Monday, December 31, 2007

Choices-----Parallelismus Membrorum

Very difficult to remember
advice we’d like to forget.
Easy paths are often wide,
as minds are always narrow.
Painless choices made today,
will surely cripple us tomorrow.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Today I battle with words and rhyme
perhaps I’m merely biding time.
My mind says I’d be better of
studying Mozart or Barishnikoff.

I must admit a mind obtuse
seems unlikely to produce
a single word fit for muse.

It’s time for me to wave the flag
and give my mind a pass.
Reminds me when I sit to poop
and only pass some gas.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Saturday Night

Piano Man II by Justin Bua
What kinda fool
keeps a poundin’ dem keys?
I smiles wit a wink,
“One dat makes his own rules
and does as he please.”

Da blind cat in da back sees
what keep dis man’s heart thumpin’,
is crawlin’ all over dem keys
when folks starts to jumpin’.

Fingers a dancin’,
like dey got nothin’ to prove;
the floor starts to shakin’
as dey findin’ der groove.

Ole girl on da floor
shakin’ all dat she got.
Da owner steps in,
“Crack da front door
she gettin’ too hot!

Someone get ‘er a chair
‘for she takes to a stroke!
Dis music slicin’ da air
known to kill regular folk.

Boy throwin’ down dat tune
damn straight can play.
Good thang he don’t croon
I’d lose more folk this way.

I done told ya, one of dese nights
we gonna push it too far
folks swingin’ from lights
goin’ burn down dis ole bar.”

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Letters From Below

I find myself huddled amidst the cobwebs in the corner of an unfamiliar room, a room I used to call my own. My outline shrouded in eerie darkness, and rightfully so. It’s by the dim flicker of candlelight that I come here to deal with a relationship of neglect. Dusty photographs, edges yellowed and ragged, no match for the grinding wheels of time. Tired pictures only serve to remind of my dysfunctional existence, and can no longer be tolerated. In my present state, my vision is clear, no longer obstructed by mere cobwebs. Tonight I prepare to lay waste to the wretched past, no longer willing to bear the rusty shackles belonging to the prisoner I once was.

Desperately I clung to a vivid image of my mother, as her casket passed by, cold and gray, mirroring the low hanging sky. Clouds hung, like giant lumps of charcoal, momentarily swallowing the ground in stifling shades of murkiness. The pastor’s eloquently designed words of comfort fell far short of penetrating my painstakingly erected wall. His feeble attempts to describe the life of a woman he barely knew offended me, on my mother’s behalf. How could he have encompassed her wonderful thirty-eight years? He should have praised her adhesive nature, one capable of bonding together two completely opposite slices of humanity, as were my father and I.

Cole was a hard man, by even the most lenient definition. Proper etiquette required me to address him as, ‘sir’. There’s nothing wrong with a show of respect for an adult, especially a parent, but father never believed in earning respect, he simply extracted it by use of his heavy hand. Neither I nor my mother could escape the terrible wrath of those hands. No corner of the shack, we called home, could provide sufficient shelter. It was those hands, forged from years of toil in the coal mines that produced one alcohol-fueled blow after another. With each of his debilitating blows came the erasure of any admiration I ever had for the man.

Mother, the peacemaker, I believe out of desperation made excuses for his Neanderthal-like behavior. Only on one occasion did she confront him directly, and pitifully she wore the markings of that ill-advised challenge for some weeks. I recall that horrible day with ever-present pangs of guilt. That beating should have been mine, for it was my cause that my mother suffered so greatly.

She had been squirreling away any bit of cash she could earn, placing it inside a Mason jar, hidden atop a pantry shelf. She was saving every precious penny in hopes of buying me a guitar. Only my mother was aware of the love I possessed for music and performing, something a third-generation coal miner, could not then and would not ever, wrap his mind around. She carried another meager deposit to the nearly full jar, but was astonished to find it empty. My father never admitted his culpability in such a heinous crime, claiming the empty jar and his week long binge were purely coincidental. A man can forgive another for a great many things. Perhaps the stealing of money not belonging to oneself is one such pardonable offense, but the larceny of another man’s dreams shall never be forgiven wholly.

The day after my high school graduation was different somehow. It was the first time in my young life I actually believed I would escape from these mountains. I summoned the courage to make bold move. From deep inside the bowels of my soul seethed a repressed anger that surprised both my father and I.

