Foggy, the Recollections of the 60s

My brain has foggy recollections, memories,
Of the things we were promised,  to be given,
As children, a world of peace, of standing in protest,
Flowers garlanding rifles held to sway children
By children no older than themselves.

The soldier shot, nerves and muscle, scared,
Not thinking of killing, not thinking
Of pelting rocks. Afraid. Unsure. A child of time
Given orders to stand by, to wait. Make them go away.
Orders again years after Kent. Waiting for the fog to come here, too.

Foggy recollections of Camelot, children in play,
Played in vinyl, surround sound. A glimpse into intense
Cherishing of time. The President’s Missus. Bravely
Facing the loss of a civilization, as she sat waiting, as the nation paused, then
Rushed out of the White House, a widow, out of time.

She was tall, classic, classy, a champion of children, well-educated
A woman who bore solitude in her heart. Her public face perfect.
A woman bearing in her arms, the children. Protecting them.
Mourning her husband John, her brother-in-law Robert, Martin
Luther King, all three martyrs to peace. She remained silent.

But her dream of peace arising from battle and blood was
Taken up and thrown, like feathers from a nest quickly disappearing
Erasing the stigma of violent victimization as others took up the flag of
Skin, of religion, of contesting savagery. Or so we thought.
Life fell from her hands into the ocean of solitude and ignorance.

She was a princess , a wife, lost, out of time but standing, but seen as
Perfection. Mother, editor, dressed in dark memories swirling in fog.
Clothes of the soul, shared by photographs stolen when she didn’t want to be seen,
Of private moments. With the population who couldn’t buy the tags of her style.
It’s so hard to see her now, under her packaging, with memory fading.

Foggy, recollections of the time. Childlike I believed, I still believe,
Making the decision to stand in the line of fire, to protect, being
Like her in my soul. Strong, able, sad, but never at peace.
For the world didn’t change as promised. Fog flew into the spaces as
She slipped away into obscurity and fairy tales. Moving into subtitles of time.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/foggy/

Translate; in memory of Bill Manville (W.H. Manville) who died Valentine’s 2017

Translate my pain into inspiration.
A grief that turns my heart to sterling,
A metal that will not leave me stranded,
A mourning that imbeds a jasper arrowhead.
He has gone, looping his words between
His memory and mine. Remaining.
Older brother of soul, teacher of order,
He had taken Valentines, paper cutouts,
Red hearts and Pink silliness,
Dark visions combating the light.
Wrapped them in cushions of unsweetened
Advice, given freely, powerful in their
Scent of citrus, their odor of sage.
Wholesome and forgiving. He listened.
Silence now that his breathing
Has erred on the side of quiet.
His heart filled with the love
A teacher has for student.
Transient as they grow, but his eternal.
I must write to find my heart again
Where I laid it out for him.
How many, many types of love there are.
So many ways taking the crystal bonds,
Which when broken remain
In our memory of precious laughter,
Honest criticism, layers upon layers of
Rebuilding. He gave these seeds to us
To plant in our inner gardens, to bloom.
Watered by tears of grief, blinked,
They will grow. Tiny green hopes, words,
Writer to writer. Clearing weeds
Nourishing plots of future dreams.
I hear his voice in the wind
Teasing me, scolding me, holding me close.
Calling me to finish what I had begun,
To love those he loved, to work, to stand
On two feet knowing he believed in us.
We must carry his gift to us,
The world’s visions, the expected literacy.
Must share our voices, must care, we must,
Even when the caring scares and scars us.
His footprints stay with us, his books,
His stories, his belief that the world
Must read, write, share and pass
The compassion of an old friend to a new.
We carry him now, heart to heart.
We will honor him by our words, soon.
But written as the storms come,
Rain beating the earth in a primal flood
As he flows away from us, following the flood
Of our sorrow. The transportation of our hearts,
Flooded and sitting now filled with salty tears.
Our memories are precious, sketch in words,
Written as the tears streak, but forming
Wary wry smiles, smiles that will not betray.
Oh the memory of those smiles, he loved us.
I will carry him with me in my pocket of life.
Filled with random pebbles, coins, a leaf,
An acorn or two, a magic ring, a fallen star.
This hole of sorrow, this well of loss,
Fill it with swords, shields, puppies
Pictures, mystery, letters, trials,
Hopes and dreams. Do not forget…
You see, I loved him.
I loved him as brother, father, friend,
Mentor, teacher, and confidant.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/translate/

Bill Manville, of Sacramento, California died on Valentine’s Day 2017. He was a published author, a teacher, a traveler, radio host, copywriter, U.S. Army Veteran and dearly loved by Beverly. He ran a class on the internet called Writing to be Published. He was a well loved member of AA.

Volunteering at his local library, he ran a class on writing that was open to the public. He understood the need, the urge, to write and that writers need support at all levels of their ability. Being a gruff, loving, inspiring man, he passed the gift of what he had learned to others with an open heart. Whether the class succeeded of not, he urged them on. Revising, placing students in groups to evaluate each other, support each other, he gave us a rare gift of insight into ourselves.

He worked tirelessly in the pursuit of helping others escape the madness of addiction, remaining anonymous except for his first name. If a song represented his attitude towards others it might have been this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk also know as Bruno Mars “Just the Way You Are” He accepted people as they are. Truly a testament for human to be remembered as, Bill was “amazing” just the way he was. Of course you would have to change to words from girl to guy. Volunteering as a rehab clinic volunteer, he understood that by helping others he would help himself remain successful as a long-term sober recovering addict.

