YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

December 2006

VOL XIV, Issue 12, Number 164

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson

European Editor: Moshe Benarroch

Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter

Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena

ISSN 1480-6401



   Maria Jacketti
      Leaving New Jersey


   Anthony Gee
      A Pre-emptive Poem
      Tabloid Gospel 
      Greg, not Gregory: A Study of Creeping Victimhood
      Ditch Memorial

   Lindsay Foran
      The Accident
      University Years
      Ordering Fries

   GK Thomas

      1. Anger on faultline (Tsunami)
      2. The changing face of Bangalore

   Clifford K. Watkins
      The Buffalo Nickel
      Marilyn's Reflection
      Leaving Red Holler
      Wind Chimes of Happiness
      21-Gun Salute

   David Schwartz
      Sergeant Metz
      Old Joe

   Tellis Yae
      My Hole Situation

   Eila Mahima Jaipaul
      Amid dust and salt
      29 June
      Visions in a gray shirt


   Prince Yemi
      The Spirit of the Silence


Maria Jacketti

Leaving New Jersey

After a generation,
exalted threadbare in
in this departure,
my exile,
going, going,
bling bang the gong,
tootaloo, toots. Pack every last
juicy gewgaw, honeysuckle-quick.
Stuff the getaway cars with your portable life,
loot of everyday archeology, and for God's sake,
remember your exit,
praise the turnpike, its loops and tunnels,
suddenly not so labyrinthine:
give the bucketed lips of robot toll keepers their just kibble:

and drive up the ancient mountains to your life,
that fossilized embryo, at last.

June 28, 2006

Anthony Gee

A Pre-emptive Poem

When I was 32
I thought I could smell death
for the first time
my friend Saul said
he had smelled it
but he was only 29.
I wonder if it was
the same dead body?
When I was 32
I could label all my organs,
feel them slither
and pulse
and twinge
like eels eating
one another's tails,
it's at this point
I know what you're thinking:
"O, pondering
the moribund,
o, poetry faggot
feeling more than us
and not telling it
like it is."
But hey,
I'm just telling you
what happened
to me.
I know what you're thinking.

