SPILLED TEA

It was a fine summer day

 

the kind of day that is made

for drinking lemon iced tea

on white-cushioned porch chairs.

 

the kind of day filled with children,

laughing as they dodge between

sprinkler arcs and tree branches.

 

Which is why, when the phone rang,

we felt a kind of ominous shock

as the peaceful air was broken

by the impending sound of technology.

 

Part of me wishes we had smiled

and kept still in our cozy seats.

Part of me wishes we had unplugged

it and let the cord hang there, limp.

 

But the call of the electric siren

is a hard spell to resist,

and like Butes before us

we were seduced to answer.

 

The voice on the other side was sweet,

like a bar of milk chocolate

devoured far to hastily.

 

Your father had a heart attack.

 

And suddenly, that perfect day

felt utterly rotten.

——

 

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VISIONS IN THE DESERT

I felt like an ant, crossing that wasteland of a desert. There was nothing in site as far as the eye could see, and the sun was beating down on me, heavy, as though Apollo had set his chariot of fire on my shoulders. In my mind, the pulsing of my headache felt like the hooves of his mighty horses pounding me to death. My shirt had been soaked through with sweat hours before, and I could feel the sun burn taking shape on the uncovered parts of my body.

The desert air filled my lungs—drying my mouth and leaving my throat ragged and parched. Each breath felt like a cement block was being dragged across my insides. My legs had grown wobbly as I ascended the dune. As I neared the top, my vision began to grow blurry, and my legs buckled for a moment. I came down hard on the sand; my knees crashed, followed swiftly by my outstretched arms. I sucked a deep breath of air, attempting to gather the strength to get back up again, then coughed and spit as sand slid in between my teeth. My forehead rested on my arm, as I enjoyed the blackness behind my shut eyes. My arm was sticky when I finally pulled it away and, shaking, clambered to my feet again. I looked out across the mass of emptiness before me.

I was struck by the beauty of it. It was so empty, even time seemed to have melted away. Each moment seemed to take hours, and suddenly I felt like many decades of time had passed me by. And, as I looked down at myself, I realized they had. I watched as my deep black beard faded to peppered gray, and then finally to white. The skin in my hands wrinkled, and the whites of my knuckles pressed for freedom. I felt my body grown weaker; drier; sicker—as though I had been possessed. My legs began to shake, no longer in fatigue, but with the brittleness of an old man, too long for this world.

My mind flooded with visions of my youth: An awkward game of catch with my father, my first dance with a girl, the late night writings of a dedicated lover, the early morning rises of budding father; and then soon came the memories that I had never known. Seeing my son become a father, and holding my granddaughter for the first time, watching from the sun-chairs as they played in the waves, holding my wife’s hand as she passed away—that same shy smile she had given me when I had asked her to the dance. All these memories I had never known flooded through my mind, as though the floodgates of “could have been” had been thrust open by some unnatural force.

Then shut, once again, as I saw the last vision of myself, from outside my body. I was there, eyes shut lightly, with my mouth hung slightly open. My beard looked scraggly and short. My skin was pale—so pale I nearly missed it flaking away. Bit by bit, the wind pulled fragments of me away with it. It looked like I was peeling. Then, as the gusts grew stronger, I watched myself crumble away into dust and float away, with the desert, forever.

——

 

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BOREAS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Aeolus

When he bagged the winds

the whole world grew silent

and it was quite dull.

 

Eurus

The wet summer wind

arriving here this early

is unexpected.

 

Boreas

The shutters slam closed

while the low howl of winter

demands he come in.

 

Notus

Zucchinis shriveled

as the bountiful gardens

became a desert.

 

Zephyrus

He greeted their cries

with the tender compassion

of a humble man.

——

 

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WHERE LIFE MEETS DEATH

I often judge a tree branch

on whether it can support my weight

as I hang there suspended, swinging

in the breeze on a nice, thick rope

 

like back in Florida, above the water,

while my father roared with laughter

just before crashing beneath the surface.

That brief moment of suspense

 

at the peak of upward momentum,

where the whole world goes quiet, and

all you can feel is your life

stretching out into eternity.

 

That must be what Icarus felt

as his feathers melted away

and his fingers grasped to cross

the last few inches to the sun.

 

I wonder if in that moment

he felt the bridge between Zeus

and Hades. Where life meets death

with long forgotten fraternity.

