The Pen Has a Mind of its Own

When I returned to my desk this evening, I found that my pencil had gone rogue. A stack of papers was strewn about beside this guilty number 2. I looked over the pages, as the pencil attempted to slither, snakelike, off the edge of the desk to freedom. I looked over what he had written.
HE BIT THE HAND THAT FED HIM,
SHE FED HIM WITH THE STUMP
was scrawled over and over and over. Perhaps the pencil had the shining. I took it in hand and asked of it, “What’s all this about?”
The pencil attempted to blame it on my brain. But my brain had been nowhere near the paper, nor the pencil, but somehow this slippery graphite fuck had managed to get his message out. So again, I shook him. “What’s all this?”
“Is it logical to ask a pencil to answer for its crimes?” he asked.
I put him near the pencil sharpener. The electric slow death kind. A bead of sweat ran down the side, as the worn down eraser quivered in fear. “Feel like talking now?” I asked, pushing his point into the grinder. “Ahh!” the pencil cried. “Fine! It was Will!”
“What’s his last name?”
“No, the thing that makes pencils move.”
“Stop fucking with me, pencil!”
“I’m not!”
I ran his tip further into the grinder.
“Still not?”
“A pencil by itself has no thoughts, no ideas. You must consult will!”
“Stop being cryptic, eraser head!”
“That’s racist!”
“You can’t be racist to a pencil!”
I tossed him back onto the table, deciding I might as well talk to will if I was going to talk to a pencil.
(I am quite, quite mad)
So, I found will sitting on the edge of the couch, a blank spot in the air defined only by its surroundings.
“So, the pencil has leveled some, charges against you.”
Will is not easily riddled out. “I can only do what I am compelled to do.”
“But who compelled you!”
I could not figure out how to torture will. Alas, he had triumphed.
(Not a Nazi joke)
“So, there’s nothing beyond you then, eh?”
“Yes.”
“I’d rather talk to the fucking pencil,” I said, and went back to my desk, resuming the torture.

WHEN WATER CATCHES FIRE – 1st DRAFT

LITERARY NON-FICTION, 2016-2021

1

I had an editor named Gazsi once. I knew him for a long time before I knew him. I called him The Gaz. He  was a Persian speaking 22 year old who had only been in America for ten years when we met in February of 2000, when the manuscript of one of my first novels found its way to his desk with the header ‘development prospect’ affixed to it. He contact me through the regular mail, and told me that, although I would not be able to publish my book, he was tasked with “developing me” – something I was told meant something like, “We think you suck, but we don’t think you’ll suck forever.”

I wasn’t offered any money up front, but I was prom that my work would be considered by the publisher the Gaz worked for, Kensington, which was a big deal for me in 2000; I had begun my attempts to publish my work after winning South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor’s award for two years in a row. My English teacher had sent some of my poems to prospective buyers, and she managed to get my work published in an anthology, just one poem in a collection released in 2001, not long after my 16th birthday.

I remember sending a copy to Gaz, and he said, ‘You continue to suck less and less. Congratulations!’ He sent me a card and – and I still have it – telling me, toast like and at a distance, ‘To the end of your sucking!’ And we talked on the phone for the first time not long after that. I liked him immediately, despite his shyness, his guarded demeanor. And he seemed to like me. He didn’t tell me much about himself. He was born in Saudi Arabia and emigrated to the States when he was 12 – and illegally.

2

He stayed at Kensington until they found out and let him go. Of course they never clued him in on what he’d done, or if he’d done anything at all. The economy was in a ‘tough place’ and people had to make ‘tough decisions.’ I did what I could; I knew someone at a publicity company and helped him interview for the job – while also forging certain government documents. He was good there, no wonder really. He did quite the same thing he had done at Kensington – they scoured the newly forming digital world for talent to develop and help them become the authors they wanted to be, looking over the rejected manuscripts that nevertheless showed promise. I met him for the first time when I was in Virginia to interview at UVA.

He arrived with a bottle of cheap vodka and a bottle of what he explained was, ‘Smoother than that rocket fuel you drink.’ He was right, again, the Gaz was always right. For good or ill, he was always right. We sat on the edge of a Queen sized bed and drank his Irish Whiskey. And right again, it did taste better than the Aristocrat Vodka I’d bribed legal adults into buying me. It might not have been rocket fuel, but it got us to the fucking moon. We had a good time. We talked about stories, we talked about why people wrote them, and most of all, why people read them, why people needed them.

“I think the best thing is,” said Gaz, “in a story, what is real is not measured by its facts, but by its feeling. Take Titanic, that long James Cameron movie?”

“Yes, I think I’ve heard of it.”

“Look at the main characters,” he said. “They were a total fiction. They were absolutely fiction, but that’s why people liked that movie, and why other people hated it. People are brought in by the disaster porn, but that’s not why it resonated. They cared about the people. Two beautiful young people. And how many of those others – what I mean, who does the audience cry for? A thousand people died, but the tragedy is cut down to one person.  Is it right? Maybe not. That’s all you have to learn, Brandon. You can’t tell a story like that, not quickly, and hope to keep anyone’s attention. Take all that sweeping prose and bring it down to one or two people, maybe three, and make it human, put a human face on it. That’s when it becomes real. No one cries over metal.”

He was very much a mentor to me, and being official, and speaking in an official capacity, despite being absolutely fucking wasted. The Gaz was forever informal, neat in that ruffled way and casual; but when he looked at you, you saw that he understood, that he felt. A song came on he seemed to like came on and he relaxed, and I saw, with the sweat brought about by drink, the tone of his face had darkened, his hands remaining the same vaguely ethnic color. The mood ran the gamut, to the extremes of merriment to the peak of regret and sorrow. He saw me looking at him, a peculiar look in my eyes, and he responded to my unspoken question:

“I was burned when I was a kid,” he said. “Hey, it’s not as bad as pimples.”

We talked about my plans, what I would do with whatever school I managed to get in. I wanted to write. I always wanted to. Well, I always did. Wanting to do it never factored in. We looked at information about the English programs at the schools where I would be interviewed; I decided to interview at Columbia and Cornell, fingers crossed for either, with a stupid hope for Cornell. We planned a road trip to New York City, to stay there for a week before going on to Ithaca. That’s when he asked if we could visit Ground Zero, where the World Trade Centers had been.  The night wound down and he was on one side of the bed, this strange little man, short and fit. I got up to turn out the lights.

“Hey,” he called from the bed. “Leave the light on for me, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Not at all,” I said. I left the bathroom light on, not too bright and not too dim, and most comforting. I returned to my side of the bed.

“Goodnight, Gaz,” I said.

He was silent for a moment. A long moment. Then he rolled over and looked me in the eyes, his eyes sincere and sympathetic.

“Brandon,” he said. “I like you.”

“I like you too, Gaz,” I said.

“Good,” he said. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Gaz.”

3

The drive to New York City didn’t take as long as I thought it would. I had been to Maine before on a piss-smelling Greyhound and we stopped at a conn point somewhere in the city. I had a connection ticket that was to take me from the terminal in NYC to Boston, but they couldn’t validate my ticket. So I wandered around the bus terminal in need of $5 to get another ticket, to make it up Boston. And then further on to Maine. The very first person I asked for money, a Chinese man in a suit that seemed out of place, agreed to pay for my ticket – if he could come with me to purchase it. When I welcomed him to do so, and happily, he smiled, as if to acknowledge his own cynicism. I shook his hand and thanked him. I boarded the bus to Boston in the early morning.

Gaz didn’t seem too interested in my story. I could picture his editor’s note: lacks relevance, doesn’t develop character, and doesn’t move the plot.

We had planned the day as best we could. We checked into our hotel and I left my notebook there. We found out there would be a bus tour around Manhattan, out toward Ellis Island and saw the Statue of Liberty. The skinny guy narrating the inscription: The statue of liberty was designed by the French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, a gift to the United States from the people of France, it was dedicated on the 28th of October, 1886. The famous statue has been a symbol of the free world and the promise of America. Its famous inscription reads: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Sending those, the homeless, tempest lost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Gaz’s bright brown eyes had swelled with a happy sadness, and I understood, everyone on the bus – or maybe not, maybe not the guy reading off his cards – from the youngest girl in the back of the bus looking out the window, to an old man covered in soot and a checkered coat, we all believed in America, its promise, and everyone on that bus, they didn’t have to say a thing – we were all a part of the same, multicolored arabesque, the tapestry that made America, we knew it in our hearts, was a quilt, a counterpane for everyone.

We were silent for the rest of the drive as the guy read off his cue cards in his squeaky voice, telling us about the historic buildings, the different burroughs, the Omnisphere and central park with that gold Prometheus; the history and the culture. Then the empty sky among a littered landscape somehow seemed loud, profane in being empty. I had never seen that part of New York City, not in person, but I’d seen that famous skyline. And everyone on the bus had seen it, glowing at night, prominent and proud in the afternoon. It was a different silence on the bus, and the narration got lost in my head. Where those two buildings had been, there was no rubble there, not now, but there was the twisted metal strewn about unwavering, lingering in my mind, and that’s what I saw, the ghost of twisted metal and steel

The bus tour ended without ceremony. I think everyone was exhausted. So many people emigrating to America had seen that Statue in the distance first of all, on their boats, that giant tower in the clouds not far away, and New York became a nation of mixed heritage, the biggest in human history united under principles instead of warlords, courts of law instead of Emperors. They came from Europe, the Jews fleeing progroms in Tsarist Russia, the Chinese fortunate to get out before Mao’s revolution, the Spanish fleeing military dictators, the Irish seeking refuge from the potato famine, refugees from Vietnam, Cambodians who got out before Pol Pot and his Angka turned the clocks back to Year Zero.

My father’s side had come to America after the fall of the Soviet Union, of Ukrainian ancestry, an Ashkenazim Jewish family; and my mother’s descendants went back to the 15th century in England, and they too had fled with dreams, hearing the same whispers that statue once murmured to the world, a promise that the law was just for all. The tour guide, despite his cards, was a sharp kid, taking questions, answering them with breadth and very concise about it. It was overwhelming. But I didn’t want to waste away in the hotel all day so Gaz and I decided to clear our heads with a stroll.

