Earned Wisdom by James Ross Kelly–Flash Fiction Magazine – Daily Flash Fiction Stories

illustration-to-book-of-job-2

I hadn’t been home long enough to take a shower when there came a pounding on the door. I knew only too well who it was:he was the last person in the world I wanted to see. I answered the door.

“Ah, Heartache, my old friend,” I said, “come in, you son of a bitch, come on in and make yourself at home. You know your way around. There’s beer in the refrigerator. I got to grab a shower.”

He didn’t say a word, but he headed for the Hotpoint refrigerator next to the Frigidaire gas stove. I got in the shower and washed off the grime from the roofing job I’d hated for the last month. (continued)

Go to Flash Fiction Magazine:

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/

So, Vincent–published in Rock & Sling Winter 2018

by

James Ross Kelly

I was there and your portrait hung in front of me, the 1886 one I’m sure it was, an exhibition at the Fogg Museum in Cambridge, Mass., late June early July 1973. I came once a day and sat there and looked at your art and I would generally smoke some pot before I did. There were many other paintings of yours—“Irises,” perhaps; I don’t remember the others. Your paintings now are as familiar as my heart.van_gogh_1

I was apartment-sitting for my English professor and contemplating a move back to Oregon, where I thought I could work for a year and then return to school. I remember all of it too clearly, the Fogg and my own fog of swimming in the exciting oatmeal of the 1970s. You, however, are there. They say it is your last self-portrait. Auctioned in 1939 at Gallerie Fisher in Lucerne, Switzerland. It was one of the works branded as degenerate by the Nazis, confiscated and sold. The winning bid was $40,000 by a Dr. Frankfurter. You had given this painting to your brother as a birthday gift. I must tell you, if it is any consolation, my father killed Nazis for one year all through the landscape that you loved. There is a picture of your painting at the auction. Some asshole in a white coat is holding it up. It is better that it went to Switzerland I suppose, but it was bad that the Nazis profited.

So, Vincent, this is of course not about you but about me, perhaps a little bit about 1973, and me telling, among the things I tell, this horrible thing I did. Unlike you and the unfortunate incident with your ear, you could recollect none of it. I remember this all too well. At the same time, your painting of yourself seared me somehow. You clearly painted your aura. Blue shimmering pale blue through your coat and your red, red hair and beard, the air was on blue fire very clearly.

I broke up with Jane there in Cambridge, my lover my good coed girlfriend, my lovely woman companion paramour committing adultery we were, in my car, in motels, and eventually living together after I left my wife. And my wife divorced me a matter of weeks later. I walked around Cambridge, mildly hipped out, two years of college and the Army behind me. Literature, art, film slipped through me—I saw The King of Hearts a dozen times at the Central Square Cinemas with its then-novel two screens. Most every day while your exhibition was at the Fogg, I stopped by and sat on what I remember as a marble bench and looked at you. I knew the thin blue air was on fire all around me. I did not know if I was partially responsible, but there was an inkling inside me that I was.

I paid for Jane’s abortion in late March. She came to me, told me she was pregnant, said she wanted to have the child to carry on a part of me she thought she could not be a part of. Mildly, gently and in a seemingly caring manner I explained I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready. Then I did a despicable thing. In my college-boy English-literature assumption I closed the deal by reading her James Joyce’s “A Little Cloud” from his book of short stories, The Dubliners. The protagonist, a news writer in Dublin, meets in a bar with a friend back from his journalist job in England. The story ends with the protagonist coming home to his small child wailing an infant wail signifying the end of his opportunity as his friend was capitalizing upon his own. Domesticity stopping the pursuit of his art. This closed the deal for poor Jane. Scarcely sixty days after Roe v. Wade, an English professor’s husband who was a gynecologist set up an appointment in New York City, as abortion was still verboten in Massachusetts. This is how I, an agnostic college boy-man, sacrificed my first-born child on an altar of convenience and self-absorbed selfishness. My Celtic ancestors were required to crush the skull of their firstborn and bury the infant under a cornerstone of their first home, to achieve prosperity. I believe now, Vincent, that what I did was virtually the same thing, though I knew then of no practice and no such intent, thinking the child just optional protoplasm.

We, the hip, we the revolution against our material culture, all of us disgusted by modernism gone wrong in the 20th century, we thought the burning blue open sky around us then, a static insouciant deterministic notion driving all—what we were, was all we were. There seemed no possibilities of an inherent intellectual mistake about who we really were.

There was, of course, much more to it. I sat there daily in front of you, I suppose, knowing that was the closest thing I could get to greatness right then, and that it was tangible, and that, of course, did not work out so well for the either of us. I saw what you got in the end was a continuum, a colossal imprint.

