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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Poety: The Heart of Me

Hey all!

I was looking through a wonderful art book by one of my favorite painters and illustrators, Tara McPherson. I am sure that I have mentioned on other blog posts how much I admire and love Tara's work, it's very haunting, and sad, and poignant. Underneath it though, there is a kind of wonder and mischievousness. Any time I am having a bad day, or feel sad, I can look through her art book and find inspiration. Some people may be motivated by authors, I have always found art to be a great motivator for me. I have no talent for art, I can't paint or draw, my art has always been words. But any time I look at a painting, or drawing, I have such an appreciation for the talent involved, you're creating an image of thought into form without words. And that really moves me.

Anyway, as I was looking through Tara's book, Lost Constellations, she did a series of paintings with a woman who had a heart shaped hole in her chest. Those pieces, so sad and fierce, inspired me to write this poem. Hope you like it.

The Heart of Me

I tried to feel my heart,

But felt an empty beat.

Didn't even feel the pain,

To numb for the defeat.

No prison held it hostage,

Not a cage of iron bar,

It simply wasn't there,

Just escaped so very far.

When I looked into the mirror,

The wound seeped no blood,

I saw the heart shaped hole,

Where tears flowed like a flood.

The water left a salty trail,

Pouring from my soul,

I thought the pain would hurt me more,

This part of me that wasn't whole.

I never cut it from my chest,

Or had it ripped apart by love,

My heart had simply left me there,

To float away, up above.

It longed for any kind of feeling,

Its wants were a simple cost,

To feel the flush of newborn love,

Or even of pain of ache not lost.

But all it knew was solitude,

The lone and lonely passage of time,

Until the day it could take no more,

For neglect was my greatest crime.

Now I'm left with this scar,

And a trail of dried, salty teared,

I'll never feel love or loss,

For the heart of me has disappeared.

End of Line.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flash Fiction: The Dancer

The Dancer

I watched her dance, her movements lithe and graceful, her body twisting and bending in perfect timing to the music. She wore tight black leggings and a Lycra tank top, her right arm in a long spandex sleeve. Her long brown hair had been pulled into a tight bun, though one lone strand had stubbornly freed itself and dangled in the middle of her forehead. Sweat beaded on her brow and you could see a dark trail of perspiration running down the back of tank top. Still, it seemed as if none of these elements even phased her, as she leaps into the air, her legs scissoring. The music played, approaching the crescendo, as the young dancer entwined herself. As the cacophony of strings and piano came to a head, she spun a circle, pirouetting in a frenzy of speed and beauty, until the last strum of the string slowly died and she lowered herself to the floor, completely spent.

I listened to the applause as the troupe of dancers cheered for her performance, though my hands stayed silent. I watched her from the shadow of my balcony perch, darkness around me. I wanted fervently to cheer, to tell her how wonderful she was, how proud I was of her, but I kept my silence, unable to form words. I watched as she dried off the perspiration with a towel and took a drink from a bottle of water. I could hear her laugh, even see the twinkle of her blue eyes and I knew pain again. I had made many mistakes in my life, though leaving her, leaving her was the only one I ever wanted to change.

I shadowed her movements across the upper balcony, mirroring hers as she moved across the stage. The towel lay around her neck as she thanked the choir and the rest of the cast. The director embraced her in a long hug and I shivered as a tinge of jealously ran through me. How I wished that hug was for me, how I longed but for one embrace, even just one lonely smile cast my way. But I knew that my chance for any of that had passed away a long time ago.

After the director broke his embrace, she stood by the edge of the stage. I looked down to her as she continued to wipe away the sweat and drained the last of the water bottle. She made some small talk with a few of the other dancers, far to soft for me to hear from my perch. I listened to the shudder and click of the lights in theater shutting down, casting long shadows throughout the theater. After about 30 minutes or so, the rest of the troupe drifted away, until she was left all alone on the stage.

The only lights still on were the runners along the aisle and a single spotlight shining down on the stage. I moved my vantage point so I was staring down to her on the stage from the spotlight. She got up from where she had been sitting on the lip of the stage and began slowly stretching. I watched as she loosened up, noticing the concentration masked on her face as she went through a shortened warm up. My memory fell back to that first lesson, oh so many years ago. She had begged me for ballet shoes, begged her mother for them. She had been relentless in her determination even then. I recalled the look on her face as she unwrapped them on her birthday, with the brochure for her first lesson.

