.

SBLJ


Light & Sound














CPS


The fog was especially dense the morning that I passed.  It had been so hot the day before, and the early morning was as chilly as I remember any June being.  I awoke extra early, squeezed my glass of juice, and then left it there on the counter for some reason.  I just had this urge to go back to the bedroom.  I stood there in the doorway and looked at Stanley still sleeping soundly.  He was always such a heavy sleeper.  He must have sensed me, because he woke a little.  Looked up at me with those crystal blue eyes and said, "Doris?  You awake?"  "Yes, My Dear.  It's okay.  Go back to sleep."  He snorted a little and closed his eyes.  And that's the last time he'd ever see me.  

I smiled, because in a morbid way, I knew it in that moment, but felt such a peace.  And that's when it happened.  

I suddenly felt so faint...so tired.  I made my way into the living room and sat in Stanley's old lounger.  It smelled of cherry pipe tobacco and his Old Spice.  Back when he was traveling for work, I would sit in that chair for hours.  After a minute, I simply closed my eyes.  And that was it.  That. Was. It.  I was gone.





BEJ


“expectations”





SKFA


i took seven deliberate breaths as you approached


the dance floor

your stare 

you came near

you were a jungle at night

and the pull 

of a swollen moon


i looked down and away

shy

overwhelmed

intoxicated

by the return home

we became in that instant


the music playing 

the masquerade swirled around us

as your grip learned the silk of my dress and the small of my back

my hand found your heart

rhapsodic

our stomachs met 


you pulled me into your lungs and held the breath of me


i felt it


"everything begins now" you said


and it did 






KBGD


For the bunny mask:


The sickly sweet Chardonnay clung to the back of her throat as her gaze remained fixed on his smile. 

What was remarkable to her was not the fact that she hadn't seen him gush so in over 20 years, but merely how utterly entranced he was by the young woman he held so closely in his arms. The packed dance floor was not a deterrent and he spun the lanky blonde in circles, creating a chasm between himself and the rest of the world. 

Sitting on the outskirts, at the edge of oblivion, she briefly remembered their first dance. "Fly me to the moon", he stepped on her toes twice. Tonight, however, he was Fred Astaire. 

Youth, it seemed was both interloper and guest of honor.  

She choked back one more sip. Anymore than that and their car ride home would be a fight. 

She turned her attention to the girl's bunny mask and devised a plot to steal it for herself so she could wear it for him later. 




And for the ladder:


And then she climbed to the clouds because no had told her she couldn't. 








MCCJ


i.


desire is the most pleasant form of deception. we are all wild and hopeful. touch more.

fear is the most boring form of imagining. we are all flesh and bone and mystery. sing more.

love is the most willing form of _______. we are all suspended and falling. breathe more.



ii.


oooh the fade.

the glorious fading.

gently rising drifting faded.

color drained and vanishing faders.

mist and hot air and surprise and opening fade-lings.

lifting and pushing and bending and leaning and rubbing fah-del-ee-ohs.



iii.


The time in between episodes was getting shorter and shorter. 

Memories were persisting less and less.

There was a place where she could escape to, but she hated being alone.

The sun burned an image into my hand… My Heart is still working on the translation.

The sound of tears falling onto the desk woke him from a daydream.

We never imagined that the future would be this peaceful.

Nothing is Finite. 

Make me a story.




iv.

The spiral of life is real. Things do not repeat in a predictable fashion, but they do repeat.

And each time they are expanded and increased in terms of potential for newness.

I see your arms outstretched over a city, in the distance, and in the past.  

As comforting as it can be, there is no ownership between us now.  

Thank God this is All a Dream… a Sacred and Magical Dream.

Can we fly? Will we wake up?  


Send me a Message when it Happens.


v.


I don’t have to tell you anything.

But i still want to… 








LLSL


The Ladder


Every full moon at midnight

In the dark, pine, forest

Through an especially dense thicket of trees

Behind a rickety, old, abandoned house, that looks as if it's been swallowed up by vines,


It appears…


           A ladder

               As tall as the sky itself


And every full moon I climb

Up, up, up, to the heavens

Through the thick pillows of clouds

Holding onto the rough wooden slats

One hand in front of the other

Never looking down

Until night becomes day

And I find myself in The Enchanted Room


I meet the most wonderful people there

Figures from history,

Marilyn Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Frida Kahlo,

They are all dressed in masks for the dance,

Marilyn Monroe wears a rabbit mask, Frida, a colorful feathered one with the symbol of a monkey on the forehead, Abraham always looks dapper in a simple black Venetian frame


You see, each night is a party,

A sophisticated black-tie affair,

A masquerade ball of cloaked spirits,

A rotating blur of clasped-hand-dancers spinning across the floor


And there I am -

A guest to the most extraordinary festivities

Feeling both fortunate and a fraud

Who am I to be here?

Why was I - the only living mortal - invited? Led here that first fateful evening by the light of the moon?

Beneath my mask, I am not someone of note, I am not in the history books, I am not exceptional in any particular way. I am just an ordinary person. The only thing extraordinary about me, is that I'm here, in this enchanted place.


All these people, these spirits,

They have such wisdom, so many stories, and I - well, I have my ears to listen - but no stories of great measure. But oh, how their stories thrill me!


After a night of dancing and fascinating conversation, I climb back down the ladder

Down, down, down, to solid ground

To earth, to things familiar,

To things mundane,

To memories, and worries, to little pains that prick at the heart, to a running list of things undone and things to repair and things to do, to hopes and quiet dreams, and wordless fantasies, to the steady rhythm of my heartbeat, and the beauty of the forest surrounding me, to thoughts of friends and family, and all those living on this ground that make me happy to return, back through the forest and to my house, where I slip inside the front door quietly, careful not to wake the others. My family. How I love them.


How lucky I am to share a life with the ones I love here on Earth.


And I think…"Perhaps the ordinary is extraordinary."


Maybe that's the story I bring to the party. Maybe that's why they picked me.






AADA


I see you when I dance

You surround me

Gently wrapped in your flame

You are a mirror to my soul

I feel the warmth of your breath

Yet I cannot touch you

Forever my reticent guest






FFMJ


Flight was like a second skin, a slick film she wore between one dramatic moment and the next.  She was used to leaving - it was far easier than arriving - but she'd grown to love the view from her current bed and was reluctant

to go for the first time in as long as she could remember.







GMLA


Let go

Let go

Let go














KBGD



They met on a Tuesday. 


She had been there to see the Vermeers. 

He was alone, surrounded by ruins of vessels and columns. 

She found comfort in another with such a solitary existence, as it was the only kind she knew. 

Every week she would return. 

Their Tuesday afternoons together being the highlight of her seven days without him. 

Whenever the guard turned his back, she would steal a kiss: shutting her eyes as her mouth parted ever so slightly.