Much later I knew it would have been more honest if I had cut off my own ear and wrapped it in sterile gauze and taken it to my first wife and apologized, and told her the truth of her IUD and the countless abortions we had together contrary to her own Catholic, go-to-Mass-every-week Catholicism, and I should have been regretful of that even if the IUD was her idea. She, a nurse looking a little like Jackie Kennedy, would never have divorced me had I not strayed. She met me by the Charles River to serve divorce papers because she now was in a love affair with a man who four months later would leave because he had impregnated another woman. Oh, we played loose and fast and listened to wild rock and roll, Vincent, and slept around and tried to out-bohemian any of your colleagues, but this is how we failed.

Ah, Jesus, Vincent, I’ve come to see this as my socially venial act of murder, unconscious of the reality and void of moral consequence. I premeditatedly pulled the switch as an out-of-touch warden in this prison we have outside of jail; pulled the switch without a sentence, without due process, pulled the switch by paying with my GI Bill check. As I watched some asshole in a white coat take lovely Jane away into a white sterile room in New York City, I and others began the phalanx that now totals sixty million for our nation. The necessary modern notion of family planning, unhinged from premodernity and the time of ancestral contiguity—a thinly veiled eugenic notion of choice preempting responsibility.

I stopped something that had a purpose that I was not actually unaware of. Yes, it took Jesus to forgive this in the near-death ether of spiritual expanse—it took thirty-three years for this to happen. It took me raising two sons and loving them above all else and reflecting on how could I have not loved this one as well. I wonder: Would I have thought differently had I read Ken Kesey’s take on this in 1971?

You are you from conception, and that never changes no matter what physical changes your body takes. And the virile sport in the Mustang driving to work with his muscular forearm tanned and ready for a day’s labor has not one microgram more right to his inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than has the three months foetus riding in a sack of water…How can abortion be anything but fascism again, back as a fad in a new intellectual garb with a new, and more helpless, victim?*

This comes finger-pointing out of the past. Abortion had been challenged by Christendom since the Didache of the first century. Abortion was anathema to life. But we had captains in our revolution to give us a hand with abject morality. World War II made life and death arbitrary and relative; Vietnam continued this nightly in our living rooms. Life has become in America similar to what the Nazis thought, in the sense of an orderly deterministic march to and over the edge of humanity. A clean park was more important than a babe in the arms of its mother. The Liberal Fascism that has held sway was nailed by the father of hipsters. Sadly, then I was lock-step with this march the other way.

published in Rock & Sling  Winter 2018

 

*Excerpt from an interview with Ken Kesey by Paul Krasner. The REALIST Issue Number 90 – May-June, 1971 pages 46-47

Above Lyman’s Riffle–by James Ross Kelly published at Fiction Attic

vaux swiftsby James Ross Kelly

The old man’s house was falling down ten years after his death; twenty-years after, the whole south face of Lyman Mountain and Ernie’s place by the Rogue River, was divided up and there were expensive homes built at various river viewpoints and no notion of Ernest Lyman, who had lived there for almost a century—was in anyone’s  mind.  However, one year after he’d passed, on a hot August, dusk evening that was beginning to cool, I waited for the red glow down river and Vaux’s  swifts darted through warm air and willows along the river. Swifts in the red day glow off in the west and evening light.

 

Go to Fiction Attic for the entire story:

http://fictionattic.com/above-lymans-riffle/

A Memory of a Memory, story by James Ross Kelly (WHEN I MOVED Poetry and Prose Series)

Silver Birch Press

momndadA Memory of a Memory
by James Ross Kelly

At four, my parents’ divorce had moved my father and me from Rock Island, Illinois, south to the small Kansas town where I was born. My father had gained my custody in an era when men were generally not given custody of children. He accomplished this by getting my mother drunk just before court. His justification was that, in his absence, my mother had gone on a binge and left me alone in our apartment for almost two days. I have no memory of this. He had no apologies. My father was taking me to my grandmother’s house with my grandmother in his ’48 Ford. I had been excited about the house, and had a memory of it as glistening white.

