There is nothing like, no words to adequately describe, that moment when a cloud- hazed sun lingers wishfully just above the horizon, grasping the sky with brilliant talons of light, fearing becoming lost in a darkness that will, on this night of the new moon, engulf us all in its inky shroud.
We know, or pray, the sun will return in hours, just as the sun knows its work is never done so long as it has light to give, hoping that final collapse is eons away.
As it finally settles beyond sight, we smile, retreat to the table and consume our dinner and wine, our daily companion forgotten until its dawning return.
We sat in the cramped kitchen huddled around the stove the open oven door spreading a faint warmth that barely slid through the winter chill. The bare bulb in the ceiling strained and flickered fighting to hold as the generators were shut down, and darkness enveloped our small world. The sky was lit by the flares and the odor of exploding shells seeped through the towel sealed windows covered in the tattered bedsheets too thin to afford warmth. Ibrahim had been gone two weeks sneaking out of the city to join his brothers in Gorazde or Tuzla, or wherever it was that they were struggling to save what little was left. We huddled under the small table and dreamed of the taste of fresh bread, or even pork. In the morning he would run among the craters in the streets in search of the convoy and the handouts, which we would raven as the sun set over our war torn hell.
First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006
There is a strange beauty in the slow loss of sight, for there is a progressive transition, a discovery of much that went unheard, unfelt, missing in the glare of the need to see, to categorize and organize, memories neatly arranged in an array of curated visual files.
But without sight what once was cast aside as noise is an intricate tapestry of sound and undistracted, you begin to see the individual threads to see deeply into the art and craft of the unknown weaver.
Without sight, you so often store images in two dimensions but now requiring touch, everything is three dimensional of necessity and the world is infinitely more complex and yes beautiful than you recalled.
And the darkness of night, which marked a border that dared not be fully crossed grows meaningless and hours once lost may again now demand to be lived.
Reality is clearly something to be avoided to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons, perfumed, yet its fetid stench is always lurking in the background waiting to pierce your nostrils in an incautious moment until you retch and bring up the bile that marks the darker moments of your life, the kind that lingers in the throat which no chocolate can erase. Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it or hide it behind masks, or offer it willingly to others, a gift in surfeit. It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook periodically, and thrashes you at will, the barb tears through new flesh, setting itself deeper, intractable. You and I are dying, as I write, as you read, an ugly thought particularly lying in bed staring into darkness, no motion or sound from your spouse, mate, paramour, friend, significant other or teddy bear, where God is too busy to respond at the moment and sleep is perched in the bleachers, held back by the usher for want of a ticket stub, content to watch the game from afar. I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality as though the divorce from the words will erase the little pains and anguishes of our ever distancing marriage, while holding vainly onto the warm and sweet, the far side of the Mobius of reality (the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring). We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries of words to cover the flawed, stained walls of our minds, like so many happy endings, requisite in the script. Basho knew only too well that truth of beauty should be captured in few syllables.
First Appeared in Chaminade Literary Review, Vols. 16-17, Fall 1995.
The Air Force shaved our heads, was it because of the heat of a San Antonio summer or that we’ll all look equally like fools, and easier for Sarge to maintain unit cohesiveness in his rag tag band of semi-successful Army avoiders.
Now we all wear masks and assume we all look equally foolish, knowing the virus cares nothing for cohesiveness, and normal is insignia only to dreams and at times life is shit on a shingle now.
We want our childhoods back, before the war, before the barracks and bad food, before expectations, and those few imposed could be ignored at minimal parental retribution, we want what never really existed, it is our right.
We marched and sang “Suicide is Painless”, never believed it for a moment, but now we consider it in passing as we walk down the shortening pier into the ocean of darkness.
First published in Circumference, Issue 4, June 2021
It is the eyes that fall in love, the heart that follows like an always faithful shadow, and the mind and reason that are bound to darkness and silence.
That is what I learned in my dream last night, or my recollection of it, for dreams may fade in the sharp light of morning.
But dreams have a potent magic, a holiness really, for there I can resurrect the dead and if the mood is right, bend back the arrow of time, render it dimensionless, all the while I remain constant, but certain with any luck, in someone else’s dream, I may be a child, a young man, or any of a thousand other roles I cannot imagine.
On very dreary days I like to drive through the cemetery meandering among the stones until I find a freshly dug grave. I stop, under the vigilant eye of the caretaker and carefully place a cassette of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances or Smetana’s Die Moldau into the player. As the melodies spill forth I hope they lift the spirit of the resting, bringing them a moment of unabashed joy, a memory to carry into an eternity, a lingering riff, sweet as the juice of the strawberry trickling down the chin, a chocolate slowly melting on the tongue. Night will come soon enough bringing a darkness in which they can see their dreams take form and seep away to mingle in the void.
First appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review Vol. 26, No. 1 (2000) and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006)