Tag Archives: courage

War, a very short story

illustration war very short story cats and dogs illustration war very short story cat and dog backwards

The woman thought of God a hundred times a day. A thousand. An infinite number of times. Consciousness on the quantum level. And each day, she grew unhappier. More discouraged. Bleaker. Uglier. Sadder. More uncertain. In the trenches. Wanting to know for sure, and be done with it. The big picture… could anyone see it… could anyone imagine it… could she, or anyone she knew, ever have a clue to its subject… its matter. Most people seem strong until something goes wrong. Could time really heal?

Her belly grew heavy and cold, a dizzying pit of endless space. Would she ever be able to see it through to the end? Where was the end? When was it reasonable to stop trying. When was it the right time to stop trying… too hard. Where were people when you needed them. Bullets never did any body any good. The first human-killing weapons led to more, and more deadly, machinery for war… cannons and tanks and bombers. Land mines. Napalm. Nukes. Propaganda. Poison. Secrecy. It all boiled down into the same rotten thing, in the end.

Terror. The dog barked and barked and yelped and whined and barked some more. He was single-minded; his existence that moment was all about the cat, the cat behind the sofa. She refused to be ruled by terror. She growled and hissed back. She sat just outside his reach and baited him. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it backfired. Sometimes the dog came so close to her, his mouth closed in on the long, silky fluff of her tail. He bore a complex pattern of red scratches on his black and white snout. The man wanted the cat gone in the morning. What if he insisted? The man, or the cat? She preferred the cat tonight. No telling about tomorrow.

 

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Empire State Building, a poem

Manhattan Office Vacancy Rate Drops In Second Quarter

Empire State Building

Twenty years ago we finally went to see the sights,
riding the train through flashing dim green suburb,
glassy sharp-edged slum, the skin stretched
pale and tight over your fine cheekbones —

you didn’t really know how to be afraid of death,
simply of heights and under-grounds:
you wanted always to be on the surface of the earth.
Your demise was still an abstraction,

discussed in the evening while sucking cool mints —
the natural order of things. I dragged you
all the way to the city under the water from Hoboken,
then marched you up to the roof of what was the tallest

building in the whole world when you were young.
I haven’t been here since it was built, you said,
and though the blood sank to your innards in panic,
you kept walking; I kept pushing and pulling you

forward, propelling your solid weight like a cart
loaded with spring lambs. Your hand, soft
wrinkled palm, roughened fingers speckled white
around the knuckles, gripped mine, but I showed

no mercy; I was forcing you to confront the bitter
end ahead of schedule. I was being cruel
to make you go look at the thin sparkling air
of the heavens and you knew it. But later,

my love, as you lay sweating, heavy and motionless
in your bed as though carved of wood, deprived
for weeks of even the common decency of words,
weren’t you glad you went with me once more to the top?

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Pretty Young Women, Playing A Game, a very short story

Pretty Young Women, Playing A Game

The stupid party game I suggested that night was called “the worst moment of your life.” A half-dozen of us were playing, sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor. The prettiest, Kelly, resembled a long-past period of fashion, with her trembling dusty-yellow curls, her sharp little chin — her eyes were bright blue, her frame delicate. We had been up all night; the sun was close to rising, but the birds hadn’t started their relentless cheerful, spell-breaking noise.

Kelly didn’t want to play at first, but the rest of us insisted, figuring what? That not making head cheerleader was her life’s worst tragedy? That’s what happens again and again to women like her, they try to explain why they don’t want to talk about it… but no one listens.

The second prettiest one, Vicki, was pale and fleshy, moving with a clumsy, yet charming, slowness that made the rest of us wonder if it was an act… or could she really be that dumb? Across the undersides of her velvety forearms gleamed a network of thin white scars… the baby she’d left at her mother’s that night was not her husband’s. Mistakes get made; the child’s father was never heard from again.

Oh, but now Vicki wanted to get remarried so badly it made every other woman in the room flush with embarrassment just hearing her mention her latest lover’s name. We knew because of the kid that wasn’t his he would never agree to marry her; but she was so beautiful… scars, sad eyes and all… that he couldn’t say no to what she offered up nightly.

