Monday, June 22, 2015

who's afraid?



photo by Bert Stern

Elizabeth could turn it off. Smiles never just melted slowly. And now as they lounged at the pool she wasn't smiling.
"Must you go?"
"Yes". Richard said it quietly, repeating what she dreaded. Separation. Boredom at this dump. Divorce. Death. Reunion. "It is but two days work, My Love", he answered in a Shakespearean voice echoing the hollowness of an empty theater. "Besides", in his fetching Welsh now, "I read poetry, they get it down on tape, I stuff my wallet, and new jewelry for you".
"Oh...silly poetry".
He looked at her hard. "No, it's magnificent. It's Dylan Thomas. Not silly".
She turned away. He brushed his left palm on her back, keeping the right with cigarette far away. She shuddered. Children were playing and screaming in the distance, bodies hitting cold water in one splash after another. The faint sound of a little girl crying followed. Richard could not find her in the glare.
"I'll return. Soon. I will", he promised. She did not move. She said nothing at first. Then she moved onto her back, the cement of pool's edge cooler, and quoted softly, "'We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under Milk Wood'. No, that was not silly".
He was smiling. And blushing that was undetectable. Lighting a cigarette for her he quoted,

'I see the summer children in their mothers
Split up the brawned womb's weathers,
Divide the night and day with fairy thumbs;
There in the deep with quartered shades
Of sun and moon they paint their dams
As sunlight paints the shelling of their heads.'

She let out a long breath. They both watched the smoke rise and dissipate into the blue sky.

--

Under Milk Wood and I See The Boys Of Summer, by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

the conversation



image by Sarolta Ban

"Hey man, you got my stuff"? He was calling from the world's last phone booth, balanced at the edge of cliff at the end of the universe.
The man was eating supper with his family. He was still in grey suit and grey tie as he picked up the receiver in the dark hallway. His teeth were clinched, lips like a ventriloquist. "I told you NEVer to call me at home".
"Hey, man". Pebbles from a rock slide above rattled his cage. He looked up nervously.
"I told you I'd take care of your...stuff". It was in a yelling whisper brushing across the telephone.
"Hey, man. When"?
He was startled that he could almost smell the weed. It was only a stringy piece of lettuce and thousand island dressing caught between teeth. "Do you always have to start every sentence with 'Hey, Man'"?
"Hey, man". He was hiccuping his laugh like a nineteen fifties B movie dope fiend actor in tinted glasses. The phone booth teetered. He cursed under his breath. "Hey, man, you got it made, big time writer dude".
"Made? You don't know what it's like. I'm under pressure".
"Hey, man"....
"I got a deadline, Hey Man, you'll never know. It's Mag 274 for crying out loud"! He heard more hiccuping and the line cut out and back in again.
"Yeah, well, man, I'm under a dead line too, man. Just write a poem about...about. Hell, about an oyster with no passion, man".
He looked over his shoulder as his wife called him back to the table. His hand was sweating. "That's good", he said to the man in the phone booth. His voice was calm, more conversational. "Oysters and passion. I think I can do something with that". He heard a crackling over the telephone. "You stay put. I'll come. I'll bring your stuff".

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

war is over


Darling Emma,

War is over. So they say. It seems we can still hear planes overhead at night. Or my ears are ringing. You know nighttime is when they buried the dead in this 'theater'. At dark so they couldn't be spotted. The ground is rock and the graves were shallow.
But that's over now here as our engineer unit has relocated down in Belgrade, reconstruction full speed ahead. It's dirty. And blue danube waltzing water is at a trickle. I long for a long long hot shower of home. And your beef-steak and gravy. We ride packed transit with the locals. I had a babushka woman stuffed so close to me her teeth were up against my shirt button. And she looked up peeking, no fear or suspicion, never taking her watery pale-blue eyes away from mine. Should I've asked her to dance? Oh! Speaking of showers - you gotta see this funny photo Charlie took of me when we were smashed. (There's no water, but the distillers are at full steam ahead.) We chased these kids away from a shattered dry bird bath in the town square and commandeered it. They scatter easy when you clap your hands. Just like little birds. I miss little morning sparrows that gathered at the sill beyond your kitchen sink. Do they come still? I can't remember why we chased those kids away.

