WCA Apr 2014

I wrote this for you a long time ago on a coffee stained napkin, after you left me, full of love, lingering in a cafe.

"For you, in all your follies and faults and the way they make you so perfect for me.
For you, in the moments that linger in the vehemently insignificant corners and corridors of things, as if drifted of their own grandure.
For you, for the words that spill to the floor and the brilliant way you understand the deafening silence that follows.
For you, for your supernovas and clever shades, for your daylight smiles and nighttime skins.
For you, for your familiarity and the impossible truths that stand as martyrs to say that I have loved you before.
For you, despite the treachery and quiet sinister fun of the world.
For you, for making me so terribly scared of dying."
Yet here I am, in your wake, so full of so many thoughts and demons. Know that I have died, that I have loved and lost with equal measure.

Styles Dec 2015

Appreciating her subtle tones, as they turn me on.
Far past my boiling point, my temperature rising,
I’m burning up in this joint. There's no surviving.

My eyes all over her curves, as I observe.
Conversation shorter than sure.
Flirted with our eyes, now our hands asking for more.

I started sucking on her lips, now they were my own,
Kissing on my tongue, turned my tongue to her clone.
Pulling her into my hips, like I wanted to bone.
Sending shivers up and down her backbone,

I could feel her body shiver, as she rubbed it against my hard bone.
looked deep into her eyes and she moaned and groaned.
I filled my mouth with the taste of her own,
swallowed her lips with my mouth, as she moaned.
As we kissed on each other, the moment kept getting better.  
Her body language making a point, leading me on - very clever.
the deeper we got, she got even wetter.

Her erogenous zone, and other places to be known -
got me harder than a stone, my head spinning like a cyclone -
as I endured her weather.  
My fingers wore her scent like cologne.
wet as a puddle, I want to play in forever.  

She, lost in the pleasure.
This love session close to closure the further they go.  
As much as she wants to, her body can never say no.

James Hawthorne Apr 2013

Loyalty is the gasoline,
to a match and a bridge,
flames set lands free,
leaving rubble from each ridge.
Who am I to speak?
Eire's love radiates on me.
My words, robust, openess, weak.
Through heated air it may be hard to see.
Embarrassment earnests my endeavors,
to condescend and criticize,
dangerous are the acts that seem clever,
peculiarly in shortening ones size.
Loyalty is a long, cold rifle,
best used for blood and otherwise, stifle.

“kitty”. sixteen,5′ 11″,white,prostitute.

ducking always the touch of must and shall,
whose slippery body is Death’s littlest pal,

skilled in quick softness.  Unspontaneous.  cute,

the signal perfume of whose unrepute
focusses in the sweet slow animal
bottomless eyes importantly banal,

Kitty. a whore. Sixteen
                            you corking brute
amused from time to time by clever drolls
fearsomely who do keep their sunday flower.
The babybreasted broad “kitty” twice eight

—beer nothing,the lady’ll have a whiskey-sour—

whose least amazing smile is the most great
common divisor of unequal souls.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
you.
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pur whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he's
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?

Mitchell Duran Nov 2013

It was 98'.
No, it was 99'.
That was the year.
Yeah, that was the year.

I had just landed abroad and knew no one.
Well, I was there with my girlfriend, Page.

I knew her.

We had to get out of the states.
There was nothing for us there.
We were drowning in that nothingness - that lacking future.

Cookie cutters everywhere.

Everything I saw was like an outline of something that had already happened.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't fuck.
I could barely call my parents to let them know what I was doing.

Nothing really.

Floating downward like a leaf broken from its stem.
I was scared.
I'll admit it.
I was terrified of the next four years.
Twenty-five seemed so far away and so close, all at the same time.

We had a found an apartment to live in while in the U.S.
We were lucky because people we met later on said it was hell trying to find a place after arriving.
I was never too good at that stuff anyway.
I always felt like people were trying to cheat me or something.

It was small.
You would have said you loved it, but secretly hated it.
One could barely stand in the shower.
Want to spread your arms wide?

Forget about it.

There was a balcony though and you could watch the street traffic from above.
People look so small when your high up.
Down the street, there was a large theatre where they filmed movies.
I rarely saw them shooting, but I could tell it was a good place to.
It was beautiful at night when the lampposts would flicker on, orange spilling on the street.
Everything was damp in the Fall when we first arrived.

"What do you want to do today?" I asked her. She was laying face down on the bed.
Whenever she was hungover, she would do that.
All the covers and pillows over her face, blocking out the world and its light.
I did the same thing, so I couldn't really say much.
We were hungover a lot those first couple months.
Then came the jobs and everything changed...mostly.

She moaned something that I couldn't understand.
I was standing by the window, staring at the pigeons and crows perched on the roof across from us.
They had made a little nest under one of the shingles.
Clever little fucker's.

"Look at those things," I said.
The coffee I was drinking was bitter and made from crystals.
It gave me a headache, but it was cheap and we were broke.
I stepped back to get a better look at their nest and knocked an empty beer bottle around.

She moaned again and rose up from bed, kind of like a stretching kitten or a cat.
Her back was arched like a crescent moon and she stunk of vodka and Sprite.
The blankets were twisted and crumpled and she was tangled in them like a fly in a spiders web.
I went into the kitchen and poured out my coffee, thinking of what to do with the day.

"Breakfast?" she asked me from bed.
My back was to her, but I knew she wanted me to make it.
I put the electric stove on and opened the refrigerator.

"No eggs," I said back to her, "I'll be right back."

She moaned and slithered back into bed.
I threw my jacket and slippers on and made my way downstairs.

"Dobry den," I said to the cashier.
He was a tiny vietnamese man with a extremely high pitched voice.
I struggled to stifle a laugh every time I came in.

"Dobry den," he said back, sounding like air escaping from a balloon.

"Dear God," I thought, "How does his voice box do it?"

I went straight to the eggs, pretending to cough.
All around me were packaged sweets and rotten vegetables and fruit.
There were half loaves of brown, stale bread wrapped lazily in thin plastic.
Canned beans, noodle packets, and cardboard infused orange juice lined the shelves.
Where were the goddamn eggs?
We needed milk too.
Trying to drink that crystalized coffee without it was torture.
I don't even know how I did it earlier.
"I must be getting used to the taste..." I thought.

I opened the single refrigerator they had in the place.
It was stocked with loosely packaged cheese, milk, beer, and soda.
There they were, those goddamn eggs, right next to the yogurt.
I looked at the expiration date of a small carton of chocolate milk and winced.
"Someone could die here if they weren't careful," I whispered to myself.

"Everyding O.K.?" I heard the cashier squeak behind me.
I turned and nodded and showed him the eggs.
He was suspicious I was stealing something.
It was ironic.
I put the eggs on the counter and handed over what the cash register told me.

"There you go," I said and handed him the 58 crown in exact change.

"Děkuji," he peeped.

His voice sounded like a stuffed animal.
I nodded, smiled, and quickly got the hell out of there.

"You know the guy that works at the shop across the street?" I asked the body still in bed.
Well, she was up now, back up against the wall with her laptop on her lap.
"You mean the guy that has the voice of a little girl?"
"Exactly. I was just in there - getting these eggs - and I nearly laughed in his face."
"That's mean," she frowned, staring at her laptop.
Many of our conversations were with some kind of electronic device in between us.
We needed to work on that.
"I didn't laugh at him directly."
She smiled and nodded and moved down the bed a little more.
Only her head was resting on the pillow.
I cracked two eggs and let them sizzle there in the butter and the salt.

"So, what do you want to do today?" I asked Page, "It's not too cold out. We could go on a walk."
"Where?"
"I don't know. Over the bridge and maybe down by the water."
"It's going to be so cold," she shivered.
"I was just out there in slippers and a t-shirt and I was fine."
"That's because you're so big. I'm tiny. I don't get as much blood flow."

I flipped the two eggs and looked down at them.
Golden and burnt slightly around the edges.
Fucking perfect.
Now, just gotta wait a little on the other side and make sure to not let the yolk harden.
I hated that more than anything in the world.
Well, that and hearing piss poor excuses like it being too cold.
It was nice out.
She'd be fine.

"Come on," I sighed. I did that a lot. "It'll be fun."
She looked up at me from her computer with a dead look in her eye.
"What?" I asked her.
"You're such a...nerd," she said.
"No I'm not."
"You're so weird. Some of the things you say sometimes..."
"Like what?"
"Let's go on a walk."
She exaggerated the word walk.
I laughed and knew I was being a little too excited about a walk.
"Yeah. So? What are you doing? You're just laying there doing nothing."
"It's my day off," she scoffed, jokingly.

We were unemployed.
Everyday was a day off.
This was not something to bring up.
It was touchy subject.
One had to go about it...delicately.

"We need to find jobs," I stated, "And we can probably ask around or look for signs in windows."

"Oh JESUS," she gagged, coughing and diving back under the covers.

"I'm just thinking ahead so we can stay here. There's got to be something out there we can do."

"Like what?" she asked, her voice muffled by blankets.

"I don't know...something," I mumbled, trailing off as I flipped one of the eggs, "Perfect."

After breakfast, Page finally got out of bed and took a shower.
I tried to sneak in there with her, but, like I said before, one could barely fit themselves in there.
We compromised to have sex on the bed, though I did miss doing it in the shower.
As Page got dressed, I watched her slip those thin black stockings on, half reading a magazine.
I had gotten a subscription to The Review because I was trying to become a writer.
I thought, maybe if I read the stuff getting published - even the bad shit - it'll help.
Later, I realized, this was a terrible idea, but I enjoyed the magazine all the same.
Page finished getting dressed.
I jumped into whatever clothes were on the floor and didn't stink.
Then, we were out the door on Anna Letenske street, looking at the tram, downhill.


"I can see my breath," Page said, "It's cold..."

"Alright," I said as both of us ran across the street, "It's a little cold."

"But it's ok because I'm glad were out of the house."

"If we would have festered there any longer, we would have stayed in there all day."

"And missed this beautiful day," she said mocking me, putting both of her arms in the air.

The sky was gray and overcast and a single black crow flew over us, roof to roof.
No one was out, really.
It was Sunday and no one ever really came out on Sundays.
From the few czech friends I had, they explained to me this was the day to get drunk and cook.

"Far different then what people think in the States to do," I remember telling him.
"What do you do, my friend?" he had asked. He always called me my friend.
It was a nice thing to do since we had only known each other a couple weeks.
"Well," I explained to him, "Some people go to church to pray to God."
He laughed when I said this and said, "HA! God? How many people believe in God there?"
I had heard through the news and some Wikipedia research Prague was mostly atheist.
"A good amount, I'm pretty sure."
"That's silly," he scoffed, "Silly is word, right?"
"Yep. A word as any other."
"I like that word. What else do they do on Sunday?"
"A lot of people watch football. Not like soccer but with..."
"I know what you talk about," he said, cutting me off, "With the ball shaped like egg?"
I nodded, "Yes, the one with the egg shaped ball. It's popular in the Fall on Sundays."
"And what is Fall?" he asked.
You can see our relationship was really based on questions and answers.
He was a good guy, though I could never pronounce his name right.
There was a specific z in there somewhere where one had to dig their tongue under their teeth.
Lots of breath and vibration that Americans were never asked or trained to do.
Every czech I met said our language was a high contradiction.
Extremely complex in grammar and spelling, but spoken with such sloth.
I don't know if they used the word sloth.
I just like the word.

As we waited for the tram, I noticed the burnt orange and red blood leaves on the ground.
"Where had they come from?" I wondered. There were no trees on the street.
Must be from the park down the block, the one with the big church and the square.
There were lines of trees there used as leaning posts for the bums and junkies as they waited.
What they were waiting for, I never knew.
They just looked to be waiting for something.
I kicked a leaf into the street from the small island platform for the tram.
It swept up into the air a couple inches, and then instantly, was swept away by a passing car.
I watched as it wavered in the air, settling down the block in the middle of the road.

"Where's this trammm," Page complained.
Whenever it was cold out, her complaining level multiplied by a million.
"Should be coming soon. Check the schedule."
"Too cold," she said, "Need to keep my hands in my pockets."
I shook my head and looked at the schedule. It said it would be there at 11:35.
"11:35," I told her, still looking at the schedule. There was a strange cross over the day of Sunday.
"You mad?"
"No," I said turning to her, "I just want to have a nice day and its hard when you're upset."
"I'm not upset," she said, her teeth chattering behind her lips.
"Complaining I mean. We can go back home if it's really too cold. It's right there."
"No," she looked down, "Let's go out for a bit. I just don't know how long I'll last."
"Ok," I shrugged.
I looked up the street and saw our tram coming; number 11.
"There it is," I said.
"Thank God," Page exhaled, "I feel like I'm about to die."

Even the tram was sparse with people.
An empty handle of cheap liquor rattled in the back somewhere.
I heard it rock back and forth against the legs of a metal seat.
"Someone had a night last night," I thought, "Hope that's not mine."
We had gone to some dark bar with a lot of stairs going down - all I really recall.
Beer was so damn cheap there and there was always so much of it, one got very drunk easily.
I couldn't even really remember who we met or why we went there.
When everything's a blur in the morning you have two choices:
Feel guilty about how much you drank, lie around, and do nothing or,
Leave it be, try not to think about it, and try and find your passport and cell phone.