Celebrated as a Book of the Month author, he also worked as an editor for Cosmo, contributed columns to the Village Voice, Key West Solares Hill, The New York Daily Times and the Huffington Post. Magazine articles appear in The Fix, Cavalier Magazine, the Saturday Evening Post. He published his books through MacMillan Publishers, Duel, Sloan and Pearce, Simon and Schuster,  NAL, Delacorte, Dell/Random House, BSForge Press and Tor Publishing. His works include: Cool Hip and Sober, Goodbye, Saloon Society, The Man who Left his Wife and Had a Nifty Time, Writing to Be Published, and Breaking up. He was a contributor to the fourth edition of the Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism (commonly called The Big Book at meetings.)

Bill also hosted a radio show, Addictions and Answers on KVML in Sonoma CA, which delved into real stories of the struggles faced by others dealing with alcohol addiction. With over forty years of research into the material he had available to him, he was able to paint a realistic picture of the process of becoming sober, something that was both a personal and social matter of importance. He believed in the process of sobering up as a lifelong purpose. One of the transcripts of a show he hosted with Dr. Dave More is available through the NYDailyNews.com, http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/parents-cope-moms-dads-turn-kids-ambien-adderall-day-article-1.1092155.

He attended the University of Pennsylvania, but graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. His next stop was the University of the Mediterranean, Nice where he explored life in all of its fullness and color. As his works were being published, he was encouraged to begin teaching. So he did. He was a member of LinkedIn where he looked for aspiring authors to take his online course.

No one can summarize the character, love, production and history on a single page and with such short notice. I have done the best I can. So a final toast: To all who aspire to sobriety or writing, we have loved him, learned from him, and will never regret that opportunity he shared with us.

 

Christmas Photo Prompt

Thursday photo prompt – Christmas Present – #writephoto

The shine of a Christmas tree in the boughs decorated with shiny balls and silvery lights lit the child’s face as nothing had done before. Chilly temperatures in the house made seeing a tree inside a logical thing, as the child had just learned cold. One year of age and just twenty days more and all of the learning that had occurred until that day melded together to make Christmas a mystical experience. The cautionary voices of mother and grandmother as they mentioned that she should look, but not touch, gave the child the first knowledge of something precious that couldn’t be grasped. Christmas would be a fleeting moment in her development. As soon as the mystery was grasped, it was also gone. Two weeks in the eyes of a child, and Christmas would be a compounding memory each year. The grandmother’s tree, decorated with family ornaments from 21 years of marriage, filled with family history and time would sit in the child’s eyes out of focus and just out of reach but remembered distantly. A message about a baby. About animals. That was my first Christmas.

Two years later, another child came to learn of the mystery of Christmas. Another one year old, and a little more, stood beneath the tree decorated with sugar cookies because the young couple was making do with what they had. Now there were three children, and a young couple trying to be independent and having none of the money for extras. The sounds of carols from a record player filled the air, and the youngest toddler heard the admonition that he should look but not touch. The cookies hung so temptingly. So he stood with his hands behind his back and bit off all of the feet as mother made a dinner and father went out to seek a Christmas present with only ten dollars in his pocket. He sought it at a hardware store, and finding something he remembered from his Christmas’s long past, a sled with bright red runners. The cost, too great, but he looked at it longingly. The spirit of Christmas filling his eyes, and seen by a salesman, was suddenly his as the man gave him the sled for seven dollars instead of twenty. He would play in the snow with his wife and children, pulling the sled down snow covered sidewalks. All of them young and happy in the moment, then it was gone. But the sled remained for many years, a testament to the spirit of sharing.

Another year, and baby three arrived. Christmas in the blue eyes at only four months of age, now living with Grandmother and Granddad as the world changed. Korea was over, Vietnam was foretold in the news. But in the home, with it’s generations, life was safe and beautiful. This year the cookies hung above the little boys head, just out of reach, except when the oldest would lower the branches just so, entertaining himself and his brother. The toys the children received gratefully disappearing into memory, a doll, a truck, a book or two, all to be well loved and used.

Another year, and the house stood on the banks of the Mississippi, and the newest edition to the family being a parakeet who flew into the open window that summer and stayed for over ten years. Uncle Ned liked the tree and the lights. This year cookies came from a Swedish bakery and were placed in a clear jar only to be opened by the mother and father. Large cookies tasting of peanut butter, sugar, chocolate chips and the mother’s oatmeal raisin cookies tempting good behavior and giving instant reinforcement when that behavior was given with ungrudging enthusiasm. It was the first tree that was in focus for me. I had received my glasses that summer. It is the first tree I remember, the clarity of vision adding mysticism to the experience. This Christmas too was fleeting. But I was now old enough to know that there would be more.

The next Christmas in another grandparent’s house, for my Grandmama needed help from my parents in managing all of the daily tasks. The room was dark, but lit by the tree. Mom never had enough time to do all of the things she needed to do. Now she was no longer working forty hours a week, instead she was making all of our clothes, cooking and baking all of the meals, cleaning the house, playing with us, reading with us, showing her competence but feeling graded at every moment.

