The Spitting Spiders of Borneo

In the pantheon of colorful characters, few could match Andy’s uncle Calvin. A world traveler, Calvin would show up at family reunions every few years, full of stories of the odd cultures, and creatures he’d encountered in some distant land. This made him a perpetual favorite among the kids, and almost as soon as he stepped through the door, he’d herd the young folks together and immediately launch into a fascinating tale from one of his journeys.

“Kids, have you ever heard of the spitting spiders of Borneo?” Calvin said with his characteristic bombast.

Heads shook.

Calvin leaned in and addressed them in a confidential tone. “Well, in Borneo, they have these giant spiders — and they spit!”

The children excitedly looked around at one another. “Ooo!”

The adults never seemed to have much use for Calvin, and were glad he spent the majority of his time regaling the children with his wild tales. Andy’s father, Jack, in particular, dreaded Calvin’s visits, claiming it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Calvin to hit him up for money for some hare-brained scheme or another, but Andy didn’t care. He loved Uncle Calvin, and always looked forward to Calvin’s return.

“Andrew,” Calvin would often tell him, always using his full name, “a man needs adventure. Why I hope I never grow too old to don the old fedora and take off for parts unknown.”

Calvin was actually Andy’s mother’s uncle, the youngest of her father’s siblings, born well after Andy’s great-grandmother thought she could have more children, and was only a few years older than Andy’s mother, Gloria. When Calvin wasn’t around, Andy frequently heard his family say Calvin was spoiled as a child, his parents lacking the energy or motivation to discipline him. He grew up pampered, coddled, and with an unrealistic sense of his own importance. Most of his brothers and sisters had left the house by the time he started school, so he had his parents undivided attention, and so long as he didn’t get into too much mischief, they were content to let him have his way. When he announced, shortly before he graduated high school, that he wanted to tour Africa, his parents were more than happy to send him off, so they could once again have the house to themselves.

From that point, it was one adventure after another for Calvin. Andy had no idea what Calvin did for a living, and neither did anyone else in the family. Inquiries about Calvin’s employment status were often met with the cryptic, “I have many irons in the fire, let me tell you.” Whatever these might be, Calvin kept them to himself. Jack generally tired of Calvin quickly, so his visits to the family were usually very short.

One morning, while Calvin was staying with the family, Andy heard a knock at his door just as he was waking up.

“Come in,” he called.

Calvin entered and very dramatically tip-toed over to the bed where he crouched down so he’d be at eye-level with Andy.

“Up for a little adventure, Andrew?”

“What do you mean?” Andy asked, still sleepy.

“I’m off to track the elusive black mamba,” Calvin said. “Thought you might like to tag along.”

“Black mamba?” Andy said. “Is that a snake?”

“It certainly is,” Calvin said. “It can outrun a cheetah! The terror of the forest.”

“I don’t think we should be fooling around with one of those,” Andy said.

“Nonsense!” Calvin said. “I’m well-versed in how to handle myself around them. I could give you some pointers if we encounter one.”

“Okay, I guess,” Andy said. “Where do you want to go?”

“I thought we might take a hike around Mystic Lake,” he said. “Perfect hunting grounds for our steely prey.”

“Isn’t that where they found the naked dead guy?” Andy asked.

“It certainly is,” Calvin replied. “Perhaps another victim of the elusive black mamba!”

“I don’t think they’re letting people go up there now,” Andy said.

“Son, nothing’s off limits to men of adventure,” Calvin said. “Now get some hiking clothes on and let’s hit the road.”

When they arrived at the wilderness area, the road leading into it was closed, so Calvin parked just outside and retrieved a backpack from the trunk.

“Andrew, my boy, looks like we’re in for some hiking,” he said.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Andy said. “They’re pretty strict about people being up here.”

“Not to worry,” Calvin said, “you’re with a responsible adult.”