We made our transfer at the 22 and rode downhill.
Page looked like she was going to be sick.
Her sunglasses were solid black and I couldn't see her eyes, but her face was flushed and green.
"You alright?" I asked her.
"I'm fine," she said, "Just need to get off of this tram. Feel like I'm going to be sick."
"You look it."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, a little bit."
"Let's get off at the park with the fountain. I don't want to puke here."
"Ok," I said, smiling, "We'll get off after this stop."

We sat down on one of the benches that circled around the fountain.
It was empty and Page was confused why.
"Maybe to save money?" I suggested.
"What? It's just water."
"Well, you gotta' pump the water up there and then filter it back out. Costs money."
"Costs crown," she corrected me.
"Same thing," I said, putting my arm around her, "There's no one here today."
"I know why," she stated, flatly.
"Why?"
"Because it's collllllllld and it's Sunday and only foreigner's would go out on a day like this."
I scanned the park and noticed that most of the faces there were probably not Czech.
"Shit," I muttered, "You may be right."
"I know I am," she said, wiggling her chin down into her jacket, "We're...crzzzy."
"We're what?" I asked. I couldn't hear her through her jacket.
She just shook her head back and forth and looked forward, not wanting to move from the warmth.
Dogs were scattered around the brown green grass with their owners.
Some were playing catch with sticks or balls, but others were just following behind their owner's.
I watched as one took a crap in the center of the walkway near the street.
Its owner was typing something on their phone, ignoring what was happening in front of him.
After the dog finished, the owner looked down at the crap, looked around, then slunk off.

"Did you see that?" I asked Page, pointing to where the owner had left the mess.
"Yeah," she nodded, "So gross. That would never fly in the states."
"You'd get shoulder tackled by some park security guard and thrown in jail."
"And be given a fat ticket," she said, coughing a little, "Let's get out of here."
"Yeah," I agreed, "And watch for any poop on the way out of here."

We made our way out of the park and down the street where the 22 continues on to the center.
"Let's not go into the center. Let's walk along the water's edge and maybe up to the bridge."
"Ok," I said, "That's a good idea." I didn't want to get stuck in that mass of tourists.
I could tell Page didn't either. I think she was afraid she might puke on a huddle of them.
We turned down a side street before the large grocery store and avoided a herd of people.
The cobble stones were wet and slick, glistening from a small sliver of sunlight through the clouds.
Page walked ahead.
Sometimes, when we walked downtown in the older parts of Prague, we would walk alone.
Not because we were fighting or anything like that; it was all very natural.
I would walk ahead because I saw something and she would either come with or not.
She would do the same and we both knew that we wouldn't go too far without the other.
I think we both knew that we would be back after seeing what we had wanted to see.
One could call it trust - one could call it a lot of things - but this was not really spoken about.
We knew we would be back after some time and had seen what we had wanted to.
Thinking about this, I watched her look up at the peeling paint of the old buildings.
Her thick black hair waved back and forth behind her plum colored pea coat.
Page would usually bring a camera and take pictures of these things, but she had forgotten it.
I wished she hadn't.
It was turning out to be such a beautiful day.

We made it to the Vlatva river and leaned over the railing, looking down at the water.
Floating there were empty beer bottles and plastic soda jugs.
The water was brown, murky, and looked like someone had dumped a large bag of dirt in there.
There was nothing very romantic about it, which one would think if you saw it in a picture.
"The water looks disgusting," Page said.
"That it does, but look at the bridge. It looks pretty good right now."
We turned our heads and looked at Charles bridge.
Hundreds of people were walking back and forth, specks shuffling to the both sides.
Every two seconds, a flash would go off from someone's camera.
It looked a little like there were tiny firecrackers going off, but without the sound.
"Look how many people are over there," Page murmured, "Let's not go over there."
"Agreed, "I said, "We can go over the bridge before it. There's never people on that one."
"The one that leads to the rail that takes you up the hill."
"Yeah," I said, walking ahead, "That one, but we don't have to go up there if you don't want to."
"I'll see," she shrugged, catching up to me and putting her arm through mine.
We walked near the railing and both looked over the slow moving river.
On the other side, where the cobble stones stopped and a beige beach was, were many geese.
There were ten or so people feeding them cheap bread and the geese were everywhere.
"We could check that out if Page is up for it," I thought, "We'll just have to see."

As we crossed the bridge, we moved through a large group of italian tourists.
They were taking a large group photo with the bridge behind them and we had to wait.
A tram rumbled past us, startling Page.
"Jesus!" she screamed, "I thought that thing was going to hit us."
I laughed, "You're so damned jumpy."
"No I'm not. I just get scared easily when I'm hungover or tired."
The Italians had finished taking their picture and we walked in front of them.
"I wish you would have brought your camera," I said, looking at the Charles bridge.
"Me too, but the light isn't that good."
"Really?" I asked. I didn't know anything about photography other than to point and shoot.
"Yep. Too dark." Page had done some photography in college for sports and concerts.
I looked up into the sky and saw that the sun was just starting to come out.
It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and I noticed that this was the time the sun would show - if at all.

We went down a flight of steps that lead to where an abandoned green house stood.
There was nothing inside but broken clay pots and trash.
The windows were stained with streaks of dirt, bird shit, and thin vines that crept up to the ceiling.
As we walked in, there was another couple taking pictures of the glass.
There was another group huddled in a corner in a circle drinking beer and smoking.
They were laughing about something and I was hoping it wasn't us.
Other than the clay pots and trash, there was nothing else inside - not even planter's boxes.
From the looks of it, the place had been raided and ransacked a long time ago.
What anyone could get from a few splintered pieces of wood and dead plants, I had no idea.
We walked through the greenhouse in five minutes and to the edge where the path ended.
The ground was wet and muddy. I put out my hand so Page could take it as she walked.
We tip toed to the very edge as the water lapped up against the tips of our shoes.
In front of us, paddle boats floated atop the water, their driver's peddling wearily along.
"We should do that one of these days," I told Page, "It looks fun."
"Look at them," Page laughed, pointing, "Do they look like they're having fun?"
I looked at the paddle boat she had pointed to.
The peddler looked to be exhausted, sweating, and out of breath.
The passenger - who looked to be his girlfriend - had her head tilted back, looking up at the sky.
"Well," I said, "That wouldn't be us. We would take turns."
"Why?" she asked, stepping backward to get out of the mud, "You're stronger than me."
"And that makes me be the slave, paddling you around?"
"No," she said, "That makes you the gentlemen. Chivalry or whatever it's called."
"Sounds like a bunch of a bullshit. Look at that poor guy. He looks like he's about to pass out."
Page laughed loudly and was making her way back to the stairs.
I squinted my eyes and stared at the paddle boat with the couple inside.
"Poor bastard," I thought, "Guy doesn't stand a chance...he'll never make it out alive."

After crossing the bridge, Page stopped to get a bag of potato chips.
Whenever she was hungover or tired or both, she would inhale potato chips.
I would give her a lot of shit for it, but I would have a couple, and she would dish it right back.
The sun was out now, but a wind blew past, reminding us that it was still cold.
I wanted to make it down to the edge of the water where I had seen the geese.
Pages teeth were chattering again and I looked down at both of our shoes, which were wet.
I knew of a cafe on the way to the castle, only a couple blocks away.
One of those places that is never crowded, serves good, cheap hot food, and is all wood inside.
I could never remember the name of it, but I knew they served this stuff called Red Velvet beer.
It wasn't so high in alcohol that you would get very drunk, but you would definitely feel it a little.
I liked to go there when I was hungover to take the edge off or have a drink and not get drunk.
Page had finished her potato chips and jammed the empty bag in her purse.
She could finish a bag of those things in a minute flat. I'm not joking. She loved those things.

"It's 2 o'clock," I said to Page, "Let's get a drink at that place that serves the velvet beer."
"It's so expensive though." To her credit, it was pretty expensive, but I saw no other options.
"Only 60 crown," I told her, "We can afford that."
"You can?" she asked, raising her eyebrows, "How?"
"I borrowed some money from my mom for rent and VISA stuff. She let me have a little extra."
"Really?"
"Yeah. I think she feels bad that we don't have a lot right now and we are traveling."
"That's so nice," she mused, "I always feel so awkward asking for money."
"Let's walk and talk. I'm getting cold from being outside so long."
"Good idea," Page said, walking with me, "I'm freeeeezing."

I put my arm around her and rocked her back and forth, trying to warm her up.
"It's not workiiiiiing," she said, rubbing her hands together.
I sighed and unwrapped my arm around her shoulder, defeated.
"Hey!" she screeched, jokingly, "Put that thing back around me! Why'd you do that?"
"You said it wasn't working, so I took it off," I said flatly.
"I was kidding," she said, "It was working." She took my arm and wrapped it around herself.
Page was so crazy when she was cold. She turned into a different person entirely.
We walked like that for a little while until my arm got tired and I swept it off of her.
As we made our way to the velvet beer, we looked up into the hills.
It was wide and light green, with hundreds of apple trees lined up, one behind the other.
I had heard the hills were once used to grow grapes and that the wine they made was very good.
Mostly whites, with a light and clear taste, and so fresh it felt like you were drinking spring water.
I had only had that kind of once, at a party if I remember right, and I drank the whole bottle.
The wine hadn't got me drunk, just nice and lucid and sharp, like good alcohol does.

I pointed up the hill to show Page where they were still growing grapes.
She stopped and crossed the street and went down an alley to get a better look of the hill.
I followed behind her, watching her move through the tourists and down the alley.
We passed an old antiques glassware shop and a modern thai restaurant that looked to be closed.
The streets were slick and wet from the mist that hung above our heads.
Coming up from the other side of the alley, we got a wider view of it all.
It was very beautiful, the hill, especially with the gray fog hovering behind.
The dark lime green of the hill and the sky clashed in front of us.

"How would anyone ever maintain this place?" Page asked out loud.
"I have no idea. It would take a lot of work, though."
"Going up and down those hills everyday, cutting all that grass."
"And pruning those apple trees, too," I said.
"Those are apple trees?" Page asked, excited.
"I think so, " I said, putting my hand over my eyes, straining to see better, "I see little balls in them."
"Let's go get some!"
"They're probably not even ripe yet and they're all the way up the hill..."
But, she was already gone, running up the steep path to where the trees stood.
"What about the velvet beer!" I shouted at her.
"It'll be there when we get there," she yelled back at me, "It's not going anywhere."
I slowly started walking up the hill, "You have a point," I mumbled.

I had never seen her run so fast for anything.
Page was up the hill in three minutes, where it took me ten to walk up.
When I got to her, she already had ten bright green and red apples in her arms.
I got closer and saw she had about five in her purse.
Her cheeks were flushed and she was smiling like mad as she washed them in the wet grass.
I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her, nearly making her drop everything.
Page leaned her head back on my shoulder and we both looked up in the sky.

"Your'e so cold," I whispered behind her ear, swaying back and forth.
"My feet are freezing," she chattered. I looked down at her leather boots and they were soaked.
"Well, you ran up that hill like a rabbit in the tall grass. What'd you think was gonna' happen?"
"I just wanted the apples," she said like a child: innocent, guilty, and playful.
"I just wanted the apples," I repeated, mocking her smiling.
She wiggled out of my arms, swung around and looked at me, her eyes wide. She paused.
I started laughing. There was nothing else I could do.
"Don't mock me!" she screamed, "I'm just playing around. You're always so serious."
She had backed away from me a little and I followed her. I felt like she was going to run away.
"I was kidding," I tried to tell her, "I was only poking fun because you sounded like a little kid."
"No, I didn't," she pouted, looking at all of the apples in her arms.
"I'm pretty sure you were." I tip toed towards her, my arms wide open.
She fell into them and nestled into my chest, "You're always so warm. Why are you always warm?"
"Blood flow," I explained, making it up, "That and I drink too much."
She didn't say anything, giving me all her weight.
I took it all and leaned back on my heels and we stood like that for a long time.

As we made our way down the hill, we bought a plastic bag for the apples in a small shop.
Page dropped them all inside and the store clerk laughed when we did it at the counter.
"What are you going to do with all those apples?" I asked her as we walked down the sidewalk.
"Eat them!" she yelled, "These are ripe and ready to eat. I just need to wash them better."
"Why?" I said, "They look fine to me."
"I just washed them in the grass. Look, "She took an apple out of the bag, "This one's got dirt on it."
I looked down at it and there was a dry patch of dirt covering the whole of one side.
"Gross," I grunted, "You'll definitely need to wash all of them again."
"That's what I'm saying." She popped the apple back in the bag as we reached the front of the bar.