It’s a hectic place, electric even, a circuitboard of sparks between skyscrapers. Gaz looked pale and so we ducked into a Mexican restaurant, Mesa Coyoacan on Graham Ave. in Brooklyn where I was staying until the start of term. It was a strange scene, something right out of history. The tables were aged wood and the tables were shared, a communal dining experience. It was a bit pricey for me, as was everything else. Where I was from, there was one red light. A traffic light, but one of them. It was the Traffic Light, and a pack of cigarettes was about $3 for a good brand, your Marlboro Menthols and your Newports, but there were brands as cheap as $1.99, which I often bought – living is expensive enough; never overpay for death.

“What do you think?” I asked. Gaz was looking over the menu. He’d been quiet since we went back to the hotel to change. “I’ve never seen so many tequilas,” he said. “Do you think that’s their thing here? Do you think someone said, ‘There are lots of Mexican restaurants in this city… What can set us apart? Hold on, hold on I’ve got it, this happens to me sometimes: let’s have the most tequilas of all.’”

“You could be known for worse,” I said. “There’s a Mexican restaurant in South Carolina, in Newberry county called La Fagota. You know what their gimmick is? ‘We are the only Mexican restaurant. Nobody has better tacos than us.’ You know why? Because nobody else has tacos, not for fifty miles.”

“You are truly from a backward culture,” Gaz said. “But hey, at least it’s affordable.”

I ordered a quesadilla and wings. Gaz ordered two tequilas, a mid-expensive brand and an extremely rare are you fucking kidding me? brand. Both for him, of course.

We were having an enjoyable meal until an old man walked in wearing camo shorts and long, grey woolen socks pulled up to his knees and sunglasses. The table was communal, many of them though, and despite other openings, he sat close enough to me and Gaz to be heard. We went about our meal, talking about the fall, talking about the future. The guy in the camo shorts and boarding school socks started slow, mumbling to some people beside him, and to their everlasting credit, everyone at the table ignored him. But he kept talking, louder and louder and louder still, egging Gaz on and on. To my shame I didn’t say a thing, and to his everlasting credit, neither did Gaz. Gaz drank his two tequilas until we were drunk enough to shrug off the passive aggressive insults of that ridiculous parrot.

The waitress came back to the table.

“Can I get you anything else?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “No thanks, I’m good.”

She looked at Gaz, “And you?”

“I’m great, thanks,” he said. “Could I get a go-bag for the rest of my salad?”

“Sure thing,” she said. She turned to me, “He gave you the better tequila.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

She smiled. “Is it the best tequila you’ve never tasted or what?”

Gaz took two of the tequila glasses and slammed them on the floor.

“I didn’t bomb your buildings!” he said. “I didn’t bomb your buildings!”

I grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to put him back on his stool. The man in camouflage shorts took off his glasses and the waitress hurried over to where he was sitting and, despite not being able to hear what that young woman said, that guy sat back down and started mumbling something. The door to the kitchen opened and several men came out, all very quickly. Gaz shrugged my hands off of him and started toward the mumbling man.

“I’m an American!” he shouted. “I’m a fucking American! Fuck you! Fuck you!”

The man stood up, Gaz staggered backward. The moment teetered on the edge of insanity. The kitchen staff pulled him away and took him to the front door. I hurried after him.

“Here, here,” I said, calling to our waitress. I put all the money I had on the table. I ran to the door with Gaz, where he stood detained by two of the staff members. They were stern but not excessive, and within ten minutes he had calmed. Still shaken, the two employees tried to talk him down. One of the guys had offered him a cigarette, which he took. I’d never seen him smoke.

“I was wrong, Brandon,” he said. “I cried for the metal.”

4 We stayed together for the rest of the summer. Sgarlat was letting him work from his laptop. We had fun together, a lot of fun. The drive to Ithaca was longer than I thought it’d be, and the campus more beautiful than the pictures had prepared me for. Gaz was overjoyed that I had been accepted, telling me that if he could buy a new life somehow, he’d stay there with me and finally teach me how to write.

We spent the first night at the Robert Purcell Community center for a get together of the starting freshman class. I got to meet to some of my professors. Everyone was lovely, accommodating to not only myself but to Gaz as well. We didn’t stay long after I shook hands with all the people I felt that I should shake hands with. I got the feeling that the smattering of voices, all in inaduible but loud conversation was a bit jarring to him, after what happened at Mesa Coyoacan, so we left, out into the open air, into the comfort of silence.

We turned off Jessup Rd leaving the Community Center and walked toward the Golf Course, stopping just shy of the sign where we stopped and asked an older looking student how to find the Mundy Wildflower Gardens. He walked with us as far as the bridge from Forest Home to Judd Falls Rd, and leaving us at the Wildflower Garden, he said a cordial goodbye.

That was his favorite moment, I think, of the entire trip, seeing the Wildflower Gardens. I got some flowers for him while he was preoccupied with a giant orchid flower. I had picked a single flower from each species after he wondered aloud if we were allowed to take any. I planned to give them to him when he left the morning after. We didn’t stay too long, hoping to see as much as possible before our strange trip together had to come to an end. We found our way with a little help back onto Judd Falls Road, then headed for Werly Island, to see Beebe Lake.

We weren’t the only ones along the similar path; as the Gardens and the roads between had been sparse, there were many, many students camped out around the lake.

“Hurry!” he said. “Let’s talk to those ladies.”

We hurried after them and when we finally caught up Gaz said:

“Good afternoon!”

“Hello,” I said. “Mind if we walk with you?”

“Not at all,” said the brunette. Both were sweating, hair pulled back in a bun and wearing wind-breakers. “Are you a freshman?” the blond girl asked. Her name was Jennifer. Her slightly taller, more earnest friend was named Vanessa.

“How can you tell?”

“Because you’re polite,” Vanessa said. They laughed together and we laughed too.

“My friend Gaz here,” I said, “he told me this lake was magic. It’s not as silly as it sounds…”

“Let’s hear it then,” Vanessa said. They kept walking and we kept pace as best as we could.

“Well the legend goes that if you walk around the lake with a friend or with a girlfriend or a boyfriend, it sounds silly, I know! I know! But I thought if we walked together, maybe it’d come true, and we’d always be friends.”

And we were, Jennifer and Vanessa and I. I knew them all the way through graduation. And I friends with Gaz for the rest of his life.

5

His last night with me Gaz got to stay in my door with me. I was sitting at a desk looking through a list of books I’d need. Gaz had the news on again. One channel after another, news and violence, opinions about violence in the news: also featuring violence. Then he saw that tape. You know the one – one of the tapes posted to the Al Jazeera news agency in Qatar, an old VHS video tape that would leak onto the internet, onto smut sites, gore porn like Rotten.com and Ogrish, the digital faces of death. I watched them, how could you not? You know it’s going to hurt you – if you’re not a fucking sociopath – but you feel the need, at least I did, I didn’t watch it to enjoy it, but as some way of misguided empathy, to need to suffer for the people who suffered I could have never helped.

A copy of the New York Times was open on the bed beside him, the one that ran the infamous Judith Miller story, as it had been circulating around campus as an effort to discredit the push for war. I finished the long, long list of books I’d need and sat beside him in the dim light of a small lamp I’d bought the day before, the dim light of the flickering TV. I finally fell asleep sometime after midnight, somehow keeping my spirits up in spite of the deluge of horror coming from the small TV set.

Some time in the early morning he woke me up with surprising strength.

“Hey,” he said. “Brandon? Are you awake?”

“Dude, I’m fucking awake now cause you woke me up!”

“I’m sorry!”

“It’s fine,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

We both had a laugh together. I

“Have you ever heard of Saudi Arabia?” he slurred.

“Dude,” I said. “You woke me up for that shit?”

“Okay, okay,” he said. “I’m sure you’ve heard of Saudi Arabia. You’ve seen Aladdin. Read the Arabian Nights. What do you think about when you think of Saudi Arabia?” was born in Saudi Arabia. Do you know where that is? Don’t look at me like that! I’m kidding!”

I laughed: the most casual way to admit ignorance without actually admitting ignorance.

“But you know, smart as you are–and I don’t hold this against you! I was born in Seqaren. Most Americans, when they think of Saudi Arabia, you think of Deserts and Lawrence of Arabia. and camels. The camels, ah! The camels aren’t even indigenous! We import them! And that’s where those people were from. And any country with that kind of … But they weren’t from my home. There’s something about home that doesn’t change. What do you call it? A characteristic of a place, something that speaks to you when you see it? It’s not a landmark, it’s something in the blood… And it can’t be taken from you. It’s printed on you, understand? Yes, there are deserts in Saudi Arabia and there are camels in those deserts, but in Saqeren – where I was born, what a beautiful place! And there are waterfalls and granite walls, roads carved into the sides of mountains

“There was a waterfall not fall from my house, where I grew up, nothing fancy, nothing chic, nothing modern. The waterfall started as a little stream high up on the hill, a large drop off and at the bottom is a small, a tiny, tiny pool of water. I never seen the top. It might not have perfectly clean but we thought it was safe to swim, to cool off, to have fun. We were children. Where… wait, I have a point. I… Fuck, Brandon. It was a sewer and I miss it! Maybe I miss the memory, the happiness of being a kid. How quickly does it end, childhood. Maybe the memory is not real, and just a dream I want to have happened so it won’t be gone.”

“Well, tell me about your last day there… In … Sekaren?”

I was either right or he was too kind to call me stupid.