With my bags packed for Nashville I approached my father, who was still comatose in his easy chair from the previous night’s bender. More than a dozen of his closest friends, albeit in the form of ‘Old Style’ cans, remained steadfastly by his side. Dismissing a fleeting thought of leaving him to sober, I instead chose to let him know of my decision. In good conscience I cannot relay the ensuing blue streak that flew from my father’s lips when he heard my news. Also I cannot find words that would accurately describe the rage that painted his groggy face, as he demanded I address him as ‘sir’.

With both fists doubled and ready for action I assumed a defensive stance. As I fought hard to keep my voice calm, my mind gave way to the repressed emotions of seventeen years.

“‘Sir’, is an indicator of respect, perhaps had I know the wonderful young man my mother fell in love with, I could do that, but that was before you climbed into the bottle! The shell of a man that sits before me has not earned my respect!”

Briefly he struggled with equilibrium before finding his feet, but one well-placed punch on that protruding square jaw sent him back to the comfort of his chair. He gripped the chair arm, his knuckles white and ready to dispense justice, but before he could respond or react I spewed my final words to my father.

“You go ahead and double up, but I’m telling you now, I ain’t no boy or defenseless woman to beat on as you please! I’ve got seventeen years of hurt and disappointment you never saw fit to deal with and I’m warning you now, if you make a move towards me you’re going to carry some of my pain with you for a long time!”

In retrospect my hasty actions and vengeful words brought me little comfort, yet they did allow me to make my necessary escape from these mountains. Insincere apologies during brief moments of sobriety couldn’t heal the open wounds, nor could ten years of separation and a successful music career in Nashville. Sadly I must confess I had no intension to ever return to this place I sit tonight, until I received a letter from a nurse that was caring for my father. Without this letter my deed would be incomplete. As I read it aloud once again, this particular setting seems more appropriate than I imagined.

Dear Walker,You don’t know now me personally, but I’m a nurse caring for your father during his last days. He expressed a desire to set things straight before moving on and begged me to transfer his words from a hand-scratched note. I’m sure you’re unaware that he was involved in an accident recently. He and four other miners were trapped in a collapse. Although they were successfully rescued after several days, your father’s sustained life threatening injures and will probably pass before you read this: Walker, I now find myself a prisoner in a world of dark, much the same as I held hostage your mother and yourself. There are so many things I need to apologize for. I’m sorry I left the empty Mason jar in the pantry, so many containers filled with hopes that I raided, but I’m proud of you son. I occasionally hear you sing one of your songs on the radio. I must go now, the air is getting scarce, but I’d like to make one last request. ‘Sir’, if you can find it in your heart, please visit my grave and sing me a song. For I don’t believe my destination will be the same as you and your mother; I fear I’m only trading one dark lonely place for another.

Unwanted tears streak down my face as I carefully place the letter beneath the photos. Striking a match, I touch it to the corner of the letter until a sufficient swirling of embers emerges. I diligently stand in place long enough to witness the ever widening flames as they creep up the curtains and engulf the wall. I pick up my guitar and make my way to the door of the shack, closing the squeaky screen door one final time. I take a seat on the edge of the rotten porch and begin to strum my guitar. I dismiss one final nagging thought; honoring my father’s last request. Perhaps some day I’ll be the bigger man, but for now I suppose my father and I are much alike.


“Tonight I’m lettin’ go
of all the painful dreams.
They’ve eaten through my soul;
moved on to tender things.

I’ve laid out all the wrongs
upon this wooden floor.
Tonight I’m burnin’ dreams
Slamming shut the open door.


I’ll burn the past tonight
that holds me back today.
I feel my soul atakin’ flight
It’s time I fly away.
I’ll burn the past tonight
that holds me back no more
I feel my soul atakin’ flight
from a past that haunts no more.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What Comes Around Goes Around