Tabloid Gospel ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On television teenagers are wise we like the disguise of the right things to say Princess Di, say goodbye say hello to JFK. The marriages of Hollywood are dying in their beds and even if you heard about it, it's just like you were there but I can't sleep for the pumping of my blood your thin hips and your fat heart are stuck to me like mud. Babe, you're strong all dressed up in fantasy city lights, civil rights and you're a socialist at university the world's a smaller place and that makes you so much bigger still you try to block it out but you can't do that forever. This is no window into heaven. This is a doorway painted on a wall.
Greg, not Gregory: A Study of Creeping Victimhood ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ What happened to you? Now you know what happens to everyone else, fat on the tabloid miseries of those who get as close as any will get, your face is a turnip that thrives in the dirt, going down, growing down, all the abuse that fell to you is now in the beef of your fleshy hands. Do you know the power you have? You make others feel the burn no more mortal than the merest among us no surrender to the morning that spawns you every day. What happened to you? you were hammered out of a wreck dreamed up by a sadist, the need to be loved so great that you've forgotten you need to love you vowed to hold your breath in defiance and your body rebelled against you so much of you still overpowers death what happened to you is happening to all of us.
Ditch Memorial ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ And as you career through life (a little too fast of course), you will encounter something or someone, or both, or many. You'll wrap around objects of affection like a car that meets and melts around a hazard and the squeal and the grind and the violence will not be unlike it. Those somethings and someones become little white crosses that grow and loom large while the wreaths upon their shoulders die
Lindsay Foran The Accident ~~~~~~~~~~~~ After the accident, you stayed in bed for days. I made you meals, cleaned the house, brushed your hair and you would not open your eyes. I walked to school and back each day on the open back roads, the same ones you made me promise I would never walk alone. Gramma came to visit, talked to you for hours behind shut doors. I listened, desperate for answers. "Think of the child", "What about work". When she left she kissed my forehead, told me "Be brave, your mother would have wanted it. Be sure to take care of your father", I was almost sixteen, I knew how to run a house, had a job at the convenient store, we would survive. I led our family for two years with you following slowly behind.
Snowmobile ~~~~~~~~~~ The winter of the accident you bought a used snowmobile and we raced against the wind until it was to dark to see the trees in the distance. I yelled at you to slow down, you sped up, my fingers digging into your thick winter jacket face buried in your warmth. I begged you to stop, let me off, I don't think you heard, embalmed by the speed searching for your way out of the enclosed fields. Suddenly, you stopped oblivious to my tears, my purple fingers, hair sticking in mouth. You climbed off, walked back into the house shutting the door behind you.
University Years ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I moved away to university fifteen hours drive across two provinces. Too busy to come home for holidays, Christmas spent alone, tv dinner half price, turning in the microwave. I called you to ease the guilt, iron over past wounds. You were alone, the sickness beginning, kept it from me for years - Phoned you one day, you forgot who I was yelled at me for harassing you. That year, they were late returning climate change, I suppose, but you noticed. Four years later I arrived, you unaware, passively dealing cards to an absent player - I sat in the game continued.
Suffocate ~~~~~~~~~ It was four years ago you left saying I was "Out of control", took all the furniture, all my pictures of you, the dog - my existence. My apartment echoes, walls extending and contracting, squeezing breath out of my lungs. The first time we met - on a train, going home from Christmas. "I hate the holidays", was your opening line. I loved them, but agreed with you, as I always did. A big smile, tongue restless, but I contained myself, moulded into your image. You talked for hours, hand sliding towards me, tickling my thighs, moving higher up. I couldn't tell you to stop, afraid of what you would say, even more so of you leaving. You had said, "Let's get a room once we get off this train". My brother was waiting for me at the station, but I slinked past him, hood covering my guilty eyes, hands carrying one torn suitcase and a plastic bag with four poorly wrapped presents. You were overbearing, like all the others, only wanting to please yourself as my eyes wandered to the snow gliding down the window. In and out in three minutes, dropping the weight of your body onto mine - suffocating. That's how it always was. You would look up at me, eyes questioning, intrudingly, "Wasn't that great", and I could only smile. But you still left and now never call, always return my letters unopened. Sitting, watching snow fall, wishing I could find you - you would find me. Jump on a plane and rescue me, punish me and then forgive me, suffocate me and breathe life back into me.
Ordering Fries ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In line to order, you said "cancer" as though ordering food and cancer somehow go hand in hand. Stunned, I asked you how, you told me "Maybe the pesticides or it could be the cell phone" - smirking like a tumour was as simple as a cold. It was my turn to order, speechless, "She'll have the number four with fries" and I remembered for an instant how simple it had been before the big bang. When you lost your hair, I shaved mine in support, or compassion, but mostly guilt. Guilty for being healthy, for living. We ran the race, wore the ribbons, the bracelets and you puked after each chemo session. "It is too far advanced. Metastasised in his bones", they told me, I never told you. They buried you four months after diagnosis, one year after marriage, and twenty eight years after birth. Four years later, I catch myself whispering your name, reaching for you during the night, living in complete isolation - a cancer free vegetative state - nursing an overbearing guilt because I checked out prematurely.
GK Thomas Gilkentom ~~~~~~~~~ The rain is falling through the leaves. I open my window to hear the drops. They say to me that love comes with a broken heart; that it comes with a heavy price and is full of deceit. But the rain is pure as it falls through the leaves. She comes again. I see her standing in the rain. She holds her bleeding heart out in her hands to me with a selfless look I have seen before. Less and less she has come through the years, but still she comes thinking I will be deceived. I who have lived so long. But this time I will take her heart, bleeding, from the palms of her hands, and I will bury it in the ground, in a plain, wooden box -- not of gold or silver, for if someone should dig it up, I would not want him rejoicing, thinking that there was something inside of even greater worth, instead of worms.
Subramanian 1. Anger on faultline (Tsunami) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The wall of sea water roars down in unsatiated appetite, mashing all on the way; Anger on the faultline brooks no favours. Many affrighted cries were swept away; convulsive sobs of the living choked in the entrails of hopelessness; Relief may or may not reach them; where to retrieve the roots from disemboweled sand? Or to relive the agony of renewal, the irreplaceable loss of the dear ones? On the trail of the mutilated coastline the debris reveals dessicated memories; The orphaned stare at the bleached skyline; smelling the stench eagles circle high, darkly eyeing the emaciated dogs; vandals reap of windfall out of sightless death. Hearts open up in a tide of compassion for the disconsolate; Today's danger could return in the morrow. The joy of living expires in the unforeseen tunnel of death; And the despair of loss amputating the mind. 2. The changing face of Bangalore ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The day remains a millstone but rolls into years in a flash; So is it with the changing face of a city; its face, pockmarked with concrete wrinkles, has a messianic look; the blank eyes, defying death, have a frightening candour; Face it if you can, but face it you must. Is decay the apotheosis of growth? the bloom of innocence, the ruddy power of a surfer against mercurial currents and the comatose stage where hope and despair are buried alike in wrinkles; Like the matted soil of a sun-blown river bed. So is it with a city, dead in its loins, breathing in spasms. I have returned often, as if drawn by a magnet; my eye captured its tingling breeze, languorous cold, green, luxuriant canopies, the measured commerce of Brigade Road and pink youth heading for an azure horizon; Shy, introverted burr of the native; grey cells alive to currents deep down; the obsession with nursing the pristine green cover; an aura of peace torn by rare bursts of passion; the sparkling humour, quite like early dawn, at truant bus services, power cuts, thirsty days; delicious, tongue-caressing cafes and time at beck and call. Now the sky has turned pale, stunned into disbelief; every inch of space a hub of mammon; the strain of here and now pacing through every limb, brick on brick for a wall around self; the burr of innocence browbeaten by bravura of guile; Flora and fauna snuffed out by perforating masonry, making asphalt sting more; the cover no longer green, but vapourous. A whacky trendiness in fashion shows; hopes soaring higher than the spires of colleges, a generation seeking a nail-spot in alleys narrowed down by growth; Hope unseated by despair, youths splutter down the steepling slope like a wounded goat. With gnawing uneasiness crowds besiege shops of glitz, junk food joints; veins crow out the refrain "Live for the day for beyond is the tip of the unknown." Death catches up with age; But a city ages even in death.