Before all this, I had moved from Kansas and my grandmother’s house at two years old with my mother. We…

View original post 352 more words

Pacific Yew

I was once paid
To survey Yew trees
In Old Growth forests
In Oregon near Crater Lake
Mammoth Douglas fir & White fir
Covered the landscape, rolling sides
Of Mountains, the Yew were generally
In wet areas, crevices of creeks
They grew as attendant soldiers to the large conifers
Only the fifty to sixty feet the oldest of them
Lining the feeder streams that stretched downward
To Creeks that all ran to the Rogue River
The surrounding clearcuts were littered with their
Brothers  & sisters as they were sexed male  & female
Into large piles to be burned as unmerchantable
In Canada they made them into beautiful hardwood flooring,
After closing a bar in British Columbia I was drinking beer
At a timber fallers home  & complemented him on his floor
As it was gorgeous red hues  & blond running throughout
The lengths of the boards,  & I asked him what kind of wood
It was, as I had installed wood floors for about as brief a time as
I had logged, “THAT,” he said, as he waved his Molson,
“Is Canadian Yew wood!”  & he said it as if it came from the Queen herself
The females have tiny red berries but were no different in appearance
Than the males, but that they were dioeciously conifers with separate sexes
Was something that seemed an oddity, yews were generally few & far
Between but in the right conditions they would form stands that followed
The creeks downhill & appeared as un-uniformed limby
Gnarly red barked ever green twisted with holes & grown
Over defects that were as old as the tall Douglas fir
Their large European counter parts were used as chapels
By early European Christians who took them from
Pagan worshipers that found their otherworldly appearance
In deep forest to be contingent with forested landscape as a being
Rather than separate commodities, & I who had formerly spent
My short forestry career in clearcuts where all this had been raped,
Well, the three weeks I spent with Yews, kind of sealed this notion
That yes this separate place was an amalgam of earth, with a presence
All its own, we were surveying Yew because its bark had been found
To be a cure for breast & ovarian cancer , the worry at the time was
That we had cut too much of it  & the need for it for medicine would
Be its demise in a few short years—perhaps every incurable disease has
Its counterpart, the European Yew were almost wiped out because of its
Prize as the commodity for long bows, this is really more understandable
Rather than the overuse because it was “just in the way,” of D-8 cats and
The ever present need to tidy up & burn the left over’s so we could entertain
The notion of growing back trees like corn that
Rather  had,  in an elegant fashion been growing to cure
The beloved’s:  the grandmother’s, the mothers, the young women whose
Lives were to come into an age of live out of balance
All of us reductionist drones that corporate the lovely,  & the obscure
Into spreadsheets & bottom lines while the checkerboard square clearcuts
Of Pacific Northwest took away the great bands of yew  & the spotted
Owls—who were never seen as created harbingers of loveliness,
& health  & the sure goodness of answers to all our problems

My father never drank by James Ross Kelly (Me, as a Child Poetry Series

Silver Birch Press

james_ross_kelly
My father never drank
by James Ross Kelly

My father never drank
While he was working
When he was not working
A bottle of Jim Beam appeared
On the dining room table like a Roman pillar
And when it drained down another appeared.

My father was generally working
Sixteen hour days in the oilfields
Seven days a week until
A well came in or there was a dry hole
In between in the moving of the oil derrick
He was off, & he would drink, in the
Mornings there was beer at Lyle’s
& later at the St. James Hotel
Where there might be a card game
& I’d drink cokes and stare at the
Huge painting of Custer’s Last Stand

On a barstool I’d sit & his pals
Would call me little Jim Beam, I took no
Notice of this but liked the smell of stale beer
& the…

View original post 396 more words

These Pelicans by James Ross Kelly (Where I Live Poetry & Photography Series)

Silver Birch Press

pelicans
THESE PELICANS
by James Ross Kelly

Four pelicans on a log downriver
Sit like squatting men
this crimson Sacramento River evening,

& one rises up a sleepy watchman
& slowly waves his wings,
As a good breeze blows up river,

Paired mergansers begin to move away
As I sit down and look at the pelicans
Whose white through binoculars
becomes pink for a moment
With changing clouds & sunset
Coming

I’ve never wanted flamingos,
I’ve been waiting
For these damn pelicans to show,
& they sleep on the log

All the while I’m sitting under cottonwoods
That release a snow like namesake floating &
Blowing up river, & mallards
Begin to sound and take air across the river

Two pair wheel & move up river
Then turn again, reverse & land
Near the shore below me
Across from the pelicans,

By me the wild grape from
The cottonwood hangs dead

View original post 266 more words

Venus Void of course

Stepping out into

The crisp night air under leafless

Oaks, there is a clean

Smell that can only be

Had in certain places,

Venus shimmers off mountain

Horizon, I thought maybe

You were looking at her too

 

Glimmering off your Bodega Bay

The pliable ivory of your face

& red hair

& connected pervasively,

Venus occluded with moon

Four days ago.