I reluctantly pulled the gold watch from the carrying case and blew the dust from its face. My hand trembled as I prepared to allow him to examine it. His icy fingers snatched it from me with a coldness I found difficult to stomach, but what did I expect? A good pawn shop owner didn’t know the meaning of sentiment; he only dealt in the hard reality of commodities. Hard times for individuals were simply an opportunity for a business transaction, one that he most certainly would reap an obscene profit from.
He rolled it over in hands several times before speaking. “Hmmm, appears to be in excellent shape, son.”
Of course it was. During the last twenty years the keepsake had never been subjected to the light of day, safely kept in the case inside a lockbox, awaiting the transfer to another generation.
I preferred this was a quick transaction, one that didn’t allow me to reconsider. He looked me up and down several times, as if he might somehow determine my level of desperation.
“Tell you what….I wouldn’t normally offer this much, but seeing as I’m full of the Christmas spirit—I’ll give you fifty bucks.”
Full of something I thought, but Christmas spirit wasn’t what came to mind. I wasn’t an idiot, just an average guy that had fallen on hard times. I had inquired at every other pawnshop in town and fifty was all any of them was going to offer. I knew that someone would gladly buy it from them for twice that much, but what choice did I have? Christmas day was less than twenty-four hours away and as yet I had purchased nothing for my daughter, Eliza.
“Nice doin’ business with ya, the stingy old codger yelled from behind the counter. I exited the pawnshop with fifty dollars that I had not entered with and only a slightly bruised ego. Truthfully my inner spirit had already been mauled a couple of months earlier. Our company had announced “across the board cuts”, just until the market has recovered they said. I only prayed the downsizing monster had not gorged himself sufficiently on peons like myself. I envisioned him making his way up the corporate ladder and finding a nice fat CEO for dinner!
I walked past the red kettles at the door of the toy store, averting my eyes as if I didn’t see them and was deaf to the constant ringing of the bells. I knew what the ringers were thinking of me as I slipped passed. Their thoughts were the same thoughts that crossed my mind as I stood in the cold with the best volunteer smile I could muster, wondering why folks weren’t more generous. I realized some shoppers truly could ill-afford to give, and I hoped this year the ringer somehow knew my circumstance.
Once inside I immediately made my way past the indignant last-minute shoppers, which this year purely by circumstance, I was a part of. I quickly found the aisle that contained the baby dolls. Eliza was now five years old and one doll in particular was all that her beautiful lips could speak of. In light of tenuous circumstances I had to make this a special Christmas, surely one doll was not too much to ask for.
I courteously pulled my cart to side of the isle and began my search. Suddenly I spotted her; the curly blonde locks and blue eyes matched that of my daughter when she was three. Noticing that there was only one remaining on the shelf I raced there to lay claim to it. My outstretched hand met with another, but I quickly ensured that mine had a firmer grasp and put the doll in the cart.
A large woman stood there glaring at me, as if I‘d actually just stolen something from her. I supposed in a strange way I had, and quickly attempted to make amends.
“Ma’am I’m sorry, but I just have to have this doll for my daughter. If the circumstances were different, I’d gladly let you have it. You see….”
“Oh, I see,” she retorted. “You think your daughter’s special? Well, let me tell you buddy, what goes around comes around! You’ll get yours, you miserable son of a bitch!”
I stood there stunned at the violent outburst.
“Really ma’am you don’t understand,—I.”
My apologetic words fell to silence as she maneuvered around the end of the aisle. My simple attempt to explain had met with an icy reception, so much so I almost wished I hadn’t offered. After a couple of moments of standing in the aisle slack-jawed, I decided to dismiss the whole episode. Obviously this was an example of a Christmas Eve shopper’s attempt to release some of the stress the holiday brings forth. Truthfully, I myself was finding it difficult to muster much Christmas cheer this particular year.
I patiently waited my turn in line at the cosmetic counter to purchase my wife a small gift. After my job loss she assured me she needed nothing, but I knew that out of the fifty dollars I should have enough to purchase a very small bottle of her favorite fragrance.
Upon returning to my cart I noticed it was empty. I quickly scanned the aisle and immediately recognized the large woman’s backside waddling towards the checkout line, with Eliza’s doll in her cart! I ran down the aisle like an Olympic sprinter heading for the finish line. I was certain I knew what had transpired and it made by blood boil, but I did my best to remain composed, at least at first.
“Ma’am, I believe you have my doll in your cart!”
She pretended to not hear a word that I was saying and looked past me, waving her arm is if she was signaling to someone. Just as my voice had reached a fevered pitch and I was seriously contemplating ripping the doll from the cart, I realized a security officer was standing next to me.
“Officer, thank God you’re here,” she shrieked. “This man just tried to steal that baby doll from my cart, didn’t he, sweetie?”
She appealed to what I assumed was her young daughter. Certainly I didn't expect her to participate in the ploy, but I stood in awe as she nodded her head up and down in confirmation. The security guard quickly grabbed my arm and pulled me back from the cart.
“Settle down now, sir, let this woman check-out, while you and I go back to the office to have a chat.”
I protested this horrible injustice by standing my ground. I watched helplessly as the woman left with my daughter’s doll in her cart. She turned back to me long enough to mouth the words “What comes around goes around!”
What horrible transgression had I committed that I deserved this heaped upon my plate? I had done nothing wrong, I was the victim here. I knew even if I could convince the officer my story was true, it was too late. I had let Eliza down.
After answering several questions I was relieved to heard a voice come over the loudspeaker announcing that the store was closing in ten minutes. I wasn’t certain whether the officer believed my story or if he simply wanted to get off on time, but in any case he told me I could leave.
The store was nearly empty now and I reluctantly made my way toward the door. I contemplated how difficult tomorrow morning would be, as I passed the location in the store where the guest Santa was packing up his things and preparing to leave for home. I paused for a moment; the irony was not lost on my troubled mind. How could I explain to my daughter that Santa had not brought the one simple gift her heart desired? I shook my head in disappointment and disgust and continued towards the door.
“Hey buddy, can you give old Santa a hand?”
I stopped and turned to see the old man lugging his large lumpy sack of what I presumed to be supposed toys.
Doesn’t the store provide props for you?”
He shook his head from side to side as the cotton ball on the end of his cap dangled back and forth.
Naw—not anymore, cut-backs you know. I have to bring the whole setup myself.”
I laughed quietly, seems not even the North Pole was immune to cut-backs these days. I grabbed the sack and tossed it over my shoulder and quietly walked alongside the old man. As we approached the door I notice the bell-ringers had left their post. Nevertheless I reached into my pocket and retrieved the fifty dollars, folded it neatly and placed it in the nearest red kettle. The old man looked at me strangely.
“My car is just a little ways. If you don’t mind carrying those gifts just a little further--my back sure will appreciate it.”
I was in no hurry to get home any longer. The old man stopped at the trunk of a Cutlass. Not exactly a sleigh, but at it least was red I thought. I placed the heavy bag down on the ground next to the car, while he searched for his keys. He turned to me and greeted me with warm smile, as if he suddenly recognized me.
“Bill, there’s no doubt you’re on the ‘good list’ this year, how about I save myself a stop.”
I looked at the old man with wide eyes, trying to recall if I’d given him my name. I scratched my head, I was certain I hadn’t.
“How did you know my name?”
The old man chuckled loudly and his belly heaved with each burst of laughter. “Come on Bill, Santa knows everyone’s name.”
I stood there in awe as he rifled through the bag and pulled out a gift and placed it carefully in my hands.
“This is for your daughter; it’s the only thing she requested.”
I looked at the gift and found myself speechless. I swallowed hard at the lump in my throat as the tears welled up my eyes. The tag simply read “Eliza Williams”.
“Santa, I suppose you know the situation with my daughter also?”
He reached over and gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. It was obvious when I looked into his misty blue eyes that he knew Eliza was dying.
“Yes Bill, I know. You hurry home, now. But before you go, don’t forget this.”
Santa placed in my hand a crisp one-hundred dollar bill and winked at me.
“That’s so you can buy your watch back. You see Bill, it really is true; what comes around goes around!”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Mother's Eyes

