Monday, April 21, 2014

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

the window

'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

Friday, March 28, 2014

spring haiku

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

Friday, March 14, 2014

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!'
'Color, dear'?
'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

Friday, March 7, 2014


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

Sunday, February 23, 2014


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.
It read:
Truths long ridiculed
battled haunting suspicions
make no bones, the end
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.
"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

Friday, February 21, 2014

the apartment

There was this girl, a writer, always wore blue jeans, white top, men's suspenders. Walking distance from my place, corner of 53rd and Sycamore. You know the place, right? - There's a bike sign, second floor up. I'd visit occasionally, we'd talk awhile, formalities of a bucket listing, and I'd sorta pantomime an outline of a short vignette, her bright magpie eyes unblinking. I'd knew I hit a good idea when she exhaled through her nose. She'd smile, and say something pithy like, 'change that third act by using an "or" instead of an "and"'. And she'd have a burst of energy, snap one suspender with a thumb, sit and type at least two pages, me silent looking out the window, a slow methodical foot fall from above.

Sullivan upstairs. Did you ever meet him? Walked with two canes, talked slow. God of children. I called him that because damaged children breathlessly stepped their flimsy-spoke bikes up the wooden stairs, knocked on his door, and entered into that marvelous apartment full of spare bike parts in glass jars and frame skeletons hanging from the walls, and he'd whistle through his nose a patience and solve any dilemma. The truing of bike spokes with a small metal circular tool he could hide in his hand and reappear out of a child's ear like a magic trick. Their mouths aghast, eyes wide in wonder, this wonderful man hardening their tires and sending them out to the street, balanced, no more wobble, life wonderful.

The writer and I visited Sullivan from time to time. Small talk, shared silent laughs as we finished each others lines, eventually a parable about lives unbalanced, only mended with a good truing. The secret of life, the writer leaning forward, attentive and nodding. He showed us once - flip the bike, just continue to spin the tire, slowly now, a little at a time with a short tightening or counterclockwise touch of the spoke nut. He'd nose whistle over the writer's left shoulder when it was her turn. 'That's good, you know now', he assured her. She would hug him and he would look away, feigning embarrassment.

She called late, must've been three in the morning, weeping. 'Sullivan is dead. He fell. Please come, Phil'. I pulled on a sweater and started to run, thinking all the way it was a dream, not quite sure why I was running. The coroner was just leaving, joking with a cop, at the bottom step. He was smiling and I wanted to punch him. Who exactly do they call when a coroner is dead? I recalled that out loud to the writer two weeks later in the cool basement of the main library, where she could secretly smoke and write after she had packed her one suitcase and carried away the typewriter in a back pack, staying with me now, two apartments left unfurnished instead of one.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

campfire concerto

How I'll always think of her
gazebo beyond the hidden willow
Orion the hunter above, warming campfire embers
the pale blue-eyed lass of birchwood meadow
pure heart, playing an old piano
tossing her wild mane, the dance of 88
tumbling breathless, blushing

Sunday, January 26, 2014

still lifes - 10 word poem

The Mill, 1964, by Andrew Wyeth

Winter's less traveled snowy landscapes
become indelibly quiet still lifes

Monday, January 20, 2014

the mission

Musician in the Rain
by Robert Doisneau

He only came in from the rain to look for a phone, dragging his cello an inch off the wet pavement. The windows were boarded snugly in rotted splinters with the words 'The Mission' stenciled on caked-up gray glass above the front door. His coat had been stolen at the corner when he bent to tie his right shoe. He had looked all around him as he stood frozen by grief in one place. 'Gone,' he whispered, and it began to rain harder.

The woman with wimple and veil welcomed the soaked cellist with profuse warmth, but all he needed was to get to a phone.
'May I use your phone to call a constable?'
'Come in. Sit and have some hot vegetable soup, Dear'.
Before he could repeat the question fully he found himself seated, the clothed cello leaning against a white-washed wall, seen as an object somewhere between admiration and suspicion by his downtrodden lunch companions, and a stained steel bowl of hot vegetable soup placed before him along with a hard biscuit. Weeks later, during a seven course meal celebrating the end of tour, he would recall how hot the soup from the mission was, the floating fresh green beans, soft potatoes and green peppers, tasty rich broth salted lightly, and his face would flush in warmth. And how the phone call was never made, heavy coat with wallet thick in cash and credit cards forever vanished, and how there was a used overcoat his size on a slouching coat-hanger given him by the unsuspecting nun.