I missed a lot of those early recitals, even more of the later ones. By the time she was 14 I was missing all of them. It was my fault, my weakness. If only I had been stronger, if only I had told her what I knew now. Back then though, I only knew what I wanted. Or at least thought I had wanted. No, I'd taken a much more cowardly route, a path away from her and towards bigger mistakes. Shaking my head sadly, I broke off my revelry and looked back down on my princess. She was so much older now, a young woman, on her own in the City. About to play her first lead. Knowing that, even after all these years, I knew I had to come and see her, one last time.

She had started going through the routine that she had been practicing when I started watching again, doing the dance over and over until she had it just right. I hadn't realized what she had meant to me until it was too late. My little girl. I waited until she had finished the dance before moving. She stood back up, uncoiling from the spinning flurry of the final movements and rubbed the soreness in her arms and legs. She walked over to her bag, reaching in to pull out another bottle of water. The light seemed even brighter in the room now, no longer from just the spotlight, but from all around, a soft white glow that filled the room, but she didn't seem to notice. I knew my time was almost up, far far to short. I felt the pull of the brightness, the fabric of myself melting into the shimmering mist. I moved in front of that spotlight and reached out to her, so far away and yet so very very close. I cast no shadow on her, the ether of my being dimming away, and whispered "Thank you..."

My last memory was of her looking to the spotlight with a tear in her eye.

End of Line.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Poetry: The Compass

Hey all,

Here's another bit of poetry I plucked away at today. I really wanted to use the directions of the compass in a poem, sort of comparing the directions of the Earth to the sun and it's relation to your life. It's supposed to be a poem that tells a story, of questioning your own path to finding one out through the course of the poem. I am not sure if I accomplished that or not in the poem itself, but I think it's to a point where I feel like I have done what I can, where I have told what I wanted to say with it. I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about how that worked, or what kind of feelings you had about the poem.

Anyway, enjoy the poem, I am going to keep plucking away at this keyboard.

The Compass

In the east,

The sun rose from my feet.

I watched the horizon break,

Never knowing it's own defeat.

Towards the north,

The chills set in my bones.

I saw no sun, just northern lights,

As the cold wind blew its tones.

Down to the south,

The hot and humid days,

I felt the sweat fall from my face,

As the sun beat it's heated rays.

But to the west,

The sun did fall to sleep,

So the day had come to pass,

For the black of night begins creep.

Directions lead us to and fro,

Along the paths which our lives may flow.

North or south, east and west,

May lead us to a place of rest.

Or down a road of love or pain,

Even back along a path once gained.

The compass of our life has no true north,

Only a promise of what may lie forth.

Life's a journey that you take,

Sometimes right, often a mistake.

But to never travel the path ahead,

That's a soul already dead.

So in the east,

The sun burns in the sky,

Breaking the night's hold,

Letting the darkness die.

Still in the north,

The wind may blow so cold,

But in those precious moments,

Life can play itself most bold.

But in the south,

Amid the sun drenched day,

I feel the warmth of light,

When the special moments pass away.

And to the west,

I walk towards the setting sun.

The day has come to it's end,

But life has just begun.

End of Line.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Flash Fiction: Under a Dead Sun: Past Sins


Hey all!

It's been a while since I've posted a new chapter of my serialized Flash Fiction tale, Under a Dead Sun Past Sins. I thought maybe a nice recap post would be a good idea, to let you know about the story and about the characters. Especially since I have kind of rebooted my blog a bit.

Under a Dead Sun is a zombie western story that I originally wrote about 4 years ago at the behest of a friend of mine, who asked me to fuse one of my loves, westerns, with one of his, zombies. I wrote the first Under a Dead Sun story in a weird disjointed serialized tale that was designed to be read in any order. The original installment had 40 chapters, with a special cover post made by my best friend Jason. You can find a link to Jason's blog here under The Wild Bunch tab, as well as a link to the original short story serial under the Anatomy of a Blog section.

After I finished that story I decided I really enjoyed the Dead Sun universe and went back to do a second serial, this time told in a 5 character perspective. Each chapter would be told from a different characters point of view, with the story eventually intertwining together. My target is about 50 chapters, with each person getting the same amount of story, give or take. I like to keep things open to cut it a bit short or go a bit long.

That can seem like an awful lot of story to catch up on, so here is a quick run down of the characters so far.

