11,041 vagabonds plus:
a man outstanding in his field
Starry Night by Alex Ruiz
There were those who said he was so lost he'd forgotten the color of the sun. But in his unbearable world, color was still his passion, and like his friend Rico, a street musician playing by ear, he could paint by ear with his eyes shut. In a blooming pasture, small flickering candlelight and a crescent white moon not only illuminated his blank canvas and brush, but the sun-yellow flowers. "I'll make the sun come out at night", he laughed out loud.
He looked up and scanned the horizon above the distant sharp outline of the church steeple. He began! - impatient brush strokes in true-to-agonizing-life, peace at last as he heard someone calling his name far away. He touched the back of his hand to wet cheek not even aware he had been crying. Over the top of his flimsy easel he saw all the homes darkened in the village.
'Aye. She were the H.M.S. Stainforth. A fine vessel. Presentable with two 70mm guns, hidden and called upon in mere moments. Confiscated Fiat-Revelli machine guns firing smooth and cool. Cooled by water, did you know'? He was silent. 'A crew of sixteen. Twelve gone'. He swallowed hard and looked away.
photo credit: R.A.D. Stainforth
'The sky was leaden, single-engine Fokkers darting, and corkscrewing down. So close you could see burnt oil on their goggles. You could see their clenched teeth. They seemed easy pickings at first, yet they stung us badly. When we fired the 70s, the vessel rocked. The captain had the glasses glued to his eyes. He was shouting orders but no one heard. My ears were ringing and I could feel the heartbeat in my head. I seen two of my panicked comrades just abandon aft like a ceremonial march off a gangplank. I called to Robert to take over the machine gun. The look in his eyes - ghostly, unblinking - I'll never forget it. A strike from above put a hole in his chest'.
He slammed his fist on the stained mahogany table. A small wave of my ale spilled over the rim of the mug. 'He was my friend'.
Two gray-haired men entered and went to the bar. They looked around the establishment with wonder as though it was their first time, the bartender knowing better. Greasy clothes staining the red vinyl seats.
'She was damaged badly, taking water like she was thirsty. Flooded up to the turrets. I scurried up to the bridge. The captain had both hands frozen on the helm. The sun came out just then and lit up the wheel house. I was calm then, glad to have my final place in the sun on the water. Then I heard her sigh as the hull split open, endless bullets forming new rivet holes.
"Captain", I called, "we're going over".
"We're going over", he repeated over and over in a weak, distant voice, looking at me, face pale with a creased forehead.'
The bouncer had the two gray-haired men by the collar and shoved them out into their very own place in the sun.
'What happened then,' I asked.
'We went over'.
'Get a load of that'. He pushed his hat up, the inside dark brim drenched in three year sweat.
'What'? his wife replied, tired of saying what.
'There'. He slowed the car, rolling off onto the gravel. 'Miss Bizarre spinning rope'.
'She's looking for fresh underground streams'.
'Hell, you're thinking of a wishbone twig'.
'Oh. Yeah. Forget it'. She raised her green-lens, white-framed sunglasses and blinked.
'Well, maybe that's a new tack searching for oil,' she offered. She watched him wiping his hat. 'She certainly has got you bothered'.
He smiled. 'Clearly she wears the pants in her house. And I bet she needs a drink out in the blazing sun. Invite her over.'
He rolled the car closer in low gear, no tracks in the hard earth.
She motioned her over. The roping continued, oblivious to her audience of two.
'Hey!' She choked, as she was dry too. 'Hey!' Better this time, and the lassoing lady stopped.
The woman moseyed over, rope in hand, bending down to the open car window, peering over the top of her shades. The man had never witnessed violet eyes as those, and muttered "damn" under his breath.
'What the hell'? she hissed in a vulgar, smokey voice. She smelled of a pleasing peppery perfume.
'You thirsty'?, they offered in duet.
'You got it, give it, I'll take it, George'. She tipped the bottom of the dark bottle towards the noonday sun.
'Who's George? Is your car broken down'?
She ignored them. Wiping her mouth with her arm, she took a step back, seemingly inspecting their dusty automobile.
'What a dump'. She took another long drink.
