CAT NAP

I dug my claws into the side of the rocking chair, shifting my weight as I ascended its backside to keep from being thrown off. The cushion at the top was softer than the hard-pressed seat, and my personal favorite place to take a nap. I curled up, carefully balanced so that I wouldn’t fall back over the side, like some long dead camper falling over a cliff. When I finally was comfortable, I could feel my eyes begin to glaze over as the familiar feeling of sleep began to take hold.

Of course, naps are never that simple nowadays. Before my eyes had closed for more than a moment, the whole chair jostled. The big one had taken his seat in the middle—I didn’t understand how he could endure such a hard seat. The whole chair rocked hard, and I had to dig my nails in to keep from being flung over the side. It was clear this resting place wouldn’t do today.

So, like many days, I hopped back down onto the floor. The light thuds of my feet were beginning to sound a lot like those of my older brothers’. The wood planks below me were cool and smooth, and made for great walking. No unexpected catches, like in the shag carpet I was on my way over to. The couch over there was much softer than the remaining chairs, however, and was well worth the trek when the rocking chair was taken.

Two quick jumps and I was up on the arm rest. They put the best padding in the arm rest—it was firm, but not pillowy like the cushions, although it could be more precarious. I could feel the weight of fatigue hit me like a brick, and my eyes closed once again—but not a moment later I heard the terrifying sound of the back door opening, followed swiftly by the eager approach of beasts. They were like titans—they ran on four legs, panting heavily wherever they ran. Luckily the gold one missed me, instead running down the hall to my left after who knows what.

Unfortunately, the darker one was more attentive, and stopped hard in his tracks, then turning to look directly in my eyes. His eyes were a cold, dead black, like a silent murderer out slaughtering in the middle of the night. We shared that brief moment while he realized that I was not another piece of the furniture, where the whole world seems to grow quiet. The big one’s rising became so slow, it was as if he was covered in glue.

But that moment broke quickly, and he and I went from stone still to bolting in a heart beat. There was an open window behind me, just a few feet away, with a high screen. The beast was much faster than me, and it was all I could do to launch myself from the head of the couch to the screen. As I flew through the air, I heard his jaws clamp shut just behind me, just a few inches from my tail. The hairs on my back shivered and stood high. It felt like an eternity while I soared through the air, then dug my claws in to the little holes for support. I scrambled to get myself secured quickly; my feet sliding down before eventually they too were locked. Then I quickly ascended so that I was out of reach. I turned to look down, and saw the beast, sitting with tongue flopping over the side of his teeth. His mouth was open wide, waiting for my strength to run out, and his breaths were deep with excitement.

I thought myself a goner for a moment, as my body began to shake with fatigue, but then came the pounding footsteps of the big one. He grabbed the beast roughly by the neck, and lifted him with such vigor I thought he might tear its head clean off, but the body held tight and pretty soon the beast had turned tail back from where he came, along with the gold one. When I was certain it was safe, I tried to climb down slowly. Halfway down, my leg slipped again, and I went crashing to the floor. I managed to get my feet beneath me at the last moment, and landed on my feet. I looked back at the couch, and felt the disdain for the potential resting place. I felt too much like a meal on a platter there now, so instead I made my way down the hall, to the third door on the right. There was a large space there, where the big one rested at night. I didn’t much care for it—to many different layers of material scattered haphazardly about—but it was soft. I found an empty corner by the window, and laid down. My eyes shut, and I finally got to drift off to sleep.

——

 

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THE RED RIVER

For the past three weeks, traces of red liquid had been found in the clear blue waters of the rivers, growing more solid with each passing day. At first, it was just a whisk, like a droplet falling in a cup, before it disperses and becomes unnoticeable. Then eventually, the water began to darken, from blue, to purple, to a beautiful shade of red wine. When it hit that shade, the water became undrinkable, and we knew we had to find out what was going on.

