It’s been a while

•May 21, 2017 • 1 Comment

We are told from when we’re born

That like tiny tender shoots reaching upward

We will bloom, special and wondrous,

Presented to another in the beauty of mortality.

 

Sprouting from a hard, unforgiving soil,

My leaves blackened and soiled by the dirt

I was torn from when I had just learned to love

The Sun, I was offered to you.

 

Will you press my softness to your lips

Leaving a trace of your smile upon me,

Turning me gently between finger and thumb

Leaving me curled around your fingers?

 

Will the touch of your fingers still gently curl

Around my bent frame, sliding with

Empathy and tenderness

Past my worn, jagged thorns?

 

We are told from when we’re born

That as precious blooms of wondrous beauty

We will have our time beneath the sun and, wilting,

Usher form and art unto dust and history.

 

And as my petals fall will you still tell me I’m beautiful?

When time wilts my frame will you still come by

And, with your inward sigh, inhale my scent

Into your memory with a gently held second?

 

As each petal ages and drifts away

Through the mortal breeze of time

Will you press me in the pages of your book

Framing me as a tender memory you can almost remember?

 

Will you surrender me

Unto the decomposition of the world?

Drifting away into the obscurity

Where all forgotten things retreat,

Faceless, nameless to become something else?

 

We are told from when we’re born

That we will live, grow and die the same

As any other flower – but I am yours.

What will you do with me?

By Degrees

•December 18, 2013 • 1 Comment

A trace of snowflakes flutter down

Amidst the light, warm wind unusual

For the deepening December night.

Few land softly along the long, lithe back

Of the aging, brooding beast which breathes

Slowly, heavily within the folds of darkness.

A tinge of frost upon his breath, a second’s damp

Upon his nose, finds voice from the angry creak

Of a rusty hinge, protesting against the touch

Of the Wind’s chill fingers as they tap, tap, tap.

The lion huffs a humid cloud, the tendrils of which

Eek out their brief existence in a swift, silent moment,

Vanishing as swiftly as the sound of the breath that bore

Them into beautiful, meaningless life.

The creature does not stir with the passing, however,

Sitting a statuesque silhouette against the  backdrop

Of deep indigo and pearlescent moonlight.

And he remembers.

Such time has past since one he roared

Ferocious, proud , reverberating,

Declaring ascended dominance

Throughout the vibrant foliage,

Echoing his exalted eminence

Across the mighty plains!

And he mourns.

Sultry summer Savannah days

Have since slipped past to memory,

Aghast among Time’s frail decay

Their traces effaced into the dry

Dusty desert of the absent and neglected.

And he rages.

Hidden scars lay dormant, covered,

Bitter trophies beneath the frail, noble gold

Of the armor he has constructed over them.

Painful tokens carved and covered from days long past

When first he protested the intrusive captors come to claim

Him from his youthful invincibility.

Bodily he threw himself against the bars,

Terror, teeth, asperity mixed with despair

And disparity between beliefs of dominance,

Slavery and natural justice in this world.

Yet roars are useless, anymore

Fit only for a child’s awe or startling passersby.

Freedom’s form a foolish game

Within the scope of responsibility.

The rage has passed, his passion past,

Hid beneath nobility.

He does not cry nor wonder why,

But greets all with empty civility.

The World may pass this lion by,

In awe it marvels what it sees.

Yet beneath the calm, collected form

It knows not that he dies by degrees.

Summer Storm

•July 7, 2012 • 3 Comments

I wrote this in response to a picture of a friend I saw. It’s meant to be a little noir, en medias res sort of start to an old-style detective novel. A kind of prologue where the next chapter would start months/weeks earlier and introduce the character after hooking the reader. Would love to know what you think.

~*~*~

Prologue:

The streets of Chicago were burning with the July heat. Humid air hung all around you, threatening to cling to the fabric of your body and soul like weights, slowing every movement you made and sapping your very will to exist. I drew a white cotton handkerchief from the depths of my pocket and drew it slowly across my forehead and down the side of my face, drawing the moisture from deep set lines and rough stubble that seemed to hold the air close to it like a lover, despite my soul’s protestations. It was Sunday, and here I was off to Mass…wouldn’t mother be proud. It had been years since I’d darkened the door of a church, and let’s be straight with each other, I wasn’t too thrilled about going now. But something was drawing me towards St. James’ this morning, and empty ache in my gut that whispered with the sort of earnestness that couldn’t be ignored.