MCCJ


clear tilt

darling peak

gumption blow

closed safety

golden structure





SKFA


it just

it

it went on forever 

the breath and the huff

and the gluttony of it all

there on the edge of consciousness and the world


the sky was crimson

and our devotion sagged heavy with maple syrup

as it dripped out of our hands 

and into our mouths as we laughed


i swear it went on forever 

books fell off the shelves 

in the study 

on their own 

and opened to pages filled with mercury and rubble 

and the 1940s 


it all turned to dust

broke from my expectations and became fireflies 

tempting night 

as they traveled upward 

from hot to cool


was there ever a world as I knew it?

or did I just close my eyes and choose my rewards?


don't tell me.





CPS


I really don't know what came over me.  I wasn't a very political person and I certainly was not a Republican.

But, I remember going into the den and writing out a check for "The Re-Elect Ronald Reagan Campaign."

I made it out for twenty five dollars. Maybe it was that advert of him up on a horse...I guess I was just feeling patriotic.  So, it was to my great surprise that I got a call from Dr. Ruge about a job offer in California all these years later.


Some people say Mr. Reagan is a monster, that he destroyed the economy, that he was responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent people.  I just think of him as a man who stares out the big bay window, occasionally

recognizing me with a sweet smile.  I just think of him as the man who's vitals I check 3 times a day,  who's drool I wipe from his chin, who's diaper I change, and who I often find quietly crying in his bed, as his wife, so lovingly, holds him tight.





LLSL


Marble archways

Set against a blue, painted, sky

Throngs of people scuttling like spiders,

The brash sound of the work bells chiming,

Time ticks on, restlessly

As we, the worker bees, drive ourselves into a frenzy

Shoving each other, shouting hysterics, racing against one another to get to the top of the many-tiered edifice,

The grey building,

rising ominously into the sky like a giant concrete web

All this bad intent

And what for?

Are we the spider?

Or the bugs?

Trapped.

I never knew.

It was a trap.







FFMJ


The agony and the ecstasy.


Of one word.


A minute too late.


Or too early.  


It really is a mixed bag, depending how you slice it.


Either way somebody leaves in pieces.







AADA


The Line is Electric

Physical Live Wire

Metamorphosis

A Bound Souls been Untied

A Shape Shifter

Spirits Unified

Combined Vibration

Sharing Space in the 3rd Eye




SBLJ


"If this is insanity I love the way it feels,

I'm at home in the highs and the lows.

Give me insanity 'cos I love the way it feels,

I'm at home in the highs and the lows"

GROUP 1: WEEK TWO

KBGD



"Now?" I screamed over the ocean's bellowing waves.

"No."


The gulls were circling. Did they think we were prey or was there perhaps a fish washed up down the shore. Motionless we continued standing, listening to their cries over our heads. 


"Are you facing the wind?"

"Yes," I said. But a gust took the word out of my mouth before it could reach her.

"You have to face into the wind for this to work."


The sea air had made my dress damp and it smacked heavy against my skin. I could feel my bones, hollow with chill.


"Keep your eyes closed."

"But I have on the blindfold."

"Keep them closed or it doesn't count."


I knew how she was probably standing: tall, with anticipation, and a firm smile despite the taste of salt and sand creeping into her mouth. 


I envied her curiosity and zeal. She consumed the world. Her appetite was insatiable and I would have followed her anywhere just to watch her ingest her latest adventure. The water was up to our ankles.


"Why do we need to cover our eyes?" My teeth chattered between each word.

"So we don't make them jealous," she said in earnest.


Once a year, at dusk, the blind females of the Exocoetidae (flying fish) family launch from of the shallow water and cry out like sirens beckoning the males to impregnate them. Although the male fish can see, it is not the female's appearance that is appealing but rather their song. When they land back in their aqua-marine home, the males guide their chosen female to safety amongst the reef. 


Earlier that morning over tea, my sister had concluded that if we could stand, blindfolded in solidarity, amongst the female exocoetidae, and hear their call, we too would be able to face potential suitors with the same courage and will.







MCCJ



fum

pouring pulsating multiple sighs shaped by many suns and stares and secret caves with worlds upon

worlds hiding hidden v’s in script and rhymes and glares held up and held back by her hands


fee

the snow resting briefly before disappearing into another form as heat folds impatience into a ball

and melts to water and then rises to mist and clouds again the nursery and the grave of the sky


fo

some of us refuse to watch as the future is carved by and into the stone of the present and memory

becomes lost into the fading engraving a hidden past


fi

the grains under sharp wings of a race of rats rushing to outrun their fears of misery and mysterious

dark dashing deaths and the smoke and soot of stacks of sacred soil bent to the will of crushing

blows on an anvil aged and ageless 


i

two big way too bad blinded bitches leaning bravely into blasphemy and bluster casting spells with

silk wrapped bosoms and salt water rock candy dreams clutching straws made of and for and from

the wind 





CPS


Since I was a boy, the cherry tree at grandmother's would blossom bright white flowers and soon after give us the

most plump red fruit one could wish to eat.  It always bloomed during spring break when we'd visit, and the cherries

were ready to devour by the first day of summer.  These were calendar events, markers of time, a constant in my biter existence.  But then, in April of 1972, the tree's flowers did not blossom...the leaves did not emerge...no cherries pushed their way out of the blooms.  Over the coarse of that year, the barren tree's bark grew black, and in the coming decades, most the branches fell to the ground. Everyone thought I was absolutely crazy, but when grandmother died, I cut down the dried-out remains of the tree and built a huge bonfire in her back yard.  I sprinkled her remains Into the flames of red and watched her blossom into the air... 





SKFA


thousands of thoughts

billowed, got strange then miraculous

seeped and rose like a returning rain

out of the ears of rushing chinese businessmen

of brazilian teenagers playing card games in small rooms at night

and my uncle leo as he tried a case in front of the supreme court


those thoughts became code

visible now in the center of your palms


a constant invitation

to slip under the currents

ride beside the winds

to the end of the echo

to the end of the questions that still need answering





LLSL


Bring the Light, Turn The Shadow


It was always meant to happen this way,

They told us it would,

My grandfather,

My great grandmother,

They both spoke of it


It was written in the ancient texts that were passed down from generation to generation,

Passed on like a dark secret pressed between whispering lips

I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon

I didn’t expect to see it, with my own eyes,

It had always felt more like fairytale than truth


But there it was before me

A more painful truth than I had ever known

A world drenched in darkness

Our world,

Our first and only world,

Buried under the sea,

A raging and unforgiving sea,

Only the tops of the tallest buildings visible,

Skyscrapers, mighty monuments, reduced to small peaks,

And all around us, strange statues popping out of the water,

These statues, which were once perched upon the highest rooftops of New York City,

Now an odd collection of frozen sailors lost at sea

Hideous gargoyles, three singing monks (hopelessly optimistic in their plight), a lion, a wailing banshee screaming in anguish, a woman with divine kindness carved into her face, statues of gods and men alike


We stand on the roof of one of these surviving buildings

My sister and I,

Water ramming past us with alarming speed

Rogue trees, cars, houses, shoved brutally across the tide


My sister and I are both seers,

And for the first time, we are left feeling in the dark

There is no certain future now

There is only an outstretched hand, reaching into the unknown


I feel as if there is a blindfold around me

Suffocating my heart, my breath, my –

I turn to my sister

And hold her smaller hand in mine,

Shaking from the cold, from the fear,

I try to steady myself,

For her sake, I must steady myself,

But she looks at me with the courage of a grown woman

I should have known she would grow up too fast

I should have known she would be the one to see me through


It’s time.