——

 

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ACTIVE YOUTH

It struck me in the back of the cafeteria,

between the meat pie and the chicken,

that I am not an active youth. Sure

I hike, and I run, and occasionally

I will take a trip out to the sea,

 

But that isn’t the active youth anymore,

that’s the active old man. That’s my dad.

A wonderful, respected man, but

certainly one “of his time.” A time,

 

nowadays, that is long past. Overtaken

like the Wright brothers were

by the juggernaut of American Airlines.

Oh, we’ll always remember those boys

 

in our comfortable window seats,

viewing the clouds like Zeus on Olympus,

munching down complimentary pretzels

on our cheap, plastic, fold-out trays

 

not unlike how I remembered my father

from that lonely table on that Saturday night,

who was revolutionizing the world

long before I was ever born.

——

 

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GREETINGS TO THE SUN

Water trickled down through Stephen’s short brown hair. He could feel the droplets twisting and turning through the maze of his hairline, before eventually finding their way to his forehead. The soft, refreshing air chilled the water as it danced along his face, carefully falling between the groove of his nose and his right eye. He could feel everything around him. The wind brushed through the grass, humming its afternoon greeting, while the leaves of the trees turned about on their descent to the ground; even the roaring of the river in the distance, where the trickle of water had branched off of, could be faintly heard.

Many mornings went like this for Stephen. He would wake early, and spend the early part of the day staring out into space, until the world around him seemed to morph into something that was outside of the usual. His imagination became a guiding force for his mind, and eventually those quiet hums would turn into an opera of music, and the trickle of water would become the medicine beyond human creation. The massive fields of grass before him would spin before him, faster and faster until suddenly everything became a wild green color, and distance and time seemed to flow as one together.

Today, Stephen was focused on the sun. At first, his eyes had burned with pain, but as the water coated him, he felt cooled. He had closed his eyes, yet behind his eyelids he kept careful track of where the sun was. The supreme being road his chariot across the sky, and the more he focused on it, the more Stephen could make out the hooves beating against the unseen road. They galloped through the sky with vigor, and he could hear their breath heaving in and out as the pulled faster.

Eventually, as he focused, he could hear the breath of a man along with them. He sounded like purity itself. His breath was like a long drink of water after a trip through the desert, or the first drops of dew falling from a crisp spring morning. Stephen felt his own body relax at the sound. Then, unexpectedly, his concentration broke as he heard a voice.

“We have a visitor,” a voice more sweet and light than honey called out to him. Stephen’s eyes snapped open. Only he was not seeing through his eyes anymore. It was like his body had fled, and he was looking through the sky itself

“Hello,” the voice said with a calm strength, “it has been far too long since I was given the chance to speak to anyone. Who might you be?” Stephen felt his voice catch in his throat.

“Ah, unable to speak, is it? Not many get the chance to meet me anymore. Not many look hard enough. Look around you.” The great man had been shielded by light, but the outward gesture of his arm was clear enough. Stephen turned, and saw the world from a different perspective then.

It was so small, so tiny, and yet unending in its size. Through the clouds he saw the trees, the river, and even the tops of the cold mountains. They all looked so small; so beautiful.

“It has been a long time since someone saw the world as you see it now. Perhaps you can learn from it. It seems like such a big world out there, and yet to us it is all connected.” Stephen felt his stomach tighten, and his vision blurred.

“It seems your moments hear are to be brief today. But I look forward to seeing you again.” Then with a rush, Stephen felt his body travel through the air, and suddenly he was gasping for air. The trickle of water had dampened his cloths, and the sun was growing low in the sky. How long had he been gone?

——

 

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A PERFECT MORNING

I sat, reading Basho, as the sunlight danced across the ever flowing stream. The morning that morning seemed to me the most perfect morning to ever exist. The chirps of the crickets were growing dim as they made their way to bed, while the butterflies stretched their wings for their morning flight. My eyes followed one of them, as it listed up and down, back and forth, around the dip in the stream. The stream crashed down there, creating a soft mist, like it were imagining itself as the waterfall. The breeze carried a hint of sweet moisture, as though Zephyrus himself had kissed the day.

I found my mind drifting about to the world around me. The rocks, the trees, the grass—each more alive and beautiful than the last—seemed to have their own tale built into the fabric of their being. The rocks, with cracked lines, shunted edges, and overturned hides, wove a simple, solemn tale about the world. They had watched, waiting and listening, for something the happen. They slept with an eye open, but even in their waking hours they never seemed to be alert. It was as if they had been caught in a state of constant lethargy, but they were kind to me nonetheless.