Clifford K. Watkins The Buffalo Nickel ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was a warm September afternoon when the Middleton High School Buffaloes walked out of the gymnasium toward the activity bus. The Middleton talk-radio sports personality, Billy Strange, predicted that the Buffaloes would finally break their ten-year losing streak against the Baine County Bucaneers from the adjacent county. The players were excited to finally get to play in their first game of the season after enduring spring practice and two-a-days in the unforgiving heat and humidity. Even sports reporters from the larger metropolitan areas of the state predicted that the Buffaloes would make a serious run in postseason play. The Buffaloes were anchored on defense by sophomore defensive tackle, Simon Moss, who made a big impact during his freshman year, recording 80 solo tackles, sixteen of which went for a loss. Simon was only four months shy of his fifteenth birthday, but he could bench press over 400 pounds and ran a 4.8 in the forty. For his height and build, Simon was unbelievably fast from sideline to sideline. Simon stood six-foot tall and weighed 270 pounds, with a nineteen inch neck. On offense, the Buffaloes featured star tailback, Medford Alton, another sophomore who placed third in the 100 meters at the state track meet during his freshman year, and already had the state long jump record of twenty-five feet. Alton was 6'2 and weighed 220 pounds, often drawing comparisons to Eric Dickerson for his upright running style. The local media were enamored with the young man's smile, and his laugh reminded everyone of Eddie Murphy. Aside from the sophomore players in the spotlight, the Buffaloes returned fifteen starters from the previous season's six and four squad. Most of the alumni were hopeful that it would be the year that the Buffaloes would break their losing streak with the Baine County Buccaneers. The losing streak against the Buccaneers went back ten years, and all of the coaches had constantly reminded the players that it was time to break the losing streak. The last time that the Buffaloes had beaten the Buccaneers, head coach, Crawford Adams, was a senior in high school, playing defensive back for the Buffaloes. Back in 1980 when the Buffaloes dropped their first two games before running the table and winning the state championship, Crawford Adams had been the town hero, returning a ninety yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the final three minutes of the game. During his senior season at North Middleton College, Adams had intercepted seven passes, four of which were returned for touchdowns. Adams was a fiery coach who wore his emotions on his sleeve, and the players absolutely loved him because he had played defensive back in college, starting all four years at cornerback. In college, Crawford's nickname had been "Killer." Crawford was a small man by any standard, standing only 5'6 and weighing 160 pounds, but what he had lacked in size, he made up for with speed and tenacity. Simon sat on the activity bus thinking about all the hype he had gotten in the papers and it made him nervous. His hands were sweaty and his mind was racing with negative thoughts as he looked toward the practice field, remembering the first time that he met coach Crawford. After his eighth grade year, Simon was befriended by coach Crawford while kicking extra points on the Buffaloes' practice field. Crawford had heard how dominant the kid was at the middle school level, and was somewhat skeptical about the boy's age. The first weekend after school turned out, Simon Moss practiced kicking field goals while Crawford circled the track. Having never been to see the Buffaloes play, Simon had no idea who Crawford was. As Simon jogged into the end zone and in between the goal posts, he heard someone shout his name. "Simon!" "Yeah, who are you?" asked Simon. "I'm coach Crawford." "Who?" "I'll be your head coach when you get to the varsity level." Crawford looked at the young man's physique and figured that he had probably failed a couple grades. Simon looked at Crawford thinking to himself that the coach resembled Burt Reynolds, and tried not to laugh, thinking about his father's Beuford T. Justice impersonation. "Well, I think that I'd like to give varsity a try this summer." "Do you think that you're ready to play varsity?" "I was born to play this game!" "So, how old are you, big guy?" "I'll be fourteen in January." "You're pulling my leg, right?" "No, I'm thirteen; I started school in the first grade because I could already read and write." "So, you must be a pretty good student?' "I like to read and make up stories, but I don't do well in school." "I didn't much care for school, either!" "Well, I got a date with a hot one tonight, so I better get going. Hey, Simon, you got a girlfriend?" "No, not yet. I'm still getting past the cooties phase. I went from hating girls to wanting to have sex with them in the blink of an eye." Coach Crawford smiled as he turned toward the gymnasium, scratching his head and laughing. Simon, remembering what he said to Crawford about girls, smiled and looked at the floor shaking his head. Simon rested his head on the seat in front of his, and tried to visualize himself getting off of the ball quicker than Michael Dean Perry. Then Simon envisioned himself over the center in a sideways stance like his hero, Joe Klecko. Simon always told everyone that he was going to have the toughness of Klecko, and the speed of Gastineau. As Simon opened his eyes, the bus came to a halt. The assistant coaches took their bags off of the bus and headed toward the visitor's end zone to chat with the opposing coaches. Crawford didn't allow a sound on the activity buses in route to the games. If anyone opened their mouth on the bus prior to the game, they'd be running the hill behind the school until their tongue fell out the next Monday. Crawford stood up with a scowl on his face and told the them that it was their year. "Forget about all the guys before you. This team has talent and depth at every position. I've had lesser teams in the past that I knew not to expect much from. I'm hard on you guys because there's no reason why we can't run the table. I've been to the mountaintop, and I know that this squad has the ability to be something special. I want everyone here to go over their assignments in their head. We've put in the work in the off season, so there's no excuse for senseless penalties. Back and receivers. We've done countless ball-handling drills; there's no excuse for putting the ball on the ground. If you fumblethe ball, you'll run that damn hill until I get tired of watching you gasp for air. Lineman, there's no excuse for holding or jumping the gun. We want to hit the opponents, not grab and dance. This game will be won at the line of scrimmage. Don't fool yourselves; this squad you're facing tonight has excellent team speed. Without question, we're going to have to be more physical than they are. We're going to ram the damn ball down their throats. Simon and Medford. Forget about all that bullshit in the papers. We are a team. There's no room for individuals; this a team sport. Without your teammates, you're nothing. We have to function as one. Simon, play your gap; stick to your assignment. Don't pull that shit like you did in the Jamboree and not play your position. There's no room on this team for players that don't want to follow the game plan. Davis, Eason, Marcus and Ellis. You guys have to communicate out there; we can't have dissension among the ranks. Medford, Hayes, Johnson and Sprat. There's no reason to reverse the field. This game is going to be a north-south game! Okay, men, let's go into the locker room and focus on the task at hand. Remember, we are a family out there!" The players exited the bus carrying their pads and helmets as the fans began to fill the stadium. The Baine County band was playing "Eye of the Tiger" moving in unison to the music. The welcome smell of freshly cut grass was in the air as gnats and mosquitos swirled around the stadium lights. The Baine County stadium was much larger than the one in Middleton, having a ten-thousand seat capacity. Simon sat staring at his jersey number, 73, imagining that he was Joe Klecko. He remembered how his defensive-line coach, Darvis, told him that someone would write a book about him someday. Simon was ready to unleash all of his nervous energy on the first person he hit. The team sat in the locker room waiting for coach Crawford to call for the kickers, backs, and receivers. Simon, sitting on the cold concrete, had butterflies in his stomach as he stretched out on the floor, trying to relax. Simon again visualized himself getting off of the ball like Michael Dean Perry. Simon was a bundle of nerves by the time coach Crawford called for the rest of the team. When the team started out of the cool, dimly lit locker room, Simon's heart was racing and his legs began to tremble. Simon began talking to himself under his breath as the team lined up to do their stretches. "I'm ready to do this? What? Are you ready? Yes, I'm going to kick some ass! No one can stop me! I'm ready to go, baby!" As Simon was stretching out on the ground, coach Crawford began whispering in his ear. "Simon, you've got to play your gap. You don't have to make every tackle, understand?" Simon nodded his head, and coach Crawford slapped him on top of the helmet. "Go out there and get 'em, boy! You once told me that you were born to play this game, remember?" "Yes, sir!" "Well, this is your moment to shine!" After the team finished warming up, they headed back to the locker room to use the restroom and to say the team prayer. After assistant coach Darvis led the them in Prayer, coach Crawford started punching the lockers until his fists bled, screaming "I want this damn game more than any other game that I've ever participated in, as a coach or player! I want to kick some Buccaneer ass! This one, god damn, I'm hyped. I wish that I was out there knocking heads with you tonight, boys!" As blood trickled down coach Crawford's hands, and his face turned flush red, he looked at the team with fire in his eyes. The team rose to their feet screaming, holding their helmets in the air, and walked out of the dimly lit locker room into the visitor's end zone, waiting for their eyes to adjust to the bright lights. The senior captains led the team onto the field, down the middle of the cheerleaders and onto the visitor's sideline. The referee called for the captains and both teams sent three players to the center of the field, where they all shook hands. "This is heads, and this is tales," said the referee. The referee flipped the coin as heads was called by the Buffaloes' captain. "It's tales," said the referee. Simon was happy because he knew that he was going to get his first series out of the way. Up until the first play, Simon was always extremely anxious. Simon paced back and forth as the kick-off team went onto the field. The Buffaloes kicked off and the deep man received the ball on the eight yard line, returning out to the twenty, before being taken out of bounds by a host of Buffalo defenders. Simon took a deep breath on the sideline, then exhaled as Medford Alton clinched his fists and brought them down on Simon's shoulder