Springsong

The hum of spring

bursts into

joyous song.

 

Gazing upon renewal,

all the old cliches

of eternal hope

march through my mind

like ghostly soldiers.

 

The echoes of the past,

of lost battles, of wars lost,

fade with their footsteps.

 

But the hope

I feel is real.

 

And inner peace

comes forth

as an

opening bud.

Changeling’s Lullaby

There in the nursery

moonlit and blue,

Something is hovering,

covering you.

 

Calmly you’re staring,

for only you see.

Tell me if it’s here for you,

or for me.

 

Softly, you gurgle

and reach out to touch;

then cackle with laughter,

the tickling’s such.

 

Coming to get you,

it makes itself known.

I reach out for you.

My body is thrown.

 

“No one,” I cry,

“takes my baby from me!”

You’re fading, and fading…

I no longer see.

 

I don’t hear a gurgle,

a coo, or a cry.

The dark fae has taken

my sweet child.

Goodbye.

 

Trained as a warrior,

they’ll make you strong,

fighting their battles and singing

their song.

 

War cries and weapons

will conquer your days.

I can’t come to you

for they’ve blocked the ways.

 

But I’ll keep trying to

find you. I will.

Mountain or valley,

and river or hill.

 

And if on the field of battle we meet,

I’ll throw my bloody sword down at your feet,

tell you I love you, embrace you, and die.

Though you brand me ‘enemy’, you’ll wonder why.

 

When truth revealed shakes your soul

to its core:

You have just slaughtered

the woman who bore

Your weight in her belly,

your food in her womb.

 

Carry her then from this world

to her tomb.

 

Cry not, my little one.

It’s not your fault.

Let not your tears taste of

sorrow and salt.

 

Dream of the nursery,

moonlit and blue,

and of the lullaby

I sang to you.

Just Ring the Bell

It was the time of year when the winds blew cold and the bleak night came early to tuck you in.

The leaves blazed in defiant colors of life that were, in fact, their grave clothes, a splendid array of royal colors of fire and berries, with the cool but ugly afterglow of sepia, umber, and ochre.

Melanie and I were bundled against the chill, hunched against the rising wind. She looked at me and said the most bizarre thing I’d ever heard from her.

“Let’s go to that house and ring the bell.”

“What the hell for? It’s getting dark out here, Mel.” I was the only one allowed to call her that; she never told me exactly why.

“We have time,” she argued. “There’s enough light left, and it’s only a couple of blocks off the road.”

Well now I had a dilemma: the prettiest girl in school just dared its lowest life form to do something totally out of the norm.

I wrestled with the thought of not going, and not only pinned it down, I shoved it through the ring floor.

What’s a lower life form to do?

 

*****************

It sat on the top of a gently sloped hill, the path secluded by lush, expansive, mature trees leading to the black wrought iron gate with a lock busted long ago by unseen vandals.

What we were doing here was stupid, to say the least; we had no idea if the place was still being used by squatters or even criminals that were still staying there.

I didn’t want Mel getting hurt, but if anyone was in there that meant us harm, it was likely they’d get away with it. No one would think we’d been dumb enough to come here, and it would take them awhile to find us.

I made a last-ditch effort.

“Hey Mel, it’s not like we could just ring the bell and take off for home. It’s pretty isolated out there.

“That’s what makes it fun.”

“Why can’t we do it on Halloween?”

“No one’s ever come here on Halloween.”

“Really? I’d think this would be a favorite ‘haunt.’ Why not?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Just never happened.”

The sun dropped, and though it still dappled the leaves the color of the light deepened from dark yellow to amber.

I looked down the road to see the light play on the intricate scroll work of the gate, and it seemed like ethereal fire burning on black coals.

From a low branch, a crow called.

Melanie and I jumped, the suddenness of it in the quiet scaring us; our sheepish grins betrayed us to each other, but disappeared when another answered in front of us, down the path closer to the gate.

We stopped, listening. Animals often gave warnings of danger, but we heard and saw nothing more.

As remote as the area was, there should have been more animal traffic, but it was getting dark.

The amber sunlight turned to persimmon.

“Let’s get this over with,” I said.

We started jogging.

My mind turned back to the crows. Sentinels?

We finally got to the gate, but then there was the driveway. From there we could see the house; dark blue shadows ascending from the bottom would slowly engulf it.

Melanie pushed the gate open without resistance. It squealed on its hinges, but that was to be expected. It sounded like a plaintive child whining for attention.

“Run, Mel.”

We ran.

“Remember,” she huffed, “just ring the bell.”

“Right.”

The house loomed close, from being in sight to being within reach.

I leapt the stairs onto the front porch while Mel watched from the bottom.

I pressed the bell, not even sure it was still working after all this time.

It rang. The sound was melodious, beautiful, and in the emptiness within I could hear its resonating echo.

“Awesome,” she said.

I turned to jump down the stairs, and found I couldn’t move.