The trees told a greater tale, full of age and mystery. Unlike the rocks, the trees had been alert and unrested. Their aging minds grew wild with thoughts of their sapling days, where they could still branch their roots out and feel themselves move. Now, they stood as the protectors of the stream and it’s creatures, sheltering it from the outside world. But trees are often presumptuous. They have lived for so long, they do not see the world for as it is, but as it has always been. They foolishly ignore the hearts of men, and the men before me could do little but crawl up the branches for shelter from various beasts. But now—now they come with axe and fire and steel, hungering for great conquests.

The grass told me about this. The grass has felt them tread long and far. Their soft feet, which had once been like a gentle touch, now hammered against them like nails with their steel-toed boots. Men ran where they once walked, and they tore up the grass to make way for their stone houses. Grass had its children shrivel up and die as men stole their drink, and choked to death by the machines of their wars. He told me of his cousin, the moss, who was fished from the waters and thrown to dry out on the banks. Grass had seen weary times, but had endured in places, both thick and thin.

In the distance, the mountain called out to me. She had seen the days, come and gone, and heard the warnings signs. Yet these days, nobody listened to the mountains. Her voice had grown slow, and as time moved faster, people no longer could pause to appreciate the wisdom she had to offer. Even I, the antithesis of my peers, felt the itch of hurriedness shoot through my veins as I listened.

But I found her words important, nonetheless. She had told me to remind men of the slower days—where they woke as they chose and slept as they needed. Where the food they ate was held sacred, and the animals they slaughtered had names and lives. She asked me to remember the stream, as I had remembered my family, and to keep it from illness and abuse. I cannot say that I, myself, can achieve my task alone. Yet on such a perfect day, I felt the urge to try. So I set out, not knowing what terrors lay ahead, to help my fellows stop their journey for a moment, and appreciate the flowers.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #42 – TO THE SEA

“To the sea,

To the sea,”

She cried out to me,

“To the sea!”

 

And with the brisk summer air

Riffling through her frizzled hair

We shuffled our way through the sand.

“To the sea!”

 

We had smuggled in red wine,

And were feeling mighty fine

As the children tottered by.

“To the sea!”

 

In her tie-dyed summer dress

Standing ‘fore the water’s crest

She looked like Venus born again.

“To the sea!”

 

And I took her hand in mine

Wishing I had a bit more time

Before it all came to an end.

“To the sea!”

 

But to savor what time I had,

I held myself to feeling glad,

And, for the last time, swam with her.

“To the sea!”

——

 

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LOVE POEM #41 – THE STORY OF ALEXIA

When electricity made love rigid,

And enslaved men in their lusty livings,

The world itself seemed to grow frigid,

As nature was filled with such misgivings.

 

Time itself had grown old, aged, and weary;

The bolts of Zeus no longer cracked the sky;

Hades realm had been filled entirely,

And Poseidon’s sea kingdom had gone dry.

 

The great Zephyrus had breathed his last breath,

And Boreas ruled in the winter lands.

It seemed to me Eros had met his death,

And Aphrodite raped by evils hands.

 

But then came the spark, that flash of hot red,

That burned away the technology,

And we watched as the wicked turned and fled

Like a lost story in mythology.

 

They called her Rekka; Fira; Hestia,

And all sorts of other fiery names,

But by birth her name was Alexia

And the real fire was in her brains.

 

She found the fuel to burn down the kings,

Who had slaughtered the people she loved most.

And her vengeance gave revolution wings

Till the fire had spread from coast to coast.

 

And I tell you this tale so you know

That true love can defeat the greatest foe.

——

 

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THE KOI

The cold, dead eyes of the koi

Make me wonder. How exactly

Does such emptiness also carry

Such infinite wisdom?

 

They vacuum away at pebbles

In stagnant, green waters,

Hungry for their feed.

Their pillowy tails look

Like silky clouds, drifting lazily

Through an empty summer sky.

 

My eyes get lost

In their broken speckles

Of orange and black and white.

Do you think we will ever learn

To see past color

As they do?

 

It is almost as if

The hardship of time,

Who pillages our human lives,

Was repulsed by their intricate scales.

Scales, not unlike those of Themis,

Who rebuffed the wicked

In olden days.

 

Oh, what I would give

To know what they know;

To see what they see;

To live as they live.

For I too am a fish,

One from a bigger pond,

And faster currents,

And if I’m not careful

They will suck me away

As they have many others.

——

 

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