When the Seasons change, rain comes and washes everything
Brian’s slow walk to the breezeway door got even slower. He looked back at
Bessie as each read the others’ eyes.
"Do you want to go out ?" Brian said. He turned to locate the door knob’s crystalline edges, pulled to release the latch and guided the door back ever so slightly as Bessie poured through the breeze-way wafer -thin door jamb like chocolate icing laved up high on a two layer cake by a stainless steel cake knife. Without looking back, Bessie ran silently across the darkened porch into the night. He looked at the luminous dial of his watch. It was almost 11:00 p.m. In just a half an hour, the traffic lights along a two mile stretch of Main street would go to blinking red. They would blink like that all night. Bessie would stalk a little, wishing she could follow fireflies up higher than she could jump.
Last year, he’d found her on the garage roof, tail switching back and forth as she eyed a few fireflies on the gable just opposite the bedroom window.
"Bessie, come down!" he’d hollered . She was startled by the sharpness of his voice and wrenched her head and neck around as the hunter stance of her high shoulders inched even higher and her head came down. Then she turned toward the flies.
He felt a breeze blowing through the open window sill he’d lowered earlier. He thought he would read well into morning. The curtains snaked along the baseboard with the night breeze. As he read through the last pages of a sixth chapter in the "Winds of War" Harold had passed to him at the laundromat, he heard a faint rustling at the door and got up to let Bessie in. As she had poured herself out earlier, now she would walk slower, stopping frequently as she moved toward familiar territory
as if to say to the porch, the yard, the night, the town and the stars, "I’m going in now but I will be back."
He slipped the latch and felt the door lean back in his hands. No Bessie. Crickets whirred in the distance. He closed the door and went back to reading. Chapter eight offered an anticipation of action, of plot line based on the strength of two characters approaching a physical place from opposite distances and destined to come together. It was a writer’s depiction of Fate. His attention was drawn away from the book and he listened for the door over a sort of character gestation that developed in the ninth chapter propelling the characters forward, each intertwined in the ambient terror of a foreshadowing Axis Alliance as war tension built with staccato bursts of dialogue. Force of habit led him to the door and he opened it to satisfy himself. Nothing at the door and no Bessie.
He slowly settled himself in his chair. In chapter 10, exposition gave way to a sub plot that seemed to lack direction. Slightly irritated and almost finished with the chapter, he slipped the book on the footstool, got up, opened the door out onto the porch to find night air cool and sweet to his nostrils. Suddenly remembering he’d left the back breezeway door wide open he retreated along the enclosed side of the house to pull the screendoor shut. In the back, everything looked as it always had and he walked back , went into the front room and closed the front door. He did so ever so softly to not interrupt Bessie’s journey, if she was coming, back across the road, down the yard, up on the porch, and through the door into the house.
The battery operated clock on the kitchen wall said 11:34 p.m. At the crown of the road where the first two stories of the funeral home disappeared by line of sight,-
along the clapboard side of the 5&10, an intermittent red glow punched the sky. A softly reddened phalanx of dark fingers pushed up into the night air, as familiar as the night light at the end of his hall near his Mother’s bedroom, long un-inhabited by her.
In her room, uncluttered and spare, amid blocks of utilitarian furniture, the foot of her bed lay covered with a country-themed quilt knitted by the women’s auxiliary. Its bulk lay like a peninsula and when he reached down with both hands to shake it out, he remembered multi-colored, lush, rain- driven Seasons. He flipped the light on as he had done so many times before. There lay before him a depiction of intemperate Fall, then Winter and of Golgotha. In the lower right section of the quilt, squared off, were the antiquated letters "The Lord Reigneth " and next came the Sun through squared clouds roiling up, stitched with simulated wind marks and blown by the pursed lips of bearded Old Man Winter.
He turned off the light. Occasional sunlight often found the edge of the bed and seemed to angle it against the furnishings in the room lined up in no particular order like sentinels guarding mute histories. He determined it was too early to notice her quilt moving on the bed, animated in the early sunlight and washed by leafy movement from the trees outside the window.
Absently, he moved to the vanity drawers. Having been in them before, he’d noticed a waning aroma of rouge, bath water salts, and a tell-tale lingering of baby-powder scented with an aura of Spring . He started again, moving some of the items and he began to sense his Mother’s ordering of things stored in the drawer.
