My Melancholy Muse

 

A hint of autumn chill in the late summer air battled the smells of gasoline, bus exhaust, homeless people, cigarettes, stale urine, and the ubiquitous Cinnabon, a risky purchase down here at the bus terminal.
It was drizzling, and made the neon reflections shiny and the stones drab.
I bought two coffees and started searching, not knowing if I’d find her here.
We hadn’t spoken in a while, and I guess she got tired of waiting for my call; her message said she was leaving, and she hoped I understood.
I did, but I couldn’t let her go.
Checking the departure board there were eight buses leaving at this ungodly hour.
I found her in the last one. She’d bought a cheap green poncho that offered little protection against the elements, and the hood was over her hair. She was so lost in thought she didn’t look up as I approached.
An old blind man was sitting down from her on the bench, silently rocking back and forth.
“Dabria?” I held out a cup. Surprised, she looked up at me with those large, beautiful brown eyes that always seemed to shimmer like a sun-kissed lake.
She didn’t smile, or take the coffee. She just regarded me like someone she recognized and wasn’t sure she liked.
I proffered the cup again.
She took it, popped the lid, took a sip, and made a face.
“Sorry. Bus station coffee.”
She only nodded, then remembered her manners. “Thank you.”
I looked up at the terminal clock that had a booze ad on it; fifteen minutes until her bus left.
I said, “What are you—“
She held up a hand to stop me. “Don’t.”
“Dabria…”
“I said, ‘don’t.’ You shouldn’t have come down here.”
Time was short, and there was no time to filter what I felt. “I don’t want you to go.”
“No? Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it.”
“I’ve been writing with Nightshade—“
“I know where you’ve been. I’m having trouble understanding why you think I should stick around when she gets all your attention.”
“Because I always come back to you; you were the first, and I’m no less devoted to you now than when we started.”
“That’s a lie.”
I sighed. “If it were, Dabria, would I be here now?”
That gave her pause. “I…I guess not.”
The rain grew steadier, and somewhere in the conversation we got the blind man’s attention; he still rocked, just not as much, his head slightly tilted.
The wind harder, making the diverse odors swirl in a nauseating, miasmic, malodorous dance.
“I still need you, Dabria. We’re not close to finished, and I’ve started so late.
“Please, come home.”
“And Nightshade?”
“She’s going to be part of my life, too. Just not the main part. With you, I write what’s on my heart. With her, it’s what’s in my imagination.”
She smiled. “You do have a great imagination. I like tapping into it, too. But if I have your heart…”
“Then don’t go.”
The old blind guy had stopped rocking, and started to smile.
I reached out my hand.
She put the coffee in it, smiling. “Throw that out.”
Laughing, I tossed it, and gave mine to the blind guy. “Fresh cup.”
“Thank you. Glad you got your muse back.”
“Thanks. Me too.” I held out my hand again, and Dabria took it.
I kissed the back of it. “I promise—“
“Don’t.” She kissed me.
As we walked back to the entrance, I thought back to what the old man had said: Glad you got your muse back.
I looked back over my shoulder.
The coffee cup was on the bench, and he was getting on the bus.
“How did he—?”
“Don’t,” Dabria said.
I shook my head. “I won’t. Coffee?”
“When we get home, mister. You’re going to write all night.”
“Lucky me.”
She smiled, giving me a sideways glance from those incredible eyes. “More than you know.”

True Colors

In this asylum called life, no one makes it alone.

In my own times and trials, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that in my own life, there have been good people, people who don’t look like me, who came alongside me when my fortunes reversed.

From the late 90s through the early 2000’s I went through a serious thyroid illness, a divorce, and severe financial distress, one paycheck away from homelessness and having my only means of transportation repossessed.

It was humbling to need help, and embarrassing to ask, but need overruled pride, because I came to the realization that I would do whatever was needed to keep from being on the street, because, to be honest, I didn’t think there’d be any coming back from that.

So I asked. And sometimes G-d provided without me having to say a word.

And with unconditional love and no hesitation, there were friends and acquaintances who simply came to me and said, “What do you need?”

Color, politics, entitlement, privilege, condescension, patronization, and a sense of supremacy were never part of the equation. A man in need was aided by good people, in the spirit of the Samaritan.