We began our trek up the river, to see what we could find. A few days later, it morphed into a bright, angry red, like a vicious sunburn. Eventually, we came to a massive forest, and followed the red river in. It was dark, like night, spackled with the occasional beam of sunlight peaking from in between tree branches. It was enough to light they way, but hardly bright. The angry red of the river looked more like smoldering ash in the dark. We began to worry when the sunbeams grew thin and orange—it meant the sun was going down, and all sorts of things could inhabit the forest.

We made camp, set up a fire, and picked roles for the watch. Mine was the last, which I was thankful for. It was easier to sleep through most of the night, and simply stay awake, than it was to sleep for a short three hours, wake up to keep watch, then sleep again. My eyes had glazed over by the time the first beams of sunlight touched down through the trees. It was like a heavenly ascension piercing through the heart of the darkness.

We kept this routine for another two days, marching through treacherous pitfalls and shifting terrain. All the while, we kept along the river, following its unexpected. It was growing wider, which we took to mean we were getting close to its source. A few hours later, the river widened into a lakebed, with a massive red waterfall, which, as it smashed into the lake, created a thin, red mist. The waterfall itself seemed to stretch off into the distance, far above the trees above us.

The unexpected base of the cliff met us as we drew closer, and we began our ascent upward. The way up was full of dangers, but eventually we crossed the upper threshold of the trees. The break of sunlight on our faces was soothing, as a cool glass of water is to a man returned from a desert. We could see the top, not far above the trees, and took the last hundred meters quickly.

When we reached the top, we were awestruck by the sight before us. Lodged in the middle of a massive lake—ten times the size of the one below us—was an enormous heart. It looked almost like a titanic boulder, bigger in size than any we had ever seen, beating fiercely, as though whatever body it had inhabited had been running for miles before.

And it was split in two, held weakly together by tethers at the bottom. From the center of the split sides, it was gushing blood like a fountain, pouring tons into the water around it by the second. The air stank of rot and decay, but the heart showed no signs of weakness. It was incredible to see something so full of life yet so broken. All we could do was stand there still, looking on amazed and frightened.

——

 

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MAGIC LOST (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Magic Lost

Where’d the magic go?

Lost somewhere between the sheets

and the long walk home.

 

Vices

Take another sip

of that poison you cling to.

Tell me how it burns.

 

Intellect

For all our knowledge

we worry about days past

more than mindless rocks.

 

Seabound

If all of the seas

were to close their ports to me,

I’d still wave to you.

 

A Way Out

If they had forced me

to kill someone, I’d choose to

kill them with kindness.

——

 

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DREAMING ABOUT DREAMS

I recently was reading through some of the dreams that my late grandfather wrote down in his lifetime, and was struck by how bizarre they were. People trapped in houses, sexual symbolism, unknown entities hunting him down…really just the works. Yet in spite of this, they were completely enthralling. Maybe that’s why they were so interesting. Regardless, dreams are cool.

When you think about it, dreams really are something that we should value higher in our lives. So many people get up quickly just to rush their way back into reality—myself included. I think that’s probably the default state of being for people, perhaps because dreams are often forgotten quickly, and like to hide in the back of our consciousness. There’s a short list of dreams I can remember. But considering how historically important dreams have been to us, I would think we would care about them a little more.

Einstein is a famous example, who dreamed about sledding down a mountainside so fast that he began approaching light speed, which, when he awoke, he used to help form his theory of relativity. The idea that he could use a dream to inspire and create the work that made him famous is incredible. Yet it wasn’t because he just happened to be struck by this dream—it was also because he sat and thought about it.

If I haven’t sold you on dreams yet, think about famous speeches. The “I Have a Dream” speech plays on the mythic qualities of dreams. If we thought dreams couldn’t be reality, it would be a stupid idea to try to use them to persuade others—which, in truth, is part of what that speech was about. Maybe it’s just because dreams are outside reality, which makes them seem better than they are, maybe not.