I didn’t feel much better as I rounded the corner, the lights of the meat wagon and the checkered squads spinning in the street, chasing each other in meaningless circles of endless pursuit. As I drew up close to the blue and white barricades, I saw Captain Donnelly tearing into some twenty-something rook like a half-starved pitbull knaws on a bloody steak. Connor Donnelly was a short man, no taller than 5’6″, but built wide and thick like a Georgetown bulldog. A hapless corporal once made the mistake of commenting Connor had the jowels to match, and while accurate, was overheard by the good Captain, and was met with a curt riposte that left him doing a raccoon impression for several weeks to come.  And while Capt. Donnelly had the personality of a junkyard dog, he had the tenacity to go with it…which in his business proved a definite asset.

My stomach turned again, threatening to expose the double of whiskey I’d managed for breakfast, as well as the fifth I’d had for supper the night before, and I wasn’t looking forward to dancing with the Captain yet again. Still, I steeled myself for the inevitable barrage of indignation and insult sure to fly my way when he caught sight of me. Donnelly was lacking in manners, despised my profession, and never forgave me for marrying his sister, God rest her soul. So, like true men, we were fairly close, as you might imagine.

“You bug-eyed little piss-stain! Do you not know the difference between a crime scene and your shit-hole rutting ground? Keep your sorry carcass out of this scene, out of this church, and out of my God-da…”

“Careful Donnelly, He might hear you…”

His mouth half opened in a mix of roaring and shock his eyes narrowed to slits as his voice lowered to a slow menacing, icy hiss that cooled that poor rook down to his soul, even in this heat.

“Damned….sight.”

Twenty Something, possibly as near as a full grown man can be to soiling his blues, saluted and turned to go anywhere but ground zero of what would have proven to be the finest fit of rage the town had seen on a Sunday since the fire chief happened about Ms. O’Leary the day after.

“Carter…..go to confession.”

I blinked in confusion…it was never this easy with Connor. Cocking a sarcastic grin, I quipped, “Funny, confession was not at all the way I thought you were going to finish that sentence…”

“Carter….confessional. Now.”

The soft, commanding tone he used made me swallow hard and turn toward the heavy, oaken doors of the cathedral almost immediately. It was typically a fight to enter one of Donnelly’s scenes – usually one where I had to convince him through frustration that it was simply easier to let me pass than continue arguing with me. To simply let me in without a fight, and even tell me where I was supposed to look, made me more uncomfortable than I care to admit.

“And Carter….I’m….I’m sorry.”

My brows creased heavily as my hand found the warm brass of the handle. I held the door open a crease, standing there in silence for a long moment. Connor hadn’t apologized to me in ages, not since Mary had…well, it had been a long time. Turning to glance at him, his dark green eyes brewed with concern, something that made my muscles tense and my eyes narrow. With a deep breath, I heaved the door open and entered.

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the bluish light of the stained glass. The window stood tall and bright, bearing the name of St. James the Just, illuminating the dust particles that floated listlessly in the air, making it feel almost as if the sea had turned to light, washing over and baptizing you in serenity and calm. But as I took a deep, slow breath, I smelled it. Blood is the kind of smell you never forget – heavy and stolid. It leaves a sort of coppery taste in your nose and mouth, and when left to hang in the air seems to scream silently in protest, as if lamenting its untimely freedom from the vessel of its birth. I’d smelled enough blood to last several lifetimes, spilled by my hands and the hands of others…but this scent had no place in a Church.

The heavy soles of my shoes thudded along the polished floor as I moved forward toward a group of men hanging about the light stained boxes that comprised the confessionals. As I rounded the aisle, the spread apart slowly, and my stomach eased as my heart sank.

The soft rouge that colored her porcelain cheeks seemed to defy the pallor that was slowly creeping into them. Her ruby lips, pursed in an eternal exhalation, begged even the most chaste of men to indulge slowly, sinfully in one soft kiss, even if it meant she would inhale your very soul in payment. The slow, lithe curve of her neck was exposed to the wafting light of the candelabra that stood vigil nearby, as if each flame fought the power of darkness with each flicker, somehow trying to willfully keep death from violating her any further. From the front, she stood temporarily immortalized in youth and beauty, wreathed in ravens wings that rippled like dark water around her shoulders each time the air dared to move around her. Her red hair spilled out around her head and shoulders, making it hard to see where the long crimson strands stopped, and the darkening sanguine pool began, the blood matted and clinging to her hair as if even it could not stand to be parted from its creator.