I missed a memory the next year. The only thing I remember is singing a hymn about Jesus and the animals. “Jesus our brother kind and good, was humbly born in a stable rude and the friendly beasts around him stood.” I sang that song until June. Over and over, my poor mother must have been driven nuts by it. I started school the next year at 4 1/2. I now think that my mother must have sent me early so that she could have a break. With four babies in under five years, her hands were full and she never complained or rejected us. She did need her own place to be totally happy and that happened as we started school.

The year after, we moved into our own house a few blocks away. Those years are filled with the memory of my brother making my father laugh as he pretended to be a goat head butting him in the knees. The trees got taller. We accumulated shiny balls and figures of ancient Santas, tinsel carefully cherished from year to year. My mother made incredible ornaments from egg cartons. She made tall angels to sing in a choir out of bottles and styrofoam balls, gold paint and old sheets. There was nothing cheap about the way they looked, gleaming as they did on the one book case we owned. She made a sled out of cardboard boxes to hold presents and keep them tidy and the tree safe. We were given an apple and an orange each Christmas by Santa once our stockings were big enough to hold them. There was always a candy cane. And Robert Shaw and Harry Simone came to symbolize the way Christmas should be sung about. One year, four stockings arrived from my Aunt Diana, and pajamas the next, a start of new traditions. We went to the Swedish Institute and learned of the tale of St. Lucia. Red candle holders turned up sometime in the first few years. Ribbons hung from the curtains, in gold and green combinations and splendar.

Mom did most of the work getting ready. Dad would put the lights on the tree and we would decorate. Dad would work. He made ice for the skating rinks, leaving in the early morning to put new ice on the rinks for Christmas. Then skates arrived one year, left over from other children who no longer fit them, Dad brought them home and we learned to skate. Granddad came to skate with us. I skated on my bottom more than my feet, eventually switching to rubber boots so I could stay up. It took me years to learn. So many Christmases. We lost my grandmothers early, and missed them each year.

My mother would make clothes and toys for us by hand. She would make new clothes for the dolls that my sister and I owned. And when I discovered that she was the spirit of Mrs. Santa, she enlisted my help. She and my older brother made me a doll house from a cardboard box that looked so real and was the dream I had thought I would never receive. My mother was Christmas. For us, Christmas was the moment when we could all be happy, safe, and full of joy. We were a lot like the Whos down in Whoville. Somewhere in the early years in the green house, we became recipients of gifts from the VFW. That had been a tight year, and we were invited to a Children’s Show. Every child there received a gift by name from Santa. I wonder now if it hadn’t been part of the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. No matter, the VFW make Christmas real. My older brother got a lock which had a gun hidden inside it that worked with caps. My baby brother got a gum ball machine, which was also a savings bank. We helped him eat all of the gum balls, only to feel chagrin later in life for having done so. My sister and I got dolls, although I don’t remember any more. I remember sitting in that room feeling special and valued. We didn’t feel like poor church mice even when money was so very tight. Then there was the Christmas that the stockings hung empty, and my father said we had not been good, Santa hadn’t come. Oh the tears welled up in our eyes, and just before we all cried boohoo, gifts were discovered, too large to fit in the stockings. Oh such joy. We had been good, as good as normal children could be. I had a stove and refrigerator that I loved until I went to College and played with constantly with my dolls. It was just the right size.

And I grew, lean and uncoordinated, very slowly, but woke up one day knowing that the time of family celebrations being over was coming soon, and not wanting them to go. But they did. I went to college and learned more of the music of the season, carefully taught by teachers who believed that the music was more than for enchanting children. I learned of nuns, and sacrifices, and brought home that knowledge for two weeks of trees and changing brothers and sisters.

Then I was gone, living on the west coast, and rejoining once more a Christmas at my Granddad’s home, which fleetingly sped past as only two days was allowed for my visit. I was gone again, this time to the East Coast where Christmas became the time I was to be married. The ceremony held in Minneapolis, just a few days after Christmas, so full of family and time that I could barely grab the holiday. I remember that it was cold, -5 degrees in the morning, and then warm 45 degrees by noon. The wedding hung over the holiday and mixed the two so in my mind that I have never been able to separate them.

After that, I had my own children. Two years apart they acted like twins by the time the boy was four and the girl was two. We had trees and presents and travelled from one family to the next for family dinners. We now had three family dinners, one with my husband’s grandparents, one with my parents and one with my Aunt Diana and Uncle Herb. The first four years were as rough for us as had been for my parents. Poor in cash but rich in grownups who realized I had bitten off more than I could chew. They provided me with stability and the knowledge that life would provide us with enough speed bumps as to make it interesting. My focus at Christmas became the tree. I could never equal what my mother had done for us, although I tried. I baked gingerbread cookies for the tree, but no one nibbled on the feet. I had learned the tale of my brother and took precautions. Each year we added ornaments that we made, candy canes made of shiny plastic beads carefully sequenced in patterns. We made bread dough ornaments. We colored paper chains and threaded cranberries and popcorn. I made some dresses for my daughter but was nothing like my mother whose clothes had turned out perfectly. I worked. I, like my mother, had gone back to school when my kids reached an age where they could understand that I needed to do homework. They were in second grade and kindergarden. My poor mother had had to wait until we were in high school. Somehow she had managed all of the decorating, shopping, baking, cooking, and never missed a step. Me, I stumbled all over the place, but my heart was in the right place even if my skills weren’t.

