Monday, December 15, 2014

the shop around the corner

frequent riders

"Sure, I remember, of course I do. We won't talk about the frequent weeping. Not even the frequent miles, apart. I held you, and we kissed as our feet were still floating. Frequently. We traversed like magnetic pins zig-zagging on a map in a sweaty police squad room. Like 'I've got a hunch, captain - Cordon off this area, men, along this route is where the next kissing incident will occur. Mark my word - I've been a policeman for twenty-three years. I know'. Right up to our parting from the bus station. I think they announced our kiss over the loud speaker, squawking like adults in a Charlie Brown special."
She smiled and looked down at her shoes.
"I don't hear so good anyway when you're kissing me", she said, her eyes gleaming.
On another walk, in a year when time once stopped around half past three, they stood in the middle of the block in front of a jewelry store shining with pudding-colored lights. The displays looked tasty, and she licked her lips. He saw this and then he kissed her. People walked by with hunched shoulders in the rain. No gumshoes need apply.
photograph by Robert Doisneau

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

good dog

"Ok. Ok, mom, remember that one time. That one time the dog brought a dead sparrow into the house"?
"And daddy. Daddy got upset that Molly parked it right in his favorite chair and just sat by it. Kinda just stared at anybody that saw Molly sitting there. Remember"?
"Yes, honey".
"Yeah". Nervous giggling.
"What about it, honey"?
"Well. Um. Molly just dragged something in the house, mom. But, mom, Molly didn't put it in any chair. So daddy won't be mad when he sees, right"?

photo of Molly's new toy by Elene Usdin

Saturday, December 6, 2014


"Did you ever try to peel an apple without breaking the skin?"
"Oh yes. Many times", he replied turning away, oozing a thick cider sarcasm.
"I can too."
"Oh, I can't wait". He yawned.
Their was a audible snap. It came out of the air. A pealing sound of innocence shattering, forever gone, as though kicking a sleeping dog.
'Lean over my way', he thought. 'I'm going to peel from scalp to your soulless shoes. Unbroken.'

Bond of Union (1956)
by M. C. Escher

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

first autumn snow

Snowstorm by Maurice de Vlaminck

Cardigan buttoned
Snow melts upon autumn dreams
Vanished by palm's touch

Sunday, October 19, 2014

in light of autumn cemetery

dried moth wings over morning dew
grave Poe prose buried shaded hue
seek mother's love ghostly spirit
tender hearts naturally inherit

uprooted bricks once old yellow road
endearments etched careless uprooted stone
smiles unseen passing headless rider
hallow deeds howling silent laughter

photo by Tess Kincaid

Sunday, October 12, 2014


I'll show'em. I'll show'em. Non-believers. A crank, they all say. I'll prove it! That crack in the ceiling the shape of Colonel Sanders. Right there! Wait! It's not there. Gone. It was. It was. I need more light. I'll show'em who's a wing nut.
"What do you want, Hilda?"
"Are you about done in there, Madam? There's two gentlemen at the door".
"They say they'll keep you where it's nice and quiet, Dear".
"Oh, let me be".
"And they have nice cushioned....chairs...and rounded corners".
Self-portrait, Vivian Maier

Monday, September 15, 2014

the debutante

Banquet of chilled foreign cuisine
odd celery with peanut butter and cold beans
blue cheese imported from Iraq
burns holes in ancient crock

a charity ball
the bashful debutante's call
sign donation checks please:
Lost Dalmatian Society

She's spotlighted in white among other gray dresses
slim unlike mayor's wives and mistresses
coiffed and adorned with moist sulfur rose
veneer dance floor polished for skimming toes

young men cracking jokes
slow turtle soup coughing out nose
"Try the's rather quaint"!
behind the curtain runaway debutante feints

Sunday, September 7, 2014


It happened in a rented one-room. The writer held the electric bill in both hands. Final Notice it says. Just another deadline, joining a sweaty editor and a wooly mammoth landlord. He lit a leaky cigarette and then torched the bill. Two birds with one match. There was that flash vision in his dry brain again. He thought maybe he'd put the blue steel revolver in the bottom desk drawer upon the tip of his tongue and squeeze the trigger. That vision came to him in dreams as well, in crowds on the subway, or whenever he reached in his pocket and palmed that empty money clip.
He looked up from the desk swivel chair at the solitary light strung on a noose from the ceiling. He thought it would snap too easy before his neck snapped if he rocked off a chair. And then he soberly watched the moths at the bulb. It reminded him of his youth, in the backyard of the drafty cottage where he lived in a small town, chasing fireflies in slow motion. He closed his eyes and reached for the bottom drawer. He had to wiggle it violently to open to a crack, warped wood on splintered particle board, wide enough to get a hold of the revolver butt. He fired one shot in one swooping motion, the bulb exploding with a final blue electrical flash. Thinking about capturing those fireflies, along with a fifteen year-old girl and his first stolen kiss, a time about which he had never set words to music, he stood up in the warm darkness searching another drawer for candle and match. There was storytelling to set to paper, young man.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

catch of the day

The onlookers were silent. Perhaps a dozen or two, or maybe a hundred cats on the lip of the water-logged pier. Waiting patiently, their necks erect, small pink stealth nostrils flaring. Waiting. Tails swishing in slow motion. Waiting for the men returning from the daily catch. Catch of the day. And yet - none to be gotten. A fisherman standing in his boat slams an oar. They scatter, the sound of small paws like tap dancers losing an audition. Eyes wide and tongues dry another day.
Dark Harbor, 1943, N. C. Wyeth

Saturday, August 30, 2014

a man outstanding in his field

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.

Starry Night by Alex Ruiz

Saturday, August 23, 2014


'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.
'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'.

photo credit: R.A.D. Stainforth

Monday, August 4, 2014


'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'.
'You know'.
'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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


"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".
"It's Milton".
"Milton is my first name".
"So sorry".
"Forget it".
"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"?
"What's that?".
"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".

11,041 vagabonds plus:
Free Hit Counters
Web Counters

All original designs and text created by the author of this blog, Phil L., are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike3.0 License. All other materials remain the property of their respective owners and/or creators, unless of course they are part of the public domain.