 

While you know

I don’t buy Astrology

& for you that’s part

Of your faith & that’s all right

For you then

I wonder about now

 

Three days before this evening

I’m told of twelve people

Are meeting

Three of which believe

That they are from Venus

& have video tape of

Venusian space ship

Landing on earth

 

Life is preciously beautiful

& we are part & parcel of

Gaseous formation of the adjacent

Planet & I would never want

To break up their meeting, & laughing

Though I am

 

Knowing that voiding time

All of this is a togethered thing &

While Botticelli’s art

Which we accept unlike

The Venusian space ship

& how he

Put her so delicately

On the half-shell

With your red hair

 

It is more like

A dream this art as life

Than a reverie

But there in imagination

We loved each other

& shared our last name w/out marriage

no relation & states away

A decade apart our

Birthdays, yet the same?

 

We astonished each other

You were swooped off

To California, but

In this cabin, this damn

Cold Oregon December,

Your red hair spilled across

My chest, your smell like

Lilac must, your

Touch soft, is soft &

Warm air becomes heavy

Acrid smoke fills the air,

A cabin, or a cave,

Or a peat heated shanty above

A wind swept cliff & the sheep bells

Clang in the mist?

 

I saw a reflection in your eyes

Dim light, our bodies move,

& then we were still, & your

Touch again, it should not be

A dream, yet it was

& that’s all we had

 

My heart surged

Not from desire

But from wonder &

Though we never made love you

Were many times on

My arm & we many times kissed

Deep spit swapping passion

& one night we slept together

This imagination makes what it will

Yet you were always a person

Not to be worshiped

But to be known & we knew each

Other in some kind of morphic

Field that came together & said

Remember?

 

I don’t buy reincarnation either, but

The neo-paganism you seemed to love, hey

The playful part I get,

Masks &drums & the anthropomorphic

Notion of animals, like coyote, but

The old gods have always been

Flipping  dead

Pagan playfulness, still has a black ribbon

Running through it to the diabolic,

As did the inquisition,

Or any religious spirit

In every camp—waiting

For the wrong move away

Presence interior & from

Above simultaneously

 

The dimness fades

& the light grows

Too, too bright

I close my eyes

Black ice on asphalt & fire

On the moon

We were both void of direction

Toward God

 

& then I see again your face

Surprised

Then calm, your face changes, again &

Ten out of ten of us die

& you were eventually gone

Working men, & wolves & bear

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
They creep around huge spruce & cedars & ambush
Wintering deer in among windfall & beach drift wood,
With snow melt & deer moving inland wolves moved there too
Pockets of wintering in the central part of island had deer
That never saw the ocean; the wolves took them there too
A vast sea the size of Delaware of forest rippled over mountains & rose up
From glacier made valleys, spruce, hemlock & cedar waving
Slowly as rain forest Foresters came & began hiking deep into the woods
Up creeks & on out to ridges that stretched into the alpine
Laying out roads & designating units of “harvest’ that
Laid out the boundaries of what would come next

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
Loggers came soon & began to build roads first out of Craig & Klawok
Then Hollis, Thorne Bay, Naukati, Coffman Cove, Hydaberg
Cook shacks & bunk houses
Began to appear, company stores sold snacks & cigarettes
& Copenhagen cans, each camp had home guards where a wife or
Two appeared, State land came up for sale & like the 1800s
Houses began to appear, rough at first then nicer,

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
Fishermen were already there mostly in Craig & native Klawok
And Hydaberg, but as houses sprang up there were more around the camps
Bunkhouses, still housed men & float planes took them to “town”
Ketchikan the first city in southeast Alaska as you go north
Scores of bars & women & two days if you could remember it was
Later called fun, no one thought it strange to send a float plane for pizza

Men took down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages
The pulp mills have ate up the Forrest around Ketchikan, began
To take down rafts of logs from the Archipelago of Islands on the
North American coast, the long straight grains of Sitka spruce that
Made everything from pianos & violins & were prized ships spars but
Then the pulp mill produced fiber slop & spun the forest towers
In to rayon for skirts, pant suits & blazers & all the while the late rubber
Had hit the road in the lower 48 with rayon strands woven in the tires as

Men took down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages
Building roads & made their way to head waters & started working on the slopes
The pulp mill ran three shifts, & the loggers came to town & still

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
The roads began out of every logging camp from & gradually worked
Toward each other & the central part of the island, each logging camp
On the island sea locked & remote, began to become villages with
Wives & children & schools & little churches, & barged in grocery’s