My father died when my son was 14, and my daughter ll 3/4. It was 1995, and I remember insisting that mom come down and stay with us. I was teaching by then. She filled the day with joy, even though her heart was broken. In the years that followed, she began packing up Christmas and moving it to a place further away in her closet. It wasn’t the same without my dad. It wasn’t the same for me either. He had taken such joy in what my mother had created for Christmas, and that joy must have been the reason she continued to be so creative for so many years.

One winter my family from Minnesota came to Virginia for the holiday. My older brother, my little sister, her husband and two children, my younger brother and my mom all fit into our house in one fell swoop. We went to Mount Vernon and Williamsburg. I was informed that I was the favorite aunt because my lap was cushy by one of my nieces.We had the tree and a feast. It felt like the old days in the green house for me. I gave my little brother a ha’ penny, but he missed the symbolism. It didn’t matter, I got the message. I wanted my family to know that they were loved. Mom took photographs, as mom always does.

Then my children grew. In 1998 the first MS attack that we can document with a certainty occurred and I slowed down. I couldn’t do the things I loved to do. My children stepped up and helped with the tree becoming more and more competent each time. Popcorn and Cranberries were no longer on the tree. Mom donated some of her ornaments and the cats took the tree out that year, as cats are wont to do. They broke and it made me sad, but still the tree was reassembled and the holiday went okay. After that, my kids were grown and mom started going out to Minnesota for the holidays. We each got her for two or three days, but the season seemed fragmented without her.

One Christmas Eve, we had finished the tree that night, my husband having to work, and the kids had a surprise for me. We had been married 24 years, and that evening my husband brought me an engagement ring. I guess he figured out he wanted me to hang around. Time sped up.

When my son returned from the Navy, he brought a wife. She had troubles, but her children were sweet. We had a tree and took the kids to all of the places children should go when they visit a grandparent. It was only for that one Christmas, but we were exhausted at the end. I lost ten pounds that holiday. It was a nice perk.

One year, we had a Charlie Brown tree that the kids found and took the bottom branch of the tree in the back year from. They wrapped a blue sheet around the bottom and it had two ornaments, one from Charlie Brown that we had had, and a new Charlie Brown ornament from my dear friend Ana.

The next Christmas and those following found my family working to keep the holidays of Halloween and Christmas according to tradition. Until present day, we struggled along as best we could. But this Christmas arrived on my birthday with all of the bells and whistles and I feel that joy that I must have felt when I was one and the tree was lit with magic. This Christmas coming in a week will be our best. My husband took a week off. We plan to go to an arboretum to see lights. The tree is up and I made handmade ornaments to add to the collection. My daughter-in-law will be staying for the holiday. My son has taken a few days off work. And the cooperation between my two children is something new and something I wanted to see. My son-in-law has been putting up with all of this Christmas stuff for me, even though he doesn’t like the holiday. My father-in-law will be here. There is a new baby due in the family soon, my niece is expecting her first any day now.

There is a dark part to this Christmas, one I don’t generally talk about and try not to let it take over my holiday. I’m not sure how many more times I will have to celebrate the holiday. My father’s side of the family dies at about 65 and that is 6 years away. I know, I shouldn’t dwell on such a thing and I should take one day at a time and be glad for the times I have. But really, 65 is way to young to die. I’ve just figured out how to play the game here. It’s all gone by so fast. It’s the hospital stay that brought this on. But I will blink and block these darker thoughts for now. I’ve got what I wanted most for Christmas. I have a family. I wish mom could be here but she’s jet setting around the world as she likes to do. She’ll stay long enough to make sure that things are still Christmas and move to the next sibling. I’ll have her back soon enough. I know, I have a book for her present and she is a bibliophile. She can’t resist a book. Neither can I.

I’m off to watch Christmas shows and create some presents from “Stuff” I have lying around that needs to be created with. I want to leave something beautiful for each of my family to glow for many more years.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays…remember the light.

 

Vanish! Daily post Challenge

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/vanish/

Vanish from here, unworthy thoughts,
Unburnished deeds, sad misconceptions.
Vanish from here manipulative words,
Harsh judges, unspoken times.
Bring instead the laughter of children
Raised on streets that cater to their steps,
That cherish and rejoice in potential.
Bring back the souls wrongfully taken,
Before they were ripened by age and wisdom.
Vanish from here, bitter pursing lips
That refuse to speak what needs saying.
Vanish here, and in your place, leave 
Society growing in flourishing in common cause.

Microfiction Challenge: Isle of the Dead

I didn’t intend to write this story. I had something else in mind. But as I looked at the isle, something hit a dark place in my mind. The Isle of the Dead is where an atrocity had to have happened. The music that goes with it, well, it just pushed me to write. A harsh challenge to take on.

https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/2016/10/28/microfiction-challenge-20-isle-of-the-dead/

They called it the Isle of the Dead, but no one was sure why. Townsfolk from the nearby town wouldn’t talk about the island, nor would they venture near it. Being a stranger on vacation as a change of venue, meant to help me overcome the malaise that haunted me, I didn’t understand the hesitation that followed every enquiry I made about the island I had seen from the plane upon landing.

“It’s not a fit topic, lady, for someone as young and beautiful as you. Best to avoid it. Best to find something else in this town to occupy your mind. Just let it lie.” My landlady was the first to give me that advice. She wasn’t the last.

