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Tommy Johnson  Dec 2013
RISE
Tommy Johnson Dec 2013
You can hear the voices of our peers being silenced, ignored, shunned and distorted.
Staggering out of their bedroom doorways to the street corner to score a dime bag.
Bright, insightful millennials freezing in search of warmth from something to believe in that will encourage them to look forward to see another day.
Where our economy has made financial prudence clear when talking about education, yet price tags of university tuition's skyrocket.
The refused, the ones with hope but no money or scholarships; tread the streets with the echoes of electro house pulsing in their skulls.
Those who strip themselves down and shred their own morals to scraps just to find themselves and to see their own limitations.
Searching for answers to the unknown, to ascertain what they are, who they are and why.
Timid in high school, pushed along with nothing and no one to put their creative vigor into.
The squeakiest wheels that were never even considered to be given a good greasing.
Faculties giving them lethargic hellos on the first day of school, bestowing celebrated goodbyes to them on graduation day, diplomas in hand.
Now are the ones slumped over in a lackadaisical position contemplating how they can afford an education.
They work eight to ten at seven twenty five an hour Monday to Friday; and weekends staying in as not to blow their earnings.
Those who commute to university and balance a job with it, I applaud you.
The bewilderment of adulthood, the overabundance of pressure and responsibility.
Awakened from nightmares of lost opportunities, missed trains and lost contacts.
To step out of bed and splash water onto a severely distressed face and staring into a mirror with a despairing look.
Then hoping a bus to Garfield to bring back weight for all the embryonic smokers not yet at the point of make or break, just save up enough to pave my own way.
Gazing at the town on a roof top, chugging down the tenth…no…twelfth beer of the night wondering how this all happened.
Wild sensations of kissing an attractive stranger, the rush of touching on things never felt, tasting pleasures only the lucky have known.
The passionate, yet dissolute yearning for that ever eluding ******* adrenaline. Pounding, Pounding, Pounding until the culmination of energy has come.
Flip sided to those dizzying, tear jerking thoughts of suicide, annihilation of ones being, the contradictions of their faith in themselves and the people around them.
Unexplainable waves of anxiety crashing onto the shore of a diminutive island of optimism
Striving to look past the panic, the gloominess and fury that may or may not be present. But to remain composed and press forward to what awaits them.
Coffee keeps them going. Cup after cup, late night cramming every bit they can; into their caffeine driven psyches until the indisputable crash and failure.
Packs and packs of menthol cigarettes to calm their rattling nerves but at the same time killing them slowly. Their lives will seem shorter than the time it took to finish one bogey when death is near.
Marijuana induced ventures to run down burger shacks, laughing hysterical in the car ride, eyes heavy with a most ridiculous elastic grin extending from ear to ear. While inside millions of thoughts and realizations of consciously simple speculations and troubles become clear and unproblematic. So the joy is mirrored outside in.
LSD trips in Petruska dancing and singing in the rain! Making music, making love; playing pretend and creating art. Becoming a family while kicking back under the warmth of an illuminated tree on a cool fall night.
MDMA streaming through the body, everything is as it should be
Beautiful, lovely to touch, wondrous to stroke, marvelous to move.
To contact and connect, converse and converge with the dwelling desire to share what you feel with everyone for it would be selfish and unpleasant to keep it in.
Mushrooms oh the emotional overflow I need not say more but ****.
Then there are over the counter candies, Oxycontin, ******, Adderall and Xanax, painkillers and antidepressants. Ups, downs, side ways and backwards.
Selling addiction and dependency legally to kids. Making heroine, ******* and speed easily obtainable to them. Changing the names and giving out prescriptions so the parents can feel like they're actually helping their children but are subconsciously making it easier on themselves because they cannot handle the way their offsprings actually are. Some parents a feel it is the only way, I wish it wasn't so. Becoming zombies, mindless addicts before they even start to mature into puberty. I've seen it, firsthand front row.
Oh, the monotonous, mundane rituals and agendas of our lives. School, work, sleep eat, the sluggish schedules and repetitions of yesterday's conversations and redundancy of itineraries we had plotted months prior.
Same people, the constant faces of boredom that groan in apathy and hold the fear of complacency.
We talk about how hum drum out lives have become and what we could to put some color in our world but don’t.
We speak of how unfair the system is but ultimately confuse ourselves and everyone else due to lack or organization and dedication so nothing is changed.
We speak of breath taking women we want to share ****** fantasies with but can’t even muster enough courage to send a trivial friend request.
Texting away for hours trying to court those who now occupy our minds and possess our hearts hoping they may allow us to acquire their attention and affection. Calling them only to receive futile dial tones and know we are being evaded.
Weeping on and on for seemingly endless time frames of a dilapidated relationship that was so strained that a miniscule breeze could cause it to collapse but still clinging to every memory as if they were vital hieroglyphics depicting your very essence.
Brilliant theories blurted out in a drunken stupor.
Ingenious hypothesis shrouded in marijuana smoked out room.
Remembrance of friends long gone.
The marines, the navy.
The casualties of drug addiction.
The conquerors or their afflictions.
The scholars.
The insane locked away on the flight deck never to be seen again.
Teenage mothers unsure of themselves, abandoned by their families for they believe that they brought fictional shame upon the family’s name. The fate of the child is unclear but the mother’s everlasting love shines through any obscurities in its way.
Dear mother of the new born winter’s moon may the aura of life protect you and your baby.
The father gone without a trace.
He will never know his daughter.
And it will haunt him forever.
Parents bringing up their kids with values and morals, The Holy Bible, mantras and meditation, the Holy Quran, The Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads. Islamic anecdotes and Jewish parables.
The names all different
The message the same
The stories unlike
Goals equivalent
Faith
Kabala, Scientology and Wicca
Amish and Mormons
All separate paths that intertwine and runoff each other then pool into the plateau of eternal life.
But do we have faith in our country, our government?
They do not have faith in us. Cameras on every street corner, FBI agents stalking social media, recordings of our personal lives and police brutality. 4th amendment where have you gone?
We say farewell to Oresko the last veteran of the last great war. And revisit the Arab spring, Al-Assad’s soldiers opening fire on innocent protesters, one hundred fifteen thousand lay dead. Bin laden dead, Hussein hanged, Gaddafi receiving every ounce of his comeuppance. War, terrorism, the fear of being attacked or is it an excuse to secure our nation's investments across the sea? Throwing trillions of dollars to keep the ****** machine cranking away, taxes, pensions, credit scores, insurance and annuities all cogs in the convoluted contraptions plight.
My dear friend contemplates this every night laying in bed, fetal position; the anxiety if having to be a part of this.
Falling apart on the inside but on the outside, an Adonis, *******, Casanova wanna be. Who worshiped the almighty dollar, gripping it so tightly until it made change, drank until he had his fill falling face first into the snow. The guy who lead on legions of clueless girls wearing their hearts on their sleeves not knowing he had a girlfriend the entire time. Arranging secret meetings in hidden gardens, streaking into the early morning. Driving to Ewing in his yellow Mustang to woo a sado masochistic girl. The chains and whips do nothing to him he is already numbed by the thrill. Then he comes home, lays in bed until one, with no job and having people pay for his meals.
He knows what he does and who he is wrong. He recites and regurgitates excuses endlessly. He cries because he knows he is weak, he knows he must fix himself. I sit on the edge of myself with my fingers crossed hoping maybe, maybe he will set himself straight.
My chum who can talk his way out of any confrontation and into a woman’s *******. Multitudes of amorous affairs in backrooms, backseats, front rows of movies theaters. Selfish, boastful and ignorant, yet woman fling themselves at him like catapulted boulders over a medieval battle field just to say hello. These girls blind to see what going on, for their eyes were taken by low self esteem. A need to be accepted, to feel wanted even only for fifteen minutes. Poor self image, daddy issues, anorexic razor blade slicing sirens screaming on about counted calories and social status. Their uncontrollable mental breakdowns and emotional collapse. Their uncles who ***** them, their parents who split up and confusing their definition of love and loyalty for the rest of their lives. Broken homes, domestic abuse and raised voices, sending jolts of fright into the young girl’s fragile minds. I send my sorrows to you ladies, to see such beautiful creatures suffer then be used and thrown away with the ****** that was just ****** deep into their *****.
Then I see women and men of marvelous stature, romantic in the streets holding everyone and everything in high regards. Finding beauty in anything and anyone. Enjoying every second as if the rapture was over head eating exotic foods from unheard of countries and cultures. Bouncing to the sound of whimsical , reverb ricochets and sense stimulating music. Huffing inspiration to create something out of thin air. Dancing to retired jazz and swing albums as if no time had past since their conception. Wearing bold colors and patterns, thrifty leather shoes or suede.
Dawning pre-owned blazers because why spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes just to look good but feel uncomfortable with a hole in your pocket. Dressing up but dressing down, so class yet urban I love it, chinos, pea coats and flannels so simple but chic.
At night they go to underground dens, sweaty bodies, loud music and freedom. Expressive manifestations glowing fueled with MDMA and other substances to further their enjoyment of the dark glorious occasion. Kandi kids sporting colorful bracelets, not watches for time is of no concern to them, they have all eternity they know that.
Going to book stores, coffee shops just to have some peace of mind and a moment of silence to themselves so that can weave the tapestry of imaginative innovation. Writing their own versions of the same story, endless doors of perception, reading news papers and taking it with a grain of salt. Watching the news on TV with a hand full of salt. Searching for the real story so they can know if the world they all live in is actually safe.
She who made her own way breaking hearts, rolling blunts and making deals. The flower child of the modern age, left the rainy days in search of radiant sunshine, idealistic. Reality was subjective, purple dyed hair, multicolored sweater with sandals on her feet. A ten inch bowl with bud from California packed in tightly. Coming from Dumont to Bergenfeild then on to Philly to Mount Vernon. Off to Astoria and the Heights. Now to Sweden laying in the grassy plains below the mountains. Good for you my friend whom I have loved, may fortunes of unsullied joy come to you and all you meet.
Since you’ve left I have encountered drunken burly firemen just trying to have a good time. Pounding down Pabst Blue Ribbon as if it were water; as if it were good tasting beer. But heroes none the less.
EMT's, young eighteen years old high school graduates, saving lives reviving people who are a mere inch close to death.
Sport stars getting scholarships thanks to their superior skills and strength.
Striking beauty school students who are into making the people of this world a little bit more beautiful on the outside.
All these people, successful, doing things. Departing to their desired destinations. I see inside them, they carry baggage, loneliness and insecurities. I can feel their guilt slowing them down. All have their loads but it’s the way they carry them that shows who they really are. And to me their all gems.
Not far in Paterson I watch the junkies limping across busy winding street, perusing a severely needed fix. “Diesel!” they shout beneath flickering streetlights, asking for spare change and if bold enough a ride to some shady sketchy place. I give them a dollar and politely decline. They’ll die without it. Vomiting up bile and blood, twitches and shivers are all you feel when it’s not in you. They cannot stop, they need help. Why not help them instead of “assisting” those who are homosexual? Cleansing so they can be granted entry to the kingdom of God. Looking down on people who have found love and understanding and a deep attraction to others who just so happen to share alike genitals.
Narrow minded uproars about the spread of AIDS, nonsense! The puritanical onslaught of those who want nothing more than the rest of us, love. "Gay", "****", "******", "queer", how about "kind", "funny", "genuine human being"? The right to be married and divorced should be an option for everyone to enjoy. The strains and hardships of matrimony are yours if you want them. If you don’t agree don’t hate or harm just allow them to be peacefully. Same goes for anything for that matter, Jehovah's going door to door, Mormons from Burbank. New ideas are never a bad thing, they’re not a waste of time. On average you have about eighty years to mull over your options.
Some people don’t live long enough to do so, cancer is rampant, blood diseases, ****** diseases, natural disasters coming right out of left field and blindsiding the innocent bystanders of both hemispheres. Some go through life handicapped, autism is apparent these days. Schizophrenia, Asperburgers, ADD and ADHD. Some lose their golden memories of their many valuable years walking down Alzheimer's Lane, not being able to remember whatever transpired only a few moments ago but revisiting gold nuggets from from fifty-some-odd years ago with ease. Some go through life delusional or bipolar. Some can't even sleep at night but they still carry on. And if assistance is needed it is our job as a race to help our brothers and sisters, no one deserves to be excluded from the gala of life. Or be denied by society and pumped with brightly colored pills from doctors promising a cure but prescribing a crutch.
Finding solace in sincerity.
The serendipity of it all hasn’t been uncovered and that keeps me going.
“Radiate boundless love towards the entire world above, below and across. Unhindered without ill will without enmity.” Oh Buddha the truth as it ever was.
Who is he who keeps these thoughts from the conscious minds of the population?
Who is it that distracts us from the humbling beauty and overwhelming devastation of this place of existence we’re in?
It’s they who do under the table parlor trick behind our backs.
Those who broadcast mind numbing so called reality TV shows without an underlying value or meaning.
Those who produce music, proclaiming extravagance to be the end all be all gluttonous goal we all should aim to achieve.
And those who turn noble causes into money making scams and defile pure ideas.
And of course those who give false promises of easily obtained  bright futures, those who don’t care, those who steal, ****, curse, bad mouth and lie. But still manage to get elected into positions that more or less decide out fates. Monsters, demons, banshees howling inconsequential worries and leaving us deaf to hear the real issues.
The
Mitchell Duran Dec 2013
In the Fall, when the temperature of the Bay would drop and the wind blew ice, frost would gather on the lawn near Henry Oldez's room. It was not a heavy frost that spread across the paralyzed lawn, but one that just covered each blade of grass with a fine, white, almost dusty coat. Most mornings, he would stumble out of the garage where he slept and tip toe past the ice speckled patch of brown and green spotted grass, so to make his way inside to relieve himself. If he was in no hurry, he would stand on the four stepped stoop and look back at the dried, dead leaves hanging from the wiry branches of three trees lined up against the neighbors fence. The picture reminded him of what the old gallows must have looked like. Henry Oldez had been living in this routine for twenty some years.