Cody Jarrett- a wanted thief and stone cold killer, he murdered his two partners after robbing a bank in a neighboring town. He's trying to get to the town Desperation to take a boat down to Old Mexico. After shooting his partners, they rose as zombies and he had to kill them again, but not before losing his horse. Currently he's going under the alias Beau Johnson (one of the men he killed) as he hitches a ride with Eva May Saint's family. He's selfish, remorseless, and a survivor without scruples.

Eva May Saint- The only surviving daughter of rancher Caleb Saint, her crippled father. They have ventured from their ranch with Bartley, the portly stage driver, and Thomas Moore, Caleb's advisor, a dandy without real cowboy experience who secretly fancies Eva. They are on their way to Desperation because their friend Rex was bitten by another zombie and they are seeking a doctor. Eva is just past 30, considered an old maid by most men, but still attractive. She is tough, gritty, and has been raised to run the farm since her sibling and mother's death.

Morgan Randall- A former Calvary officer who left the service after he fell in love. He is part Indian and worked as a scout, helping to tame the west against his own people. After watching his commanding officer rape and torture a village, he left the military to marry. His wife and child died in childbirth and he buried them on the small farm they had lived on. He remained there until the uprising, where he had to kill his own wife and newborn baby all over again. He left the farm, dressed in his uniform, knowing that sometimes you can't outrun what you are. He's sad and tortured, but with a streak of good, wanting to make up for all the wrongs he has done in his past.

Ally Marshall- The last survivor of a family killed by Cody Jarrett during his escape. Cody beat her and left her for dead, only for her to wake up to see her murdered family come back to life. Defending herself she managed to burn down the stable and destroy the monsters her family had become, but was swept into the river running from another group of the monsters. She was attacked by another group of zombies after washing to shore and fled barefoot through the forest until running into Morgan. Ally has been beaten emotionally and physically and is totally alone in the world, except for the chance meeting with Morgan.

Father Enrico Santiago- A poor man from the New Mexico territory, he left home for the promise of the adventure of war. Born Edward Richmond, he joined and fought for the Confederacy. At the Battle of Bull Run he was injured and lost his nerve for war though, and stole the identity of a deceased Army Chaplain named Enrico Santiago. He surrendered to the Union and eventually wound up out west founding a mission. He's spent 20 years pretending to be a priest, but again lost his courage during the uprising. First letting the village around him die to the monsters, then running as his fellow priests were torn apart when he could have helped them. He's armed with gun he had during the war, but he's all alone. He's afraid to die and selfish, but wracked with the guilt of his own choices and weakness.

The zombies- They are the risen dead, come back to life. They were resurrected the same day the sun turned black. The sun still gives off heat, but the light is darkened and the day is cooler. The zombies can only be killed by destroying their brains, though the zombies are mutated. Their fingers are more blackened points, sharp claws use to tear into flesh. Their jaws are also slightly distended, with the teeth having broken or changed into sharpened fangs. They are slow moving and unintelligent, but dangerous in groups. The smell of fresh blood can quicken their movements in close quarters though, giving them deceptively fast lunging speed.

That's about all you need to know. I hope you enjoy the story as I plan to try to post at least a new chapter once a week. We are really getting into the bulk of the story and the action, so it should be fun and exciting. Let me know what you think of the story or post questions or suggestions in the comments. Thanks for reading!

End of Line.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flash Fiction: Under a Dead Sun: Past Sins

Chapter 32:

Eva spurred her horse faster, down the trail way, the town of Desperation looming in the distance. She tried to block out the memories of her and Bartley; and even Thomas attacking those creatures at the roadside. The thoughts of the blackened blood spraying against the rock wall face, or worse yet, the sight of the poor woman the beasts had been feasting on. The thoughts seem to bubble into her conscious unbidden, no matter what Eva did to force them down. She suppressed a shudder and turned her mind back to the task at hand, saving Rex. In the hour since they had stumbled upon those creatures he had turned for the worse. His skin was turning a sickly yellow-green and he was covered in sweat. The bite mark was red and inflamed, the skin so hot that Eva wondered how it wasn't burning the flesh right off his skin.

She figured that they were about an hour outside outside of town when they ran into the stranger. He had blond shoulder length hair and was dressed in a black suit, twin Colt's resting crosswise on his hips. A thick layer of trail dust covered his clothes and the saddlebags hanging over his shoulder, but all Eva was watching was the sawed off shotgun in his hand. He had said that he had ran into some creatures in the woods that had scared away his horse, but that he was headed towards Desperation to catch a boat.

