Old Man Lost

“Shh, old man,” Reggie mumbled to himself as he eyed the TV. “It’s not the end of the world yet.” He leaned closer to the television. “The end of the world hasn’t come yet, for we old soldiers still sit in purgatory uncalled. Surely that devil would call us if he knew we sat at ease.” The TV blared, for Reggie used the sound against the loneliness of his soul.
News reports troubled him: the president declaring war actions, kids dying, no one understanding why killing was so easy for the man, volunteers sent packing as democratic pigeon minders, told they got no business, old people dying and no one caring.

”Hush, Reggie, pray he doesn’t call you. You can barely keep time at a social dance with the old women down in the basement of the church. Not much of a social, all of us left by families that know our minds are going. Not much to be happy for, to care for, to do. Puzzles and number thingy squares. Old women knitting. Women ruminating like cows, no brains left. Young folks and nurses bugging folks to be active. Folks showing us computers, damned machines. Shh, damn it, man, don’t get so upset. Don’t call attention to your dark soul. You don’t want the attention of that type. They bury us with trumpets blowing and our service honored, but there is little honor in what we did. We killed, oh that we served as God willed. Oh, that peace was close, but it ain’t coming.”

The news flooded the room. Missiles launching from planes, children laying dead, yellow gas coating everything. Reggie looked down at his hands. His hands, beautiful hands, that had held a child when it was born, helped it learn to walk, paid with labor to send his child to school, and watched with pride at the start of the Great War III. Strong hands that had served him, that had held his wife as she sobbed at the telegram from the War Department, now sat idle in his lap. Sad hands that watched the news take his wife’s will to live, that buried her.

“Reggie, man, you have to keep quiet, man. Don’t say your thoughts too loudly, or they’ll have you out the door as a traitor. I’m you, you know, still you. I’m me. I was…I am, I get so confused these days.”

He moved the food on his plate around in circles. TV food, the folks next door brought TV food to him each night. They said it was okay he didn’t know them. He hated that. They told him names. They had no faces. The food was placed on his TV tray. One plate, one fork, one spoon, one glass of water. His teeth were worn and so his food was precut, mushed by him into the catsup. He took a bite, swallowed, and took another. Food had no real meaning, it just kept him alive. It all tasted the same.

“When’s it morning, old man, when’s morning coming? Not soon enough. Devils on the TV, devils in church, next it will be devils in my home.”

The door to the room he sat in opened and closed. Reggie didn’t bother looking around.

“What do you want now?” he asked. “You don’t normally come for the dishes. Got something for me?”

Whoever had entered the room hissed at him, “Good evening, Reggie.”

“Don’t know why you bother me every night. I’m an old man. Got a devil for president, a war to begin more wars, ain’t nothing going to ever be okay again.”

“Your pain, it seems worse tonight, Reggie. Shall I take it from you?” The stranger moved to the front of the couch. He pushed the plastic container of pills in front of Reggie.

“Pain means I’m alive. I’m an old man. Ain’t nothing going to matter ever again. Leave me alone. I don’t want nothing from you.” He watched the TV change to a game show. “See they roll that wheel and people guess words. Fools always take too long. You want to watch this show with me? I ain’t about to go out with all that fireworks on the news going on.”

“I can take your pain away, Reggie. I can ease the burden of your heart.” The stranger sat down and rested his hand on Reggie’s knee. “I’m worried about you, Reggie, you don’t do anything but watch that idiot tube. The news will make your heart stop, if you keep watching it.”

“Heart stopped years ago when the wife died.”

“Reggie, all you have to do is tell me that I can take your soul to a different plane. But you have to say it.”

“Hell, you think you’re the devil or something? Take my soul to a plane. A plane to a place where no-one gives a damn. Nah, you get out. I’m not going with no devil. I have my own devils inside me. I live my own hell, don’t need to go to one.”

“Heaven won’t come to you, Reggie, not ever. You’ll never find relief sitting here. Come with me, Reggie, you’ll be warm and with family.”

Reggie watched the wheel spin. “Hey, weirdo, you know that phrase right there? Daniel Webster said it.”

“Fine, Reggie, fine. What’s the phrase?”

Turning to the illusion beside him, Reggie laughed and said, “Get the hell out.” He leaned back in his couch and closed his eyes. “Devil wouldn’t want me, I’m too much of a grumpy old Gus. Close the door as you leave. Damn curmudgeon needs his rest.”

The devil stood and smiled. Reggie was one of his favorites. He could bide his time. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Reggie.”