He had moved to California with his mother, father, and three brothers 35 years ago. Henry's father, born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, had traveled across the Meixcan border on a bent, full jalopy with his wife, Betria Gonzalez and their three kids. They were all mostly babies then and none of the brothers claimed to remember anything of the ride, except one, Leo, recalled there was "A lotta dust in the car." Santiago Oldez, San for short, had fought in World War II and died of cancer ten years later. San drank most nights and smoked two packs of Marlboro Reds a day. Henry had never heard his father talk about the fighting or the war. If he was lucky to hear anything, it would have been when San was dead drunk, talking to himself mostly, not paying very much attention to anyone except his memories and his music.

"San loved two things in this world," Henry would say, "*****, Betria, and Johnny Cash."

Betria Gonzalez grew up in Tijuana, Mexico as well. She was a stout, short woman, wide but with pretty eyes and a mess of orange golden hair. Betria could talk to anyone about anything. Her nick names were the conversationalist or the old crow because she never found a reason to stop talking. Santiago had met her through a friend of a friend. After a couple of dates, they were married. There is some talk of a dispute among the two families, that they didn't agree to the marriage and that they were too young, which they probably were. Santiago being Santiago, didn't listen to anybody, only to his heart. They were married in a small church outside of town overlooking the Pacific. Betria told the kids that the waves thundered and crashed against the rocks that day and the sea looked endless. There were no pictures taken and only three people were at the ceremony: Betria, San, and the priest.

Of course, the four boys went to elementary and high school, and, of course, none of them went to college. One brother moved down to LA and eventually started working for a law firm doing their books. Another got married at 18 years old and was in and out of the house until getting under the wing of the union, doing construction and electrical work for the city. The third brother followed suit. Henry Oldez, after high school, stayed put. Nothing in school interested him. Henry only liked what he could get into after school. The people of the streets were his muse, leaving him with the tramps, the dealers, the struggling restaurateurs, the laundry mat hookers, the crooked cops and the addicts, the gang bangers, the bible humpers, the window washers, the jesus freaks, the EMT's, the old ladies pushing salvation by every bus stop, the guy on the corner and the guy in the alley, and the DOA's. Henry didn't have much time for anyone else after all of them.

Henry looked at himself in the mirror. The light was off and the room was dim. Sunlight streaked in through the dusty blinds from outside, reflecting into the mirror and onto Henry's face. He was short, 5' 2'' or 5' 3'' at most with stubby, skinny legs, and a wide, barrel shaped chest. He examined his face, which was a ravine of wrinkles and deep crows feet. His eyes were sunken and small in his head. Somehow, his pants were always one or two inches below his waistline, so the crack of his *** would constantly be peeking out. Henry's deep, chocolate colored hair was  that of an ancient Native American, long and nearly touched the tip of his belt if he stood up straight. No one knew how long he had been growing it out for. No one knew him any other way. He would comb his hair incessantly: before and after a shower, walking around the house, watching television with Betria on the couch, talking to friends when they came by, and when he drove to work, when he had it.

Normal work, nine to five work, did not work for Henry. "I need to be my own boss," he'd say. With that fact stubbornly put in place, Henry turned to being a handy man, a roofer, and a pioneer of construction. No one knew where he would get the jobs that he would get, he would just have them one day. And whenever he 'd finish a job, he'd complain about how much they'd shorted him, soon to move on to the next one. Henry never had to listen to anyone and, most of the time, he got free lunches out of it. It was a very strange routine, but it worked for him and Betria had no complaints as long as he was bringing some money in and keeping busy. After Santiago died, she became the head of the house, but really let her boys do whatever they wanted.

Henry took a quick shower and blow dried his hair, something he never did unless he was in a hurry. He had a job in the east bay at a sorority house near the Berkley campus. At the table, still in his pajamas, he ate three leftover chicken thighs, toast, and two over easy eggs. Betria was still in bed, awake and reading. Henry heard her two dogs barking and scratching on her bedroom door. He got up as he combed his damp hair, tugging and straining to get each individual knot out. When he opened the door, the smaller, thinner dog, Boy Boy, shot under his legs and to the front door where his toy was. The fat, beige, pig-like one waddled out beside Henry and went straight for its food bowl.

