Don’t Shake Fountain Pens – a Haibun

The fountain pen was left unused for some time, wrapped in the leather cover of the journal I had sworn to visit daily. When I accomplished a thought and began to put it to paper the dry nib jumped on the page, leaving blank spaces and smudges. I made the novice mistake of giving the pen a shake….. Now there is ink splattered on the page and trailing across the blanket on my lap. My favorite blanket, something you must have when you reach an age of sharing recliners with dogs on rainy afternoons. I looked for a moment or two at the mess I had made and evaluated the consequences. In the past this evaluation would have been preceded by a tantrum, replete with yelling and expletives. Today, I am aware that the blanket is no more than old fabric with no intrinsic value, which now has some spots on it. The page was merely paper, absorbing ink as was intended. Perhaps it is age that causes me to contemplate before reacting, or life experience, or merely no longer having the need to be angry about unimportant things. I don’t know if it is wisdom that recognizes spilled ink is not a tragedy, or amusement at myself for being unwise enough to shake a fountain pen.

The entry I was intending to start before the ink calamity is to be a letter to my young adult children. An opening attempt to impart lessons I feel I failed to teach about life, and living it, and what matters versus what is trivial. I think now the letter will include an anecdote about shaken fountain pens and old blankets.

Cold and rainy nights
precede warm and breezy days,
each a beginning.

shared at dVerse Poet’s Pub

 

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Shooting Tequila on Friday Night…at Mellow Mushroom…when you are over 50

I am sure she was relevant once,
the center of the vortex
at nightclubs and beach parties.
Her trilling laugh carrying over the music
and a hair flip to inspire Pantene commercials.

She would have been surrounded by semi-desperate
devotees searching for acceptance,
who only knew she was fun and the object
of affection from the pretty and popular people.

She played the crowd,
used ‘my dear’ and a light touch to get drinks,
a press of flesh and unspoken promises
to get anything else.

Now she has crow’s feet and an ongoing
battle against grey,
she talks too loud for the suburban dinner crowd
and gestures with her salt-rimmed shot glass
to make a point.

She takes the shot with a flourish,
performing for her audience,
her husband sips his beer and turns
to the TVs pretending interest in ESPN.

The rest of the bar crowd is there to eat —
somewhere for an adult to sit
without waiting for a table — with a self-imposed
two drink max with our dinner.

We make an effort to ignore the tequila-enhanced noise,
remember some antics from our own youth — some fondly —
and move our judgment meter from slight annoyance
to a small measure of pity.

.

.

shared at dVerse

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Dreams – Restrained

The boy is twelve, maybe fourteen,
course, curly hair cut close to the scalp,
his skin is dark, the genetic dark of generations spent
roaming savannahs under a hard sun.

Now he roams rough streets in a hard neighborhood,
more often hungry than the ancestor with a spear,
more often afraid of the lurking predator,
more often alone, with no tribe for protection.

He dreams of escape from this life he did not choose,
to run from this place of hardship and fear
to where lines of difference are blurred
and seeking betterment is not betrayal.

At night, when he flees through his dreams,
a hand grasp him with a grip like a shackle,
refusing him the escape for which he longs,
a hand with the same dark skin as his own.

Ekphrastic of a Seattle Mural
By Artist Alex Gardner

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Anonymous

I found out today the custodian
for our office
had passed away.

We often exchanged pleasantries
when passing in the hall,
she always had a smile.

I never did learn her name,
or where to send
the flowers.

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Tik…

The clock in the living room
is of an old design,
white, round face,
block numbers one through twelve.

tik…tik…tik…tik…tik

The hands are also the simple,
traditional design,
thin, black lines
one shorter than the other.

tik…tik…tik…tik

A quartz movement marks
the time, pushing the second
hand around with an interminable,
repeating tick.

tik…tik…tik

We converse often,
the clock and I,
when the nights are still
and the world slows down.

tik…tik…

Life and love are often topics,
along with hate and death
and fear and loneliness…
subjects where we share expertise.

tik…

The dog is comforted
by the sound of my voice,
but seldom seems
to notice the clock.

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An Early Winter Morning in Atlanta

The frost on the highway medians
melts into mist at the first touch
of morning,
steam drifts up from
the sewer vents.

Graft echoes through
the streets
like the sunlight
reflecting from
the glass faced monoliths.

Underneath a marble monument
a King’s dream lies forgotten,
its hope twisted into
perverted idealism
and political catchphrases.

Suicide fences are installed
on the bridges
over the interstates,
but not on the ones over
the chattahoochee,
screwing up traffic a greater concern
than a hopeless body floating
downstream.

Some things are difficult
to notice
bumper to bumper
at eighty miles per hour.

