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Showing posts from July, 2013

The Plummet

I wouldn’t call Francine my wife, though we’ve been together since the first winter. After the Plummet, people stopped believing in God, myself included. She didn’t speak a whole lot of English, and I didn’t speak a whole lot of… whatever she speaks, but when it’s cold, you don’t need words.

We were told by some young couple a few months back that there was an enclave of people in the South, trying to rebuild. From Alaska, or what used to be Alaska, the South might as well be the other side of the world. Judging by the increasing number of cropland, and wild corn, I’d say we were somewhere in Idaho. I keep doing that. There aren’t borders any more.

I rolled over in our tent, the moon poking my eyelids open. Francine was gone, which I supposed wasn’t wholly out of the ordinary. Still, with Marauders sweeping across the nation, one can’t be too concerned. I sat up, rubbed the dirt from my face, and shuffled outside the tent.

Spring. The night was pitch-black, pure, breezy, and dark enou…

Not Coming Home

The spot on the bed next to me was cold again. She’s been getting out more and more frequently.

I threw my legs over and slipped on my house slippers. I poke my head into the kids’ rooms. We were watching our grandkids this week. Parents were out on vacation. I kept telling them they need some adult time, away from the kids, where they can reignite their marriage. But, for three years, they didn’t separate once from the kids, and they were starting to get that crazed look in their eyes.

From Kaileigh’s room, I could see the light on in the barn. I wasn’t surprised. A part of me knew that was where she would be.

I walked downstairs, poured myself a glass of water, and watched the light flicker in and out of the sorghum fields. What was she doing out there tonight? Painting? dancing? Tonight she may be working on her memoir. Having finished my water, I pulled on my boots and started the walk out to the barn.

The trail was still trying to stitch itself back together when I stepped throug…

It Has to do With Pride

I spent ten minutes watching a bird build a nest. It flew out of the tree and came back with a twig in its beak. The twig wasn’t tossed into the nest. It was sewed in, like a thread, and the bird wasn’t just building a home. It was weaving one, one that was wrought by its own wings and will to survive. And I thought to myself, the chicks that are hatched in that nest will never know that it was built with sweat, that their mother and father worked together to build this nest in spite of the cats that prowl the neighborhood, the wind that was blowing from the north, and the heat that threatened to strike everything dead. In that, I saw us.
Our America, the America of our ancestors, was built on the foundation of sinew and sweat. It was liberty that had allowed our ancestors to create a country where every man and woman was rewarded for his or her spirit. It was a country where an individual could pull in, inspired, and begin a life. But times have changed.
In effect, the Constitution, …

What Charge, Blindness Be?

12 young men,
all of them hung,
swinging from the scales of justice,

judged with their eyes
lost in contention,
wearing the badge of the righteous.

The gallows-swain,
brute force in his arms,
poked and prodded their chests,

checking for
a semblance of breath,
while they wait for the villain to confess.

Round and round they swing,
their ears begin to ring.
A witness to the stand,
a witness to their hand.


They stare, they do
with their milky eyes,
right into the hanging head.

Accuser,
fingers pointing,
their whispers he does dread.

Round and round they swing,
their ears begin to ring.
A witness to the stand,
a witness to their hand.


When all is said,
and the verdict demands,
in unison they break their jaws,

Justice deferred,
is justice denied,
end his life, devoured, bloody claws.
-JR Simmang

On Heroes

Image
My wife and I sat down at the Alamo Drafthouse the other day and watched "Man of Steel." It was certainly an entertaining movie, and it contained in it an issue that's plaguing this new generation. Where are the heroes?

The History of Heroes We've all heard of Bullfinch. He was a smart guy who compiled the myths of heroes from the Greek and Roman pantheon. Hercules. Theseus. Perseus.
What did all these people have in common? They were part god.

There was a time where these heroes were certainly looked up to. Parents would retell the stories of these brave men and women to lull their children to sleep and give them something to ponder: Am I part god? Can I achieve the same level of greatness?

And, for a time, this worked. The story of these heroes, being born of humans, and going on to accomplish something unhuman, inspired children. They would run around in the streets, on the farms, and pretend to slay minotaurs and medusa. They would make believe they were imbue…

Undertaking

Today’s breakfast: black coffee and a bagel, pulled off of the funeral home's complimentary coffee and bagel cart. it always struck me as odd. 'Parents just died? How about some coffee? No? Then a bagel will do you fine." But, Mr Johnston, the funeral director, insists on it.

I’ve been told that I need to overload with protein in the morning, pile my plate high with eggs and bacon. FDA guidelines and all that. I’ve also been told that sunlight is good for me. Truth be told, I work on 18 cadavers a week, and the people who have coffee and bagels for breakfast look just as dead as everyone else.

People don’t understand the work of the undertaker. Usually, when the wine is served, and the hors d’oeuvres have been laid so pretty on the table, I wind up eating by myself. But, my clients don’t complain. Well, at least until recently.

I like to do my work during the day time, because no matter how used you get to draining blood from the veins and pumping in a preservative, there…

Foxtail Fern

When my wife and I got married,
we saw all our presents
scattered over our living room floor
when we pulled back in
from our honeymoon.

The lights were out,
but even in the dark,
silhouetted against the
fireplace
stood, stark as night,
a foxtail fern,
sprightly and uprightly
waving in the shadow.

A fern. I thought.
Well, it won't make salsa.
But, my wife, dropped my hand
and lowered herself to the side of this fern.

"Is this?" She muttered, and looked to me.
"I don't know." I said.
She ran a hand over the foliage and
took the card from its envelope.