We scanned the menu and saw the food was relatively cheap.
French fries or hranolky was only 35 crown and the meals were around 115.
"Are you hungry?" I asked Page, as we walked in.
"I want some hranolky." She was taking her coat off and sliding into the booth.
I slid in behind her and we sat together, shoulder to shoulder, looking over the menu.
No one had greeted us as we walked in. Only the bartender who had nodded and smiled.
I didn't see any server's to order a drink, but knew it was bad custom to order from the bar.
Eventually, the bartender came over to take our order. He told us the waitress was on a break.
"Va velvet pivo, prosim," I told him.
He smiled and walked away, probably thinking my czech was that of a four year old.
An impossible language, especially for an American. So many tiny nuances of the mouth.

"What'd you think of my czech?"
"Pretty good," Page said, "Much better than mine."
"Really?"
"Yeah. Any czech I try to talk to has absolutely no idea what I'm trying to ask them."
"It's so embarrassing," I sighed, putting the menu down, "I wish I was better prepared."
"We just moved here," Page said, trying to comfort me, "You'll get better."
"Do you know what you want?"
"Yep," she said, pointing to the menu, which was glossy and clean, "French fries and veggies."
"Where's that?" I took the menu in my hand, "The veggie part."
"Somewhere in appetizers. It's cheap, like 20 crown or something."
"I'm gonna stick with beer," I said, "Not too hungry."
"No," she moaned, looking at me, "If you don't get anything, you'll eat mine. I won't have it."
"Huh?" I asked, feigning ignorance, "I never do that."
"You always do that," she said, "Every time we eat out you either eat the scraps or eat mine."
"Fine," I said, taking up the menu, "I'll get a sandwich or potatoes or something."
"Good."
"I'll get a chicken sandwich and eat half now, half later. It's only 115 crown."
"Get it!" she shouted, laughing.
There was no other customers in the bar except for us and it was very peaceful and secluded

We sat back against the wooden bench and looked around the velvet bar.
The kitchen was behind a swiveling half-door and a looked to be no bigger than a walk in closet.
I leaned over Page to see who was in there.
Two older woman, both leaning back against the stove, were standing there and chatting.
Short and fat, they stood there like some form of gatekeeper's.
They looked be very bored, yet very content with having nothing to do.
I felt bad we were about to order food and interrupt whatever they were talking about.
Page was gazing out the window, most likely looking for passer by dogs.
She loved dogs and anytime she could get a glance at one, she would scream, "Look at that DOG!"
Ever since we met, she talked about getting one for us, but it was impossible.
No place we ever moved into would ever let us have one. It was kind of sad, if you think about it.

"Va velet piva," the bartender said, placing the two beers down in front of us on coasters.
They were a golden, burgundy color behind the glass and the foam on top was a creamy beige.
"And anything to order for food?" he asked us, switching over to English.
"Chicken sandwich for me," I said.
"Hranolky and..." Page paused, awkwardly reaching for the menu, "Zelenina."
The bartender laughed," The vegetable platter or plate?"
"Which one's cheaper?" I asked, laughing with him.
"The plate is good for two people, unless you are very hungry?"
I looked at Page, who shrugged back at me, "Plate will be fine," I told him.
"Plate of zelenina, hranolky, and kuřecí sandwich," the bartender said back to us.
"Perfect," I said, nodding and handing him the menu's, "Děkuji."
"Prosim," he said, and walked to the kitchen to put in the order.
"That's what the word for chicken is," I said to page after a moment, "Kuřecí."
"Gah, I can barely say that. Kur - jet - see...I know that's wrong."
"We'll get it," I told her, "One of these days we'll say chicken, pig, and vegetables no problem."
Page took off her scarf, which she had wrapped around her neck, and laid it on her lap.
I kept repeating kuřecí under my breath, really trying to get it right.
Eventually, Page made me stop and we sat again in silence, waiting for our food, hand in hand.
The bartender had started the small gas fireplace near the door.
I leaned my elbows on the table and took out a tattered tourists map of Prague.
The corners were ripped and frayed, but only the legend was missing, which I already knew.
Scanning over the length of it, I tried to find a small side street we could get lost in later on.

Page had leaned her head back on the hard wooden bench and closed her eyes.
She tried to get herself comfortable by wiggling and rocking in her seat.
The bench creaked from her movement and I laughed under my breath.
"Why are you laughing?" she asked me, looking over at me with one eye.
"Nothing," I told her, lying.
"You're laughing at something. I can tell."
"You're making the bench creak with all that moving around you're doing."
She sighed and moaned and leaned forward, "I can't get comfortable in these things."
"They're not meant to be comfortable," I told her, "It's that old, gothic, medieval look."
"That's stupid."
"I agree completely. My back is killing me, but we've already ordered and can't go anywhere."
"Maybe I can ask for a cushion..." she said out loud, raising her hand to catch the waiter.
"No! Don't," I hissed, but the waiter had already seen her and was coming over.
"Yes?" he asked. His face was taught and worried that we needed something extra...
Page smiled at him and said, "Do you have a cushion or anything here? The seat is very hard."
I looked away - anywhere - out the window, down to the floor, trying to keep my gaze away.
"Of course," the bartender said, sounding relieved, "Is the seat very hard?"
"Yes," Page laughed, embarrassed, "I just can't seem to get comfortable."
"I'll get you one from behind the bar. Just a moment."
He hurried behind the beer tap, grabbed two cushions, and brought them over.
"Here you go," he grinned, handing Page and I one.
"Děkuji," we said together, both of us blushing.
"Prosím," he smiled and turned to go to the kitchen to check on the food.

I exhaled, laughing a little, and took a drink of my beer.
It tasted warm, crisp and full as the bubbling foam came up and over onto my lips.
"What?" Page asked, innocent, like nothing had happened.
I paused, then asked her, "How's your cushion?"
"How's yours?" she asked, looking forward, the glass of beer in her hand.
"Like a cloud has just floated underneath my butt, to tell you the truth. I'm hovering."
"Me too. I'm glad I asked. What was the big deal?"
"I just don't like to ask too much in these kind of places."
"Why?" She had turned to look at me and was genuinely worried; her eyes were wide and white.
"Because we are obviously not from around here and I don't want to annoy anybody."
"By asking them for cushions?"
"Yeah," I said, "And speaking in English and juggling around what we wanted."
"Is it that bad?" From the look on her face, I could see she was starting to understand.
"Not bad," I put my arm around her shoulder, "I don't want to be a bother to any of the locals."
"I see what you mean," she said, leaning into me, "But I don't think it was really that big a deal."
"It wasn't, really. I just don't like to inconvenience anyone."
"I know what you mean. It is a very awkward feeling."
"Especially when you don't know the language at all," I sighed, "I wished I did."
"Me too," she agreed, "Oh! Here comes the food."
She moved away from me and settled in her cushion, acting like she hadn't seen the food.
We were still the only one's in the place. There was really no way we wouldn't have seen it.

"Zelenina a hranolky," the waiter said, putting the food down, "A kuřecí sendvič."
He was humoring us, but we acted like we knew what he was saying anyway.
I raised my hand for the chicken and Page for everything else.
"Děkuji," we both said again. I felt like that was really the only word we knew.
"Prosím," he nodded, "Anything else?"
I shook my head, my sandwich already in my hands, "Perfect. Everything looks perfect."
He chuckled, "Perfect," he nodded and went back behind the bar.
After a few bites, I put my sandwich down and leaned over where Page was eating.
Not to say anything to her - she was too preoccupied with her food - but to see into the kitchen.
The two, short ladies were still there, but now one was sitting on a large, wooden crate.
It looked to be some kind of meat or vegetable box. The lettering on it, I couldn't understand.
The other was smoking a cigarette and scratching the back of her head where the hairnet tangled.
As I was looked over, the one on the crate caught my eye and quickly looked over her shoulder.
She said something quickly and the other one looked over at me too.
For just a second, the three of us were locked in stare.
Not a one of us knew what the other was thinking.
Page sat there eating away not caring about anything other than the food in front of her.
The second passed and the lady smoking dropped it in the sink and pulled the water on.
The other got up from her seat and began to violently scrub the grill with a metal sponge.
I - unsure why they started to do any of those things on my account - went back to my sandwich.

The bill came and it was less then I thought, which I always love.
"How'd you like the food?" I asked Page. She was putting her coat back on.
"It's freezing in here again. How did that happen?" She hadn't heard me.
"No idea. How'd you like the food, though?" I repeated.
"It was good. They were crispy and greasy, just what I needed."
"Good," I said as I looked over the bill, "What about the veggies?"
"Superb," she exaggerated by kissing her fingers and flaring them out into the air.
"Good, good. Looks like you owe me around 120 crown for everything."
"That's cheap!" she exclaimed, "I thought I was going to have to spend more then 200."
"Me too," I said, taking out my wallet, "I only spent 200 but I got a sandwich and a beer."
"And some of my fries," she mumbled.
"You wanted to eat all of them by yourself?"
She hated it whenever I took any of her food.
"It's just annoying," she explained.
"I'm sorry," I said, licking my fingertips, "I guess I don't think about it."
"It's O.K." She took out her wallet and dropped a 100 crown bill and a 50 crown coin.
"You're tipping?" It was customary that you didn't have to tip the waiters.
"Yeah. He gave us the cushions and looks like they're pretty dead."
"You're right. I should tip. How much do you think?"
"Like 50 for you."
I looked at the bill and tried to figure the percentage out in my head.
"Fuck it," I said and put a 200 crown bill and two 20 crown coins on top of Page's money.
Page brought the bill and money up to the waiter who stood behind the bar as I put on my coat.
My chest felt tight and my hands were cold after being heated up by the food.
I watched as Page tried to say thank you in czech and smiled; she'd get it eventually.
She came up to me, shaking her head, "I gotta' get better at czech."
"Why's that?" I asked her, putting my arm around her shoulder, walking out the door.
A wind hit us as we walked outside and we moved closer to one another.
"It's just so embarrassing when you're trying to say something and you can't."
"I'm sure they get it all the time. Don't worry."

We walked across the street and looked down an alleyway that looked to open up into a park.
"Do you want to walk through there?" I asked Page. Her scarf was wrapped around her mouth.
She nodded and quickly ducked into the alleyway in front of me.
I let her walk in front of me and noticed the cracked, light beige color of the walls on either side.
They looked like they'd never been repainted.
From the roof, water dripped down from various places.
Upon a closer look, I saw a large bird's nest in the gutter rail.
Nothing seemed to be inside. Only the twigs and dead grass sat there.
Further down, I winced as the cream colored wall was interrupted by black and neon green graffiti.
For the first time, I understood why it was illegal.
The act itself seemed so selfish, yet I understood why the art had become popular.
There was a mixture of defiance, rebellion, and the ignorance of youth, as well as danger.
Pondering this, I figured someone would come and paint over it eventually.
Nothing stays the same forever.

At the end of the alley, we walked onto a wide, square lawn.
On the other end, where two benches sat apart, was an old couple, bundled up with a newspaper.
The other bench was empty and Page and I walked toward it.
We turned and sat down, looking out onto the empty green grass.
Page wrapped her arm under mine and gripped both of my hands with her's.
"You're so warm," she shivered, "Why are you always so hot and I'm always so collld."
"I have no idea," I stated, "Maybe because I'm bigger and I drink more then you?"
The logic seemed right.
"And you're Mexican. That's probably why you're always so warm."
"I'm Spanish too," I reminded her.
"You've got that hot blooded temper in you."
"That's true. I do get pretty mad pretty fast."
"Yeah. It's scary."
"Really?" I asked. I looked at Page and could see she wasn't joking.
"Sometimes you get really mad and get a little afraid of you."
"Like I'm going to do something?"
Shame and guilt swept over me like an icy wind.
"I don't know. Nothing like that, but," she paused, "I don't know. It's hard to explain."
"Well, I would never do anything like that. I just get mad sometimes."
"I know you do. So do I. You just get mad more often, that's all."
"I need to get better with that," I said to myself, looking over at the old couple on the other bench.
One looked to be asleep and the other one, who wore a black beanie, was still reading.

"I'll get better," I told myself.
"You will," Page said, getting up, "We both will."
I put out my hand for her to take it.
She did, pulling me up to her.
I jokingly fell into her arms, giving her my full weight.
She barely was able to hold me up.
"Jesus, you're heavy," she said, pushing me up to my feet.
"I'm not that heavy," I said, nodding to the old couple on the bench.
We crossed over a bridge and stopped to watch the fire colored leaves float on the water.
I could see small fishes swimming downstream, but Page couldn't see them.
Trying to point them out, I hoisted her over the banister, and she nearly fell in.
"That would have been awful," she exhaled, "I probably would have died."
"I don't think I would have jumped in to get you."
She stopped and looked at me, her lower lip jutted out, "Are you serious?"
I looked at her and shrugged, "That's a big fall and the water is pretty shallow."
"You wouldn't come get me!?" shouted Page, poking me in the stomach.
I backed away from her, laughing, "Of course I would. Of course I would."
"You'd better. If I die, you have to die with me."
I scoffed and ran my fingers over my face, then through my hair, "Yeesh, that's heavy."
"It's true," said Page simply, "I die, you die."
She walked ahead of me, down another alley to get lost in.

