an iced doughnut of foliage and flower in my yard
beckons me from books and house
leads me to the floor and twirls me round
rings my fingers with dirt lace
It is the wee small hours of the morning- a mulled wine sunrise with a splash of citrus is drawing the rippling water of the river. Sugared pines sprinkle last night’s hail onto the banks as wolves, drunk from their most recent kill, stumble to their den for sleep. The days have been hot and muggy, but last night a storm rolled cool, wet breezes across the parched grasses and hills. It was not a good night for the boys to run away.
But youth knows no reason when emotions hold sway over decisions and actions. Slaves to anger and hubris, the two pounced at the spontaneous thought of leaving; they ran from the place they had called a home for the past two weeks. Gone before the sky darkened and the storm appeared, they left in nothing but shorts and T-shirt, cotton knee socks and tennis shoes.
The town below the orphanage was in full blown revelry last night. The annual celebration of its historic origins soon developed into the usual drunken street dancing ritual. The live band stirred the gyrating crowd, but as the music traveled into the pine skirted hills that surrounded the revelers, all that remained were the drums.
“Do you even know where we are?” This from Handel, or what appeared to be Handel. It was difficult to make out the shivering, damp ball of lanky boy curled up at the base of a tree.
“Can you not hear the drums? We’re not far from town, duh.”
“I think they cut your hair too close to whatever was left of your brain, B.” Handel took his time unfolding himself, stretching different limbs and scratching what parts of his brown skin that weren’t already covered in scrapes, welts, or bug bites. “I can’t believe I followed you out here.”
The boys heads both sported the characteristic crew cut – the traditional intake haircuts – done quickly with a number one guard on electric trimmers. Both of their scalps were visible through the stubble, but Brad’s scalp was clearly sunburnt, as was the rest of his exposed body parts. Brad preferred to be called “B” having struggled with the name’s stereotype in the multiple juvenile detentions and foster homes he’d traversed in his young life. Handel, of Kalispel tribal heritage, had never seen a foster home. He had also never seen a sober parent, a brother that wasn’t in prison or an ex-con, or a school that hadn’t given up on him.
“What was that?” B interrupted Handel’s waking dance of unfurling. The fear in his voice brought an involuntary crouch from Handel.
Last week I had the most bizarre dream, and although it is cliche to write about a dream when you are scratching for anything to draw a little creativity out of your brain and into your Mac, I intend to risk it.
There is a window. It’s a storybook second-story window – perhaps you would call it a “Waltons” window. White trimmed on a white wall, it frames a beautiful scene. A vibrant tree at an angle such that the viewer gets a glimpse of a particular branch just-so, despite the fullness all around. Sunlight adorns it all with comfort and warmth. And on that particular branch, a bird gracefully lights.
Well, a bird gracefully lights as gracefully as a bird done in what appears to be steampunk mechanisms can land. There are no gears or clicks, no sounds to indicate the bird is mechanical. In fact, the ambiance and tone of this dreamscape assure you the bird is very real indeed. Its movements though, are reminiscent of a book, or maybe a video game animation? Its a beautiful creature actually. Not at all the stereotype clockwork bird. You see, it’s feathers are a compilation of all the colors of blue you’ve ever seen in the sky. Those beautiful feathers draw instantly from every clear blue-sky day. The feelings that accompanied them flood your heart, and you are charmed and endeared by the little thing right away.
But it’s injured somehow. You can’t tell where, but something is not right. So you open the window and reach your hand out “Snow White-style” for the visitor to hop to you, a harmless exchange of cartoonish proportions. Bringing it into the room you quickly grab a towel and dampen a corner in the washbasin. That’s right – a wash basin. Clockwork birds are a connection between the past and the present, thus a wash basin is perfectly normal in this dream scenario, you reason.
The bird flutters in your care and stays as still as a living wild being can stay while it trusts your care to its wounds. It’s eyes are gouged out. Where there would be those beady little eyes in most typical real-world birds, eyes that you could look into and wonder if they hide a greater intelligence than you have been taught to believe exists in the avian world, there are only bloody holes the width of a finger or a thumb. Strange and macabre, to be sure.