So, after being pushed & pushed & pushed & pushed & pushed into participating, Kelly narrated the worst moment of her life. Her twin sister was in the middle of a divorce. We never knew she HAD a sister. A few days before Christmas, the estranged husband called — he had lots of presents for the kids. She agreed to meet him at a gas station down the street. The only thing he gave her was three bullets — one in the spleen, one in the right lung, one in the throat.

“At least he had the decency to shoot himself too,” Kelly says sobbing. “How does marriage turn into murder?” The rest of us watched tears plop out of her eyes like clear glass pearls; we heard the birds finally, blessedly, began to chatter, bringing relentless life back into the world.

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She Hates Numbers

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This Road I Am Traveling, a prose poem

illustration this road i am traveling

This Road I Am Traveling, a prose poem

I used to think it was possible, even desirable to order the world into alphabetic categories, though I never dared cut someone open with such a blunt knife as you.  The most I ever tried was harvesting a few drops of blood — they oozed through the cleanly raked skin underneath my claw like rare jewels.

You do not offer help.  You are scientific, curious, high on espresso, perfumed with the thick odor of fatty, fruity soap.  You tempt me to weep on your flannel jacket, though you don’t for a minute pretend to love me — or anyone.  It is all part of your elaborate theory.

You ask me what it was like to watch her body go, you say you hesitate to dredge up old muck, yet you persist in an ignorant, wheedling way, pulling the raw edges of the wound farther in your fretful passion to get at the truth.  I can’t believe a word you say.

Death is foreign to you.  Open your eyes!  See mine, clouded with the desire to cause your enlightenment.  Yes, I recall a hundred details:  the way a hand is not any longer a hand after that last breath, just a heavy piece of meat.  I remember the stiffening of flesh, the way heat emanates in nearly visible waves from the stilled body.  Though as you observe, time has continued to flow, my thoughts have not yet moved on — you are deluding yourself to think they ever will.  Shut up!  Your sympathies are worth nothing.

There are a million out there who know what I know — until you have allowed the fleeting soul of the one you love to pass through you, risking the internal injuries, the scarring from radiation, you can forget trying to follow for your own amusement.

This road I am traveling is ice — I have been skating with my silvery feet for more than ten years, and though it grows ever wider, I can see no end.  I grow tired, but there is nowhere to stop.  Living is grieving — sooner or later, only grief survives.  Once you learn to skate down memory lane, it’s something you never forget.  Though my legs ache, I have to keep them pushing.  Still, the bare trees arch gracefully overhead.  This cold air burns, yet cleanses.

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The Evolution of the Orgasm, a poem

illustration the evolution of the orgasm

The Evolution of the Orgasm, a poem

Does the new-twinned cell, as it sorts out
one tangled rat’s nest of nucleus

from the other with its slow patient dance
of cytoplasm and membrane, somehow know

the sweet involuntary contraction and release
of its division?  An organism’s inner tension

promotes as well as restrains
total disintegration.  Is each duplicating

mitochondrion frozen fast in the stream
of its own powerful, mindless barrage

of electrons?  Life on a cellular level
is both straightforward and incomprehensible.

Could any physical laws possibly hold
resolute in the embrace of such rapture?

Was the orgasm the means of our worldly
creation, or the end?  Less can be more,

but not in this case.  Is what makes you
come so easily explained?  As usual, let us

personify:  she is rich-skinned, veiled
cool in a white ruffled nightshirt….

Well-muscled, each movement sure, swift,
with only one purpose.  Her hair is short

or long, pulled tight or draped loose,
but the look in her eyes is a steely

constant, it says, I know you. I have always
known you.  I will know you even after

your tired flesh has flown away singing
through the air like a frightened dove,

and your pale, forgetful bones have fallen
into fine dry grit.  In my relentless arms

you will learn to surrender all fears, all
your dark secrets.  Forever and ever

will I love you.  Is it any wonder we dream
of her so often, with such helpless longing?

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