We close our eyes and imagine a white light surrounding us,

Imagine beams of the purest particles emanating around us,

Creating a circle of protection

It isn’t easy,

It isn’t a clear vision anymore,

It keeps dropping in and out and into static as our surroundings pull us out of focus

The wind conspires to knock us over, howling and beating against us,

The waves crash upon our standing ground like mighty fists,

The elements are aware of us,

And they don’t want us to win this battle


I hold on even more tightly to my sister’s hand, and inwardly we chant the words:


Bring the light,

Turn the shadow

Bring the light,

Turn the shadow…


I can hear her voice in my head, falling in rhythm with mine, soft as silk, and strong as a steady march,


The change begins to take place,

There is a rumbling beneath our feet,

And a crack in the heavens,

A light from a source unknown shines upon our world,

Spreading slowly and hopefully across the ocean,

Growing in strength with our words,

I see the statue of the kind woman multiply in beauty, as the light passes upon her, illuminating her face,


But as we grow in strength

So does our opposition,

The ocean fights us desperately, ruthlessly,

One wave rises up, bloodthirsty, and grabs us,

Dragging us under with its watery grip,

Down to the belly of the beast


All sound is lost in this space underwater,

I am floating downwards,

Gently falling under, where all is darkest blue and empty and vast,

Both supported and crushed by the heavy weight of water

When something inside of me shifts

I can feel myself letting go,

Willfully giving in,

Allowing myself to drift into that other space,

Far away from here,

Far from the pain of knowing,

To the place where there is no sight, no sound,

And I’m surprised to find that it is a relief to let this be my final resting place.


So, wearily,

peacefully,

I close my eyes for the last time and allow myself to drift away.


But something won’t let me go,

Something is pushing me,

No -- grabbing me,

I feel the tug of my sister’s hand,

And she looks at me with those eyes,

Those, clear, blue, ancient child eyes,

Loving, kind, unafraid,

Her hair dancing elegantly in the water,

And for a moment, it’s as if we we’re kids again, playing games in the lake at the summer cabin,

And in her eyes – I see it all  – our whole life – mine and hers

And I remember that there is still reason to endure,

I should’ve known she would be the one to see me through


She reaches for my hand again, and we repeat the mantra together from within,

As we hold tightly to the precious air still left in our lungs,


Bring the light,

Turn the shadow

Bring the light,

Turn the shadow…


A ray of light finds us where we lay


And we dare to hope.







FFMJ


Let the Earth take you,

swallow you whole like a crumb, a seed, like a wisp of pollen.  


Let the Earth hold you,

consume you with the grace of a thousand days in the sun, sped up and transfixed on your reincarnation.


Let the Earth melt your heart, lean into the wind, plant your feet and rise, rise, rise.  


GROUP ONE ::  WEEK THREE

GROUP 1: WEEK THREE


CPS


I sat next to mom and dad on the maroon couch at Grandma and Grandpa's.  It was a hot summer day and they never ran the AC.  Just a rusty old fan blowing more hot air from outside inside.  I was wearing a peach dress as we had just gotten out of church.  My grandparent's didn't go to church, but grandma always wanted my folks to tell her all about the service.  Like always, I pressed my knees tightly against one another and stared at that tattered green rug with the mini red polka dots.  Somehow, I had convinced myself that if I pressed my knees hard enough he wouldn't notice this time.  But I could feel the heat of his eyes on me.  I could feel the barrel of his gun pointed at me.  He was the worst kind of huntsman...the kind that could expertly take out his prey early, but kept the scope of his rifle on the target for an hour, drawing out the inevitable.  I challenged myself to just count every single red dot on that rug and not look up at him.  Just don't look up at him.  But, like a moth to a lamp, my head slowly moved upward.  I caught his pale blue blood shot eyes.  He lifted his finger and pointed to the back door.  And, like every

Sunday, I got up unnoticed and followed Grandpa out to the shed while mom and dad told Grandma all about the pastor's sermon. 





SKFA


Give.

Give it good.

Give of that flickering light you don’t know what to do with.

Give until this fucking moment turns technicolor and I am asleep.

Then give some more.

The future is insatiable. 






KBGD


There is death here amongst the living. 

A light in every window. 

Someone 

has 

turned 

them 

on. 

I saw you 

once. 

Sitting. 

Staring out the glass 

pane. 

Did 

you 

see 

me

too? 

The city turns to night 

and I become a dream. 

I danced with you 

in 

my 

sleep. 




AADA


The Synthetic System

Physical Forms Wither

Sensory Solutions and the Digital Display

Your Mind in a Microchip

You are Plugged In

This is Life Behind the Glass

And through a Crack the Seed Grows

Bending Concrete Blocks




MCCJ


There was a slight whining sound as the machine room airlock depressurized upon docking.  By now there was no possibility of turning back.  Fuel had been jettisoned. Communications severed.  Oxygen dependent forms negated.  Out of the nine hundred and ninety nine trillion independent programs that Rempko had been instructed to run continuously for the whole mission, only three remained active.  New Life would someday resume and the logic of a clean slate reset was as inevitable to Rempko as the conclusions that each of the three winning/chosen programs had reached...


000000000000001: The Past = A FAST


000000000000002: The Present = A GIFT


000000000000003: The Future = A SUTURE



(ed. note: text translated from original universal binary coding:)


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GROUP 1: WEEK FOUR of FOUR

GROUP 1: WEEK ONE

Carla Hatley


Today was to be her ‘all-eyes-on-me’ day, instead Isabelle was slumped in a worn brocade chair uncaring that her satin dress was a mass of wrinkles beneath her.  Isabelle’s three best friends in the world cooed around her, making comforting sounds to ease her distress.  However, as the minutes passed, the women’s gentle words turned to frustration.


“I can not believe Lawrence sent his best man, Paul, to deliver his rejection of you.”  Charlotte whispered and kissed Isabelle lightly on the forehead.


“Lawrence is a true cad.”  Added Pricilla.  She couldn’t help fingering the delicate floral wreath as she talked to her reflection in the mirror.  “A true cad!”


“Cad and a coward.  Paul actually asked you to take off the ring and give it to him.  He said Lawrence wanted it back.  If it had been me, I would have thrown it at him.”  Said Margaret.