I'm too old to sit in the corner,
Too old to twist and turn 
To find my heart and mind
Torn asunder over the
Future of the past, the once and future,
Over hatred and bigotry.

I'm too young to concede 
The world won't change
Its clothes for the better.
Won't go to a Humanity-R-Us
Establishment for a refit.
Overthrow the twenties and big brother's uniform.

Can't see the colors for the 
black and white, like TV when 
It started, with removable tubes 
You could change out tubes, glowing bright, at
The drugstore, right past the cashier
While Dubois sits writing in the corner still.

Your still produces the elixir 
Of rebellion, energizing,
Thought provoking, intoxicating,
At a forgotten power of protest,
Of knowing right from wrong
As you swing your placard proudly.

School taught me to be nice.
A fatal character flaw, unreasonable,
Being nice, compassionate, sweet, helpful,
All words that buzz and bee. Liberal.
I'm too young to join AARP
Too old to swing from a Constitutional noose.

My email sings the need for money,
Donations, signatures, and one,
Oh, blessed one, that asks for a tip.
A tip for taking my money
Because I must be old enough
To be rich, to have, to hold, to keep.

I'm too old to sit silent, Chevy waiting,
To drive with fist shaking, gun toting
Road rage. Oh yes, I'll yield, sometimes,
But not about my politics. Compromise, act.
My caution light gleams yellow,
But the red light fails. I run as I take action.

I'm too young to hand over hope, tethered to
My heart, forever to a cause. So many,
Change causes change. I change. Voices cluster.
Liberal changes are on sale, bargain prices,
On cheap fabric imported that
Feeds a family overseas, but saying, "Buy American."

Too old to wear a flag upon my two piece,
My jeans, jacket, elbow patches.
Burn my flag, I'll cheer your voice,
Serve my flag, I did that. Embroider my flag on a globe,
Don't use my flag to beat and bludgeon
Those in need. I'll use it for your shroud.

We came, my ancestors came, arrived
Found a place, to grow, manipulate
Become human, chase their tails with 
Their tales of how we became great.
It was 1624. We started it. The movement. Blame us.
We advocated freedom, compassion, hope, education.

Don't tell me I'm too old, too young,
To tell you to resist the crazy. Crazy
Worse than the flu, poverty, student loans,
Worse than children dying, drowning, starving.
I'll resist your overly patriarchal ambiguities,
Attempts to cow and control. My body, my life

Too Old, Too Young, not to care
To not open my heart to others, to welcome.
To litigate with my head. Policy maker.
Too proud of being a resistance.
For when they first banned intelligence,
They hurt us all. Stole from us.
Grow old, grow energized,
Hit with words, but true ones,
Turn your television to truth.
Read a book, French philosophy,
Grow young, stand and turn to the light,
Like a sunflower, follow the judicial glow.

I'm too old to find my seat
On the bus, train, plane, without
First asking to pre-board.
I'm too young to have my dreams dashed
As they play pingpong with my future.
Let me land, resist, fight. Let me...

Martyr: A Dailypost Writing Prompt

Better had you called her Mother,
For mother she was before you stole
Her every waking moment with your needs.
She never minded the change that goes with:

I need water, cookies, a story.
I need soothing, aspirin, a cold pack.
I have a broken dolly, truck, fix it, 
Someone hurt me, pushed me, my knee...

My broken heart, my bank balance.
My lost friend, my best friend gone,
I'm alone. You were never alone, not you.
She hovered over you even when you refused to see.

Still she held you and gave you worth, forgiveness.
Counsel given you, and some of hers from a lengthy speech
You remember. You lust for more, but lack the patience
Of saints from world's dust covered and ash filled.

Mother finds a way, always she finds a way.
My friends have, my sister has, my brother took.
Return it, all of it to her, give her the life
That she thought she would have, but you changed.

She gave her all away, every drop: tears, smiles, cries.
Still she sets the table, waiting for a call, a note.
Cooks for your empty spot, carefully decorated table,
Leaves a napkin to blot your lips or brow, a post card.

Folded on the table, she keeps her dreams for you,
The funds she gathered in pennies, for ice cream, notebooks...
She gave you her dreamscapes to bear with you,
Lush beautiful realms of the mind. Freedom.

In place of your sorrow, a breeze for gladness.
She healed you, scolded you, taught you,
Worked to learn the math both new and old,
So you could explain the new world to her. 

Mother, better had you called her Mother, 
Before she was labeled Martyr, as willingly
You took away her smiles of you, to leave her
Eyes in tears and heart in two.