Outside reality is an interesting side topic for dreams, as it relates to drugs. I mean drugs are usually used as another route to escape—in many cases, people use them to have hallucinations that are very vivid that they can interact with (sound anything like a lucid dream to you?). I’m not sure this is as bad a thing as many people make it out to be. Certainly, some of them can be addicting, and THAT can be dangerous, but simply experiencing the imagery and immersing yourself in the wiles of imagination (because where do hallucinations come from if not imagination) does not seem like it should be entirely feared. Many people produce important work while in a “dream-like state” from drugs—just look at the Beatles!

Ok, anyways, dreams are something super valuable that most people take for granted, which is a sad concept. What do you think? Do you have any special dreams that have changed your life? Let me know in the comments!

 

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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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LOVE POEM #51 – LOOSE CHANGE

They told me the girl on the street corner

was a dime a dozen. Which is why,

when we stopped at the red light,

they threw coins at her

before speeding off, laughing

like little pigs, all the way home.

They didn’t see in the rear-view mirror

how she fell to her knees, crying,

scrounging to pick up the loose change.

 

Perhaps that’s why when I saw her

marching down the aisle

at the dirty supermarket

I couldn’t help but ask her

why such a dame would scamper

after a few dozen nickels.

 

And she told me that in life

we all just scrounge for enough change

to make our empty selves feel whole,

even if, in the end, we are just half dollars.

 

It was then I felt a prick,

and I told her, if she wanted,

that I would buy her a drink,

pay a penny for her thoughts,

and we could chat the night away.

 

She agreed with a smile, on the condition

that I wouldn’t be charging any hidden fees

or sticking her backside with my taxes.

 

It was a pro bono night, indeed.

 

The next morning I walked her home,

and we stopped at the same street corner.

She found a penny, heads up.

It’s your lucky day she told me,

handing Abe over to me.

I cupped it in her palm and told her

luck be you, m’lady.

——

 

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DOWNPOUR (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Unending

Tick-tock, ‘round the clock.

Do you ever wonder when

the world will stop?

 

Enjoy

There’s not enough time

in this short life that we live

to not eat good food.

 

Fantasies

While your mind wanders,

night sets in; but you can still

picture the sunset.

 

Yard Work

With dust in my pores

and dirt soaking in my hair,

I feel at home.

 

Downpour

Consume the hatred,

let it flow through you like rain,

but don’t drown yourself.

——

 

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DEFEATED BEFORE BREAKFAST

When I woke up, I was already defeated. The thick, mass of blankets pinned me down, while waves of lethargy threatened to drown me beneath them. My eyes felt hazy, as though I had awoke intoxicated by some unknown drug, and every muscle in my body seemed to whisper stay just a little while longer. Gravity itself pulled me back toward the warm confines of the bed when I finally rocked myself up.

And as I stumbled about my room, the cozy grooves of the carpet felt like roots, begging me to drink their nutrients and become a tree. The shivers of cool air whisking through the window cut me deep in my nudity, as if to order me back to bed. The same was true for the bathroom tiles, the shock of frigid water, and the hasty toweling off. I looked at myself in the mirror—might I mention that looking in the mirror in the morning is never a good idea. My salt and pepper beard was scruffy; I looked older than I was. Though, in truth, I felt older than I looked. Which meant, that morning, I could only conclude that I had no idea how old I was, but that “old” was certainly the correct descriptive word.

Looking in that mirror was the last twist of the knife though. It was like watching the walls of Constantinople crumble, or the Russian winter cripple Napoleon’s armies. I saw myself—my sunken eyes, my wrinkled arms, and my weakened knees—and the miniscule warmth in my heart was snuffed out. I picked up the phone and dialed some numbers.

“Hello?” A familiar female voice called out to me.

“Hi, Allie, it’s Jim. I’m not feeling well today. I’ve got a 103 fever, and I’m not going to make it in today.” I could hear the pause as she typed out a few things

“Well hi Jim. I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well, but didn’t you get the email?” There was a note of sorrow in her voice.

“What email?”