always,
Philip

Friday, June 5, 2015

surfaced haiku


photo by Toni Frissell

Beneath her beauty
Buoyant heavy naive heart
Merciful whispers



Healing Haikus reside at
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Thursday, May 28, 2015

old treasures haiku



Bundled love letters
Cloth umbrella, pack-rat's sword
Hat dump destiny

Still Life(1907) by John Frederick Peto

Stars in Life's Haiku reside at
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Monday, May 18, 2015

lone haiku


Child winged innocence
Chase illusive butterfly
Lonely lamp fooled moth

artwork by Ulrike Bolenz

Friday, May 15, 2015

bless


I bless you space cadets
I bless you in slow leak spacesuits
I bless you seeking new blazing frontiers
I bless you, all yearning solitude,
amen.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

the second thousand years


"Oh for the love of Mike, what the hell is he doing in there"? He pounded on the bathroom door again, harder and more towards the middle. "'He's in the Powder Room,' you said".
"Ok. But can you blame him"?, she retorted in a screeching high-pitch.
"Yes. I can blame him", he replied softly and stiffly.
"But he hasn't gone in at least a thousand years"!
"But he's...he's...
"What?"
"Stone".
"Well, I'm a little buzzed myself", she answered clutching her head with both hands. He looked at her sideways and noticed for the first time she was gray with a coating of dust.
"Petrified bric-a-brac. Carved clay", he continued sweating profusely, "Chiseled quarry slab.."
"I know", she cried, "he hasn't got any clothes".
He wedged his mouth close to the door jam and spoke kindly, a bit shaky:
"Please. We'll give you clothes. Sir? Your Emperorship"?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

the train ride


The whistle of a train afar is an instrument of loneliness. Attempting to recreate its song with a harmonica is close, but you only succeed in another lonely waterlogged cowboy lament. Just as miserable is the whine of a droning loud-mouthed salesman in your compartment coach reeling off his statistical life story.
The Writer loves the thought of the railroad under his feet. It reminds him of his youth, the memory of the train line running by just a stones throw across the pasture of the family farm. The Heartland rails of his dreams. And the best scenario where the lines upon his sketchbook wander best.
"But what could I do? The girdle is on its way to oblivion"! the loud-mouth asks in a brief unanswerable question to suck in more air.
"I don't care", the Writer answers under his breath, lowering his hat over his eyebrows.
"Well there's no need to be rude. Did you hear what I said? What are you writing there anyway"?
The Writer stops and peers out the window. It is raining now, and he's thinking of the past, the butternut grove, the weeping willows. He smiles and is lonely for Tess, and the last time he held her softly up to the final call for all aboard.
"I say there"!
He raises his hat revealing magpie black eyes and looks into the eyes of the man.
"Have you heard of Vladimir Nabokov?" he asks, without raising his voice. "I didn't think so. He once said the writer's job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them. If you promise me to remain quiet, I will not chase you and heave rocks at you".

Saturday, April 18, 2015

mad


It's all lies what they claim. They talk all lies about her dark-eyed sullenness. They say her forced smile confirmed madness. Sure it was forced. That's a proper greeting for the cold unforgiving townsfolk I'd say.
I moved her from the cemetery back to behind her little cottage. By that moss wall. Tell no one. Out front the overgrown grass is in uneven clumps now. Azalea tree blossoms of rose pink have coated the yard with a fragrant cover. It's quite beautiful.

In back she had the small man-made pond. I should say woman-made. "I troweled it carefully by hand", she whispered behind me as I was admiring it one Sunday. A reflecting pool of sorts that bottle-necked into a runaway creek. "The fish just knew the way", she laughed.

