Monthly Archives: October 2013

Korean Sijo Poem by Yi Myunghan

If on the pathways of dreams
a footprint could leave a mark,
The road by your window
though rough with rocks,
would soon wear smooth.
But in dreams paths take no footprints.
I mourn the more for that.

꿈에 다니는 길이 자최 곧 나량이면
님이 집 창 밖에 석로이라도 닳으련마는
꿈길이 자최 없으니 그를 슬허하노라

Yi Myunghan (1595-1645)

I Remember Loving You by Utah Phillips

I look at my brown suitcase
And think of all the places that I’ve been,
Railroad yards and prison guards,
All the dumpy little towns along the stem
And the whispering of the people
As they watch every move that I go through;
I remember all those things,
Mostly I remember loving you.

I remember loving you,
Back when the world was new,
And I think you loved me too,
I remember loving you,

The buckskin smells so the people tell
As we huddled in the boxcar from the rain;
Flashing lights that cut the night,
The railroad bull that pulled us off the train,
When the winter’s cold and the Norther blows
I’m huddled in the corner ’til I’m blue;
I remember all these things,
Mostly I remember loving you.

Winter streets where the frozen sleet
Comes soaking through the cardboard in my shoes,
Where the promised land might be a place
Where a man could find free cigarettes and booze,
And the alleyways full of ragged strays,
The doorway wine I tell my troubles to,
I remember all these things,
Mostly I remember loving you.

–Utah Phillips

Pease River

He watched what was left of the day through the front window. The brain like oak tree held the first stars in its black wickerwork. The storm earlier in the day rolled before him the full gospel of falling skies in the rain thick river. He watched a coyote sniff the far riverbank and look towards him. He pulled his boots on and grabbed the truck keys from the hook next to the cabin door. Mariah had been in the ground a week now and there was nothing to be done about it.

Time spent in the mind wasn’t good time. He knew that.

The parlous ride into town. The cluster of trucks nursing around the flat low tavern by the stock yards. His Dad’s truck was in the thick of them. That was one way not to deal with things.

Eye Rhyme Poem #2

Death at the Mall

If in slaughter there is laughter
Do we comb every womb,

Find what food sears the blood
To find the bomb before the tomb?

The Demon Inside – a Mini Saga

The demon was inside Justin. He decided to cut it out. He performed the operation in his dorm in front of large mirror with lights and instruments from the anatomy lab. Using spray adrenalin to manage the shock, he had almost reached the demon when the pain of retracting the spleen became too great. He sewed the wound closed; huffing the spray, he called 911.

The Invisible Way – a Short Short Story

Tanti fingered the ear of the man she had just killed.

“It will be dark soon,” said Anka. “Take your tribute and let’s go.”

The ambush had succeeded beyond expectations. Sacred ground had been trespassed. Lessons must be taught. Tantii took the man’s left ear–the one that did not listen– and put it in her deerskin bag.

Men were fools when it came to sex. Letting this one think he had stumbled across an easy conquest had been his downfall. Anka had played the scared but compliant, curious girl. Tanti had been quick and deadly with the knife from behind.

Now the canyons were cooling as the sun moved lower in the sky. The way back would be hard to find if they waited much longer. Anka lead the way, reversing the hand and footholds up the steep canyon walls the tribe called the Invisible Way. Each hold had been placed by the Old Ones so that only The People could use them. Tanti started the Going To The Sky song that recalled the first leg of the trail up the stone face.

Left hand to the sun, right foot high
lean left and a look for a lizard sign
Same to the right, toes on toes
Two deep breaths and reach high as you can

The sun balanced on the canyon rim. As she moved higher Tanti saw her shadow stretching away across the face of the stone giant beside her. Her shadow was a separate self who could detach from her at the slightest mistake and find its own way home. “You won’t leave me today,” she told it as she reached for the next handhold.

The Teaching said always look up on the Invisible Way, never down. The Giants permitted passage if you sang the song as you went and showed your respect at the top by giving thanks. Tanti felt strong, stronger than she had ever felt.

Looking down. What could it hurt? She was a warrior now–one of the few women called. She had killed a man today.

She took a quick look down between her legs at the canyon floor far below in the blue black shadows of the late afternoon. It was a view that belonged only to the birds. It was a mistake. She knew it immediately. A greasy, watery feeling crept into her legs.

The Song. Where was it? Nothing came. She looked up for Anka but she was out of sight by now.

The day shrank down until it was only the patch of speckled grey rock in front of her. Her ears started to buzz and her mouth became bitter and dry. Fingers grew numb. Her left foot started to bounce with a mind of its own.

Her stomach fell first. Away to some place deep inside her leaving a hole for the wind to find and fill. In her mind she watched her shadow self leave the wall and float like a leaf, drifting back and away.

“find the tree that lives in the wall
a root will guide you to it …”

Over her shoulder, a voice, steady and calm. Her shadow self sang the Song for her. Everything sharp now. One hand, one foot and the tree found her and brought her to it.

She rested at the tree and steadied her breath before continuing. She had made a grave mistake, but today was not the day she would join her ancestors.

“What kept you?” asked Anka when she reached the top.

Tanti debated telling her what happened and decided against it. Why give her mistake a life of its own by speaking of it?

“My deerskin bag got caught on the tree root,” she said.

The Rat House – a Short Short Story

“It smells every time I walk by. I think that is where the Norway rat in our back yard came from.”

Our dog had recently cornered a huge rat in our backyard. Dash wanted to play and got a striped, bloody gash in his nose for his trouble. It took four whacks with a shovel to kill the rat.

“I can’t smell anything,” I said.

“That proves nothing,” she said.

“A recluse couple lives there. They are estranged from their family and they are both sick. They will die within days of each other.”

My wife Sharon is part Chippewa and I have learned not to question such statements. The Rat House became part of our lexicon, like the Crazies from the sheltered living center up the street who walk around the block with their handlers each night, smoking.

One day an estate sale sign went up in front of the Rat House. Sharon was eager to see inside. Though it was high summer, she wore a zipped jacket and gloves as we wandered through the 1950s brick rambler.

The estate sale company had cleared out most of the trash and tried to set the place in order. The owner had been a retired Boeing engineer, his wife a nurse. They died a few months apart. There was no sign that they had children. It had taken a while to contact the relatives.

Inside was the usual debris pile of period furniture, dollar store dishes and cheap faded paintings. In the corner of the basement was an old yellow sofa. Sharon walked straight to it and lifted the cushion as though she knew what she would find. She was outside on the sidewalk in a heartbeat.

“Rat turds! It was covered in rat turds!”

We walked the short distance to our house. Repulsive or not, nothing would have kept her away from the Rat House or from lifting the yellow sofa cushion.