pads. "Go get 'em Simon!" Simon ran onto the field and the Buffaloes' crowd began to cheer. Simon got into the huddle as the linebacker made the call. "Three-four defense, three-four defense, ready? Break!" The Bucaneers came out in an I-formation and the quarterback started barking out the signals. Simon was over the center, a shade to the left. Simon watched the center's hand, and blew by the center before he could react, hitting the fullback head-on causing the fullback to hit the quarterback, who fumbled the ball while trying to hand off to the tailback. The ball rolled around and was recovered by the Bucaneers' tight end, resulting in a five yard loss. On second down, the right guard attempted to cut block Simon as he pursued down the line to assist two other Buffaloes on the tackle. The play resulted in three yard gain. On third down and twelve, just as the ball was snapped, Simon split the double team and swam past the fullback to sack the quarterback for a six yard loss. The crowd went wild! It was fourth down and the Buccaneers were in their punt formation. The Buffaloes were going to set up a right return. As the ball was snapped, Simon rushed up the middle, narrowly missing the ball as it came off the punter's foot. Simon jumped up and raced down field wanting to help set up the wall. Justas Simon got a full head of steam, the whistle blew. A few seconds after the whistle blew and Simon stopped, one of the Buccaneer defenders flew head first into his left leg, breaking his femur bone, sending Simon to the ground with a blatant cheap shot. Simon was dazed as his teammates urged him to get to his feet. Simon knew that his leg was broken because he heard it snap like a stick. Simon was in a lot of pain, but he didn't cry or complain. He took it like a man, and pulled his head upward with his facemask, listening to number five on the opposing team. "Yeah, I got that bastard, he ain't shit!" Coach Crawford quickly raced onto the field and squatted down over Simon to prevent him from seeing his leg. "What happened, Simon?" "One of the guys cut me low after the whistle blew; I never saw it coming. Promise me one thing, coach?" "What?" "You write down number five's name on a piece of paper!" Simon sat up talking to Coach Crawford, listening to a few members of the crowd mock him. Simon's father came down onto the field as Coach Crawford continued talking to Simon about the first time that they met on the practice field. Simon followed Crawford's conversation, but all he could see was the defender, and his voice echoed in his mind. "Yeah, I got that bastard, he ain't shit!" Simon wanted to try and hop off of the field, but coach Crawford held him down until the paramedics came to lift him onto the cart. Simon's dad was beside himself. "It's okay to cry, Simon!" "No dad, I would rather die than give 'em the satisfaction!" As Simon was wheeled off the field, the crowd cheered, but all Simon could see was the face of the player who had blatantly hit him low after the whistle. Simon was put into the ambulance and the medics smiled at one another. The medics shot Simon up with pain killers, but the pain was getting more intense as the adrenaline wore off. The thought of such embarrassment had never crossed Simon's mind as he listened to the medics talk amongst themselves. "So, that's the superstar we've been reading about in the paper, huh?" "Hey, give the kid a break." "Well, it doesn't look like he'll be leading the Buffaloes into the playoffs this year." As the ambulance rode up the hill into the parking lot adjacent to the field, Simon could hear the crowd cheering. He wondered what was happening, thinking to himself that his life was over. "How can I ever face people again after this? Sheesh, I never imagined this happening to me in a million years. Damn, my leg hurts." One of the medics turned to Simon to ask if he wanted to go to the Baine County Hospital. Simon thought to himself for a moment, and finally said no. Simon told the driver that he wanted to go home to Middleton. It was a rough ride back to the hospital in Middleton, going through town, the pavement was rough and it seemed like the ambulance hit every bump on the road. Simon grimaced every time that the ambulance hit a bump. By the time Simon was rolled into the hospital, he was in agony. But still, he never cried or complained. He lay flat on his back replaying what had happened, over and over in his mind, oblivious to pain or emotion. After being shot up several times while waiting for a surgeon, Simon slipped into unconsciousness. The operation on Simon's left femur bone lasted nearly five hours. The doctors tried twice unsuccessfully to reset his leg, but finally on the third time, it worked. At one point during surgery, Simon began to regain consciousness on the operating table and could hear a drill, then went back under. When Simon awoke at 5 AM, he was alone in a dark room, only vaguely remembering what had transpired the night before. He tried to move, but the pain in his leg was almost unbearable. Simon wanted to scream, but he figured it wouldn't do much good. After lying in darkness for nearly two hours, the door to his hospital room finally opened. Simon squinted his eyes, trying to make out who was at the door, while his eyes slowly acclimated to the light. The doctors inserted metal pins into Simon's leg that were going to eventually start pushing out after six weeks, along with a metal rod in his femur bone. Simon started putting the pieces together in the dark room, finally remembering what had happened. Simon could see the player in his mind that had speared him low after the whistle. "Yeah, he was wearing number five. I remember, now!" That bastard speared me low after the whistle. Son of a bitch!" After being in the darkness for what seemed like an eternity, a nurse finally came into the room wanting Simon to urinate. "Here you go, honey. Now you're gonna have to urinate into this container, or else we're gonna have to cap ya." In addition to being asked to fill a piss bottle, the nurses made Simon breathe into a silly tube. Simon spent two months in bed without ever venturing outside, often losing feeling in his lower leg. The doctors described the loss of feeling as an unexplainable nerve damage. At one point, Simon wondered if he'd ever walk again, much less play football. After six weeks, the pins that were holding the bottom of the femur bone in place started to push outward. Simon had to endure a second minor operation to remove the pins. When the doctor brought the pins to Simon, he wanted to do something special with his keepsake. So, he had his father find someone to mold the pins into a small medallion surrounding a 1913 Buffalo Nickel that Simon had found years earlier while metal detecting with his father in front of an old shack in Hinesville. Simon's father did just that. Simon would wear the necklace for fourteen years before ever taking it off. Simon never played football again. After his junior year of high school, Simon's parents died in a fiery car crash outside of Westonburg while returning home from his father's company picnic. Simon had planned to ride along with his parents, but he had a stomach virus that confined him to the bathroom for most of the morning. Being an only child, Simon's parents were his whole world. He had been very close to his parents, especially his father, who had never missed one of Simon's football games since he was eight-years-old, back when he played peewee football with the twelve-year-olds. Having expected his parents home from the picnic, Simon began to worry when the sun went down, because he knew that his father never missed Tuesday Night Fights with Shawn O' Grady & Al Albert. As the fights went off around 11 PM, Simon was very worried. Simon picked up the phone to call his grandmother, but there was no answer. "Sheesh, I wonder where in the heck they're at? Dad never misses Tuesday Night Fights." Simon turned the channel to the news, and his mouth dropped. The reporter was standing in front of a charred vehicle that resembled his father's work van. The reporter on the scene confirmed Simon's worst nightmares when she said that three adults in the vehicle had been killed when a van apparently had a blowout and spun out of control, resulting in a six-car accident. Simon stared at the screen, unable to move. At that moment, Simon knew why his grandmother hadn't answered the phone. "Dear God, they took granny to the picnic. Simon sat staring into space, remembering the time that he and his father had found the Buffalo Nickel and tears rolled down his cheeks as he wondered what he was going to do without his mom and dad. Simon pulled the medallion out from under his shirt and kissed it, as a mixture of tears and snot rolled onto his lips. Simon would never be the same. Simon stood in the cemetery as his mother's coffin was lowered into the ground, listening to a preacher ramble on about the mercy of God staring into nothingness as his uncle Ray put his hands on Simon's shoulders. The whole ceremony was a blur. Simon wanted to stay in Middleton, but his uncle Ray was his only relative. Ray insisted that Simon move down south to Rock City, where he could start anew. Two days after his parents and grandmother were laid to rest in Summer's Memorial Garden, Simon packed his clothes into an old laundry bag and left Middleton for Rock City. In some ways, it was a relief to be away from the town where he'd become the butt of a joke. Some people called Simon a coward for not returning to play football. Simon wanted desperately to return to the gridiron, but the loss of feeling in his leg would come and go for two years. Simon left the small town for life in the city with his uncle, Ray. Simon was a shell of his former self. Having lost his passion and his family, Simon spiraled out of control, eventually becoming a member of the most feared gang in the city: The Northshore Killers. Simon soon learned the code of the street, and eventually his reputation would become legendary. For several years, Simon's life was a blur of murder, drugs and chaos. Shortly after arriving in Rock City, Simon would meet a guy named Red that introduced him to the underbelly of society. Red was a member of the Northshore Killers, a street gang with nearly a hundred members. One night while standing outside of uncle Ray's trailer, Simon was confronted by two guys that asked him why he was standing on their corner. "Hey, man, what you doing on my curb? This is our spot!" Simon, thinking that the guys were joking smiled and turned to walk away. As Simon walked toward uncle Ray's trailer, the smaller of the two punched Simon in the back of the head.The larger man pulled out a 25-caliber handgun. Simon had never been in a fight up until that moment. The larger guy, towered