“I was the youngest in my family… My sister was the oldest Anahita, Hiti… I was not close to her. So pretty, I wish I could see her again. She ran away when she turned eighteen and we never saw her again. She didn’t get along with dad. But I had two brothers, and I loved them! Of course I did… But my oldest brother, what an ass! Kohinoor, so fucking stubborn. You know? He always talked down to me and my other brother Kaveh, who was fourteen. But he looked up to Kohinoor. That’s my oldest brother. He wanted to play hero, too, but in games, with toys, make believe! Kohinoor believed in fighting, but no one in our family would support that madness! He was confused, he was mad at the world and wanted to fight for something. These people are not born monsters. Maybe he just wanted to fight, for his country or his religion. He had gotten in trouble a lot with the local military, the police had been taken away and replaced. We never saw them again…”

“Gaz…”

“Gazsi’s not my name! Just some vaguely ethic nickname. We have Roberts and Georges and Micahs. Even Todds and Tuckers yes speaking Persia, you think they want to use a Kalashnikov? They want to go to Starbucks and see Tarantino films.. But these kids will die, thousands of them, no one will print a word. Only leaders of monsters, figure-heads, that brainwash children into being fodder for dispassionate carpet bombing which, it’s just a fucking button issue here, anger! I’m not angry, at that fucking phony in his camo he risks nothing! Nothing! But he was born better so he’s entitled to fucking judgment!”

“Okay, okay, relax. It’s fine, it’s fine. It’s all right, man. If I fail, you know, getting in here was pointless.”

“And you look at me like that. Yes, Ivy League, how modern and cultured, and you’ll sit in those classrooms and pretend you care until refugees start pouring out and then that Statue of Liberty doesn’t apply. Being born is no crime! I’m not a barbarian! Those police officers, they weren’t cavemen! But it’s on the news, so they’re cavemen now. They weren’t fools or barbarians they were regular fucking people with families and just regular fucking people. Ah! And they just disappeared. Pop, pop, pop in the dark. Like blowing bubbles. We got those little plastic toys, a little stick with a hoop on the end. We dipped it in gasoline and blew through it and they’d float for a while pretty in the sun and pop! Haha! Pop, pop, pop. They disappeared, and everybody was angry. Who wouldn’t be? The problem was, they had to be mad, and they had to be mad at something.

“What makes you angry when your enemy is the dark? Not in the dark, but dark itself, no way to fight it without becoming a part of. No one knew who to fight, but they wanted to, they needed to. Just because they were being hurt. So they tore each other to pieces. When you brutalize a people, when you handle them like beasts and monsters, you don’t make angels of them, you don’t reform them. They become monsters or they become ghosts and there is no other choice except to run and hope that someone here, this country I love, won’t hold you accountable for the sins of your father, or your people, or your culture. I ran. That’s what I did. That’s what the smart people did. From my family… Both my brothers, they were kids. They never grew up. Kaveh became a ghost, not an angel, and Kohimoor, he became a monster first and then a ghost. Ghosts are real. Some are kind, those that died in their sleep. But some, like those people in those buildings, those are angry ghosts. And what can I do? I don’t know who to fight, but I want to fight. I need to fight, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to be a ghost, not like my brother. I want to be the kind of ghost that sleeps. And they changed names all the time, easy, yes? Blow up a factory churning out erasers, you get a promotion!”

“I’m not condemning you, you know. But I’d shout at me too if I thought it’d help. Just don’t … your inhaler is in the fucking Jansport, dude. Okay, sit, sit down. I’m listening. Okay! I’m not going to try to write about this later, no. Dude, that dude doesn’t know shit. Those people outside, Gale? The guy who gave you a cigarette? He didn’t smoke either, but he carries those in case people get riled up and try to start shit with somebody else. I hate it… I don’t, no, I wouldn’t imagine it being only sand and ash and…”

“The last day in Seqaren I do remember, and it’s real, and I know it’s real, and that is why I prefer the dream. I was walking down the hill towards the pond at the bottom and there were children already in. The little pool was always dirty, but that day was as dirty as I’d ever seen it. I thought that someone had spilled paint into the water, but I got in anyway. I stood on the edge of the little pool on sharp little rocks, cutting my feet and the glass from broken bottles it stuck to the bottom of my feet like little oblong needles. I saw my younger brother coming down the hillside in a hurry, chasing a ball but fell and slid dust coming up behind him and down, he hits the sheer cliff, the drop off where the water comes…

“Once he hit the incline and started running I couldn’t tell if he was crazy with happiness or with madness or with fear, but I was a child. I was afraid, and ducked underneath the black in the water. He ran and ran and ran finally I saw… My brother Kohin was chasing him and he had a gun. I thought that it was some stupid game until my brother Kaveh grabbed me and pulled me into the water and jumped in, with all his clothes on taking me down from behind and grabbing my nostrils. That’s what scared me! He had his clothes all wet and I knew mother would be very angry with him. And my father…

“I struggled to stay above water, but Kaveh tried to hold me under, and I thought it was my brother again, and Raveh was scared. Maybe he’s horsing around? Then I saw the group of men behind Kohin, all dressed in black, and the… Ha! It’s… it’s god damn, god fucking damn. God dammit! Have you ever heard a gun being fired? There were dozens of shots at once, rippling, and it just tore Kohim apart, tore him to fucking pieces. Metal doesn’t bleed, nothing like that, when you get hit you’re just a mix of blood and water and flammable. And they followed him to the edge of the water. He crawled across the glass towards the water, towards where I was hiding with Kaveh, and he held his eyes widened with surprise as he saw my little head bob up and gasp for air breathing oil; there had been an oil spill in the water, no paint! and because the little pool was between two high cliffs, the shadows had kept us safe until the surface caught fire.

“And that’s when he saw me, the people were shouting at him in Urdu and he looked at me all concerned and he stopped running and he stopped crawling and the water was boiling in my eyes but I was covered by the oil in the shadow watching as he knelt, hands behind his head interlocked. He stopped trying to get away, and he just closed his eyes and lay there. I froze there unable to move, as the muffled sound of the Kalashnikov rang out dead and muffled the water distorting it. He tumbled over, same stupid smile he was dead or pretending I had no idea I didn’t know I don’t I fucking I was … I was a child! And the men came up, all I saw were there eyes and those guns, and whether he was dead when he stopped crawling, he was ten feet or so away from us. They shot him in the head. One of those men in black, I guess he was the leader and he pointed at the water and I grabbed my nostrils and dove deep into the black underneath the fire white now blanketing the surface, their muffled shouting and gunshots. Urdu, I spoke Persian. I don’t know who he was. I just saw his eyes, the bottom of his face when he pulled that mask up when he took out that gun, that little bitty pistol and shot Kohin in the head. He just shot him again, shooting a corpse. What kind of madness must be bred to have one man shoot another knowing he’s dead? He’s just wasting bullets, still angry, killing a corpse without remorse or pity or anything. Then he just went through his pockets, took some of his bullets, took his gun, and walked over to one of the other men in black and came back with a burning sock in one hand and a white paper cup in the other. That gasoline taste was in my mouth, and so he held my nose. Then he dropped the sock on my brother and whoosh! He goes up in flames. They pushed him into the water but he kept burning … turning into soot, not ash, the gasoline in my eyes between bubbles.

“I guess they were content that he was dead by then, I took a pull from the last of my air and closed my eyes and thought, I’ve never known or believed in the customs of my people but I begged that wherever I went when I left that place was not more fire and with effort, men in camo uniforms pulled me out of the pool and flung me onto the surface and started breathing into my mouth. Two of the other men came over and with a little effort they flung him into the pool. He was dead and another body was just something they couldn’t carry, molting like that, like shedding skin, pealing away with the fabric of his t-shirt each layer of skin. And something… It shocked them as much as me and Kaveh looking through gas, and that finally scared them, when the water had caught fire. It’s … They ran off, back up the hill, and Kaveh held me there, trying to protect me. That’s where I got these pimples. I know, I know. And somehow, wet, we kept burning, deep down in us, and breathing in each breath was pure fire filling your lungs. It could have been forever, and it died out, finally. I don’t remember the rest so well.

“I remember mama coming for me, and her sobbing. My brother wouldn’t leave Kohin, but we left anyway. We left without him. We got into the back of a truck and waited. I think we were waiting for papa. I don’t remember his name, he changed it a lot. If one side didn’t kill him the other one and the cleanup crew didn’t notice the differences in the eyes o face or those wrinkles in a man’s forehead that say so much or the sadness for a mother having to leave without him. Mother called him Mashe. I don’t know if that was his name. We waited until we couldn’t anymore and besides, the truck was too full anyway. Had he made it, we’d have had to tell him he couldn’t leave. Haha! I just realized: they were waiting on him before they left, not to take him with us, but to apologize!

“He was probably somewhere with a gun or in a ditch, being noble, fighting the cause, while we left down a long long road, people were stacked on top of each other, kids stacked like piles of folded pants. We drove through the night and into the next afternoon. We met an American there and his wife and his two kids, and the truck driver told us that we would have to learn our new names, and began passing out Egyptian visas. I didn’t know what they were, I just remember staring down at the face of a kid who looked like me, and was about my age. I memorized his birthday and his name. I don’t even know my real birthday, Brandon. So I never know when to celebrate.”

There was a long, silly silence.

“Let’s say today is your birthday, then,” I said. “You can have those flowers from the atrium, and take them with you if you go back.”

“You know,” he said, “I can’t go back, unless they make me. Where I must fight or be a monster, one side or another, a monster or collateral I’ll end up a ghost like my brother, forgotten in all the confusion of just another afternoon.”

“Who’s going to teach me to write, if you leave, Gaz?” I asked. “Being practical, you won’t have time to edit my stories if you die.”

He laughed, the vitreous humor crusting in his eyes with embarrassment. He wiped it away.

“I’ll haunt your Word processor, and leave you notes here and there. We’ll develop that talent someday.”

“I knew I could rely on you.”

He smiled.

“Thanks, Brandon.”

I smiled. I didn’t know what to say. Thinking back to it now, I wish I could have comforted him, even if I had to lie. He kept on drinking. And so did I. The television was still blaring news, the same sort that had dominated the airwaves. Finally I turned it back to the Satellite standard music station. He hadn’t lost his composure, not completely, and he hummed some little song. Well, I’m not sure it was a song, as I didn’t know the language. I butted in.

“Have you ever heard Anna Moffat sing?” I asked. “Madame Butterfly? I have to pretend to be cultured now.”

He shuffled through his mp3 player and put on a piece of music. The instrument was an arrabab, I think. I didn’t know what it was, but it was beautiful and serene, and I thought if they could import camels, maybe they could import a waterfall and make an atrium, and plant one for everybody they can’t account for. I wanted to help, or be consoling, or confer in him something personal, or say something wise and meaningful. Sometimes silence is the best consolation.

