Benson Colm Orff

head scarf

No doubt the gun he held had killed Abe Lincoln. And no doubt he had expected to be seen a hero by the world, at least some part of it. And no doubt later on he was under a barn burned. But when I pull up in my 4 X 4 just south of Tucson, it hardly means that I am the legacy of that, when I fill up my truck and walk in to pay Angel with my silver handle shining publicly in my holster. You might think I’m some dumb-ass redneck with a mission to kill, some overcompensating dysfunctional rooster who’s got to wear a hard piece instead below his belt. Or you might think I’m symbolically representing some overreaching constitutional right about not having to house a pack of British soldiers in my own house, against my will. You could go on and think I’m some bigot, or a racist, or an anti-American communist. The dialectic of political and politicized nonsense goes two ways, friends. You can watch almost every day the militarized arms of government gun down poor folk in nearly every major city. And you can howl and yowl all you wish against the NRA. Talk like that is just two more dogs barking across the same river. I’ve open carried all my life. It’s like a moniker. A hat. A pair of boots. A gun. At times maybe even a toothpick in my teeth. These things, these are all part of my custom and my costume, my civilian uniform, if you will. The po po have theirs, and I have mine. Someday, if the boys in blue put down their steel and Lexan visors and wear tall furry black bearskin caps, someday if they dress like bobbies and pace about Detroit, Miami, and New York just dangling a wooden truncheon, then I’ll perhaps change my own set of street clothes, too. For me, until then, ever since I’ve been a man it’s just been the way I have chosen to dress mostly, how to represent my own person as my own sort of character the way I want to see him walking down the sidewalk, headed down main street, or with a twenty dollar bill in hand walking from the pumps into the filling station to give what I owe for gas. I don’t mean and never meant to harm anybody. Heck, if I had wanted to, I could have dressed the part with a flouncy tutu and a baton and gone about as a hirsute majorette, trumped myself up as a brass-buttoned drum major with a whistle on a lanyard, or with a snappy polka-dotted bow tie tightened at the collar have connoted a differently slanted political way of thinking, the way one can be almost anything themselves here in everyday life, here in our wide, wide land of liberty, and is free to do without being harassed or jailed or arrested as aberrant. Me, from that, I’m really no different.

Malcolm Fremont Duquesne

burning tree

Little known thieves had stolen all my papers. I saw them yesterday, and the day before that. I hadn’t minded so much, not since Munich, not since Lake Placid. All the tiny photographs of me were gone. They had been used once as bookmarks placed in all the books I read which, too, had been tossed in the thieves’ sacks scurrying up along the goat path on which they had planned their escape, toiling with the most precious of my belongings. To this there wasn’t any merit anyway. These items held no further value to anyone, and to me, they were like stamps fluttering away from a long held collection, whose little, hinged gummed tabs holding them there in places on so many album’s pages had given way to the wind and ages. So had flown my many identities: shoemaker, critic, purveyor of bath soaps, scrupulous lover, Thucydides quoting high-rolling banker, plastic goods recycler, snow drifter, cruise boat crooner, elk hunter, paint peeler, bird seed filler, tin soldier melter, English Channel swimmer, North African sun bather, crossword doodler, morphine addict, coffee grinder, hustling dance boy, seafaring stowaway mapmaker, computer flunky renegade matchmaker, sugar frosted cake maker, blood red bugle blower, forest pine cone bagger, catnip planting gardener. I really didn’t mind this. It was a great relief, as I watched them besmirched with time, pulling the heft over the topmost ridge to the other side where they all but disappeared together into the sudden extinction of longing below the brightening winter clouds.

Patricia Macos

lost notebook

I had already not spoken for some time. Even to the cat I was quiet. To go out, I would knock against the back door, and she would slip away. Watching her paws pressing into the mud, I knew she would be back soon. The rain had continued for weeks even. And I was not afraid of running out of any supplies. Even as a child my parents rarely spoke to each other or to me. Supper was candlelit and never impolite. I can’t recall feelings of anything being, or ever having been, incommodious. My riches and fine belongings were locked away in Oregon. Turnips, burdock, and beets made up a great amount of my daily diet. There was a chance that I would see the late sugar frost and tap the maples. Then for days I would light a fire and boil it gently down to syrup. Further needs, if there were any, had been taken up by the sawing and splitting of wood. At night when I washed my skin down with handfuls of snow I could see still how beautiful my body was.