“Oh. Well they rescheduled you. You don’t have to come in until tomorrow at five.”

“Oh. Well thanks for telling me. When did they send out the email?”

“This morning,” my heart stung with annoyance as she spoke, “don’t you check everyday?”

“No. Do you?”

“Hmm well you should.” She sounded bored.

“Well, thanks for telling me that,” I said, “talk to you later.”

“By Jim!” then the phone clicked off.

I climbed back into bed and pulled the covers up. They had cooled since I had left them. At least my defeat didn’t actually cost me anything.

——

 

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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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FEELING LOST ON THE BEACH

“When did I start walking? I don’t really remember…” my voice trailed off as I looked into the distance. The old man had pulled up along side me just as I noticed the sun was setting. He was a short fellow, but had a certain youthful spring to his step.

“Well, if you don’t remember when you started walking, do you remember why?” The smile hidden inside his beard broke into a laugh. He reminded me of my childhood house cat in that way. He was scruffy, in a well-worn Hawaiian shirt and loose cargo pants, with a deep tan.

“I don’t really remember that either,” I said. I turned my attention to where I was. We were along the beachside, at sunset, walking at the edge of the sand and the sidewalk. The last thing I remembered was tying my shoes in the morning—yet when I looked down to see them, I saw only my bare feet. And had it been this morning?

“Well, you don’t know why you’re here, or how long you’ve been going where you’re going, but you’re still going somewhere. Ain’t that something else? Next thing you’ll tell me, you don’t even remember your name.”

“My name is Adam,” I said.

“Adam is it?” the old man replied. He pulled his beard between his thumb and index finger thoughtfully. “Adam has always been a favorite name of mine. Good strong name.”

“I’m not sure I’d describe myself as a strong man,” the words fell out of my mouth before I had even thought of them.

“Oh,” the man looked at me curiously, “and why is that?” I stared off into the distance again, unsure how to proceed. The relatively flat surface of the beach had turned into an uphill climb as we approached the dunes.

“I’m not sure,” I said finally, “perhaps that’s why I’m walking?” I smiled at him. A look of hesitant concern crossed his face.

“Could be, Adam. It’s no old geezer like me’s business, but I think maybe you’re feeling lost.”

“What gave you that impress—” his tone turned stern, in the way a grandparent’s does when they need to teach a lesson, but without making their grandchildren cry.

“Now don’t go interrupting me, Adam,” he wagged a meaty finger in my face, “I’ve seen boys like you before. Look over their,” he gestured out to the many small silhouettes along the shoreline, watching the sun sinking beneath the ocean. “All those people? They’re going through something just like you. Might be they just got through it; might be that they’re about to run into it.

“But it’s too easy to just walk away from your problems like you’re doing here. Leaving the whole world behind, as if the world did something to you that you didn’t deserve. You’ll keep walking till your feet are blistered, your legs are cramped, your stomach is knotted, and your hair is in tatters. And you’ll still feel lost, because that’s not how we overcome our problems. It’s good to know when and why to walk away, like from some hothead in a bar, but it ain’t no good to just be walking empty headed—letting them bad thoughts cloud your mind and eat away at your soul. You need to stand up, and figure out where you’ve been and, more importantly, where you’re going.”

His hands closed into fists with these last remarks. Then, he put a hand on my shoulder and stopped. I paused and looked up. We were at the top of the sand dunes. The ocean could be seen for miles, and the sun was just a fleeting sliver, before it would wink out for the night entirely. His eyes were full of determination, yet also so full of sadness. Like he knew what I was feeling even better than I did.

“I—” the words wouldn’t come to me. I could feel a tear slipping down my cheek, though I wasn’t sure when it had gotten there.

“That’s alright Adam,” he took his hand off of me, “you’ll figure it out. Just stay here till you do.” And like that, he spun on his heels, and marched off down the hill, while I sat and watched the clouds turn from orange, to pink, to purple, and finally to a deep, empty gray.

——

 

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