“What-?”

“Come on.”

“I can’t.

“What?”

“I can’t move! Mel, I can’t move. Help me…” The rising panic in me threatened to overwhelm my thinking.

She started to move toward me, but found she couldn’t move either.

“Oh no…”

“Mel?”

“I’m stuck! Goddammit!” She looked up at the windows and screamed. “Let us go! Let us fucking go! Now!”

The door lock clicked, and the door swung open on silent hinges, in contrast to the squeaking gate.

The persimmon sunlight deepened to red.

An old woman with skin the color and texture of ancient, delicate parchment stood looking at us, her sunken eyes glittering dark, the red light like a small ember reflected in the tiny pupils.

Melanie stopped shouting, and only gaped as the woman’s eyes took her in.

An old man of equal antiquity, dressed in a black moth-eaten suit, came shuffling toward us holding a candle in a silver holder.

“Who is it, love?” His voice was a file on metal, but with timbre.

The seams and pockets on the lady’s face stretched horizontally, and I realized she was trying to smile.

Without turning her head, she answered him. “The new Caretakers.”

Her breath reeked of the grave, and I dry-retched.

The man filled the doorway, and the air went rank. “Come in, children.”

He looked down at Mel. “Come in.”

“All we wanted to do was ring the bell,” she said, her voice quavering as she started to cry.

I knew now why no one ventured here on Halloween.

The dull red sunlight turned black.

And it was night.

Slaughtering Sands

Across these golden, fiery sands,

singing wind with sculpting hands

scoops and furrows, digs and funnels

over bones and ancient tunnels.

 

In the evening heat I walk

while the desert vultures stalk

every step with raucous call,

waiting for my form to fall.

Mortal scythes in timeless clime

hop and flap and bide their time.

 

Mirages in the distance sway

‘Rest, and rot,’ they seem to say.

‘Sand is soft and warm and dry.

Rest  your burdens, rest and die.

Never will they find you here.

Those who search will disappear.’

 

‘Traveler, why are you here?

To bury love? To uproot fear?

Why walk into the burning sun

alone, afraid, the only one?’

 

‘Have you a reason? Mission? Goal?

Perhaps a precious gem you stole?’

 

As the evening came about,

I would never make it out.

Laying down to die, I write

letters to describe my plight.

 

Now my final grasp rescinds,

sending them by desert winds.

If someone should find me here,

should my words e’er reach an ear,

mark them down, and mark them well:

Deserts are an earthly hell.

 

In these sun-scoured, blighted lands,

challenge not the slaughtering sands.

The Infinite Aftermath

Standing here with you

we watch the past fade

like the ocean

on the stern of a ship.

The ripples we created

long smoothed over

to glassy stillness,

and whether blood.

sweat, or tears bob

in its wake,

they have all been sipped

or burned away.

 

What carrion of enmity

remains

has long been picked clean.

What remains of affection

sways in the darkness

in the cold current.

And together

we slip apart

into the

infinite aftermath

of

used to be,

and

might have been.

The Fringe Grabber

The place reeked of hard luck, bad people, and sob stories.

I was in that place, trying to gather up the scraps of what was left of my soul.

************

   There was nowhere for me to be, and no one to care if I got there.

   I was sitting on the sidewalk watching the news van unpack some gear.

   The reporter was a walking mannequin of bleached blonde and silicone, pretty in the plastic way such people were.

   I heard her say, “These homeless people are on the fringe of society,” as the cameraman boldly took a shot of me on my urban perch.

   At least now I knew where I was in relation to the rest of the world.

   On the fringe.  In my mind it was a wet, flapping, fringe growing more slippery the tighter I tried to hold on with a hand full of frostbite, arthritis, and gods-knew-what-else.

   I wanted to make her beg.

   Beg for what?

   Her life? Not a killer.

   For me to stop? Not a rapist.

   To make her cum? Not a billionaire.

   Maybe food. Yeah. Beg for scraps in a trash-strewn alley scented with alcoholic urine, and take some half-eaten pastry at the top of the trash for dessert.

                           

                                                ************

The Homeless: brought out for the holidays like decorations, and tucked neatly away again after New Year’s.

But I digress. That was long ago, but she was that pretty, that annoying, and the phrase just stuck with me: “…fringe of society.”

I was still holding on to that fringe, but I didn’t know why.

Below me was nothing but blackness, full of peace and quiet.

Poe used another phrase that stuck with me: ‘…surcease from sorrow.’

All I had to do was let go, but I was no quitter, either.

You don’t qualify.

  The apartment was rented.

  I don’t have any money, bro.

  Get outta here, perv.

  Fuck off, monster.

  And the ubiquitous Get a job.

The funny thing is, part of the reason I didn’t give up was pride.

What would it take to actually kill me? I’ve certainly become strong.

  Surcease of sorrow/ the sun will come out tomorrow. Not a good mashup, but it’s what I held onto for now.