So you dab gently the blood and seem to make progress on the bird’s left eye, almost completely cleaning it to the scabby remains in the socket. But the right eye is still seeping a little, and you notice as you dab that this socket still has it’s eye. And just when you think the situation could not get any creepier, you see it. The clockwork bird’s eye is looking at you with the eye of a puppy dog, begging for care and love and thanking you for your attention.
Thus, Dear Reader, I ask you – why would this be the point when reality cuts a hole in the dream fabric and yanks you out? Why would this be the point you awake? And what does it all mean?
I await your creative thoughts.
In 1928, when Nila was born, the woods had been there, surrounded by more forrest on all three sides. A dirt road drew it’s contour on the east, and a creek ran it’s southern side. When hayfields and corn started dividing the countryside, they’d stopped at the creek, and at the sudden rise in elevation on the north and west sides, and the woods had remained a remnant of what used to be. These and the paved country road where the dirt road had been, clearly defined the boundaries to the property when Nila and Jim eventually purchased it.
Nila and Jim married when she was twenty in the summer of 1948. They acquired the woods twenty years later in hopes they might one day build a house there, but the little town of Menden had grown up around the first and only house they would ever live in for their 62 years together. The woods had instead became something of a family member, almost mystical and later, perhaps a bit haunted.
Mushrooms grew in some places (if you knew where to look). A nice morel flanked dinner was your reward, and folks in those parts had a hankering for that. In warmer months, the creek bed, it’s silky-soft mud lacing through your toes as it cradled your feet, was host to children and adults alike. The family spent time in the summers trimming and mowing the meadow that served as a huge welcome mat with the creek off to your left, the hill to your right, and a peaceful upsweeping trail on back behind.
The meadow had seen many tents, many campfires, and heard many ghost stories. Many a child had woke screaming in their beds, their mothers calling Nila exasperated and angry, after Nila had scared them the night before at a campfire. The creek wasn’t any good for fishing, but that didn’t stop some of the children from tying strings to the end of sticks and dropping pieces of kneaded bread balls into the water. They’d giggle and scream as baby smallies would nibble at the bait, then gulp it down and give their little makeshift rods a tug as they swam away.
Nights in the woods were unpredictable. If there wasn’t a group camping, if it had been still and untouched for a time, one of the family teens might park a car just outside the meadow. Still under the canopy of trees and out of sight to passersby, some tried to lay blankets out for their attempts at passion. The more experienced simply cracked the windows and used the back seat, too many creepy crawlies on the damp ground. This went on until Nila’s brother and his wife bought a spread of land next to the woods and built a home there. Nila threatened several grandkids in the late 80’s when reports of their scandalous activities made it to her ears.
In the winter, the hill north of the meadow was perfect for sleds. The deer that frequented the woods would keep a low profile when sounds of children whooping and laughing would begin wafting through the trees, magnified by the silence the snow cover promulgated by filtering out other sound.
In time, Nila decided to leave the woods wild, and thought of it as a nature preserve. The hill and trails became overgrown, and even the meadow became more and more neglected as the pair grew older and the younger members of the family moved away or had other priorities. A chain link fence, complete with “Private Property” and “No poaching” signs made the boundaries clear at that point. And if family wanted to go for a walk or sit by the creek, they had to retrieve the key to the padlocked gate from the hiding place in Nila and Jim’s pool house.
Jim died in 1992, and Nila held on to the woods. When she passed away ten years later it was January. The leafless trees draped over patches of snow and mud, and in its wintery silence, the creek’s trickling of tears and the black and white imagery adjoining it, the woods displayed its profound sorrow and loss.
This is semi-biographical and was inspired by the “Landscape and Time” exercise in Brian Kitely’s book The 3 A.M. Epiphany. If I had written in response to this exercise for a class I would have failed, because as usual – I cheated. Alas, I am not writing for a grade. This piece still bugs me for some minor touch-ups in language and direction. I wanted to detail what kinds of trees grow there but, much like a person’s shirt color, I couldn’t recall all of that. Funny. I would appreciate any ideas you have for what works, what doesn’t, etc. Also, feel free to share where you would have written about and why.
