Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Blog

Well, for those of you (the *many* of you that read this sparsely updated blog) that may be interested, I've started a new blog specifically devoted to my stick-figure comic. It's called "Sticky Comic" and you can view it here. I intend to add a new comic daily, so keep an eye out. Actually, that is gross--please keep your eye in.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Three more, all raw

Practically unedited - I like them better that way.



I'm so little
this big man's body
swimming in the deep waters
where is the horizon
who will
anchor me
in this vastness
You are the shoreline
I long to see
Your love
makes the meaningless
Your love
a beacon
to my lost soul
Your love
flashing out
sweeping out
the darkness
light me home


"pinocchio me"

all the broken birds
are flying back
to roost in my soul
all the weary memories
walking the back roads of time
seeking a temporary rest
in my mind
the universal home
of passion
and truth
and ugliness
who will fire
the clay sculptures
that form this
claymation world
of my dreams
who wouldn't want
to be a real boy
if it meant being something
i watch
you move
one frame
through the broken birds
and winding roads
make me real



my words
are just a reflection
cast from the dim fire
in the cave
of my soul
feeding on the litter
of days gone by
tattered memories
curling in the flame
i see you
reduced to ashes
then me

Poetry Day

Dang - so I guess today is poetry day.

stone rising

the blood
in this stone
a hint of life
among the dead
rise sun
rise again
i will walk
among the daisies
in your glory
and run again
this stone
that is my heart

talking to the void

thank you mental illness
for all this art
and fear
how i wish i wasn't this
beautiful, ugly, monster, child
this is where i live
this is home

can you
really talk to
the fault line
in your soul

what will
the void say

too much


broken like me
can't you be
i just want to be
no more
put the pieces
on the table
where we can
see the jagged edges
a picture
of what i used to be
won't you play
this fatal game
with me
put it back together
just to fall apart again

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Ten Penny Alley"

Here's another story. I started working on it a while back and just finished the first draft tonight.

When I was five, a dime would buy you a small candy bar or ten round gum balls. It was something of a magician's trick to me and my brothers, that you could turn a small silver slug into all that bounty. We were fascinated by the trick and wanted to get as many dimes as we could collect. Our pockets were often filled with the steel slugs and washers we collected from the streets where we played, a counterfeit for the true thing and not nearly as magical - the only thing they produced was my mother's ire; she would berate us loudly for dragging home trash from the streets when she turned out our pockets at night.

In the neighborhood where we lived, dimes were hard to come by for a boy, but harder still for me and my brothers. My father worked nights at a convenience store and was rumored to go for a drink most mornings before returning home. My brothers and their friends would talk about it sometimes when they discussed the things other parents whispered when they thought us boys weren't listening. Hearing it shamed me. I was still touched by the natural hero-worship that arises in the heart of a small boy when he thinks of his father and didn't want to believe it. Not that it matters much to the truth what a small boy wants to believe.

That summer my brothers and I were at war with the Delabells. They lived next door to us and would throw hard green apples at us from the tree in their yard. We didn't have an apple tree, so we threw rocks.

The first time one of the Delabells hit me with an apple, it was at close range. I had gone out to play not realizing that they were in their tree. With my back to the fence between our yard and theirs, I bent to pick up a toy from the yard. A burst of pressure and fire exploded through my lower back. The pain was sudden and shocking. The force of it stopped my breathing for a moment. As soon as I could suck air into my lungs, I screamed.

Jack, my oldest brother rushed from the house and covered my mouth. "Shut up!" he said, roughly, dragging me off to the side yard. "You'll get us all in trouble." Behind us the Delabells laughed and jeered as they continued to throw apples, "Crybaby! Crybaby! Run to your mama, crybaby!"

In the shadow of the house Jack looked at me fiercely. "You can't cry. And you can't tell mom. She'll make us stay in the house all day." I continued to cry under his hand. "You can't let the Delabells think we're crybabies." He said glaring at me. "You gotta stop. If you don't, I won't let go." He squeezed his hand more tightly over my mouth.

Crying had filled my nose with snot and it felt like I was suffocating in it. I stopped crying and waited for him to let me breath.

"Good." He said, letting go of my mouth and patting me on the back. I gulped in a breath of air, hicoughing and sniffling. "If you want to do something about it, get a rock and come with me." He picked up a golf ball sized rock, then disappeared into one of the bushes that lined our yard. I dug a rock out from between some roots and followed him, but the rock was oddly shaped and my aim was bad. Jack's aim, though, was deadly accurate - he hit the oldest Delabell square in the forehead, knocking him out of their tree.

The Delabells' father was quiet, but mean. All of us brothers shared a room on the side of the house, the side next to his garage. In the summer my mother left the window in our room open for the breeze. His garage was right next to the window and he liked to work on his car late into the night.

One night, early in the summer, he was out in his garage working. He kept the engine idling the whole time and once every five minutes or so he would rev the engine until it roared. A gray and noxious smelling smoke began to fill our room. He kept it up until well after dark. We coughed and held our noses, but couldn't sleep. Finally Jack crept down the hall to my mother's room.