“I’m happy you told him ‘no.’ If Lawrence wants the ring back he should come back and retrieve it himself.”   Said Charlotte.


“Do I have to give back the ring?”  Asked Isabelle.  “It is such a lovely ring.”  These were the first words she had uttered since Paul knocked on the Brides Room door inside the church over an hour ago.


The girls went silent pondering the proper etiquette of the situation.  This was the first marriage in the group and experience in such matters was limited.  Priscilla, who had recently become engaged, now feared for her own future.


“I wouldn’t.” Replied Charlotte  “He left you at the alter and you should get something for all your troubles.”


“I agree, but who wants to keep a ring from a man who doesn’t love you?  If he won’t come back for it in person, throw it in Kettle’s Pond.”  Said Margaret.


“That is your advice?  Throw a sapphire and diamond heirloom ring in the pond?” Pricilla, the romantic one in the group, realized what she had said.  “However, if you keep it, it will always be a reminder of this horrible day.”


“Pricilla!”  Shouted Charlotte.


“Well, it is.”  Pricilla shouted back.


A low moan escaped from Isabelle’s chair.  She was slipping the ring from her finger.  With tears running down her pale cheeks she managed to get herself and her dress out of the chair.


“Where are you going?”  Asked Margaret.


“To see Lawrence.   He’s a coward, but I’m not.”    Replied Isabelle.  She fluffed out the train of her dress, tucked a loose tendril of hair back into place and floated out of the room as if she was walking down the aisle.





Jane Doe


not danger

not real fear of course

of men wielding knives

or floods

or break-ins

or car accidents

or planes plunging to earth

or even death

no, much more subtle actually

things that can’t really cause blindness or ebola

things that limit, halt, squash

faux fright learned through warnings, brows raised, at my mother’s knee

like the risks of risk

discomfort in a room full of strangers

unknowns

untrieds

unpredicteds

a carnival ride stopping in mid-air




Josh Gross


On the ocean they sleep

Bobbing and weaving in rhythms beyond comprehension

On the ocean the walk

Stepping and splashing ripples that wash up later on sandy, drunken shores

On the ocean they dine

Inhaling in perpetuity until forever was an apparition

On the ocean they love

Absorbing life and energy

On the ocean they die

Life and energy, absorbed

On the ocean





Jim Comer


For the last six years, I’ve watched history unfold from the comfort of my couch. I glimpsed it on the evening news or internet sites.  Freedom of speech was a noble phrase, but it applied to other people Protestors occupying Wall Street. Students using Twitter to topple a dictator in Egypt. Pro-democracy marchers in Hong Kong. I was silently supportive, but never dreamed I’d be marching with them.

Then the Obama administration converted a former oil field camp in Dilley, Texas into the largest detention camp in America. The inmates? Mothers and children who risked their lives fleeing murder and mayhem to seek asylum in America. The land of the free herded hundreds of them into a 2,400 bed for-profit prison run by Corrections Company of America. Many had been there for months, treated as criminals, separated from their loved ones, with no idea whether they would get a fair hearing or face deportation.

Incarcerating families cost U.S. taxpayers $266 to $300 a day – the price of room at the Four Seasons Hotel. Mothers and children did not represent a danger to society and could have been monitored by humane, inexpensive means such as ankle bracelets or unannounced home visits. Those simple alternatives would have cost $17 dollars a day or less.

My church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian in Austin, joined a protest march on May 2nd, to bring attention to their plight. Our 300 member congregation filled two buses with 80 members for the two-mile march in a barren south Texas town. Surprisingly, I was one of them.

Suddenly freedom of speech was up close and personal. For the first time since the Viet Nam War, I’d be walking instead of talking. The last time I’d been politically active was knocking on doors in the snows of New Hampshire campaigning for Obama. The irony was not lost on me.

When we arrived in downtown Dilley – both blocks of it – we joined 700 fellow protesters. We were a patchwork quilt of America. There were children and grandparents, Anglos and Latinos, professionals, blue collar workers, students and retirees. We came from all over Texas, Mexico, California, New York, New Mexico and Iowa. One member of our church had terminal cancer and was on hospice care, but was determined to march.

After the 150 mile ride to Dilley, we ate sandwiches, drank lots of water, listened to fiery speeches in English and Spanish, and then got in line for the march. The Dilley police were professional, polite and diverted traffic so that we could march safely. This was not Damascus, the Gaza Strip or Baltimore.

I held a sign that said “Shut it down” and chanted loudly as we hit the streets. I’d hoped we’d have spectators – even if they opposed us - but the streets were empty. Our best audience were drivers of 18-wheelers who honked their support. We passed the interstate, a Texas State prison and finally came to the gates of the detention center. There were at least thirty officers staring at us 50 yards away, many with guns at their side. They weren’t smiling.

Near the front gate, there was a platform and we heard speeches from immigrants who had survived the perilous journey. A four year old girl spoke with such power and emotion that I didn’t need the translator for her words to touch my heart. Then a handsome young man told of his trip on top of a freight train across Mexico. He was so eloquent that it took two minutes before I noticed he was missing an arm. That’s a high price to pay for freedom.

As I gazed at the massive detention center in the distance, I suddenly felt as if I was linking arms with all the protesters I’d seen on television. I was one with those in Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and Ferguson, Missouri. I didn’t face bullets, beatings, racial profiling or jail, but for a few minutes I linked arms with marchers everywhere. I experienced a feeling of universal brotherhood I’d never known before.

At last I understood the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.” I realized that phrase is truer today than ever. It is the promise of America.

I left Dilley a changed man, catapulting from comfortable observer to born again activist. I had tasted the liberating power of free speech and found my voice.





GROUP 2: WEEK ONE: Images and Submissions

Jim Comer


Twenty Things from a List of 467 That I Wanted Desperately in the Last 60 Years, Give or Take a Decade

1.To win the Friday afternoon spelling bee each week in my first grade class. 1950

2.To go to a public swimming pool in Cleveland – despite Mother’s fear of my getting polio.  Summer 1952

3.To sit on the wide seat at the back of the streetcar in segregated New Orleans as I did in unsegregated Cleveland.  Fall, 1952.  Was forbidden by law.

4.To have no cavities, since being drilled on at the dentist was my greatest fear in life until puberty grabbed the number one spot. 1956

5.To learn about sex without help from my parents who couldn’t talk about or my friends who acted as if everybody already knew about it. 1957

6.To be elected at Counselor for a Day among the 7th graders in my cabin at Camp Sequoyah where my parents had sent me for five weeks in the vain hope of “toughening me up.”  Summer 1958

7.To pass chemistry without learning the periodic chart. 1960

8.To help elect Richard Nixon president in 1960. God forgive me.

9.To be elected President of the Student Body at Brown High School. 1961

10.To have straight teeth and no pimples. All my life.