Eventually, after shouldering through tourists and novelty shops, we came to the clock tower.
It was about 4 o'clock, a little past, and we had just missed the show.
I wasn't sure what it was about, something to do with money and death, but I wasn't sure.
The golden symbols on the clock reflected the light of the sun down onto the wet cobble stone.
I turned to look at the crowd behind me; there were hundreds of them, their flashes popping.
Page was closer, looking up and studying the large, rusted hands of the clock.
They looked like they were barely moving, almost as if time had stopped after the show.
I walked toward her, also looking up, and saw various bodies leaning out of the tower skyward.
They were so high up and I couldn't make their faces out; only flailing arms and distant voices.
When I reached Page, a trumpet sounded from the tower and everyone on the street looked up.
"You know what this is about?" I asked Page.
"No idea. I wish I had brought my camera."
"Why?" She rarely brought her camera anywhere and I was confused why she wanted it now.
"Because you're supposed to take pictures of these things," she shot back.
"Why?" I asked again.
"Shhh," she hushed, "I want to hear this."
The trumpet player sounded like duck being strangled and I couldn't stand it.
I whispered into Page's ear that I was going to get a coffee.
"Get me one too, please," she said.
She placed a fifty crown coin in my hand without looking away from the trumpet player.
I kissed her on the cheek, trying to hide my confused frustration, and moved through the crowd.
"For such a serene place," I thought, "It sure attracts a good amount of freaks."

"Hello," I said to barista behind the counter.  
I decided to forfeit speaking czech for the moment.
"Hi," she said. The sides of her face were flushed red and I realized it was freezing inside.
"It's really cold in here," I said, looking around for some kind of heating.
"Prosím?" she asked me, then stuttered and asked again in English, "Sorry...excuse me?"
"Sorry, I don't speak any czech. I said it's very cold in here."
"Yes. Heat is broken." She pointed upward at the ceiling and frowned.
"That's too bad," I said, "They should get on that. It's very cold."
She smiled blankly and stared back at me, unsure what I wanted.
"Oh," I smiled, shaking my head, "I need to order."
She laughed, but didn't say anything and looked at the other barista's. They grinned back at her.
"Uhh...one medium drip coffee and a cafe au lait, please."
"Ok," she mouthed, poking the computer screen in front of her happily, "Anything else?"
"Oh," I started, "Can you make the cafe au lait with soy milk instead of regular."
"Yes," with a swipe and another poke, "Anything else?"
"I think that'll be it." I hand her my czech debit card.
She looked down at it and up and me. Maybe she thought I didn't look like my name.
She paused a moment more, then swiped it and handed it back to me.
"Thank you very much," she said, looking over my shoulder, "Your order will be ready soon."
I was brushed to the side and thrown into a field of other tourists, all rubbing their hands together.

It didn't take very long for me to get the drinks.
That surprised me.
Those czechs know how to make a good, quick cup of coffee.
I smiled at the barista who had helped me, but she didn't see me doing it.
Hate it when that happens.
You always look like some desperate kind of creep, hoping for a scrap of acknowledgement.
She was probably too busy to notice me.
Maybe she did and just wasn't able to smile back.
She was with a customer.
I wouldn't want her to get in trouble, anyways.
We were in the center of the square.
It probably paid pretty well.
I wouldn't want her to lose her job on account of a smile.
That would be terrible.

"Cafe au lait with soy milk for you," I said, handing the drink to Page.
"With soy!" she exclaimed, "That's so nice. Did it cost more?"
"Like ten crowns," I lied, "I know that you like it and I like getting you what you like."
"That's so nice," she gave me a kiss and smiled, "Was it busy in there?"
"Very," I said, "And freezing cold."
"Why?"
"Heating was broken."
"Oh God," Page sighed, "I'm glad I didn't go in there."

We made our way to the main square, away from the clock tower.
The crowd had dispersed and the streets were almost empty again.
When we got into the alley's though, everything seemed narrow and pinched.
On every corner, there were peddlers flapping around opera and ballet flyer's.
I snagged one and looked it over.
"Good God! They want 500 crown for something like this."
"Let me see," Page said, taking it from my hand.
"And all you probably do is sit in an old church and listen to the echo of singing."
"It's a tourist thing," she explained, "What do you expect?"
Page crumpled up the flyer and tossed it in the trash, "I do feel bad for those people."
"Who?"
"The people that have to hand out those flyer's all day. That must be tough."
Page was always thinking about the people with shit jobs.
Whenever we would see a trash guy looting garbage cans or waiter's getting hassled, she'd cringe.
I knew why to: she'd had plenty of shit jobs in the past
Waitress was one. Bar back another. I knew she worked in a hospital at one point. Late hours.
"Maybe that's why she was going with me?" I wondered, "I've had a lot of those."
"Yeah," I replied, "They have it pretty rough, especially when it's so cold out."
"I would die," said Page. Her voice was scared and grateful.

We walked up the hill into the main center of town in the middle walk way near the gardens.
All the plants and flowers were dead now, but there was no trash or anything like that there.
I decided we should walk in the center to avoid the club promoters and heavy foot traffic.
Any more tourists elbowing me or people trying to hand me pamphlets would have done me in.
As we continued up the hill, I stopped and turned around to see the view of the city buildings.
Bright neon signs flashed, mixed with large billboards of chiseled women wearing dead faces.
Store window mannequins stood poised and ready to sell to passerby's in mute.
Because we seemed to be so far up, both sides of the side walks seethed with tiny black dots.
Flashes of cameras and the low hum of everyone talking at once filled the wide square.
And witnessing all of this hysteria, were the original buildings, stoic and ancient behind it all.
I had seen pictures of the square in the 1920's and before, and everything was so perfectly simple.
The walls of the buildings were cracked and worn, but standing with pride and originality.
They had nothing hanging or beeping or demanding people's attention.
A window here or there would display what they sold, but all in modesty and class.
If the two pictures were put together, I don't believe any resemblance could be found.
The only thing one could possibly recognize is the architecture of the buildings and the square.
Stripped and sacrificed, the buildings stood there like dolled up relics, too tired to breathe.

Page and I couldn't walk in the center of the square any longer because it opened up into the street.
We were forced to cross and enter into the surging fray of bodies going up and down.
The metro tunnel shot stale, damp air up and out of the stairwell, smelling of fresh urine.
Page hurried past me and up toward the crosswalk, but I stopped and watched two cops.
They had their doberman pincher sniffing a pair of hobo's leaning against a crooked tree.
The two being sniffed out stood there shaking and wondering what the hell was going on.
I'm sure they had something on them that was illegal, but what it was, I had no idea.
The dog sure did though. He wouldn't let them be and the cops just stood back, staring.
But, after a minute, the dog lost its scent or interest and sauntered back and laid down.
"Too bad," I mused, pensively, "I would have liked to see an arrest in broad day light."
Page had just started to cross the street without me and I ran up to her and took her arm.

"Where you going so fast? You trying to get rid of me?"
She just shook her head and looked ahead. I could see she was so cold she had turned mute.
"Did you see that dog sniffing out those two junkies?" I looked over my shoulder toward them.
Page shook her head back and forth, no.
The both of us walked up a yellow and orange leaf covered hill and down into a tunnel.
To the left of us was a large mural of graffiti and names I would never be able to pronounce.
To the right was a pizza booth, some kind of italian sandwich bistro, and a Russian shop.
We stopped in front of the Russian place and noticed a tiny window with a woman's head inside.
There were glistening pink sausages, pickled neon orange carrots, and bright red peppers.
A single knife hung by a piano string hung behind the woman, swinging back and forth.
Nothing looked like it had been touched.
Nothing looked like it had been sold.
Everything looked like it probably had since they had opened shop 657 years ago to the day.
The old woman said something to Page and pointed to a jar, but she smiled, laughed, and ran off.
"Děkuji," I smiled, embarrassed that I didn't know it in Russian.
I ran up behind Page again, who was up the ramp from the tunnel and on the sidewalk now.

As we walked up into Prague 2 and Vyšehrad, the sun was just beginning to set.
I stopped, Page continuing on, and turned around to see the expanse of the city.
People passed me as I looked at the clock tower and where the Charles Bridge was hiding.
I couldn't see the castle, but I knew it stood there behind the building beside me.
They lit the castle up every night and I wished at that moment Page and I could watch it.
To be within those walls and underneath the ancient cathedral going from darkness to the light.
Turning, I started up the hill, following up behind Page once again.
The 22 tram rambled past us, but we were late to jump on and ride it to our stop.
"We are so close anyway," I comforted Page, "Two blocks."
"So collld," she shivered, "I just want to be in our bed with the covers all around me."
I put my arm around her, "Almost there."
We walked like that, holding in our heat, until we reached the potraviny across from our house.

"We should really get something to eat," said Page, "We aren't going to want to come back out."
"Yes..." I agreed, "But what?"
"Shitty noodles?"
My stomach reacted in both pain and pleasure. I liked them, if I'm being honest.
"Does sound good," I said, weighing other possibilities, "Do we feel like cooking?"
I took out my phone and checked the time.
It was only 5:30 and we would be in the rest of the night.
"We should cook something," I said.
"Like what?" asked Page.
"I know of this cheap potato soup recipe with chives, milk, and salt. It's simple, but good."
She put 60 crowns in my hand," Sounds good to me. I'm going to go upstairs."
"What?" I asked, looking down at the coins.
"It's so cold, I can't stand it. I need to get upstairs where it's warrrm."
She smiled and ran across the street and into our apartment building.
I went inside, grabbed a sack of potatoes, a plastic jug of milk, and some chives and paid.
As I waited for the elevator, I struggled to remember the exact way to cook what I said I could.
Page wouldn't notice the difference either way.
As long as it was warm, didn't taste like cardboard, and had some salt on it, she'd be fine.

The meal was good.
It warmed our stomachs and there were leftovers for tomorrow.
We ate in bed and laid our only two bath towels down where we sat.
For some reason, Page lit two candles and sat them on the window sill.
Across the street, spotted windows were warm from the lights burning inside.
Everyone was tucked away, hiding from the cold and the approaching dawn of the day.
I looked at Page in the candlelight, watching her eat, seeing shadows dance across her cheeks.
Her beauty was as simple as a flower petal, yet complex as a painting.
There are so many other things that I am at a lost to remember, now.
They are somewhere inside of me, hiding, elusive, and wondering when I will find them.
As I took a bite of my potato mush, I warned myself not to get too sentimental.

"You know the one thing we forgot to do today?" I asked Page.
"What's that?"
"We forgot to look for jobs."
"Well," she sighed, "We were just too busy with other things."
"What other things?" I asked.
"Breakfast, the walk, the bridge, the bar, the beer, the park, the clock, and the square."
"We did a lot today."
"Yes," said Page, "Too much. And to add job searching on top of that? Forget about it."
I no longer felt guilty about not even once looking for some kind of job prospect.
"What's that saying?" asked Page.
I noticed her bowl was clean as she placed it on the floor.
"Hm?" I asked.
"There's this saying...there's always tomorrow. Is that a saying?"
"I feel like I've heard it," I struggled, trying to remember, but failing, "Somewhere, some place."
"Well," Page said, turning herself from the towel and laying back, "There's always tomorrow."
I put my bowl on the night stand and laid back with Page.
We kissed and held each other, not caring about tomorrow, only trying to get warm.
Page slowly drifted into sleep and I let her head roll and fall onto my chest.
The two erect flames of the candles stood reflected onto the window overlooking the night sky.
I too laid my head back, closed my eyes, and fell asleep with the weight of Page upon me.

Bruised Orange Mar 2015

You are not my children,
tender as you are.
You are not my lover,
though you cause my heart to yearn.
You are not my sun,
or my moon,
or my star.

I set you on this rock;
you will not make me burn.

You are simply sticks,
arranged upon the pyre.
You are clever tricks,
though you flaunt my clear desire.
You are not the match,
or the wick,
or the fire.

I set you on this rock;
To see what might transpire.

You will never be a pheasant's egg to be coddled.
You are only this: a calf led to the slaughter.

A poem addressed to my poems, in the midst of the dreaded poetry workshop, where my lovelies are torn to shreds.  An attempt to maintain distance, for the sake of learning.  It's hard.
LockAndKey 1139 Jul 2016

Oi
Look
Listen
You

Forgive my tone, I'm not trying to smart, rude or clever.
Gender shouldn't not be tender. Hopefully sooner or later it'll become like: Meh..Yeah whatever."

(C) 2016
Keith Collard Jun 2013

Centipede Valley (A tale of infantrymen in Hawaiian--Twain Style)


'Welcome to the 25th Infantry Schofield Barracks Hawaii' the sign read as the taxi van rode past. The only thing in the boy's mind was of guns, tanks, soldiers, and grenades. He accompanied his father who had used his veteran credentials with the Coastguard to gain admittance to the base; and thus able to reserve a round on the famous 'Schofield golf course." They were on vacation, and left the women at home.