As I moved close to her, I knelt, brushing back the veil she wore only slightly, staring down with a soft sigh. It caught in my throat, however, as her gaze met mine. Those soft, silver-blue eyes peered deep within me, seeing everything and nothing all at once. They seemed to ask a secret question, the kind you don’t know how to ask, but will rend the very fabric of your being just to catch a glimpse of the answer to.  They held me  softly, curling in and around me like incense, soaking into the dark, quiet places I keep my secrets in, filling me with the sadness of a thousand lost lover’s tears, and longing thirst for a single touch that threatens to parch your heart eternally from all emotion if you cannot feel the fluttering touch of one fingertip, or live a millisecond millennium within her gaze, stolen between blinks.

I could have starved to death staring into her soft, sensual gaze, but I was brought to reality by a nearby sergeant’s voice, braying like a mule, shattering the silence and reverence that hung in and around her.

“Eh, you know this one Carter?”

I exhaled slowly, and I could feel my facial muscles hardening into an iron mask, driving all emotion from my features.

“Not particularly,” I lied, “but I might have seen her somewhere before. You know how my memory is.”

“Used to be pretty good, as I recall, when you weren’t pickling it with the sauce…”

I didn’t notice my fists were clenched into whitened snowballs of knuckles and rage, but as I turned to head out, I snorted at the good sergeant in reply. I presumed my eyes held enough meaning, as he stumbled back a step or two, muttering something that I’m sure would have been an apology, had I heard it over the blood thundering in my ears.

I wasn’t sure who ‘they’ were. I wasn’t sure why ‘they’ had done it. But ‘they’ had killed Katherine….and I was going to kill ‘them’….all of ‘them’…or my name wasn’t Carter McBride.

Offered Bloom

•February 5, 2012 • 1 Comment

Gratitude, like sparse wildflowers

Blooms tenderly and steadily

In the desert of Despair –

Its colors splashed haphazardly and free

Amongst the tumbleweeds of dismay.

Though the heat of Judgement and choking

Wisps of Bitterness stab mercilessly, ceaslessly

At its fragile roots and tenuous shoots,

It blooms resolute, strong and free

Where the strong have place to find it

And the Weak draw peace in the fragrance

It selflessly offers, even after plucked.

A little prose for measure.

•September 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The smattering of frost on the sidewalk offered a soft protest as his boots made their way across the cracked squares, long since split by weeds and lack of attention. He exhaled slowly, the warm breath swirling into a spiraling fog, dancing once around before passing away into the cool autumn breeze that seemed to wheeze and sigh though the trees – a seemingly protesting groan from the aging town as it shook off the dawn and grumbled into first light’s life. Pulling the flap of his black pea-coat up and the rim of his fedora down, he felt as if he were a carbon shadow of the past drifting like a shade across the memory of the place, even as his memory drifted back decades to when he’d mistakenly called this place home.

Black leather gloved hands rose to his paling lips, another drawn out exhale sweeping across their cool, slick surface. Pushing the fog around and through the fingers as if to warm him, he smirked slightly to himself, wondering at his own motives. Was he really expecting to warm the blood that coursed beneath the gloves, or was he, more likely, trying to warm his nerve against this inexplicable apprehension he felt rising unmercifully in his gut. It had been long over two decades since he’d walked this path with any sort of frequency, having long since put hundreds of miles between his sentiments of the place and those he once called friends and neighbors. All too aware of Time’s merciless, ceaseless trudging forward, he shook his head a half a turn and back, chuckling weakly against the dry air. The chances he’d even see anyone he knew – much less any who knew him – was remote at best.  As his hands fell to the dark, comfortable depths of his pockets, his cool blue eyes flitted up to the street sign of the tired intersection he was crossing, marking his position.

The corner of Waverly and Ross. It was a corner like any other – in truth, you could likely close your eyes while putting one foot before another, and were you to open them again in any other small midwest town, you might find yourself wondering if you’d have moved at all. He knew the place, however, and turned to the West, walking another block until he came to an old, rusting chainlink fence that spanned the better part of two blocks. Raising one hand to eye level, he rested it against the twisted metal, staring at the large red brick building across the large field it enclosed. The bricks of the elementary school were deteriorating, much like the rest of this place, too stubborn to accept they were dying, subsisting on the starvation diet of necessity and tradition, even as the world moved on with its life over and around the lonely streets and faded homes entombed within the city limits.