11.To sing a solo at church. 1962.

12.To be a cheerleader. (secretly: 1958-1962) (openly: 1963-65)

13.To survive the cruel and unusual masochistic period known as pledging in my jock-laden fraternity. 1964

14.To be elected president of the Student Body at Trinity University. 1965. Beware of what you wish for.

15.To use my own name while having sex. 1964-1967

16.To do whatever it took not to go to Viet Nam. 1968

17.To become an actor in New York so I’d be rich and famous. August 1968-August 1977

18.To convince myself and another person that I wanted a loving, monogamous relationship. 1970, 1973, 1982, 1985

19.To come out to my parents. 1977, 1978

20.To get out of debt. 1968-1982; 1991-present






Carla Hatley


FADE IN:

EXT. CHURCH – EVENING

A small town outside Las Vegas, people gathering outside.


DISSOLVE TO: INT.  CHURCH

The congregation waits in anticipation of The Tuesday Night Meeting guest speaker.


REVEREND SEBASTIAN FOWLER, a tall man in his late 40’s, wearing a white suit, enters with arms raised as he steps into the pulpit. His voice booms through the microphone.


REVEREND FOWLER

EVIL! Evil is all around us, my friends.  Do not sit there pretending there is no evil around you.  Evil drives a car.  Evil sits behind a desk at your local bank.  Evil resides in a house down the street waiting for you to go on vacation so he can take your new flat screen TV. You could be sitting next to Evil right now.


He points to at young women in the second pew.


REVEREND FOWLER (con’t)

You!  Yes, you in the lovely, blue dress.  The man next to you could be the evilest person on this Earth.  But, I know he isn’t because he’s my manager.  Let me not digress.  Let me not stray from my mission.  My mission - and let it be yours – is to rid Evil from the world.  Make this community you live in safer for all. That is why we must be resolute in our pursuit.


He bows his head for a moment, opens his arms out to the congregation and speaks softly.


  REVEREND FOWLER (con’t)

But I can’t do this alone, my friends.  My mission is only as good as it’s funding.  I raise my arms to the heavens and pray you will reach deep in your pockets. Be generous, my friends.  Twenty, fifty, one hundred, two hundred. There will be a special place reserved in heaven for those who can give more.


CUT TO:

Two middle-aged gentlemen sitting in the back pews.

    

    PETE

Are you staying after for coffee and cookies?


JOHN
Yep.  Wouldn’t miss it.







Jane Doe


What I want is less now

Simpler, smaller, not so much to dust, fewer stairs

Nothing showy for goodness sake, that was for yesterday

Although (sigh) enough was never enough then

Please limit my yearnings to sure things

Turn down the volume on those impossible, impossibly irresistible men

Too expensive handbags

Executive trappings

Real jewelry

Need for approval


Just give me

Art and lots of it (a piece or two I create myself)

A rose to smell

Summer fruit

Comfortable shoes

A mattress that feels like a marshmallow

A cool, breezy day

Friends who (Bridget Jones knows what I mean) like me just the way I am


Pass the tea and lemon cookies.  Turn up the heat.  Family Circle just arrived.






Josh Gross


As if lightning and crashing thunder, the soothsayer shook the pulpit and the people.


He swayed and bowed.


The people swayed and bowed.


The soothsayer continued: "Don't you forget: You're here forever!"


Three rows back from the stage, along the center aisle, an old man heard these words. "Forever." It echoed in the space between his ears. He pointed skyward. Those who saw the old man knew he was not acknowledging the crumbling Gothic ceiling under which they were housed. The old man extended the index finger of his right hand to the ALMIGHTY.


When rolling in homilies there was little that could distract the soothsayer, who was among the last to notice the old man and his finger.


"Don't you forget," the soothsayer bellowed. "You're here forever."


"FOREVER."


The old man stood then, pointing. People, friends perhaps, began to murmur. Not all of them, mind you, but enough that the old man became a distraction.


"The sickly old man with weak lungs and a treacherous back, what's the matter with him?" wondered a sweet woman. "Does he need help?"


No.


No, he did not. 


Lucid, the old man stood for nearly a minute until the soothsayer stopped speaking about eternity.


The murmur rose to a din. Others lifted themselves from their seats. They looked skyward. Some pointed, too.


The soothsayer was aware now and broke from his remarks. The interruption was unacceptable and displeasing to the people who yearned for the soothsayer's words.


Dressed in a flowing white robe, the SEER turned blind with rage. There was no transition, really, not one that made sense to the vessels sitting before him.


"Old man," the soothsayer raged into his microphone, "tell us why you stand and point to a sky you cannot see? Why have you distracted from today's message?"


The old man stopped pointing. He dropped his right arm. He leaned against the chair in front of him. He wheezed.


"Speak old man! Or make the walk."


The walk.


No not the walk the sweet woman thought. (She would never say such a thing for others to hear.)


Short on patience was the soothsayer. Future things, the things he saw, were not manufactured by patience. They are founded on momentarily flashes. Some people label these episodes inspiration. Others call them premonition. Others still, the walkers, the ones that blip extratemporally, they call it horse shit. The old man hadn't known it until just then. Until his finger pointed skyward. Until he stood. Until others judged and challenged him. The old man knew now what he hadn't known for 86 years. He looked at the pulpit. At the soothsayer. He looked at the people. He began to weep. He crumbled and fell back into the seat from which he rose and interrupted.


There were gasps. Three young women, seated five rows back from the old man, squealed. "Get this man a doctor!" came a cry from the back of the room. 


Few noticed the soothsayer remove himself from the pulpit, jump off stage and wade into the people. The white robe, gleaming, dragged along a concrete floor that needed sweeping by more than the garment's frayed edges. The soothsayer placed his right hand atop the old man's head while the people watched in a desperate silence. Clinging to one another as wild beasts cling to pray, seeking comfort and sustenance in what was unfolding in front of them on this unforeseen day.


"Speak old man. Or make the walk."


The old man no longer cried. Instead he tilted his head upwards toward the soothsayer, who removed his hand and slid a half step away. The old man with the weak lungs and treacherous back regained his footing. He did this without speaking. Again he raised a hand and finger to the sky. His lips pursed ever so slightly. The old man's jaw flexed. He seemed to be speaking. The soothsayer didn't understand. The people to his immediate left and right — the old man's granddaughter and grandson — were frightened. Meanwhile, the knowing — all knowing — soothsayer knew nothing at this moment. He may have been frightened as well, yet an adeptness at legerdemain allowed for a perception of controlling the uncontrollable.


This has always been the balance.


"I can't understand you, Old Man. The people that love you can't understand you, Old Man. Again, I say, speak or walk. You have heard my message today. Don't you forget. You are here forever. And let me add this."


He raised his voice because he did not have a microphone to do that for him. 


