Thursday, July 2, 2009


Its hair felted and pillow-punk-styled
Fabric creases embossed on the side of its face
Eyes heavy-lidded, still sealed half-shut by sleep snot
Grunting, scratching, farting morning
Hacking its fetid, furry morning breath

They sit on opposite sides of the table
Light-years apart
"Well, aren't you just a thing of beauty," he snipes
And picks up the newspaper
Annoyed, she takes a huge gulp of coffee
It burns her tongue
Burns all the way down
Sears the pit of her stomach

He hides behind the paper
Propping it up so that she's able to read the other side
There is a picture of a sweet, elderly couple
Holding hands
Leaning against each other
Smiling proudly at the camera
To commemorate their fiftieth wedding anniversary
"My God!" she thinks, "Fifty Years!
Eighteen Thousand, Two Hundred And Sixty-Two Mornings!
And they haven't killed each other yet!"

"I'll never make it."

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Trashy Tale

True story - Two people recently died in two separate incidents in England, when they were buried under the accumulations of rubbish with which they had filled their homes. One was trapped in the ton of trash that he had collected and formed into tunnels; the other, a compulsive shopper, was buried under piles of unopened merchandise so mountainous that it took two days to reach the body.

Pure fiction -
Gladys Entwhistle made her way carefully along the narrow serpentine path that snaked its way in tightly looped S shapes throughout all the rooms of her four bedroom house. She was careful not to bump or disturb the ceiling high stacks of paper that walled in the path on either side. The tops of the stacks had begun to lean inward toward each other, turning the path into a claustrophobic tunnel of rarified dusty newsprint-scented air. Gladys breathed audibly as she plodded slowly along. Left foot step with a wheezy inhalation; right foot step to an exhaled whistle.

She came to a fork in the path and turned to the left, down the arm of the labyrinth which she hoped would lead her to the fourth bedroom, and the location of her husband, George. She had last seen him two days ago, when he had disappeared down the tunnel with his daily collection of the dailies in his arms, in search of a niche in which to wedge them. Gladys had already trudged through what used to be kitchen, dining, den, parlour, two baths, three bedrooms, and all of the hallways that connected them, a long march of switchbacks and several missed and repeated turns that had taken her the better part of the day.

She had a feeling of trepidation as she approached her final turn. She had no way of knowing that it was her final turn until she rounded the corner and, with a gasp, came to a sudden stop. The massive stacks in front of her had finally leaned too far and had tumbled, toppled, collapsed and compressed into a solid and impenetrable wall of paper and she had reached the end of the line.

Gladys called softly, worried that if her voice was too loud it might cause further collapse, “George? Are you there, George?” The paper absorbed her question, with not even a faint echo in answer.

As she turned back into the maze, she wondered, ‘If someone screams in the stacks, and there’s no one to hear, does it make a sound?’

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Kiss of the Wind

This is my new "Olde Englishe Folke Ballade". Unfortunately, I can't sing it, because I wrote it out of my own range. Probably a good thing, after all.

On a bright summer morning the roses were blooming,
The trees in green dresses were dancing ‘round the lawn.
All the laughter of children, the birds all a-twitter,
Were stirred by the wind into sweet summer song.

Now the roses are gone, all the petals have fallen,
The trees are so bare that they shiver in the wind.
The last bird has said its goodbye in the autumn;
It waits with the sun to return in the spring

In the hush of the winter, I open my memories -
The babes in my arms learned to walk all alone.
They were mine for a moment; they laughed in the sunlight,
Then they ran with the wind to lives of their own.

Yes, my children, you’ve flown; all that’s left of your laughter
Goes whispering by me like ghosts in the wind.
I sing to the shadows that sit here beside me,
A sweet lullaby, and I hold you again.

And although we be parted, by death or by distance,
The wind will remember the song that I sing.
It will carry my music, my voice, and my blessing.
You’ll know I still love you by the kiss of the wind.


Millie is a tiny, determined lady with a sharp little nose and bright brown eyes. She looks like a small mouse in her wheelchair, but her feet touch the floor and she spends her time walking the chair this way and that way around the room, skittering and scuttling like a crab. She looks for things she can take, like a bird collecting bright, shiny things for its nest. Millie reels in the tablecloths and the plastic flowers on the tables. She tries to pull blankets and pillows away from the other residents, and grab songbooks and purses that we set down. She is strong, her grip like a vise. I once tried to wrestle a book from her hands and was amazed by the strength and tenacity of one so thin and fragile-looking. But if you speak to her firmly, she will listen and often do as you ask.

As we were singing, I discovered that she was joining in, or at least mouthing what looked like the words to one of our songs. When we were making our good-bye rounds, I decided to try a test.

"Millie, would you like to sing with me?" I asked. She looked up at me, and I began, "And he walks with me...", and she joined in, word for word, note for note. We finished the chorus together, holding the final note. When we let it go, I thanked her and she took my hand. "That was good," she said, clearly and consciously, "That was good for both of us."

And it was.