who what where of all of it is driving you crazy. I know your type. You walk the dog before sunrise on trash day, just so you can peek inside recycle bins. So what if the old lady down the block hits the sauce, and it's none of your business if the family next door exceeds your definition of "true green" in their use of consumables. At least they are recycling. Did you remember to pick up your dog's poop in the dark? Aren't you one of those dog walkers who will bend down only when someone is looking pretending to pick it up? The rules of the game don't apply to you. Do they? You are trying to prove you are better than them; all the poor peasants that circumnavigate the world around you.
"It must have been the husband," you think. He has that menacing look in his eye, not quite a Jeffrey Dahmer type, more like Chris Brown. It must have been him in a drunken rage. He caught my harbinger in a lie, when she was only trying to protect her poor children. He grabbed the closest thing to him, a Chinese Dehua Princess, and she defensively raised her arm to block her face. He hit her with such force the glass shattered all over the room. The blood was everywhere. Although she needed stitches, she was afraid to go to the hospital, for fear of reprisal.
Wouldn't you like to know.
It didn't happen that way.
You are never going to know my origin, because it is none of your business.
Walk away little girl.
It is a big goddam cauliflower, a poor excuse for an ear, making me wonder who coined the phrase cauliflower ear and why. Those who know me inside out, like my best friend Harvey, my big sister Sharon and my parents, who think they know every little thing about me but really don't, I can hear them know. "Bradley is a big goddam exaggerator." If they cannot appreciate my creativity, I cannot appreciate their tight underwear. With the outside world, I sprinkle my word salad shit like candy without sinister premeditation. I can't help it if they eat it up. Like the other day when I was on the back of the line in the cafeteria I said, out loud, I don't know why, I guess I was in a mood, "Do not get the macaroni and cheese." Three or four unsuspecting heads within earshot turned around and one of them said, "Why not?" None of them looked familiar to me. They were all tenth graders and I'd never seen them before in my life. That's when I spoke back to them, deciding what to say on the fly in a whisper. I know how whispering can lend an air of credibility. "Bugs." I whispered, pointing towards the tray up in front of us. In my opinion, kids should learn to be less trusting and more confrontational about junk information from a stranger. Seriously, my intent was not to scare them or deceive them. No. And it was not my place to teach them a lesson in gullibility either. I was just bored after French class and I can't help it, dear cafeteria cook, if none of them ordered the macaroni and cheese.
"Exaggerating is the same as lying." Sharon says this almost every time I do declare just about anything at this point, and I vehemently disagree that exaggerating is the same as lying, cause otherwise exaggerating would not be a word unto itself. I'll just look that shit up on my phone again in front of her to prove a point. She knows I will, and she'll roll her eyes round and round like a surprised lemur in a tree or a dizzy old Auntie surprising a skunk. So when I said for the hell of it at the dinner table, "The dog's balls are literally dragging on the rug." I know I said it to get a rise out of my family intentionally, don't ask me why, and Sharon predictably hits right back, "Don't exaggerate you liar." Sharon seriously needs to undo her bun. My parents both sat there eating their peas and carrots as the don't-ask-don't-tell people that they are. And then, true to form, I hit up my phone again, as I always do, repeating the words I read to her in that up and down tone she hates on purpose, even though I already have the words memorized, "Exaggerating: A statement that represents something better or worse than it is." "Got it? Where is the word lying? Besides, Chomps is a goddam old unneutered Basset Hound for Chrissake." I remind her as if this is news. "Have you seen his legs? I've literally eaten egg rolls longer than them, so don't tell me that ball sack isn't dragging on that shag." Okay. She's got me on literally. Literally is an overused word of mine which may or may help prove Sharon's point, but if that ball sack is not dragging, it is damn close to a number measured only by millimeters. And the more Sharon tells me, "don't exaggerate, you liar" the more she feeds the beast, so excuse me Sharon, go suck it.