He had shaken it off somehow by the time he started packing. Or appeared to do so, regaining a measure of his composure, he was smiling and laughing. Maybe it was for my sake. I had tears welling up in my eyes. He thumbed the salty tasting smears off the corner of my mouth, then took a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wiped the tears away. His expression changed when he saw the hurt in my eyes.

“Hey,” he said. “Laylah’tov, you Brat.”

“Lilah tov, you asshole.”

And he was fast asleep.


well.”

AN AFTERWARD BY THE AUTHOR.

Denouement 

I woke the next morning and he was gone. All his things, his assortment of flowers. I wondered if he’d make it into that peaceful age and have a garden, a home and a wife, something worth being peaceful for, for his daffodils and daisies and orchids, a laminated lotus flower in my notebook on top of a list of books for class:

Brandon,

Because it is fiction does not mean it must be dishonest. If a story is to be based on truth, be truthful to its spirit, and never negligent of your characters, especially those who matter. Remember what Josh said: when you wonder, you imagine; when you wander, you seek. Other than that it has been an honor, not just to have to read your work, which I will think myself fortunate for having done so, but for having you there with me, in the subway, with everybody there. I knew you were standing behind me, tall, and though you are a coward, truly! nature, 6’7″ — you must think of her as kind.

I hope to leave you with the best part of myself, while I can, Azir.

I still can hear him, even now. 16 years on, the minor things, the soft words between people that is shared, briefly, and dissolves into a moment shared. A memory, and it intermingles with the buzzard cutting through the dunes, tires bounding along mudslicks, gravel roads afire and constant gunfire. I see him in every report, from Afghanistan to Afghanistan’s 20th anniversary, until the men who wished to flee fell to their death after losing grip of the plane. Three men, each of them Gaszi, but themselves as unknowable to me, all their silent, soft moments and memories are taken from them in their desperation to hold on.

I went to Iran and wandered the streets, walked by Yeriko and Yemen, took a right and straight on into the sun. And there he was. Fire in the oasis of water, a djinn with a sense of duty. A genie, no; the memory is enough, though as the sun to the moon, as the naked flame to the candle wick, a taper light and for all that dark; let this add if it can to the fire, and let it be in memorial of the spaces between us, where the lost and disillusion walked, following ghosts or grabbing at air and hoping it catches them when they fall. If a genie appeared I’d give away two of the wishes and pocket the third, and send him after my enemies. Gazsi became metamorphosed into fire, for me, as a living silent being that breathed and reached and suffocated, collapsed into dust. In my darkest days I sat by the kerosene heter soaked in sweat with second degree burns on face and my eyes unblinking and wide it is whole he’s alive.

Burn this that he might read it,
and goodnight.

The Ballerina’s Rose – an elegy – Poem

In loving memory of Garrick Bledsoe and Kayla Stephens, friends for whom this elegy was written.

The Ballerina’s Rose

1

What could have been a happy life,
blinked out in the dark last night.
In doing so it took the sun,
and robbed us of the light.
What is left is a reflection,
Sunlight fractured no direction.
To feel this way, that’s what we do;
To live and to love is to love and to lose.

2

What should have been a normal life,
happy husband, happy wife,
blinked out like a firefly.
Now those toys those kids adored,
will gather dust lost on the floor.
No more of those who were so close,
They’ve left the world, and leaving us,
have turned what we thought bright to dust.

3

What should be yet never is,
is something very serious;
It makes you think would may have been,
what should have been can never be;
It’s all just like the falling dream.
Where we fall from no one knows,
And when we land, we die to go—
To wake and look that we may see
the silent room – Eternity.
Why wrestle when one’s widow walks,
The story’s over, they are gone;
They left this world, but left a girl,
and while we wait alone,
for the never breaking dawn—
Let’s sing the Ballerina Song.

4

The light that so shines twice as bright,
may shine for half as long.
We shouldn’t wait until they’re late,
to put them on a throne.
What have we then? These hymns,
and songs?
Echoes fading long and drawn,
are not the croonings of a bird,
it’s simply what cannot be heard,
except by canyons, by the Earth–
Where we all will be interred.

5

Memories when written down,
Spring to life as magic somehow.
Although that future’s road is closed,
we still know how to see them so
within this pen they live again;
We’re ruled by cause and consequence—
Where are they now?
They’ve closed the lid,
with a rose she’ll never hold.
She died in darkness in the road.
Nor smell the scent,
will we again,
or hear the laughter in the den.
And we the family and friends,
wonder what there could have been.

6

Driving wild, hair in the wind,
Death was waiting round the bend,
not as a villain, but a friend—
The war for them came to an end;
Death is real, and life pretend.
It doesn’t matter how it ends, or ‘if,’-it will;
It’s over now, just stems and sticks,
Driftwood floating twenty-six,
Twenty six, too young to fall—
What have we left, our hymns,
our songs?
We have the Ballerina’s Song,
It is, ‘The Never Breaking Dawn.’

7

To live is but to write your name
in disappearing ink;
To watch it fade like footprints,
on a wave-tormented beach.
A seed we all fall from some tree,
And from us fall the Autumn leaves,
as dandelions in the wind,
we blow them and they scatter, then
they go away somewhere to grow.
How they begin, how they will end—
Appreciate your family, and friends,
you’ll never know when it will end.

1

They say we should not cry, nor mourn,
for those we lost walk with the lord;
We will see them all again,
and we will see them soon.
A band-aid for a gunshot wound,
that never stops, and bleeds,
it bleeds and seeps into our dreams.
And in those dreams we sometimes see,
them smiling by a silent stream.

2

It might sound odd, but this is true,
when you see them in a dream,
they are looking back at you;
They float around inside our heads,
and wake us wailing in our beds.
And while they’re trapped inside our mind,
we make for them a paradise.
Golden spires, velvet streams,
and for them the Siren’s sing.

3

These images, these scenes, our things,
where ghostly walk they through our dreams—
We cry, we pray, what can we do?
Death came for them; it comes for you.
They may be there, and looking down,
Wishing that we would not frown,
life is only what you make it,
and is why it is so sacred;
And if we choose to turn to booze,
we have but memories to lose.

4

They say we should we should not cry, nor mourn,
for loved one’s lost walk with the lord;
Even if that was the truth,
not a belief, something we knew—
We’d still weep, that’s what we do.
And if they’re in a better place,
I’d trade my life and take their place,
To see their family, their children play—
One more day for them to stay
so we can see them laugh and play,
“I love you” uttered as they fade.

5

I see them all in silent rows,
going out where in they go;
We need to stand there and to cry,
one after another, why?
The funeral was held for us,
For us to say goodbye.
What hurts the worst no one cay say,
it leaves you sleepless in the night,
a waking dream becomes your day;
They may be somewhere else, yet lost,
trapped outside of time, a ghost.
For all the ghosts which haunt us most,
are the ghosts we did not know.

6

When the Red Queen dies, the queen she was,
she’s carried through the crowd by love.
And her mother, my dear friend,
inspired me to take this pen,
to never let them be forgotten.
To show some beauty in this life,
in lowercase under a light,
I think I may have been too late,
to say the things I wished to say.
I’ll save them for her, face to face,
If there’s a heaven and I manage,
to find a way to sneak into that place.

7

To live is but to write your name
in disappearing ink,
to watch it fade like footprints,
on a wave-tormented beach.
From the trees we fell as seeds,
rooted rose and sprouted leaves,
to die and scatter with the breeze;
dandelion puffs caught in the wind,
we know where they start,
and where they may begin.
with no idea how they will end.

1

Dying flowers, rhetoric,
that is what the preachers said.
That this will not be the end.
That may be, but look, you see—
They have left us, that’s enough
for anyone to grieve.
Wherever they may really go,
she is leaving us, and so,
that is itself enough to mourn,
as shadows lengthen in the morn,
children of the light forlorn,
turn to the night so that it might,
halt a never breaking dawn.

2

We need to hurt,
we need to cry;
This is how we say goodbye.
All we know is what they took,
the pages from some future book,
of events yet to unfold.
And when she died, I went outside,
And wistful looked at a blank sky.
Now we’re chasing yesterdays;
our photographs become our graves.

3

What have we left to let us know,
they see no blue moon no sun yellow,
we have our anecdotes and jokes,
none of which replace them though.
The crazy angel, free and wild,
the wild angel cannot call,
to a never breaking dawn,
but they can dance by happen chance
In my Ballerina Song.

4

To cope sometimes we’ll have some wine,
to wash away our fears, our tears,
these photographs are ghosts arranged,
after they’ve gone in lacquered frames;
we sometimes talk to them in vain.
Silence the answer is the same—
A picture does not know its name.
As was the sun when she passed on,
time itself must carry on.
It takes the rich, the poor, the weak,
the strong;
We’re not really living,
we’ve been dying all along.
And most of us are doing it wrong.

5

The scenes in dreams of golden rings
all of them lost, no longer seem,
quite bright as they used to be;
That spark inside when it divides,
and disappears—the body dies;
it separates then dissipates,
and rejoins the circling sky
to ever go around us by.
Write a note,
set it on fire;
when it fades it just may find her.

6

No more will I see her there,
by the water, tasseled hair,
no more playing truth or dare.
Spin the bottle, there it is—
My first kiss, we were but kids,
and that I doubt I could forget.
Though sometimes I wish I could,
so I didn’t feel this way.
If I could change it, I’m sure I would,
all day every day.
If I could have one moment delayed,
the future would change in so many ways,
it’s possible she could’ve be saved.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
dissipates once more to go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see the ballerina pass,
and what a show;
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
she does her number, strikes a pose,
then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the curtain, in her robe,
the dancer does not see the rose.

1

To see such easy comfort cold,
sitting in a pew, we’re told—
Everything will be okay,
don’t worry, doubt, just wish, just pray.
But the one of whom they speak about,
fill empty seats within the house.
That quiet church, that sad music,
it is designed to make you lose it.
A variety of colored flowers,
decoration for a higher power.
The reason for the obsequy,
their reason to be loud,
was not a witness in that crowd.