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An Agreement

Waking up takes a while: a vague awareness, followed by some dozing in and out, then taking stock of surroundings before opening my eyes. It is the sounds you notice most in that moment, not the feel of the sheets, or the weight of your head on the pillow, or the feel of the air conditioner, or whether you have a foot sticking out from beneath the covers. No, it is noise that reaches your consciousness first. In this case it is a faint beep coming from behind by head, regular and constant.

Opening my eyes presents me with a lot of beige and white; white ceiling, beige walls, white sheets. There is one splash of color, the blue shirt of the beauty sitting next to the bed, facing me, close enough to be holding my hand, a sensation just now making itself known. I know her…..yes, of course. I feel she should be younger, that is the memory that first presents itself. Not young, but before the small wrinkles and the grey hair. I give the hand a squeeze and I am rewarded with a smile.

“You look tired.”

She holds the smile and gives her head a slight shake. “Must be your eyes, I feel fine.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Not too long, just enough to watch you nap for a while”

“You need a hobby.’

“This one will do me fine.”

Some thought nagged for a moment, tugging from somewhere in the background but not allowing itself to be grasped. Something I should be remembering, something that needed to be done. It was gone. She still smiled, still trying not to be tired.

“How long have I been here?” I glanced to the window, trying to determine a time. Day time was all I could be sure of. Based on the greenery and flow of conditioned air I would assume late spring or summer.

“Not so long. Nothing to worry about.”

My pause was longer, chasing other thoughts that would not be caught. A couple of faces managed to stay long enough to be recognized. I turned back to find her watching me.

“How are the kids? Catch me up.”

The smile came back, slowly, and she gave my hand a squeeze and settled a bit into her chair. “Thomas is doing well, recently promoted. He and Elizabeth are happy with their new home, and the children seem to really enjoy the new school. I do wish it was closer though.”

“Grandchildren….yes. Two? Yes. And one other.”

“Yes. Two for Thomas, Maggie and James. And Renee has Joseph”

“My baby girl. And she has a son. The time does not seem to fit together right…. She is good too?”

“Yes. She and Joe are very happy”

“Just the two of them?

Her look became stern for a moment, then softened again quickly. “Yes, just them, for now. I think she is seeing someone, but she will not speak to me about it. Maybe you can get some info out of her.”

She talked for awhile, going on about the routines and trivialities of family lives. She covered school activities and milestones and the comedies life will provide. As she spoke things seemed to align in my head. The cogs reengaged in the gears of my mind, and there was clarity. Memories surfaced, some still fuzzy, others amazingly clear.

“Jamie.” I met her eyes. She smiled, nodded slightly and held my gaze. “My wife. My love, mother of our children. How could that not have been my first thought upon waking?”

I thought a saw a tear, quickly brushed away. And more memories crystallized. Less pleasant than the ones before.

“Oh, Jamie, no. How long have you been here. How long have I been here?”

“Not long, really. Just a little while”

“Dear one, you were never very good at lying. You are tired, I can tell. We talked about this, we had an agreement.”

“No,” she shook her head, “we are not going to discuss that.”

“We shouldn’t have to.” I met her stubborn gaze, though it was hard. “We discussed it ahead of time so that we would not have to now. So that decisions would already be made when the time came.”

“Not yet,” she said with another slight shake of her head.

“Jamie, love. I can tell it has been a while. I don’t know how long but I know it is longer than we discussed. And agreed to, many times over. You did not give them the documents, did you”

“No, not yet.” She was no longer staring me down, a slight quaver to her voice.

“You have to. We agreed to it, we signed the living will and the DNR, just for this situation. This is not life, for either of us. This is not the living you are supposed to be doing. You should be traveling. You should be spending every possible moment with our grandchildren, not sitting around waiting for me to wake up and wondering if I will remember you today. That is not what either of us wanted.”

“I know.” She looked back up and matched stares again. Then gave the slight shake of her head again. “But not yet, I cannot yet.”

I nodded, and reached for her hand, raised it and pressed it to my lips before speaking. “Okay, I understand. But you cannot keep this up, you cannot continue to neglect living. Promise me you will give them the document. Tell me you will do it tomorrow.”

It took some time before she answered. “I will.”

“Good. I love you, and I would never have wished this for you. It hurts me to know I have caused you to be here so long already. Now, tell me some more things I am not remembering, about when the kids were young.”

She smiled.

 

When I woke I was facing the window. It was dreary outside, a tinge of frost on the panes. I turned back to the room and found the only color other than beige and white, a red shirt beneath a beautiful face. She was not as young as I thought she should be, and she looked tired.

We exchanged pleasantries for a while before I remembered the questions I should ask.

“How are the kids?”

She smiled, took my hand and gave it squeeze.

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