Men took down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages
Around the island & roads built of island rock & granite began to connect
And logging was money & jobs were plentiful & loggers tramped
Their camp for another with the same pay each time a Camp supervisor
Did any bull shit thing, or too many mistakes were made in the rigging
& with the bull shit thing there was more danger & they began calling themselves
Tramps, with nose bag of thermos & gear & duffle bags, a sharp set of cork boot some of them
Worked the like work, all over the Archipelago Island all making various stops
Some of them set chokers some of them worked rigging & some of them fell trees,
Some of them made it their life & some of them made money to go to college so they could
Have a life; one timber faller put himself through dentistry school
& bought cabin cruiser & he came back with his wife to the islands every summer
For thirty years, long after the bunkhouses & cook shacks were gone
Fixing folks teeth, & while tourists came to catch halibut & salmon &
Men took down fewer large trees, working from the beach & up drainages

Big black bears always took salmon working from the beach & up drainages
Splashing of spawning fish big Coho’s & Sockeye & pink salmon as well, while
The big belly draggers were noted in the outdoor press as largest
In the world & anyone could come take them from all over the world
And the bear population that outnumbered people for a time came down
Without much notice & the locals took few bears for food & generally in the
Spring, & the press became advertisements & the lodges began
To sell package tours with a Suburban & an Island map, & with various expertise
Hunters came & bought tags & shot bears in the spawning streams
& drank liquor & wounded bears & shot sows with cubs
& drank liquor & shot bear, it didn’t take too many years before everyone
Stopped seeing belly draggers & the State sealers began sealing to the out of state
Hunter boys, teddy bear sized bears & sows were taken & the orphaned cubs showed back up
At the lodges & the ardent bear hunters began to call this wrong, & the State in time
Changed the rules after, a lot of the damage was done, on
Prince of Wales Island where nature was constant before 1954
& the roads began to connect, & the logs could go to the big mill in Craig & little
Mills all over the island, as the pulp mills were shutting down forty years later
When they & some of the foresters saw a diminishing end of the thought of never ending supply of
Men taking down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages

Where now a patch work of timber patches made a mosaic from the air
No need to plant trees in the rain forest land, the trees came back,
The big trees were gone forever if the clearcuts were rotated every 50-100 years, like well
Like, Aldo said, like cabbage patches & like cabbage patch kids, boys & girls with degrees
Showing how this could all be managed & Forest plans were planned
& all the nations’ laws were mentioned & it was still that,
Men taking down large trees, working from the beach, & up drainages but it was harder to do
Largely because folks started to sue, it seemed to those that were there,
As a carpet of trees came back in five years’ time, jobs were plentiful & the loggers
& Forest Service workers began to stay & villages became incorporated
& politics were added to the industry of timber, some became fishermen
And some started little mills, the road became pavement over time &

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
& the villagers could trap, beaver otter marten & wolves
& kill deer for winter meat, salmon & halibut already canned up was larder as well
Grocery stores once distant, then became closer for some
Protein was often immediate & had to be taken,
Like taking a coat along on a cold winters day
every house hold was allowed five deer per person & all the
Salmon & halibut they could catch, & then in time some noticed not as many deer
& thought of the wolves & first blamed them, while seeing winter range
Disappearing on trucks, no one noticed dead fawns that had nothing in winter to eat
Only a few saw boatloads of bucks coming in on Charter boats,
No one saw wolves killed on the beach just for fun,
Winters snow depth not letting them out of inland stands of refuge, & the
Islands of refuge became deer holding pens, this all came after time while

Men took down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages
Slowly at first, tourists had arrived every summer
& lodges appeared; charter boats caught the “Barn Door” Halibut
& pictures were taken & no one thought of these three hundred pound
Flat fish as the egg laying mothers that kept up the stock & behemoths were
Caught & the pictures continued to be taken & the stock started to slow,
The commercial fishermen were limited to week long seasons & tourists from
Texas & tourist from Tennessee, tourists form California, New York, Minnesota
Came with thousands of dollars to spend & Chicken Bay which was named for
The good eating “chicken halibut,” fish of around twenty pounds
The chickens & their mothers were taken away &
The big fish were all distant, at a several hour boat ride,
The summer brought traveler halibut from the far north & villager long lined a year’s catch but
The charter boats & everyone else took the big ones & the stocks began to wane,
& after arguing for some time the biologists
Got a handle on this & there were less charter boats just in time, still
Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
Clearcuts in mosaic grew back plentiful forage, strings of mild winters
Let deer slip through wolves & men & for a good time deer numbers were up,
The roads adjacent to clearcuts were for a time shooting galleries each fall
After hunting the alpine the deer lower down could be found in the clearcuts
And a rest from the road & nice buck would fall, the rut would deliver more &
Boats following the beach could come back with a boat load of bucks
To round out each families take, then charter folks began to do this

Men took down large trees, no longer working up from the beach
The drainages were logged leaving a bath tub ring of harvest around all the island’s creeks
Save the centermost part & the Karta wilderness, & the Honker divide
The inner portions of timber taken were deer winter range & soon there was
Less & less of it, more roads more hunters less deer, & now