"Good morning," said Henry to Betria.

Betria looked at Henry over her glasses, "You eat already?"

"Yep," he announced, "Got to go to work." He tugged on a knot.

"That's good. Dondé?" Betria looked back down at her spanish TV guide booklet.

"Berkley somewhere," Henry said, bringing the comb smoothly down through his hair.

"That's good, that's good."

"OK!" Henry sighed loudly, shutting the door behind him. He walked back to the dinner table and finished his meal. Then, Betria shouted something from her room that Henry couldn't hear.

"What?" yelled Henry, so she could hear him over the television. She shouted again, but Henry still couldn't hear her. Henry got up and went back to her room, ***** dish in hand. He opened her door and looked at her without saying anything.

"Take the dogs out to ***," Betria told him, "Out the back, not the front."

"Yeah," Henry said and shut the door.

"Come on you dogs," Henry mumbled, dropping his dish in the sink. Betria always did everyones dishes. She called it "her exercise."

Henry let the two dogs out on the lawn. The sun was curling up into the sky and its heat had melted all of the frost on the lawn. Now, the grass was bright green and Henry barely noticed the dark brown dead spots. He watched as the fat beige one squatted to ***. It was too fat to lifts its own leg up. The thing was built like a tank or a sea turtle. Henry laughed to himself as it looked up at him, both of its eyes going in opposite directions, its tongue jutted out one corner of his mouth. Boy boy was on the far end of the lawn, searching for something in the bushes. After a minute, he pulled out another one of his toys and brought it to Henry. Henry picked up the neon green chew toy shaped like a bone and threw it back to where Boy boy had dug it out from. Boy boy shot after it and the fat one just watched, waddling a few feet away from it had peed and laid down. Henry threw the toy a couple more times for Boy boy, but soon he realized it was time to go.

"Alright!" said Henry, "Get inside. Gotta' go to work." He picked up the fat one and threw it inside the laundry room hallway that led to the kitchen and the rest of the house. Boy boy bounded up the stairs into the kitchen. He didn't need anyone lifting him up anywhere. Henry shut the door behind them and went to back to his room to get into his work clothes.

Henry's girlfriend was still asleep and he made sure to be quiet while he got dressed. Tia, Henry's girlfriend, didn't work, but occasionally would put up garage sales of various junk she found around town. She was strangely obsessed with beanie babies, those tiny plush toys usually made up in different costumes. Henry's favorite was the hunter. It was dressed up in camouflage and wore an eye patch. You could take off its brown, polyester hat too, if you wanted. Henry made no complaint about Tia not having a job because she usually brought some money home somehow, along with groceries and cleaning the house and their room. Betria, again, made no complain and only wanted to know if she was going to eat there or not for the day.

A boat sized bright blue GMC sat in the street. This was Henry's car. The stick shift was so mangled and bent that only Henry and his older brother could drive it. He had traded a new car stereo for it, or something like that. He believed it got ten miles to the gallon, but it really only got six or seven. The stereo was the cleanest piece of equipment inside the thing. It played CD's, had a shoddy cassette player, and a decent radio that picked up all the local stations. Henry reached under the seat and attached the radio to the front panel. He never left the radio just sitting there in plain sight. Someone walking by could just as soon as put their elbow into the window, pluck the thing out, and make a clean 200 bucks or so. Henry wasn't that stupid. He'd been living there his whole life and sure enough, done the same thing to other cars when he was low on money. He knew the tricks of every trade when it came to how to make money on the street.

On the road, Henry passed La Rosa, the Mexican food mart around the corner from the house. Two short, tanned men stood in front of a stand of CD's, talking. He usually bought pirated music or movies there. One of the guys names was Bertie, but he didn't know the other guy. He figured either a customer or a friend. There were a lot of friends in this neighborhood. Everyone knew each other somehow. From the bars, from the grocery, from the laundromat, from the taco stands or from just walking around the streets at night when you were too bored to stay inside and watch TV. It wasn't usually safe for non-locals to walk the streets at night, but if you were from around there and could prove it to someone that was going to jump you, one could usually get away from losing a wallet or an eyeball if you had the proof. Henry, to people on the street, also went as Monk. Whenever he would drive through the neighborhood, the window open with his arm hanging out the side, he would usually hear a distant yell of "Hey Monk!" or "What's up Monk!". Henry would always wave back, unsure who's voice it was or in what direction to wave, but knowing it was a friend from somewhere.

There was heavy traffic on the way to Berkley and as he waited in line, cursing his luck, he looked over at the wet swamp, sitting there beside highway like a dead frog. A few scattered egrets waded through the brown water, their long legs keeping their clean white bodies safe from the muddy water. Beyond the swamp laid the pacific and the Golden Gate bridge. San Francisco sat there too: still, majestic, and silver. Next to the city, was the Bay Bridge stretched out over the water like long gray yard stick. Henry compared the Golden Gate's beauty with the Bay Bridge. Both were beautiful in there own way, but the Bay Bridge's color was that of a gravestone, while the Golden Gate's color was a heavy red, that made it seem alive. Why they had never decided to pain the Bay Bridge, Henry had no idea. He thought it would look very nice with a nice coat of burgundy to match the Golden gate, but knew they would never spend the money. They never do.

After reeling through the downtown streets of Berkley, dodging college kids crossing the street on their cell phones and bicyclists, he finally reached the large, A-frame house. The house was lifted, four or five feet off the ground and you had to walk up five or seven stairs to get to the front door. Surrounded by tall, dark green bushes, Henry knew these kids had money coming from somewhere. In the windows hung spinning colored glass and in front of the house was an old-timey dinner bell in the shape of triangle. Potted plants lined the red brick walkway that led to the stairs. Young tomatoes and small peas hung from the tender arms of the stems leaf stalks. The lawn was manicured and clean. "Must be studying agriculture or something," Henry thought, "Or they got a really good gardener."

He parked right in front of the house and looked the building up and down, estimating how long it would take to get the old shingles off and the new one's on. Someone was up on the deck of the house, rocking back and forth in an old wooden chair. He listened to the creaking wood of the chair and the deck, judging it would take him two days for the job. Henry knew there was no scheduled rain, but with the Bay weather, one could never be sure. He had worked in rain before - even hail - and it never really bothered him. The thing was, he never strapped himself in and when it would rain and he was working roofs, he was afraid to slip and fall. He turned his truck off, got out, and locked both of the doors. He stepped heavily up the walkway and up the stairs. The someone who was rocking back and forth was a skinny beauty with loose jean shorts on and a thick looking, black and red plaid shirt. She had long, chunky dread locks and was smoking a joint, blowing the smoke out over the tips of the bushes and onto the street. Henry was no stranger to the smell. He smoked himself. This was California.

"Who're you?" the dreaded girl asked.

"I'm the roofer," Henry told her.

The girl looked puzzled and disinterested. Henry leaned back on his heels and wondered if the whole thing was lemon. She looked beyond him, down on the street, awkwardly annoying Henry's gaze. The tools in Henry's hands began to grow heavy, so he put them down on the deck with a thud. The noise seemed to startle the girl out of whatever haze her brain was in and she looked back at Henry. Her eyes were dark brown and her skin was smooth and clear like lake water. She couldn't have been more then 20 or 21 years old. Henry realized that he was staring and looked away at the various potted plants near the rocking chair. He liked them all.

"Do you know who called you?" She took a drag from her joint.

"Brett, " Henry told her, "But they didn't leave a last name."

For a moment, the girl looked like she had been struck across the chin with a brick, but then her face relaxed and she smiled.

"Oh ****," she laughed, "That's me. I called you. I'm Brett."

Henry smiled uneasily and picked up his tools, "Ok."

"Nice to meet you," she said, putting out her hand.

Henry awkwardly put out his left hand, "Nice to meet you too."

She took another drag and exhaled, the smoke rolling over her lips, "Want to see the roof?"

The two of them stood underneath a five foot by five foot hole. Henry was a little uneasy by the fact they had cleaned up none of the shattered wood and the birds pecking at the bird seed sitting in a bowl on the coffee table facing the TV. The arms of the couch were covered in bird **** and someone had draped a large, zebra printed blanket across the middle of it. Henry figured the blanket wasn't for decoration, but to hide the rest of the bird droppings. Next to the couch sat a large, antique lamp with its lamp shade missing. Underneath the dim light, was a nice portrait of the entire house. Henry looked away from the hole, leaving Brett with her head cocked back, the joint still pinched between her lips, to get a closer look. There looked to be four in total: Brett, a very large man, a woman with longer, thick dread locks than Brett, and a extremely short man with a very large, brown beard. Henry went back
Ryan Long Dec 2015
We come before you Almighty God,
Policeman, Fireman and EMT
to say a prayer before we go
Our ways to each his own Duty

Together now we've come to pray
In case we forget to
During our busy day

The Policeman steps forth,
“Dear God above
Keep us save
and also those we love.