Not totally assured, Andy followed Calvin into the woods. They found a trail quickly and moved deeper into the forest. Along the way, Calvin would stop and point out some interesting type of foliage, or direct Andy’s attention to a deer or other woodland creature. As they were circling back to find a place to rest and have some snacks, they were overtaken by a park ranger.

“Excuse me, what are you two doing out here? This part of the park is closed in the off season.”

Calvin put his arm in front of Andy and said in a low voice, “Let me handle this, Andrew.” Addressing the ranger, Calvin said, “You might say, we’re on a botanical excursion.”

“A botanical excursion,” the man said. “What does that mean?”

Calvin sighed.

“If you must know, we’re tracking the elusive black mamba.”

“Black mamba, as in snake?”

“That is correct.”

“What makes you think you’ll find one out here?” the ranger said.

“Why, this is the perfect habitat for one,” Calvin said authoritatively. “They prefer the wetlands, marshes, bogs, quagmires — you name it.”

“You’re talking about the black mamba — the poisonous snake, right? Have you ever seen one?”

“No. They’re very elusive,” Calvin said. “Thus the name the elusive black mamba.”

“Considering that mambas are native to Africa, I’d say they’re very elusive in this part of the world. How did you even get up here?”

“We hiked.”

“From the road? That’s nearly three miles.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a brisk walk first thing in the morning,” Calvin said. “Gets the blood pumping.”

“Look, you can’t just go traipsing around in these woods like this,” the man said. “We found a naked dead guy in the lake just last month.”

“We’re not planning on going in the lake,” Calvin said. “Now, if you’ll excuse us—”

“Not so fast,” the ranger said. “I’m going to have to call this in.”

The ranger stepped away from Andy and Calvin and took out his phone. After a moment, he looked over his shoulder and said, “Yep, it’s them all right.”

Finished, he put away his phone and came back. “You wouldn’t happen to be Calvin Alexander would you?”

“As a matter of fact, I am,” Calvin said. “I see my fame precedes me.”

“Not quite,” the ranger said. “A couple named Jack and Gloria Martin called the police to say you disappeared with their son Andrew.” Looking at Andy, “I guess that’s you.”

“Yes sir,” Andy said.

“A simple misunderstanding,” Calvin said. “I’m positive I left them a note.”

“Right. At any rate, they want him back, so I’m going to have to ask you both to come with me.”

They were taken to the main ranger station. When Andy’s father got there, he was furious.

“I’ll take my son,” Jack said, pointing at Andy. Indicating Calvin, he continued, “As far as I’m concerned, you can dump this one in the lake, with or without clothes.”

“Oh, come on, Jack, the boy’s in perfect condition,” Calvin said. “I’d never take him someplace truly dangerous.”

“Dangerous?” Jack said. “They found a naked dead guy out there.”

“And if I’d seen any dead naked men running or swimming around, I’d have gotten the boy out of there.”

Jack grabbed Calvin by the arm and drug him into a side room, closing the door behind them. Andy couldn’t hear the conversation, but he could tell they were having a very heated discussion. After several minutes, they emerged, and Calvin seemed a bit subdued.

Jack went to Andy and said, “Come on, Andy, we’re getting out of here.”

“But what about uncle Calvin?” Andy said.

Calvin went to Andy and bent down.

“It’s okay, Andrew,” Calvin said. “I just need to have a few words with the rangers. I’ll be by later to get my things.”

“You’re leaving?” Andy said.

“You know me, always on the go,” Calvin said, jostling Andy’s hair. “Not to worry, I’ll be in touch.”

Calvin gave Andy a hug, then Jack took Andy home.

After that, Calvin’s visits became much less frequent, and he never again stayed with Andy’s family when he was in town. The last correspondence Andy received from his uncle was just before he headed off to college, a post card depicting the Amazon rain forest with a note on back stating Calvin was headed off to look for some guy named Rockefeller. Andy lost touch with Calvin after that, but he always hoped that someday they’d link up again, so Calvin could show him the spitting spiders of Borneo.