There were less wolves to take down less deer working from the beach & up drainages
& men took to killing wolves, no longer working up from the beach, but working up roads,
& no longer for pelts in the winter, men took to killing wolves because they were wolves
& they also ate deer, & the fewer wolves became few wolves in the central part of the Island
That save the beach road on the Clarence straight was surrounded by pavement,
& 4 wheel drive pickups could speed from side to side of the island
& crawl up most roads until deep December & hiking in & setting snares became
Predator control for the few that warred on wolves, and called themselves the wolf patrol,
Some biologists called it the end of the wolves upcoming, & others said they’d be alright,
but when they started to investigate the wolves were down to a few,
& the few became three & the dens were all empty save one
& it would be some time even then if measures were taken, though none are planned until
wolves once again took down deer working from the beach & up drainage’s
& if the Central Island wolves disappear; there are still packs to the north though not very many,
And packs to the south, though not very many, & maybe they’ll come back
Just like the halibut and bear the biologists disagreed &
Some say the winter range can be logged & others say it can’t,
3 or four wolves taking down deer working from the beach & up drainages
& now there are court cases & lawyers & judges to decide whether
Wolves will still take down deer working from the beach & up drainages.

It’s Been Fifty Years since You Died

I named a son after you, &
Though you died  in Kansas during cruel April
& I was in Oregon, but I was there with you a
Long time..I have no idea what kind
Of funeral you had—or even if you had one
The brother of my mother, your wife
My Uncle, told me that spring, during a
Drive in the station wagon where he could
Deliver bad news without looking at me,
I’d had these trips before, had some after, but I was
In my 20s when I figured out they’d
Kidnapped me from you—it may be that he hated you, however
His Father my Grandfather always had something good to
Say about you & you know he visited you when he went back
To Kansas, my Uncle with pride and perhaps a little senility showed me
A letter in 1974, but written in 1963,
Threatening a law suit if you came out to get me, the Uncle thought
that would demonstrate how much they loved me—but it was always
I waited for you to drive up in that ’56 Buick & thought of how I would pile in
& we would drive all the way back to the flat land with all the windows down!
The uncle told me many times when wanting to correct my behavior
That he’d send me, ‘back to your father,’ oh please know I always wanted to go!
That day in the ’53 Ford Station wagon, about a quarter mile from
Where the dirt road to our farm met the pavement & then south on
Highway 62 toward Eagle Point, he began to tell me that you had died,
The story had been that you were coming to get me
In about six months—& that had been six years, & you called twice,
Wrote three times, sent me a pocket knife & a rattle snake rattle,
From a snake you’d killed in Nebraska, who knows what happened to the snake rattle,
I lost the knife in basic training in Fort Ord, California in 1967 when drill instructors
Yelling that any of us with knives would be court marshaled and sent to Ft. Leavenworth
You had told me at about 8 years old not to go in the Army
&  to never work in the oil fields,
I took your advice about the Oil Fields, the Army had me
Four years I didn’t have to win any of the Medals you did
I did get a Good Conduct Medal and an honorable discharge
They did not send me to Vietnam while it raged and others went,
I often thought, that was a direct result of what you had to go through
& with noted exceptions, I’ve led a somewhat honorable life, when we got back from
The station wagon ride my grandfather told me that Winfield was
A little Kansas town where people could get away with murder,
& he did not believe the newspaper clipping my Uncle had shown me in 1964,
That having found your body in the river with a railroad iron tied on
The back of your belt—what an awkward thing to do! He, your father-in-law
Did not believe you committed suicide as the police said, in 1970 when I was back there
For the funeral of your other son Dennis my brother, & Lyle your good friend told me the same thing
& that none of your friends thought you’d gone by your own hand, largely because
You’d have shot yourself —they reasoned, “being and outdoor man—& seen the worst of WWII.”
Still you’d been down, my Grandfather
Commented on that the last time he saw you—you’d not been able to work in a while
Because of your back, you must know I had the same problem 3 back surgeries on the job
Lifting injuries & one bad car wreck, I made it through 25 years of pain & six years of
Addicting prescription drugs, that when I tried to cold turkey out of it made me
Humble and knowing I’d not have any thing over a common junkie, a year after
The last operation they stair stepped me off & that was 12 years ago, still I thought of you
& made it through, I’ve visited your grave twice, once when Dennis died &
Again when I had to deliver a 1963 Impala convertible to Wichita in 1983
I met your friend Bill Husky on an out of the blue phone call he made to me in 1996, &
A year later I went to meet him in Florida; he told me WWII & I’d always wondered
What you had done, then I knew there was some kind of miracle going on that
You made it back to make me, after D-Day plus 13 to Cologne, Husky& his other buddy that
Knew you said I looked like you, I had little Joe with me & they were happy to see
Me and said, unabashedly you were a hero, & they were damn lucky to serve with you,
& told some stories how there were 300 landing on that Norman beach & only 50 left at Cologne
So now I have to tell you the part about how it was, that I realized about that time
What was going on in my own life, as it relates to you death—I blamed myself for your death
I somehow thought from the time I was 13, that if I’d been there
I could have stopped it—or it would not have happened, I took that
Into my soul & packed it around with me like a ruck sack filled with cast iron skillets— for 32 years,
Took this darkness to the Army & to college & through two marriages & a bunch of what we now
Call relationships—all the time trying to drink like you, & smoke like you, hunt & fish like you,
with every awful injustice I knew of, I wanted to kill Nazi’s like you,
& then, I took it to God & He showed me it was not my fault
But instead— a lie whispered to me all those years ago, & the next day
Husky called telling me about you, & I knew this connected & was true &
Since then, most all of the drinking stopped
& well I’ve had my life back & good humored it is, I laugh a lot
Pretty sure I’ve raised two pretty good boys into men
& now have a wife that does all the ideal Betty Crocker things that somehow
Escaped us back in the 50s, except for my grandmother, who cooked
Cottontail rabbits you killed & made me bacon sandwiches & chocolate cake with white frosting,
You drank Jim Beam with  Coca Cola chaser, & always brought a Coke for me
&  me even tagging along
To your beer joints & the dusty Kansas humidity that I did not know was oppressive
& it all left me an orphan & now knowing how dysfunction
& PTSD are oppressive, but I have to tell
You that I, like Husky and his friend, never thought ever of you as anything but a hero,
I retired in Alaska then went south for the mild winters in California,
& six months before I left, you came to me in a dream
With your Humphrey Bogart fedora hat & leather jacket
& picked me up in amongst a pile of old boats & we both went on a journey
south without the Buick, across the sound, & a road,  & the sunset
& I walked just a little behind you.