He stopped at the door and turned to her, head bent weighted with shame, looking at his shoes. Thunder rose and fell in the distance.
'I am well-off, Sister', he said, one flat octave above a whisper. He just about told her his salary as he raised his eyes to hers.
'You'll need this too', she replied in a kind obliviousness, touching his arm, presenting him with an umbrella, handle chewed by a faithful cocker spaniel. Back towards the direction of the kitchen someone called her name. When he looked at her he noticed she was calm, and he wondered how it was possible from all the weight.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

lighthouse book

La Jument, off the coast of Brittany, photograph by Jean Guichard

All is well at the hour.
The shortwave crackles
broken friendly words from the mainland
or faraway clouded accents broadcast
the world at war.
Keepers living in limestone brick
cleansed by a violent sea
lost in the hushed reading room
one story above the torrent.
Light from concentric mirrors
up in the lantern room
belongs only to the mariner's spyglass.
The stick-matched flame burning on the side table
suffices our thousand dry pages.
A sudden chill extinguishes the candle.
We are in the dark
and my love shivers:
'Honey, did you latch the iron door'?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

a night walk

New York at Night, Vivienne Gucwa

"You always get this way," he said.
"I do not," she pleaded. "It's a world of colors. Pastels".
"Black and white will always be more real", he said. A taxi stopped sharply at their feet along the crosswalk, horn blaring in the mist. Tom yelled at him standing his ground if he wanted. Clara shook her fist. The driver yielded seeing how his wife at home was pregnant, plus he'd had a profitable shift up to now. No need for manslaughter, two counts. They stepped up on the sidewalk.
"No. Farther from it", she continued. She stopped and turned to him. "I love our Noir dates, I adore Ava Gardner like you, but you've let the celluloid seep into your veins". She was fierce. He saw her cheeks flared pink in the whitening of a high post light. "Black and white is NOT more realistic", Clara said. "Even sweat can sometimes be a beautiful color".
"How about gangrene? Is that beautiful"?
"Deep darkening purple, no, of course not, but certainly too no chocolate syrup puddling from a gunshot wound will heal in minutes". They'd long since stopped holding hands. Walking along the uneven sidewalk her right heel caught on a broken paver stone, and she tumbled hard. She denied being hurt, merely a dust-off, his arm lassoed around her waist bringing her up. In the golden light of a gated and closed jewelery store he looked at her and blued tears streamed down both cheeks, a bright crimson patch marking her chin.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

200 shutter speed

self-portrait, Francis Bacon

My crisp sorrowful reflection is an expressionless oil still-life in winter's window shop. Sad not because the display jewelery will collect dust, but seeing the melancholy pale face of the shop girl with the duster. Our eyes meet briefly, those stark magpie slanting eyes cast downwards. She did not get a Christmas bonus. Her name-tag properly affixed reads 'Willow'. I tap my knuckles on the glass and she doesn't see me now.

The door mirror at home is too bulky to tote. The only way I'll prove to myself that I exist like an undiscovered eyeless glob at oceans bottom will be to carry a photo, producing it to strangers passing on the street corner. "Excuse me, sir, you see this"? I will say.

The film store is open, one solitary light is burning, the owner has his head resting on the glass case. Awake now, a blurry labeled whiskey bottle next, his eyelids fluttering at fast shutter speed. I purchase a roll with spare change, and he asks if I want it put in a brown paper bag. No, I reply, I'll hold it snug in my fist. It's a roll of the slowest speed to capture at f/1 my form in all its black and white glory. I will kiss shy Willow slowly as well very soon.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

vagabond haiku

Bundled tenderness
Calling poor vagabonds home
Burdens cast aside

painting: Madonna With the Milk Soup
by Gerard David (1510)
11,041 vagabonds plus:
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