Four Poems

Latenight Specters

Barefoot man in the restaurant,
his voice knows the names
of all who pass him by.
Older man than me,
his way is not secure,
but no one’s ever is.
Shoeless friend,
to all but me
knows more of life
than I could ever hope to,
not because he’s lived it
any better,
but because the two
seem to have an understanding
between them.

Graduation Night

I feel somehow that I have
lived this scene before,
taken these measured steps toward
the final event of my youth.
I don’t know when,
but once, I’m sure I saw the faces,
heard the speeches,
heard my name
called with the rest.

I see them now, together,
gold-robed figures walking straight,
heads held high.
I hear the murmurs of the crowd
as they beckon for the end.
No one realizes that the end
is a long way off
and that this is
only a beginning.

Our teachers say that when this is over,
we will go our separate ways,
and forget the memories of our past
and of this night.
Still, though, I feel
that somewhere, someday, some way,
we will again be together as a group.

Speak Easy

Sit down my friends and drink
your cares away as though
there’s nothing to concern you.

Sit down my friends
and never bother
with the clock.

There’s nothing like
a little company to help one
pass the time.

We all have problems, that is true
but, for tonight, just let them slip away,
and have a drink on me.

We’re only here for such a short time,
so my friends, please,
sit down.

Little League

The small figure stands,
clinching the bat,
waiting for the final pitch.

His chest heaves once,
and he glances toward the stands
where his mother used to sit.

He sees the quick,
white spot
moving toward him.

He swings
and knocks it
out of the park.

Atlanta After Dark

 

Baker Street, November 24, 2013

Baker Street, November 24, 2013

Bank of America Tower, December 5, 2013

Bank of America Tower, Peachtree Street, December 5, 2013

Ponce de Leon Avenue, December 9, 2013

Ponce de Leon Avenue, December 9, 2014

Peachtree Center MARTA Station, December 12, 2013

Peachtree Center MARTA Station, December 12, 2014

Little Five Points, January 11, 2014

Little Five Points, January 12, 2014

The Hero’s Passage

Darkness falls upon the streets.
Another night in the cold, windy city.
The hero’s footsteps fill the air
as silence, broken,
falls into the shadows and waits with anxious claws
ready to reclaim its prize.

A distant whine,
a railroad whistle,
meets the hero’s ear
and brings on the intense feeling
that he isn’t alone.
Looking behind him and all around
he reassures himself and
continues on.

Images form in the faint light
of silent alleyways.
Shadows rise, forming spectres which perform
a static Danse Macabre.
A black cat screams,
charges into the hero’s path,
then disappears across the street.

The hero’s muscles tighten
when ahead a streetlight flickers,
then goes dead.
His eyes trace the pavement,
the alleys, the corners,
to spot the hidden nest of bandits.
His heels click through without incident
this time.

A sudden turn brings fog
which surrounds the hero.
A figure appears, standing, waiting,
a showdown in the making.
The hero readies himself,
grasping for the non-existent gun.
The villian stumbles by
looking for
another place to sleep off his drunk.

The hero makes another turn
and faces the sunset
four hours gone.
Slumping and shoving
his hands in this pockets,
he picks up the pace
and again heads for home.

A Debt to Pay

Annabelle Collins wheeled herself out to the back porch of her home in Kirkwood, and watched as Paul Searcy continued his yard work. It had been nearly ten years since Searcy had become a part of her everyday existence and nearly twenty-five since he first entered her life. As she watched him work, she again experienced the mixed feelings his presence brought to her. He looked in her direction and gave his customary nod.

“Afternoon, ma’am,” he said.

In all the time she’d known him, he had never called her by her first name. It was always “Ms. Collins” or “ma’am.” Annabelle didn’t mind. She liked the formality of their relationship, as it provided her the appropriate amount of distance from him. Distance was important to Annabelle, particularly when it came to Paul.

“Hello, Paul,” she replied. “The garden’s coming along nicely, I see.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Paul said before resuming work.