    The boy, expecting to see an army division rappelling down the buildings that the van was streaming past, was scrutinizing every person, vehicle and store. He thought he saw a humphvee, but it was just a hillbilly driving his spray painted doorless Ford Bronco with his flip flop clad foot hangin over the side. The boy spied a soldier in camoflage uniform with what looked like a rifle,"wooweee ,a rifle." But as the van closed on the pedestrian soldier,it was revealed that he was carrying only a loaf of french bread. Then another soldier,"wowee,a bazooka," but only a folded up beach chair.
Then a helicopter screamed overhead, the boy scrambling to position his head to see the still-hidden helicopter was ready to tear the roof panel off, "Hey easy Ben," said his father at the other window. The helicopter came into view,"must be an Apachee," he thought as his eyes came to discern a sign trailing from the helicopter ..."60% off flip flops at Kemoho's market."  The boy sank down in disapointment.

           He begged his father in order to come with him. The father agreed but with the surrender conditions being "Im playing golf, your going to watch me and be a good boy then we are leaving."

              They were on a tough schedule and had engagements with the rest of the family.The father promised him that they would visit Pearl Harbor and the Coast Guard base.  Ben would enjoy the battleships at Pearl Harbor, but he had heard from his friends that the rockstars were the "infantry." They were the 'Billy the Kids' of the miliitary; guns and mischief, and most of all....glory. But he would only see them and their toys from a van--and then a golf course.  That was straight 'malarkey'to him, and that was what his mind kept repeating.

           The van pulled up parallel with the side walk that was lined with a chain link fence. Palm trees rowed the inside of the fence, and the boy could see the lime green grass of fairways-he sighed. His father tipped the taxi driver, and grabbed out his club bag; they procceded down the sidewalk in direction of a shadow, which was the 'Scholfield Golf' club buiilding. The boy looked across the streeet at a  barracks, tiered with balconies, he could see men in fatigues moving about on them,"wowweee,grunts." But they were only brandishing mops and brooms. "Malarkey."

              They entered the air conditioned building, the boy became sleepy as he waited by his father's side who was checking his reservation in the golf store. "Alright sir, if you want you can sit out there on the verandah with complimentary drinks untill we bring your cart up to you."

         Re-entering the stone paved fenceless verandah, they took a seat at a round table with an umbrella. The humid heat woke the boy back up. A vantage of bright green grass, palm trees,and men hustling back in forth in white docker pants opened up before them.

     There was a grey haired man sweeping up the tile of the verandah within earshot of the father and son. The boy watched the old man sweep up something in his dustpan, then bend down and put it in a zip lock bag that he produced from his pocket.  The boy's curiosity was ignited, he had to know what it was, maybe a spent shell casing, or a tripwire; he jumped down from his stool and approached the old man.

          "Excuse me sir," what was it you picked up, a shell casing?"..... the old man just looked at the boy and smiled, and continued sweeping. "Ben, don't bother that man please," admonished his father.
               Ben walked back to his chair,and picked up his coca-cola,and pretended as if his curiosity was quenched. He watched the old man, sweeping and sweeping, untill he bent down to pick another object up. The boy flew from his seat and closed on the old man.
"Ohhh man mister, what is that thing , a dragon?" At the old man's feet was a coil of something, corrugated, black with a red neon tinge, incisers and mandibles the size of paper cutters. It was dead whatever it was, but its shell was still intact; and so was everyone of it's hundred legs, its fearsome face was preserved amid a deathly stare with blackened eyes.

"Don't worry, it's nothing, just a bug sonny," said the old man who packed it away in a zip lock bag.
"Then why are you collecting them in ziplock bags?"
The old man hesitated, then he sighed knowing it was futile.
"If I tell you, you cannot freak out.  Im supposed to rid these creatures from the guests sight."
" I won't freak out--that thing looks like one of those chinese new year dragons they parade in the streets."
"It ain't no dragon son--it is a Centipede."  But to the boy, it reminded him of those Chinese dragon parades.  It was massive.
The boy was hailed back to where his father was sitting. " Ben leave that man alone, he has a job to do."
The boy thought the old man and his centipede to be a riddle of the highest importance. He sensed a story, before he knew what a story was. He looked at this man inquisitively; he looked to be Hawaiin ,maybe South American, but he also had a martial stare.

       The old man looked at his watch and sat down at table at the corner of the stone paved verandah, bordered by bright green grass.  Ben saw centipedes now in the design of the old man's hawaiin shirt.
          Producing a mango from his pocket, the old man proceded to strip the tough skin and spit out the peelings onto the grass as Ben's attention was broken by an employee. "Excuse me sir, there seem's to be a slight problem ya, there's only one golf cart available, and we have to fit you and someone else on there, but there is your son?"

The father's face froze.  "oh, my son, oh yeah" he mumbled as he watched the beautiful tropical neon course ahead of him."  The groundsworker who was finishing his mango was paying attention to the whole interaction.  He watched the boy scanning the greens, it made the old man smile.

" Excuse me sir, I think I can help out, I can babysit the lad right here, and tour the golf grounds with him, I finished my duties....."

The father looked at the old harmless man.  The hawaiin accent on him, and hawaiin shirt on him, rendered him as harmless as puff the dragon.  No one has ever commited a misdeed in a hawaiin shirt, and that resonates in the subconscience of visitors to the Hawaiin chains.  For Captain Cooke(the first anglo visitor to Hawaii) was boiled in a pot by shirtless Hawaiins.

" Sir, I can vouche for my employee....."  It was in agreement, the father sped off.
They had two hours to kill.  Just enough time for a story.
" So Ben, Im Edison, would you like to hear a story--" the boy interrupted him, " About the infantry?"

    " Yes, the infantry, Hawaii, and dragons."  The scene was too unreal.  The tropical tableau panorama behind the old man--that made the old man's hawaiin shirt seem to disappear and make his head float--was pastel portraiture with palm outlines bursting with their leaves amid a light blue sky.  The old man mumbled his lips every other second, possibly from denchers.  The boy watched the floating head mumble, mumbling faster and faster readying for a story, captivating the boy.  He came to see the infantry, and he would see them in words.  No illusion this time.

                                                         Centipede Valley


" The story of Hawaii, is a story of short dynasties.  The first known dynasty was the Rat dynasties.  Like Attilla The Hun's followers, the rat's followed their king; down the ropes and piers from the ships and overwhelmed the populace.  The set up Rat colonies, fishing centers, and cheese vendors."  The boy interupted the old man, " How can rat's set up cheese vendors?"

        " They just did, ' Cheese for Sale' was screeched on every block, now if I can continue my story lad." The boy nodded, sorry for slowing down the story.

        " The Hawaiians tried to battle back, arming themselves with brass knuckles of sea conches, and throwing jellyfish at them, but it was of no use—there  were to many.  Then the other dynasty came, the Python Dynasty.  Instead of scurrying down the ropes, they spiraled down at night.  They were a clever bunch.  They would play dead, and wait for birds who were hungry for a meal, then  ' crunch'  and the bird would be a knot in the snake's ropey body.  The pythons also ate all the Hawaiians roosters.  At the height of the island’s empire, every Hawaiian had a at least five roosters per household.  Every sac and backpack was alive and moving as the roosters were carried about on the street. But the Python's ate them making only one rooster per household.  The next dynasty was even more clever than the Python--the Mongoose Dynasty.  They ate all pythons with lightning speed.  They didn't scurry nor spiral down the ropes--they lolly gagged down them.  Stopping to stare in the water, for a clam or fish they could eat, they were cocky sons of....
"By the time the Hawaiins raised their jelly fish at them sitting on the ropes, they already ate the belly button lint out of your belly button.  They were crafty.  But their downfall was that they were not unified.  Their kingdom fractured, but they remained on the island.

"The last known dynasty, did not take the rope, but the plank.  Drooling, huffing, and snorkeling--snorting up every barnacle on the pier in the two minutes they arrived on the island--the pig.  They quickly broke their bonds and took to the mountains and jungles.  But something came during the pig dynasty, that was the real scourge of the isles.  And it is this dynasty, that my story starts, with two infantry members, from opposite ends of the empire--Seattle and Boston, who arrived to the island not knowing their position on the Hawaiian food chain.

" When Boston first walked into his barracks latrine(bathroom) he was overwhelmed with how humid it was, like he just entered an iguana tank.  The ceilings were painted green with mold, the floor kept a semblance to checkered tile due to the heavy mopping of soldiers armed with ammonia. He noticed he was not alone.  There were geckos on the ceiling, running around eating giant flying things.  The geckos did not bother him, he has seen them in Florida, and perhaps that was there these fellas had come from.  He walked over to the sink, for he needed a shave for the first formation.  The barracks was old, and used as an overflow for departing service members, or newly arriving ones.  It is rumored to still have 50 caliber holes in its foundation from Japanese Zero's.  

"He looked down into the sink, there was a Gecko's tail, writhing in the sink--not attached t anything.  The drain was open, it looked like the cave to a malevolent beast.  And it was, a black tendril, or serpent, quickly emitted from the dark drain and grasped the writhing Gecko tail in its mandibles and retreated back into the drain.  ' What in holy .......' Boston whispered as he stepped away from the sink.

"Meanwhile, Seattle walked up to his new room, and used his card key to open his barracks room.  The door swung open, and on the floor in front of him, was a large cockroache on its back, apparently dying of over-eating.  It bicycle kicked the air, and doggy paddled.  It's belly was huge, and it's face said ' I lived a good life.'  Seattle could only muster the words, ' well that ain't a good sign.'

"Seattle and Boston were roomates for only a month before they became bickering enemies, likened to England and France--coming only together under rules and regulations and enforced peace treaty.  It started with a bag of potatoe chips.  'Seattle, you can't come home drunk and leave potatoe chips all over the room.  This ain't the mainland, we are gunna get eaten in our sleep by cockroaches.  Every night you explode a bag of potatoe chips all over the couch.'  It was true, they had a black pleather couch given to them be an eager barracks member, and if you sat down on it, you would always hear a crunch.

" ' Whatever Boston, you keep leaving your cherry dip around attracting ants.  You fell asleep with a dip in your mouth and you woke up with goat-tee of ants. ' And so it went, it was two male humans in a barracks cage.  One, a North Eastern Humano, the other a North Western Humano, both ill-disposed to each other.  One more afraid of ants, the other cockroaches.  

" But then in a sign of peace offering, Boston introduced Seattle to his Fillipino girlfriend's sister.  They went on a double date, and then Seattle went on two other dates after, with just him and her.  But then Boston was getting pestered by his girlfriend to 'have Seattle call her sister," or he was getting pestered by " What , Seattle don't like my sister no more ya?"   Boston always dodged the question, knowing the rules.  Then one day, Boston had to go up to his room with the two sisters in his car.  But they followed him up at the last second, and ambushed Seattle, who was really upset by this and left the room and barracks.  That incident could have been water under the bridge, except for what happened.

"When Seattle returned to his now empty room, he opened a draw and removed his sneakers from them, for he still had on his flip flops.  He put on his sneakers without socks and was walking down the barracks stairs when he felt it.  It was like a nail just went through his foot.  A medic in civy's (civilian clothes) was behind him watching him.  " You alright buddy," he said.

" I just stepped on a nail or sumthin," said Seattle.

He shook his sneaker, nothing.  Looking at his foot, he saw two fang  puncture marks in between his big toes.  His vein near the bite was surfacing like a snake all the way up his leg even up to his forehead, he felt dizzy.  He shook the sneaker one more time, harder.  Inside, now, was a coil, or a nest of black cobras, but it was not many cobras, but one centipede.  " what the f...."

The medic looked in, " That’s a centipede, highly toxic, if you get really ill come to the Aid Station," he said then left.

"Seattle burned in a fever that night, having dreams of the scorned Fillipino girl haunting him, holding centipedes over him, doing a witch-like curse on him.  Seattle was lucky, most react alot worse from the bites.  He blamed the scorned girl for putting it there, and most of all--he blamed Boston.

"And that is only one side of the story, for soon after, it was Boston who would become livid with Seattle.  One night, Boston was sitting on the pleather couch, with his girlfriend, when they fell asleep on it watching TV--they had the room to themselves.  When they awoke they were covered in cockroaches.  The girl ran out of the room and Boston's life forever.  Upon lifting up the couch cushions, there spied, was a massive moving cockroach galaxy.  " Seattle," Boston gritted through his teeth.
" Mister when are we going to get to infantry stuff--" whined the boy.
" Very shortly my lad," said the old man, producing another mango from his pocket and resuming his story.

" Seattle and Boston quickly rose through the ranks, and commanded  teams in the same squad.  At that time, they got their own rooms, and one would think that would make them get along better, but that was not so.  The only thing that assuaged the wise remarks of Boston, and Seattle's feverish temper, was that they had to get along if they lived together, and now they don't.  And now they both have a four man team competing against each other, when they are in the same squad.