“Kevin Gilliam?”

Ah, at last, summoned before the throne of Her Majesty Civil Servant, the Millionth.

But this voice was different; it didn’t have that world weary tone, and it was actually pleasant.

I rose like Leviathan out of the mud.

The young Lady of the Pleasant Voice favored me with a smile.

Ah, she’s new, and yet believes in what she’s doing. Be kind, and don’t shatter her dreams of making a difference.

   “Good morning, Mr. Gilliam.”

“Good morning.”

“Follow me, please?”

I followed.

We walked through a Land of Cubicles, strewn with soulless drones vainly trying to stem the tide of hopeless refuse, to reach down and boost up the fringe grabbers like me.

They probably all started out like this young lady here, full of determination and hope, with a noble sense of purpose.

Tilting at windmills…

“Sit down, please, Mr. Gilliam.”

“Alright,” I sat.

She settled herself in, tapping the folder full of papers on the desk to straighten out the edges, put it down, and extended her hand across the desk.

“I’m Tina. Nice to meet you.”

I was so surprised I gave her my name too though she already knew it.

She laughed, but I sensed it was at the moment, not me.

“Sorry.” I found myself smiling.

“Don’t be. Nice to meet you, Kevin.

I found myself beginning to relax as we released hands.

“What happened to Althea?” I asked.

“I’m sorry, but she got sick and had to resign. She didn’t know how long she was going to need, or …if she was coming back.”

I was sad, but not really surprised. Althea hadn’t been the same in a long time, and I knew what I was looking at after awhile.

“Sooo, they gave me her case file, and you’re in it.” She turned to her computer and fired it up, then went back into the folder.

As it booted, I said “She’d been talking about retiring for awhile anyway. I hope she’s okay.”

Tina gave me a small smile. She had a nice one.

“Last I heard, she was fighting it all the way.”

“Good for her. So you’re gonna help me now?”

“I’m going to do my best.” The computer blipped and the dark monitor lit up, an electronic Cyclops with a blind eye full of wisdom it didn’t understand.

“Alrighty, let’s see…”

She tapped some keys, read a bit, tapped some more.

I slouched in the chair and looked down at my hands.

Tina was young, vibrant, and beautiful; I didn’t want to be a creep like I’d been with the reporter.

I was going to miss Althea; she made me laugh in spite of my circumstances. She never found me anything, but I always left feeling better for a little while.

“—were a professor?”

I looked up. “What?”

“You were a professor.”

“Yes. You had my file…”

“No sir, well, yes, but I got your file so I could get your name; I didn’t get the chance to read it yet. I didn’t see this information.”

“Oh.”

We fell into a silence as she read through what I taught, and what happened.

The silence held a mild tension, stretching into awkward, when she seemed to make a decision; she turned her chair facing me.

“I may have something for you.”

I stopped fidgeting. “I’m listening.”

“I’m still in school, taking night classes, and I need help.”

I sat up straight and rolled my chair back a bit, hoping this wasn’t going to take a bad turn.

“Help with what?”

“My research and term papers.”

“How is that going to help me?”

“I’d pay you, Mr. Gilliam.”

“What do you mean, Tina…?” My stomach sank.

She laughed and shook her head at my expression.

“With money, Mr. Gilliam. I’d pay you to help me with my papers.”

My face heated. “Oh! Oh, well, I… Tina, I don’t have a bank account anymore.”

“I can help you with that too. Mr. Gilliam, I’d even refer you to my friends, if this works out.”

She gave another small, somewhat embarrassed laugh and rolled her eyes.

“We all need help. I don’t know if you want to teach anymore, but if you’re willing, will you do it?”

“Won’t you get in trouble?”

She sat back, smiling. “I handle the paperwork. If I can’t, I’ll call Althea to find out who can. I won’t do anything to jeopardize you or me. We can set it up as a tutoring service. You’d be self-employed, Mr. Gilliam.”

Her chair came toward me again, her eyes hopeful, her voice quiet.

“What do you say?”

Things got blurry, and at first I wasn’t sure why…
“Mr. Gilliam? Oh!  Mr. Gilliam?” Smiling, she handed me a tissue. “Mr. Gilliam, please don’t cry.”

In my mind I wrapped the wet fringe around my fingers. It was a start.

Surcease from sorrow…

 

When Evening Falls

When evening falls

I come to this place.

I like the way the colors of night

gather to say goodbye

to the colors of day.

 

The birds claim their beds

with songs of belonging,

and the rustling brush whispers

as the chipmunks find their dens.

 

The evening stars

peer through the forest canopy,

bright and clear.

 

A bright moon pokes its shiny face

over a distant mountain like a child

burrowing from under the covers

to favor me with a smile.

 

And somewhere nearby

is the sound of running water

I’ve never tried to find.

 

I name it

Evening Falls,

and take the pleasant path

toward home.