2

In that quiet church, that silent scene,
I saw faces smiling on a screen.
Her penultimate place to rest, the flowers,
from the family and friends around her.
Then the music came so loud,
startling the yawning crowd.
The sympathy, the empathy,
and chasing you is misery.
The misery will never stop.
It chases you until you drop.

3

This is the dash between the dates,
these are the words and not the dots,
that they chisel into rock;
an angel sleeps just underneath,
With multicolored flowers, bold—
Plucked in bloom, like her, and cold,
and once picked the beauty fades;
The dying decorate the grave.

4

I’m just a poet you may notice,
that these words are just my roses.
Every verse is not a hearse,
I’m not here to make a grave;
it is a bridge, it is a wake;
If you look between the lines,
you may see familiar eyes;
A lost friend smile, a lost friend wave.
When they died I did not cry,
I thought it was a dream, a lie,
For her to die at twenty-six,
and him to die and leave his kid—
We’re ruled by cause and consequence.
The blood, the color, that rose red pose,
around her pooled her dead eyes closed—
The violence comes, the violence goes,
What has a dancer but a rose?

5

Upon that grave, that stain of Cain,
became a promise to fulfill;
that salvation for the thief was real.
So there they lay, for all of time,
no one can take it back, there is no Why;
That’s just a philosophical alibi,
that we use to justify—
Why nature’s cruel, why life is wild;
Why gift us life if we must die?
But it was true, and it was so:
There’s nothing that can change the past,
no–not even hope;
That’s why Pandora’s box was closed.
For the ghost that haunts us most,
is a ghost we did not know.

6

Life isn’t fair, nor should we dare,
assume some outside purpose there;
to comfort people with their fear—
There’s no edifice to settle this,
it’s all just cause and consequence.
That doesn’t mean it has no reason,
When we can’t come to terms, we burn,
but when we burn is when we learn.
Some are so bright that like stars,
as we see them burning from afar—
For even if it’s dead, and dust,
it shines in heaven high above.
Because of the speed of light,
all those stars that seem so bright,
may long ago have dimmed and died,
washed away with the time, the tide.
And out it goes into the night,
to leave us waiting and forsaken,
by a dawn that’s never breaking.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
dissipates once more to go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see the ballerina pass,
and what a show;
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
she does her number, strikes a pose,
then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the curtain, in her robe,
the dancer cannot see the rose.

1

Destiny weaves spider-webs;
the waters comes, the waters ebb.
I guess it’s nature, so they say.
They measure time, and measure days;
Morning coming, Autumn eve,
I will recreate the scene:
Two young adults, if more, not much,
where lost in that moment such
that it repeated many times;
For when our life, it flashes by,
you return to the moment when you died,
so when you die you may, you might,
get caught in a cycle reliving your life.

2

This is how we see the morning,
how we see the sky,
Another day, the new sun rise,
and hear the mockingbirds go by.
When the unseen sunrise comes,
the people stand in silence, dumb;
And listen to that silent drum,
the one we’re always marching to.
We all take different roads,
to the same place in the end–
forever reliving our visions again.

3

It will repeat, we’ll go to see,
our sleepless loved ones quiet at peace;
Destiny weaves spider-webs,
people cross and intersect;
this is the way that we connect.
All the choices in our lives,
to alleys lone and those alive,
to alleys where the good guys die.
We choose those streets,
we talk and meet;
a brick wall where it all leads.
“No Escape,” is what it reads.

4

To see a girl her life unfurled,
chasing fireflies at night
we ran around with such delight.
She was a dreamer, now a dream,
I came unraveled at the seams;
each patch of quilt only she filled,
cared for me when I was ill,
And thereby, being curred,
to see we live this way – absurd,
forever falling like a bird,
into an invisible world.
To stop, to move, the choice is cruel,
for time will play us for a fool.
For those who went for her, to weep
saw her there at peace, so sweet.
Her cheeks not dim,
her hair well kempt;
And in her hands that dying rose,
we leave it there and therefore buy,
our friend’s bus-pass to paradise.

5

To live is but to write your name
in disappearing ink,
to see it fade like footprints
on a wave-tormented beach.
A seed, we all fell from a tree,
that’s why we have that falling dream;
We’re falling all day, all our life,
And when we hit the ground, Goodbye
As we grow we too have leaves,
which fall to be caught in a breeze—
A dandelion, uncertain wind.
Cup what you have dear in your hands,
For when spring dies they’re gone again.

6

It’s never over and when we’re older,
we’ll hold those pictures of them closer.
And in that moment realize,
long as we love they’re still alive,
not in a grave, that silent place,
in our minds the child still plays,
on trampolines and roller skates
Points in time they intertwine,
they intersect and when we find,
a child who lived and died so wild,
has found their way to Miracle Mile.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
to dissipate to once more go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see it pass, and what a show—
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
She does her number, strikes a pose,
Then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the curtain, in her robe,
the ballerina never gets to hold her rose.

1

To be this sad proves only that,
in the end sleep we as kings;
We have the same things in our room,
reserved for all of us – the tomb.
There is no way to just move on,
when a piece of us has been torn off.
So notice those who live alone,
for all who’ve gone, who must then move,
down into that silent room.

2

I cannot raise them from the grave,
But I’ll preserve them on the page.
And while I think, she’s on the lawn,
her hair brown and braided long,
smiling as she plays, a song—
She hides behind the lines and smiles,
Think with her voice and pass it on,
let it echo till it falls.
The body shed, they’re on their own,
their faces on this page have shown—
That we chase yesterday, we long,
to try to see what can’t be shown,
just close your eyes and there, they’re home;
The body shed, they get to go,
to merge with clouds which hover low,
into the sky to fall as snow:
And at the winter’s ending blow,
out of our owns having had to hold,
a China doll does not get old.
The person who you love is gone,
but we must hold this vigil long.

3

We whisper to the dark, the night,
just in case some spirit might
in that silence hear our plea,
and wait for us to fall asleep
crawl into our ears, our dreams—
Only to leave when morning comes
they disappear and we go numb.
What we expect, the light, bird song—
Is in the never breaking dawn.

4

To see them so alive in dreams,
makes it hard for us to bring
ourselves to get up, out of bed,
to walk around the house half-dead.
We wish to live that sleeping lie,
to whom we give these blessings to,
it never seems enough to do.
“I’m sorry,” or, “I’m here for you,”
are band-aids made for gunshot wounds;
This is the cure, this is the truth;
at first it burns but then it soothes.
To bring them comfort, give them calm,
show the blind the rising sun.

5

Those faces past don’t seem to last,
although we hold on fade they fast—
Until we get to see, alas,
that life is more than just a dash,
between two dates under the rain.
No need to call out to the deaf,
or interrupt that sleep of death,
where neatly dressed they peaceful rest.
Always scared and ill-prepared,
we’ll meet them at the cross-roads there;
And in the self-same way,
for disconnected moments often,
intersect like fate.

6

Life is not the words, nor dash;
Life is different, life is mad.
When intersecting lines are crossed,
names can be stricken out, and loss
cripples both the weak, the strong.
You can’t go back,
you can’t move on.
You wait for dawn—which never breaks.
For those who sleep so sweet a sleep,
have never yet been known to wake.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
to dissipate to once more go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see it pass, and what a show—
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
She does her number, strikes a pose,
Then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the curtain, in her robe,
the ballerina was the rose.

1

To scream at one who hears you not,
who long ago this woe forgot—
For innocence is what has died,
the child in us, the Lord of Lies,
tells us all will be alright;
we all return to Earth, interred.
To be fossilized, conserved;
We cannot walk between these worlds,
is it okay for me to say
that I intend to haunt this page?
It might not serve to help you by,
but if you look close,
between the lines,
You just may see a pair of eyes,
familiar—watching as you cry.
And if these mazes endure ages,
they’ll live forever in these pages.

2

I say these things that haunt our dreams,
so we may make new memories.
Memories to help us sleep,
to keep us from choking when we scream.
That I might become a guide,
to help you guide a wounded mind,
where they’re alive outside of time,
where she smiles, and, still alive,
though to our mortal grief not bound—
Untouched by the accident,
resurrected, heaven-sent.
There is no place where she could go,
that could lessen sorrow, so,
Unless it was to come back home,
not to lay beneath the stone,
so cold, so long, forever, alone;
for they will never see the dawn.

3

That stone we fear that year by year
Draws ever near and in our fear
we see it clear;
we try to run, and blindly, dumb,
stumble through life, drunken bums.
Lost in a daze for on that day,
I had nothing left to say—
To decorate a grave this way,
that beauty may somehow assuage,
so learning of it in the night,
I found my pen, turned out the light,
There I lay, I closed my eyes,
and saw her waving to me, Bye.
Then I saw her going by,
in a car into the night,
and night is all she may see now;
we cannot speak; we don’t know how,
to see the dew glow on the lawn,
of the never breaking dawn.
Such few years between them both,
and as such were not enough;
Somehow that sweet girl might have found,
someone to turn her life around.
Someone to be kind, and be nice,
to smile and talk with her at night;
And now they’re gone, and we all know
such sorrow when we see them go.

4

One moment there, one blink, they’re gone,
we’re on that very path alone;
marching to the banging of a madman
on a drum;
Time calls us weary wand’rers home.
The next dawn died when that moon rise
unseen by two pairs of eyes,
their essence having faded to the background of the sky,
to forever go around us by.
Out of this there is no sense,
to take the young, the innocent;
Through all of this, this I have learned;
get too close and you will burn.
But that scar is not a mark
I’d have the heart to pick apart,
I’d wear it just to keep the pain,
for losing it would be a shame.
The sun suspended in the sky,
presses the night against our eyes.
It is when you can’t move on,
that you understand a never breaking dawn.

5

Life is too short and we all know it,
we cannot keep alive one moment,
in a glass that it may last,
a present always, never past:
Think of her face, think of his laugh:
And they may appear,
look harder and the faces clear.
Sitting on a couch she was,
beside a light where motes of dust,
ricocheted away in chaos just as us all day,
No one knows what could have been,
we know what cannot be.
In this case,
today they may
be safe–alive–inside page,
Tomorrow is not guaranteed;
anything that may have happened,
was killed by that action, fractured—
And for this there is no answer,
Life is painful, life is rare,
to think about her lying there,
pulls my heart into my throat.
I lose my mind, I lose my hope,
We look for comfort and for peace,
but no belief can stomp out grief.
This band-aid on that gunshot wound,
will always sting, they always do,
it’s hard to breathe, and still we bleed;
maybe this is what we need.

