Putting our Heads Together

Putting our Heads Together
I don't think he sees me

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween

Being a man; and all the myth and obligation being a man entails, I believe myself to be a rock in the face of fear. I like to think that I do not scare easily, when the fact is as I review my memories – I scare incredibly easily.
There are times that take a country to task, and no matter what your age you cannot be shielded from the desperation of those times. When I was six and the Vietnam War was in full conflict, I would see the news casts and hear my parents talk about it. When you are six war affects you on a visceral level replayed with plastic soldiers and through playing “Rat Patrol” with your friends. There is one specific time I recall sitting and staring at the black and white TV with the family as the Draft Lottery was being televised. My birthday was picked in the top 5, which meant all men of appropriate ages with that birth date were very likely to be drafted into active duty. I knew very little about real war, I knew enough to know what drafted meant, and I knew nothing at all what age group was the target of the draft. For the better part of a year, I silently prepared myself to say goodbye to my parents and siblings to join the US Army in Vietnam, where the only thing more prolific than the bullets was the rain. Thus the first great fear I can remember – war.
Other fears dogged me when I was in the single digits. In Orangeburg, there are plenty of woods to play in and I (along with my brother, Scott Myerson, Steve Arant, and others) explored them on a daily basis. We ran through swamps, through culverts, and fecund places of tall trees, rotting leaves, and the sound of birds and scurrying animals. One thing we did on a regular basis, was climb up a steep embankment to a busy road (it may have been the Old Columbia Road). Traffic permitting, we would place dirt clods across the road, run into hiding and watch cars run over them. These were wild and heady times! Once, a driver stopped and yelled at us. I think my compatriots fled while I stood frozen for the short and loud lecture on how dangerous what we were doing was, and that they were going to call the police. That was all I needed to look over my shoulder for months, expecting to see John Law in hot pursuit – Teever Handal, armed with dirt clods and presumed dangerous.
When I grew into my teenage years, my older brother Chris was still my best friend and the one I followed around the most. To him I owe expanding my taste in popular music to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, and Steely Dan. He also upped my literary game which was firmly entrenched to science fiction, to other genres including horror in the form of Stephen King. If my brother could read Stephen King unscathed, so could I – right! From King’s classic short story collection Nightshift, I was grabbed and grabbed hard by The Boogieman. Not for days, nor weeks, nor months, but for years after reading that tale, I was afraid of the dark, and checked every closet in every bedroom I was to sleep in. Do not ask for whom the bump in the night is for, it is for me.
Moving onto my college years, you would have thought bravery would have cropped up in me somewhere. Just a little bravery, you know, maybe in some small, sheltered corner of my psyche. I don’t think it would be a lot to ask for. But no. The year was 1981 and the movie was American Werewolf in London (a film that now I can watch without the blink of an eye). I was home from Clemson, but none of my friends were around when the movie came to Orangeburg. Having a liking for horror (gosh knows why!), I went to the Cinema Twin to watch it by myself. I knew I could do it. I was a college man after all. Well the movie started and in short order I could be found watching the movie through the crack in the theatre doors, so that I could watch it while standing in the light. American Werewolf in London – An “A” Grade, Mr. Teever Handal – you get “F”.
No collection of my most fear filled moments would be complete without a visit to adulthood (in which, I am ashamed to say, more than one incident can be found). As a husband, father, and dog owner, one would expect testosterone alone would kick my latent bravery into high gear. Sadly experience says otherwise. Several years ago when our son Michael who was living in Denver, brought several of his friends down to Colorado Springs to attend the Pikes Peak Wine Festival with us. A great evening was had by all, but Jean-Marie and I couldn’t hang with the youngsters and we were the first to bail for home. Nestled in our beds, we drifted off to sleep. Unbeknownst to us, Michael had run into an old friend and was going to be out later than his college buddies, leaving them to come back to our house on their own. The trouble was, they didn’t have a key. They tried the doorbell, but our dogs were unresponsive to it, and Jean-Marie and I happily incorporated the sound into our dreams and kept on dozing. One of the guys came around the house and onto the deck outside our bedroom to try and get our attention. All I knew that was in the middle of the night, someone was shaking the bedroom door to the backyard by the door handle. With catlike reflexes, I hid behind my wife and tossed a pillow at the door yelling in my best falsetto, “Go away!” Maybe I should invest in an alarm system.
So those are my top five fear and adrenaline stoked moments in no particular order. They encompass the military, the police, literature, the movies, and benign home invasion. I could have told ghost stories, our family has a few. But those don’t scare me so much as fascinate me. Perhaps I will share them for next year. For now, show me yours, I have shown you mine. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Staring down into
A quarry whose size
I cannot guess
Just west of Salt Lake City
I believe it is Salt Lake City
But the plane is at cruising altitude
And I am a child of the earth
With ground born perspective

