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The Urban Gargoyle

Streets and intersections
Winding knots of humanity
All balled up
Into a mess
Of metal and rubber
A city on its knees, crawling
Rat mazes of brick and mortar
Blinking signals
Sewage lines and water mains

If the world is so big
Why am I so small
Shouldn’t we grow to our surroundings?
Giants among us, living and breathing
Bass slapping drum beats
That signal everyone to their feet

And while I slept
The city grew yet even more
Yawned
Swallowed up the night
Creating an absence of the nocturnal rhythms
Sucking the darkness
From the night sky
Robbing us of stars and galaxies
And then replaced it all
With powerful pulses
Emanating from booze soaked gathering holes

And the beast that crawled during the day
Now roamed the night
Wandering down empty streets
Through red lights
Across the bridge into midtown
And through dark tunnels
Where the trains slept

I was sure
That when I awoke
I would be the only one left
A standing house
Among many in ruin
Saved by tiny mantras
That I had whispered under the sheets
But every morning
I found myself
Once again at the mercy of the beast
Cracking eggs
Cranking ignitions
As the sinister
Dissolved into the mundane

One day I will retreat
To the hills surrounding the urban complex
Away from the eyes of the gargoyle
That pierce the night
In the form of luminous street lamps
Away from the dance of the unremarkable
That crawls the streets
As the heat rises from its concrete belly
And I will take my loved ones
Just as the beast bellows
Until it finally disappears without a trace

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Salvage Yard

By the end of the summer
I was sure that I wouldn’t be returning
The mornings in the first light
Evenings with darkness robbing sight
And everything in between
Seemed to be moments
Stolen

It was a week before
That I found a tiny ceramic piece
In the corner of the kitchen
Tucked under the cabinet
It had been 2 years
Since the mug had flown across the kitchen
Dashing into a thousand pieces
A moment that was hard to recall

Funny how you think
That wounds are healed
Funny how you blink
Only to discover
Emotions have just been sealed
In a time capsule
Only to be suddenly discovered
Opened
Unleashed

At the time
I couldn’t even visit the bones
Across town
Next to a towering pignut hickory
I was foolish to have thought
That the prickly spines of loss
Wouldn’t still be embedded

But summer was over
And now I was running
As far as I could get
From that patch of grass
Sitting in the shade of a hickory

I had to get somewhere so far far away
That ceramic pieces
From broken mugs
Launched long ago
Could never be found

Some of us have scars that tell a story
Stories we forbid them to tell
We hold those memories hostage
Refusing to negotiate

They are scars
Born out of sadness
Fear
Regret

We don’t want to tell those stories
Because they would change
The story that is us
Inserting new chapters
Were none had been before
Chapters that cause review
Alter character development
Thickens plot lines

We all have scars that tell a story
And I hold mine at gunpoint

Ducking through the stunted doorways
She carried a tiny damaged soul
In a baby backpack
Through the castle
Where Bacon had made his stand

She had made her stand
Long ago
Before I was old enough
To really even know her
A fierce product of her own times
And volition

She was tough
I never saw her cry
Though I am sure
I might of heard the heaviness of her breath
Or witnessed the darkness
Come across her brow
From time to time
As she sat in her double wide
In the middle of a corn field

She gave me three uncles
Two didn’t care much
For the job, title
Or the vows of marriage
Twice she had been burned
By the heat of lost love
Perhaps there were others
That I didn’t know about
But none had carried
The appointment of “Uncle”
So they came with extra weight
In their basket of legitimacy

Both times the beautiful entanglement
Of new love
Unraveled into a mess
Of hasty nighttime exits
With no goodbyes
As if a portal opened up
And they stepped through
Into another dimension
Where they would try again
To be successful
At attachment and devotion
In my dimension though
Pictures of them disappeared
Their names were no longer spoken
The death of a family member
Without the benefit of a pine box and tears
But their last name
Would remain on her letters
That arrived daily
In the mailbox
At the edge of her farm
She would resist
The severing of her identity
A repudiation of any vestiges of coupling
Denying the reality
That the entanglement had met its finality