I wandered through the town’s market, a strange combination of “Made in China” and woodcarvings. The buildings of the town were straight from a tour brochure. White stucco houses with red tile roofs contrasting with the business section where the colors alternated between yellows, blues, creams, and pale greens. It was all organized. The creams were restaurants, yellows were full of odd local creations, blues were clothing venues, and pale greens were all of the artsy stores. With each store declaring it’s originality, they were all the same.

I saw the painting in the window of the very last green store on the left as the road went back into the residential section. It contrasted with the soothing color of the store. A slim man dressed in white being ferried to the island. Grays, blacks, whites gathered together like storm clouds on the horizon and created a chill that went up and down my spine. I’d never fully understood that cliche until that moment. Taking a deep breath and gathering what nerve I had left from living a daily life so boring as to be insignificant, I entered.

“About that painting in the window? Is it for sale?”

“No.” That was all the clerk said, meeting my eyes with a hostile look.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I’m from out of town. We flew over the island when we arrived and it’s striking in its natural beauty. But no one will tell me about the island, they just hush me and tell me to move along in my thoughts to something cheerful. Can you at least tell me what the painting is called?”

“The Isle of the Dead.”

“So it’s like that story with Charon and his love from the world of the living?”

The clerk sighed, her disappointment in yet another tourist etched across her forehead. She fumbled behind the counter for a moment, then produced a tablet, brushes and watercolors.

“That will cost you 250 Euros. Your shuttle to the island will leave tomorrow morning at 6 am. Are you sure you need to know the story?”

“Wait, you run a shuttle to the island? Why did no one tell me about it? I’ve asked all over.”

“Do you want the tour or not?”

“Yes, I guess I do. What are the paints for?”

“You must be an artist to be permitted on the island. You are an artist, are you not?”

I paid the money, gathered the bag of supplies and my ferry ticket to the island and left. For the rest of the afternoon, I wandered the galleries, but found no other paintings on the subject.

Dinner was somber at my accommodation that night. My landlady had seen the package I carried tucked under my arm. She had asked what was inside, but my answer had left her with a haunted look. Lamb, potatoes, green peas, leaks, and a desert of peach strudel filled me, but the silence emptied me as quickly. Finally, pouring a glass of wine for the two of us, all of the other tenets having retired for the evening, she broached the subject.

“So, you decided to pursue the matter. You have the tour in the morning? You mustn’t go. Keep the paints and tablet, but keep your sanity, as well. Don’t go. Don’t get on that ferry for any reason, I beg you. I’ve seen the results all to0 often.”

I didn’t listen. The power of the unsaid mystery had gripped my soul, and it wasn’t letting go.

Gray mornings, the light just before dawn, had always delighted me. The morning would sneak in, one little strand of the sun’s rays at a time, the color would return to the world. I had forgotten how much hope the early hours had given me. Life in reality ran into the dark for me, this was a pleasant change.

The boat wasn’t a ferry, but a skiff. There was one crew member who took my ticket, shook his head and pointed me toward the last seat in the skiff. He untied the ropes mooring us, pushed us away from the dock with his oar, and off we went. Waves don’t bother me, and that day there weren’t many. The man said nothing until we were well away from the town’s dock. Then he began to tell a tale in time with the thrusts of the oars that carried us swiftly out into deep water.

“It used to be called the Island of Hope, back before the war. Youngsters would go camping there, their parents staying overnight on a yacht that was more a hotel that a sea going adventure. Newly married couples from all over Europe would come and stay overnight, and when they left the island the next day, they were more in love than when they had arrived. The Isle put roses on their cheeks. Then the war came. and the Isle became troubled. Youngsters complained of hauntings, of chills, and of noises that struck the soul numb. We laughed it off, there in the village. A bad wind calling, a wave that struck the rocks in the distance cracking against them whiplike, or maybe it was the tucker that the youngsters filled themselves full of before they arrived. A bit of seasickness compounded by a stomach plagued.”

I was fascinated. He never looked at me, telling the story as if to himself.

“Was there a haunting?”

“Ain’t no such thing as a ghost, Miss, ain’t no such thing.”

“What caused the change in the visitors to the island?”

“Now, Miss, if we knew what started the change, I’d tell you. But listen on, there’s more story than this.”

I nodded, spellbound like a child in the reading circle at a library.

“The Nazi’s came, of course, bringing with them their particular breed of fear and loathing. We tried to live our lives with them observing everything we did, oh dear God, we tried. But the suspicions they sowed between us, the hatred of all good, the theft of all that was ours being sent off to one of them storehouses that evil man created for his great museum, it was more than a fellow’s intellect could handle.”

“But that was before your time, surely. You don’t look a day over 45. Is this a tale from your grandfather’s time?”

“No, no, I was there. I’m the last one who was there. They brought a bus full of old timers down to the docks, said it was a trip to celebrate their age. The town was all for that. Giving some old folks a trip to the sea was worth the effort to prepare them a picnic lunch and a few of the fisherman’s boats for a holiday. It was a present of goodness out of a fearful black existence. We were such fools then. I was a boy, fourteen and barely grown into my legs. I was a good looking boy, too. I had the tousled hair from the wind, a deep brown, brown eyes that could see the frigate birds in the distance and  the occasional kite. I loved working for the fishermen. School had never filled my head with the excitement being at sea gave me. So, I helped rig the sails, then I dropped down with the Grandpas and Grammys and gave them a cheerful story of escaping school and falling in love with a girl whose nutty brown skin and green eyes had captured my interest for all times. The sun was up, sky was blue, and how could anything be better in the world.”