While his eyes were cast over the browning grass of the playground, crusted and shimmering with the quickly melting frost of the morning, he looked into the sepia tinted past where children raced across the field in the rushed minutes of recess so long ago. He could almost feel the press of the swing below him as he pumped his legs in competition for who could soar the highest, and taste the blood on his lip where his good friend Jack had split it with a solid right when arguing over who would take the long haired, green eyed Jillian to the movies. He half-laughed sadly to himself – they both had known that neither had stood a chance compared to the older, more handsome Jeff, but boys, he knew, held on to their dreams – quickly and violently responding to any who might challenge them. They had been in sixth grade, and such matters had been of life importance back then. He remembered how he was preparing to swing back when the teacher screamed her banshee wail across the void at them, urging them to stop. He could hear her call his name almost fresh today as it was back then.

“William? William Messenger…is that really you?”

The soft, feminine voice shattered him back to reality more strongly than any scream could ever have. Turning with a start, he met a pair of soft hazel eyes staring at him from some three feet away. The woman was dressed in a worn navy windbreaker, covering her petite form in far too light a layer for the morning’s cold, supported by tight blue jeans and brown leather boots, all bearing a significant age, and yet seemed well tended by caring hands. Her hands were covered by white knit gloves, each resting beneath her upper arms as they crossed her chest in a desperate attempt to keep warm. While he was prone to notice detail with an almost agonizing surety, he found himself instead searching her face. Tracing her dark brown eyebrows and thin pink lips, he searched his memory for the face which had born time gracefully and elegantly, as if the waist-long chestnut hair that framed her face had protected her from the invisible burden worn around the neck of the people he’d seen on his path here. With a sudden jolt, he placed her – she’d been all knees and elbows back then; the kind of girl who was a little more mature for her age, and thus had liked boys and in the juvenile reaction of ignorant children had suffered for it. She had often plied for his attention, and that of his friends, but they they had often dismissed her as unwonton for fear that if they would indulge their secret desire for her company, their peers would torment them mercilessly. Many nights he had wondered what it would be like to kiss her back then, and while he could strangely recall his fantasies, he struggled to affix a name to those deep, passionate soul that shown through those eyes.

“It’s Liz….Liz Fisher….do you remember me? I know it’s been ages, and I can’t believe you would…I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t…not much to remember I’d think….oh heavens, I’m rambling, aren’t I?”

A soft, sad smile split his lips, whispering a hint of his teeth as he was offered clarity. Liz had been a chatterbox even back then, often dismissed as air headed, though such was quite contrary to the truth. While nervousness often prevented her from offering a clearer form of dialogue, she had been quite intelligent back then, often reading several grades ahead and being considered for honors programs. And yet the cruelty and nearsighted nature of children often obscured the truth of people for the easier, more convenient labels that could be ruthlessly applied in a moment and held for an endless memory.

“Elizabeth…goodness, it must be 20 years since I’ve seen you. Time has kind to you, it seems. How have you been?”

Darting a few steps forward to close to a more reasonable distance for conversation, she positively beamed at the returned recognition. Even though a full grown woman, she struck him as a nervous teenager standing there, her knees bent inward, right foot toeing at the ground, shoulders twisting and turning against the cold and her draped across her frame. He couldn’t help but feel a deep, warm pull at his heart at the mere sight of her. She seemed somewhat fragile and delicate, and yet with a hidden strength – like a river reed that bent in the wind – narrow and bending, but having an invisible integrity that refused to let her break.

“It is you! Of all the people to come across. I hadn’t thought I’d have the chance to lay eyes on you again. What brings you to town after all these years?”

He couldn’t keep his eyes from darkening a bit at the question, though the shadow only flickered for the briefest of seconds before fading back to the warmth that he felt for what her presence really meant to him. Reaching out his hands, his black gloves grasped her shoulders, rubbing up and down her upper arms a few times with a gentle pressure. He purposefully avoided the question, even as she had avoided his. Turn about was fair play, he figured, and such was the dance of familiar strangers in times and places such as these.

“You must be freezing Elizabeth…why on earth would you not be dressed in something warmer? At least come with me so I can buy you a cup of coffee and warm you up.”