In the Spring When Kings Go out to Battle

Battle is all I know

& I count myself dead

Beginning with each war

There is no other way

There is no wife &

There is no life &

I must end life that comes forward to me.

War is not a backward motion

 

I never knew

That I knew

But I knew perfectly

When my company of men pulled away..

 

I was always ready to die for this King

For I am one of his 40 mighty men!

& I, a foreigner, a Hittite, as is my wife

Our grandparent’s grandparents settled in with

These Hebrews who treated us well, & many of us

Like myself & my wife became proselytes

Their faith now mine, is now mine own battle dress

 

Today is no different—except today I know

Just as these dogs are before me— I will die..

 

But not before this one who charges out of the

Throng, & oh  how I love spilling his blood, & cleaving

Half through his neck & chest— he never saw it..

Now they see me ready again,

“Who is next of you— dogs? Who of your slime is next?

 

He brought me out of battle! Battle!

This is shame! To leave battle,

I know of no other guilt I could be guilty of

& not ask for forgiveness from this their mighty God

Because it is so vile and shameful! To leave battle?

I, Uriah the Hittite shirked no battle afraid of no foe?

To leave battle? Sent from battle like some load bearer,

Smelled fine food and his perfume in his palace

But not my brothers sweat!

What could be the reason?—this King is my life?

When each war ends, but not until it ends

Until then My life— is always Battle!

War  when it begins is a linear  series of horrific acts

Each death an immoral, yet honorable action until war ends.

This one is not over; we could lose, the battle King

Could lose, simply because he is not here

That men would rally to his standard as the standard of the Almighty

My queen death by my right and left

Hand is the end purpose of my blood!

I sacrifice a lamb for every man I kill.

 

He set me before table of feast & wine

Then bade me go to my wife? To my wife?

When it is my oath to kill the dogs set before me

& there they remain and my brothers without me at their side?

That is all I could fathom.. I slept at his door & never saw my wife.

 

Heh, you, you Ammonite scum, die as you run to me! I know your slime

Ridden brothers will soon bring your archers to bear

Until then, this is two of your Hundreds

That taunt, dead & the blood still spilling out of that one now,

His tunic floating red now..

“I want more of you, like a hungry man wants his dinner!”

 

Three are running toward me now, one to the right, he will

Make a flanking move, the others come straight forward with

Lances, I will kill them all with these moves the Most High

Has given me, we 40 men were schooled in the difference between

Killing and murder—I am a killer. It is so. Yet I have never murdered.