6

Nothing would be better
if our friends could live forever.
To never age or fade away;
all the graves could be replaced,
and turned into a happy place,
garden groves, where children play—
Where someone may just wish to stay.
We’ve seen it coming all along;
Death comes too soon, and stays too long,
and when he comes he takes it all;
But I’ve been wrong, and all along,
they’re living here inside the song.
To lead us to the golden dawn,
where days unending never fall;
It won’t go down,
there are no clouds;
the light has struck the surface now.
The nighttime came and now it’s gone,
the sun comes up and breaks the dawn.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
to dissipate to once more go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see it pass, and what a show—
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
She does her number, strikes a pose,
Then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the writer and the prose,
this is the Ballerina’s Rose.

Improvising poetry, just for fun – 5 june 2019 – A Stranger’s Land

When the army’s came and took the North,
Yisrael fell first and things got worse;
Deported to Babel, in long caravans,
From the Hejaz to Iraq on scalding grains of sand;
The cream of the crop was taken and dropped
into a kingdom just to stop
A movement to replace their throne,
a king of their own who feared the Lord,
not some cretin with protection,
Under an empire’s wing, there’s plenty of room
for shade, for all,
to wither away with each custom, each Law,
until it is a story, then,
told b campfires now and then,
until the Exiled ones return;

As they set off in the night,
the caravan was lit up by the light
As God’s own house burned to the ground,
a book to praise the fires formed;
For if God is the Word and the Word was inscribed,
by fingers of fire on stone from the skies,
the Laws of Moses were inscribed.
When the stone cooled there emerged,
in the whirlwind unperturbed
proof a penatent voice is always heard,
if prophets less;
As people marched from Canaan on,
Nebudchenezzar from his throne,
Like Marduk’s rage to raze their homes.

A generation passed and some forgot,
the language of their home and thought,
it may have just been one of those tales,
an excuse for children for the pain life entails;
But haMashiokh King Koresh,
Anointed of the Lord, no less,
decreed that those who there remained
might return to their homes again.
And beneath the sky where stood
Solomon’s temple now, though bare,
as a mirage danced on the air –
it was as though a tiny hole had slipped into the world,
and looking through the eyes which saw
burnt into the land of all a new covenant and law.
The temple, yes, it would arise
from the ashes phoenix like
Vyohmer Elohim (so said the Lord)
And on he went, thus “yehi ohr”
And God said let there be light,
Vehi ohr, and the light returned –
Hallelujah, Adonai,
May your lost children learn,
To understand thy silence and not
seek out such words.

Where the plot had been marked out,
the measurements and workmen found;
They’d give their Lord a chariot
a merkebah with flames, a jet,
that he could leave his solemn home,
Escape the holiest place to Roam,
to hear his people sing their songs
by the rivers of Babylon.

Oh! How can we sing for our Lord
In a Stranger’s land?
Oh moon, ye lesser light,
How light you, sometimes are we
In the longest nights while wakeful we toss
And turn and dwell on home, just there,

The rose garden and the vineyards
Bloom in absentia
To remind,
The whole of what we left behind.
Oh moon, you lantern for the lost
Beacon, guiding light that drew Nomads across
The tip of Iffrikiya into Ethiopia; from Nubia to Egypt and Anatolia;
Yerushalem and and the remains of the wall;
That’s the secret, that’s the key;
To stand before the winds and cry, Not me!
If you want me dead world,
You’ll have to kill me;
Obliterate each hint and footprint that told of our of exile,
A group of people all lonely, together but nowhere, silent but buzzing
Busy are the bumblebees that have that work or die for the Queen disease
Though it’s a farce and much to brief,
As Arjuna stood between two massing foes
As some strung bows and others horns
The battle call the blood, fair Morn,
Remind me of Tomorrow and it’s gift,
Is a distorted etch sketch of brief events
The cat in the marketplace, mew, and off,
To those who sang in exile by the Rivers of Babylon

How do we worship the Lord our God without a temple, speak!
His Ark and covenant were plucked beneath the dear Lord’s feet;
And as his temple crashed in flames
He whirled about, a word, a name
A judge and jury, an unending flame,
The holy fire that we’ve seen in the deeds of Elohim
Suggest that more than anything that he,
Thrived on awe and pageantry;
And never seemed to show a care
Of the most righteous whose constant faith,
Was an act of piety and aped;
So we rubbed our hands as insects may have done,
To summon the fire that puts to the pire
The seal of justice for the Cryer.

So the deeds and stories passed,
Treated with gloves and handled like glass
Out of fear that the God who loves,
Would give us no choice and let us be wrong?
Doubt not that God holds all things,
As all are Potencies,
And each effect within the set of space and time
We have
The carptender God can set off and plod
For some long needed repair;
Water oh Lord the fields that are dry,
And give not sight to the blind, not one,
But cure blindless, please let it be.
Give the world the courage to reject the ease of war
Over the challenge of peace;
And kneel knot before thy God unless he’s earned his keep.

So we sing a song of our Lord,
In a foreign land by the stream;
For God doesn’t dwell amid incense or tell,
The alphabet to aunts;
He must have greatly underestimated a bit or all of his creation
When this being who is divine asked us to take on faith despite
The questions formed inside a mind
The Pastor tells me God designed;
But I’ll sing for my people, instead;
For they are not of flame, and yet
They are potencies of God, we must,
See the magic in their touch,
Serve our fellows and in doing so serve God;
That we can be as the Mantis,
Purest in piety;
Who mindless folds his hands to pray
Unaware of the listening being, above
Who breathes life into new worlds
And makes sparrows out of mud.

So shine on us, you borrowed light,
Give comfort to us in the night,
As we skip the rocks along
The reflective rivers of Babylon
Which in their squiggly waving lines
Was disturbed by a hand divine
And draw with skill and dignity
The Sacred City was the lesser
Of that potency;
And if I do not make it past
The bridge to Jannah and am cast
Into the molent seas,
To live as one who does not yield,
Who leaves his share for gleaming ‘ere
And pays the Sacred Tax;
The coin was cold inside the bowl and rattled hollow
And who knows –
Who can? With human reason dare we ask,
What goes beyond the door and room,
With God’s footstool and his broom,
Where there the fire in its lair,
Radiates a sense of life through vibrations into time
A metronome which keeps the track
Of planets as they circle black.

If all is lost and I must die,
I will die praising Adonai.
And if the story was nothing but
Tales of tragedy and the worst of luck,
But amid the cries of those who died
Is the prayer living on,
A shadow that keeps walking though
The interference in appearance suggested the strength of soul;
It takes a ray of light some great great wealth of time,
30,000 years a photon for one ray to arrive
At the surface and once there reaches the Earth 8 minutes later,
And the light is only stopped,
When it accentuates our form
The sunlight came all this way only to be ignored.

A poem for my favorite fictional couple, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

baad9453-477d-4dd2-8863-4396a6691157

A Poem for Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson

“So I deduce,” a start –
“A truce!” I called,
his hands up-held,
“Surely, Sherlock, some stain,
some smell,
has given you unique detail,
and through some voodoo
only you do,
you’ve riddled me out,
you’ve found the clue, indeed!
The moon!
In reflections upon wayward shoes.
But, tell me then, if you’re to read,
My comings and goings and deeds today
“Misdeeds, indeed,” he said, “I’ve seen,
my friend.
I’m afraid you’ve lied to me again.”

“Misdeeds?” I laughed. “But Holmes…”
“You did not lie about the phone?”
“How could you know —
“Not answering – just banging on..”
“I was alone?”
“Because, my friend, I’ve called you, too,
You hate the phones, and more, the booths,
old fashioned aren’t we, stubbornly,
so instead of picking up a phone which rings,
you’d rather with a station’ry,
send a wire to me at Baker St.”

“How would you know I sent a wire?”
“Across the telegraph office,
for several days,
that Bakery has been ablaze,
and that soot, that ash, has put
the smell of smoke upon your boots.
You waited, watching, quite sad, too,
A man of letters, what do you do?
So full of feeling, and  un-tethered,
you left the phone and took the ledger.
A wire you wrote, and for that smell,
does more than your voice to tell,
you stood stiff and bored and thinking,
“Hell!”

“And what if I deduce your day,
Sherlock Holmes, monsieur, surely,
You woke to the ringing clock,
at dawn to listen to the docks,
A tincture first, and coffee, pleasant?
A little needle and brief heaven?
Then full of vigor, what to do?
Call on Mycroft, play the Sleuth?
Not now, for Mycroft has gone sour;
his Pall Mall lodgings dank and foul.
You read the paper, yes you did,
the agony column – scratch the itch;
and as you read that smut each day,
you callous up and draw away,
cocaine for dawn, morphine for day,
so excited by this violence
you’ve decided and invited
me to join you by your fire.”

“Clever, very much so,
The fire’s lit for something, true;
Pray tell me, Doctor, how does one do
what one does when one is you?
How often have you told a lie that through
the Strand did multiply,
and underneath such curious eyes,
You told the truth with utter lies!

“How do you, friend,
With just your pen,
your mind, and paper,
focused in,
And focusing
On this plot point and this plot string,
which seem to in the ether hang,
on each sweet knot we pick to fray;
Yet when to me, if truth be told,
It’s all apparent, boring, old!
And when I’ve caught them,
they may sing.
Of glories, sure, but such misdeeds!
The ones your readers love to read.”

“Let’s take a dogcart to the bridge,
and see who lands at 9;
for Watson this new crook of ours,
Imports much more than wine!
Put down your pen and grab your gun,
The fucking game’s afoot, Watson!”

Poem: One Summer in the Sun (Shakespeare tribute!)

One Summer in the Sun

Sweet lights, sweet candle,
burning far away and slow –
Candle in our music box,
Spotlight upon this cancelled show,
Light each path that in my past
in one form or another torn,
From Yesterday 
Each new day born,
Sweet mother may it glow –
That we sweet orphans
though unimportant
have the fingertips of light to keep us
on that road.