over Simon, turning the little gun sideways extending it toward his head. Simon was very afraid, yet he stared into the larger man's eyes without blinking. "You ain't scared, man? I could pop your big ass right now, you bitch! What's up?" Simon thought to himself for a second, then he turned his head and began to speak. "Put the gun down, and fight me like a man! I'm not afraid of you! Put the gun down, and we'll see who is a bitch!" Simon continued to stare into the larger man's eyes, never once blinking. The smaller guy started toward Simon swinging his fists. Simon quickly sidestepped the smaller guy and landed a right hand flush on the guy's face, knocking out three of his teeth, sending him face-first into the pavement, as blood poured from his mouth. The guy would lay motionless on the pavement for several minutes as his body involuntarily twitched.The larger man circled to Simon's left and starting throwing haymakers. They stood toe to toe for two minutes until Simon was caught with a solid punch square in the face. Simon went down to a knee as blood flowed from his nose and tears streamed down his face. The larger man started talking smacked as Simon rose to his feet. "That's all you got boy? I'm gonna kill your ass!" As the larger man reached behind his back for the gun, Simon rose to his feet with the catlike quickness that had once made him the talk of Middleton, and started swinging his hands as fast and as hard as he could, landing several punches to the taller man's head, sending him down onto his back. While Simon was beating the larger man into the pavement, the smaller guy rose to his feet and pulled out a knife. As he walked up behind Simon, blood poured from his mouth. Sensing that the smaller guy was about to stab him in the back, Simon rolled off of the larger man who was bleeding out of the back of the head, gasping for breath with a broken rib that had punctured a lung. Simon looked right through the smaller guy who closed the knife and tried to run, but Simon was too fast for the guy to get away. Simon grabbed the smaller guy by the hair of the head as he ran up from behind, pulling a handful of the guy's hair out, yanking him to the ground. The guy begged for Simon to have mercy on him, but Simon was no longer there. "Man, please, don't kill me!" "What? Are you talking to me? I don't remember that game." Simon walked toward the larger man, oblivious to the smaller guy dead on the ground with a crushed skull. Simon limped toward the trailer as the larger man tried to catch his breath and slipped into unconsciousness. Simon went through the trailer and out the back door to get uncles Ray's wheelbarrow. Simon loaded the guys onto the wheelbarrow and pushed them down onto the main highway and flipped their bodies onto the pavement. Simon pushed the wheelbarrow into the bushes and waited for a car to come racing around the curve that set adjacent to the neighborhood. Within minutes, a large semi came racing around the corner and over the bodies. The truck locked its brakes and strewed the bodies all over the highway. Simon turned the wheelbarrow around and pushed it through a patch of trees, over a ditch, and down the road. Simon stood in the gravel driveway staring at the moon as it was eclipsed by a face in the clouds. Rinsing out the wheelbarrow, Simon could hear sirens in the distance coming closer. "Gee, I wonder what happened?" The sound of sirens always made Simon think back to the charred van on the Channel 6 News. Sitting in darkness, he fell fast asleep. The next morning when Simon woke up, there was dried blood in his nose and he had swollen knuckles. Uncle Ray, noticing Simon's knuckles, asked him what he'd been doing. "I've been thinking about boxing" "Boxing, eh? Your daddy was a good fighter, you know? Heck, Simon you've been through enough already without using your head as a punching bag. You're a smart kid. Go back to school! You can stay here as long as you like, rent free, but you need to find something to occupy your time. Hell, it's not good to spend so much time alone." "Heck, I like being alone. I've never had many friends. Hell, dad was my best friend. Other than dad, there was coach Crawford." "See what I mean? Hell, go back to high school. As much as you read, you've got to know a little something. I didn't want to mention this, but two guys about your age were killed trying to cross the highway last night." "Where at?" asked Simon. "Heck, just a piece down the road. A big rig ran over two of 'em." "Sheesh, I bet that was a mess." "Yeah, no doubt. You be careful out here; you're not in a small town anymore. Kid, this is the real world. Rock City is a far cry from the laid back town of Middleton. Heck, it's probably good for you to see how other people live outside of a rural place like Middleton." "Do you think we could move back to Middleton one day?" "Heck Simon, you're old enough to do what you want. I just figured getting away from Middleton for a while would do you some good." "I know things haven't been easy on you, kid. But hey, I've got work down here in Rock City. I wouldn't be able to make a living in Middleton. Hell, there's always people in need of a handy carpenter. I'll continue to pay the taxes on the house in Middleton, so if you'd like to go back, the house will always be there. Okay?" "Yeah, that's cool!" "I always promised your daddy that I'd look after you if something ever happened, and that's what I aim to do. Well, I got a job putting an addition on a house down in Wakefield, so I probably won't be home until late. Do you need anything, aside from deodorant?" "Hey, man, I don't stink." Simon and Ray shared a laugh as it began to rain. "Damn, I hope we don't get rained out!Well, I better get going. I'll see you later, Simon." As Simon flipped through the pages of Sports Illustrated, someone knocked on the door. Simon walked toward the door thinking that maybe Ray was messing with him. "Who is it?" "It's the police!" "What do you want?" "We'd like to have a word with you." "Okay!" Simon opened the door to find a young man standing on the wooden deck, smoking a filtered cigar with dreadlocks in his hair. Simon laughed at the guy, wondering who he was. "Who are you?" "I'm Red. So, what's your deal, man?" "What do you mean?" "I saw how you handled those guys out in the street last night. You are one heavy cat. So, where'd you learn how to fight like that?" Simon thought for a second, then it dawned on him that he had been out in the street. He looked at his swollen knuckles and squeezed his nose in between his thumb and index fingers. "I don't know what you're talking about." "Man, don't bullshit me; you're a stone-cold killer. I ain't never seen no one so ruthless!" "So, what do you want with me?" Red took a deep drag off of his cigar and blew the smoke into Simon's face. Simon balled up his fists, thinking that Red was going to fight him. Red stood up and told Simon to relax, as he pulled out a large roll of money. "I'm not a fighter, kid. I'm about making them dollars. Besides, I don't want no part of your crazy ass." Red asked Simon what he was doing in Rock City. Simon replied by saying that he'd come to live with his uncle after his parents were killed in a car wreck. "Damn, kid, that's a tough break. So, what are you gonna do with yourself?" "Hell, I don't really have anything to do. I was thinking that I might head up north to my hometown after a while." "So, you got a place up there?" "Yeah, my parents' house is up there in Middleton." "Middleton? Where in the hell is that?" "It's just a small town in the middle of nowhere." "Would you like to join me and some friends for a drink?" Simon thought to himself for a moment, then said that he didn't drink alcohol. Red smiled and shook his head. "Well, you could always smoke a little herb." "No, I don't smoke either." "Damn, you are one clean dude. Well, if you change your mind, we'll be down on Ferris Street behind the green house around seven. All right?" "Okay." Red walked down the steps onto the gravel driveway, whistling as he walked with a b-boy limp. Simon watched Red walk and shook his head, wondering why anyone would walk in such a way. Simon went back into the trailer and fell asleep on the couch watching television. Simon could see himself standing in the graveyard, listening to the barking dogs when his father's charred body rose from behind a tombstone, and his head rolled onto the ground. Simon woke up in a cold sweat, trying to catch his breath as his heart raced. As Simon tried to gather himself, the phone rang in the kitchen. Simon walked into the kitchen as the floor creaked with each step he took. Simon looked down and realized that he was wearing a new pair of sneakers that were a couple sizes too large. Simon shook his head as he=20 grabbed the phone from the wall and pressed talk. "Hello." "Hey, boy, it's Ray. I'm gonna go out to eat with my ex-girlfriend. Would you like to tag along.?" "No, I'll probably hang around the trailer. I'd just be in the way." "Nonsense." "Yaw have fun. I'll see you later tonight." "Hell, I'll probably spend the night with Melanie. I'll be back tomorrow afternoon, okay? "Sure." Simon hung up the phone and walked into the living room, remembering how happy he had been when his parents were alive. Simon took out his wallet and looked at the old photograph of his mom and dad on their last anniversary, thinking back to the day when they were driving in the work van through Dunson creek. The windshield wipers had quit working in a rain storm. Simon's father tied two pieces of rope to the wipers and each of them took turns pulling the wipers up and down with the aid of the rope. Simon smiled as he reached into his shirt to look at the medallion that his father had made for him. Staring at the Buffalo Nickel, Simon could feel the pain in his left leg throbbing like a toothache. Simon wiped the tears from his eyes and walked outside to sit on the porch. Sitting on the porch, staring into the clouds, Simon could see his parents' faces move across the sky. And he could hear his grandma's voice reverberating in his mind. For the first time since his parents' passing, he felt a calmness come over him. As he was basking in the moment, Red came walking up the gravel driveway, whistling like he didn't have a care in the world. "What do you want?" "I came to get your ass, friend. Hell, there's a party going on. Ain't no need in your ass sitting here staring into the sky like a lunatic. Get your ass up!" "I really don't want to go to a party." "Man, please, go head on! What are you going to do, sit in this trailer for the rest of your life? Hell, let's get your ass drunk." Simon and Red walked down the street, across the road and into a park where kids were playing Red Rover. "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Simon