What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life? -Mary Oliver

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Friday Flash 55 - Father

In the fog, the strobe lights on the bus
alert the children.
In the fog, a figure leaves the forest
and waits at the edge of the clearing
to watch as the child who will never know him
climbs the steps with his Spiderman lunchbox.
In the fog, it’s as if he wasn’t even there.


A thank you to Galen, the kick-ass host at Mr. Knowitall who orchestrates the Friday Flash 55 event. If you have a story you can tell us in 55 words, tell him first. See you on the other side of 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Ghosts - The Making Of

This story is my entry into Loren Eaton's Shared Storytelling event for Christmas 2010.

The schoolhouse was transformed for the Christmas play. There was a stage in place of a teacher's desk, a velvet curtain instead of a chalkboard, and tinsel draped around the windows. The children were dressed in patent leather shoes and even the boys who had grown out of their desks but couldn’t pass 6th grade were dressed up and behaving.

Mary folded her hands in her lap and admired the drape of her robe and repeated her lines to herself. She was the lead and her mother had spent extra time on her hair.

Joseph beckoned to her from the dark behind the stage by the door that led to the outside, and she adjusted her veil and went to him.

The lights were dimmed, and the audience held their breath for the play to begin.
They waited. The entire schoolhouse held its breath, but Mary and Joseph didn't appear.

The play was aborted and the dogs were brought in, but it was of no use. The two were never found. Only a veil blown into a ditch and covered with twigs and snow was uncovered.



If you think Christmas might be more about Dicken's Marley than Santa's Rudolph, please read the other stories that make up the Advent Ghosts 2010 event organized by Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What A Smart Boy You Were

When you’re snowed under,
there’s no getting away from you.
Out of cigarettes,
you search drawers and cubbyholes,
empty butts out of ashtrays,
and roll your own.

The storm is as focused as the hawk
that flies over the chicken coop.
Thoughts like sentence fragments
march around the house,
the thought of what you’d do
to keep from running out.

If you can’t bear the quiet,
imagine yourself deaf, like an old man steeped in it.
Imagine yourself trapped in a house
with an old man who won’t stop talking—
stopped up by memory with no one to listen.

The wind doesn’t count.
The partially-deaf man can bear the wind,
unlike a room full of people.
The wind is an undertone,
like the hum of a furnace.
It circles the sleeping house, unanswered.

The man becomes a boy in his sleep.
The boy who ran down the road
for the pleasure of it.
The boy who could take up any task
and finish.
That boy wasn’t confined
by his body to memory.
He was making them.

And what about that snowstorm?
Not the ones the old man talks about.
The one here and now,
the one we’ll want to talk about when we’re old.
Ah, but remember . . . nobody will listen.

Write it down so the memory has backbone,
like the sketch found in a drawer
and the note from a teacher of long, long ago.
What a smart boy you were.


I wrote this in a nostalgic mood because Christmas isn't only about merrymaking and then decided to post it for the One Stop Poetry site's One Shot Wednesday. If you've written a poem or even a short story you want to share with the fine folks at One Stop Poetry, follow the link.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What A Weasel Does

A weasel got in one of our chicken pens and killed 14 birds two nights ago. The havoc wrought by a weasel is that of a teenage vampire movie. They bite off the heads and drink the blood. But this isn’t a movie; this is life on the farm. It looks idyllic from afar. Many think we have it made. They haven’t gone outside on a blustery winter morning (when will this wind abate?) to find a slaughter.

Three more were killed last night in similar beheading fashion. The surviving chickens were very happy to see my husband this morning. Chickens are skittish (wouldn’t you be?) but once they got over the initial startle, they hung around his feet like a child under her mother’s skirt. After the cleanup he needed to go to the pharmacy and refill a blood pressure prescription he’d let lapse. This work will kill you in more ways than one.

He buried the beheaded in the compost piles—manure recently hauled out of the barnyard and spread in heaps along the field beyond the chicken area. It serves a dual purpose. One must get rid of the carcasses lest more vermin be attracted to the area, and digging in this frozen ground would probably put him in it.

It’s a devastating loss, and I’m sure it’s as crushing to my husband as agent rejection of my writing is to me, (though he shouldn't take it personally). Our fear is the weasel will be back, him and his buddies. It’s winter and food is scarce. He’ll be back. We have traps but weasels can weasel out of them, just as they can circumvent chicken wire. A friend suggested we put a radio out there. Play a little AC-DC or Alice In Chains. How about a little Marilyn Manson music for the weasel? I’m afraid he'd like it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Fiberglass Angel

On Christmas Day my daughter
(named after an Allman Brothers song, not a saint)
helped out at a soup kitchen.
I’ve never done anything that commendable.
She got the idea from a friend,
not from me.
I think holy are the No Toxic Spraying signs
we store in the milkhouse for winter.

But I remember
my mother’s Christmas angel,
yellowed with age, the only one we ever had.
Fiberglass, Mother warned when we were little.
It’ll cut you if you touch.
So we never did.
We held our breath as she stood on a chair to place it on the top branch.
We broke all her glass ornaments on the hardwood floor,
the guilty one downcast with the evidence at her feet.
We needed no scolding from mother,
we dealt it out in holy measure amongst ourselves.

The nativity scene, ox and ass, baby and mother were another matter—
solid wood and unbreakable Joseph. We rearranged them throughout Advent.
Baby Jesus kept coming up missing.
I placed the shepherd closer to the action than the wise men.
They were wise but late arriving in their fancy robes and strange hats.

I gave a bushel of beets to the food pantry.
Does that count?

Dad wrestled our eight-foot trees into their stand
and trimmed the bottom branches.
(A Linck tree was never tied to the wall.)
Mother handled the lights and the angel while we fidgeted
with the ornaments spread out in front of us.

Their trees got smaller as we all left
(like mother, standing in stocking feet to place the angel)
and now the tree sits on an end table.
What glass ornaments remain stay wrapped
because there is no room on a tabletop tree.
But for an angel, yellowed with age, there always will be.