"LISTEN TO ME NOW. ALL OF YOU. THIS OLD MAN WHO SEEMS TO HAVE SUCH DIFFICULTY TODAY. THIS OLD MAN IS YOU. RIGHT NOW. IN SPACE AND TIME."


The partitioners saw one another. They saw the old man, standing, pointing. They saw the soothsayer. They then saw a young man in the back of the hall, a man who had not distinguished himself in their presence. They saw this man stand and point.


A group hissed and whistled.


"LISTEN TO ME NOW," projected the soothsayer.


Three more members stood: a middle-aged woman and her two boys, both adolescents. Then a shriek returned the room's attention to the front, near the pulpit. This was stunning, really. No one could remember a day like this. A small child, no older than 8, held in her possession the soothsayer's microphone. The second rule among the five that determined their day to day existence was a simple one. Do not usurp the soothsayer. Do not encroach on his domain. The child's father asked for her to come to him. She did as good children do, but not before expressing the following:


"Protect me from what I want," she said.


Throughout the rest of her days — the girl became a woman and lived a full life — she couldn't explain why she said what she did. But the old man. The soothsayer. They knew.


The people no longer swayed and bowed. They were frozen. The old man stood straight, a skyscraper among a quaint village. He lowered his hand from the sky and pointed directly at the man in the robe.


This time, the people him heard: "Protect me from what I want," he wheezed.


The soothsayer saw this day. About a decade ago. He hadn't spoken of it outside a select group of acolytes.


"Protect me from what I want," the old man said again. A shout from the back came billowing forward. Emboldened, the old man craned his neck to see. A chorus rose from the din: "PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT!" 


The soothsayer appeared again behind his pulpit, knowing what was coming.


"Tell me, what is it you need protection from? I am your protector," he said into the microphone. "I am yours forever. You are mine, my friends. This is a day I have foreseen. Would you like to know what comes next?"


"YES!" yelled a man in his 20s seated next to his wife and child. 


"PLEASE, TELL US," came a shout from the balcony, where desperation was permanent.


Despite the standing, pointing old man, the soothsayer smiled. Again, he controlled the room. 


"Then I shall tell you," the soothsayer said. "Before I can, friends, we must do something. We must make the old man make the walk. We must make those who stand with the old man make the walk as well.


"Would you like to know what comes next?"


The people swayed and bowed.

GROUP 2: WEEK TWO: Images and Submissions

Jim Comer


The Giant in My Backyard

From 1954 to 1962 my family lived in Atlanta when it had a minor league baseball team named the Crackers, an airport that looked like a dilapidated hangar and half a million people who lived in a totally segregated society.

Ironically, the most famous resident of the city was a young Baptist preacher who delivered riveting sermons about three miles from my high school. But I never saw him in person. I only glimpsed his image on the TV news when he was protesting, being arrested or getting jeered at by an angry crowd. Nevertheless, his presence hovered over the city.

At 16, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Atlanta Journal and saw my name in print for the first time. My submission criticized the New Orleans mob that cursed and spat on black children as they entered a white school for the first time. I didn’t even mind the hate calls that followed.

However, it never occurred to me to attend a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church and hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak. That was a bridge too far. It broke all the rules. Even though I came from a then-rare, non-racist family, I was conditioned by the South’s prevailing culture. The line between the races was so deeply ingrained that going to King’s church was unthinkable.

Of course, Negroes – that’s what they were called when Georgians were being polite – could not worship with whites. Then the sit-ins began and groups of black students began showing up at white churches. My father was on the Board of Stewards of Calvary Methodist Church when they took a vote on how to respond. Dad came home from that meeting with a look of sadness on his face that I’d rarely seen. The vote was 14 to 4 against seating them. Dad was one of the dissenters. Jesus did not get a vote.

I don’t know how my parents became progressives on race. I chalk it up to good education and loving spirits. They knew down deep that segregation was evil. Somehow they had escaped the disease of intolerance and did not pass that poison to their children. I take no credit for their wisdom. It was a gift.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t take full advantage of the freedom I’d been given to think for myself. I could do it in a letter, but walking into Dr. King’s church was beyond me. That was like going to the moon and we knew that was impossible. I talked the talk and let others do the walking.

We moved to Dallas after I graduated from high school and six years later I was in Los Angeles, teaching in a black junior high, when Dr. King was gunned down at the age of 38. A giant had fallen.

Who are the giants in your life? And they don’t have to be famous to qualify. Is there someone you admire and want to meet, but haven’t had the courage to approach? Give them a call. Stick out your hand and introduce yourself.

Is there a talented person where you work that you yearn to have as a mentor, but haven’t had the courage to ask them? Ask.

Is there a Berlin Wall of resentment separating you from a family member or friend with whom you’ve had a disagreement? To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Tear down that wall.”

I wish I’d had the courage to tear down that invisible wall in Atlanta and hear Dr. King speak. I missed the giant in my backyard. Don’t miss yours.




Josh Gross


Structures in the mega-city are stacked in such a way as to mimic a bee's honeycomb. Symmetric geometry. A group of scientists, backed by a group of radical politicians, came to the conclusion 52 years ago that this was the best hope for humanity, and thus The Agenda was implemented. Humans are social animals. Community based. Living on top of one another, the scientists and politicians surmised, was a logical choice when options were an unsustainable status quo or a human-engineered, human-powered pivot in history. Twelve years later, 40 years to the day a new life was made, there were no surprises anymore. Everything looked the same. Smelled the same. Tasted the same. Living quarters were kept at the same temperature, 69.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Common areas were kept at the same temperature, 69.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Life on the outside, a mirrored inversion of life inside, had been engineered away, lost inside a panopticon of the highest order.






Jane Doe


Being born in Brooklyn pretty much defines the rest of your life.  No matter how far away I moved or how fancy my surroundings became, I never quite shook those very earthy, gritty, cramped beginnings.  The smell of that mixture of Jewish and Italian food in the hallways of our brick apartment house.  A smell I would give a right arm to revisit.  The deli a few blocks away with the pickle barrel as tall as I was.  Mr. I-can’t-remember-his-name used to roll up his sleeve and reach deep in the barrel to hand me a pickle wrapped in crisp paper that I would carry down King’s Highway like an ice cream cone. Mrs. Dagastino sitting sternly in the picture window as the self-appointed “watcher of everyone’s children” – not keeping an eye out for dangerous strangers, as she surely would today, but rather to keep us in line (look both ways when you cross the street, no yelling too loud). 


The ice man did cometh to East 10th Street as did the rag man and another who sharpened knives and scissors.  We wondered then how Mrs. Dagastino didn’t put a stop to them yelling out, announcing their arrival and looking for business.  There were firsts for sure.  Like the car daddy brought home one hot summer afternoon.  My memory says I got to sit in a little wooden chair on the floor in the back, not a car seat.   But can that be possibly true?  And the arrival of the first TV in the neighborhood when we were all invited over to watch Uncle Milty and I threw up in overwhelmed anticipation. 