right over!" Simon could see himself running with all of his might, wanting to break through the arms, but he was never strong enough, and always fell backwards. "Simon is a sissy!" Simon and Red walked through the park and could see a yellow house sneering from the hill. The smell of alcohol and marijuana filled the air. There was a line of strangers waiting to be flipped upside down to drink from the tap. Simon tried to make sense out of what was happening, but his reality kept spiraling out of control. "Damn, Red, what the hell is happening here?" "Man, we're surrendering ourselves to swirling perspective." "What the hell does that mean?" "I don't know, but it sounds good." Simon shook his head, looking around the park, but he was all alone. "Red! Where the hell did you go?" Simon looked down at his waist and felt cold steel pressed against his flesh. He pulled a 38-caliber hand gun from his waist, trying to make sense of what had happened. Simon looked at his feet and noticed that he was wearing boots. "I want to go home! I miss my mom and dad." "What are you looking at? Bring it, dawg." "Don't hit me daddy, no! I'll run faster. I can do better." Simon walked out of the park holding the gun, screaming at the top of his lungs, listening to his mother whispering as he banged on the closet door."Let me out of here." Simon put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger but it wasn't loaded. Simon hurled the gun into the air, not knowing where he was. "What is happening to me?" One evening while sitting in a smoke-filled room surrounded by strangers, Simon looked at the television as a football player lay on the ground writhing in pain. "What the hell's going?" "Man, the cat got his leg twisted." "What are you guys doing in Ray's trailer?" Holding a joint up to his nose, Red inhaled and said "Damn, this must be some good shit! Ray moved out west to live with Melanie five-years ago. Man, your ass must really be tore up!" Simon looked down at his white arms and didn't know what was happening. He walked into the bathroom and stared into the mirror, noticing a receding hairline and a red scar that ran from his left eye down to the corner of his mouth. Simon limped outside onto the porch and broke down crying. He reached down into his shirt and pulled out the Buffalo Nickel. One day in the summer of Simon's twenty-eighth year, he returned home to the yellow house in Middleton to find closure. But what he found was a bag in the closet that had a blue jersey and a small piece of paper with the number five written on one side, and Ricky Scott written on the other. Then in a flash, it all came back to him. Simon remembered everything in a rapid-fire surrealistic sequence. He could see himself on the field looking up at number five as his voiced echoed in his mind. "Yeah, I got that bastard, he ain't shit!" In an instant, Simon was the little kid locked in the closet, screaming as his mom read her poetry. Simon tried to run, but his father was always too fast. "You won't embarrass me again in front of my co-workers. Son, you're better than that." Simon crossed his arms over his face, while his father beat him for not running fast enough. Simon wept as he stood over his mother's grave, remembering the darkness, trying to escape the closet. Early one summer morning, Ricky Scott and his wife were walking their dog, Pudgie, through the park in Middleton. As they held hands, basking in the dawn, a gunmen came up from behind, first shooting Mrs. Scott in the back of the head, killing her instantly, then shooting Ricky Scott in the abdomen. As Ricky lay bleeding and screaming for help, a large man wearing a jacket and sunglasses slowly walked toward him with a noticeable limp. As blood gushed from his abdomen, Ricky pressed his trembling hands onto the wound and started the speak. "Please, don't kill me! I have three children." Simon slowly removed his jacket, staring down at Ricky whose eyes widened in terror! "I was just a kid, man! That was a long time ago!" Simon just stared blankly, looking right through Ricky. After Ricky began to sob, Simon looked down at him and smiled, tilting his head from left to right. "Yeah, I got that Bastard, he ain't shit!" Two days after a jogger discovered a dog's hide in Middleton park, Ricky Scott's corpse was found on the 45 yard line of Baine High's football field, wearing a blue #73 jersey with a buffalo nickel in his throat. Pudgie, the cockapoo, was later found in Coach Crawford's doorway, dangling from a shoe string noose with an envelope in its mouth. Crawford's eyes watered as an acidic-vomit taste filled his mouth and he began to throw up. Crawford's hands trembled and saliva dangled from his mouth like outstretch chewing gum, gagging on his hands and knees, as he continued to dry heave. Crawford held his nose and took the envelope from the dog's mouth. Before opening the envelope, Crawford knew that Simon had written the letter. Tearing into the business envelope, Crawford's entire body trembled as he sensed a pair of eyes running up and down his body. The unraveled letter consisted of two words: Thank you! Crawford cut down the dog and took it to the backyard where he buried it along the fence line adjacent to the woods. As Crawford was packing the last of the dirt over the dog's grave, he caught a glimpse of Simon as he momentarily transcended the shadows and limped back into darkness.
Marilyn's Reflection ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ At about three in the morning, the phone rang and woke Marilyn from a restful sleep. By the time she got down the stairs to the end table to pick up the phone, it had stopped ringing. Feeling somewhat parched, Marilyn went into the kitchen to get a drink of water. As the water slowly ran, she stood with her fingers under the faucet waiting for the temperature to drop because she had forgotten to fill the ice trays. Marilyn filled a cup of water and engulfed the entire cup in one fell swoop. As she walked across the cool tile, a chill ran up her spine and the phone began to ring. The hair on Marilyn's neck stood up as she walked toward the phone. By the time she answered the phone, her heart was racing and her hands were trembling wet. "Hello, who is it?" asked Marilyn. After a moment of silence, someone began to speak in a faint voice. At first, Marilyn thought that the slight voice on the other end sounded like an elderly woman. "You'll have to speak up, I can't hear you," said Marilyn. Feeling as though someone was watching her, Marilyn walked toward the window and sat on the arm of her sofa, peering through the tattered Venetian blind, as the voice on the phone hissed, "I can see your eyes glowing!" Marilyn dropped the phone and ran to the kitchen to grab a knife as the sound of the old woman's haunting voice echoed in her mind. Marilyn clutched the knife tightly and her hand reddened as she picked up the phone to dial the police. After being redirected twice and put on hold, Marilyn finally spoke to an officer that reassured her that it was probably just kids making prank calls. Still feeling somewhat shaky, Marilyn walked upstairs and pulled her dresser in front of her bedroom door, then sat on the edge of her bed gripping the knife, trying to maintain her composure. After a few minutes, Marilyn finally relaxed and got into bed, embraced her pillow, and she fell fast asleep. At 7 AM, Marilyn's Charlie Chaplain alarm clock started to speak, "Oh my, you're late, you're late," and she quickly rose to her feet and slammed her hand down on the button on the alarm clock's head. Marilyn still felt uneasy, but the unnerving feeling was a lot easier to handle with the sun coming through her bedroom window. After breathing a sigh of relief, Marilyn pulled the dresser from in front of the door, and walked across the sun-warmed floor to the half bath adjacent to her bedroom. As Marilyn began to brush her teeth and look into the mirror, she could hear the woman's eerie voice echoing in her my mind. "I can see your eyes glowing." Marilyn stared at the blemishes on her face, yet she decided against wearing makeup as she gargled and spit in the sink. Marilyn quickly got dressed, remembering she had an appointment with her hairdresser at 8 AM, and hurried down the uncarpeted stairs. As Marilyn made her way into the kitchen, a cool breeze touched her face. Marilyn quickly looked into the living room and could see the blinds moving ever so slightly as she moved slowly toward the living-room window. Marilyn slowly raised the blind as chill bumps swelled all over her skin and her he art began to race. Marilyn knew at that moment someone had been in her apartment. She pulled the stick from beneath the window and it slammed shut. As Marilyn bolted toward the kitchen for her keys, her phone began to ring. Marilyn disregarded the phone and grabbed her jacket from the old coat rack that sat beside the front door. Marilyn slammed the door behind her and quickly walked down the steps that led to her station wagon. Marilyn walked around her car, making sure that no one was inside before she lifted the door handle. To Marilyn's surprise, the driver's side was unlocked. She quickly started the car as she began to panic. "Am I losing my mind?" Marilyn slammed her foot on the accelerator and headed down Harden Street, disregarding the stop sign as she turned onto Green Street, trying to calm herself down. Marilyn, keeping her eyes on the road, reached into the passenger seat to get her pocketbook, wanting to smoke a cigarette. "Damn, I forgot my pocketbook!" Remembering that she had stored a pack of Bristols in her glove compartment months earlier when she attempted to go cold turkey, Marilyn reached for the knob and opened the glove box. She pushed in the lighter and placed a cigarette between her lips. The lighter popped out and she grabbed it with her trembling thumb and index finger and pressed the lighter against the cigarette and began to inhale. She took a long drag and exhaled, filling the car with smoke as she crossed the railroad tracks, narrowly missing the descending railroad arms. She quickly cracked her window and the smoke escaped as she parked in the lot behind the beauty shop. Marilyn stood outside the beauty shop smoking a cigarette and chewing the skin from around her fingernails, waiting for the lights to come on in Wanda's Beauty Shop, trying to make sense of her morning. Finally, the lights came on and Marilyn could see Wanda readying herself for work, doing her makeup in the mirror. Marilyn began to feel somewhat at ease, then she felt as though someone was staring at her. Marilyn scanned the roadway, various shops, and finally she saw an old woman looking at her from across the street, standing in front of the pharmacy, holding a pocketbook that resembled the one she had left at home. Marilyn raced across the street as the woman vanished like a hologram, leaving only the faint scent of lavender. "What the hell is happening to me? I'm not crazy! There was an old woman standing right here!" Marilyn looked at her reflection in the window and saw the hunched-over woman looking back at her with sad eyes. Marilyn extended her withered hand and touched her reflection as she slowly faded into reality, witnessing the men in white uniforms entering her dimly lit room. She closed her eyes and could see herself walking hand in hand with a strange man, glowing with flowers in her hair. As the smell of lavender and car exhaust lingered, Marilyn's mortality began to wane.