For minutes, she kept her eyes
locked on the card.
When she joined me
back over the threshold,
she turned me to
face her constellation

"This fern was raised by my great-grandmother.
It has lived in her house while the
hammers fell on the west-bound train tracks.
It lived with her while the great furnaces
pumped out the Atlantic.
It lived with her while the Germans
forced their iron fist in Poland
and…

More Cinquains

I've been posting on Writer's Digest for quite some time, and occasionally there are challenges which could land a participant in the print magazine. Most recently, the challenge was to write a cinquain. So, keep your fingers crossed for me. Here are a few of my entrees:

LABRYNTH
I am blind,
learning to walk
through the pure, perfect eyes
of the handless; tongues cut out
their mouths.

SWEET CRUSH
Palms sweaty,
he chanced her smile
as they picked apart a
cotton candy and climbed aboard the
ferris wheel.

ELBOW HIGH
Cornfields
struggled last year,
the stalks drooped down to the
ground, kneeling in the dust for fallen
soldiers.

Toward the Sun

It's awfully tall,
I said as I stared
at the ladder leaning on the sun.
There's no possible way
I can climb up that high,
and put my foot on the bottom rung.

At first it was easy,
my arms pulling me up.
I didn't dare look down through my feet.
But, the higher I went,
the thinner the air,
I was starting to feel pretty beat.

Though my arms tired,
and my legs ached,
I climbed on and on and on.
Forever upward,
toward the sun,
the ground below me was suddenly gone.

Above me, so close,
was a platform for rest.
I sat myself down and leaned on the stars.
All I could do
was admire the view,
and caress the Earth, Venus, and Mars.

I'd finally arrived,
and here I can breathe.
My journey was finally complete.
But when I chanced
a final look up,
I saw the ladder extended far above my seat.

It was time to keep moving,
always upward,
toward the brilliantly hot sun.
When this climb ends,
I'll never know,
but the journey belongs to everyone,
and my journey has just begun.
_JR Simma…

Winged Messenger

You can hear them in the trees, and
even without a calendar, we know the
pavement has just become the
Styx, and the season Charon's smile.

Admiring the sun from the inside,
I play games with myself.
Hopscotch with my tiles,
tennis with my dogs,
basketball with my wadded up
spent imagination.

But the other half has drawn my ire today.
South, further south than my feet can carry,
the cold wintery chill of fall has come
and gone and in its place left
a deep mark of envy.
I cannot help but think that the
mirrorme is looking into his
screen, and imagining
a place where the sidewalks
scorch the soles of Mercury.

So, sound on, devoted drones of
Verano. I would rather you than
Frost.

In the Garden While I Sleep

Circling,
I make my way around my garden,
now enshrouded in
Endymion's arms.
I look down on my gladiolus,
eyes open
and admiring,
while the weathered yellow
of the summer heat
bleeds up into the petals.
It does not complain,
for what would it ask?
My fingers are rough
and the sun has done its job
in draining away my sleep.

Oh, Selene,
you and I are not too far from another.
Perhaps I could entreat you
to ask Zeus for
another favor.

We are friends during this time,
are we not?
You can tell me your secrets
while the ground's
heat seeks the stone
and the soil
becomes a cool glove.
I'll be here,
listening in the garden
awaiting Zeus's answer
among
my gladiolus.

The Cinquain

Thanks to Writer's Digest, I have discovered another poetry form that may rival the shadorma in fun and function. It works mathematically, requiring five lines, two syllables in the first, four in the second, six in the third, eight in the fourth, and two in the last. I suppose you could loop it, using a sixth line for four syllables, the seventh for six, and so on and so forth. At any rate, it was created by Adelaide Crapsey, a turn of the century American poet. She wrote a large number of cinquains in the years preceding her death, so they typically tend to have a darker tone. However, this in one of my favorites of hers:

ROMA AETERNA
The sun
Is warm to-day,
O Romulus, and on
Thine olden Palatine the birds
Still sing
- Adelaide Crapsey

Here are mine, though they are starkly overshadowed by hers.

Hoof in Mouth
We can’t
learn how to dance
until I learn how to
hold your hand. Mark…

On Culture and Education

The first step to cultural proficiency is to look inside yourself and pinpoint your knowledge of others. There are several ways to do this, but the most effective is just to look back through your life and see how it is you were raised, what your interactions with different people were like, and how it was you moved on. Thankfully, there’s an algorithm. It’s called “the cultural autobiography.”
There are numerous cultures coexisting in ever society, even in every person. However, as faulty as this logic is, the one characteristic of culture humans have a tendency to focus on is race and ethnicity. I love using this line: “there is but one race, the human race.” I was raised in several small cities across the southwest United States. My parents always lamented the fact that we have to clarify our ethnicity on applications. They always wondered why it mattered. The same should be true in education. My mother is a teacher, and she had always said, “they need to be taught, regardless of w…

One Cup at a Time

It's been a long time since
I've had coffee at home,
and my father was up before
the sun rose over the window sills.

"Old habits," he chides as my footfalls
grow from a 2 to a 10 and
I stand there with my hands out
at the bottom of the steps.

"Die hard," I respond.
There's one chair open across from
his gaze and he motions,
the light breaking into shadows.

"Coffee?" though he had a full
cup halfway to his mouth already.
I nod. There comes a point where
words are lost in their labyrinth.

"Coffee is delicate." He says as
he wanders into the kitchen.
"Funny thing is, you can't get it
to the point to drink it until after it

has been through a furnace."
He does this, dad. Long winded,
unnecessary, addling diatribes.
It must be stamped on his dad card.

I peered up to him and all I could see
in the strained morning light was the
same man who tossed me into the pool,
who took his hands off the bicycle seat,

who laughed wh…