But he the King? Why does he murder me? I thought Joab could never do this

Had it not been bidden by the King

I carried the message that ordered this treachery—I saw it on Joab’s face

My brothers would never do this,  Joab placed me with

Young men, first time in battle & when they withdrew on orders

As I led the charge and these dogs quartered in and have

Boxed  me on this rocky field I saw them Leave in tight formation

—the King was angered

When I refused to go to my wife

 

Perhaps he slept with my wife & brought me

Home to assuage this guilt? Yet I cannot believe that.

Did he not know that the most shame I could bare

Fiends take my wife who bathed on the roof below the Kings’ window

I joked about the King seeing her private parts!

Perhaps that was my sin, perhaps she will foal Hebrew blood and connect

To a lineage unknown to me, there is more than war, I know now that

This is the day I die, I would want nothing but warriors for sons,

Still.. was leaving my brothers in arms for his table a thing he thought I could bear?

Ah, but those days he commanded us in the field!

I would follow him anywhere and do his bidding

No matter the course, so I left battle hoping to be

Assigned a particularly dangerous duty..

 

Oh! How, I love to side-step a shield & with a feinting move

This flanking bastard coming close will soon die & while these two get to see me jump!

Up so my sword can kill from the height of his shoulder

I plunge it straight down with the quick stab which parallels down the neck

Passing through clavicle quickly & down quickly down..

Down into the vitals & as I come back to earth tipping the living falling corpse back he falls

The air leaves him & my sword is out and now & as he topples—I kill the other two!

The look on his face when I left the ground is still in my mind

As I now smell them all bleeding—& it is strange that now I wish the King was watching.

 

“I, Uriah the Hittite Servant of King David—of his 40 mighty men will go to my

Death with joy this day—as a warrior I’ve never looked for rescue!”

My brothers backed off leaving me cut off & the wall over there..

I’ve known since I was dispatched from the King

Some one thing was wrong, & if it be betrayal—so be it.

That I’ve fought valiantly for this King no one will ever deny

This has been my great joy when it was I knew he

Voiced daily with Almighty, I’d seen him as a youth

When he’d put down that ungodly beast behemoth Goliath

Stinking philistine that he was—I admit it I could not fathom it

Yet I saw it, I saw it at 18 and he was 15, & he killed him

With stone from his sling, dead, in the dirt

The giant that smelled of excrement & ate raw meat

& entrails unclean & putrid & gargantuan as he was—he bloated in half a day

David cut off his head with the Giant’s own sword!

Oh how we rejoiced seeing the Philistine dogs run after this &

When I heard that the prophet named David the anointed of

The Almighty I knew of no other thing I could do

But serve him— David, and shortly swore my allegiance

To him and only him, that my old uncle

Betrayed him, & his traitor son who infuriated me, & when I

Saw Absalom dead my heart swelled with the joy

The justice of it, yet I saw my King weep & grieve

As if he’d lost an infant child, I thought him

Beyond human with tenderness that day

I, Uriah the fierce Hittite was moved by

His loss and his ability to love

Now I see that they are

Sending five at me… Ha! I give it to these dogs they

Have not brought archers nor javelins to bear even now & will

Try showing themselves men! Ha! I’ll kill these five!

 

I’m now leaking red blood & that was a little harder

Than I thought—my age? I’ll have no gray hair after this day!

Ha! This Day of my death, no old man tottering before a grave for me!

I am a warrior & death has always been my mistress.

That keeps me true to my wife!

I’ve always been true but now there are

Other arms of Sheol reaching to receive me —I go there with honor!

If there is resurrection as some of these Hebrews believe,

I desire to march straight for it.

But not before I taunt them more, “Dogs! come spill some more of your

Entrails that I Uriah will make you whore mothers weep! Dogs that

Defy the Mighty one of Israel! Come die with me today so you

Will see Sheol and bark for even dark mercy!”

These Hebrews taught me Job & He Who is Mighty

Test men—I’ll be true to this test

Ha! & now I see the archers being placed, & a phalanx of

Infantry to take my arrowed corpse, Ha! Today I die!

The morning sky is red, & a hot wind blows in my face,

My doom is this day will not steal my joy of this

My final battle—a wrong done against me never-the-less

Through a cause of which I’ll never know here.. yet I smell Hyssop

I smell olive oil,  I smell savory, and Basil, and Aloe

Their clang of armor sounds paltry,

Now I’m hearing distant symbols, tambourines & trumpets

Bah!  I throw down my shield & pick up a lance!

In thirty feet the archers will have to shoot round their infantry

I will charge them!

He has some reason not privy to me, & so as said Job

& now I charge them! & I’m yelling:

“Even though He slay me, yet I will praise Him!”