“So it was wonderful then?”

“I’ve already said to much.”

He focused on his oars, turning the small skiff into the wind, and the island came into view. Breathtaking would be an understatement of what I saw. There was one other skiff anchored six feet offshore. No one was to be seen. The gray of the morning had risen to be lemon yellow behind the island, and the rocks stood in grim contrast to the sun’s cheerful face.

“I’ll set you out on the sand then. Just wave to me when you are ready to leave. One other thing, be careful. There’s things out there you don’t want to find.”

Taking my shoes off, I stepped out of the skiff and waded the three feet to shore. Pines grew on the island, junipers with that biting aroma treasured in candles. The beach was white sand, created by pounding waves against coral. Warm and soothing though it was, I rinsed my feet and put on my shoes. There was a trail that led into the island and I took the tablet out, sketching a quick view. Wandering down that trail led me to an area that was blackened by a great fire. Nothing grew there. The rest of the island was full of life trying to climb above the rocks, but not here. No moss to soften to jagged edges of rock. Looking closer, I realized that the rocks were cracked by the heat of the fire.

As I stepped onto the first of the burned rocks, there was a cry of sorrow and fear. There was no one in sight. I took another step and a soft cry of sadness rose to blend with the other sounds. With each step I took, the cries became more. First a duo, then trio, a quartet, an ensemble, a symphony of sadness.

I noticed a glimmer of something on the far side of the area. Stepping carefully between rocks and soil, I found a small bracelet. It was engraved.

“I forgive you.”

Astounded, I looked around to see if there was anything more. In my haste I set the tablet and paints to one side. For the next two hours I searched, finding two wedding rings, a broken locket with a badly weather picture inside, and a lapel pin.

Noon brought with it a reminder that I was hungry and thirsty. I walked back to the beach and waved at the captain of the skiff. He rowed to shore for me.

“Is it lunch then?”

“Yes, I found the strangest things.”

“Where is your tablet?”

“Oh dear, let me run and get them. I set them aside as I explored. I only started one sketch.”

Back I went, picking up my things and returning to the skiff.

As he poured me a cup of water and opened the sandwiches for the tow of  us, I washed my hands in the sea. “Salt water to cure anything ill,” my grandfather had said.

“So, what did you find?” A question to pass the time with.

“There is a section of the island, behind the pines and below the mountains, that was subject to a terrible fire at some point. The rocks themselves cracked beneath the heat. I walked out into the area and found that some soil had eroded between the rocks. I found this.” I showed him the bracelet. “I was so excited by the find I put the tablet down and kept looking. These wedding rings, engraved with “Forever and Always” on each. The bracelet, look it says “I forgive you.” Who would give a gift like that? and I found a tie pin. It looks like the one my grandfather wore for his toastmaster meetings, but it isn’t quite the same, it’s…take a look. I’m not sure what it means.”

The man sat there silently for a minute. “You should take these back after lunch. They belong to the island.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Take back my new finds?

“Take them back, young lady, you have no claim to these.”

“Okay, but why?”

“The Nazis arrived after the picnic was finished. They sent us to the fishing boats, but the promised the old ones a walk. We never saw them again. No one has entered the island since the fire the Nazis ignited on the island. We should have done something.”

I put the items down on the skiff’s seat and moved to sit on the same seat as the captain.

“I don’t see how you could have done something without endangering your whole town. Those days lacked hope for a reason when the nazis came.”

“I should have done something, anything. By not doing anything, by not protesting, I sold my soul. Now I carry passengers to Hell in my skiff as my penance, and I will continue until the sun no longer shines in our world.”

“That can’t be true. There’s no such thing as a curse. You must forgive yourself.”

“Go put the things back.” So I did.

I returned to the skiff, but the captain was gone. While I waited for him, I opened my tablet and looked at the first sketch. Someone had finished it. Color had been added, people added, and joy added. I turned the page to look at the backside, seeking a note from my collaborator. It was blank, but the next page was filled with scenes of a picnic. The page after that had scenes of the boats moored close to shore and there was a drawing of a boy, maybe fourteen years of age, with legs that were just a bit to long for him. He matched the description that my escort had given of himself. I wondered how many trips this man had taken to the island. I turned another page, and the sky turned red with flame against black mountain. The theft of the items the old folks carried was the next photo. The horrors continued.

My captain didn’t return. As the time passed, I began to wonder how I was going to be taken back to town. The ocean was getting rougher, the sun was now setting. Still my captain was missing.

I was lucky that evening. Eventually a fisherman, returning with full nets and lots of gulls, saw me waving at him. He sent a young man, legs just a little to long, to get me to his ship. I told the fisherman my tale, but he said the skiffs had been abandoned many years ago. I told him of the tablet, and his face grew clouded with sorrow.

“An emotional wound of such horror leaves a mark on the world. That man you saw sounds like my great-grandfather. He died in 2000, bitter at the world. May I see the tablet?”

“I found a bracelet there. It had engraved upon it, ‘I forgive you.'”

“I hope she has.”