Leaving Red Holler ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Evelyn sat on the corner of her bed, straining her eyes to read a letter from her husband, Harold, as their three children slept soundly in the next room. Evelyn wept as she thought back to the day seven-months previously, when her husband left Emerald Valley on a bus to find work in Cleveland, Ohio. Evelyn and her three children stood in front of the old Depot, waving goodbye to Harold, shedding tears as the bus made its way up the mountain, out of the valley. Harold had been employed by Avery G. Linden, where he had been in charge of firing up the boilers since he was eighteen-years-old. Each day, Monday through Friday, for over a decade, Evelyn had packed Harold a bagged lunch, consisting of fried baloney and crackers, two biscuits with preserves, and when there was enough money, a candy bar. And every morning, Harold would kiss Evelyn goodbye before he walked down the hill through Red Holler and onto the main road. Evelyn and Harold were probably poor by most people's standards, but they had never known any other life. The money always went just far enough to make ends meet. Not having indoor plumbing or a well, Evelyn would walk down to the creek every morning to fetch a pail of water so that her children could bathe in the old washtub that sat on the back porch. Their existence was meager, but they had something more important than creature comforts and money: They had love. In April of 1955, many of the workers at Linden wanted a union, so ole man Linden gathered all of his employees in the cafeteria and told them that if they pushed for a union, there would be no more work in the town of Emerald Valley. Two weeks after the meeting, Harold arrived at work around 7 AM to find Mr. Linden standing at the plant entrance handing out checks, accompanied by two armed guards. Mr. Linden handed Harold the keys to the plant and informed him that Avery G. Linden was closed forever. Harold was beside himself. The thought of being unemployed had never once crossed his mind. Harold had reasoned that he would probably work for Linden until he retired or died, whichever came first. After locking all of the factory doors, Harold made eye contact with Mr. Linden as he handed over the keys. "I wish things could have been different," said Mr. Linden, as he extended his hand to Harold. Harold quickly turned and walked down the path beside the creek that led to Main Street in Emerald Valley, stopping for several minutes at the old swimming hole to skip some rocks across the water. After heaving a large stone as far as he could, Harold sat on a rock adjacent to the creek and ate his lunch. Evelyn was exiting the outhouse as Harold made his way up the hill to the porch. "What's the matter, honey?" asked Evelyn. "Ole man Linden closed the plant for good. I got my last check this morning!" "Dear lord, Harold, that's just awful. What are we going to do?" "Well, a lot of the guys at the plant had been talking about going up to Cleveland for a spell. I guess that I could go up there and work for the time being." "Harold, you can't leave me and the kids to go to the city!" "What choice do I have, Evelyn?" Two days after the plant closed, Harold left his family in Red Holler to find employment in the city. 2. Evelyn started up Red Holler on a cold December morning with the aid of her walking stick, stopping briefly to chat with Hazel, who was sitting on her porch sipping on cider. "How are you today?" asked Evelyn, as she squinted, trying to make eye contact with Hazel. "I'm doing all right, I guess. Roy is getting ready to go up on the Mountain to cut us a Christmas tree." "Will any of the kids be coming home this Christmas?" asked Evelyn. "I don't reckon so. Robby is still overseas with the Navy, and I haven't heard from any of the other children. I surely miss having the little ones around during the holiday season. Roy hasn't worked since ole man Linden closed the plant, so we won't be having much for Christmas this year. So, how is Harold making out in Cleveland?" "He's been sending me and the kids forty dollars a week since May, so I reckon he's doing okay. I call him once a week to make sure that he's all right. I miss his warm body next to me at night; I get pretty lonesome at home when the kids are at school. Well, I better be getting up to the house; I'm going to make some apple fritters for the kids. I'll talk to you later, bye." "I'll see you later, honey." Hazel stood up long enough to watch Evelyn maneuver her way up the rocky path with the aid of her walking stick. As Evelyn approached the Denmore house, the dogs began to bark and Fred Denmore waved to Evelyn who nodded her head in return. Walking up the hill to the little house, Evelyn lost her balance and fell face first onto the hillside. Evelyn gathered herself and slowly rose to her feet with the aid of her cane. She made it up the hill and gingerly stepped onto the porch and on into the house. Feeling somewhat dizzy, Evelyn decided to sit a spell as blood trickled from her left nostril. Breathing heavily, Evelyn started to mumble under her breath, "Sheesh, the rheumatismin my hip is getting the best of me." As Evelyn rose to her feet, someone started knocking on the door. "I wonder who that could be?" Evelyn grabbed her cane and let out a heavy sigh, not wanting to be bothered. Evelyn opened the door, and to her surprise, it was her husband, Harold, standing in the doorway with a freshly cut Christmas tree and a large grocery bag. Evelyn lit up like the dawn and embraced Harold tightly, whispering in his ear, "Baby I've missed you so much," as tears of joy streamed down her cheeks. "I've missed you, too!" said Harold, overtaken by emotion. "I just want to hold you and never let go," said Evelyn, with her head pressed against Harold's chest listening to his heartbeat. "I brought you some chocolates, and I've got a music box for Ann. I also got cap busters for David and Johnny." "Lordy, lordy, the kids are going to be so happy to see you! Mister, I'm never going to let you leave Red Holler again!" "I never knew how beautiful a place this was until I left. I've been so homesick, baby. I promise that I'll never leave you again." Harold took his wife by the hand and led her to the bedroom, where they made love for the first time in nearly eight months.
Wind Chimes of Happiness ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Janice sat on the porch as she did every day of her life since her husband Ben had lapsed into a vegetative state, following a nasty fall down the ice-covered front steps. Janice liked to watch the sun go down while she sipped coffee and smoked her Camel cigarettes. She often daydreamed because she had little else to do. Aside from making quilts and listening to the radio, her only companionship came in the evening when her sister June would sit with her on the front porch swing and share the latest gossip that usually spread through their small town like wildfire. At about ten O' clock, Janice could hear the rumbling of June's Mustang as it flew down the valley echoing deep into the night. Janice had expected June earlier, but she knew that her sister lived to sit and gossip with the other women in her small community. As June walked toward the porch, it was glaringly obvious that she was intoxicated. As a rule, June never smoked until she was drunk, so Janice knew that her sister was going to be in a sour mood. June stood on the walk leading to the front steps taking deep drags off of her cigarette until the filter burned her lips. Janice began to speak softly, "Is everything okay?" June quickly lit another cigarette and took a deep drag off of it. While exhaling, she mumbled out the word no. "'Would you like to sit and talk about it?" asked Janice. "It's Jim, he's cheating on me with a teacher from Harner's Valley...I just know it!" "Well, what makes you think that?" asked Janice. "He left me after we got into a fight about him not paying me any attention. I just know that there is another woman...I just got a bad feeling that he's grown tired of me. He bad mouths me every chance that he gets, and he's always on to me about losing weight." Janice laughed under her breath and attempted to speak, but she knew how sensitive that her sister was, so she chose her words carefully before she started to talk. "Honey, you've been unfaithful to that poor man for as long as I can remember...what makes his infidelity any worse than what you've been doing for decades?" June looked at her sister with fire in her eyes. "I never thought that anyone would be fool enough to sleep with Jim...look at him, he's not exactly a prized catch. The teacher is only twenty-three...how can I compete with her?" "Good Lord, I don't believe that Jim is cheating on you...and I most certainly don't believe that a young, attractive teacher would give that old codger a second glance. Who the hell filled your head with that nonsense?" June stomped out another butt, then quickly lit another, took a deep drag and exhaled. "It's not nonsense. Two of the ladies down at the Beauty Shopt old me that they saw Jim fondle the woman outside of the Family Dollar Store after he shared his umbrella with her." "I think that you need a good cup of coffee," said Janice. Janice headed into the house and into the kitchen to make her sister a cup of instant coffee. She had almost forgotten that she and June were supposed to turn Ben over so that he didn't get bed sores. Janice could hear Ben moaning and groaning as she headed outside to help her sister sober up. Janice handed June two aspirin and a strong cup of coffee. June sat on the swing and her body went numb as she slipped into unconsciousness. Janice shook her head thinking about her husband's infidelity, and what a pathetic life she led. After standing over June for several moments, something happened in Janice's mind. Something came over her, and in an instant, she was standing over Ben gazing into his listless eyes. Janice took a pillow from under Ben's head and shoved it in his face. Janice, having a moment of clarity, asked herself what she was doing. "I never wanted to marry you...you son-of-a-bitch! Mommy made me marry you after you forced yourself on me in the barn. I never really loved you...I got stuck with you." Unbeknownst to Janice, June had risen to her feet and had been standing in the doorway watching with morbid delight. Janice turned after moments of senseless babble to see her sister smiling. "I was just getting Ben ready to be turned over...I didn't think that you'd wake up for a while. I was going to put you to bed as soon as I finished here," said Janice. June laughed at her sister as she walked toward the bed. She leaned forward and whispered into Janice's ear, "I'll do it, give me the goddamn pillow...you've never had a life, and now you're stuck here caring for this piece of shit." Janice left the room as soon as June began to smother Ben with the large feather pillow. "Die you rotten, old bastard...you should have died years ago," exclaimed June. As June was smothering Ben, Janice walked slowly and deliberately up behind her sister and quickly pushed a butcher's knife into June's back. June gasped as blood began to pour from the wound. Janice turned around oblivious to what she'd done, and headed to the porch where she sat down to sip coffee and smoke a cigarette. As the sun rose over the tree tops, Janice opened her eyes to find her sister and husband swinging from the oak tree where the old tire swing had been, and for one fleeting moment, she felt truly free.