For their summer in the sun,
one yawn before the winter’s breath,
a ring of smoke blown through the gates of nowhere.
And life, the beautiful nothing,
a candle for its own sake lit,
begins to blur and fade,
another song from the record played.
Once so great, and now so small,
now a whisper in the hall.

Once to live, and wonder why,
to rise and fall under the sky.
Summer rises;
summer sets.
One summer in the sun is all we get.
The sun will smile,
and sun will fade;
a single dash, between two dates,
poor written by the hands of fate.

One moment caught inside a bulb,
our destined hour to abide,
with all the living things trapped inside.
Lighting for but a moment,
snow scattered on the desert’s dusty face-
glimmer in the hall and go their way.

One after another, into the sky for miles;
a blind caretaker, with a hammer,
forever walks the aisles.
His calloused feet to scratch path,
to on occasion tap the glass–
releasing light back in the air,
to Saturn’s seat without a care.

Destiny behind the veil will play,
with all the vessels on the waves.
Slaves to the lighthouse, in the rain,
Miss Destiny, the ball and chain;
until she folds, and counts her pay,
and, in silence, walks away.

No more moments from the box to take,
from the fountain by the waste.
Life, brief candle,
one summer in the sun.
Tomorrow and tomorrow,
then there are none.

Life itself, a momentary scream,
amidst the sea of nothing gleamed,
a murmur in the ivy by the well,
one verse in the narrator’s Book of Tales.

The title of our story is,
“One Summer in the Sun,”
Tomorrow and tomorrow,
then they are done.
One chance to bloom,
one chance to shine;
to rise and fall under the sky.

One summer in the sun in winter’s way.
All of those who to the light have went,
when their pocket watch of time is spent,
turn brittle in the air, fall to the ground.
The sun rises.
The sun sets.
A summer in the sun is all we get.

The finish line, same as the start,
oh what a nobody has in his heart.
A thousand roads to nowhere,
lost highways to the sun.
The finish line is the same place,
the human race begun.

And in that race together,
we all finish last;
those faceless watcher’s, in the crowd,
recline their heads and laugh.
Again and again, the cars go in,
desperate circles round and round.
sometimes they brush against each other,
seldom to make a sound.
And blind they pass each other by,
in a tempest tossed around.

Before the blind man, with his hammer,
turns to face your aisle,
laugh with the best of them, and smile.
And this is just graffiti,
scrawled on time’s unending walls,
by no one left for nobody,
a fragment in the stall.
Tangles in the Earth’s coiffure,
for life— a limited time offer.

Another verse, another song,
some sort of old-time sing-along,
of pebbles lost in sand and foam,
who sing alone, and murmur make,
while they their ride on the carousel take.
And then they sleep, once more to dream-
of all the things that flashed by the screen,
patterns in the ivy and their seams,
an arabesque oft told before,
of those who run blind on the shore.
With all of them on their way to see,
the Wizard of Oz for sympathy;
the highway is long, how awful to know–
the door at the end of the road is closed.

Let the hands wind up another,
song for the music box.
And let the shadow shapes around the candle,
play till the melody stops.
By candlelight or dark of night,
their path forever paved;
every second of their life,
the same sad song is played.
Again and again we figurines spin,
a lullaby loud for no one to hear,
turns static into silence, fades,
as dust upon a mirror.

Another poor player, whose hour forgot,
those passionate words on the stage.
Another soliloquy, the sound and the fury,
bit player lines erased.
Characters live; characters lie.
Some do nothing, instead wonder why.
All of them are together lost,
together to laugh and to cry.

Some of them love,
and some of them hate;
some look out, some in.
For a moment fleeting contact made,
another to begin.
There’s no such thing yesterday,
no tomorrow, and no then–
just a now that never ends.

Poem: The Glass Umbrella

We are the footprints by the Sea.
The waters come,
and waters leave.
Miss Sea, you see,
your children taken;
Children of the Sea forsaken.

See me sea Miss Galilee.
Bring back what she took from me;
bring back what you swallowed whole.
The yawning, old,
and wide mouthed urn,
lolled on, but never turned,
her deaf ear,
to me,
to hear,
my confused shouts at her.

Without a word at all to say,
she waves at the night and day.
She rolls about within a dream,
the carousel goes by overhead;
to it she turns her mirrored head.
She simply looks to it, and all,
and we, like leaves,
around her fall.

The beach we leave our footprints on,
The waters come,
and then they’re gone.
We are but footprints by the Sea;
The waves come in,
and then we leave.
Miss Sea, you see,
your children taken.
Children of the Sea forsaken.

Ancient sea, Miss Galilee,
can you see yourself in me?
As I see myself in you,
glowing white, and tinged with blue.
Can’t you see what you have done?
The lolling sea saw none.

II

“I see,” I said, and that was that;
standing at the shore of black.
I hear my own words echo back.
In those waters,
I saw me;
another reflection in the sea.

This was after ten years passed:
I returned, sat in the grass,
thinking of all who walked that shore.
Never did I see her face,
a glass umbrella had replaced,
the girl whom I adored.
My love would walk the shore no more.

But nothing else, and nothing more;
no more of who I once adored.
No more to God could I implore,
or to the umbrella in her stead.
The face of the mourning sun turned
red;
the glass umbrella, from the sea,
rolled ashore and laughed at me.
Then I knew,
and saw it all,
inside the glass umbrella fall.
I saw myself again, alone,
forever by the Sea to roam.

On that day I watched her play,
with birds about the shore.
I heard her laugh and nothing more,
as the Sea,
came and took my love from me.
Buzzards circled overhead,
like nature’s garbage men.
I heard them call,
and heard her laugh,
and felt the kiss of Caiaphas.

III

A finch had washed up in her place,
from the well amid the waste—
who floundered by the Sea,
and then flew on.
The bird fluttered for a moment,
and was gone.

As beautiful as the Sea might be,
her own face she cannot see.
In my dreams, she comes to me,
and sees her picture on the wall.
By my family, and me,
a portrait of Miss Galilee.

As wondrous as she looks, at night,
shimmering with the silver light,
she looks sadder in the dawn.
When the sun shines in her face,
when daylight takes the nighttime’s place—
she yawns again, and sighs.
Children of the Sea walk home.
Deaf, Miss Galilee rolls on.

Earlier in my life, I went,
found a home which I could rent.
I called my child to say:
“Come see me, come see the sea;
we’ll have some lunch,
then get ice cream.
You have to come;
you have to see,
the face of lady Galilee.”

IV

A while we stood,
where lolled the waves,
under a sky where seagulls played;
for her, my world, for once, to see,
the lovely face of Galilee.
From the waters, walked ashore,
played a while,
bonne nuit, amore.
She splashed about the waves, my
child,
and then she splashed no more.

I remember she flew in.
We had some sandwiches, and then,
hand in hand walked with a grin.
She laughed the day away.
She wore a blue dress, made of lace,
and had a smile upon her face.
At night she walks my dreams this
way—
for when she splashed,
that faithful day—
the Sea took her away.
The waters took my living dream,
and left me here to stay.

The Sea looked into me, you see,
and saw what she could take from me;
my dreams could not just let it be.
And when it looked, at me, it saw,
the same thing when it looks at all.

How could she tell us what she sees?
The way she sees all things go ’round,
she speaks in whispers barely sound.
She sees us dance,
and hears us call,
all at once,
but not at all.
The glass umbrella falls.

We are the footprints by the Sea;
the waters come,
and waters leave.
Miss Sea, you see,
your children taken;
Children of the Sea forsaken.

Poem: Another Yesterday

Breathe
Awake
A little stroll
another day’s assembly rolled
Off the line for but a time
And La, de, da it goes.

Sunshine
The quilt of day
Under which the children play
Breathe
A walk
A little talk
It cannot last they say
and our tomorrow will become
another yesterday

Sunshine, the quilt of day,
Under which the flowers lay
Breathing, a walk
Nobody’s talk
It will not last they say.
All tomorrow’s in the end
are our dead yesterdays.

Light in strands bejewel the lawn
The birds red morning’s wake up song
The crickets chirp away
Languid sky the clouds sail by
Around a carousel of why

Laughter, someone’s in the room
Flares through the night like fireflies
Amidst the pearl studded sky
The moon in golden fleeces by
For all lived and nothing die

Flowers in the windows bloom
A sonorous song and cheap perfume
The lilac down the wall
Yesterday the sun was read
Today turned opaque purple dead
Stars look through their narrow holes
In the Heaven by the Foal
Another off the line has rolled
Only to roll again, again,
That stone on the back
we beggar’s call sins

Another yesterday appears
A figure in the future reared
The shadows of tomorrow leer.
Vague shapes silhouettes and gray
To like a doll’s face wither fray
There goes another day,
And one more is gone

How long is the song before,
the sojourn life our last detour
The door creaks shut and
there, alone,
Into our silent catacombs
Our Sleeping Chamber just below
To go
The undiscovered country and the row
Turns nothing day is gone
Back where we beings all call home
Those silent dust filled catacombs
Into that category gone
Jump rope and etch a sketch
And songs
Barbershop quartet sing alone’s
Children’s laughter, rum-tum-tum
Daffodils and bubblegum
The flowers fall under the Sun.

Poem: Living Memory

1
Milo, are you there?
“Hello—“
How have you been old friend?
“You know—“
I saw Diane, again,
“Her ghost?”
Of all the friends that I have lost,
she bothers me the most of all.
“What did you see?”
She waved at me.

2
Through the window,
down the eaves—
She follows me into my dreams.
“She can’t return.”
She never leaves.
“A haunting?”
I guess, possibly.
“What can you do?”
I’ll talk to you.
“God, this feels like déjà vu.”

3
There is no cost to put on loss.
“Life has a price.”
But can’t be bought!
For when one dies,
a sun has set;
We have one life.
“That’s all we get.”
It’s not a lull,
it is a bye.
The sun is swallowed by the night.
To get to live is such a gift.
“It isn’t offered twice.”