Looking at this quarry
This vast dead dirt hole
Where a breathing mountain once stood
Where its neighboring mountains
Still stand and now mourn
This new born grotesque pit
Striated by roads
Masquerading as contour lines
On some gargantuan map

The quarry was birthed in tapered layers
Looking as if some giant Mayan or Incan
Had strode here in seven league boots
To pluck from the ground
A deeply geometric form
To adorn Machu Picchu
Or some cold Andean plane
Leaving only its imprint and mystery

It is fine to escape myself
And picture this as something mystical
The deed an act of magic or whimsical gods
Rather than to accept its truth
A scar inflicted by men
Laboring to fulfill some arbitrary task
At the expense of a natural guardian
A thing once as ancient as the world

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and The Orangutan

Intelligent, intent eyes stare out from the photograph
Stick; cheroot-like, poised to one side of its mouth
The orangutan presents as some ape version of Eastwood
Starring in an old Spaghetti Western opposite Eli Wallach

It is a quiet creature like cowboy Eastwood
But for different reasons as understood by the Malays
Who believe that the orangutan believes that
If it spoke, it would be compelled into labor

Compelled to labor, as if man ever needed
Proof of speech or any reason
To bend the back of an animal
To forced work in the field

Work would not work for the orangutan
Simply surviving is difficult enough
On the list of the endangered
Making it to tomorrow is its primal concern

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sleight of Hand

Fall does not fight
The battle that Spring does
With sluggish and greedy winter
Summer is lazy in its own heat
And will typically share a stroll
Hand in hand with Autumn
For some small companionship
At the end of his shift

It is that time now
When Fall is just acquiring
Her voice, an audible whisper
Of course she has been around for a little bit
Felt in the occasional chill
Carried sporadically on her soft breath
Seen in the occasional whitening
Of our breath on certain early mornings
But now she can be heard
Without the straining of ear
Or even the effort of tilting the head

Seductively she murmurs,
“Do not be afraid.
I know I precede death,
I know I am the boatman
Gently laying life in my wake
To be swallowed up by
Winter’s frozen current.
But I do it with such style!
I put on quite the show.
So watch,  Enjoy the fireworks.
Bathe in the splashes
Of yellows and golds,
Of auburns and reds,
And pay no attention
To what my other hand is doing.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Oregon Trail

At least ten dead, at least
More names added to the role
That is hundreds long
Oregon the current scene
But likely not the last
Not likely by a long shot
No pun intended

No place left to hide for me
No ignorance large enough to blanket
To offer shelter from the storm
Of random death amid our safe havens
Of schools
Of theaters
Of churches

The WHY grows larger
The HOW ever more obvious
The tears shed for strangers
That could have been family
Salty pools forming, growing,
Evaporating more and more swiftly
As tragedy numbs the collective heart

And I look for answers
Hell, I shout for answers
And cringe because they never change
Always emasculated gun control is called for
Always a call to arms is the response
Always nothing happens
As bodies are buried with no voice of their own

I see that we are only killing ourselves
Driven by numbness towards the visceral
Which constantly moves out of reach
Populating a private Golgotha
With unexpected saints
No nails required
Bullet ridden stigmata will suffice