They made sure I had food, gas, bass lessons, and shelter. They gifted me vehicles for transportation before I was finally able to afford a car. They opened their homes, finances, and hearts to me in my darkest moments.

They encouraged me when my spirits flagged, but they also loved me enough to hold me accountable to make the changes needed to get back on my own two feet. That meant leaving them and pulling up my roots to start over, and they helped me with that, too.

Without them, there is no Alfred Smith, wannabe author and occasional bassist.

Without them, there may well not have been a 2017, where I’m now back on my feet and moving forward with a lifelong dream.

I am honored and blessed to still number them among my friends, even though way has led on to way.

So it is to them, I say:  It’s been a long road back, but you’ve all walked the extra mile to get me here.

And for that, with love and gratitude, I thank you with all my heart.

God bless you, all ways.

 

 

 

Of Summers Passed

Ah, I see. You must leave again, my love

to pave the way for your older sister,

the one who colors before the whitening kill.

I shall miss you.

Will you miss me?

We dance this dance

year by year,

and the music,

while ever as sweet,

slows down to the rhythm

of our ending.

I do love the touch of

your sun

upon my skin,

and the way your breath of song

makes the branches dance.

The brightness of your eyes

makes me don that which

tames their radiance,

and the weight of your stare

warms me.

The touch of your hot kiss

on my face

makes me close my eyes

and offer up my cheeks.

My heart takes sanctuary

in your

ethereal greenery,

as even now

you start to fade.

Summer,

I will miss you,

resting in the surety

of your

perennial return.

Sleep well, my love,

and know

my heart

is ever

yours.

The Value of Things

Indrissa hated everything about the market: the noise, the smell of animals, the smell of people, the squalling of reckless running children that always resulted in something breaking, fighting off the feral animals that roamed and the endless vermin that stayed, the constant haggling, the heat of the sun, and the leering of men.
Resigned, she lamented her lot, until the day he came.
He bought a small, cheap necklace from her with a fake green gem and asked her to try it on so he could see how it looked. “I’m buying it for a special lady.”
Humoring him as well as herself, she put it on. “I’m sure she’ll be happy with it,” she fastened the clasp and looked up at him with a fake smile, “and pleased with you.”
He smiled back. “And are you?”
She tilted her head and looked at him, questioning his meaning. “What?”
“Are you happy with it, and pleased with me?”
She began to unfasten it and hand it back to him. “I don’t understand…”
He held up his hand to stop her. “I bought it for you, Indrissa.”
“Sir, I don’t think—“
“I’ve watched you for a long time. You always look distant and unhappy; you don’t like the market, do you?”
She felt her face heat, realized her hands were still poised to take the necklace off, but she didn’t.
“No, I don’t. I inherited this business from my parents so I wouldn’t fall prey to the scavengers here.”
Not far away was a stage with half naked men and women, and the grim, silent men below them who’d as soon cut a throat as shake a hand. Gold and silver coins flashed through fingers faster than the eye could follow, and the stage began to gradually empty.
He nodded. “I’ve watched them, too.”
She assessed him, trying to place him, but couldn’t; he said he’d been watching her.
Either it had been in plain sight, or he was stalking her.
Still, he’d bought her a gift, albeit from her own stall, and made himself known; if he’d wanted her dead, or harmed, he had more than his share of opportunities.
“So what are you going to do?” she asked, surprised to find herself a bit shy, “Take me away from all this?”
He shuffled a bit, now nervous himself. “Not right away. I could make coming here better for you, though.”
“And how’s that?”
“It’s what you’re selling. No one wants that. It’s for children…”
He stayed at the booth, talking business in between flirting.
He bought lunch for two, and sat beside her as they ate.
She could see some of the other merchants begin to cast furtive glances in their direction.
If he noticed, he didn’t seem to care; he was all business, offering to increase the value of her wares, and if she wanted, she could take him on as a partner. They’d do well together, and ….
The hours went quickly, and he helped her pack and walked her to the gate.
“Will I see you tomorrow?” she asked.
He smiled. “Would you like to?”
She actually giggled, and nodded. “Yes, I would.”
“Then I will be here.” He stuck out his hand for her to shake, and she did.
At home that night, bathed and pleasantly exhausted, she had a sip of something strong, and stared out the window at the rising moon.
She thought of him, and her hand went to her throat.
With a small smile, she felt the gem and chain beneath her fingertips.
She’d forgotten to take it off, and now she didn’t want to.