21-Gun Salute ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Angel sat on the milk jug as the elders filled the rocking chairs and porch swing, reminiscing about Wilson's frugal nature. The women from the Church of Christ brought pies and rice pudding. The pastor arrived shortly after the women began gossiping about the Avery girl's latest suicide attempt. Having never lost a loved one, Angel was a nervous wreck. The elderly men and women gathering at her Grandpa's home weren't helping her much with the grieving process. Angel sat down on a tree stump adjacent to the house, attempting to play her grandpa's french harp, as tears slowly welled in her eyes. An elderly man in overalls came walking down the gravel road, singing like a drunkard with nowhere to go. The drunk old man approached Angel with his hands in his pockets. As the old man hobbled closer, Angel felt uneasy because she could smell the alcohol on his breath. "Hello, little lady, my name is Danny Beaverton. I was a friend to your grandpa Wilson." The smell of the man's breath made Angel's eyes burn and tears began to stream from her eyes. The old man sensed Angel's uneasiness and tried to pat her on the head. As Danny extended his trembling hand, Angel rolled backwards off the stump into a reverse somersault and jumped to her feet. "I don't know who you are, Mister" exclaimed Angel, wiping the tears from her cheeks as sweat began to bead on her forehead. Angel retreated to the porch as the old women began to whisper under their breaths that Danny Beaverton was a sodden heathen. As Danny moved toward the porch, Pastor Jon asked Danny what he wanted with Wilson's granddaughter. Danny replied by saying that he had an old photograph of the girl's grandpa and his lucky buckeye. "It's okay little lady, I don't mean you no harm. I've got a picture of your papa from when he was a boy." Angel walked slowly down the steps as Pastor Jon looked on from the porch, and the old folks sat telling stories and drinking coffee. Danny extended his hand and Angel put her hand in his as they walked to the stump to sit for a spell. Danny cleared his throat and started to speak, but Angel interrupted. "How did you know my grandpa?" asked Angel. Danny thought for a second and smiled as he began to speak. "Well, me and your grandpa met when we were trying to dodge the draft. You see, me and Wilson stole a car and fled to West Virginia to avoid the war, but them military boys came and found us working in the coal mines." "Why did yaw steal a car, Mister?" "Well, it was a mite too far to walk, and me and Wilson were afraid of dying. Anyway, this is a picture of me and your granddaddy in our Army uniforms." Angel snatched the picture from Danny's hand and stared silently at the black and white photo for several minutes, wiping the tears from her cheeks, then smiling as she pressed the picture against her heart. "Did yaw ever go to war?" "No, me and your grandpa were stationed in Florida during the war." "Was there a war in Florida?" "Heavens no, me and Wilson never saw any combat duty. Shoot, we never done nothing but guard the beach." Angel thought back to the 21-gun salute performed at her grandpa's funeral and began to giggle. "You mean to tell me that grandpa Wilson was a draft dodger?" "Yeah, honey, we were both draft dodgers." Danny started to laugh as an elderly woman shouted from behind the screen door, "Don't believe a word that old codger says; he's a no good drunk!" Danny chuckled and pulled a buckeye from his pocket to give to Angel. "Little lady, this was Wilson's lucky buckeye. He found this thing right before he met your grandma, God rest her soul." "Did you know my grandma, mister?" "Yes, she was a wonderful lady!" "What's a buckeye for?" "Well, a lot of people believed them to be good luck, but it's more of a memento than anything." "What's a memento?" "Well, it's something that helps you remember a special person like your grandpa Wilson." Angel smiled up at Danny and took his hand and led him up the steps onto the porch and into the house. Angel's mother gave Danny and Angel a bowl of rice pudding as the old men at the table told war stories. As Angel and Danny ate their rice pudding, Pastor Jon solemnly held a shell from the 21-gun salute between his thumb and index finger. Danny set his bowl on the counter as he winked at Angel and hobbled toward the door. Angel followed Danny to the door and watched him walk into the sun. Angel never saw Danny again.
David Schwartz Sergeant Metz ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I wish my wife could meet Sergeant Metz A man I knew when a P.F.C He like me was a Jew In the American army too And he was good to me So kind and so friendly Always telling the story Of his Landsmen Coming from Germany in The harbors of the Great States We were freemen, as good army buds And we shared big cigars and eggnog He was a good man Sent off to Nam But I will remember him always
Old Joe ~~~~~~~ Everyone always asks me As I went walking past How is poor old Joe Donny And I was true to reply Joe who I know no such Joe I go walking down the breezeway Entertaining my own thoughts And I have to tell them Because they don't know I have no idea Who this is, this Joe People are so friendly Till they head me say I do not know your old Joe Then they walk away Bill Freppon Bill was a good man a true believer and a business man who did a lot good Even if misunderstood A leader is a wrestless place A winner with a straight face
Tellis Yae And ~~~ and a speck tricked down the face. and a ache shot down the body. and a pinch went down the arm. and a muscle cramped on the leg. and a heart reasoned to quit. and a mind says to keep moving on. and it means you're human. and all the time you say, "and?" and stay on course.
My Hole Situation ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There's a hole in my life. So I picture the hole and I see a space. I look into space and I see a big hole. The hole is part of space. And the space is part of the hole. There's a hole in my life with a space. And space is the whole part of a hole. I should use the space to fill the hole. Now all I need is to find the space. It should be a good life after all. Now there's a hole in my life with a space. I put the space in the hole to fill it up. Since the whole part of a hole is space. I check on my hole situation and see nothing. I fixed my problem with nothing. There's a hole in my life with nothing but space, Should have left the hole empty. Don't go fixing nothing with nothing. There's always a space in a hole. And that's nothing but the Hole truth.
Eila Mahima Jaipaul Amid dust and salt ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ could I but touch you as a thing in itself separate from everything ever touched or seen separate from everything you've held or felt I'd take you to Elysium where, in beds of mandolins, under violet-orange sky your living would finally be where it should In time wooden boats some draped in rosemary coriander, lavender some bare would bring all my pieces and there, amid dust and salt in long red shadows I'd let you reconstruct me from bark and herb until with tears of delicate compassion I'll resurrect dancing naked deep inside you
Fall ~~~~ close to stars in lamplight we are translucent, pearlized reflected prisms there is such ache until finally spent, seeping surrounded the whole of the sea moves inside
Meditation ~~~~~~~~~~ milk river mound of black marsh cavernous Om mount the violet asp all sacrosanct plush curves limbs of silk flesh sky of lotus tongues jeweled pulses tumbling toward dawn woman of fluid and clay Buddha is inside you, awake pondering breeze mating your breath
Tuesday ~~~~~~~ I wasn't born here but I've lived here all my life with you it sounds right certain I want to say that what we do is like reading me feeding you words while you're lying on your back naming you with them in the dark yes Love, it is more reading feeling, than writing this is what we make possible
29 June ~~~~~~~ leaf skeletons stems hollow tiny veins, rigid support air where once lay fragrant memory
Visions in a gray shirt ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ on that street corner next to the hot dog man where the vagrant will take coin 'in any currency you got, lady' it was two butterflies about their own business, hovering entwined in one another that caught me before you did they fly while men and women with brisk strides full of storied northern industry pass, unaware of your look that told me sunsets boycott immortality for you how you manage to strut while sitting, I'll never know


Prince Yemi

The Spirit of the Silence

they came in silence
the dead wrapped in silence
in honor they had come in the spirit of the silence.
some with silence in their studs
some without
they've come to rest their limbs
those who need spiritual silence
in a place like a necropolis
they often avoid even those
who had come before them
seeking silence
in order to speak to them in silence
and those who are not in silence
are in their beds
making noise which the silence
can hardly bear, touch, see, hear, smell or taste.


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  YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts - Copyright (c) 1993 - 2006 by 
  Klaus J. Gerken.

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