Looking up he noticed the sunlight had moved away from the top of the dresser and had fallen into the smallest drawer in the vanity now open before him. He looked and looked again guided by his nostrils. A small tape measure body made in the shape of a Michelin tire sprouted a few metal inches. Across it lay a miniature wooden ruler from a carnival novelty box she had thrown out five years earlier. It crossed the delineated metal tape like a mannerist depiction of a relief carving ; it was like the kind of symbolic historical carving in relief often cast in bronze and placed in an entablature on the front of significant government buildings in European capital cities, the kind of castings first modeled from clay that took on an almost heraldic significance. The way the miniature ruler and the small tape crossed together envisioned a placement in relief next to a blindfolded full-figured Lady Justice holding the balance scales of Judgment.
A small leather hand wallet opened revealed his Mother’s social security card. The poplar wood bottom of the smaller drawer revealed papers stuck together, ones he thought he had peeled away earlier, especially a month ago when the warm spring sun had drawn him into the room. He deftly lay the stack of papers aside and found a hardened string of colored beads and a small silver wedding band with writing scratched inside the blackened rim. A few old minted pennies lay in the small corner nearest to him and he picked them up and looked at them again. There was a small linen handkerchief with an embroidered edge and her initials E.S.T. spanned one corner as he unfolded it. He spread it out over the drawer’s flotsam and jetsam and lay the papers on the linen
surface and began peeling them away from their edges until the treasure trove yielded a cash register receipt, an insurance form, a permanent membership card for the Ladies
Auxiliary of Harrodsburg, Letcher Township, Sagamore County ; instructions for the use of nasal spray, and a small snapshot of his Mother and Father at Niagara Falls in 1947,
she was smiling, his Father was not. His Mother’s patent leather purse looked larger than her thigh. It hung across her forearm and looked for all the world like everything in their world was in that purse. In the small photo, his Father towered over her as he
stood slightly away from the crack in the cement walk where, facing the camera, she had willingly aligned her toes.
Below all of this was a note folded in larger squares and on the outside written in hesitant script his name appeared. "Sonny". He hadn’t seen the paper before and opened it slowly. "Sonny" it started at the left side of the page. There was a salutary comma and then a drop-down paragraph began in a quavering hand- written first line.
‘" I am writing to tell you I love you with a Mother’s aching heart and with an abiding deep love ; your wonderful countenance always I carry in my heart with Pride as you came to Horace and I as a gift from God. Even though your Father was away and working, he loved you so much. I know in the deepest way he loved us very much. From his silent act of putting on clean work clothes I ironed every day from the top of the hamper, I know he loved us."
" He would look toward the door as he put them on right off the top of the hamper basket when he stood in the mud room and looked for his boots and work gloves. There were some nights after work when he silently entered the house, he walked to the back and look around , then he went to the picture window and looked out as if expecting someone, then he looked toward the front door for a few minutes ,
and finally satisfied he was alone, he washed up and came in for dinner. His back was always to the front door as he ate ."
"Sonny, The Lord God Almighty is coming for me soon. I didn’t listen to any radio program or pick up a book from the drug store or listen to Aunt Sue carry on . I haven’t paid that much attention to Rev. Shuttleswort lately, except I sat bolt upright as the Word was revealed at a Bible study Ruth and I went to a few weeks ago. Ruth and I talked afterward about how good the meeting was. Then I came home. I read this morning in
the Bible as I always have and sunlight shone through the picture window and fell across the room and I know I am going Home soon. "
"I need to tell you something , to remind you about people. You are much too sensitive and you are hurt so often. In any given day in our lives, people are like the shore leavings from the lake washed up on the sand from any wave stretched and carrying all on a life’s current to strand , to ground paper, cork, bottles, wood, pieces of cloth, plastic, colored beads, on sand. The tide stretches what it brings along the shore and it looks like, in miniature, one of the lines I write to you now . By the shape of torn cloth or the casting of glass, a section of broken wood, -whatever it is that lies next to something carried along by life’s current is what calls it what it is.... what people are, in the condition by chance they are left with , or next to. "
"When the Seasons change, rain comes and washes everything, discolors some, changes color in others, decays some, makes others brighter, floats and entangles others. It is what we have and it is all we have and you just have to let it be. Just walk
along and find the things that excite you and bring them up close to you . Then let them drop to the sand for someone else to look at, to notice. "
"I am going to go and find Horace. I know he is up in Heaven and I need to find him and I know I will. I will know right away if he needs anything. It is all on you now. I know he misses me and I want to be with him. Do your best, I will miss you very much, Love, Mother"’
Light flooded the room. Tears squirted down his hot cheeks and abruptly stopped. He sat there on the edge of the bed, took a deep breath and straightened up. As he removed the small linen handkerchief and placed it over the unfolded note, he found a place in the corner of the drawer to lay it all down. The receipt for washing
machine parts from Jingle’s hardware angled out of the small pile and he thought about throwing it away but tucked it back in and closed the drawer.
