Immortality in Cold, Dead, Places

SCARS

Do you hide them? Do you wear them like a badge of honor? Do you own them like a scarlet letter?

We all have them.

They are not all visible to the public.

They beg questions: when, where, how did they appear?

What or who do they bind us to?

They hurt when they’re fresh. They let you predict the weather.

They never let you forget.

Do you pick at them or own  them as if they were a messy pet who showed up on the stoop and you kept?

How often do you use the time machine that they fuel?

The old man spit, sucked another mouthful of the PBR, put his finger on a dead, white, gully on the underside of his left forearm, swallowed, and rasped, “Got this in ’59; hurt like hell.” He drifted into the whirlpool of his memory.

“Don’t remember why we started; maybe . . . maybe doesn’t matter anymore. The place burned down long time back. They never rebuilt it. Pieces just keep fallin’ into the bay. A body can see more at low tide.”

Do you try to hide them?

How deep and old are they?

Do they mark regret, triumph, or just carelessness?

The girl stared at the ring, touched it, tried to unfurl it from her finger. Salt water rolled down her memory. “Is this what forever feels like?” This one is deep, old, but still pink and sharp.

Are they echoes in your psyche or shouts in your soul?

Do they speak to you in the scalding shadeless noon hour?

Do they whisper through the midnight wasteland of your dreams?

Are they your play-by-play record as you keep score?

There are six of them, like small reminders of a bout with a low calibre machine gun stitching a line across the man’s abdomen. They will endure until his last breath, an outward scoreboard for a losing match. The surgery they remember did not cure the illness. There will be deep, creeping, growing scars never seen by those in the room. They will force beautiful memories in someone’s forever.

 

 

 

 

 

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Living With The Last Honors Night

May 17, 2018

Jacob fought the angel, to what avail? To bring the frigid, nocturnal image of John Calvin down the ladder to block the channels leading to salvation? To siphon life’s joy into a distillation center where all is reduced to sin? Not even the medieval alchemists were able to achieve such a feat!

Senior Honors Night and the valedictorians hold forth giving meaning to their recent past and hoped for future. Thirty-six of these have marked an equal number of trips around the sun. How do the remembered battles (triumphs and defeats) etch themselves into our ever tattering souls? Do we become One-eyed Jacks in the deck of our time where our worst scars are never on display?

How much of the night do the one-eyed see?  Is their focus so narrow they can find the worm hole into a solitary eternal truth or reality? So are these Jacks as flawed as appearances argue? Perhaps, but perhaps they are the Messiah. Must the chosen ones be sacrificed on the cold shoals of Calvin’s dark coast merely because they sail against the wind and tide

Will this night be a remembered peace or join the flotsam of experiences generated by the typhoons of later life? The sadness and frustration of unrealized hope forming a hard scar never to be separated by storm or port? Pain never eased by time The Healer?

And so we reef the sails for the night.

Ronin’s Tale: Part 7–Battle & Wars

“So I signed up to ride

I drew a bull called Original Sin
Heard he’d killed a couple of men
Figured this was somethin’ I could win
‘Cause the devil’s on my side

I was havin’ myself one hell of a ride
When I, I ended up disqualified
‘Cause that danged old bull just up and died
Before they blew the whistle”

                       ——Delbert McClinton & Gary Nicholson, “Lone Star Blues”

July 1 Again: For NRB (My Dad)

“Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I’m so lonesome I could cry”

—-Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”

 

Old Companion–Loyal Watcher

Threads string down from the left sleeve end of the thirty year old blue blazer sagging from the peg behind the office door. The hem is creeping out with age and wear. It has seen the pilgrimage of too many teenage searchers in the wilderness of prep school academics. How many exaggerated names have washed over the now dangling faux gold buttons during unremarkable services celebrating fleeting mini-glories founded on misinformed opinions from those who know better?

How many breathed and un-breathed howls and screeches of disappointed parents worked their way into the dark weave like so much smoke accumulating for three decades? Perhaps the pockets still echo with the cacophony of joy, pain, and boredom as competing valedictory addresses seek asylum from the curse of time. Yet, cycles serve the watched and watcher well. Persistence has its role.

The stained, picked, sagging blue played its role–perhaps better than the owner.

 

 

 

Ronin’s Tale Part 6: One Last Wound

“Although I’m free to roam
My body has tricked me again”

—-Sean Rowe, Bring Back the Night

Graduation 2018: Sunrise on the Last One

“Sailin’ on a midnight boat,
There were no questions asked,
Water’s so green and the air was so clean
That he stuck right to his task, Havana daydreamin’, . . .”

——Jimmy Buffett, Havana Daydreamin’

The Ronin’s Tale: Part 5, Reflection

Now deep in the heart of a lonely kid
Who suffered so much for what he did,
They gave this ploughboy his fortune and fame,
Since that day he ain’t been the same.
See the man with the stage fright
Just standing up there to give it all his might.
And he got caught in the spotlight,
But when we get to the end
He wants to start all over again.
                                 —– Robbie Robertson, Stage Fright

SILENCE IN OHIO: MAY 4, 1970

“When I woke up this morning, things were lookin’ bad
Seem like total silence was the only friend I had”

—— John Prine, Illegal Smile

The Old Man’s Great Gift: Part I

He was in the hospital. Seems like he spent too much time there between malaria, tuberculosis, and the birth of his children. The doctor said he had phlebitis, and they had to strip a vein in his leg. Later I would learn about that pain — diagnosed with it at the ripe old age of sixteen. (I did not need the knife)

My Dad was a reader of stories. Mama had purchased a small pile of paperback books, ammunition for the hospital duration.  Somewhere during the phlebitis episode he handed me a small 1950s size paperback with an orange cover and the photograph of a hunter. He had finished the volume and was passing it on.

“You need to read this. You are going to think it is about hunting, but it is really a book of philosophy.” Uh, sure. Always wanted to read philosophy, but at least there was going to be hunting. A red-stocked, single-shot, Harrington & Richardson .410 shotgun was my first gun at age nine. It would be the only shotgun I ever owned until my grandfather died, and I got his a ragged .20 gauge double barrel he bought in a pawn shop.  If I had to gag down a little philosophy to be immersed in the hunt, I was all in.

Robert Ruark’s The Old Man and the Boy became the epigraphical touchstone of my adult life. Revisited as a college student; annotated; passed on to adult friends; re-received in a new edition from those friends so I did not have to lend the precious aging paperback with my Dad’s fingerprints on it; and the forge of a bond with a colleague who shared Ruark’s and my experiences hundreds of miles from my youth. (Thanks, Jack M.)

Now much out of favor with many because it is built around hunting (thus killing) wild animals, echoes the racist, gender-biased culture of the 1930’s American South, and does not resonate with the hyper-speed, i-phone, non-reflective experiential learning culture of 2018. The book adheres to the soul of those who still wonder at Orion in the winter sky, wait for the green sky of hurricane season, and feel the curve of a hand built wooden boat.  Ruark continues to speak to the pilgrims who know that the natural quiet of an estuary at dusk delivers a more profound sermon than the screeching brimstone hammered down from an American Express-driven mega church pulpit. To wit:

“As I remember the Old Man, he never said anything at all that you couldn’t walk away from three ways and still find a fresh idea in it. I got to where I could listen to him with only one ear, separating the meat from the philosophy, and it wasn’t until a lot of years later when I grew up to be a man that I found I remembered more philosophy than meat.” —-Robert Ruark, The Old Man and The Boy