We pray for your unending favor
that we never need use
the rounds we chamber

Our Vests that we wear
for our own protection
please keep 'em bullet proof
and our safety never question”

The Fireman steps up, and then takes a knee
“Dear God above I need you now
I know you're always watching me

In the Fires of our Hell
or on the highway to there
Please keep us from hurt
and not singe a single hair

Give us the strength to lift a wall
or tenderness to pick up a tiny child
give us peace when others are losing it
and peace if the scene starts getting wild”

The EMT takes his stand
“God I guess it's my turn
Not really safety out there
or the protection from a burn

But rather Lord I need your help
let me make the right decision
on every patient that I care for
Their lives in my hands I've been given”

Then all Three stand together
with their heads all bowed low
Dear God above, to all of us
please your mercy would you endow

Keep us safe and bring us home
to our wives and our children
And each time a truck roles out
let it come back safely to it's building
Mike Bergeron Sep 2012
There was a house fire on my street last night …well… not exactly my street, but on a little, sketchy, dead-end strip of asphalt, sidewalks, weeds, and garbage that juts into my block two houses down. It was on that street. Rosewood Court, population: 12, adjusted population: 11, characterized by anonymity and boarded windows, peppered with the swift movements of fat street rats. I’ve never been that close to a real, high-energy, make-sure-to-spray-down-your-roof-with-a-hose-so-it-doesn’t-catch­ fire before. It was the least of my expectations for the evening, though I didn’t expect a crate of Peruvian bananas to fall off a cargo plane either, punching through the ceiling, littering the parking lot with damaged fruit and shingles, tearing paintings and shelves and studs from the third floor walls, and crashing into our kitchen, shattering dishes and cabinets and appliances. Since that never happened, and since neither the former nor the latter situation even crossed my mind, I’ll stick with “least of my expectations,” and bundle up with it inside that inadequate phrase whatever else may have happened that I wouldn’t have expected.



I had been reading in my living room, absently petting the long calico fur of my roommate’s cat Dory. She’s in heat, and does her best to make sure everyone knows it, parading around, *** in the air, an opera of low trilling and loud meows and deep purring. As a consequence of a steady tide of feline hormones, she’s been excessively good humored, showering me with affection, instead of her usual indifference, punctuated by occasional, self-serving shin rubs when she’s hungry. I saw the lights before I heard the trucks or the shouts of firemen or the panicked wail of sirens, spitting their warning into the night in A or A minor, but probably neither, I’m no musician. Besides, Congratulations was playing loud, flowing through the speakers in the corners of the room, connected to the record player via the receiver with the broken volume control, travelling as excited electrons down stretches of wire that are, realistically, too short, and always pull out. The song was filling the space between the speakers and the space between my ears with musings on Brian Eno, so the auditory signal that should have informed me of the trouble that was afoot was blocked out. I saw the lights, the alternating reds and whites that filled my living room, drawing shifting patterns on my walls, ceiling, floor, furniture, and shelves of books, dragging me towards the door leading outside, through the cluttered bike room, past the sleeping, black lump of oblivious fur that is usually my boisterous male kitten, and out into the bedlam I  had previously been ignorant to. I could see the smoke, it was white then gray then white, all the while lending an acrid taste to the air, but I couldn’t see where it was issuing from. The wind was blowing the smoke toward my apartment, away from Empire Mills. I tried to count the firetrucks, but there were so many. I counted six on Wilmarth Ave, one of which was the awkward-looking, heavy-duty special hazards truck. In my part of the city, the post-industrial third-wave ***** river valley, you never know if the grease fire that started with homefries in a frying pan in an old woman’s kitchen will escalate into a full-blown mill fire, the century-old wood floors so saturated with oil and kerosene and ****** and manufacturing chemicals and ghosts and god knows what other flammable **** that it lights up like a fifth of July leftover sparkler, burning and melting the hand of the community that fed it for so many decades, leaving scars that are displayed on the local news for a week and are forgotten in a few years’ time.



The night was windy, and the day had been dry, so precautions were abundant, and I counted two more trucks on Fones Ave. One had the biggest ladder I’ve ever seen. It was parked on the corner of Fones and Wilmarth, directly across from the entrance into the forgotten dead-end where the forgotten house was burning, and the ladder was lifting into the air. By now my two roommates had come outside too, to stand on our rickety, wooden staircase, and Jeff said he could see flames in the windows of one of the three abandoned houses on Rosewood, through the third floor holes where windows once were, where boards of plywood were deemed unnecessary.



“Ay! Daddy!”



My neighbor John called up to us. He serves as the eyes and ears and certainly the mouth of our block, always in everyone’s business, without being too intrusive, always aware of what’s going down and who’s involved. He proceeded to tell us the lowdown on the blaze as far as he knew it, that there were two more firetrucks and an ambulance down Rosewood, that the front and back doors to the house were blocked by something from inside, that those somethings were very heavy, that someone was screaming inside, that the fire was growing.



Val had gone inside to get his jacket, because despite the floodlights from the trucks imitating sunlight, the wind and the low temperature and the thought of a person burning alive made the night chilly. Val thought we should go around the block, to see if we could get a better view, to satisfy our congenital need to witness disaster, to see the passenger car flip over the Jersey barrier, to watch the videos of Jihadist beheadings, to stand in line to look at painted corpses in velvet, underlit parlors, and sit in silence while their family members cry. We walked down the stairs, into full floodlight, and there were first responders and police and fully equipped firefighters moving in all directions. We watched two firemen attempting to open an old, rusty fire hydrant, and it could’ve been inexperience, the stress of the situation, the condition of the hydrant, or just poor luck, but rather than opening as it was supposed to the hydrant burst open, sending the cap flying into the side of a firetruck, the water crashing into the younger of the two men’s face and torso, knocking him back on his ***. While he coughed out surprised air and water and a flood of expletives, his partner got the situation under control and got the hose attached. We turned and walked away from the fire, and as we approached the turn we’d take to cut through the rundown parking lot that would bring us to the other side of the block, two firemen hurried past, one leading the other, carrying between them a stretcher full of machines for monitoring and a shitload of wires and tubing. It was the stiff board-like kind, with handles on each end, the kind of stretcher you might expect to see circus clowns carry out, when it’s time to save their fallen, pie-faced cohort. I wondered why they were using this archaic form of patient transportation, and not one of the padded, electrical ones on wheels. We pushed past the crowd that had begun forming, walked past the Laundromat, the 7Eleven, the carwash, and took a left onto the street on the other side of the parking lot, parallel to Wilmarth. There were several older men standing on the sidewalk, facing the fire, hands either in pockets or bringing a cigarette to and from a frowning mouth. They were standing in the ideal place to witness the action, with an unobstructed view of the top two floors of the burning house, its upper windows glowing orange with internal light and vomiting putrid smoke.  We could taste the burning wires, the rugs, the insulation, the asbestos, the black mold, the trash, and the smell was so strong I had to cover my mouth with my shirt, though it provided little relief. We said hello, they grunted the same, and we all stood, watching, thinking about what we were seeing, not wanting to see what we were thinking.

Two firefighters were on the roof by this point, they were yelling to each other and to the others on the ground, but we couldn’t hear what they were saying because of the sirens from all the emergency vehicles that were arriving.  It seemed to me they sent every firetruck in the city, as well as more than a dozen police cars and a slew of ambulances, all of them arriving from every direction. I guess they expected the fire to get really out of hand, but we could already see the orange glow withdrawing into the dark of the house, steam and smoke rippling out of the stretched, wooden mouths of the rotted window frames. In a gruff, habitual smoker’s voice, we heard

                                      “Chopper called the fire depahtment

We was over at the vet’s home

                He says he saw flames in the windas

                                                                                                                                                We all thought he was shittin’ us

We couldn’t see nothin’.”

A man between fifty-five to sixty-five years old was speaking, no hair on his shiny, tanned head, old tattoos etched in bluish gray on his hands, arms, and neck, menthol smoke rising from between timeworn fingers. He brought the cigarette to his lips, drew a hearty chest full of smoke, and as he let it out he repeated

                                                “Yea, chopper called em’

Says he saw flames.”

The men on the roof were just silhouettes, backlit by the dazzling brightness of the lights on the other side.  The figure to the left of the roof pulled something large up into view, and we knew instantly by the cord pull and the sound that it was a chainsaw. He began cutting directly into the roof. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, wondered if he was scared of falling into the fire, assumed he probably was, but had at least done this before, tried to figure out if he was doing it to gain entry or release pressure or whatever. The man to the right was hacking away at the roof with an axe. It was surreal to watch, to see two men transformed from public servants into fingers of destruction, the pinkie and ring finger fighting the powerful thumb of the controlled chemical reaction eating the air below them, to watch the dark figures shrouded in ethereal light and smoke and sawdust and what must’ve been unbearable heat from below, to be viewing everything with my own home, my belongings, still visible, to know it could easily have gone up in flames as well.