"Well, Bessie where are you anyway," he murmured as he found his way by ambient light out of her room and down the hall toward the front of the house. He started to bed .
Uncharacteristically , he left the inside light on by the door to the breezeway. After a few minutes of settling in, he rolled down the sheet and walked the hall, reached out and turned off the inside light . He hesitated in the darkness listening for Bessie’s scratching at the door. It would have been perfect timing .
He walked down the hall and slipped into the bed, pulling up the ample oversheet.
Outside, the silence of the street gave way to the incessant stirring of insects around the street light. He lifted his wrist just enough to notice the luminous dial .
The time was 2:00 am. He would look again in a few minutes, but he didn’t.
The next morning, he arose at dawn and walked across the linoleum floor, slipped the front door latch and pulled it open. He looked outside. There was Bessie.
She was on her stomach, legs extended outward, enjoying a morning stretch. Her spine rose on stiffened legs and her mouth opened in a long slurpy yawn as she licked the corners of her mouth. Then she sat upright on her haunches and completely absorbed began to clean her neck fur with tucked long draws of her jaw and tongue.
"Where have you been!" Brian scolded.
She looked at him with a completely blank expression as if to say " are you talking to me?" and continued her licking and pulling on her neck fur. He reached over, picked her up and held her close; immediately Bessie curled into him and became sleepy.
copyright FTFA Spectrum Arts
BOB GALE'S DIARY
I took part of a poem to work tonight. It had a lot of dust on it from lying on my desk. It's by Yvann Goll. I can see myself showing it to Juba. No, I can't see myself showing it to Juba. He'd want to know why the man wrote about the moon, why anyone would want to write about the moon. Juba's a polish kid from Newark. He looks like a young Eddie Duchin and sounds like the cook at Burger Chef where they just hired a bunch of kids from Rahway. He'll explain anything in the Universe. If you can call something he knows about in the Universe a mystery. He'll explain the mystery. Kills two birds with one stones the Universe, and the Mystery. We tell him he has a I tell him he has a literal mind. The other guys tell him he's a f----up. Same difference. Although I tried to tell him you need a literal mind to survive in the Universe. Then he thinks that is good and that it's different from being a f----up. I say, yes, it is. Despite the fact that the guy is a f----up, I like him. I like Juba. I talk to him all the time. He wants my opinion on things. Although lately I have to keep it short and sweet, cause then I'll be explaining the Universe and the Mystery and I'll end up like Juba. Juba thinks that you
can explain anything. He doesn't know what the word Action is. You can explain action, he says. I say just do it. He says do what? I don't know, maybe it will be a fast night and I can get back home to my crummy apartment in the tropical hills of New Jersey's western border. Why don't you live in Newark,Juba asked the other day. I don't know. Why don't I? I still don't know, but I can guess. Juba, Juba. Two trains to check. It's 3a.m. & Elizabethport,-four hours left. Then we'll hear from Joe Mags, trainmaster. yidja get it , he'll say. Didja get all of it? (smiling through his thick glasses) Yeah, Joe, yeah, we got all of it. They said not to call Joe Mags Joey when he asks that question. Nah, Pertovich said one time, Nah don't do dat. Don't call mags Joey.
Met my classes today.
23 bright, shiny people in English Composition 101.
BOB GALE'S DIARY
I took part of a poem to work tonight. It had a lot of dust on it from lying on my desk. It's by Yvann Goll. I can see myself showing it to Juba. No, I can't see myself showing it to Juba. He'd want to know why the
man wrote about the moon, why anyone would want to write about the moon. I asked him one time, I said Juba, what is a full moon? And he said, a full moon is when it is so big that it is outside its boundaries. What's a new moon, I said. Juba said, how the hell should I know? maybe it's like beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everything is new and the guy gets up the next day and everything feels old? I don't know. So? D'jew like the pics of Lydia? he says. Lydia's Juba's sister and she's 15 and grew up a water baby in the back yard pool. She was in the pool since 4 years old shivering even in July in her one piece bathing suit. My Mom liked blue so Mom got her three blue swim suits.Juba turned toward me. You like this pic he says, taking one out from a fanned deck. Pick one, he says. It's like he is saying to me when I see it. Is this the one you want?