Annabelle went back inside and maneuvered around the furniture of the living room to get to her computer. To one side was a pile of medical files waiting to be transcribed, but Annabelle ignored them and went on the Internet, checking her email, then her Facebook account. Finding nothing that interested her, she rolled away from her desk and wheeled around so she could view Paul through the back window. He was tall and his upper body was well developed, and he went about his tasks quickly and energetically. By all measures, he was an attractive man, polite and soft-spoken, and loyal to a fault. Still, Annabelle regarded him with ambivalence, never quite able to get past how they had become acquainted, the reason he was now a part of her life full-time.

As a young man, Paul had been reckless and impulsive. He did not believe he would live long and decided to party as much as possible. By the age of twenty-two, he was already known to the local police for a variety of minor offenses, mainly involving alcohol or disturbing the peace, but he was generally thought of as more of a threat to himself than others, so no one intervened. One evening, while drinking heavily he hopped into his truck and headed off to purchase more beer. That’s what brought him to the same cross-street where Annabelle, who had just gotten the green light, was headed into the intersection to make a left, unaware her life was about to take a horrible turn. She was home from her second year of college, out to visit friends, and paid little attention to the dark pickup, barreling toward her, until it ran the light and T-boned her car, right at the driver-side door, snapping her spine just above her waist.

When she awoke in the hospital several days later, she was greeted by the news she’d never walk again, and may never be able to live an independent life. In the meantime, Paul had been arraigned and was sitting in jail, his parents refusing to put up the money to bail him out. What he could remember of the accident played over and over in his head, and he wondered if he should just save the state the cost for his trial and find some way to end his life right then and there. But something happened to Paul in that cell. For the first time in his life, he decided to take responsibility for his actions. He instructed the lawyer the court appointed for him not to fight the charges. He would plead guilty, accept the maximum sentence the Superior Court of Georgia chose to give him, which ended up being fifteen years, and he’d do the time, which is what he did. Inside, he became a model prisoner, earned his degree, learned a trade, and was the perfect candidate for early release, but every time the subject of parole came up, Paul refused to consider it.

Annabelle defied her doctors’ expectations, and successfully underwent rehabilitation, learning to get around in the chair that now took the place of her legs. It wasn’t just her body that was broken, though. She’d lost her spirit as well. As she gained enough freedom of movement to allow her to leave her parents’ home and get an apartment by herself, she also began to retreat from the world. She did not return to school and became withdrawn from those who’d known her all her life. At the time of the accident, she’d been seeing a young man at her school and they had looked forward to graduation, after which, they’d marry and start a life together. After the accident, Annabelle grew more and more distant from him, until they stopped communicating at all. The last report she had of him was that he’d married another woman and moved to the West Coast.

She rarely left her apartment, rarely had visitors. Even her parents had not been there often, beyond the time they helped her move in, and usually the only time they saw her was when she made her infrequent visits, usually preceded by a call asking her father to pick her up. She completed her degree through computer coursework and settled into a job as a medical transcriptionist, lonely work, staring at a computer screen all day. The bulk of her time when she wasn’t working was spent surfing the Internet, interacting with people she did not know and had no desire to meet in person. Eventually, she earned enough to afford a small house not far from her parents, which is where Paul found her about a year after being released from prison.

When he first thought about visiting her, he wrestled with the decision for several weeks. He knew she probably wouldn’t want to see him, and so, when he made the decision to proceed, he didn’t call first, just looked up her address and made plans to stop by some afternoon. He had no idea how she’d dealt with the aftermath of the accident. Other than her presence in court on the day of his sentencing, he’d not seen nor spoken to her and then she’d been silent, staring blankly at him conveying nothing of how she felt.

On her trip outside to get her mail, Annabelle noted the man standing at the bus stop a few houses down and something about him seemed familiar to her, but she concluded that he must be someone from the neighborhood and paid him little attention. She hardly knew any of her neighbors, so she had no idea who belonged and who didn’t. After she’d gone back inside, ten or fifteen minutes passed before the doorbell rang and she was surprised to find the same man at her door. As was her custom, she’d locked the iron security door outside, so when she opened the front door, she knew there was a safe barrier between her and her visitor.