There were Friday night dinners – the extended family (all gone now) around a small table in a small kitchen filled with laughter and the best food on the planet.  Grandma Fanny and Uncle Murray living with us separately and on and off and for how long I have no idea.  Could have been months... or years.  Dr. Theer (sp?) paying a home visit telling my mother, after glancing at my orderly piles of doll clothes, that I was the neatest child he had ever seen (oh god, some things never change).  Today, he might have suggested a mild medication for OCD.  Uncle Leo’s wife, Aunt Frieda – the glamorous, mysterious one whose family was lost in the holocaust that my sister and I would stare at with awe for her beauty, European accent and irresistible charm.  We never, ever lost that reverence by the way. 


When I was 5, we moved to the Long Island suburbs as most everyone did then to a community where the endless rows of houses looked pretty much the same, save a bird bath or a particularly unusual bush.  There are some things I always mention to people I meet because either I like to brag about them or I believe they are a shortcut to understanding who I am. At the top of that list is Brooklyn.  How I miss it and them and it all.





Carla Hatley


High on a cliff, above Somerset Valley, sits the bluest Castle.  From the villager’s vantage point below the four turrets look like they are one with the sky, turning the castle a cornflower blue.  Inside the castle resides King Gregory and his two children, Meghan and Markel, twins only by birth.   For each is very different.  Meghan is stubborn and sharp-witted; Markus is soft and sweet of temper.  Both now ten years of age lost their mother seven years ago during a raging summer storm. This is the story the King tells his children when they ask why their mother suddenly disappeared.  Neither Meghan nor Markel remember a storm but remind each other they were only three at the time. 


Over the years, Meghan heard the servants whispering in the hallways and while making up her bed each morning.  She tried to make sense of their cryptic sentences.   The words blue and door were often said, but never together, until today.  One of the new maids was talking a blue streak while dusting a staircase railing.  Meghan was on her way to breakfast, stopped, hid behind a suit of armor and listened as a remarkable story of her mother’s disappearance filled her ears.


At breakfast Meghan whispered to Markel.  “I think I know why Father won’t allow us to go into the third turret.”  Markel nearly chocked on a piece of current scone he was eating.


“There will be no whispering at the breakfast table.  We must all be included in the conversation.”   Said their father.


“We were talking about our mother.  Can you tell us the story again?  Asked Markel.


“Children, I have told you many times about the raging storm and how it took your mother, my Queen, away from us.  You must be tired of hearing the tale over and over?”


“No, Father.  It is the only way to keep her with us.” Replied Markel.


“I’ve forgotten what she looks like.”  Added Meghan.


“Nonsense.”  Replied their father.  “There is a lovely portrait of her in the library.  You can see her any time you please.  Now finish your breakfast and run long.”


“Yes, Father.”  Meghan and Markel knew not press their father and devoured the remains of their scones.


Once outside the dining room, Meghan pulled Markel aside. “Markel, I overheard the new servant girl talking.  If what she says is true, there is something wrong with how our mother disappeared.  I think it happened here in the castle.  You know how Father avoids the subject like the plague when we bring it up?  And, how we are not allowed to go in certain parts of the castle?”


“Yes.” Whispered Markel.


“I’m going to up the third turret.  I’m going to find out what is up there and I want you to come with me.”


“No!  Father says it’s dangerous?”


“How will we know if we don’t find out?” 


“You can go. I don’t want to get into trouble.”  Said Markel as he stared at his feet.


“Fine.”  Meghan turned on her right heel and headed toward the staircase leading to the turret.


At first, Meghan ran up the stairs two by two.  Since she had never ventured up this staircase she didn’t know what to expect.  But as each flight of stairs disappeared behind her, the slower she took each step until she was on the top landing.  No more stairs, only a door outlined in vibrant blue.  The door slightly ajar, begged for her to enter. 


“Hello.”  Said Meghan as she pushed door open.  


(To be continued)

GROUP 2: WEEK THREE: Images and Submissions

Jim Comer


Snap

My grandmother had a swing in her yard in the sleepy town of Smithville, Texas where I spent part of each summer. When my brother and I arrived each summer for a week at her hundred year old house with a big porch, pictures of Robert E. Lee on tin and a print of the combined Confederate generals on horseback hung above her bed, I gave her and my Aunt Tooda a big hug and then went straight to the swing in the backyard.

Its sturdy cord was hung from a limb of an ancient oak and had been there for as long as anyone could remember. My brother and I competed for time airborne, but I was three years older and reached it first.

“Push me, Chris, then I’ll push you. I promise.”

Off I would go, feet aimed toward the sky, though my five year old brother had limited abilities when it came to defying the laws of gravity.

“Push harder! That’s not high enough.”

Chris would try his best, but his efforts lacked sufficient force and soon I had to appeal to the champion of swing pushing, my grandmother.

“Mema, come push me, please!”

She walked toward me in her flowery house dress with a smile on her face.

“Chris is doing a mighty good job. You don’t need me.”

“I want to go higher. A lot higher. Just give me one big push.”

Mema was a large, robust 60 year old who could wring a chicken’s neck and serve it for dinner a few hours later. She wasn’t fat, but she was “full-boned” as was said of stout southern women of a certain age. And she was a swing pusher par excellence.

“Okay, I’ll give you one push, but hold on tight. If you fall out your mama won’t let you come see me again.”

Fat chance of that. I was only eight but I knew this week was my mother’s only seven day break from child rearing for the entire year. She had left us with her mother and drove off to see friends in Houston with a smile on her face. 

“Here we go, honey!”

Mema sent me soaring with a push that could have qualified her for the Backyard Swing Olympics. I screamed with third grade delight for the few seconds heading upward hoping they might never end. I wanted to go higher and higher and never stop.

“Do it again! Do it again!”

“Just one more time, Jimmy.”

She put all her considerable weight behind that next push and I went higher than I’d ever gone before. Clearly this pissed off the gods as my joy was ended by a sudden snap of a rope that couldn’t break, but did. On the way down I stuck out an arm to break my fall.

I lay on the ground screaming in pain, with one arm going in two directions. My screams could be heard cross town. Mema rushed over to me with a look of horror on her face, diagnosed the situation in seconds and gently scooped me up in her arms. She had no car and 911 was decades in the future. So she carried me four blocks right down Main Street to Dr. Trousdale’s office. He did what doctors do with broken arms and I did what eight year olds do when they are hurting. Mema sat beside me and announced that as I soon as the doctor got the arm set, we were going for banana splits. At that announcement I stopped crying.

“Can I have the big one?”

“You can have anything you want.”

For the next week, I was treated like a prince. My little brother was not pleased at all the attention I was getting, but he loved the side benefits. We had watermelon that had been cooled at the ice house, peach cobbler, went to three movies at the Texas Theater and saw the train arrive each day at three minutes after noon.