Elizabeth Taylor, Set of Giant
by Frank Worth.
for every action
My little sister had that look I'll never forget. Mouthing the letter O in complete terror. We had a penny to spend each, she gripped my hand tight like she always did as we departed the last step of the stone stoop out back of the house, and we were off to Mr. Conway's store four blocks away. Taffy was her favorite, jawbreaker mine, and she was only out of my sight for mere moments as I made a beeline for the magazines. They had a nice collection of Little Orphan Annie, but it was a whole sixty cents. I was thumbing through when the tragedy struck.
My little sister had her one-cent taffy, you'd think it was enough of a worldly thrill for a five year-old, but she weaved her way to a display of oranges like little kids are pulled against there will to neat piles of stuff I guess. She passed up the pyramid of canned beets, losing all power and instead yanking one orange from the window display causing a landslide. I grabbed her by the coat and we ran past the canned beets and out the door. Later that night I was in my room when the phone rang and I heard mom downstairs say she was very very sorry. I closed my door but it opened a few moments later. She didn't make eye contact with me, there was no yelling, and I was not allowed to go to that store ever again. Around 2AM I heard my little sister in her room crying and I crept as silent as I could, the floor creaking under my mismatched socks, my official detective flashlight dim.
She was asleep, breathing through her mouth in spurts, blanket twisted on the floor. Perhaps she was at the tail-end of a nightmare involving stacked oranges the size of watermelons with oozing bruises. That's how mine went. I tucked her in and then she was silent, magpie black eyes blinking into the light.
Grand Grocery Company
Lincoln, Nebraska 1942
by John Vachon
"Are we on? We're on? This is Arnie Mellish and I'm standing here near these well-worn infamous steps with Melvin Groshmeyer, famed stuntman coordinator from the 1930s and on up to today. Mr. Groshmeyer".
"Milton is my first name".
"You, sir, have a storied career here in coaching some of the big names in Hollywood in the art of falling both forwards and backwards down flights of stairs. Would that be like they were shot, or maybe like they were drunk and lost their balance? How about vertigo"?
"You've trained stars of screen how to artfully tumble down stairs such as these to our left".
"Perhaps you could recount some of the famous stars?"
"I don't recall their names".
"Not one, sir? Surely a well-known name we all know and cherish. You told me earlier before we arrived, on the phone, remember, you've encountered some of the big names".
"Well, sir, you got me there. I guess I might've exaggerated a bit. But I did nudge a bunch from the top".
"Can you give us one name? Please"?
"No. No. But I can show you where they're buried".
"This is Arnie Mellish, Eleven o'clock Nightbeat news".
the missing tape
I have this tape. Thee Tape. 18 and half infamous minutes. Nixon. Tell no one. Listen:
This is one minute in:
Dean: I can get it for you.
Mitchell: Does it have a scope?
Haldeman: G--D-----, they all come with scopes.
Nixon: F---. We only want to deport Lennon. Um, not kill him.
Ehrlichman: We have other problems, Mr. President.
Nixon: What? Ringo?..for crying out loud. S---.
[sound of ice cubes hitting bottom of empty glass]
You want me to go on? OK. Here, about 9 minutes in:
Dean: No one will know. Ten thousand silent dollars. I can cut the check now.
Nixon: S---. I'm glad my mother isn't around..you know..[pause]She was a saint.
Mitchell: Mr. President.
[silence. unknown throat clears. distant clock can be heard ticking, and two chimes. President starts to weep]
Nixon: G-- D-----, all over my shirt. F---, my glass is empty.
Get this. 14 in:
Mitchell: [singing]ooga chuka ooga chuka!
Nixon: Hell, Mitch, no. Wrong song. Not reggae s---. John, the one you were singing last week?
Dean: [timid singing] Hey, won't ya play, another somebody done somebody wrong song.
Nixon: That's it! Go!
Ehrlichman: Mr President!
Dean: Shut up. He wants to hear it.
Ehrlichman: You little piece of..
Dean: Just because you have more hair on your chest..
[sound of scuffling]
Nixon: Boys! Boys!
Dean: Let me up!
Nixon: I'm deleting this s---. For good. G-- D-----, this is the Oval Office!
No. Wait. I know. Listen how it ends:
Nixon: John, you stand by Mitch. Bob, over here. Now. Again.
Everyone: [singing off key, hesitatingly] Sometimes. Sometiiiiimes I feel like a motherless child...
G-- D--- amazing.