“Can I help you?” Annabelle said.

“Ms. Collins? I’m Paul Searcy.”

It took a moment for the years to fade away, but suddenly she was again looking at the face of the man who’d put her in that chair. He looked a good deal older than the disheveled twenty-two year-old who’d sobbed as he repeated, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry,” from the witness stand at his sentencing. She had not reacted at the time, still emotionally numb from the experience, unlike her father, who angrily took Paul to task for his actions. In the intervening time, she had come to regard the scene with contempt, feeling his whole show of guilt was an act put on for the court. Now, he stood before her, much taller than she remembered him, with a military-style buzz cut, his shoulders back, and looking at her with his head turned slightly away from her.

“I remember you. What do you want?” she said coolly.

“I was hoping I could talk to you a moment.”

“I honestly don’t think there’s anything for us to talk about,” she said. “I wasn’t even aware you were out of prison.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “I was released last year.”

“Isn’t someone supposed to notify the victims?” she said. “Should you even be here? I mean, aren’t you violating your parole or something?”

“I’m not on parole, ma’am,” he said. “I served the full term. I guess they figured I paid my debt to society.”

“That’s really nice to know,” she said, a note of sarcasm evident, “I’m really proud of you. Now, if you’ll excuse me—”

She started to close the door, but Paul put up his hand.

“Ms. Collins, please, I’d really like to have a few words with you,” he said. “I promise you I’m not here to harm you—”

“More than you already have?” she spit back at him.

“That’s fair, I suppose,” he replied, looking down. “I just have a few things to say to you and once I’m done, I’ll leave and won’t bother you again. I swear.”

Annabelle stared at him a long moment. Seeing him brought back a rush of emotions she thought she’d buried and her first instinct was to slam the door and call the police. Something in how Paul presented himself suggested to her he was sincere, however, so despite her misgivings, she unlocked the security door and rolled back into the living room, allowing him to enter.

“Twenty minutes,” she said, “and if I tell you to go, you go — understand?”

“Of course,” he said. He went to the couch and sat.

“How’d you get here anyway? I didn’t see a car.”

“I don’t drive, ma’am,” he said. “They told me I could probably get my license back, but I’d rather not get behind the wheel again.”

“That’s good news,” Annabelle said, dryly. “So what is it you need to tell me?”

“I wanted to see how you were,” he said, “how you’re getting along.”

Annabelle spread out her arms.

“Here I am!” she said. “Is that all?”

“No, ma’am,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of time to think the last fifteen years. I’ve always tried to imagine what I’d say if I got the opportunity to talk to you— I guess now that I’m here, the words are a little hard to come by.”

“Time is short, so make something up,” Annabelle said.

Paul stared at her a moment, then chuckled.

“What?” Annabelle said.

In response, Paul reached into his pocket and removed a photo which he held out for Annabelle to take.

“I was just thinking you haven’t changed all that much,” he said.

She rolled over and took it from him, finding it to be a photo of her from college.

“Where did you get this?” she said.

“Your father,” he said. “About a month after I went to prison he visited me and gave it to me.”

“My father went to see you?” she said holding up the photo. “And gave you this?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “He told me he wanted me to always have a reminder of what I’d done — like I could ever forget.”

She handed the photo back and rolled away from him. “That sounds like my father.”

“I understand both your parents are deceased,” he said, “my condolences.”

“How do you know that? Have you been stalking me?” she said. “Maybe it’s time for you to go.”

“No, ma’am,” he said, sliding to the edge of the couch, “it’s not like that. I ran across their obituaries when I was trying to find your address.”

“Okay, well your time is running out none-the-less,” she said with urgency in her voice. “So whatever you have to say, just say it.”