The only thing that was missing were those wonderful moments high in the air when I thought anything was possible.






Josh Gross


Tall grass lifted the veil. That is to say several rolling acres danced in the most wonderful early summer breeze, delivering sweet respite from the humidity that made the hottest part of the year oppressive. Simply stated, this was an afternoon of perfection, the kind of day in which humans could enjoy everything while doing nothing.


The man, Anthony, 29. The woman, Zoe, 33. There they lay within reach of the tall shady pine that for the past 24 years dominated this hill, the second of six where long forgotten native warriors parried would-be oppressors. Anthony and Zoe gazed at the pine. Its trunk, its limbs, its needles. All catalogued sights and sounds and smells. Several years ago, seven to be clear, they agreed to claim this spot as theirs despite knowing it could never belong to them. The claim was less about planting a flag in the dirt than reveling in shared experiences. Preservation, really, of spirit. And other things. Love. Longing. Life. Memories. Reborn. Rewarded. Remembered.


Fine blonde hairs on Zoe's forearms rose when a pear-shaped cloud drifted between the sun and the terra firma. The momentary obstruction sent shivers through her. The couple, nestled between the tall grass, closed ranks and grabbed hold of one another. The lapsed warmth was forgotten until the shadow of the pear-shaped cloud moved along the hillside and once again bathed them in beams that were born many millions miles away less than 10 minutes before. Anthony and Zoe intertwined fingers. The gentle gusts coaxed tall grasses around them into a chorus of whispers and whooshes. The infinite sun poured over them. Their grip grew tighter.


With his free hand Anthony grabbed a handful of earth and massaged it through his fingers. He clenched a fist and let the dirt pour out like sand through a bottomless hourglass. This. This is what they sought. The connection. Between themselves. Between themselves and their surroundings.


This is how they fell in love—and remained in love—underneath the pine and pear-shaped clouds.






Jane Doe


My Pal Joe


I tried to write about reflections or clouds or swings this week

but the image that spoke the loudest was Joe Biden’s face

as he addressed a graduating college class somewhere,

telling them to live life to the fullest (a cliché but the best advice ever),

that they were privileged and doors would easily open for them -

much as they had, he explained, for his two lawyer sons,

the boys spared in a car accident several years ago

when Joe’s wife and daughter perished.

What he knew the day of the speech that that audience didn’t was that

his beloved son, Beau was dying and would be gone just days later.

He said that you know you’re successful when your children turn out better than you and he

spoke with pride about those two extraordinary men who stood by his side as he was sworn in as Vice President. 

I guess I can’t imagine anyone better than Joe, who, years ago, turned down his newly-elected position of Governor after that awful accident, saying “Delaware can always get another governor.  My sons can’t get another father.”

Joe has always felt different from other public figures – more real, more vulnerable, more loveable. He is man known for his faux pas, that big smile, and a heart worn beautifully on his sleeve.





Carla Hatley


(Continued from Carla’s Week #3 piece)


Do Not Venture Inside!  Meghan wasn’t sure if the voice warning her not to step inside was inside her head or if it was a voice growling at her from the castle floors below.  Her mind told her to listen to the voice below, but her heart so wanted to find out what was inside.  What will it hurt to just poke my head inside?  The voice interrupted her thought, but this time it was muffled and came from the deepest cavity of the castle.

Meghan followed her heart.  She pushed the door open a few inches revealing a path.  A dirt path.  It was lined with the tallest fir trees she had ever seen.  She stepped onto the path instantly knowing she had made the right decision. The path was soft and her feet floated one step after another.  Birds flew between the branches greeting her.  Far ahead she could see another walker.

“Hello?”  She called out.  “Can you tell me what is this place?”

There was silence.  The walker kept moving.

Maybe he didn’t hear me.  Meghan twisted the corners of her mouth into an ‘oh-well’ expression and stopped a moment to take in the silent beauty.  She wasn’t scared or threatened by her new surroundings.  She was content and calm.  She walked on, following the path around a bend, past a grove of older, statuesque trees.  She was now aware the walker wasn’t in front of her.  She hadn’t remember passing a fork in the path or a hidden trail straying off on it’s own.  She was alone.

“Maybe I should go back?”  She said out loud.   She turned around and the path was gone; the trees were gone.  Instead, tall grasses swayed in a warm breeze and above the sky swirled in colored ribbons of aqua, green and gold forming a ceiling of thunderous clouds.


“You can’t go back.”  The voice came from an older women rising from the grasses dressed in a gold brocade gown.  Meghan didn’t know the voice but as the women came closer, her face was familiar, like one of the portraits in the library.

“You can’t go back, my dear.  You chose to enter the door.”

Meghan took a couple steps toward the woman.  She was lovely.  Skin of pure cream, eyes aqua blue and her smile warmed every inch of Meghan’s being.

“Do I know you?”  Asked Meghan.

“No, my dear one.  You weren’t born yet.  Neither you nor your brother.”


“You look like one of the portraits in our library.” Replied Meghan.

“I am.  I am your grandmother - your father’s mother.  I was Queen before you were born. “  Explained Queen Madora.

“Did you choose the door, like me?”

“Yes, my dear.  However, I knew there was a secret place in the castle for people like me to live beyond their useful years.  You must understand I was no longer of great influence in the kingdom.  My son was about to marry…

“My mother?” Interrupted Meghan.

“Yes, your mother.  I was very proud and happy, however, I knew it was time to relinquish my duties as Queen.  Give the people a new leader.  I was old.”

“You don’t look old.”  Replied Meghan.

Queen Madora gave a quick laugh and took Meghan’s hand.  “You are a dear one.  You remind me of me when I was your age.”

A cool chill went through Meghan and she withdrew her hand.  “I’m sorry, I need to leave now.”

Queen Madora posed her hands in a prayer position and touched her chin.  “I too am sorry.  Once you enter through the door you are not allowed to leave.”

“But this is a place for old people.”  Meghan’s eyes filled with tears.

“Not just old people.  People who are searching for something to fulfill their lives.”


As tears streamed down Meghan’s face, her body quivered with questions.  “What will happen to me?  Will I never see my brother and father again?  What do I eat?  Where do I sleep?  Who will teach me about the stars and how plants grow?  Are there books here?”

“My dear one.  Please do not worry.”  Queen Madora handed Meghan a handkerchief with the royal crest embroidered in the center.  “Dry your eyes.  I was sent here to be your guide.  I will take care of you.  Your mother and I will be here for you.”

“My mother is here?”  Meghan wiped her eyes and stared at her grandmother.

“Yes, she is here.  We will explain all to you.  And now, take my hand and we will meet you mother in the Pool of Dreams.  She is waiting for you.”

Meghan took Queen Madora’s hand and they floated through the grasses under the thunderous sky.





GROUP 2: WEEK FOUR of FOUR

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