" Boston's number one on the team was a kid named Mango.  He was the go-to guy for Boston, and made his team look good.  Seattle's number one guy was a soldier named Biggin who made Seattle's team look good.  
" Well, one night, their whole platoon were siting under double canopy in the complete dark.  They were in full battle rattle( ammo and body armour) readying their equipment and eating some rations in anticipation of a live-night-fire training exercise.  Those exercises were always dangerous, involving all the platoons weapon systems: machine guns--light and medium, grenade launcher tubes(under rifle) , at-4( disposable rocket launcher), hand grenades, banglomores( used by combat engineers....all in precise cordination with eachother.)  All the muzzles orientated in an L shaped pattern on a mock bunkers, trenches, and fighting positions.  All had to shift fire, as friendly teams bounded forward.  Extreme pressure.

"The platoon, is awaiting for the squads to get called up, for this night is a squad level exercise, tomorrow is platoon.  Boston's and Seattle's team have not gone in the 'hole' yet.  Boston is prepping his night vision, and after he put the batteries in he scans his dark surroundings.  All the teams are sitting or laying down, with their ammo vests on.  Most are dipping, or eating; some have took off their ammo vests attached to their body armour (as to keep it ready and put together to don it quickly) and are airing out their shirts and allowing precious oxygen to reach their backs as not to get cellulitis from a zit.  The back and trapazoids of an infantryman are under constant pressure of their gear, and that is where the most sweat is produced; in 99% humidity a zit will work its way back into the body, spreading from the sweat that pools.
  “It is dark.  There are green 'chem lights' in the middle of the perimeter, illuminating  the trash collection point.  The air smells of hot sauce from the soldiers meals, and fortunately the soldiers cannot smell eachother at this point, but the smell would be the equivalent of lumberg cheese.  But something can smell their cheese.

"As Boston is scanning his fellow platooners in green black night vision, his team member Mango is eating chicken out of a packet, he is wiping his hands all over his ammo and vest as he feels for a spoon he keeps in his grenade pouch.  Boston scans right, and notices Biggin, swatting near his ear, like there was a fly there. Boston turned the knob on his nightvision to focus, it was a pig in his ear eyeing the hamburger meal Bigin was eating.’Holy sh.....’

" Before Boston could finish his sentence, the chem lights attached to the trash collection point come alive and hauled ass for the woodline.  Mango yells, ' aww my chcken, and my.....' he didn't finish what he said, silencing himself.

" The platoon sergent barked and all had to put away their food.   Mango came up to Boston,  'Buston , that pig ran off wit my grenade.'   Sheer horror, for to lose grenade was a serious crime, and to lose one to a pig was a hazard.  " Your kidding Mango, why would a pig want a grenade.'  Mango kept silent about wiping chicken flavor all over it.

" ' 2nd squad, your in the hole, get it on, get it done,' barked the platoon sergent.  They were in a jam, Mango was supposed to throw a grenade in the bunker with a range supervisor right behind him.  Boston ran up to Seattle, " Seattle, we lost our grenade, when you throw yours Mango will pretend like he threw his at the very same time, they won't know it was only one."

" ' What?  Boston, once again making our squad looking bad, if we get caught, it's on you." He turned and returned to his team with the green glow of a chem light illuminating his outline.

"Everything went as planned, the engineers blew a hole in the wire, the teams shot thier rocket launchers, they breached and bounded across the bunker complex,but.....

" Biggin was on the support by fire--the machine gun position, he shifted right as Boston's team was coming, he had his hand still on the pistol grip of the machine gun, but then something squeezed his hand like a mother holding  a childs tight who just did something bad.  A centipede, and it locked on to Biggin's hand.  He jerked and traversed the machine left spraying a eight round burst four feet in front Mango and Seattle who were 200 meters in front of him.  The range supervisors shut down the range and failed them.  A night of disaster, the centipede did not bite Biggin, and dissapeared.  He did not mention it.  

" That was the first demerit against the squad. Tension was high.  The next field exercise at the squad level was on a mountainous, lava rock ridden Hawaiian island.  Boston had to lead his team by compass at night to link up at an ambush point where Seattle’s team was waiting.  They were humping hard and making good pace, they practiced hard for this mission, especially to redeem themselves.

" But calamity struck again.  Boston's team was walking up a road, when loud snorting came up from the ravine on the side.  A whole gang of pigs that had tusks came up onto the unpaved road.  " Boston , shoot it," said Mango.

“He couldn't though, if he fired a round outside of  range limits-- it would be a  serious crime.  The pigs looked formidable with their glistening white tusks under the moonlight, that were razor sharp.  They just stood there on the road, implacable, and daring.  Boston thought of something, they all had bayonets on them--they could attach them to their rifles and charge.  ' Men , fix bayonets, we're fighting through.'  But Mango voiced opposition, " Buston, let's throw our rifles like spears, charging is to dangerous, I throw mine and kill one and the rest will run.'

" ' Mango I don't think that's a good idea.' but before Boston could finish Mango had already fixed his bayonet and was lurching forward like a javellin thrower, then he released.  The rifle and bayonet landed and hit the biggest pig right in the head. It sunk in one inch.  The pig with the rifle sticking out of it's forehead just looked at the soldiers then turned and walked into the scrubby field to the side of the rode.   'Shit mango, you have to get your rifle or we're .....'

"They failed to meet up with Seattles team at the checkpoint, for they had to chase a pig that looked like a unicorn all night for a rifle, in which they finally found.

" The platoon sergent gave them one more chance, before the squad would be disolved and Seattle and Boston would be demoted.  ' You too better work together, or you will never have a leadership position again,' he threatened.

"They were in the mountain range called the Kahukus.  The last field exercise to get it right.  
" ' Boston , you better not mess this up.’
" 'What about you Seattle, you better not.'
" They still were not acting as team, and they needed to here. When they filed in and up the mountian to the bivouac site, they seen fellow battalion soldiers who looked like the remnants of Napoleons army after Boradino.  Bandaged heads, hands, limping, despondant.

" Seattle went up to one soldier.  ' What the hell happened here?'  The soldier said they were attacked by centipedes, it's breeding season, and the wounded soldier warned '  don't go up there man, don't go.'  The soldier looked like his head grew to three times normal, and he had two fang marks on the side of his temple.  Seattle looked down the line, some had hands as big as ferns, and others had jungle boots that were bursting open from swollen feet.  Seattle remembered what that felt like, he thought of Boston and his girlfriends sister, that made him angry, but then he thought that this was their last chance, and they had to get along.

" Their entire platoon humped up the mountain, making mountain streams with their sweat.  They reached their bivouac site for the night.  Taking of their Kevlar helmets, revealing steaming heads they strung up bungee cords to trees and draped their poncho's over them for shelter for the short rain showerings that came and went all night.  ' Alright everyone bed down, squad exercises  at 0500 hours,' said the platoon sergent as the sun just started setting.  Anyone who was caught still up and dipping and smoking felt the platoon sergent's wrath.

" But then the first attack came.  Biggin laid down on the ground under his teams hooch( ad hoc poncho shelter) without spraying any bug juice.  He felt a tickling in his ear, he laughed and thought of pleasant things back home, but then he turned his head.  A bright red centipede was dribbling on his ear.  He rose up, putting his head through the poncho hooch and collapsing it.  His team-mates to his side awoke, ' What is it Bigin?'  ......' It's a dam centipede, almost crawled in my ear.'  That got his teams attention.  They propped up the poncho hooch again, and moved all their gear to find it.  There was a cord from the ponch hood dangling down from the middle of the hooch as it hung overhead.  Someone turned on their red lens flashlight, as they searched on their knees with their bayonets ready.  

" Then the side of the poncho that went to the ground, looked like a big red and camouflaged projection screen with the silhouette of a monster on it, writhing it's legs and fangs. The string dangling from the center of the poncho hooch was actually a centipede, none of them knew it. Biggin stabbed at the projection puncturing a hole in the poncho.  ' It's a reflection Biggin, it's beside us ya idiot.'  But the poncho collopsed from all the stress, and they scrambled out of there, resolving to sleep on their feet the rest of the night.  Right when their platoon sergent was about to yell at them to go back to bed as he laid on the ground in his sleeping bag he was bit on the back of his head and medvac'd out.  The new standing platoon sergent created a roving guard, to search with their red lenses for the heat hunting centipedes.

" By morning the squad was exhausted, and they had to start a new mission that was being briefed to them by a range officer  ' Alright second squad, thats your bearing( he pointed down the mountain to a misty valley) go to the said cordinates and  write down the code on the sign, start your second leg, write down the code on the finish point, then finish in the squad live fire lane at prediscussed cordinates.'  The tired squad looked down the alley, there were birds falling from the skies, they didn't like the look of this. Hamburger, a team member on Seattle's team kept looking at the distant ocean coming into view, he looked despondent, ' Dawg, look at the ocean, and that rainbow, now look where we are going.....'

"2nd squad started down the draw into the valley. Hamburger was holding his m240 machine gun like a boombox, and Private Catfish of Boston's team was in charge of the map checks and pace count.  Slowly they disapeared from view, with the range officer behind their ranger file.  They didn't not have to move in wedge formation, but had to stay tactical on this graded movement.  Seattle's team lead, with Biggin at point.  The bi-pinnate leaves of the trees looked like insect legs.  Private Catfish of Boston's team, who compared every training field mission to Vietnam, kept on saying ' and 2nd squad descends into the A-Shaw valley in hunt of the vietcong.....' before Seattle told him to shut up.

"They descended 500 meters by Catfish's pace count, when things started to fall apart.  ' You have to form a patrol base as part of the first grade....' the range officer didn't finish his directive, for a bird fell out of the sky and hit him in the head.  The bird was entwined with a centipede.  The eightman squad froze, staring at the range officer then the unfortunate bird.  Bigin took his bayonet and stabbed the centipede in half.  It was still squirming around.   'These things are unstoppable,' he said.  Boston took out his bug juice, and picked up the centipede head with the pliers from his Gerber knife and put it in the bug juice to kill it.  The squad watched as the centipede swam around in the bug juice like a dragon. They said nothing.  

"They thought the range officer was going to get up, he didn't--he was knocked out.  ' Jesus Christ, he's knocked out' said Bigin,' we have to turn back.'  Seattle looked at Boston, they were in agreement for the first time in a while. They could not turn back, one more failure and the squad was done.                     “ 'Hamburger pick him up, give your weapon to Catfish,' ordered Seattle.  
Catfish was in horror, for he had to carry the machine gun.  They moved out, much slower, with the range officer draped over Hamburger.  They slid and fell down the mountain reaching the valley, still a click away from their first cordinates.  

"Hamburger flopped down in exhaustion, they took a break, no longer tactically due to the lack of consciousness of the range officer.  ' Seattle, lets take a breather, then move out,' said Boston exhausted.  They took out their MRE's( packaged meals ready to eat).  Private Catfish put the thick package down on the rocky ground and rested his head on it, saying ' watch out for vc in the wire....'

"They lingered, already daunted from a daunting start to a mission.  They stared at the blue expanse of sky, it was heating up, no more morning caress of the Hawaiin sun.  Then they heard a thud.  The meal Catfish's head was resting on was snatched out from under him by a mongoose--Catfish's head was concussed from the impact with the rock.  ' Jesus, where'd that mongoose come from...' said Boston.  The squad looked at Seattle, he shook his head, no they would not turn back still and Bigin had to carry Catfish.

"They moved even slower now, Boston kept looking at his watch, he gave a radio report with the current cordinates of their location.  ' Hurry up, you haven't reached your first phase line yet' the radio admonished.  The squad was getting spooked, everything looked like a centipede--the vines on the forest floor, the straps on their gear.  Mango punched himself in the head because he thought his eyelashes were a centipede.  Exhaustion was creeping in, in the form of delusions.

“Lumbering across the valley, enclosed by steep scraggy hills on all sides, Seattle kept on thinking ’ How are we get up the next incline with two wounded?’ But  mission failure was not an option for him.

"They reached the phase-line where the sign with the code they are to record was.  They dropped their gear in a cache to look for it without the weight of their gear.  That is when Bigin noticed something stalking them. ' Boston, look out there, what is that, it's a .....it's a pig.....' Then they were greeted with utter horror, around one of it's tusk's was a grenade.  The pin of the grenade was being scraped at by brush as the pig snorted around the woodline--the thumb safety was already off, and if that pin goes.....

" 'Mango , that's your freaking grenade around that pig--' yelled Boston.  The squad backed together, in a tight huddle, they looked at Seattle.  The pig came closer, Mango was ready to load a live mag and blow it away before Boston stopped him, ' Mango don't, if we do not have all our rounds we are disqualified when we get to the live fire point.....'

"Slowly retreating back to their cache point, they were greeted by a gang of mongoose's--they had ramsacked all their gear and took all their MRE's.  ' What are we gunna do now' whined Hamburger as a mongoose ran up his leg and onto his neck to steal a booger out of his nose and retreated to the woodline with its fellow mongooses, and gobbled up its prize.  Hamburger dropped his machine-gun,      ‘ Aww my nose....that bastard plucked out my nose hair....goddam mong......’
“ ' Push on ' said Seattle interrupting Hamburger.

"Push on they did, reaching the first incline, carrying two unconscience soldiers, well one was almost unconscience, Catfish was mumbling about Vietcong and Ho Chi ming.