One time when I was seven
She took me out into the fields
That surrounded
Her wood paneling adorned trailer
That was populated by owls
Of all shapes, sizes and mediums
And among the goats, cows and chickens
That gathered excitedly around us
She stated matter of factly
“Look at all these different animals
They all have one thing in common…
Hunger!”
Much later
A thought zipped
Across my fragmented inner dialogue
Did she ever realize
Her commonality with mankind
And its need for love?
I had never seen her
Have an affair of the heart
It was as if she was
Constantly digging for water
And instead of finding untapped reserves
She kept finding small pockets
That only pushed her
A few more months or years down the road
Never solving the eternal thirst

After her second left
There were no others
For a very long time
She grew older
Certainly wiser
Letting the pain of the past
Dull into a background hum
A hum that she could more easily ignore

But she was more mystery
Than the parts we got to see
Maybe it’s because
We weren’t old enough to talk
And when we were
She was gone

That mystery was never more evident
Than when she moved
From the land of spindletops
Pumpjacks and rattlesnakes
To the foothills of the hill country
Where oceans of tree tops
Took root in rocky soil

That was when we met another
But this one was different
The beautiful entanglement
Didn’t begin
With veils and long dresses
Or Mendelssohn’s march
It began quietly
As they slipped
Into the boring rhythms of life
Playing the parts of old maids
Giving back to wards of the state
They had no children
That came from their wombs
But had many
That shared their hearts

In this other
…Whom I began to call “Aunt”…
She found a like spirit
Someone who had the same gentleness
Together they created a home
Where the damaged
Came for safety

Two broken souls
Who never had found
What they had been looking for
Cloaked in sadness
But perhaps their entanglement
Was not unlike the uncles
Who had come before
There was a friendship
An intimacy
That went beyond a shared home
And the revolving door
Of mistreated little ones
Who for a short period of time
Were granted normalcy
They would have long talks
While sitting on their couch
Plan their futures together
While studying maps of distant locations
Or simply take in dinner and a movie
Something that had been taken
Without their permission
And now they were
Helping each other repair the damage
We all talked as if it was platonic
But the beautiful entanglement
Was undeniable
They worked well together
And from the past pains
That perhaps haunted them
They healed others
Stopping the hemorrhaging of the hearts
Before the anemia set in

One bright summer day
Up a bald mountain
We climbed
Two aunts
With babies in tow
They were distracted and distant
Near the top they stopped
As we continued toward the peak
I glanced back over her shoulder
And saw them standing together
Staring across the rolling hills
They weren’t saying a word
It was a brief moment
Where I saw memories
In their gaze
They had both never looked more human
Than that day
A baby and a backpack
Was not all they carried
There were old wounds
That still complained
When the conditions were right
An aching
That only in that moment
Did both of them understand

Toward the end of the century
That beautiful unspoken
Perhaps even hidden
Entanglement
Dissolved like the others
With barely any explanations
Goodbyes
Or closure
It was as sudden and devastating
As the explosion of Vesuvius
But as still and silent
As Pompeii in the aftermath
It was a compound break
Where she slowly sifted away
One grain at a time

But instead of escaping
Into another dimension
As the others had done
She remained in ours
Just in a quieter
Lonelier
Less visited corner
And with each passing year
We saw her less
And began to forget

That Spring
She met the gray knight
25 years her senior
He had lived a life under the thumb
Of three different military branches
They played the part of an older couple
Finding love late in life
And just like the first two
It began with walks down the aisle
And cars with soda cans tied to the bumper
But their entanglement
Was less beautiful
They didn’t seem to care much
For the warmth of each other’s embrace
But they did long to be advocates
For each others well being
Her health and eyesight declined
His gait became slower
And he too had found himself
At the end of a journey
Having never been able to quench his thirst
He had escaped many times
Into other dimensions
Leaving the “Uncle” moniker behind
So their entanglement
While ironic
Was one of compassion
It was clear they both didn’t want to die alone