She asked if I could take the masonry bit and demolish the moss-laden low wall. I told her it was charming, the soft lime-green stone complimented the black cottage, and to let it settle there forever. I turned to her and she was looking at me, eyebrows raised, her eyes not meeting mine, but at my forehead. She seemed pleased at the suggestion, and to have gained my trust, and shortly afterwards is when she revealed who's reflection she'd witnessed amongst the fish. Actually, she recounted, the fish moved to one side out of the way, and she saw Him.
"Him?"
"A Love lost in war". Her eyes filled with tears then and she looked away. "Don't tell anyone. His arms outstretched, he begs me to come". I hesitated, and she waited patiently. "They'll think me mad", her voice cracking.
"Of course you're mad. You're a poet, remember"? A string of white doves fluttered over us. We both watched. "My daughter has your collection in reach by her nightstand to keep her company in travel".

She liked that. No forced smile. But Life was just too hard, and she died so young. One moonless night I buried her next to the wall. You ask me with your teeth clinched if I've seen her. Yes, I've seen her reflection in the quiet pond, arms crossed...at peace.

painting by Daria Petrilli

trail signs

trail signs

Thursday, March 26, 2015

the majestic tree

"I know what...who you are".
I spoke just above a whisper, my heart pounding, the morning woods silent, yet my shaky voice carried. A limb of the magnificent tree started, rustled briefly, and was motionless once more.
"And I know you can hear me". I took one step closer and looked up as though searching for eyes.
"Your primary roots are majestic...still".
A breeze rode in from the white-fenced pasture, only a few leaves of the reluctant mighty tree rustled.
"Can you talk?"
"I can". It was elderly, a strong harmonious chorus. For any street performance you would have dropped a coin into a cup. "Why do you come to me?"
"A dream brought me". I moved closer. Moss was saturated into the bark on all sides like a late spring knitted sweater.
"I know of your dream, my friend".
I smiled in my complete surprise. "And I know of yours".
"Oh?"
"The movie...all those years ago".
"Yes, well, the girl liked me. I was fond of her". Two limbs trembled. "And the Tin Man too".
"What happened"?
Silence. The breeze faded. I circled the tree slowly, yet stumbled on spiny roots.
"Won't you tell me"?, I pleaded.
What appeared to be a glistening slug was oozing out of a knot on the north side.
"You are NOT a weeping willow"! I regretted immediately the scold in my tone.
"I'm sorry", I said, stepping back, arms outstretched.
"They gave the part to a man in a tree costume. A..tree...COSTUME"! All the limbs swayed for a few moments. In the stillness afterwards I thought I detected a deep all-expiring sigh from the green leaves. I struggled for the right words.
"May I sketch you"? I asked with my eyebrows raised. I held up my compact leather-bound sketchbook, but decided quickly not to exhibit the yellow wooded pencil.
"I'd be honored".
A few minutes later I noticed a small gathering of bluebirds settling into the treetop.

