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.

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.

Eyes of Summer Ice

My trading for the day complete, that night I found myself on a night road between towns, journeying on despite the salacious female entreaties to stay and spend more money on excesses. I left too late, now regretting the rejection of their invitation.
I could either camp or keep moving; unfamiliar with the land, and being armed, I decided to keep going.
The twin crescent moons were poor companions for light, but better than darkness.
Tendrils of mist slinked along the ground, shrouding the trees like pale and ancient serpents.
The wind began to rise, and its temperature drop.
In the north I would have taken the change in stride, but I was far to the south where the sun burned much hotter, and the night at best should have been balmy, not cold.
As the mist closed in and grew thick I lost sight of the path.
The map was now useless, and I was no sailor to navigate by moonlight and stars.
Celestial brightness dimmed as incoming ribbons of black clouds veiled the moons, now seeming like a woman’s eyes staring through black silk.
My attempts to find the path proved futile, and stumbling about in the dark could only prove fatal. Finding a gathering of stones, I made my peace with ceasing the journey and sat down to rest.
I stuck my knife in the ground and put my arms around my knees, making as small a target as I could, and tried to sleep.
 
***********
I heard a woman’s mellifluous voice.
‘Traveler?”
I opened my eyes and saw a vision of stunning loveliness.
‘Traveler, this is not a good place to stop.’
I looked into the face of a young girl with skin the color of sapling branches, her eyes the color of diamonds in the sun, the faintest of gold traces in them.
I rubbed at my eyes; looking at those shining irises took some effort. “I got lost.”
She gradually came into focus, but when I looked at her, I had to turn away. An ethereal light seemed to shine from her; the slim netting in her hair and small gems she wore flared in the shrouded moonlight.
“I was trying to find the path, but the mist…”
*Why is it so cold?*
“Ah. Yes, the mist. It is ever the mist.”
“What?”
“It disorients you.”
“Yes. Yes, that’s what happened. Can…can you help me?”
“Yes, traveler. I know the way.”
Relief flooded me. “I’ll follow you.”
“There is nothing to follow, traveler.”
“What? Can you take me to the path?”
She stepped closer. “I am the way out; you have to kiss me.”
I picked up my knife, and the cold shot up my arm so fast that I cried out and dropped it, looking at her in shocked anger.
Her eyes narrowed, her voice all the more menacing for the fact that it was low and quiet. “You will not threaten me in my home.”
“Your home?” The sense of being lost was stronger. “This forest is your home?”
“I am as much a part of it as the trees, the wolves, the soil; it is all here, in me.
“We…share each other.”
She had me at too many disadvantages. The cold was seeping through along with a mild panic.
“What must I do?”
“Kiss me.”
“Why”
“So that you might be on your way.”
“But…”
“What I say makes no sense to you?”
“Yes, I mean, no. I mean, yes, it makes no sense to me.”
Her eyes glinted as she smiled with amusement, as if they were connected.
“I can help you find your way, but you must kiss me first.”
Perhaps her embrace will warm you.
I took her in my arms, tilted her face to mine…
 
************
It snows here all the time.
The freezing wind blows all the time.
There are others trapped in here with me; I hear them stumbling about, footsteps crunching, but our voices are gone.
Only the perpetual blizzard makes its white noise.
The light inside her eyes has blinded us, but we can hear her lies.
Another traveler on another night; the mist has led him to her.
I hear his voice and scream at him to run, to kill her, but he can’t hear me.
No one hears.
Soon he’ll walk among us, never traveling again, trapped behind the prison of her eyes.
Her eyes of summer ice.
 
You must kiss me first…

The Summit of Self

 

You’ve traveled far to see me, child,

and never told me why.

Am I supposed to love you, hate you,

live with you, or die?

 

You’ve traveled far to see me, child,

but I don’t know your name.

Am I to solve a riddle or to

play a guessing game?

 

You’ve traveled far to see me

following some long dead star.

And now you stand before me here,

so I’ll know who you are.

 

No longer sentient, my child.

Not able to inquire.

I can no longer see or hear

your circumstances dire.

 

I’ve no advice or wisdom.

You must learn them on your own.

The maggots feasted long ago,

and sharp fangs cracked the bone.

 

I’ll say your name to you, my child,

and I will speak it true.

The skeleton you gaze at on this mountaintop

is you.

 

Descend now from this mountain, child.

There’s nothing for you here.

Death’s but a silent, endless dream

and so you mustn’t fear.

 

You weep, my child, but foolishly.

The fate of all is this:

the gods who see us war and play

betray us with a kiss.