I should’ve brought my jacket. I remember complaining about it, about how the wind was passing through my skin like a window screen, chilling my blood, in sharp contrast to the heat that was morphing and rippling the air above the house as it disappeared as smoke and gas up into the atmosphere from the inside out.

Ten minutes later, or maybe five, or maybe one, the men on the roof were still working diligently cutting and chopping, but we could no longer see any signs of flames, and there were figures moving around in the house, visible in the windows of the upper floors, despite the smoke. Figuring the action must be reaching its end, we decided to walk back to our apartment. We saw Ken’s brown pickup truck parked next to the Laundromat, unable to reach our parking lot due to all the emergency vehicles and people clogging our street. We came around the corner and saw the other two members of the Infamous Summers standing next to our building with the rest of the crowd that had gathered. Dosin told us the fire was out, and that they had pulled someone from inside the gutted house, but no ambulance had left yet, and his normally smiling face was flat and somber, and the beaten guitar case slung over his shoulder, and his messed up hair, and the red in his cheeks from the cold air, and the way he was moving rocks around with the toe of his shoe made him look like a lost child, chasing a dream far from home but finding a nightmare in its place, instead of the professional who never loses his cool or his direction.

The crowd all began talking at once, so I turned around, towards the dead end and the group of firefighters and EMTs that were emerging. Their faces were stoic, not a single expression on all but one of those faces, a young EMT, probably a Basic, or a Cardiac, or neither, but no older than twenty, who was silently weeping, the tears cutting tracks through the soot on his cheeks, his eyes empty of emotion, his lips drawn tight and still. Four of them were each holding a corner of the maroon stretcher that took two to carry when I first saw it, full of equipment. They did not rush, they did not appear to be tending to a person barely holding onto life, they were just carrying the weight. As they got close gasps and cries of horror or disgust or both issued from the crowd, some turned away, some expressions didn’t change, some eyes closed and others stayed fixed on what they came to see. One woman vomited, right there on the sidewalk, splashing the shoes of those near her with the partially digested remains of her EBT dinner. I felt my own stomach start to turn, but I didn’t look away. I couldn’t.

                                                                                It was like I was seven again,

                                in the alleyway running along the side of the junior high school I lived near and would eventually attend,

looking in silent horror at what three eighth graders from my neighborhood were doing.

It was about eight in the evening of a rainy,

late summer day,

and I was walking home with my older brother,

cutting through the alley like we always did.

The three older boys were standing over a small dog,

a terrier of some sort.

They had duct taped its mouth shut and its legs together,

but we could still hear its terrified whines through its clenched teeth.

One of the boys had cut off the dog’s tail.

He had it in one hand,

and was still holding the pocket knife in the other.

None of them were smiling,

or talking,

nor did they take notice of Andrew and I.

There was a garden bag standing up next to them that looked pretty full,

and there was a small pile of leaves on the ground next to it.

In slow motion I watched,

horrified,

as one of the boys,

Brian Jones-Hartlett,

picked up the shaking animal,

put it in the bag,

covered it with the leaves from the ground,

and with wide,

shining eyes,

set the bag

on fire

with a long-necked

candle

lighter.

It was too much for me then. I couldn’t control my nausea. I threw up and sat down while my head swam.

I couldn’t understand. I forgot my brother and the fact that he was older, that he should stop this,

Stop them,

There’s a dog in there,

You’re older, I’m sick,

Why can’t I stop them?

It was like
brandon nagley Apr 2016
Over a month, or a little more,
Maybe two, or just before;
At mine last métier,
Working at the
Dollar store.
I kept on seeing
The vatic harbinger's
In tax form; thirty-one
And thirteen. The register
Wouldst with none other
Sign to me read. For one day
After earning mine wages, I told
Mine mother of these prognostic gazes.
In fret, and distress, I kneweth these symbol's
Hadst to do with mother and father, twas mine guess.
In mine soul, God gaveth me sigil's, in the appearance of extra-change; O' how mighty God is, powerful, unchanged. Just a few twenty-four hour's ago, on the thirty-first of  March, mine father went to the restroom in anguish; Lip's parched. Panic hit ourn abode, mother ran to father's side, I was in the living room as mine father walked out-tears in eye's. He was holding his chest, as if a stone rolled on his beating heart, his face crimson red, he was stumbling toward's death's spark. Mother grabbed the phone, I went into dismay, I ran to grab the aspirin's, and started praying in mine mind silently. Popping the bottles top, fortunately knowing what to do, Sat father down on the couch, mother talking to medics to. I told him in force, " chew these pills right now, making him drink water, to get those orange thing's down. I couldst seeith quietus coming from his heavied breath, I held his hand as If that day was the last dance, with mine father's paining chest. The two emergency medical technician's, crossed into ourn door, there bag's in hand's with oxygen tank's; machines and much more. As the emt's were keeping mine father conscious, I took mine mother by the arm, I took her into the bedroom-closed the door in silent charm. I whispered to mother quickly, " Come on were praying NOW", we bowed ourn head's on the side of the bed, asking God though faith in Christ, " Lord please hath mercy and saveth Ron now. After a few questions from the emt's, I went down to the ambulance with father, as whilst mine dad was dying, he to the ambulance men preached. I laughed and smiled, as dad was telling those fine men how to be saved; Mine father spoke of Yeshua, even whilst his heart beat in rage. Mother followed behind the ambulance, I was sitting inside with dad, knowing all wouldst be alright, for the Lord and Savior was on ourn side that day, and for all coming night's. We got to the hospital, doctor's gaveth dad some tests, A miracle happened; no damage to his beater, no issues with his chest. As after dad was taken for x-rays to a darkly picture room, I looked at mother left alone with me, and it hit me with prophetic swoon. I thought about the number's thirty-one and thirteen, as I kept on seeing them in tax form, I kneweth it was about mine father or mother both, as crazy as it mayest seem. Though Yahweh giveth signs; vision's, or by death, symbols and dream's. As water started flowing in that room, left alone with mother, I cried out to her, as we stared upon another. I told mine mother "GOD SHOWED ME ALL ALONG", mine father's day of birth, was the thirteenth back way long. His heart attack was the thirty-first thus both signs matching the story, thirteen God showed me his birth, and thirty first was when this happened, a harbinger in timely warning. Though the story doth not end there, verily more to it, father hadst a dream a month ago, that I did not tell. Mine father sawest mine grandfather Nagley, who died when I was only five, from tumors throughout his body, cancer the way he died. Grandpa Nagley warned mine father a month in advance, of mine father's coming soon shaking, mine father didst not remember the word's from grandpa's mouth in the dream, though now we knoweth it was truth on string's. And one day before mine dad's happening as well, mine dad dreamt three dream's in a row, three; the number of the father son and holy spirit, the Trinity in God's mode. Dad hadst dreamt three dream's right before what took place, dad saidst he saweth me whispering " there's two men at the door, wake up. He sawest the two men come in, the end of his dream. The two men that first walked in to help saveth his life, were those two emt's. ...........