Monday, March 16, 2015

wrong turn


Petergate, with a view of York Minster, York, UK photo by Tess Kincaid

"You take the wrong turn and look what it gets you. Narrow road to the ministry". Bells began to peel the misty air of York, too loud to hear conversation. "It's only the lunch bell, soon a crazed male secretary, one eye spinning faster than the other, you've seen them in their tight collars, will push and shove to get first in line for their tea and cakes".
"You think they're off to tea and cake?"
He glared at him. I just said that drowned in bells, he thought.
It was quiet after the last stinging echo.
"Speaking of wrong turns - did I ever tell you about Porky Mcdougall back in the States? Back, lets' see, yeah, nineteen twenty-three". He laughed.
"No, I don't believe so". He scratched his chin to appear smart.
"Porky just about became president".
"You don't mean it".
"Granddad recounted this twice-told tale dozens of times".
"What happened"? They stood at the end of a long slumping line to Tea.
"Ok. Harding get's a bad batch of chili and he explodes. A million miles away, in little sleepy Vermont late at night, somewhere out on a darkened farm with no electricity, Cal is curled asleep, cobwebs holding him down in bed. The local judge, perhaps the mayor and constable along for the ride, speed out into the moonlit night in a flivver. Nobody remembers the way, or they can't agree on the route. They ease over a splintered bridge and take a wrong turn. All those farmhouses look the same anyways to those tight collars, red-eyed like these clowns in front of us". The man in front of them turns and glares down his nose and quickly blinks his disgust. "So, they pretend they're high and mighty sure as they stop in front of Porky's farmhouse. Two of them are pounding on the front door around two A.M., screaming, 'Harding is dead, we're here to swear you in'! Confusion, people hollering and sweatin', dogs barking, fingers scorched whilst attempting to light candles. The constable drags fetched, sleeping-capped Porky down the narrow staircase, tie his spatula hand to the bible, oaths a poppin'. Poor terrified Porky". He shook his head, laughing. "Poor, helpless, Porky. Took him a half hour to convince them he wasn't Coolidge, and they still didn't believe him".
"You don't say". He rubbed his chin and narrowed his eyes for full effect.
"Of course Gramps mumbled a lot. Just like you". He looked around and scowled. "I hate tea".

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

adolph's tub


"You want me out"? She shuddered. It was more of a man's tub, chilled and unwelcoming, even filled with sudsy hot water.
"No. Take your time. We've got all the time in the world". She could tell he said it through gritted teeth, hidden beyond the door.
She threw the washcloth against the tile. Squinting, she observed water seeping out, escaping between tile and the settled edge of the porcelain. She smiled and spoke firmly, secured by her own Walther P38 pistol under her folded pink bathrobe, smuggled easily past a puffy-eyed guard.
"There's a leak in your thousand-year bathtub, Adolph".
"That's not funny", he would end up saying, those famous last words. Sitting in lukewarm water, she would freeze, the sound of struggling from the other side of the bathroom door, shots fired, yelling and cursing, booted feet running away, ultimately retreating deeper into the dark winter forest. And then silence. Moments later an American Soldier peeked around the door as she was standing, toweling off. Her eyes widened.
"Ma'am?", she heard in an unusual drawl, perhaps a voice from somewhere in the deep south. "You about done?"


photo: Lee Miller in Adolf Hitler's bathtub, Munich 1945, by David E. Scherman

Thursday, February 26, 2015

fun city


Amelia and Harold, a couple married twenty-eight years, on vacation in Fun City, entered a strange and ominous-stocked store.
It smelled of cheerful popcorn and grease.
"They have everything a person needs, I'm told", she boasted. She wasn't told. She read the small print from a creased brochure she held in both hands touting a cavernous clown mouth entrance built in the terrifying dark days of the Depression, 1931.
"Oh, that's just wonderful", Harold countered breathlessly with a sarcastic undertow.
She glared at him but he was pretending to be interested in a table full of one dollar unwrapped items.
She walked on a ways and turned back to her husband, the camera floating from a strap around his bulbous neck swinging like a pendulum, the man closely inspecting a squeaky squeeze toy for dogs that made no noise. He imagined it was built on a secret German Shepherd frequency. He could smell the air exiting the plastic toy, stale and rotten, shipped from China. He squeezed harder, but it just stunk more. He looked around but heard no dogs barking or charging towards him so he dropped it.
"Harold! What are you doing? Over here"!
"Yes, dear," he moaned.
"Look. They have devices to cure snoring".
"Just put a bowling ball on your chest why don't you", he said to himself.
"Look, Harold. Harold, look". She was pointing and talking loudly.
It was some sort of bed contraption with straps and levers. He looked closely, camera swinging in front of him, wondering where he might be able to fasten those straps, hoping at least one would be wide enough for her mouth.
A sales clerk in a blue jacket and pink tie smiling with yellow teeth and a white carnation in his pocket appeared and offered assistance.
"May I offer assistance?", he asked in a six dollar an hour monotone.
Amelia was startled and dropped the Fun City brochure.
"Do you have any bowling balls"?, Harold inquired as he took a picture of the man.
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