Her lips curled briefly upward at the touch, as if it were more than slightly welcome, but faded in an instant later to a distant dispassion that was more than disconcerting. The nervousness of her frame fled in that instant, her knees straightening and her arms falling down her side, he could not sense whether it was anger, fear, or shame that split her features before they became as cold as the frost on the ground. She bit her bottom lip for a moment then pressed past him in a metered rush, as if she were trying not run against all her instincts necessity.

“I’m…I’m sorry…I can’t…I have, um, things to get done….you know how it is…I just saw you and wanted to be sure you weren’t a ghost, you know? But I should really get going. It was nice seeing you…”

She made it about three steps behind him before stopping briefly. Hearing the noise of her hasty footsteps pause, he turned slowly at the waist and neck casting a glance back over his shoulder at her. She was trembling slightly, though he wagered it was not from the quick pick of of the icy breeze. Her shoulders rose, then fell, as a deep breath gave her pause and composure. Turning her head to shoot one greenish brown eye through the cascading gaps of her hair, her voice took on a satin warmth reminiscent of the noir films of old. Her voice held a deep sincerity, as she offered:

“See you around, Big Boy.”

Despite the curiously abrupt nature of the exchange, and the peculiar brevity of the conversation, he found himself whispering back at her in a soft, sad tone of regret, a counter that he felt sublimely appropriate to what seemed a restrained mix of apology, attraction, affection, and acknowledgement.

“Here’s looking at you, kid….”

Her playful smile broke slightly, melting from its playfully waxy, sassy twist to a softer, silken crease before turning and hastily walking down the street to anywhere but there. He watched her fade into memory once again, wondering briefly at the what ifs that inevitably come from such interactions. Raising his fingertips to his lips once again, he exhaled slowly against them, wondering if this momentary interlude had helped or hindered him in the business that lay ahead. He made a quick and silent decision that it was not worth pondering, then moved to place one foot in front of another. It was time he moved on to more pressing matters and dismissed with all this nostalgia. This was not a social visit…he had work to do, and he’d best get to it. As he moved down the street, he drew a pair of amber colored lenses from his inside breast pocket, covering his eyes and locking the doorway to his soul.

“Careless, William…you know better than that. Get on with it.”

~*~*~

(Possibly to be continued…)

Worn Down

•September 14, 2011 • 1 Comment

My failing fingers have rubbed raw

Clawing through the hourglass sand

Spent from my soul’s ticking, clicking clock

As Future becomes Present and flows into Past.

 

In the darkened room of my mind

There are shuttered drawers of saved memory

And sentiment where I thought to protect

Pieces of me against Time’s stripping flow.

 

Yet the acidic silica has wormed through the wood

And made a meal of their edges, effacing

Their clarity, and consuming them

Into a decaying fragmentation of gray, ashen obscurity.

 

Searching frantically through the flow

I have sought even one whole picture

Of who I am, perhaps was, or even will be.

Scooping through the deep depths of fragmented nothing.

 

Defeat flows through the gaping spaces,

Trickling into small, grained whispers –

Eroding me into the metered wash,

Forming a small pile on the floor.

 

 

 

 

For Vera

•August 28, 2011 • 1 Comment

My dear friend Vera is always commenting on how I tend to write sad or dark poetry. This is, by rights, quite a contrast from who I seem to be in many respects, and yet is a facet of who I really am when at my most honest and vulnerable self – and it is usually in this state that I write my clearest work. However, as I cannot have it said that I am a dreadfully sad sort, I will attempt to compose something a bit more cheery – but only if Vera promises to smile while reading it! And so, Tanczos Vera, a happy poem for you. 🙂

It chanced to happen, one rosemary dawn,

That a butterfly stopped for tea.

She alighted, soft, on glass bubble wings

Taking her seat on my knee.

 

I was not expecting so quiet a guest

In the cool of that gentle March morn,

Yet the breeze on my face and her wings full of grace

Were a comfort as the sun was reborn.

 

I sipped on my brew, a kind caramel brown,

As she whispered a fluttering dance.

And my hope and my heart were warmed at the sight

As she turned ‘gainst the grain of my pants.

I offered my hand – the crudest of mounts –

 

Yet in kindness she chose to alight.

Riding my hand to an eye level perch

As her soft wings colored the light.

 

They were hard onyx black and cool river blue,

Spread, speckled, and painted – a deep azure hue.

They rose and they fell like an angel’s soft breath

That was slowly drying the dew.

 

She offered no name, no opinion or thought,

Only whispered of beauty and hope.

A moment she offered, then flitted away

And with dawn’s fresh breeze she eloped.