©Brandon Nagley
©Lonesome poet's poetry
©dedication to father Ron Nagley..... Thank God your alive dad love you.... As angels were once again protecting you, as God answered me and mothers prayer... And God's giving mine father a warning sign to come back to him.... As if we turn away from God he gives signs for us to come back to him....and it's truth and reality!!! Though what a loving merciful God you are!!! This even isn't the end of the story. Found out 31 had to do with my mother .. Kept seeing 31 and 13 at work. On cash register... Lol. Well mine mother just got into a car accident Jane knows about now I told her. Mother made it home safe. Totaled her vehicle. So this happened all literally two days apart from each other... Both numbers God kept showing me and I kept telling Jane, Jane these numbers are bothering me because I know they have to do with parents!! And yes!!! They did! God warned me!!! 31 July 31st mothers b day. August 13. Dads b day both matching signs God gave me!!! God wants mother and father to come back to him. I'm his vessel he's using to reach parents. And for me to come back fully!!! An amen to God alot!!!
métier- job, occupation...
Vatic- describing or predicting what will happen in the future....(archaic word)
Harbinger- a forerunner of something, ( warning)....
Wouldst- would.
prognostic- archaic, an advance indication or portent of a future event.
Twas- it was....
Sigil- sign or symbol- archaic word...
Sean Kassab Jul 2012
It was in the earlier part of November, 2005 when I was called to the garrison HQ to receive an emergency Red Cross message informing me that my grandfather had passed away. I was in my third year of service as a direct contractor to the Army and my duty station was in Iraq. More specifically, I was at Tallil AFB near the city of An Nasiriyah. I was granted an emergency leave so that I could go back to the US to be with my family so I stowed my gear, packed my duffel and made the long trip home. This was the first time I would make this trip, but I’m getting ahead of myself so let me back up a bit. You see, my grandfather had served in the Second World War, actually both of them had. They were brothers. PFC Eddie Kassab, the one I’m speaking about here, had survived WWII through some pretty tough odds, including being on the third wave of the Normandy invasion at D-Day where thousands had died during the beach head assault. His brother, SFC Joseph Kassab, who married my grandmother, was killed in that war, He was a bombardier and his plane was shot down during the Guadalcanal campaign. It wasn’t until 27 years later that the wreckage of the aircraft and remains were found and recovered. When Joseph died leaving behind his young wife and new born son, Eddie began looking after her, sending home money for her and the boy, my father. They wrote back and forth to eachother after the dissappearance of Joseph and when he returned to the US after the war they courted and were eventually married. Joseph was laid to rest with the rest of his flight crew in Arlington with full military honors. Eddie, who died much later in life, was also afforded a military service there. That was my first time being in Arlington National Cemetery, a place reserved for men and women who had served their country in a military capacity. It is difficult to describe just how immense and powerful that place is, the impact you have on your life just from standing on those grounds is indescribable. If I had to try I would say it’s a mixed feeling of Honor, pride, sorrow, and a profound sense of loneliness. There are row upon row of white marble markers spanning miles of emerald green grass and broad shade trees. The markers themselves are simple, nothing fancy, but the respect they command is beyond contestation. There are also wall vaults for those who were cremated, one of these would become Eddie’s final resting place. The US Army's honor guard performed his service, while a trumpeter played “Taps” and his flag was folded and presented on behalf of a grateful nation to my father who Eddie raised as his own son. In the distance a 21 gun salute was given by seven riflemen firing three shots each. It would be the only time in my life that I saw my father cry. We took the time after Eddie’s service to walk to Joseph’s grave marker as well, passing thousands of other markers and I found myself wondering how many of these people were forgotten by the years. How many of them left behind young children. Were they killed in combat? How many of them were laid to rest with a grave full of unfulfilled dreams? The sacrifices they made weighed heavily upon me. It was a feeling I would carry with me long after I had left that place.
Years had passed and I found myself still working in Iraq for the US Army, I was stationed at Camp Taji this time, on the edge of Sadr City, a real dust bowl. I was in my eighth year of service when I was again called to Garrison HQ, another emergency Red Cross message had come through informing me that my Father had passed away. It was December 29th 2010. For hours afterward it felt as if I had been punched in the gut. I called my Mom as soon as I could to make sure she was ok and to see if there was anything she needed before making arrangements for yet another emergency leave. I again stowed my gear, packed my duffel and headed out. Now, it’s only fair to give you an idea of whom I’m talking about here, my Father, Jan, had been a Navy man and had been stationed on submarines as well as destroyer class ships during the Vietnam War. He signed up for service when he was just 18 years old and when he left the Navy he went directly into the Maitland Fire Department in central Florida and stayed there for many years. Eventually he expanded his training becoming the 80th paramedic in the state as well as a certified rescue diver and instructor. More importantly, he was a great father who raised two boys as a father should and later in life, he was a pretty good drinking buddy. His teachings and advice have helped me through some of the toughest times in my life. It was because of his prior military service that he was also awarded full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. There was a waiting list of about 8 weeks at the time because of the high volume of casualties from the wars in the Middle East so it wasn’t until February of 2011 that he was finally laid to rest. This time it was the US Navy’s honor guard who performed his service. I remember it well; they stood in their dress whites throughout the ceremony in the biting cold as the wind whipped by mercilessly.  The honor and discipline in these men was no less than awe inspiring and through my sadness I couldn’t help but feel an amazing sense of pride for who my father was during his life. We all stood as a trumpeter again played “Taps” to the folding of my Father’s flag which was presented to my Mom on behalf of a grateful nation after a 21 gun salute was ordered in the distance. My Father’s remains were also placed in a wall vault that became his final resting place; his marker being only about 20 feet from Eddie’s marker in the adjacent wall and even though it was freezing that day, we took a little extra time to visit Eddie and Joseph again. Walking the grounds of that place again awakened all the feelings I had felt the first time, probably even more so. Again, I have to tell you that words couldn’t accurately describe how that place makes you feel. The grass had turned brown by now but was still immaculately manicured, and the precision placement of the grave markers was flawless. There were thousands of names that dated all the way back to the American Civil War. I went also with my brother to pay my respects at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was an impressive mausoleum that is guarded twenty four hours a day by the US Army’s horror guard.  After it was all said and done and we had left Arlington and met as a family, my Mom, my Brother and his family, myself and my family and some close friends to remember him for a while over some food and drinks, and though nobody seemed to really have any appetite we still stayed there for hours. That was the first time in eight years that I had seen my Brother and would be the last time I saw him alive, but that part comes later. Eventually we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, each having a very long way to travel back home and I had to get ready to go back to Iraq, heavy hearted or not.
I had only been back in theater (that means deployment) for a few months when I was reassigned to Al Asad AB as my permanent duty station. It was a place in the middle of nowhere and was originally a Marine base but transferred to Army and Air Force some time in 2010. I had made some good friends there, settled in and finally started coming back to myself when I received a message from my brother’s wife asking me to call her, said it was important. Thinking back on it now, I remember feeling a little angry that she wouldn’t tell me on email. Internet I had in my room, but a phone…well I’m no general and I had already settled in for the night. It was about 21:30 hrs. (9:30 p.m.) on a night in late July so I got dressed and made the quarter mile walk to my office where I could use the phone, cursing under my breath the whole time. It took me about 20 minutes just to find my phone card in my cluttered desk drawer, but when  I finally did amongst more unsavory mutterings I made the call. She answered quickly enough but her voice sounded strained so I calmed down and asked her what was going on, I figured something wasn’t right so she didn’t need me jumping her case on top of it. It was then that she told me my Brother’s body had been found in his home in Whiteville NC. He had been having a hard time with depression since our Father passed as well as marital problems and he had made the decision to take his own life at the age of 36 leaving behind his Wife, Stepson and Daughter who was only 5 at the time. I was blindsided to say the least, no one saw this coming, and he left no real reason as to why so there still is no closure, no understanding. I was angry… no, I was furious! But I’m getting ahead of myself again. She had called me not only to inform me of what had happened, but also to ask if I had Mom’s phone number because she didn’t have it and didn’t know how to get in touch with her to tell her. I told her not to worry about it and that I’d take that on my shoulders and get back to her. It had only been five months since we laid our Father to rest and to say I dreaded making that phone call was a ridiculous understatement. It was easily one of the toughest things I ever had to do, but it had to be done all the same so I dug Mom’s number out of my wallet…and stared at it…I don’t know how long but it felt like a long time. What else could I do? What could I say? It’s not like I had an instruction booklet for delivering bad news and this was as bad as it gets. After a few deep breaths I dialed her number and decided to take the direct approach. She answered the phone and we exchanged hellos, and I asked her what she was doing. She was out shopping with Robbie at the Tractor Supply Co. He was a longtime family friend and all around good guy. I told her that I had some pretty bad news and asked if she could find a place to sit down there, but she told me it was ok to just tell her what happened so I did exactly that. I gave her all the information I had at the time, I didn’t know how to sugar coat it so I didn’t. She took it pretty well up front, not breaking down until later that evening. My Brother, SPC Troy Kassab, had enlisted in the US Army with our Father’s permission when he was only 17 years old. He was a combat medic assigned to Ft. Carson in Colorado before transferring to the 82nd Airborne Division in Ft Brag NC. He deployed to Cuba among other deployments overseas before being attached to a Ranger Unit as their medic and doing other deployments that he never would talk about much. After the army he lived in NC where he worked in restaurants while attending school on the G.I bill and volunteering on the Hickory Rescue Squad as an EMT. He eventually completed school in Winston Salem NC where he got his PA degree in general practice. Troy was a self-educated, brilliant man who wasn’t perfect but who is? He saved lives in the Army, and then continued to do so in the civilian world until his death in July of 2011. He was a husband and a father, a brother and a friend. He was important to us. It was because of his past in the Army that he also was awarded full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. This time the wait was much longer and his funeral wasn’t held until November 15th of 2011. I remember that day and the days leading up to it like it was yesterday. I had ended my deployment in Iraq on November 3rd, making it back to the US on November 6th. From the time of his death I had stayed in contact with Mom and his wife Andi to make sure they were ok and help in any way I could with the affairs and expenses. When I finally did get home I pulled my truck out of storage had it inspected, fueled and ready to go. It was unfortunate, but my wife was in college and had work at the time so she couldn’t come with us so my daughter and I made the long trip from Houston TX to Hickory NC to see Troy’s wife and kids. While I was there I also picked up a close family friend of ours who needed a ride and made the long drive to Arlington VA...again. The US Army’s honor guard met us there to perform his service and again the attention to detail, the respect given to the deceased, and the discipline shown was flawless. There were more friends this time than family in attendance but I was there with Mom, Robbie, my daughter, and some very close family friends, some going all the way back to our childhood. The ceremony was the same, every time the same. I remember thinking I hated the way “Taps” sounded as they folded the flag and I was angry and hurt when I stepped forward to claim my Brother’s remains and walk them to the wall vault that would become his final resting place. I have to say though, that through my grief and anger, I was a little bit pleased to see that he was placed so close to my Father and Grandfather. I left a pair of my own dog tags in his vault, it made me feel better that he wouldn’t be alone in there. I guess it doesn’t make a lot of sense now but at the time it did.  I stood over his marker and said a silent prayer before heading out to see Dad, Eddie and Joe’s markers and pay some respects. The grass was that brilliant emerald green again, and the sense that I stood in a place of honor reserved for our nations fallen still struck me through the heart.  After that we just kind of faded away from that place making our way home. Troy’s wife Andi had decided not to come, she was angry, she felt betrayed and abandoned, so on my way home I stopped back in Hickory NC, dropped off Michelle and made the drive to Andi’s house to present her with Troy’s flag as it had been presented to me. I remember hoping that her decision wouldn’t leave her with later regrets, but it was too late to change it now. The drive home was a long one, one that rekindled so many unanswered questions. Three generations of my family laid to rest leaving me as the only surviving male member of my family; something that still weighs upon my heart today.
But this is their story, and though it seems a sad one, that is not its intent. This story was written so that you the reader could understand that there is a place where over a hundred thousand Josephs and Eddies, and Jans and Troys are resting.  Each one of those stone crosses and stars have a face, a name, a history, and they made a sacrifice for you and for me. They were people who gave up their futures so that we could have one. They were people who had dreams, families, and who put all of that aside for what they believed in. They weren’t perfect people, but they deserve to be remembered. If you do nothing else after reading this, at least take the time to think about the freedoms that you have, freedoms that have cost us so much…
There are those who came before us, who paved the way for the lives we now live, their voices whisper to us through our freedoms and we are a greatful nation. Listen and remember...
Robert Ronnow Aug 2015
Two fine films: The Lost City and Blood Diamond.
I joined Blood Diamond during a village massacre
and said to my wife A gun in every home.
Those devils would think twice
before razing the village and seizing the boys.