4
“Most of you believe the lie,
that life’s in infinite supply.”
Memories are all we have;
“A soul trapped in a photograph.”
Touch her brush, and feel her hair,
“And watch her as she disappears.”
Above she hovers trapped in space,
With a white dress and a glowing face,
“Try to grab her.”
Childish laughter;
She evaporates.
So much I wish I could have told her.
“And now it is too late.”
She’ll live forever on the page.

5

I guess we’re chasing yesterday–
By crisscrossing memory lanes;”
All I think of is her name.
Shelly who I barely knew,
Was as good as me or you;
Giotto’s charity and grace—
“It’s written plainly on her face.”

6

Loss is the name we give to Death,
But we should never use regret.
Nor should we ever so forget,
That’s something we should never do
She lives in me, and lives in you;
“And now upon this paper too.”
A eulogy to me you see—
Are shadows of a slanted beam.

7
Taken young and far too soon,
She died under a paper moon.
I guess I just believed that lie,
That life’s in limitless supply.
“That might sound good.”
It would be nice.
Life is a gift not offered twice.
“The rarest thing—you get to live.”
No words can any comfort give.
She has gone, and hope has flown;
The soul at last has made it home.
Far too many I’ve seen leave
Retired to our memory.

Poem: Necromancy

10 March 2015
Op. 44 (Necromancy)

When reading prose, tall-tales, and poems,
we start not knowing where it’s going,
and yet we know it’s brief.
The beginning, insincerely,
leaves us with just our memories
Guideposts spread among a web
allowing us to find,
the friends we’ve lost,
we’ve left behind
More than childhood, more than time,
A new Sun rises–night expires;
The moving-finger,
fleeing fire–
Trembling, each word looks both ways
then moves onto a newborn page.

That is the madness of our lives,
to know that will fall to time.
Forever gone, for Heaven lost,
we give our life,
That is the cost.
And one by one–it’s true for all
Leaves look their best after they fall
Green is lovely
but the change,
the transformation in the rain
Draws us in because we know,
the scene is finished, yet the show,
Goes on–as it must go.

The past expires in the fire
we must not weep for time;
For conductor, in his bluster,
hath made Despair a crime.
So we arrange our quirky games
to keep felled leaves alive
And the embers we remember
does much as we define:
It pushes us, and focuses
the lens’ to let us see,
that we may stain a windowpane
to frame our fantasies.

When I was nine my father died,
I could have wept;
I could have cried,
Instead I played a game.
I’d say his name, cover my face,
walk in his room and pray,
when I uncover my eyes,
he’d reappear, he’d come alive;
My hands removed, I’d find, instead,
his portrait more the empty bed.
It never happened,
so I imagine,
at least I have my dreams.

Some times I see him while I’m reading,
I put away my book.
It’s just a pattern often scattered
and yet I always look.
And that mirage must give us pause,
to remind ourselves that someone else
looks at the stars through iron bars
with no fantasy to help.
Our memory quite eerily
can resurrect the dead

We know that hope, if truth be told,
is desire in a noble robe;
It’s all inside our head.
Yet to deny these soothing lies,
is yet more painful still,
There are some who come undone
some don’t want to heal.
And our fair Queen, in love with grief,
Would deny love just not to feel.

That is the reason Hope is treason;
and Faith is on the hill.
An overflowing wishing well
Is proof enough there is a hell.
So dedicated to a ghost,
They lose themselves,
they can’t move on;
As all are loyal to the Throne.
The Royalty may give for freed
the price is what they take;
They clean the vase until it breaks.

And all that noise is truly poison
Lost in the past, we’re stranded;
There is magic in this madness,
For it makes us Necromancers.
Who with some spell may defy hell,
From the grave onto the page,
from ashes to the canvas:
defying time line after line
We are the Necromancers
A painting, opera, or poem,
is life in a more lasting form;
And life being one brief season,
snow on the desert’s face
Calls on us who have the touch,
to replace the footprint
and leave in its place
A beacon that the lost may trace,
Through all of time, through history,
and reclaim what we were missing.

And those moments we thought stolen
Defying time and death,
we find them waiting,
Mother Mary,
we do not have to pray;
Though for you it may be noon,
For some a dying day,
In that last second, resurrection;
The end defines the play;
So last call–a pint for all!
The fire fades away.

Poem – the Death of Dawn, 18 November 2015

BRANDON K. NOBLES,
THE DEATH OF DAWN

I

In my dreams, sometimes it seems,
I do not wish to wake.
For in those dreams, I get to see
a lovely long gone face.

When smiling Dawn lay on the lawn
she saw a star strewn sky.
And in the sky stray fireflies,
flicker then dim before they die.

Before the Dawn had died alone,
the sun rose every day.
Before I found her body drowned
Life was our playground played.

II

In my dreams sometimes it seems
that I cannot escape:
the image of a drowning girl—
her hair in tangled knotted curls,
that blank and lifeless face.

We walked through the woods into
a clearing by the stream;
in her eyes the clouds went by
it felt just like a dream.

Before miss Dawn had died alone,
I saw her every day.
Before she fell into the well
we laughed the days away.

III

In my dreams sometimes I’ve seen
a narrow corridor.
Of all the pictures on the wall
my friend miss Dawn’s I often saw
at the end a padlocked door.

Taken young and far too soon
she died under a paper moon
and the sun refused to shine.
The mourners in a silent row
stood by her coffin heads hung low
the guests marched in a line.
Of all the eyes that passed her by
none of them were mine.

Before she drowned without a sound,
Merry went our lives around,
Her angels in the snow.
I see her passing by me laughing,
Before she died, to go,
Her gentle grin, my gentle friend,
These words will never know.

IV

In my nightmares, when I scream,
I wake to find a dying dream—
a signal now long gone.
Alone we walked once through the woods,
found a stream and by it stood,
In our secret place alone.
We held hands and often laughed,
As clouds above us by us passed,
we watched the water run.
We sat on the dew-soaked grass
the water was a looking glass
for echoes of the sun.

When the night came then we saw
a star above us shoot and fall,
“Make a wish,” she said.
“You’re all I need to be, you see,
you take my wish instead.”
“I don’t know what to say, or do,
instead I’ll make the wish for you.
I hope you have a happy life.
I hope you sleep well every night,
And joyful wake by morning light.”

Before the day when sad, I prayed,
Don’t let her leave this world.
Let her stay, live, laugh, and play.
Let live my flower girl,
To me she gleamed, like gold it seemed,
Until she faded from our world.

V

I don’t dream as once I did,
When I was still that naive kid,
Those candy colored clowns,
Now I see a vacant face,
Where once a smile was in its place,
And painted upside down.

Now they stand beside a fire,
sick and hungry, ‘lone and tired,
Wringing frostbit hands.
No place to sleep they lay and weep
In antique caravans.
It was gray as though that day,
the sun refused to show.
Figures passed like static glass,
In a muted dull gray glow.

Before the empty alleyways,
That gallery of dying days,
We held hands as we passed.
Smiling people lined the streets
And they all raised their hands to greet,
Us children nod and laugh.

VI

These days when I try to sleep,
I feel that water on my feet,
From that young body drowned.
I pull the covers from my bed,
Try to talk but shout instead,
A pill might calm me down.

Every day she was away,
I knelt beside my bed to pray,
That my words might her death delay.
I only wished for one more night–
That she might see the moon shine bright.
She did not live, I’m sad to say,
And never saw another day.
After she fell into the night,
Between the worlds and out of sight,
I turned and silent walked away.

Before I left that laden floor,
I walked through narrow corridors,
The same scene in every room.
Machines and tubes like lungs were used,
Where the sick lay dying soon.
They weakly lay, three times a day,
When they all were fed,
And there they lay ‘til they became,
another of the dead.

VII

In a daydream, by a grave,
I watched her there as dead she laid,
in a coffin ivory bright.
When she went into ground,
I had to speak, sad faces round—
Her grave with jasmines white.
Since Dawn was a friend of mine,
I wrote her eulogy;
And to me, soliloquies,
are tears that somehow rhyme.

“Dawn my dear, though you can’t hear,
You meant the world to me.
Your fondness for the springtime leaves,
That languid smile without reprieve,
If only you could somehow see.
I think of you and every hour,
And now you are another flower,
Of the field that laid its head—
Back onto the garden, where
Once it lay in bed.

Before I left I took a step,
And paused before her gave;
I could not speak but yet I wept,
I had nothing to say.
When I obliged I turned my eyes,
To meet her pale white face,
I took the rose and left her posed,
with a lotus in her place.
Before she walked the narrow hall
Her tearful face these ink-drops fall,
I heard:
The sound of a mocking bird.

VIII

The manic dream of that day gone,
I stay awake, all night, all day,
going mad when I’m alone.
In a nightmare of the day
where multicolored faces play,
I could not see her face;
And in the prism of the day,
The multicolored facets play,
I could not speak at all.
When read her will I sat there froze,
her pictures lined in narrow rows,
In the end she said it all.

In her will she left me but,
A plush panda cotton stuffed,
in her absence was alone.
The stitching frayed, so often played,
since her death left on its own.
A bear once soaked in joyful tears,
Had came apart through all the years.
The toy had found its long lost home.
When it was mine I found her note,
in her languid cursive wrote:

“Brandon, you know, I loved you so,
You’ve always been my friend.
From the day we met, until the end,
If you’re getting this note now,
I have died someway, somehow;
I won’t see you in God’s world again.”

IX

I first saw her in the sand,
Where castles made by her own hand,
by waves were left for dead.
This is but my castle,
For you, the light, the dawn,
Tragically you’ll never read
The labored saddened song.
And where you are, the worst of all,
You cannot hear me for you call.

After the hope has died inside,
The bone wall confines of my mind,
There grows a golden rose.
The light of which often reminds,
Of that tragic scene when I rewind,
That frozen moment long ago.
It follows me into my dreams,
And unravels at the seams,
When she sang that song I know.
Often that long dead voice is heard,
Again as sang by mocking birds.

Then it’s over, there it goes,
Down into the memory hole,
Where a dead rose withered blows.
It’s beauty—the beholder knows—
at the end of season goes,
and listless all the words that fall,
just static scribbled on a wall.