Tumble Weekly Pillow Talk

golden gate bridge

When women scream I don’t hear them anymore. When men beat me I don’t feel that anymore. When I went down to the Styrofoam packing plant, all the boys teased me there. I didn’t care. I shouted back at them gleefully, “You can all stuff me alive in a carton and fill it with packing peanuts and snuff out my life with Death, and I wouldn’t mind that!” I told them I wouldn’t feel a thing. They went back to smoking cigarettes and I forgot about them and they forgot about me. Some time ago I dropped off the wing of an airplane. I flew through sky, I flew through the heavens, and I didn’t hear the whistling, I didn’t see the sun shine, even the raindrops that touched my clothes and skin as I passed through the clouds, I didn’t feel them either. There might be a place on Earth where a body crashing can feel that, can sense the thud of life, the impact of living.

A Birthday Prayer

frozen gap

Winter is coming, and my tires are very thin. Lincoln’s bushy hairline barely clears the tread when I push a penny in. The cloves I planted on Columbus Day, the scapes they might by springtime’s greening be trimmed back, and grown to bulbs of garlic by July. So much is uncertain, while others are too clear: through ignorance, malice, and folly I lost the woman I love.

Through hours of stacking and tarping down, I ought to have enough wood to last me, to be just warm enough. I know for some there are the famed Snows of Kilimanjaro. But for me, I had just as soon be lost in an Irish public house, drinking and muting myself, guilty as a Christmas ghost. What it were to be a little kinder in my past. We, too, had quarreled though it never made time pass. It only made me brutal, recalcitrant, and increasingly deaf.

It made me care more and more about the fistful of coins I had left in my glove-box, and whichever rows I had of withering corn to get me through it. I became rustic against my own good and yours. O, these things, this blank apostrophe, are far from me now, and just like all the light, carefree change I once had tossed into the great River Danube, today’s lost treasure is become a heavy sunken thing to me.

The golden coy fish I have seen a-swimming in the bluestone opening in the hidden woods, to know their muddy bodies are safe there later on throughout the coldest months ahead is no little human comfort. And if I am graced to make it ‘round the snowy corners for the getting of a loaf of bread and chicken, and you are blessed with enough darkened morning peace without me, may it all to have been plenty.

Songs Of The Sea & The Earth

Everything I had known, and everything I had held dear had deserted me. And, unlike Yeats’ circus animals whom he claimed had deserted him, what remained for me was an incandescent flame, a vivid, hand-held torch with which I had always and will always hold aloft. And it is by this light of God that I will see the paintings on the wall where for fifty thousand years people haven’t since traveled before. By this I will even view the perfect moment John Wilkes Booth saw like a red maple leaf fluttering down while shooting and killing Lincoln in his theater box. The crimes and sacred moments of humanity, life, and sometimes glimmers of my own death, I have caught these like melting snowflakes falling into my autumn fingers.

To me, I have felt the sorrow of being the common cook whose food had accidentally poisoned the great Buddha. But I have also felt the rope breaking the neck of a bewildered Saddam Hussein. That I have no friends to turn to, nor scarcely any possessions, even an empty dresser drawer to slide in and out, I don’t even have that simple enough human pride of such wooden ownership to stand beside and claim as “mine.” My destiny had become to be a shipwrecked sailor to be cast upon another sea, to drift without craft, and to all my life wander from land to land in search of a numberless people who do not exist, whereupon, like the curse of Odysseus, giver and receiver of pain, my oath was to plant my alien oar.