I don’t like using the word “never.” Still, I think it’s called for today.
Never say you’ll do something “when hell freezes over.” In the world we live in today that isn’t such a far-fetched scenario. In fact, I said I felt like going to work maybe when the bowels of Hades burped dry ice (how many ways can you say “hell freezes over?”), and it began raining down a storm of hail stones about five minutes ago. Frozen little pebbles flailed against my tin roof rent house and buffeted my little Toyota Yaris parked in the drive. I ask you – is it not nearly April?
Earthquakes and Tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes, mudslides and flash floods, blizzards … this is our little rock in space now. There’s really nowhere you can live these days where a natural disaster of some kind isn’t possible. My point? Don’t base your safety on geography, and don’t set conditions for your compliance or behavior contingent on a raging, hormonal lady nature that you have absolutely no control over.
I think the moment I came out of the womb I was too crowded. It’s why I spend so much time in the bathroom. Not because I primp or spend hours putting on lipstick. I only wear blush. I need more time by myself to be myself. I need more time with my voices of reason and calmness.
Tonight I drove up French Mountain road and turned left on Shanghai Divide. It was a dangerous, beautiful, peaceful ride. I saw a black bear cub, three white tail deer, and some bunny rabbits. No one talked to me and I didn’t have to listen.
Tonight was the first night in a long time that I’ve missed my 8pm goal to post something. I sacrificed 24 minutes to gain my sanity. Life is good.
a simple complex sandcastle
with steady sturdy towers
walls glistening in the sun
with the moistness
and the magic
of brand new built.
many doors, mostly open
only one locked shut
only the castle itself in possession
of the key to free
the sun smiles
on the beauty
the complex simpleness
what is now, and what will ever be
the land’s barrier,
the tide’s punching bag.
but for this time, this moment
she stands firm
on the sand of the beach that forms her.
in wide open
roads wind sloping
living green round about
clapping pavement before and hind
window down, my arm out
all the freedom i can find
music’s blasting, i don’t mind
little untainted alcoves
tall green guardians surround heavenly
tucked and stashed mystery groves
whip past me going seventy
lost and found on an interstate
wilderness without and within
my worries and sorrows abate
and my business of late
disappear here, how long it has been
if words were like pennies i would truly be rich
for all the things i want to say to you
swarm my brain like pissed off bees defending their hive.
if words were ice i would truly be frozen
by all the icicles hanging in my skull
like dripping daggers painting to my heart.
is words were brush strokes on canvas i would be world reknown
for all the masterpieces i have created for you
in many hues of blue and blue and blue.
if words were clouds the world would die
smothered in the darkness my words keep me under
in my strain with the pain that lingers everywhere in me.
if words were bullets i would perish
in the prison of my love that cages me
while i aim at you and point the barrel at me.
if words were weeds i would pick up gardening
and pull them ’til my fingers bled and my hands stiffened
and my back broke and my body was covered in the earth
but they would keep growing.
in reality –
i am broke, warm, and of average artistic ability
i see the light most times
i am alive and i don’t care to week a garden
of my bitterness.
i feel –
rich with hurt, frozen from intimacy, a maestro of the pallet,
darkness surrounds me,
i am dead and can’t see it through vines of
betrayal that grip my legs
wrap around my neck
and swallow me whole.
if words were freedom I would truly be free.
I roll out of colors,
the wind and the hush –
the setting familiar
so green and so lush.
The sunlight bears witness
to the grain in the wood.
I would come to you, Darling,
if only I could.
I would come to you,
tenderly placing my hand
in the small of your back –
that familiar, warm land.
And in whispers I’d write
one last love letter, Dear.
Do not linger in sadness,
that I am not here.
Give your tears, my Sweetheart,
as the wind blows consent
and the rifles all fire;
Count your grief fully spent.
Find a place in your memories
when joy was in flow;
pack your bag with those pictures
and pick up and go.