My Father Lost His

Engines crossed the yard that day,
Increased business sent the extra engine early,
Got in the way, they said, when they found
Him still alive, steamed between two Great Northerns.
They sent for his wife, drove her to his side,
Youngsters left in Dottie Jean’s hands,
Each shivering from the tales
A round of train folk told, of the pain, of waiting,
Roasting slowly to his death. His little
Son sat on the steps of the speak-easy, waiting
Only his father never came. He cried, to him his
Loving father was a God, immortal, tall, tanned
Dead a week later, the cortège a mile long
Sitting in the front row, scrubbed and clean,
Old timers passed murmuring their sorrow.
Now life would change, penniless, six mouths left unfed.

 

Acrostic poetry is one of the styles that children learn early in their studies. It gives a framework for a student to get beyond. It gives the stability that lovers of poetry like, that binds them to something in a personal way. The difficulty is to make the poems original. The message that you sent as you mature depends upon word use, punctuation, and the background of the poem. This is a true story of how my grandfather died. I wasn’t there. Dad was eight years old and lost in a sea of loneliness. If it hadn’t been for his oldest sister, and his mother, he would never have found his happy again. It did make for difficult years as he had no role model to rely on as my brothers became teens.

The Nursing Home, or Discussing with Dragons

The Nursing Home

A thin drab youth with brown lanky hair slipped into a dark room leaving the door partially open. Someone slept noisily on the full-sized bed. He coughed lightly.

“Boom boom, boom boom,” came a muttering from under the faded quilt. “Boomboom, that’s what it sounds like. Listen, boy, you can hear it if you listen.”

The boy turned his head to one side and listened. There was quiet.

“I don’t hear anything, grandpa.”

“Then you’re not hearing well. I can hear it, like a man with limp or a wooden leg. Boom boom, boom boom,” the voice snarled. “I don’t even need to open my eyes to tell he’s coming for another attempt at my treasure. Listen. Boom boom, boom boom.”

“Grandpa, I think that’s your heart. Remember mom told you not to listen to your heart?”

“Boy, if you start listening to that woman you’ll never be a proper dragon. You’re still a sapling, an odd body, not fully grown and your breath smells like that nurse here. Listen.”

“Grandpa, I come every day, even when it rains and we never see a man here.”

“I showed you my watch, boy child. Gold it is, gold like the tears in my eyes when you deny your heritage. You are descended from dragons, from me and my ancestors. Your mother doesn’t count. She’s a frightening woman, not a proper dragon woman. Shh, someone’s coming. Hide on this side of the bed.”

The boy scurried to the window sill side of the room. He stood quietly watching the door. He wasn’t afraid of his grandfather, but the nurse was another thing all together. With a scratching sound of over starched cotton, the door was thrown over and the light turned on.

“Woman, turn that light off. You know it bothers my eyes. Have you no respect for age?”

“Now, now, dear, how are we after your nap? Oh look, our little friend is here to see us again. I do hope he’s being good. Do you want the red gelatin today or the green?”

“I don’t want any gelatin. It’s nothing but sugar. Grandson, did you know that they used to make gelatin from old horse’s hoofs?”

“Now dear, that was during World War II, during the bombardment. We learned about that in school back when we were a mere slip of a lass.” She drew a needle and vial from her apron and proceeded to the edge of the bed. “Just put our arm on this side of the blanket, dear, and let us take your blood sample for the doctor.”
“You were never a mere slip of anything, Nurse. I’m not putting any of “OUR” anything near you. The doctor has his own blood, let him sample it. See, I told you boy, he’ll come. Listen for it. Boom boom, boom boom. He’ll take the treasure with him and I’ll have nothing to give you.”

“Oh, don’t be a silly old silly, we’ll scare our grandson. I know he’s not supposed to visit us without his mommy but we don’t have the heart to throw him out of the building. It wouldn’t be good for our health. We need our young ones.”

Grandpa pulled the blanket down below his eyes. He kept his nose under the covers.

“We had the sniffles last week, young man. We’ve been keeping a kindly eye on us so we recover in a timely fashion.” Nurse Peal blinked at Grandpa.

“Darn it, Nurse Peal. Don’t scare the boy, he hasn’t molted to his true character yet.”

“And what are we turning into this week? Are we still a dragon?”

“Boy, don’t get old. I forbid it. You’ll end up in a place like this with your teeth falling out and your bald head shining and scaleless. Run along, Nurse, we need our quality time. Just run along.”

The nurse took grandpa’s wrist and listened to his pulse. Jabbing his arm, she took a large sample and put it in her pocket.”The tea trolly will be along shortly. We always like to have tea with us. You could join us if you like. Wouldn’t you like that, young man? Now, dear, we’ve pulled the blanket out from the bottom of the bed. Let us make you all nice and snuggly. We’ll just let you know when the tea is ready.”

The boy nodded quietly and followed the nurse to the door. She shut it behind her with a sweet smile.

The boy turned to the bed and whispered, “Grandpa, you are going to get us in trouble. I thought you said that the fact we were dragons was a secret. She’ll tell on you and that doctor will want more blood samples. She’ll hide the tea trolly from you. Mom said I should make you behave and if you don’t she’ll make you leave this place and SHE’LL take charge of you.”

“Are you still afraid of your mother, boy?”

“Well, no, but sometimes she’s not very nice to others. I don’t want her to be mean to you.”

