Hiking at South Mountain. Recent rains have washed the sky and left the air clear and bright. Here’s hoping whatever storms 2020 brings will leave a clearer, brighter future.
Words, like slippery, silvery trout,
Lurk just beneath the surface.
Catch them if you can.
It takes patience,
To wait for the mercurial glint,
The quick mysterious flash of light,
The hint that you might be in the right place
At the right time.
And should you snag it,
Bring it out whole
Into the sunlight,
Bragging rights are yours:
Yours to expand on, to exaggerate,
Yours to determine the fate,
Yours to release back into the water.
It was never yours to keep.
“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses — that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.” Pablo Neruda
(Assignment: Rework a myth, giving it a modern context. I was tired of Eve always taking the rap.)
Ada sat on the floor surrounded by a huge pile of clothes, books, dishes and all the rest of the flotsam and jetsam that comprise modern life.
“You always blame me for everything,” she said as she winged a pair of collapsed shoes toward an overflowing cardboard box.
Evan gave one of his famous long-suffering sighs, filled with as much falsity as it could hold.
“I don’t see any shared responsibility here, Ada. This fiasco is entirely your doing. I just don’t understand how you could be so…naive.”
He dropped a stack of textbooks into the metal trash can, listening to the reverberations as they thudded against the bottom.
“I’ve told you. For years, I sponsored an orphan through the World Child Help Fund. The man had the same name as my orphan. I think. Anyway, I was trying to do something good for all of us—you and me and this poor guy in Nigeria. Who very well could have been my orphan. That money would have set us up for life. You could have finished veterinary school, got your practice going, paid off your loan, and we would have been helping someone out who needed it.”
Evan let a desk drawer full of miscellaneous papers fall to the floor, perilously close to Ada’s bare feet.
“He wasn’t your orphan. He was a sleazy scam artist, sitting in some shithole in Nigeria in front of a bank of computers, wiping out our bank account using the information you emailed him. You. You emailed him our private data. God!
“And now, thanks to your “good-hearted intentions”, I have a huge student loan to repay for an education I can’t complete because I have to figure out how we’re going to live with no money and no prospects. Not to mention where we’re going to live now that we’ve been evicted.”
Ada had begun to cry silently, tears rolling down her face and down the front of her blouse. She absently reached in the drawer in search of something to wipe her face with. Past due notices, shut-off notices, and pay-or-die threats were jumbled together, but her hand fell on a NSF letter at the bottom of the pile. As she sadly regarded it, something seemed off. She could see that the negative balance was almost equal to the amount that had been in their savings. As she puzzled over it, though, it was the date that seemed to pop out at her. It took a moment, but at last the discrepancy hit her. The notice was dated a week before she had tried to send money to Nigeria.
“Evan, what does this mean? Did you know about this?” She waved the paper in his direction.
“I don’t know what you’re going on about. Right now, I’ve got to try to find a way to load all this crap on my motorcycle so we can take it wherever we’re going. Back to the East side, I guess.”
“According to this letter, the money was already gone before I fell for the scam. How did that happen?”
“You’re mistaken. Again.”
“No, it’s right here. Here’s the proof. You went through all the money yourself, didn’t you? What did you spend it on? Was it that gambling thing again? All the nights you were supposedly studying were you really making bets at the sports bar?”
He was sprawled on a sagging couch, one hand over his eyes. “Does it really matter now? We’re both well and truly fucked, either way.”
“It does matter. It matters that you were willing to let me take the fall for our losses. It matters that you seemed to enjoy torturing me over something you were responsible for. It matters that this has been the pattern of our former life together.”
“Former? You can’t be thinking of leaving me. You need me more than I need you.”
“Did. No more.” She was sorting through a mound of her clothing, discarding most of it with one hand and holding on to a choice selection with her other hand.
“What you’ve done is worse in some ways than what the Nigerian did. You know what you are, Evan?” She turned to face him.
“You’re a snake in the grass. I can see that for the first time.
“I’m not moving back to the East side with you. I’m going to New York, where I always wanted to go. One way or another, I’ll get there. For once, I’m going to follow my dreams and I intend to do whatever it takes to get a career going for myself.”