She passed away
One Winter
Having never found
That beautiful entanglement
Someone that extinguished her every thirst
But from out of the lonely
Less visited corner
The other returned
To say goodbye
Standing longer
At the casket
Than the rest
She had the trembles
And the use of a cane
Perhaps the beautiful entanglement
They seemed to have found themselves in
For a few chapters of their life story
Would find a way to weave a new tapestry
Once they met again
At the very least
I hoped they would both
Just find a way to finally cry
And let all the pain go

Terrified Release

I miss them
Parts departing
Fading
Growing dimmer

Their essence remains
The kernel contained

But the transition is in play
Modifications being made
Upgraded models
Taking their place

Stronger voices
Shifting visages

The way I memorized them
Is no longer
The way their verse reads

In dreams
There was a long drive
Arriving
Far from home
In a carpeted forest
In the shadow of a waterfall

I didn’t want to leave
I imagined darkness
Of the night
Felt the cold
That was coming
And it terrified me

That I wouldn’t be there
To hold her
Love her
Warm and feed her
She looked scared
Uncertain why this step
Was necessary

I knew her warmth well
When I wrapped my arms
Around her

And I feared
I didn’t know her
As she sat in her room
Back home
Waiting for my return
I didn’t want to leave
Others were convincing me
That was life
I had to let go
In the nightmare
My body gently mourned
And it terrified me

As I drive away
I miss them
And I wonder
If they will remember our games
The jokes we shared
Would their heart love
As it had
For me
Despite my flaws
That weren’t quite yet evident
To them
Tiny frames
That get fuller
Heavier
Everytime my arms
Wrap around them
Eyes that get wiser
Conversations that become deeper

How many times
Will I make that trip
To the waterfall in the forest?
How many times
Do I have to leave them behind?

And it terrifies me

The Heart Breaks

It broke
Before the rock
Even made its mark
Staining red
The memories of its cries
As it refused to fall

It broke
In a classroom
Absent an instructor
That was the antithetic
To the unchanging
Uninspiring

It broke
When lovers quarrelled
And words fashioned
Like darts
Were hurdled across the room
In deliberation
Attempts to puncture
The fragile psyches
That are so often protected

It broke
When old men
With scratchy two day beards
Who sat in recliners
With overalls
Antimacassars
No longer came around

It broke
As beasts
That curled in laps
Greeted doors that opened
Closed their eyes
Became cold
And blankets of dirt
Didn’t warm them

It broke
After a sister cried
Across a thousand miles
As life crumbled around her
Without being afforded
Time to heal
And a place to hide

It broke
When babes
Were introduced
To a world
Where kindness
Is sometimes absent
And devious intentions
Created a lifetime
Of debilitating realization

It broke
After those
Who marched through life
In step with me
Wrapped vehicles
Around telephone poles
Or were assaulted
By a malange
Of disorders

The heart heals
But it doesn’t forget
Oh the waste
If it could consign to oblivion
Erase tears taste
Emotions
That grew from empathy
Sorrow
Regret
The glue that makes
Us human

It breaks
And I embrace it

We Left the Mountains

Stitched Panorama

We left the mountains
Entered the fertile fields
Surrounding Ellensburg
On either side of the highway
Were fields that had definite boundaries
As if God had touched the valley with a tear drop
And turned it into the green eyes of Scarlett O’Hara
Which blinked in the bright sunlight
As we exited toward the Columbian Plateau
Grass fires and crumpled metal
Took our journey to the slow crawl
Giving us time to view the brown landscape
Appreciate the stark and abrupt ending
Of luscious vegetation giving way
To the ancient flood basalts
Of long ago periods of time
Which created hundreds of miles
Of barren, arid rock
Which rose from the sea beds
Creating deep crevices into the land
Where giant rivers were contained

In the sea of brake lights
The realization
That hard times
Are much like these severe divides
Like a light switch flicked
Things can go from verdant to vanishing
Full of reward
Certainty
And the next
Depleted impotence
In this drive
I could see it coming
Admire its differences
See for miles
Prepare

Existence
Offers no advancements
Only sharp curves
Where life changes in a heartbeat