A well-regulated militia.
The local militia the most interesting moment
in a strong film with motive (economic, emotional), action (chases,
      fights) and a ****, sexless love story.
Use of violence by the local militia for a limited purpose: protect the
      community, the young
from the janjaweed. The crop from the ****.
Limited scope and defensive posture
but armed and coordinated, cooperative, the men (and the women)
      side by side.
Warriors at the gate, you will not run, you will not bargain.
Just violence = limited scope, defensive posture.

Great music. Cuba, Africa.
The Lost City, when the communists tell the club owner under threat
      of violence
No saxophones in the band. The saxophone!
Invented by a Belgian--Look what the Belgians are doing in the
      Congo!
When the state's violence is turned against the citizenry
for non-violent acts.

This quiet neighborhood, July,
undergirded by violence, force. That's a given--
any farmer, custodian, EMT will tell you that.
Without just violence
Gandhi's scope, and King's, might be vanishingly limited,
negligible (but not non-existent)?
                                                  ­     Regarding King
the matter is simple -- he was non-violent but dependent upon
federal force to counter the South's violence.
No doubt without the larger force, the non-violent would be
      overwhelmed by southern violence.
Here, non-violence was a tactic, not an ethic.
Gandhi, however, had no violent partner to protect him from the
      British. Or did he?
1. There was the potential violence of the population, which Gandhi
    restrained but could release which the British feared, and
2. It was the restrained (limited scope) violence of the British that
    allowed Gandhi to exist rather than be extinguished--this restraint
    was a (British) cultural imperative (limited scope) as well as
    emanating from Britain's view of India as a protectorate and
    valued citizen of the United Kingdom (defensive posture).

What about violence or threat of violence to compel compliance with
      community
as in mortgage foreclosure, driving without license, drug possession.
Perhaps it is necessary violence to maintain orderly commerce, the
      common space, and preempt bad behaviors associated with
      otherwise neutral, private acts.
The defensive posture is the common good; the limited scope is
      forgoing deadly force.
But the citizen, too, must maintain a disciplined, armed non-violence,
in case the state (the janjaweed) engages in an unjust, autoimmune
      violence.
Hence, a gun in every home.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Andrew Rueter  Oct 2017
EMP
Andrew Rueter Oct 2017
EMP
I can't compute and become mute
When you walk by
My circuitry is fried
Because your program is an encryption
And your pulse is electromagnetic
My car dies, so does my phone, so does my home
I'm immobilized
And demoralized
By immoral ties
To temporary generators
They're validating veneraters
Ultimately unsatisfying
When you're still not buying
I'm attracted to your charge
Until there's a battery
Yet you're the cure to your lure
The EMT for your EMP

Your negative charge casts a cloud around my nucleus
But if you could be positive for a change
We could meet in the middle
And feel energy in our synergy
But as soon as I feel electricity between us
You shut me down
With your EMP
I can't get free
Josiah Wilson Jun 2014
You're like a lighthouse
Signalling to me
As I drown out here
In the deep blue sea

You're like the seat belt
Holding me in place
As the cars collide
And glass cuts my face

You're the oxygen
As I suffocate
Flooding through my lungs
Pushing death away

You're the only one
Who pulls me from the brink
You keep me afloat
When I begin to sink

Into these thoughts
Of me dying
You're the reason
That I'm trying
To survive

You're like a doctor
Jumping my stopped heart
As I start to fade
and I drift apart

You're like the siren
Shaking me from sleep
As the fire burns
Flames devouring deep

You're the helping hand
As I start to slip
Catching at my arms
When I lose my grip

You're the only one
Who pulls me from the brink
You keep me afloat
When I begin to sink

Into these thoughts
Of me dying
You're the reason
That I'm trying
To survive
Dennis Scherle  Nov 2013
parents
Dennis Scherle Nov 2013
its been two long years since you were released
but know in my heart i could never blaime you in the least
we were a tourchured family to never find love
but this is what either dreams or hate can be made of

even when i saw your eyes roll back and the blood on the knife with your marijuana pipe so black from the residue packed
you cut till your arms were just red
then smoked enough to leave a teenage stoner in bed

i dont blaime you for either, you were hurt and you needa cope
but was tradeing the love of your ******* son worth that ****
you were my mother, supposed to hold and love me
but i found myself being yelled at thinking im just unlucky

still i guess i could of looked for love from my father
but he was to busy showing love to his two daughters
i was to dumb, couldnt sing a song, to him i ddnt belong
so you ignored my exsistance for many long years till it braught me to tears

but where are we now after i lived a long 18 years
dad look your oldest daughter left and your youngest you only hear hate underneath the tone of her breath
so i guess im all you have left to bail you out this mess you left

so now to watch over these two as if they were as delicate as children, they have only me to watch over them as my  mom bleeds and my dad cant breath the weight of debt needs to be repaid i dont know what else but you will regret how you treated me when im gone one day

momma maybye i just want you to stop with the drugs

looking everywhere just trying to find a buzz

till you look at your son amd forgot who he was

tired of goin to bed everynight to never sleep

keeping one eye open in case i have to call n emt

nearly watched you die remember that moment and i still ****** cry

so i lay with a knife to my throat livin a lie knowing i jus wanna die

so this is my last birthday song remember when i saw love in your eyes now im jus tryin to get by
Ma Cherie Jun 2016
I sat inside a hospital bay
in the usual uncomfortable hospital beds
feeling exposed....and cold
as they brought in a woman
who was convulsing...
my fears shifted

She was on a moving stretcher
there must have been 12 people in tow
doctors nurses and others
It's hard to remember who was straddling her chest
as they pushed the rollaway gurney
trying to revive her
I think it was an EMT..
remember his sturdy legs in dark Navy pants &  shirt with some
sort of medical cross in white
above his heart...
I just really remember this look
of sheer panic on his face

From the amount of police officers
and security guards
I could only surmise that she
was in some kind of other trouble
than just her physical distress.

At the time I was having some difficulties
with my heart and this situation did not make it any better.
I kind of felt like I was having a serious panic attack...
or that I might even have a heart attack
I really hadn't heard anything about my own condition...or cause

I just tried to breathe
the sounds around me
of machines beeping and voices yelling
so many lights flashing
the doctor pounded on her chest
...literally
trying put a tube in her throat...
attempting to force open lips that remained sealed
I felt like they were  
trying to push that airway in me....

as they worked on her behind that curtain
like The Wizard of Oz
I really couldn't see
they were trying to get a line
her veins too thin and collapsed
the sound of drilling her bone....
in her thigh...
I cupped my ears
as the tears rolled from our eyes
unable to get the medicine in any other way
I had never heard of such a method
I really wasn't eavesdropping
but I was completely drawn in

Narcon I think that's what it was called ...
that's the medicine they gave her.
Apparently it can bring you back
from the brink of death....
I was grateful that they had it for her.