Upper crust silver shield served
Stale morsel remnants
Edward Hopper, 1922
It's quite alright. Come forward, I will not bite. You probably can not tell, but I was third in line when I was rescued. I do not know what happened to those behind me. I do know that we all did not know our mothers and fathers, and we'd cry in the night. Next thing I remember was shivering, shaking hard, being lifted up, my sore bony ribs wrapped into a soiled blanket. I broke away and ran up to a fence. I hate fences, but I stayed. It's why I circle before I sleep, to check escape openings. But I don't think I'm leaving.
You may touch me. Not so bad, now. I love the warm kitchen, and I have a steel dish with my name glued on it. See my name around my neck. Food is so much better here. Especially when I hear my name and tender meat is given to me from above. For that I bring them shoes in the hall.
One thing bad. Sometimes I hear the newspaper being slowly rolled up, and I know I'm in a world of hurt. Like one time I dove at stupid cat making a play for buzzing fly at the windowsill, only the window was there in front of me like right now. Over and over again, I do not understand. Please sit beside me. Pardon this kiss. Anyway...Master laughs at cat but it drives me batty. So I dive and next thing I know it's rolled newspaper where it hurts.
umbrellas of magburg
Sitting in a train station in a heavy downpour you can quickly become the interlocutor of umbrellas. You must keep it to yourself, for you do not want to broadcast like the man guarding the swimming pool, announcing the waiting times of those wanting to jump in after having eaten. "Egg salad sandwich? Forty five minute wait. Beans, you say? Two hours, young man, straight to the bottom"!
That young woman with the umbrella held back behind her hat-less head may look as cheerful as the Morton Salt girl, but you observe her pale hand gripping the handle, no spinning, rigid. 'Broken-hearted', you nod to no one, she has six months of drinking milk right out of the container from her drafty apartment fridge before her heart will discover her very own Gene Kelly.
A man steps forward. Nice suit, heavy over-coat, fedora. Black, lifeless umbrella directly over his head, water pouring evenly overboard like clogged gutters above a nicotine-stained insurance building. He's right out of a Hitchcock movie, assassin stepping forward with a twin umbrella, gunfire, chocolate syrup blood hemorrhaging from the wound. A woman screams, and the shooter escapes in a forest of melancholy black vinyl mushroom tops. You want to scream, 'That man has a gun'! but you remain silent trying to read the conspiratorial plan from his magpie black eyes at an awkward angle.
You're back underneath the eaves on that hard bench, safe from the spraying mist. Your umbrella is still rolled, fastened with a solitary snap. You hold it briefly at your nose - there's not a lovelier scent than an old umbrella shaken and dried natural, a reminder of meeting your true love as she descended from the train in a warm rain all those years ago, a few wayward drops spotting the shoulders of her cream-colored coat. How you held her close with one arm under that umbrella and kissed her.
You shiver and sip cold coffee out of a paper cup as you unwrap wax paper revealing a soggy tuna salad sandwich. A combo preventing you from ever swimming again. A promise: no matter how hard it will rain you will burst forward, spinning the umbrella above your head at a slight angle backwards, water concealing your lonely tears.
photo by George F. Mobley
'This way, up these stairs, without delay, take my hand'.
Her hand was in his in a heartbeat, and they were running in step, footfall echoing on marble.
'In here', he said, looking back at her, noticing the frown. 'It's ok', he assured.
She smiled shyly, not quite making eye contact.
'This is the window I was telling you about. The portal of Spring'. He looked at his watch.
'We're in time'. He stood behind her then, and nudged her towards the floor-to-ceiling window. 'This is your place in the Sun', he proclaimed, in an unexpected sonorous tone, startling her a bit. She shivered.
It was 12:57. The sun crossed the vernal equinox heading northward, and at that precise moment sunlight swept into the room like a spotlight. He heard a sharp intake of breath from the girl. "The heart of the Sun bowed to her where she stood," is what he scribbled with swift hand into his sketchbook later that evening, by candlelight at his roll-top desk.
'And now - one additional minute in the morning, and one precious extra minute at night. Just for us, don't you see?'
She was silent, her eyes closed, chin up towards the glorious rays of fire.
'And those dreadful five o'clock sunsets are long gone', he said, wrapping his arms around her, pushing hair away with his face, a kiss on the back of her neck.
