The Soundtrack Under the Sea

Deep beneath the sea
a symphony plays.
Sea horses drum,
Fish grunt,
Small snails sing songs,
Nearsighted manta rays
flying beneath the waves
for eighty years or more are
conducting those
small chorus sounds and alliteration
march to the waves before the sea stars
settle to the bed of stalkers. Later,
The bull sharks come and search
to find the meanings
of the great reef
at the end of the world.

Naughty Snow

Naughty snow knocking on my pavement,
glazing it with ice, seeking to thrill me with a ride
when I try to shovel the mountain of snow.
I’ll slide like a five year old in new rubber boots.
I’ll slide like an eight year old using an old cardboard box.
I’ll hide in my snow fort camouflaged by my white hair.
No one will seek out an old lady, bent with exertion.
I’ll make a snowman, a snow angel, a snow wall with
snow flowers, the world of white, bright even at dark.
Naughty old lady who never bothered to grow up.

The Ship and The Aliens

The stars gleamed with the power of light and fire. Gas giants beamed at their younger cousins and the universe smelled of raspberries and tasted of rum. It was into this that the ship Pluto’s Ghost ventured looking for treasure, excitement and a new place to hide from the planetary government. The captain knew he would miss the good life with brandy, scotch and whiskey no longer available, but if the colony he wanted to build succeeded, there just might be new treats in his future.

“Captain, we have bead on a class four planet. It seems to have earth like qualities and will only take us a year to arrive there.”

“That’s a positive start. I hadn’t thought there would be any planets for years. One year from here is a good place to begin. Start scanning for any sign of life or communications and make sure your relief continues to do so. I want to be informed of any possible higher life form we might meet. Use the SETI protocol Earth researchers set up. Make sure we have a linguist on standby. Check with engineering to make sure all is well if we head in that direction.”

“Aye, aye, Captain. Setting SETI protocols and notifying engineering. Should we wake any of our sleepers yet?’

“No, the longer we can conserve our resources the better off we’ll be.You have the com, Smithy.”

The captain walked to the mess. He picked up a meatloaf protein pack and microwaved it. Pluto had her own propulsion system. She was able to fold space. Her design was that of a rectangular box. The idea had been supplemented with solar power and had provided a safe and easily renewable fuel. The food tasted the way it always did, in need of ketchup or salt. He sat at the table eating quickly when a shadow passed in front of him. He crossed his eyes and uncrossed them. There was a figure at the table with him, a shadow but clearly defined as a living being.

“Are you really here?” he said, questioning his sanity and his senses. “I can barely see you. Can you understand me?”

The figure nodded, then pointed to the captain’s insignia. A voice filled the room unlike anything he had ever heard. “You are the captain? Your crew is in the long sleep?”

“I am. How do you know about us?”

“We have met many of your space probes, they tell a story of horror and destruction. They try to hide it under music and pictures. We have been waiting for you.”

“Are we safe? Or do you mean us harm?”

“We mean to teach you the way of peace. Your entire crew, except for one, must go to sleep now. We will take care of everything. You have no choice. If you do not comply, you will cease to exist.”

“I will need two crew to maintain the systems as they must sleep and alternate with each other.”

“That is tolerable. You, however, must sleep the long sleep. Your insignia marks you as a trouble for us. A jury will give you the chance for an explanation. Go, do what you must. Keep your heading.”

The intercom went off with its usual cracking. “Captain to the bridge.”

He ran to the bridge. There was a spaceship three times the size of the Pluto on the front screen. “Where did that come from?”

“Sir, I have no idea. We’ve been scanned and some kind of communication was attempted. They don’t seem to have weapons facing us, but we are being held in a stasis field.”

“You won’t understand, Smithy, but they gave me instructions that we must follow or we’ll be exterminated. You and Jones will alternate shifts, the rest of us will remain in sleep mode. Do as they say or we lose all 500 of us and the cryo eggs for our colony. Use good judgement, please.”

The captain caught his eyes and nodded. Orders were given in that look, trust was acknowledged. The captain moved toward the captain’s quarters and filled in the log. He entered his sleep container and closed his eyes. His dreams filled him with hope.

Smithy sat at the console. “We can do this. Maybe we’ll survive this.” His eyes closed with a memory from earth. He remembered giving his grandmother flowers. He smiled and his thoughts were of telling her about this adventure. He knew it. Trusting the aliens to do what they must, he moved to the galley for coffee. It would be a long year.