Paul nodded. “As I say, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I did. I’ve always wished there was some way I could make it up to you, but I realize nothing I do is going to be sufficient. I thought, maybe if I saw you, talked to you, I’d be able to think of some way to help.”

Annabelle shook her head and sighed loudly.

“I get it. This is some sort of twelve-step thing where you go around asking for forgiveness from all the people you’ve hurt. Well sorry, Paul. I’m all out of pity.”

“I don’t want your pity, or your understanding, or your forgiveness,” he said. “I don’t deserve any of that. I’ve never forgiven myself for what I did. I never will.”

“Then what do you want?” she asked.

He lowered his head. “I took your life away from you. I’m here to offer you mine.”

Annabelle stared at Paul for a long time, totally caught off guard by what he had just said to her.

“Are you saying you want me to kill you?” she finally said.

“No, ma’am,” he replied. “I want you to use me.”

“Use you for what?”

“Whatever,” he said. “Maybe you need work done around here. Maybe there’s something you can’t do. Whatever you need.”

Annabelle again shook her head.

“Unbelievable,” she said to him. “You think you can come in here and do a few odd jobs and everything will be okay between us.”

“You’re not understanding what I’m telling you, ma’am,” he replied. “I’m not talking about doing a little work for you. I’m talking about being there for you, for whatever reason, from here on out.”

“You mean, like a servant?” she said.

“If that’s what you need, yes,” he told her. “If you just need somebody to fix things, or build things, or just someone to talk to, I can do that too. Whatever.”

Annabelle considered his words for a long moment.

“I think, if I’d ever tried to imagine how this meeting would go, this would have been the last thing I’d have come up with,” she finally said. “What makes you think I’d even want you around here? You went to prison? You paid your debt? Well guess what, you got out.” She indicated the chair. “I’m still there because of you and I’ll never get out.”

She rolled away from him then turned to face him again. “And now you expect me to have you around my house? Working here for who knows how long? My god! The mere fact that you’re still sitting there, that I haven’t gone into my room and gotten my baseball bat and beaten your brains out is a testament to the remarkable level of restraint I’m showing you now.”

“I appreciate that, ma’am,” Paul said with some hesitation.

“I don’t even know what to say at this point,” she replied. “I am officially stunned into silence.”

They sat without speaking for a long time and Annabelle took the opportunity to examine Paul. She’d carried the image of the remorseful young man around with her ever since the trial, but the man who sat across from her now seemed completely different, calmer, and more thoughtful. Since the time of his emotional pronouncement at his sentencing, she had never believed him to be sincere, but now, looking at him, she began to suspect he might be telling her the truth, that he truly wanted to make amends for what he’d done. Still, she had no reason to trust him. As she considered what her response would be, Paul glanced at his watch and rose.

“Well, I guess that’s twenty minutes,” he said. “I appreciate you taking the time to hear me out.”

“Wait, you’re really just going to leave?” she said.

“I told you I would,” he replied.

He started toward the door.

“I could use a ramp,” she said without facing him.

“Excuse me?” Paul turned back toward her.

Annabelle wheeled around so she was looking at Paul.

“The only way I can get out back is to go out the front and around the driveway,” she said. “If I had a ramp to the back porch, I could go out the back.”

Paul considered it.

“I learned some carpentry in prison,” he said. “I could do that.”

Annabelle nodded.

“After that, we’ll see,” she told him. She rolled toward him then pointed, “But understand this. I am not your friend. I am not your charity case. When I need something, I’ll let you do it, but otherwise, keep your distance.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Paul said. “I can start tomorrow if that’s okay with you.”

Annabelle nodded. “That’s fine.”

Annabelle considered the time in between her accepting Paul’s offer and now. Having him around had been difficult at first, but the more he was there, the more she grew accustomed to having him there. She eventually let him move into the basement, so he could be around if she needed any help in the evenings. He kept the house and yard in good shape as well as keeping her company, and over time he had become a reassuring presence in her life. She was not sure she would ever consider herself to be his friend, and she was pretty sure she could never forgive him, but, at least, she knew she could trust him, and for Annabelle, that was all that mattered.