"The sky disappeared , and there was only the trees that had leaves that looked like insects with many legs.  ' Seattle, I don't think we can make it Bro,' said Boston, as a pig snorted not too far from them.
“ ' We can make it bro, we have to work together, we'll make it,' said Seattle stoically with a steady conveyor belt of sweat beads rolling down his nose.

"Grabbing trees to pull themselves up, they reached a level part where they could skirt the hill, a ridge they could cut around on and continue the azimuth to the second point.  All of them had to carry the two wounded men like they were crowd surfing.  

"Reaching the other side of the hill, they took a break before the decline.  All were staring overhead at the leafs of the trees.  Hunger was setting in all of them.  Mango saw an Apple Banana tree, ' I'll climb it and get us banana's Boston,' said Mango.  No one voiced opposition, they were starving, they were burning muscle, and all could smell it.  

"Mango climbed the palm looking trunk of the tree, his spaghetti arms almost built for that purpose.  He got three quarters of the way up, when out of the cluster of yellow green apple banana's a swarm of black red tendrils came out, he screamed and rocked the tree so hard it's trunk split in half and he came crashing down with all the apple banana's falling on top of him.

He hit hard, then got smacked of the head with a heavy cluster of fruit. Boston ran to his aid, pulling him up brushing the centipedes off him,but the centipedes clutched his fatigues.  Seattle ran up to Boston trying to brush him off, but they clung to him, and Bigin swung his rifle batting them off Seatlle but connecting with his knee, crumpling Seattle to the ground.  A snort came from the dense growth, then the pig rushed in, a vine caught the pin of the grenade, they heard the clack of the grenade spoon flying off ' shit' said the wounded Seattle who grabbed Mango to drag him out of the tree riddled with centipedes.  Bigin, Boston and Hamburger grabbed Seattle and (who held onto Mango) dragged him out over the ridge.  ' Over the side' yelled Boston, and they dragged Catfish and the range officer with them.  The pig dove into the apple banana's.

"The grenade blew up, they saw the hot sparks screaming into the air above them as they were sliding down the hillside.  They slid to a stop.  They looked at Seattle who was in pain, he gritted and said ' push on.'

"They now had four wounded, but at least Mango and Seattle could walk.  But Mango couldn't carry his gear, his arm was sprained.  Boston now took point, carrying the gear of three soldiers, they all looked as if they were squatting the sky and all its atmospheric pressure.  They got around the hill, reaching their phaseline.  ' You guys stay here, I'll find the sign,' said Boston.

"He walked into the growth with his bayonet attached to his weapon, stumbling over the slightest trip because of his exhaustion.  He fell one more time, and thought of laying there a minute, but a leaf caressed his ear and that sent him to his feet.  ' Let's go Boston,' he said to himself and checked his compass.  He saw the orange spray painted sign through some vegatation.  His heart lifted, he hacked his way and came face to face with the sign.  ' No' he said in a despondent voice.

"The tree was swarming and alive with black ripples that slithered over the sign rendering it unintelligible.  It was the layer, the layer of the centipede.  There were bones of birds, pigs,mongooses and rats at the base of the tree.  A centipede crawled out of an eye socket of a mongoose and back into a socket of a pig.  Boston stood before the hideous tree,  clutching his rifle.  A wind blew through the canopy of the surrounding trees sending the centipede-like leaves into a scurrying tantrum.  If he get's this code they are done with the land navigation, and they would be allowed to go last on the squad live fire at the end, doing it days later.  Seattle pushed through the brush with his M-4 fixed with a bayonet, ' let's do this Boston, let's finish it,' and they took their knife points and tried clearing the metal sign.  They stabbed and thrusted to reveal every alpha numeric of the code.  As the black tendrils swarmed onto their rifles and up their jungle boots they felt the incisers cutting through their pants; before centipedes bite they clench with one hundred black legs as if their were the hands of demonic monster, that had hands built for stripping flesh.  

"A centipede crawled over Bostons eye, and gripped his face, they were on the last number, he swiped at the sign to read it before it was covered by the swarming red tinted blackness again.  They got the code, then the centipede incised into his nose sending hot blood running down his nose, he clutched it and in turn his hand was clutched by insectal strength biting him on his hand.  Seattle had a centipede on his ear dangling like an ear-ring, it pierced his ear and fell with a piece of it.  Retreating, they made it back to the cache, Hamburger and Bigin removed the horde from them with their bayonets.

"The fever was setting in on Seattle and Boston, but the range officer was waking and was able to walk , along with Catfish.  They continued their azimuth, all extremely tired, the range officer helped Seattle walk, he was turning pale, and Mango helped Boston, who's face was swelling up shutting his left eye.

"They came into a clearing, with mesh camo tents, and a view of a beautiful ocean down below  and the finish point.  The range officer at the finish point took down their unit and squad to check them off as 'completed,' but only after saying ' holy shit, what the hell happened to you guys.'  The squad and range officer collapsed and they were taken to the medics tent.  Where they got the story from Mango.  They were all flown back to the rear, all earning commendation medals.  The squad healed to full health and was promoted to 1st squad, the best in a platoon, and Seattle and Boston became best friends."

The old man took another mango from his pocket. " Your Mango arn't you," said the boy, enthralled by the old man’s story.
" Not any more lad, not anymore,' said the old man in a pensive stare.
" Wow, that must have been years ago when you were in the infantry?" Ben said, in awe.

" That was five years ago, when I was in, I was 24 then in the valley of the centipedes," said Mango.  The boy looked at him in astonishment as his father was getting off a golf cart coming up to him.

" Hey Ben, you have fun.....thanks for watching him..." said Ben's father, in a jolly mood from his golf game.

Ben was in state of awe still, getting up to join his dad, musing over everything that the old looking young man said.

Then something caught all their eyes.  " Hey what is that?" asked Ben's father.  " Is that a rabbit..or what is that?" asked Ben.  " I think that's a hedgehog, but what is it eating..." said his father unsure..." It's eating spagetiti or something..." replied the boy.

" That's not a hedgehog, that's a chinchilla, and it's eating a centipede," lectured Mango with a cold stare at the animal.  The chinchilla was gobbling up a centipede like a noodle, the centipede was biting the chinchillas nose, but the fluffy animal was unfazed. It seemed a spicy delicacy to the fluff ball.

" Ben, come back and visit" said Mango almost in a trance watching the chinchilla crunching up the armor plated centipede.  He had a thousand yard stare, as if to recall a nightmare, he spoke again in a lifeless voice addressing the boy " Come back" the old man said "and I'll tell you the story of ' the night  on Chinchilla Hill' ."
The End

Steve D'Beard Jul 2014

The failed seduction
by drunken discussion
and skunk fueled
consumption, leads to
a compunction dysfunction
suspended in animation
the digital tides
of expulsion
catapult me into a
an eschewing propulsion
and the limitations
of re-imagination.

As far as I was aware
I was imprisoned
in nothing more
than the realms of
Skype and FourSquare
but for the Feng Shui
of trapped energies
and google-mapped memories
adorning the locations
of complacent hallucinations
amid the dark fibre
communications
with a female
of Nordic persuasion.

The compliments and comments
and poems I sent
were lost to the myriad
of random intent
I was attempting to be clever
and metaphysical
she on the other hand
was PHD level
and psychoanalytical
ergo my metrical composition
was utterly lost
in a conversation
on metaphorical reproduction
and the magic and mysteries
of osmosis
and the application
of modification
by transduction.

The moral of this tale
- if indeed there is one -
is if you are going to Skype
with a mentally superior type
do not before hand
have a blistering
smouldering
grass pipe
with a flagon of ale
lest you be a
gibbering earthling
destined to fail.

-- a word to the wise --

god I got the sad blue blues,
this woman sat there and she
said
are you really Charles
  
    
      
        Bukowski?
      
    
  

and I said
  
    forget that
  

I do not feel good
I've got the sad sads
all I want to do is
fuck you
and she laughed
she thought I was being
clever
and O I just looked up her long slim legs of heaven
I saw her liver and her quivering intestine
I saw Christ in there
jumping to a folk-rock
all the long lines of starvation within me
rose
and I walked over
and grabbed her on the couch
ripped her dress up around her face
and I didn't care
rape or the end of the earth
one more time
to be there
anywhere
real
yes
her panties were on the
floor
and my cock went in
my cock my god my cock went in
I was Charles
Somebody.

1.
From my
uneasy bed
at the L’Enfant,
a train's pensive
horn breaks the
sullen lullaby of
an HVAC’s hum;
interrupting the
mechanical
reverie of its
steadfast
night watch,
allowing my ear
to discern
the stampede
of marauding
corporate Visigoths
sacking the city.

The cacophony
of sloven gluttony,
the bawdy songs of
unrequited privilege
and the unencumbered
clatter of radical
entitlement echoes
off the city’s cold
crumbling stones.

The unctuous
bellows of the
victorious pillagers
profanely feasting
pierces the
hanging chill
of the nations
black night.

Their hoots
deride the train
transporting
the defeated
ghosts of
Lincoln’s last
doomed regiments
dispatched in vain
to preserve a
peoples republic
in a futile last stand.

The rebels have
finally turned the tide,
T Boone Pickett’s
Charge succeeds,
sending the ravaged
Grand Army of the
Republic sliding
back to the Capitol,
in savage servility,
gliding on squeaky
ungreased wheels
ferrying the
Union’s dead
vanquished
defenders to
unmarked graves
on Potters Field.

The Rebels
joyous yell
bounces off
the inert granite
stones of the
soulless city.

The spittle
of salivating
vandals drips
over the
spoils of war
as they initiate the
disassemblage,
the leveling and
reapportionment
of the grand prize.

The clever
oligarchs
have laid claim
to a righteous
reparation
of the peoples
assets for
pennies on the
dollar.

Their wholly
bought politicos
move to transfer
distressed assets
into their just
stewardship
through the
holy justice
of privatization
and the sound
rationale of
free market
solutions.

In the land of the
pursuit of property,
nimble wolf PACs
of swift 527, LLCs
have fully
metastasized
into personhood;
ascending to
the top of the
food chain in
America’s
voracious
political culture;
bestriding
the nation to
compel the
national will
to genuflect
to the cool facility
of corporate
dominion.

As the
inertial thrust
of the plaintive
locomotive
fades into
another old
morning of
recalcitrant
Reaganism,
it lugs its
ambivalent
middle class
baggage toward
it’s fast expiring
future.

I follow
the dirge
down to
the street
as the ebbing
sound fades
into the gloom
of the
burgeoning
morning,
slowly
replacing the
purple twilight
with a breaking
day of cold gray
clouds framing
silhouettes of
cranes busily
constructing
a new city.

The personhood of
corporations need
homes in our new
republic; carving
out new
neighborhoods
suitable for the
monied citizens
of our nation.

First amongst
equals, the best
corporate governance
charters form
the foundation of
the republic’s
new constitution.
Civil rights
are secondary
to the freedom
of markets; the
Bill of Rights
are economically
replaced by the
cool manifests
of Bills of Lading.

The agents of
laissez faire
capitalism
nibble away
at the city’s
neighborhoods
one block at a time;
while steady winds
blows dust off
the National Mall.

Layers of the
peoples plaza are
plained away with
each rising gust.  

History repeats
itself as the Joad’s
are routed from their
land once again.

A clever
mixed use
plan of
condos and
strip malls
is proposed
to finally help the
National Mall
unlock its true
profit potential.

As America’s
affection for
federalism fades
the water in
the reflection pool
is gracefully drained.

We the people
can no longer
see ourselves.

The profit
potential of
industry is
preferred over
the specious
metaphysical
benefits
of reflection.

The grand image,
the rich pastiche,
the quixotic aroma
of the national
melting pot
is reduced to the
sameness of the
black tar that lines
the pool and the
swirling eddies of
brown dust circling
the cracked indenture.

From his not so
distant vantage point,
Abe ponders the
empty pool wondering
if the cost of lives
paid was a worthy
endeavor of preserving
the damned union?  
Has the dear prize
won perished from
this earth?

Was the illusive
article of liberty  
worth its weight in
the blood expended?

Did the people ever
fully realize the value
of government
by the people,
for the people?

Did citizens of
the republic
assume the
responsibilities to
protect and honor
the rights and privileges
of a representative
government?

Now our idea
and practice of
civil rights is measured
and promoted as far as
it can be justified by
a corporate ROI, a
shareholder dividend,
an earmark or a political
donation to a senators
unconnected PAC.

The divine celestial
ledgers balancing
the rights and
privilege of free people
drips with red ink.  

Liberty, equality
fraternity are bankrupt
secular notions
condemned as
expensive
liberal seditions;
hatched by
UnHoly Jacobins,
the atheist skeptics
during the dark times
of the Age of Enlightenment.

Abe ponders
the restoration
of Washington’s
obelisk, to
repair the cracks
suffered  from
last summer’s
freak earthquake.

I believe I detect
a tear in Abe’s
granite eye
saddened by the
corporate temblors
shaking the
foundations
of the city.

2.

The WWII Memorial
is America’s Parthenon
for a country's love
affair with the valor
and sacrifice of warfare.