Stormy Debate

Coals of fire upon their head, under their feet
 Candidates stand on stage
 Roaring with indignation and inspiration
 At the records naked, exposed.
"Listen to what I say."
"The streets are safer, sadder, humbler."
"Last resort, lies, destruction."
"We Pray. We are sorry they died."
But they all nod their heads,
Arm themselves. 
They shake their hands.
They all have words, long and short.
Piles of words, tons of words
Spewed out in fractious spite called
Pushed to speed of light responses
By moderators moving swiftly with hawks' wings
To criticize.
Fists, rage, frustration, and discretions,
Interrupted when an answer displeases
The news, the mighty commentators.
Nice isn't nice.
Pushing, shoving, biting, kicking,
Threatening all who speak. Cautioning.
Who listens, all the while?
In silences, the dread of what will come echoes.
If humanity can't be reached...

Haunting Memories of Life

Waking up in with a mouthful of mulch and blood wasn’t the way Lois had thought her girl scout picnic would end. She glanced up at the slide, remembering giggling and playing for the first time as if she weren’t the weirdo in her neighborhood. It had been to much to believe that the other girls had finally accepted her after three years.

The blood slipped out of her chin, down her neck and soiled the uniform blouse that she had been taught would make her part of a group of friends. No, dirty hands moving up to hold her chin, which suddenly and painfully had made her aware of what had happened. No, she should have known better. She should have sat on the sidelines and watched the other girls play.

“Push her, push her!” The laughter of the girls when she had fallen the eight feet to the ground. She remembered that now, just as she remembered them calling her a baby and telling her she was faking when she hadn’t gotten up. She didn’t remember anything else until the taste of blood and mulch had woken her.

If she could find someone…Lois staggered away toward the picnic shelter where dinner was supposed to happen. It was empty except for her mother and father. “Where have you been? Mrs. Johnson called us, she said you had disappeared.” Lois took her hands away from her chin and passed out.

“Grandma, wake up, wake up. You’re dreaming again.”

“Damn it.”

Her eyes closed heavily again. Sleep returned but so did the dreams. Four months after her chin had been broken and she had been accused of lying about being pushed, even her parents had not believed her, applying a bandage and ignoring her pain. She’d kept her mouth shut, and didn’t argue. There was no sense to it.

Her birthday, she remembered. It had been her birthday. All of the girl scouts had been invited. She had worn a pretty dress, handmade by her mother. She loathed it. The other girls had heckled her since second grade. “You’re poor. Haha, your parents can’t even afford to buy you decent clothes. You’re poor.” The party went better than she had expected. No one came.

Her parents were furious, starting to believe that the scouts weren’t as scoutlike as they should have been.

“Grandma, wake up. You’re crying.”

She didn’t open her eyes. There was high school. The winter king and queen were to be crowned and her name had appeared on the ballot. She had even made it to the final round, not realizing that it was a huge joke. Another put down from a crowd of hateful girls and their all to compliant boyfriends. She should have known better.

She rolled onto her side. Another spook of the past appearing before her. Then another and another. She was a fool. How did she manage to keep believing that she would some day find a place to fit in and be welcome? It would be better if she died. The memories were too much for her. She was aware of tears, and voices.

“Come on, Grammy dear, keep breathing. The ambulance is on the way.”

“Grandma, don’t leave us. We need you.”

Her last thought was, “No, you don’t.”

The Drunk’s Protector

I was nineteen, full of life,
student, musician, believer
and happened upon 
A wall flower, sodden but sweet,
A drunk, full of his nectar.
A peaceful drunk
Leaning upon a concrete wall 
Near the overused metaphor of a 
Greyhound Bus station.
Of a bus stop occupied
By the rushing middle class.
Of a city overcoming change.
A drunk, a target of easy mark
Was found by another mark,
A pointed mark.
Perhaps needing ease from his demons.
The voices listened and 
He took a knife, leaned, put it 
On the old man's neck.
Close enough to shave.

The audience breathed drama,
Turning slowly, waiting for buses.
Standing full of wisdom
As far as they could go. 
Time froze.
They were mannequins.

Simply a phone in need of quarters,
An operator call,  
But locked into movie reviews,newspapers,work,
They were motionless. 

I was nineteen then. 
Full of life, a 1945 wooden case 
that protected my heart, 
Holding my horn.
My weapon of choice.

After years, why a decade of years,
Of playing, of lugging miles, building brass muscles,
Of practice at spinning, 
I launched myself  
Pushing my horn between the two.

I was a shield maiden,
Because I was nineteen, descended
From blonde Vikings and grim Scots, 
I became a piper of sound
With the bottom of my lungs. 

Somehow, instantly, incredibly,
Unsummoned, the infantry arrived.
A squad car, blinking red,
Drove up upon the curb.
Collared the knife, the shield maiden,
Slipped the men apart.

I was nineteen, set to
Activism, driven in hopes to 
Change poverty, racism, anger, hate. 
The men in blue sent me on my way, 
Part fool, part human. Head patted.
Reform suggested for my safety,
After all, I was nineteen.