When I looked up cauliflower ear, I can't exactly say I was disappointed or maybe I can cause I am disappointed when there is a chance I could be proven wrong. The definition is rather specific: A deformity of the outer ear that may occur after injury to the ear. And I will find a way to use it, even if it does not exactly lend itself to the dilemma of how my ear felt when I got off the phone with Granny from Dayton, Ohio, not to be confused with Nana from Clearwater, Florida. It is fairly easy not to confuse my grandmothers. Nana from Clearwarer, Florida is literally about as tall as a giraffe and as skinny as a pogo stick. Her legs alone are a mile high and when I was little she always had to sit down before she could pick me up. Her hair is not silver, but rather blueish and she cuts it so close to her head it blends right in with the color of the spider veins running along her hairline down beneath her ear lobes. She wears nothing but dangly dollar store gypsy-like earrings and clogs in all colors and if it is raining she pulls out a color coordinated umbrella and vest to match, should the imperative need to venture out arise. These are just some of the things I know about her and more, and I can't exactly say why I know these things because I have not seen her since the fourth of July, the year before last or the year before the year before last. I often lose count of minor details and dates. But I do see pictures, so maybe that's how I know, or I just surmise. Surmising is definitely something I excel at, so says my math teacher. My other teachers don't say much of anything to me anymore other than, "Go to the principal's office, right now." Nana regularly sends mini videos to me and my sister and my parents via group MMS as if we care to know about her mahjong friend's heart attack, the price of chicken breast at the Piggly Wiggly and the number of people that did or did not show up for mass on any given Sunday. Even if she annoys me, I will still say she is kinda cool for an old lady. She knows how to use a phone. No kidding.
Granny, on the other hand, is nothing like Nana. At least she wasn't as far as being placed in the annoying category up until today. She is short, not short enough to be considered a dwarf, but short enough that she needs a step ladder for anything above the height of a first shelf. The last time we visited her I took notice of all those shelves she had in her kitchen, rows and rows of them; I did not understand the point of all the upper cabinetry, especially since she bought the house long after Grandpa Dayton, Ohio was dead. That man had some legs, but definitely not as long as Nana Clearwater's. I think. I only know him from the lopsided pictures of him taken besides Dayton Granny at their wedding, at a picnic, at the lake and then there is my favorite of him alone standing upright in his rookie Yankee baseball uniform. He coulda been one of the greats had it not been for the bone spurs, or his astigmatism, or some other minute hindrance known to smash a guys dreams. Details. Details. That minor fact alone does not stop me from bragging about my roots when a bunch a guys are hanging around shooting the shit about the playoffs. "You know," I say, cutting in without an invitation, my Grandfather was a pro ball player. Yankees. He played with the greats, ….DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra. Big names always gets em. "Yeah, yeah?" They all say, as in, "Hell, yeah. Yes. Do tell us more," yeah. Then I keep on walking like I got something more important to do when I really don't, it's just that I have nothing more to tell them. The only thing I know about Yankee baseball history are the few names I just quoted, who may or may not have ever set eyes upon my Grandfather in any uniform.
I surmise it was my mother who pulled out the rug and the chair, causing sweet Granny to become a turn coat. Why does my mother have to play us like that? Does she have nothing left up her sleeves? Does she even answer the calls from the principal anymore? Or has the principal stopped calling her? Beats me, cause she could have said something at the table instead of looking down at her plate as if it was a crystal ball. Why oh why does she have to go and mess up my thing with good old Dayton Granny. Before today, I'd literally hear from her twice a year, on my birthday and Christmas, asking me if I got the check she sent out to me in the mail. That's about it. Not today. And it's not even a holiday. It's friggin '4 p.m. on a Saturday in March and I've got better things to do than to listen to her voice on the other end of the land line, going on and on, Bradley this. Bradley that. All that crap about me not showing empathy, about me not applying myself, about me being disrespectful, about me exaggerating, please Dayton Granny, all the things that I had hoped were off your radar; please just stop before I hang up on you, but not before I do declare, even if it is only to the back of my right hand, that you literally just made my ear blow up as big as a goddam cauliflower.
Heaven on Earth
At the edge of the ocean I see clearly, knowing I have already been there.