Planet Nanny Earth Takes Care of Herself

brooklyn truck trash

What fill up rain barrel of water? Raindrops. Every person who alive is only raindrop. All person filling up rain barrel. This barrel of life. So long barrel good, life good. When barrel weak and tired, human life it in a great jeopardy. Anybody own this barrel? Cry it out! Anybody own this barrel! Without a raindrop in it, what use is a barrel? Without a barrel full raindrop in it, what purpose has rain barrel got? The barrel, people, need the rain and the raindrop we all need the barrel. We are all on planet. We on a rain barrel call planet Earth. It contain us all. What kind use it got without us people? It got some! For many many million year it got stuff growing on it! Mildew in your wet shower towel you throw in corner, mold in shower you no scrub for so many week in row, old kitchen sponge you too lazy and cheap change, flake of wet skin come off in between toe, there all kind of life everywhere you find. But human life, it a special kind of it. It know it mildew. It know it tiger. It know it slow slow grouse in wild laurel bush puffing out all feather.

Planet do quite quite well without human being animal long long time before you up running around swimming pool on two legs getting chased by a mother who catch you, throw you in, and break open by accident your chin on blue cement side of it. Other animal never remember it so clearly, never tell it to be love story. Other animal only see a danger in it. Human being animal very complicated. It can see a love in a danger. It kind of animal who know what mean being sometime very very cruel to each other being very very kind to each other. Sometime too kind! We actually way too smart sometime for our own good. The planet Earth it contain us and we special animal people, we give it special purpose. We create on it love. We create on it picture on cave for other people animal to see tomorrow. We special because we think about tomorrow. We always do. We sad when people die because when they die we remember there really is tomorrow. So we have sorrow. So we have joy. We mix together two sorrow and joy and we make beauty. Can who else make this? Spider web very beautiful. You think spider done and think about how beautiful trap it make? Beaver house very beautiful. You think when done it swim to shore and go flap! flap! flap! with broad broad tail to say like whoopee! To self? You think bee go wiggle each other how pretty hive look when you think about it? You think bald eagle couple up high in tree with enormous nest built of branches ever go over how majestic a view they got or how they so majestic looking themselves up there in it? You think acre after acre after acre blue spruce with thin white poplar tree poking through in place ever know about how peaceful peace of self is? Why we think dolphin happy when jumping and jumping and jumping with ship on side? Or mother monkey take care of baby monkey picking out bug in hair? It because they more like us! Of course! You know that already! We see some of own happiness and care and love in other animal. More like us, more we see.

Without a human being animal, rain barrel Earth just interesting kind of shape with all kinds interesting thing growing on it all over place. It will still be interesting, but not so special. It why it so important to be taking good care of rain barrel. How sturdy the rings it got? Very sturdy. But all chemicals and heat human animal people put up in air, very bad for what hold it together. Ozone apart. Greenhouse effect. Thermal pollution. You think factory in China that make my shoe very good and cheap there good? No. They bad. They make rings of planet weak and rusty. You think all garbage put in ocean day and day and day, or bury in ground place where not many people live close, or burn and burn and burn is good? No. It also bad. It pretty obvious! We all know it! All this make wood of barrel rotting. Some slats they very bad already. So far, people, it ok. But once barrel go, it go! All water in barrel it flood all out. It ruin everything and go everywhere all over the cosmos.

It why now people we need pay attention, people, to care of planet earth and repair of it where we can to our mother barrel. It only one we got! It great big treasure chest. We already it jewel. But we digging out of treasure chest and into it same time. This really very crazy to do! What we looking for we don’t got? It in us. We the treasure. We the sparkle, we the shine; we would glow and shimmer. What give a moon it lustre and a sunshine it smile. That what we do! All that shine and glow already in us! Next time you see raindrop, make cup with hand. Catch that little raindrop, and remember as you close hand now that it all raindrops who fill earth with life. Without human animal raindrop already sparkle. With human being animal it also very very precious.