As it turns out she was holding some drugs in the prison for a controlling cellmate
It was coercion and extortion
This so-called drug dealing badass chick
who made her hold the drugs
knew she had money on the outside
and dearly made her pay for it
from the sounds of it
the girl bedside me knew that she was going to be caught with whatever she had been forced to hold...
she was trying to roll a joint in the bathroom...
innocent enough for Prison
when she heard a couple guards talking and coming
it seemed this ...getting caught,
each pill a seperate offense
would be a worse offense than death ...
I thought...for her
So she swallowed an entire wax encapsulated ball of pills
Barely able to choke it down....
knowing it had been brought in by a mule
desperation won

As she slowly stopped convulsing and became dimly awakened
somewhat, aware.... felt like we all finally started to breathe
Nurses and others applauded...relief veiled the room

She was up....then WAY up
I guess you would say she was high
From the drugs and from being out of the prison I suspect

She was scared and crying and my heart went out to her.
She was confused and rambling
unsure of all the different pills inside the Wax Ball trying to recount
asking if she was going to die
Begging not to
to the doctors ...the officers as they were asking her "what did you take honey...come on?"
Over and over....looking in her eyes with a flashlight... as her spirit tried to fade but her body and soul just would not let her go yet.

After a bit of time she started to be more coherent and my heart started to feel less like it was going to burst.

I was so upset by the turn of events
that I really wanted to move to another room  
my nerves were just so terrible
  but the nurse said that people were literally lined up in the hallways .
She asked if I'd prefer that in a snarky tone... I said "no, of course not"

I asked for help  to unplug my equipment
then I went to the bathroom
our eyes met ...hers and mine
for a moment...a quick glance
of some mutual pain and understanding
and we smiled at one another.
I don't think it was difficult
for either one of us
I was looking for an escape to go to the bathroom
from my pain and problems
and get away from this mess
this noise
and she definitely was looking for a way out of her situation
we found calm and comfort in sharing...connecting

She wasn't young enough to be my daughter ...
I think she might have been about 36 or 37
but I thought about that possibility....
she had no family there
and that made me sad
I too was alone
I believe she knew
that I had compassion and true empathy for her
I saw that in her kind and sad blue grey eyes
and I think she saw that in mine....or I hope so

She was not formally educated
but she was quite intelligent and articulate....
She was quite proud of her studies while doing time....
she had a wonderful plan and how she was going to get her children back and a job as a hair stylist.
She had long golden strawberry wheat colored hair

She told how she had been in prison for 7 years away from her children... drugs that got her into Prison and drugs brought her to this Hospital this night

She told over and over
the story of this controlling cellmate
and how this whole turn of events that happened.
All because of drugs mostly.... she owned it
she knew that she used drugs to escape her life before  
and she had taken so many wrong turns
the last charges she received were for "walking off"
from house arrest... she ran... with nowhere to really run.
Now there was this...

She was friendly with the guards
they knew her well and most of them treated her decently,
calling her by her last name only
The one guard was constantly by her side and joking,
reassuring her that she would be fine.
Well there was another guard who was not so friendly,
when she was convulsing he had a smile on his face...
chuckling even....maybe out of fear...
I hoped that.... more than hate
It troubled me in ways I can't really describe.
I think he thought she deserved it.
Maybe there's others that might read this
that might think the same thing...
I do not know.

For me....I don't know her whole truth...her story...
..and I don't know how she got there
I don't know what her childhood was like
or even her young adulthood before she ended up there... I know the complexities of my own life
and except for the broken shattered pieces that she started to share
I don't know what happened in that prison either ....
not really
and my Father told us that
we should love everyone unconditionally
and so that's how I practice and live my life.

You could see her deep sadness and true regret ...
in the lines on her face
yet I also saw hope.. in her eyes and I heard it in her voice

The hours that she spent there were like heaven to her.
She got drinks and food that she would not get in prison...company of new people and a chance to feel normal whatever she perceives normal to be

she laughed nervously with the guards but I could tell that she was sort of excited to be out.
Maybe she took the drugs just so she could get out and breathe the air for just a moment.
I wondered about all the motives one might have
She said that it was because she felt she was going to get caught
but as the story went on ....
she further detailed
after the guards came into the bathroom
and found nothing
she went back and sat at a table with a few other cellmates
and waited to see what was going to happen
maybe she didn't think the drugs would seep through the wax
Or maybe they would have a slow delivery and she would just be high again
or maybe she did know
I don't think she wanted to die but just desperately wanted out
She knew that this badass chick
was going to want money for those pills
she had asked to be moved back to Delta
where she liked it....
she said she was clean there
Apparently she complained over and over and even told them what this girl was doing
She told them that she was going to be a victim in this new unit
she did not want to be there
no one was listening

I was still lying in the bed when they finally strapped her in and decided to take her back to the prison
I was kind of sad to see her go to be honest
because she wasn't completely stable
Physically or emotionally
And I don't really think she belongs there
I guess they don't worry so much about prisoners
And as she left
she had this look of longing that she wished she could trade places with me and she didn't even know what was wrong
that I was there for something wrong with my heart
I think even if it was cancer she would have traded

We again exchanged warm smiles again, an acknowledging nod
and we both added a small wave...
I think knowing
we would probably never really see each other again

My friend who had been absent
Who finally decided to come
and see how I was doing
said "do you know that girl?" and I said "no I don't we haven't even talked." I think he was puzzled....

Actually we both were there with something wrong with our hearts...
and I will probably never forget her face
I will pray for her, her families and her children
her children's children
that they can break the cycle of abuse, dysfunction and unhappiness
I am 100% certain that it's possible
I've done it in my own life
and my family's life
though some things are not always so probable

I wish it was contagious...
that she could have caught it there at the hospital but it's really something you have to dig deep to find
You have to want it more than living
More than dying
I'm not sure we ever find our ideal life or blissful happiness...
Most of us endure a lot of suffering
I have let it grip me before
though I am satisfied with being content
in my life... grateful in every moment
anything more really is a true blessing

So upon reflection
I guess again it just helped me to reinforce that every single part of life cannot be taken for granted.
The air that we breathe
the food that we eat
the music that we listen to
and dance to
the kind smile of a stranger
in a hospital bed next to you
a sad poetic story
Or one of Hope
Being able to drive to the store or walk home if you would rather
Sharing time with your family and friends and everything else it's beautiful in the world.
If I ever think my life is too much
just so bad
I always try to think about those who have it so much worse than I do
Although sometimes if I do that it's too much to bare
To think of genocide and children starving
Even if I only have a few dollars sometimes

I do this not only to gain insight ...review hindsight and if I'm lucky have some foresight in my future
or to protect myself from those potential tragedies happening in my life or in my family's life....

it is more about the fact
that I need
WE....need
to be aware
all the time
the people around us are suffering
and there are little things we can do to make their days better like those smiles and the wave we shared....

I carry her smile with me and I hope she carries mine with her.
I was really pretty scared but somehow that smile and wave was comforting and I hope it comforted her too.
The irony was that she was due to get out within a couple months so I again pondered whether she was institutionalized and wanted to actually stay.
I hope not though because she seemed so kind and so optimistic under such distressing circumstances.
If she had to stay I'm glad she had a moment to breathe the air outside her Prison Walls again even if it was just for a moment
And I sure hope she got the hell away
from that bad *** chick
who just wanted to bring her down

Cherie Nolan © 2016
This was not a real recent visit to the hospital but it did happen just a true story I wanted to share it's all I could manage for today thanks for reading
refresh mesh May 2015
the dark, dark, paralyzed shark
pincushioned a hole in the wall
and said, "remind me. why do we do it all?"
grief is a shiny stairway to ******
showering in syrupy Butalin
i'm so angry at these bad dreams
where did all the good ones go?
i'll never be near the moon, it seems.
i'll always be in my mind, trapped below
that **** who hides
in my teeth and in my skin
lurking trickily where the deepest sin collides
ordering me, ruthlessly: give in

i carry a ghost in my pocket
i can open it up like a deadly locket
revealing it as a helpless demon
ready for the routine depository
of its *****
does it need a piggyback ride
to our castle of ice and pine?
does it want to make its home
in my belly, my nails, my womb?

Someone call an EMT
who will scrape out the rut for me
a few good cleanings,
that's what I need
to finally put away
that black poppy seed
for long enough to try
using my voice at least once
before i get to die.

it will cackle with joy
if my heart suddenly fails.
i will omit all cholesterol
if that's what its punishment entails.
there's such a thin line between inspiration
and replication.
maybe life is meant to be tired
and this shape is all these continents will ever be.

i'm learning to fly
i come and go.
i float and grow.
beating my wings to a rhythm that I breathe in and out-
it sounds exactly like
a quick heartbeat
preying on rabbits and resting in trees
instead of running
becoming dead meat

i'm very good at hiding
i keep it up until I'm as hollow
as lightweight opaque
translucent paper
knowing it can't wait me out forever.
if i could plague it with apprehension
i'd follow him everywhere
and lie about my intentions
until he casually cheats life and leaves me
Here

i imagine there to be a sound of these wooden flutes
fluttering
white flakes by my eardrum
spiriting my shaking fingers
giving me an excuse for the palpitations
rising at the thought of my aggressor
placed inside my flower drawer.

maybe it is my undulating fright
maybe it is cardiovascular might
maybe it is a measurable blight
because i feel stuck in a daydream that steals my hair
and, with a wrenching force, my underwear
using the two to gag me with pressure.

then i wake up
in time, completely alone.
a window is glued under my eyelids
of a time
when I could part my lips on my own
finding forgiveness takes forever

— The End —