Juba's a Polish kid from Newark. He looks like a young Eddie Duchin and sounds like the cook at Burger Chef where they just hired a bunch of kids from Rahway. He'll explain anything in the Universe. If you can call something he knows about in the Universe a mystery. He'll explain, the mystery. Kills two birds with one stones the Universe, and the Mystery. We tell him he has a I tell him he has a literal mind. The other guys tell him he's a f----up. Same difference. Although I tried to tell him you need a literal mind to survive in the Universe. Then he thinks that is good and that it's different from being a f----up. I say, yes, it is. Despite the fact that the guy is a f----up, I like him. I like Juba. I talk to him all the time. He wants my opinion on things. Although lately I have to keep it short and sweet, cause then I'll be explaining the Universe and the Mystery and I'll end up like Juba. Juba thinks that you can explain anything. He doesn't know what the word Action is. You can explain action,
He says, I say just do it. He says do what? I don't know, maybe it will be a fast night and I can get back home to my crummy apartment in the tropical hills of New Jersey's western border. Why don't you live in Newark, Juba asked the other day. I don't know. Why don't I? I still don't know, but I can guess. Juba, Juba. Two trains to check. it's 3 a. m. & Elizabethport, - four hours left.
Met my classes today.
25 bright, shiny people in English Composition 101
Where's my attitude? I think I'm trying to do
too much. Carson, the tenured dodo bird peeked in the door this week to say hello.I only know three people in this department and I've been around this town five years. Eilers wants a nice tight application of the syllabus, surprisingly meaningful,legislative almost, since they're doing referrals in writing practices to the remedial lab.
It should work out fine. Maybe have 12 people who won't be able to read well or write very much. They'll go back to basic composition or to reading/writing lab and justify the program. Need Juba here to explain the explainable, the unexplainable taking a little longer. They'd love him. How the hell could I rake it off the top if he did come in here. Let's see, Pat mentioned the figures for this year. Out of
1039 freshmen men and women, about 400 are in the basic composition class, at sub-level 11th grade and the rest with other problems or hopefully literate, maybe possibly know how to think.Continued...Click Here for the Complete Story
Katie works Gilley’s East.
I call it Bugsy Moran’s, The Wilderness Trail.
Precocious, 17 going on 25,
She’s Dutch & wide-eyed.
She rocks at my table like dice.
She knows what she sees.
On the move, her head’ll never catch up.
With a blur of Mickey on each uniform sleeve,
her ring finger eaten by wild yarn
It’s the color of her skin,
Gone away from her in this smoky place,
An Aura, a vision:
She’ll turn tonight,
Turn for you selfish and hot,
like lack of work in the County.
And garbage talk among locals
About who’s hiring
And what money.
She’ll kick you in your Futures.
She’ll turn the pages of History:
Lettuce, and Tomato,
Victor Hugo and red papier,
The zamisdat of porn.
And if you have her,
You’ll find the Monitor,
Swim down to where it was
all along and raise it in a white heat
and truck it to Syracuse
Where the first iron buildings
Built for the love of steel
Will recognize their Father.
Thousands will whisper,
“I love a parade, I love a parade!”
copyright f.t.f.a. spectrum arts
Shout, Mustard, Sweet, Poetry, Glory Hallelujah
by F T
"I was the guy at Charlie’s Sweet’s pool party with mustard on his pants, remember?" I said, edging closer, trying to make some time with a small-boned brunette, soft spoken and delicate as fine china.
"How could I forget? Yeah, I remember you, you had a, well you have a lot of hair on your arms and you had a yellow mustard stain below your knee as you stood by the pool to read your poultry. You didn’t seem to know you had mustard...well, it was there, you know?" she said as she looked up into my face.
When that happened, I was about 10 feet from the edge of Charlie Sweet’s pool and I had a notion of slippin’ or bein’ pushed into the deep end, the yellow swatch on my chino’s beaming up out of the blue-green depths like sun flashing on the barnacles of a breaching Santa Barbara whale.
About then, I went to the bathroom and tried rubbin’ it out, just made the spot more bright yellow, damn thing. I was the guy at the party with mustard on his pants.
I was a little agitated as I headed back into the bathroom on Charlie’s lower level. Mrs Sweet was right there and she hailed me.
"Just shout it out." she said as she turned toward a row of cabinets. Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have come in here to bother her.
"Well, Glory ! Glory to God Almighty ! Hallelujah !" I shouted. I look down and the spot was still there.
"No, not that, I mean this," she exclaimed, handing me a little red bottle with the label Shout on it .
I was about apoplectic. I was due at the pool’s edge to read my poultry to the 39th Eastern Kentucky Writer’s Conference conferees gathered by Charlie Sweet’s pool.