“That’s right. New York. The Big Apple. And you know what else, Evan? You can bite me!”
The jogger pulled up short as he passed a transient’s camp haphazardly organized along the path. A cheap bicycle lay on its side in the mud next to a shopping cart overflowing with objects that should have been returned to the dumpster. A cardboard lean-to, with a pair of crusty, crinkly boots protruding from the opening, sagged against a tree. But what caught the jogger’s eye was that a large schoolroom clock had been attached to the tree. Checking his sports watch against the time on the clock, he saw it was accurate.
“What the hell would a bum need to keep track of time for?” he wondered aloud. “To make sure he’s not late for his appointment at the panhandling corner?”
A voice drifted out from the lean-to. “I can hear you. And you’re standing on my front porch.”
The jogger squatted to peer inside the makeshift shelter.
The voice from inside continued, “Do you see me going around peeking in your windows at night when you’re trying to sleep? What makes you think it’s all right for you to do that to me?”
The boots disappeared inside the lean-to and were replaced by an equally crusty, crinkled face, largely obscured by an unkempt beard that had been years in the making.
“But you’re right,” the man continued, “Time as you understand it don’t mean much to me. If I’m hungry or cold or lonesome, it don’t matter if it’s 8 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon or midnight. Putting a number on a “map” don’t change things.
“Here’s the thing, though. You look at me and call me a transient, and it helps you to hide from yourself the fact that you’re a transient, too. A transient with a fancier camp than me, but a transient just the same, just passing through this world leaving behind hardly any trace of yourself.
“Time’s a thief, and it will surely take everything from you in the end. But I’ve captured Old Man Time. I’ve nailed him to that tree right there, and there’s nothing he can do to me anymore. And when his energy runs down in a couple of days, he won’t have much to say, except twice a day. It may be true, what he says then, but it won’t matter.”
The jogger shook his head.
“Delusional,”he muttered. He reset the lap timer on his watch and took off down the path.
Let’s just drop the fucking pretense, the meaningless show of supposed shock and horror. We do NOT care about the never ending parade of school violence, or we as a nation would do something to address it. This doesn’t happen, even rarely, much less on a predictably regular basis, in other countries. School violence is an embedded part of our culture, a manifestation of our true values. If this were not true, we would change the culture that enables these occurrences. So maybe instead of the nauseating hypocrisy of thoughts and prayers, we should just embrace the reality that we, as a nation, have created. Let’s celebrate the NRA, let’s defend the glory of the 2nd amendment, never mind the inevitable “collateral damage”. Let’s not waste our resources on change when so much energy is required to maintain our gun loving culture. Second amendment trumps safety of our kids! Yay, America! This, again today, is who we are.
A Short History of Silence
by Jane Yeh
(Photo of my gggrandmother, Abigail Smith and her sister Mary Wilson)
In our house, all the clocks are turned off and the mirrors
Don’t work. We sit like bread in a stay-fresh wrapper,
Keep ourselves to our selves. Sometimes the speeches
Are so beautiful it hurts. On the porch where we can’t be
Seen to smile, the honeysuckle meshes with silent
Weeds. We rock back and forth, back and forth in our long
Black dresses. Mosquitoes taste our blood and find it good.
Inside, candles are lit every night and keep going
Until they burn themselves down. We kiss our fingers
To our lips like Italians, promise we’ll never look back.
When the doorbell rings we don’t answer.
In winter, the fur grows long on the horses and the ice
Grows long on the eaves. We sleep in the same bed
Like good animals, braid our hair together, tailor
Our limbs to fit.
Conspiracy of wood
Have we been here before
In this exact moment,
With the light slanting at just this angle
In hushed iridescent patterns
Discernible only through
The infinite prisms of time?
Have these same sounds ricocheted through the light
Like muffled alarms
Creating endless echoes?
How many times has this
Only to dissolve
Like a ghost
Returning to the ether?
This life is a poem
As quickly as
They can be set down.
Words and events jumbled,
In a failure of
Leaky vessels carrying
As the body imperfectly
Carries the soul.
There’s no word made flesh here, though.
It’s just ashes to ashes
Bones to dust.
A reluctant relinquishing
Of what remains,