Big Fish, Little Fish

Through the streets you glide.
Cool white teeth gleam as you
prey on lonely pedestrians,
never taking their offered tokens
of Lincoln, Jackson or VISA.
One quick knife click,
razor sharp slash, then
off to find the next.

Each night, on the streets,
you corner in an alleyway,
some grey-haired man
or woman
or maybe someone younger.
It never matters.
Just the pleas, and the sobs
and then the silence,
better than sex.

They never see you coming,
with your sleek,
swift blade that strikes
then vanishes,
leaving behind your trail of blood,
a feeding frenzy for the press
who almost love you,
calling you “the Shark”.
And you feed on this
growing stronger, bolder.

Until that night
you come upon the solitary boy
walking swiftly ahead of you.
He leads you into the alley,
and you move to strike.

The first slash cuts deeply, but
he is quick and tumbles
out of your way and like
a slow motion replay comes back up,
one arm extended,
and you laugh.

In the darkness of the alley
you cannot see the object in his hand
nor hear the click.
But as you circle you hear the blast,
and feel yourself tossed back into a pile
of trash bags,
and in your final breath
you realize what he has told you.

You’re not the big fish anymore.

Five Poems

Brain Cancer

Who I am
I do not know,
for darkness lies
a blanket in my mind,
a shroud upon
the window to my soul.
My face unknown,
my name not called
and yet a sense of worth
escapes me not.

I am a man,
unknown to time,
existing only in my mind,
and with this thought
I am as naught,
but just a prisoner,
held in life,
consumed by death,
pitiless, yet pitied
by my peers,
unknown to me,
but not to he
who I should be.

Artistry

A chilling wind blows by outside.
Scattered gusts enter
the window of the small apartment,
fighting back the faint warmth
of a small radiant heater.
A young man stands behind his easel
reproducing the gaunt, hollow-eyed
skeletal figures
which attack him in his dreams.

Five floors below him
the people of the city
are just leaving work,
on their way home
from another day of
pushing papers at their desks.
He doesn’t notice.
The blues and blacks on the canvass
consume him.

A mouthful of coffee
helps him regain his perspective.
One step back, then
a swirl of the brush brings out
maroon figures dancing across
the bleak landscape, then
a streak of white for contrast.

Another pause, he tries
to see it like the viewer might.
He scratches his nose,
leaving a blue mark,
which matches the red one
he made an hour ago.

And as he works into the night,
the darkness on the canvass
begins to take shape,
becoming both his masterpiece and
his mirror.

Late Night Poet

The unrhymed rhythm
of the broken typewriter
echoes throughout the rooms
and disappears outside in the streets.

Gradually increasing the size
of the paper heap
beside him in the trashcan,
the young man finds himself
no closer to solving earthly mysteries
than he was this time last year.

Giving up on silence,
glaring at the noisy cat
which meowed its way
into the room a while ago,
he again hears words inside
his near-frustrated mind.

Somehow, though, paper
just doesn’t seem
to capture the effect.

In Tribute to a Graduating Class

Yesterday’s children, obscured from sight,
Burst up through time and into the light.
Stand amongst honor and take your bow.
Yesterday’s children have all grown up now.
Though years you’ve labored, toiled and strained,
Year after year you faced it again.
So now you are ready, stand up and cheer,
For now you’ve reached your final year.
Gone is your childhood, your happiest days.
You’re now prepared for life’s odd ways.
So stand and brave your finest hour,
Receive your diploma and take your flower.
Remember not your trials and tumults,
Look forward now, you are now young adults.

Dreams and Less

The sun goes down,
worlds darken.
Deep within
another tainted dream
I wander,
alone, with only
myself as companion.
Dusty hallways
fade in light.
Eerie screams
pierce tortured silence,
leaving only scattered bits
of broken dreams;
just memories.