Sea Belles

They ring the seabells in the harbor

for the sailors there.

Now come the dancing village girls

with flowers in their hair.

They look so lovely in the sun,

in gowns of green and blue,

to match the mighty ocean’s blush,

and fetch a husband too.

The people clap and cry and cheer

as toward the waves they go,

A sacrifice of maidens come

to join the men below.

The echoes of the knells ring out

across the dancing waves.

The sailors wait impatiently

beside their silted graves.

The singing of the maidens now goes silent

in the surf,

The curse is spared again for those who stand

on muddy turf.

The only note that’s ringing now,

a lonely seagull’s call.

That binds the briny couples to the stones

beneath the squall.

They ring the seabells in the harbor

for the sailors there.

Now come the drifting village maids

with seaweed in their hair.

The Secrets in the Wall 2

Chapter 2:  Secret Games

The last brick was laid in for the tombs, and the people came to fill it as they years passed, some with solemn ritual and whispered grieving punctuated by muted sobs, others with mirth and raucous celebration of a life violently lived, and still others seething with quiet anger and not so secret relief that the departed would trouble them no more.
   But he’d been the first.
   The girls were playing hide and seek with the boys, and the forbidden territory of the tombs was too tempting a place to be ignored.
   Karlyn and Essyna had broken away from the rest of the group, going into the shadowed end where the torches wrestled with the perpetual draft that came down the chutes into brackish water.
   There they waited and tittered behind their hands, confident no one would venture this far to find them.
   Essyna said to Karlyn, “I heard Prince Broderic is not the true son of the king.”
   Karlyn gasped. “Then whose son is he? Who’s brother?”
   “I don’t know, but if the king finds out, and it’s true, the Queen will die.”
   As Karlyn turned to look for seekers, Essyna’s braced herself on the wall; she snatched her hand away suddenly, as if something had stuck her.
   Karlyn turned to her. “What happened? Are you all right? Did you hurt your hand?”
   Essyna looked at it, curious. “No. It’s not even cut, but something stuck me.”
   Karlyn ran her hand over the brick, rubbed it with her fingertips, but nothing happened.
   The Secret could see them from inside the wall, their gowns bright but stained at the hems with a slimy wetness that would earn them punishments, and their just-so hair beginning to unravel, Essyna’s red-gold ringlets like a beaded cowl across her shoulders, Karlyn’s the bright yellow of a late morning summer sun.
   Footsteps echoed, and an older boy’s voice called their names.
   Their eyes widened in fright, and they scrambled from their hiding place to make themselves seen.
  “We’re here, Broderic!”
   They stood before him, eyes down.
   He laughed, not kindly. “Your mothers will have your hides for those dresses, and your fathers for coming down here when you knew you were forbidden.”
   “You could not tell them,” Essyna pleaded.
   “No way to explain away those stains.”
   Karlyn swept her right arm downward, and the stains disappeared; her smile held only a veneer of sweetness. “What stains?”
   Broderic swallowed.
   Another Secret joined the first, and the wall visibly shimmered.
  Broderic cried out and turned white.
   The girls turned to look over their shoulders, seeing nothing, and turned back to Broderic, questions and worry replacing their fear.
   “Let’s g-go,” he said. “I-I-I’ll tell them I f-found you in the garden.” The torchlight and the sounds of their footsteps receded, leaving only abject blackness.
   “Wise choice,” Karlyn said, and the dire echo of her veiled threat carried back as the Secrets settled into the stones.

 

When Do You Need Me?

 

When do you need me?

“When I’m doing well.

Standing victorious,

riding the swell.”

 

When do you need me?

“When I’m feeling low,

walking with sadness,

with no place to go.”

 

When do you need me?

“In thunderous rain,

in heat waves and blizzards,

in heartache and pain.”

 

When do you need me?

“When others don’t care.

They stop and they laugh

and they point and they stare.

 

“When do you need me?”

When loneliness calls,

and deafening silence

fills dim, darkened halls.

 

“When do you need me?”

In mornings so bright,

I just can’t stop smiling

and everything’s right.

 

“When do you need me?”

Right here and right now.

I need you to love me

the best you know how.

 

When do you need me?

Each day and each night,

for you are my weakness

with all of my might.