WWII forms the
cornerstone of
understanding the
pathos of the
American Century.

During WWII
our greatest generation
rose as a nation to
defeat the menace of
global fascism and
indelibly mark the
power and virtue of
American democracy.

As Lincoln’s Army
saved federalism, FDR’s
Army kept the world safe
for democracy.

Both armies served
a nation that shared
the sacrifice and
burden of war to
preserve the grace of
a republican democracy.

Today federalism
crumbles as our
democracy withers.

The burden
of war is reserved
for a precious few
individuals while
its benefits
remain confined to
the corporate elite.

Our monuments
to war have become
commercial backdrops
for the hollow patriotism
of war profiteers.

We have mortgaged
our future to pay
for two criminal wars.

The spoils of
war flow into the
pockets of
corporate
shareholders
deeply invested
in the continuation
of pointless,
destructive
hostilities.

Our service
members who
selflessly served
their country come
home to a less free,
fear struck nation;
where economic
security and political
liberty erodes
each day while the
monied interests
continue to bless
the abundance
of freedom and riches
purchased with the
blood and sweat
of others.

America desperately
needs a new narrative.

The spirit of the
Greatest Generation
who sacrificed and met
the challenge of the 20th
Century must become
this generations spiritual
forebears.

The war on terror
neatly fits the
the corporate
pathos of
militarism,
surveillance
and the sacrifice
of civil liberties
to purchase
a daily measure
of fear and
economic
enslavement.

It must be rejected
by a people committed
to building secular
temples to pursue
peace, democracy,
economic empowerment,
civil liberties and tolerance
for all.

Yet this old city
and the democratic
temples it built
exulting a free people
anointed with the
grace of liberty
is being consumed
in a morass of
commercial
polyglot.

3.

During the
War of 1812
the British Army
burned the
Capitol Building
and the White House
to the ground.

Thank goodness
Dolly Madison saved
what she could.

The new marauders
are not subject to the
pull of nostalgia.  

They value nothing
save their
self enrichment.

They will spare nothing.

Our besieged Capitol
requires Lincoln’s troops
to be stationed along the
National Mall to defend
the republic.

The greatest peril
to our nation
is being directed
by well placed
Fifth Columnists.

From the safety
of underground bunkers,
in secure undisclosed
locations within the city’s
parameters, a well financed
confederacy employing  
K Street shenanigans
are busy selling off
the American Dream
one ear mark
at a time, one
huge corporate
welfare allotment
at a time.

The biggest prize
is looting the real
property of the people;
selling Utah,
auctioning off
the public schools,
water systems, post offices
and mineral rights
on the cheap
at an Uncle Sam
garage sale.  

The capitol is
indeed burning
again.

Looters are
running riot.

The flailing arms
of a dying empire
fire off cruise
missiles and drone
strikes; hitting the
target of habeas
corpus as it
shakes in its
final death rattle.
I make a pilgrimage
to the MLK Jr.
Monument.

Our cultural identity
is outsourced to
foreign contractors
paid to reinterpret
the American Dream
through the eyes
of a lowest bidder.

MLK has lost
his humanity.

He has been
reduced to a
a Chinese
superhuman
Mao like anime
busting loose from
a granite mountain while
geopolitical irony
compels him to watch
Tommy Jefferson
shag Sally Hemings
from across the tidal
basin for all eternity.  

MLK’s eyes fixed in
stern fascination,
forever enthralled
by the contradictions
of liberty and its
democratic excesses
of love in the willows
on golden pond.

Circling back to
Father Abraham’s
Monument,  I huddle
with a group of global
citizens listening
to an NPS Ranger
spinning four score
tales with the last full
measure of her devotion.

I look up into Abe’s
stone eyes as he
surveys platoons
of gray suited
Chinese Communist
envoys engaged
in Long Marches
through the National Mall;
dutifully encircling cabinet
buildings and recruiting
Tea Party congressmen
into their open party cells.

This confederacy
is ready to torch
the White House
again.

Congressmen and
the perfect patriots
from K Street slavishly
pull their paymasters
in gilded rickshaws to
golf outings at the Pentagon
and park at the preferred
spots reserved for
the luxury box holders
at Redskin Games.

They vow not to rest
until the house of the people
is fully mortgaged to the
People’s Republic of China’s
Sovereign Wealth Fund.

4.

A great
Son of Liberty like
Alan Greenspan
roundly rings
the bells of
free markets
as he inches
T Bill rates
forward a few
basis points
at a time; while
his dead mentor
Ayn Rand
lifts Paul Ryan
to her
Fountainhead teet.
He takes a long
draw as she
coos songs
from her primer
of Atlas Shrugged
Mother Goose tales
into his silky ears.

The construction
cranes swing
to the music
building new private
sector space with
the largess of
US taxpayers
money; or
more rightly
future generations
taxpayer debt.

Libertarians,
Tea Baggers, Blue Dogs
and GOP waterboys
eagerly light a
match to the
the crucifixes
bearing federal
social safety
net programs
to the delight
of NASDAQ
listed capitalists
on the come,
licking their chops
to land contracts
to administer
these programs
at a negotiated
cost plus
profit margin.

Citizens
dependent
on programs
are leery
shareholders
are ecstatic.

To be sure
our free
market rebels
don disguises
of red, white
and blue robes
but their objectives
fail to distinguish
their motives and
methods with
some of the finest
Klansman this
country has
ever produced.

5.

DC is a city
of joggers
and choppers.

Corporate
helicopters
wizz by the
Washington
Monument,
popping erections
for the erectors
inspecting the progress
of the cranes
commanding the
city skyline.

USMC drill team
out for a morning
run circles the Mall.

The commanding
cadence of the
DI keeps us
mindful of the
deepening
militarization of
our society.

A crowd  
rushes
to position
themselves,
genuflecting
to photograph
a platoon on
the move.

I try to consider
the defining
characteristics of
Washington DC.

DC is all surface.

It is full of walls
and mirrors.

Its primary hue
is obfuscation.

Open
communication
scripted from well
considered talking points
informs all dialog.

The city is thoroughly
enraptured in narcissism.

Thankfully, one can
always capture the
reflection of oneself in
the ubiquitous presence of
mirrors.  

Vanity imprisons
the city inhabitants.

Young joggers circle the
Mall and gerrymander
down every pathway
of the city.  

They are the clerks,
interns and staffers of
the judicial, executive
and legislative branches.

They are the children
of privilege.

They will never
alter their path.

You must cede the walk
to their entitlement
of a swift comportment
or risk injury of a
violent collision.

These young ones
portray a countenance  
of benevolent rulers.  

They seem to be learning
their trade craft well from
the senators and judges
whom they serve.

They appear confident
they know what's best
for the country and after
their one term of tireless
service to the republic
they look forward to
positions in the private
sector where they will
assist corporations
to extend their reach
into the pant pockets
worn by the body politic.

6.

Our nations mythic story
lies hidden deep in the
closed rooms of the
museums lining the
Mall.

I pause to consider
what a great nation
and its great people
once aspired to.

I spy the a
suspended
Space Shuttle
hanging in dry dock
at the air and
space museum.

Today America’s
astronauts hitch
rides on Russian
rockets.

America rents a
timeshare from
the European
space agency to
lift communication
satellites into orbit.

Across the Mall
I photograph
John Smithson’s
ashes in its columbarium.  

I fear it has become a
metaphor for America’s
future commitment
to scientific inquiry
and rational secular
thinking.

I am relieved to
discover a Smithsonian
exhibit that asks
“what does it mean
to be human?”

The Origins of Humans
exhibit carries a disclaimer
to satisfy creationists.

The exhibit timidly states
that science can coexist
with religious beliefs and
that the point of the exhibit is
not to inflame inflame religious
passions but to shed light on
scientific inquiry.

I imagine these exhibits
will inflame the passion of
the fundamentalist
American Taliban and
provide yet another
reason to dismantle
the Moloch of Federalism.

The pursuit of science
remains safe at the
Smithsonian for now.

7.

Near K Street at
McPherson Park
a posse of
well dressed
lobbyists, the
self anointed
uber patriots
doing the work
of the people
stroll through
the park
boasting a
healthy population
of bedraggled
homeless.

The homeless
occupy the benches
that have been
transformed into
pup tents.

Perhaps some of
the residents of this
mean estate were
made homeless by a
foreclosed mortgage.  

The K Street warriors
can be proud that their
work on behalf of the
banking industry has
forestalled financial market
reform.  

Through it exacerbates
the homeless problem it has
allowed these K Street titans to
profit from the distress of others.

Earlier in the day
I photographed
a homeless man
planted in front of
the Washington
Monument.

I wonder
if my political
voyeurism is
an exploitation of
this man’s condition?

I have more in common
then I probably wish to
admit with my K Street
antagonists.  

In another section
of the park the
remnants of a
distressed OWS
bivouac remain.

The legions of sunshine
patriots have melted away
as the interest of the
blogosphere has waned.

As the weather
improves Moveon.org
and democratic
party operatives
pitch tents in an
effort to resuscitate
the moribund
movement.

They hope
to coop any
remaining energy
to support their
stale deception,
a neoliberal vision
based solely on the
total capitulation
to the bankrupt
corporatocracy.

I heard someone say
a campaign lasts a
season; while a
movement for social
change takes decades.

If that metric proves
correct, and if the
powers don’t succeed
in compromising the
people’s movement
I’ll be three quarters
of a century old
before I see
justice flowing like
a river once again.

8.

I circle back to
the L’Enfant and
find myself
tramping amidst
the lost platoon
of Korean War
soldiers.

My feet drag
in the quagmire
of grass covering
the feet of this
ghostly troop.

My namesake
uncle was a
decorated
veteran of this
conflict and Im
sure I detect
his likeness
in one of the
statues.

The bleak call
of a distant train
sounds a revelry
and I imagine this
patrol springing
to life to answer
the call of their
beloved country
once again.

Yet they remain
inert.  

Stuck in a
place that the
nation finds
impossible to
leave.

The eyes of the
men stare into
an incomprehensible
fate.  

They see the swarms
of Red Army infantrymen
crossing the Yellow River
streaming toward
them in massive
human waves,
the tips of
sparkling bayonets
threatening to slash
the outmanned
contingent fighting
to bits.

They are the
first detachment
to bravely confront
the rising power
of China many
thousands of
miles away
from their homes.

America like
this lone company
is overwhelmed
and lost in the
confusion
that confronts
them.

Looking up
I perceive the
bewilderment
of my muddled image
reflected on the
marble walls
surrounding
the memorial.

I am a comrade-in-arms,
a fellow wanderer sojourning
with the lost platoon tramping
onward to another uncertain midnight.

The ambivalent eyes
of my comrades look
upon the wall beholding
the fleeting image of
our shared predicament.

It records in the stone
tablets, a ubiquitous
moment of a
nations incessant
wandering in a
wilderness of dismay,
entrapped in the
intractable morass of
unending war.
Did those eyes
looking on from
an expired century
perceive
Viet Nam
Granada,
Panama
Gulf War One
Somalia
Balkan War
Gulf War Two
Afghanistan
Iraq
Libya?

Is our terror
the intractability
of war?

Do we have
no other vision
but to look
forward to
the next
conflict?

9.

I drive down to
Charlottesville
to tour Monticello.

I roam the grounds
of Thomas Jefferson’s
beloved plantation.  

It is magnificent and
enthralling as the man
himself.

The author of the
Declaration of Independence
built his bankruptcy on the
exploitation of slave labor.

Monticello sits atop
a stable of dependencies
like a new world pyramid.

All the laborers and their labor,
the foundation stones
of his beloved mansion,
tucked under the house,
hidden from view,
so that Mr. Jefferson could
enjoy an unobstructed view
from the peak of this
modest mount.

Sally Hemings managed
the affairs of the chamber
for our third president.

It laid beyond the
eyes of history
for almost two
centuries.

This giant of the Enlightenment
was free to enjoy the pursuit
of his keen intellect
and converse about worldly matters
with esteemed guests while enjoying
an unencumbered view of the
Blue Mountains as he sat atop
the subterranean blues of
his well concealed
dependencies.

Music Selection: The Band,  
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Dedicated to the memory of Levon Helm, Godspeed Beloved
and
Robert Lowell's
For The Union Dead
Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam
(“they gave up all to serve the republic”)

Washington, DC
Charlottesville, VA
4/12/12
jbm

Hilda Sep 2014

Sweet gentle daughter of dreaming blue eyes
Reflecting visions from some distant sphere;
Untainted by nightmares of icy fear,
Nor saddened yet by fate's mocking disguise.
Unopened book of fickle tomorrow,
Not certain of how future may unfold,
With hours of lead or hours of molten gold;
Unenlightened yet by unknown sorrow.
Sands rush through the hourglass of wasted years,
While breaking our young hearts with shattered dreams.
The clock of life wrings disappointed tears,
Unhampered by our plans and clever schemes.
Beware grim reaper swinging lusty blade
Who mocks thee as childhood days slowly fade.

~Hilda~

© Hilda September 20, 2014 4:48 PM
Dedicated to my dear daughter Marian.
Next page