Truth is: World ok without you. World ok without me. World ok without people. Then it just world. I see sometime purple bumper sticker it say: SAVE OUR PLANET. I alway want peel off. It not about planet. It about people. When I grow up, planet great. We go McDonald™ and when everybody done, we put all garbage in big white McDonald™ bag all food come in. Then roll down side window and throw on highway. It normal. That what a highway shoulder suppose be used for. It like a white tumbleweed rolling. Big bunchy white McDonald™ bag, and I feel so lucky I one who get to throw it out. It best part McDonalds™. You think earth care about people garbage? Not really! You think ocean water care about chemical drum we dump there? Not really! You think state Arizona care about nuclear bomb explosion underground? Not really! Earth don’t care. Earth like big nanny. Earth no matter what it take care self. We mess up nursery, throw round toy and break all sort things, scream and yell. We take off diaper and throw round room. We swear at each other and use very very vulgar language. Planet Nanny Earth, she don’t really care! She take care self! She got a job no matter what! Long as she got a planet, she got job! Who on it, it don’t really matter her.

(Sergey Gashchak/Chornobyl Center)

“It shows I think that how much damage we do,” said fellow co-author Jim Smith, an environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth. “It’s kind of obvious but our every day activities associated with being in a place are what damages the environment.”

“Not that radiation isn’t bad,” he added, “but what people do when they’re there is so much worse.”

Pot Maker’s Grace

henna hand 2

Every day I make a pot. I put the pot on the shelf. The next day I make another pot. And I put another pot on the shelf. I make pots every day. I do not stop making pots. I don’t see anybody who takes a pot, not one of mine. Maybe another’s. It is no matter, at least not a great one. I make pots for everybody. Some see them, some do not. I am certain that if somebody saw a pot and bought my pot, perhaps somebody would like it. But I cannot be sure of who, even the one who bought it might not. I just keep making them day after day. At night, when I am exhausted, I do not even think that tomorrow I will make another pot. I do not know beforehand if I can. I just do. I may even doubt it, doubt that I have the hands in me to make another pot the next day, tomorrow. Somehow, by the grace of God, I can, I do. I can hope only in this way, that tomorrow, inshallah, may I make another. And that when my hands are through altogether, though I cannot say how many there will be, that my shelves will be full and empty of all the pots I will have made.

Shining Lake

shining lake

I am stranded without money. I am stranded without guidance anywhere. But that is not a dilemma I am very much concerned with. This is a huge island. There is everywhere to explore on it. I have heard rumors in the nighttime when I am drowsy that there are others here awaiting me, people whose lives don’t even overlap mine in any conceivable way, except that we are all here. None of us has much more than an old-fashioned Mercury dime, a thin silver disc of beauty, which to behold you would not spend anyway it is so beautiful. When I walked alone beside the lake in the morning, I saw a little red dock house on the other, far side of it. But there was no discernible dock. Just a little red empty house. Now of course I had thought it funny, too, to circumnavigate a lake inside an island itself, and it is. When I was walking back around, between the water and me, I saw a muddy ditch, and knew in an instant that that’s all all of this was, and it made me very happy in the instant that I saw and realized that, that shining muddy ditch showing itself back like that to me.

This American Life

many dc tourists

When he went to the movies, once it was going and the crowd had pretty much stopped eating snacks and popcorn and slurping their sweetened drinks, he’d turn around in the movie-theater darkness and look at the people. There, they were all still, all the same. They could be old people. They could be Chinese people. They could be kids. They could be men. They could be little or big. They could be white people. They could be Cuban, or Slavic. They could be any people. They all faced the same way, quiet and all together. It was all very peaceful like that. He’d been sitting once on the Fourth of July in the grass outside. A Vermont band was playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. To get the best seat, he had come early enough to be able to sit in the front row. The cannon went off. It aimed at the Green Mountains. The whole thing was over. When he stood up to leave, he saw the whole crowd of people, half of them with their right hands over their hearts, had been standing. It could have been 200 people, it could have been 500. He was the only person who’d sat through the whole thing and never risen. It had never occurred to him to stand, to salute, to honor the fallen, to commemorate the heroes, to have become part of the sea of patriots on their feet for who knows how long now in the soft country grass. He had not seen them and what they were doing, when they rose together like a sudden tide.

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