Eva's intuition flared every time she looked at the stranger, who had said his name was Beau Johnson. She didn't like the feel of the feel of the man, she didn't trust him. But her father and Thomas had agreed to let the man ride into Desperation with them. No man, no matter what she felt, should be left out here with more of those monsters wandering about. Eva didn't really agree with Thomas assessment, her gut said that he couldn't be trusted and to many times her gut had proven right. But time was of the essence, and she didn't have time to argue over it, with Rex's conditioning worsening by the minute. Besides, maybe one more gun would make a difference.

Eva bit her lip and tried to force the uneasiness away, but the tension lay like a thick knot at the base of her neck. The undead, the black sun, Rex, the stranger, it was to much, to fast. Instead she reassuringly patted her Colt and spurred her horse a bit faster, riding ahead of the stage and Thomas, ahead of the stranger sitting beside Bartley in the driver's seat. As she came the the edge of the forest line, Eva drew the reins back, drawing the horse to a stop. She dismounted on the trail face, just before the path wound down the side of the hill and into the valley, Desperation laying just ahead.

She felt the others draw up behind her, but no one said anything as they looked down into the valley. The outlaying farms were smoldering, small flickers of flames still evident. Columns of smoke billowed from Desperation itself, though most of the town looked whole. Even at this distance though you could see the creatures moving about the farmland. They shuffled, jerking and lurching, moving in a way nothing human ever could. Worse yet, you could see the dead they had left behind, ripped, eviscerated. The once lush green grasses stained by blood. Even the river banks that flowed along the edges of town were tinged with red. So many dead, so many people lost. Eva couldn't even summon a tear, so thick was the lump in her throat. She only felt her nails digging into her palm as she balled her fist in anger, in frustration.

It was then she heard her father's scream.

End of Line.

Poetry: The Dirt of Days

Hey all,

So below is a poem that was really written in bits and parts over the course of about five months. As I let life get in the way of my writing, I kept meaning to get back to the blog and writing a little every day. Since I got my first comic book published though it has really rekindled my creative juices. Or at least shamed me enough to get back to writing. I'm going to try to post more over the coming weeks, maybe slowly at first, but hopefully with more frequency as time goes on.

Anyway this poem is a bit of piecemeal effort, stretched out over the many aborted reboots I've tried in the last 5 months. I sat down today and read it over, deleted the whole post, then retyped it in about two read throughs. I tried to channel some of the original flavor that the early drafts had while taking a new approach to the work. A lot of the references to washing away pain were in the original poem, but I feel the later parts were where I tried to freshen the take I had up on the whole poem. Anyway I hope you enjoy it.

The Dirt of Days

New days as they turn from the dark,

Silent nights break as the moon parts.

Open the dawn as the rains do come,

Washing away the evenings sum.

The dirt circles around the drain,

Futility scrubbing at the stains.

But nothing I do can wash it clean,

The sins of the flesh grown obscene.

I scrub and scrub, but never clear,

The layers of the filth and fear.

Broken trust and brittle lies,

Lay atop the dirt surmised.

Falsehoods lie, no cleansing truth,

Just words betrayed, my faith uncouth.

And 'neath the dirt and painful grime,

Lay the raw scene of the crime.

You hurt me most with words I said,

When my silence should have served in stead.

So now the lies have built upon,

A broken trust that can't go on.

You're dead to me, just lies and hate,

I no longer care to suffer this fate.

For I know the hurt will never wash away,

My lies and pain are the dirt of days.

End of Line.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Flash Fiction: The Scarecrow

The crows had been thick this year, the worst case her father had ever seen. They had been wrecking havoc with the crops, picking into her fathers corn fields particularly. Her family had been farmers on this land since long before the oldest person Molly had ever known, but times had been hard over the years and her family had sold a lot of the vast acreage they had once owned. Now they were down to just the corn fields and her father couldn't afford to lose any more corn.