“Is she still making you eat oatmeal every single day? Making you go to school? I had an old friend who was a teacher in a middle school. He had a great job, teaching literature and scaring the head lice off of student’s heads. Just placed the tip of his claw on their head and they ran off screaming. Screaming lice, what a hobby. I forgot his name, but this bookstore owner called him The Black Dragon. She was all about trolleys with tea in the afternoon. It seems to be a woman thing.”

“Did you know any other dragons, Grandpa?”

“There was The Reluctant Dragon. You could never get him to commit to doing anything. He wouldn’t fight, He read books and filled his head with philosophy. Nice chap, but he was a vegetarian. Not a proper diet for a dragon. He and St. George wandered off into the forest after staging a badly acted drama. The critics were harsh. Then there was the Blue Dragon. Oh, she was a looker that one. Your head was never safe with her after…well, you don’t need to know that at your age. Most dragons were called by their colors or their location. They kept their magic names to themselves so people couldn’t have power over them. They had names like Strong Heart, Pestilence, Snort, Long Tooth, most of them boring names. My name, however, was a magnificent name. Did I ever tell you what it was?” There was a pause. “Speak up, boy, speak up.”

“No, grandpa, you didn’t.”

“Ah, I must remedy that. I was known as the Red Dragon of Dreadful Temper Tantrums.
My mother hid away from me when I learned to fly because I would fly into a fit demanding gold, diamonds, dwarves, swords and jewels. I loved the depth of color in my jewels. Once I was given and item I put it in the corner. Then I would sing to it.”

He cleared his voice. “Ahem, ahem. Do, Re, Do, Sol, Mi, Sol, Ti, Sol. Gimme, gimme, jewels for my soul.” His voice rang out as large bells ringing and clanging together. “See, boy, singing to jewels made my soul happy.”

“What about your eggs?”

“I’m a male dragon. I don’t have much to do with eggs and you will find out about that much later.”

The door squeaked open. Nurse Peal’s face peered into the room. “Are we alright in here then?”

“Of course, woman, now go and leave us alone.”

She pulled her head out of the room with a heavy sigh. “Don’t let the old fool give you a hard time, boy. Tea trolly should be here soon.

“Now, boy, let’s make you a dragon name. What do you fancy? Your egg was yellow, you know. It looked like the sun rising in the East. Your mother kept it well polished and warm. Warm eggs mostly grow up to be large dragons. What should we call you?”

“Grandpa, I’ve been thinking about that. How about the Rising Son of the Eastern Dawn?”

Grandpa looked startled. “Why I like that name. My grandson, the Rising Son of the Eastern Dawn. It suits you, boy, it suits you.”

“How will I know when I start to grow my wings?”

“You’ll start to growl, grow and argue with your teachers about how to swing a shield to protect yourself from a sword.”

“One of the girls in my class has a sword made of plastic. She runs around smacking us boys when we try to play cricket or soccer. I don’t like her very much.”

“A girl dragon or a girl knight? Girl dragons are dangerous, but girl knights are worse. They try to make you do what they say when all you want to do is stand around the corner looking after your wealth. They’ll take your coins if you look away. Sneaky creatures, girls.”

“Did you have a girl dragon as a friend?”

“Well, not exactly. I had a wife dragon, a suitable dragon, a pink and lovely dragon.”

“Didn’t you have a maiden to tie up like in my book?”

Grandpa chuckled. “I had two tied up. Both wore princess outfits and screamed such a lovely screams. But I never ate them. Those knights would sneak up on me.They’d steal the princesses away.  Boom boom, boom boom. Did you hear that?”

“Grandpa, you are being silly. That’s your heart carrying on. Don’t tell anyone your heart is carrying on or they won’t let me come visit anymore.”

“If they don’t let you come visit me, I shall eat them alive. No, raw meat isn’t good for us. We like our meat nicely cooked on an open fire. What do knights call that, a B something.”

“A barbecue is what Daddy calls it. He says that he isn’t a dragon though. He says dragons only eat raw meat and if I argue he’ll send me to bed without a cooked supper.”

“I’ll have a growl with him and show him better. You tell him when you get home tonight. I’m sure I can bring him round. He’s the reason your mother won’t show her dragon wings, you know. I think he’s a tall dwarf, or a politician. Sometimes they are both. So, what did you learn about today in that school your mother forces upon you? Did you learn about war or spears or something fierce?”

“Nope, today we learned about the teddy bear. He looks like Winnie the Pooh, but a president got him in a crate from some firefighters that were putting a fire out in the United States. He was all singed and burned and they put lotion on his fur to make the burns better. Children saw him in the zoo and their moms bought them soft bears to keep them company in the dark. I have a bear, but his name is Arnold.”
 “Well, that is a very good name for a bear, I think. You must guard his well. I think he must be one of your treasures.”

Their heads were close together, by this time, and secret words passed between the two.

 

Nurse Peal and mother stood outside the door, watching and listening.

“I don’t know what we will do without my father in our future. How’s he really doing, Nurse? I know you keep track of what the doctor says.”

“Don’t worry, dear. I drive him crazy using we all the time and he’s really a lovely old goat when you go home. He does love his grandson so. They like to change what he’s going to be when he becomes old. He told the boy, last time, that when he could escape from here he was going to live in the sky and be a star.”

The two women looked at each other and tears formed in their eyes.

“GRRRRR,” called the boy in a loud voice.
“GRRRRR,” the old dragon answered.