As a child I failed to recognize
the glimmer in my mother’s eyes.
A glint that surely did foresee
Dreams of what she hoped I’d be.

Although I feel I’ve let her down
I remain a jewel atop her crown.
No deed too dim nor choice askew
could cast a shadow in her view.

Time spared the eyes, her greatest sense
but claimed her mind as recompense.
Without the thoughts provoked by sight
insightful eyes closed dark as night.

I pretend today is just the same
although she can’t recall my name.
I stroke her hand and attempt to find
a way inside her troubled mind.

One lucid moment; the end is near,
her broken thoughts now crystal clear;
“Son, these tired eyes now plainly see
you’ve become twice the man
I’d hoped you’d be.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Minute Challenge--------Christmas Cheer

I know some lack a little cheer
this time of year.
My heart goes out
to those without.

Searching my soul for joy to share
I find some spare.
There is no fee;
the cheer’s on me.

This year I’m blessed with great excess.
I must confess
I’m glad it’s free
to share my glee.

Joy From Within

Joy visits few
Barring hope from their heart
A pessimist view
Doubts success from the start

Of days here on earth
We are granted so few
Let us find joy
In all that is true

In a hand that we hold
In friendships that last
In memories of old
Regarding those passed
In the miracle of birth
Or the flight of a bird
In realizing the worth
Of sharing a kind word
For food gracing our table
And the sun rising each morn
For a body willing and able
To assist the forlorn

From hope eternally granted
I derive these blessed joys
From my heart divinely planted
Comes forth a joyful noise