Molly had watched from the window in her room in the old white farmhouse as her father built the scarecrow. He had used some of Tommy's old clothes and Molly didn't think that it felt right, but her mother had told her to shush. She had watched as her dad stuffed old straw down into the faded jeans and flannel shirt of her brother. Her dad had asked her is she wanted to decorate the face of the burlap sack he was using as the head but Molly had just shook her head no, running back to her room. Her father had dawn a crude face on the sack, thick black eyes and a ripped black slit for the mouth. He'd even put one of Tommy's old work hats on it, the floppy black bill drooping in the front, shading the scarecrow's eyes. She remembered jumping in fear as her father drove in the first nail, mounting the stuffed man onto a wooden cross.

At first it wasn't so bad. She didn't look out the window if she could help it. She tried to ignore the scarecrow. She didn't tell her mom or her dad, but something about the scarecrow felt...wrong. It frightened her. At night it was worse. The moon would cast shadows that fell through her window. The black silhouette of the scarecrow would lie on top of her as she tried to bury herself deeper under the covers. The ghost of her stuffed brother lying in bed with her. Sometimes she could feel the chills even in her sleep.

The worst part of the scarecrow though wasn't even the scarecrow. It was the bird. The lone black raven that perched on the stuff man's shoulders. While his smaller brethren had been scared away, the lonely raven remained behind. She first saw the bird as it pecked away at the blackened eyes of the burlap sack, like the bird already knew that the stuffed man posed no threat. She stood in her window, feeling a shiver run down her back as the crow stopped and looked at her. She felt the bird peering at her, her palms slick with sweat, her breath caught in her throat. The raven's wings stretched wide and it cawed, a brittle shriek that burned Molly's ears. She slammed the window shut and buried herself under her blankets, not coming out until her mother called her for dinner.

She tried for days to scare the bid away, from yelling and screaming to daring to throw rocks and stones at the bird. Nothing worked though. The bird would flutter away, only to return to his perch whenever she turned back towards the house. She tried to tell her father about the bird, but it was never there when she told him. It was always gone, unless she was alone. When she was alone, the bird was always there, waiting, staring at her.

The fourth day after the scarecrow went up, the storm came. The rain and wind lashed at the house, the sounds of thunder echoing through the halls, the crackles of lightning bursting through the sky. Molly watched through her window, the rain pelting the glass, almost obscuring her vision completely. But she could still see the raven, perched on the scarecrow's shoulder. Despite the window being shut and the howls of the storm, if Molly closed her eyes she could hear the beat of the crow's wings in the rain and the cries of the bird's protests. She sat at the window until late in the night, watching as the lit candle wore itself down to a nub. Yet all through the storm, the bird never left the scarecrow.

The power had come back on by the time the sun cracked through Molly's window. Leaves and stalks of corn lay strewn about the yard but the bedraggled scarecrow was still nailed to the cross. Molly went downstairs, her father was already in the field, but her mother was asleep on the big chair in the living room. Molly slipped into her boots and gently snuck out of the front door. She walked around the yard, picking her way among the wet grasses and blown debris, walking until she could see the stuffed man.

His hat had blown away in the storm, and one of his arms hung limply at his side. He was wet and torn, like a sad doll forgotten far to long. Molly looked for the raven, absent from his perch. She climbed over the wooden slat fence and edged through the stalks until she was in the small clearing. Broken shafts of corn lay around the cross, and Molly lowered herself to her knees. She brushed them away, finally unearthing the raven beneath the broken stalks. It cawed weakly, gently nipping at her fingers. One of his wings were bent at an odd angle and his inky black feathers were slick with blood. The raven tried to beat his wings and lift himself up, but fell back to the ground, broken and bloody. The raven turned one eye to Molly, staring again like it had so often before, and Molly knew what she had to do.

All of her fear melted away as she gently lifted the bird from the muddy earth. She stretched, letting the broken bird hop onto the scarecrow's shoulders. The raven nestled in, gently cawing at Molly, his black eyes never leaving her. Molly backed away from the straw man, a small smile creeping across her face. She hopped back over the fence and ran to find her father, out in the fields.

The storm had destroyed most of the surrounding farms crops, ruining the harvests for many of their neighbors. To her dad's amazement though, their crops went mostly untouched. Her father managed to sell their harvest for a record amount, safeguarding the farm for the next few years. Every day after the storm though Molly looked for the raven, but she never saw it again. Every morning and every night she looked at the battered old scarecrow in her brother's clothes hoping to see the bird again, knowing that she didn't have anything to fear. But the bird stayed away, leaving only the now comforting shadow of her straw brother to tuck her in at night.

End of Line.