She held up five fingers. 'Long gone,' she whispered.
photo by Kelsey Hannah
Peel away dulled frost
Moon's shadowed pearl eye winking
Nudged heart, slow warming
Chase other Sudden haikus at
'recuerda mi corazon,' exclusive home of
Haiku My Heart
photo credit: stock photo from Bing search
the crumbs rent
'Oh, this'll do fine'.
'Very good, Mrs. Crumb'. The landlord did not make eye contact the whole time.
'Wait a moment. Let's not be hasty, dear', Mr. Crumb hastened with palm out.
'Oh. But darling, just look at the decor. That sublime ceiling lamp'.
'The natural tilt. The unique shape. And the color!'
'Why, darling, can't you see, the glass shade is the same fabulous tint as the inside of the parlor chair's cushion'.
The kitchen cabinet slipped from its last chance cliff-hanging hold. All three noticed with tilting heads. The landlord cleared his throat and looked down at his shoes in the silence. A rat scratched for mercy inside one of the uninsulated walls.
'And such a lovely oil-cloth for the dinner table'.
The husband faked clearing his throat. He pointlessly smiled at the landlord.
'I don't smell anything, darling'.
'No. The range. Gas or electric, sir?'
'Gas. When it works'.
'Look, you folks sink a hundred dollar bill in this apartment and you got yourselves a real showplace'. A section of glass pane fell onto the floor from a stiff breeze from the narrow brick view outside. It did not shatter. The landlord spoke quickly as an unnecessary diversionary tactic.
'Really? Which one?' Mrs. Crumb looked at the landlord with a surprised expression as though a statue in the park with pigeon droppings was talking to her.
'Renter. A friend that knew a guy that took care of their lawn. One time', his voice fading.
Mrs. Crumb gave a you-see-let's-not-miss-our-opportunity look at Mr. Crumb.
'Yes. I believe we'll take it'!
Lee Plaza Hotel, Detroit
photo by Bonnie Beechler
You are Leo and there's nothing you can do about it. A good day, however, to ask for a raise unless you're not working. Your moon appears fat so wear loose clothing this week. Don't bother large animals with sharp fangs whilst they eat. Pretend to be asleep if strangers attempt to converse with you. Or just hum a show tune. Invest wisely in 18th century pottery. Check the bottom for a spittoon manufacture stamp. Resolve not to use a slingshot to feed your mother-in-law and remind her you are the king of the jungle before the frying pan strikes your temple. Routine is your forte like the clockwork changing of the guard. Guard your change. Especially from teenagers today.
art: The Sleeping Gypsy, 1897
-- Henri Rousseau
I touched his cold forehead with the back of my un-gloved hand. No doubt about it, he was gone. One last entry in a shaky hand, and then resting his head upon the journal once more. At first, after moving to the window for better light, I thought it was cryptic code, but then I saw it was just a seventeen syllable poem which we happily shared in correspondence occasionally.
I buried him in the field beyond the moss bungalow under tall grass. Carefully gathering his journals documenting a long arduous work, I wrapped them tightly in clear plastic, stored them snug in my back pack, and went home to my study, hiding them behind the bookcase. I had a restless night, debating whether I should present the archive of the great man to the university, doubters all. Before sunrise, I dressed quickly, drank some three day old coffee, and walked in a light blinding mist over to my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, of 221B Baker Street. He swung open the door before I knocked and pulled me inside by the arm. He was pale, and clearly without sleep, a robe over his clothes. We lit cigarettes, but did not speak at first as we settled into chairs facing one another. He rubbed his hands, and starred at the ceiling, chuckling.
Truths long ridiculed
battled haunting suspicions
make no bones, the end
"Pray tell, Dear Friend, why did you do such a horrifyingly sloppy job of burying the good professor"?
I got up and went to the window and peered out into the sheer blackness, knowing he would be a step ahead of me. I was silent.
"Was it his acromegaly?"
"Yes, I suppose...I...I...guess". I turned to Holmes. "He was in the last horrible stage, you know. I did not want..", I started.
"You wanted him to be remembered by his work. It is a noble cause," he said, soothingly.
"Go home. I will explain all to the constable".
"Thank you, Mr. Holmes".
"Nevermind, stay, I'll ring Mrs. Hudson for some eggs and a fresh decanter of java"!
art: Poet's Sleep,1989
by Chang Houg Ahn
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