It had been one hell of a long time since I had been a conferee. As I walked to the pool’s edge to read my poultry, it seemed to take an hour. The mustard stain on my pants leg was wet and heavy like a wheel barrow full of cement blocks.
I tried to think of what Charlie was saying earlier when he was telling me about coaching kids baseball for yet another season, his thirteenth. "Well, Glory !" I declared under my breath as I cleared the last set of chairs before reaching the readers apron by the pool;- and how he, Charlie could still throw batting practice every day, throw maybe for thirty to thirty-five minutes at about 60 miles per hour. Man, that had to be something to see. Charlie said his arm never got tired. He got the ball over most every time but pushing off and planting his follow-through leg caused him an hour-long soaking in a steaming shower after practice.
He must have had some real mustard on that ball, I thought as my feet found a spot near the pool’s edge. I felt like shouting. I hoped my delivery as I spoke would have a little mustard on it. These people are sure sweet people, I said under my breath as I picked my first poultry to read.
By the poolside facing slightly west , I began to read. The sun dropped over a pronounced gable on Charlie’s roof and caught the crystalline edge of a colored glass rooster vane . A beam of intense light shot across the pool gathering, glanced off the sharp table edges, careened off Ruth Ann’s oversized glasses frames, split and ran over the edge of Hal’s James Bond specials, seemed to split again and hit me unceremoniously in my poultry-readin’ crotch and then ricocheted right onto my
yellow mustard stain with such brilliance everyone let out an audible gasp.
"Look at that !" the group chorused as the beam of refracted light bounced around.
"Look at that!" allowed Ruth Ann, " he’s been coronated!"
It made me want to shout ! All I wanted was enough mustard in my delivery as I read my poultry. I wanted people to like my stuff. I wanted my stuff to be mellow and sweet.
"It’s hard to be humble someone as colorful as you !" said red-haired Erin from her center chair by the largest glass table in all of Charlie Sweet’s pool world.
Everyone laughed and applauded. There are sure some sweet people with some mustard in their lives, I thought. They are definitely made of the right stuff. I finished reading my Iowa’s Workshop poem "The slideshow at Van Allen Hall " and half-turned in the waning light to hearty applause. As the shadows by the pool deepened, a few began conversation and got up for more soda pop. Some traipsed to the bathroom and one turned for home.
Morning on the Euphrates
Tonight, Cloverdale and Valley View
bask in hot moonlight,
Two months of real equatorial heat
Cracked up the earth under brown grass.
Trees flip their leaves in hot wind.
Small hands of desperation climb.
The small creek parallel Valley View fumes a deep dark sweat
above the day's small labor over broken glass and stone.
Inside, the clock strikes three a.m.
The fan blows air across the room:
The calendar cheetah, broad-side dead
since January, feigns a move.
The sun-burst dune-filled desert he moves around in
sends a Sahara wind across Adam's broken boundary garden.
Obscuring the massively complicated map
etched into cannonaded war-torn monolithic steel:
Now referential of things to be done.
Lying nearby,charred pages bound in wood,
An omnibus full of Suppositions, Drawings,
Meanderings, Dreams, and Mechanical Designs.
Protruding from the sand: found objects, war memorabilia
in jagged piles of oasis palm fronds long darkened by heat.
Cloverdale floats in the night breeze.
Scorched and dried leaves fall.
The ground will stay the same in its interlaced and parched wholeness,
indistinguishable, the moon and clouds in High Praise.
Across the plain, Yahweh dances Himself. He sings softly,
" I knew ye when you were yet unformed, when you were yet unformed."
The Name above all Names, Jehovah Tsid-kenu,
head scarf of blitzing syntax.
In the orange grove, dancing
I name the symmetry of my Self.
the dew--speckled language of dirt whirling in declension, bearing Him about,
the calendar center a blaze of color.I name the symmetry of myself.
In the valley of the Euphrates, the clocks strike the hour
on the Avenue of the Eyes. Dust rises in the air. God on High,
Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, signs a division of bee-filled trees
into a history of Hezakiah, and the earth tilts: a swollen signal
for the dew to fall, a blessing gone to ground
Like my still, small struggle in this place.
It was as if at 5 am, I came into the dawn
from playing night-illuminated basketball.
Limping from fatigue, I moved to duplicate Your weight,
How you slipped the earth's axis so deftly like play.
The hounds of heaven surround.The human spirit gone to ground.
It's brought to mind how I appropriate all the thingsYou do
And how I've come to seek You.
And that's all.
This poem was started in 1989-90 at a small cottage in Springdale , Ohio.
It was essentially finished in 2002 in January. and slightly revised 9/15/03.
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