We heard her leave the house, then saw her appear in their yard. She went into the garage. We were all at the window, straining to hear what she said. At first we couldn't hear anything, just the idling of his engine. Then, suddenly we heard muffled voices, more angry tones than actual words. She stepped out of the garage into our view. When she appeared, she looked upset, almost in tears. "You wouldn't've said that if my husband were here!" She said angrily. We could see the Delabells' father now, just inside the garage. He looked at her coolly, then spit on the floor and drawled, "Well he's not, is he?" When she didn't leave, he turned away and disappeared back into the garage. A second later he reved the engine again and a cloud of smoke poured from his garage.

Whatever he said must have been pretty bad. When my father showed up the next morning, my mother wouldn't even tell the story in front of us. She took my father into another room and when he came back out his face was cold. We all heard the door slam when he went next door to talk to the Delabells' father. This time there wasn't any yelling, but when he returned his face was bruised and his fists bloody. Seeing my father's bloody fists and his bruised face scared me, but it also made me proud. My mother fussed over him, but he just said, "It's been handled, Maggie" in a tired voice. Then he took his coat off the hook in the hallway and headed out the door.

"Probably heading to the bar," I heard Jack mutter under his breath as the door he watched the door close behind my father.

As the summer dragged on, our battle with the Delabells ebbed. The days were too hot for any real intensity of feeling. I spent my time exploring the small fields near our home, scouting out shady spots to play under the larger fruit trees that grew in the area.

One day as I was tossing the old football we all shared against the trunk of a thick, old apple tree, I spotted the youngest Delabell throwing pebbles at something in another part of the field. Although our battles had fallen off, seeing him made me uneasy. I looked around, but didn't see any of his brothers nearby. He continued throwing, with a look of intense concentration on his face. Curiosity triumphed over uncertainty about the location of his brothers. After seeing him throw a few more times, I carried the football over to where he stood.

"What are you throwing at?" I asked warily. He flinched and looked startled to see me there. When I didn't do anything, he responded, "Nothing." Then, "Just an old snake."

I looked at him. He was about my age. Like me, his clothes looked like they'd belonged to his brothers before him. "You think it's still there?" I asked.

"Yeah, I guess so," he said. "You wanna go look for it?"


We spent that afternoon playing in the field. He told me about what had happened after my father came over. The fight had been hard on his dad, but harder on his mother. Finally his older brother had stepped in, but his father had only gotten angrier. It made me want to cry to hear that stuff, but he said it was like that a lot.

After that, we talked about other things, like what it's like to be the youngest or how everyone thinks they're your boss just 'cause your smaller. Toward the end of the afternoon, we were joking and laughing like friends. When the sun started to disappear, we split up and headed for home.

I thought I might see him again in the field the next day, but I never did, not that day or any of the days after it.

Although the war had stalled, my brother Jack hadn't forgotten it. I was playing in our front yard one afternoon when he motioned me over to him. "I know where the Delabells are," he said quietly. "If we hurry, we can sneak up on 'em." He gathered some rocks and put them in his pockets. Dutifully, I did the same, but with less conviction.

Jack headed towards Main Street. I followed. When we got near the alley that ran behind the grocery store, he stopped. "They're back there," he whispered, excitedly "playing in the creek. Now's your chance to make 'em pay for what they did to you." I felt like I'd swallowed one of the rocks we were carrying.

“I don't wanna.” I said. I felt tears stinging at the corner of my eyes and my throat tightened.

“You gotta.” He said. “Think about dad.” He motioned down the alleyway. “I'll be right behind you.” I thought about my father's bloody knuckles. I'd thought he was a hero when he'd come home that morning, but I wasn't like him. I didn't know how to fight.

“C'mon,” said Jack, “if you do it, I'll give you a dime.”

When I didn't move, Jack gave me a rough shove from behind. Once my feet started moving, I kept going. Up the alleyway I crept until I could see them playing in the small stream of water that flowed behind the grocery. My brother moved off to get a better angle on them and disappeared into the foliage around the creek. I crept closer, then raised my throwing hand, rock clenched tightly.

“What're you doing, boy?”

The voice I heard stopped me cold. He'd never spoken to me before, but I knew his voice from all those nights listening to him in his garage. "You Hansen boys think you're pretty tough, don't you, always throwing rocks at my boys.”

He looked at me coldly.

“Well, let's see you prove it now." He grabbed me roughly and dragged me down to the creek.

“Look what I found, boys.” He said, almost gleeful. The Delabells looked up from their games. The older ones laughed, but the youngest just stood still.

“Karl,” he said, motioning to the youngest, “he's about your size. Come show him what you're made of, boy.” Karl stepped forward. He looked trapped.

“Go on,” his father said, shoving us together, “let's see what you can do.” I thought about our day in the field. Karl gave me a shove, but without much strength. I caught hold of him and dragged him to the ground. He struggled, but I still ended up on top of him. I felt sick inside.

“Go on, if you're so tough, hit'm!” His dad shouted, standing over me.

Again I felt tears prickling at the corner of my eyes. I raised my fist, but couldn't bring it down. Unanticipated, I felt the sudden burst of pressure and shock of pain from a blow. I was knocked off of Karl and onto my side, a burst of light clouding my vision. I felt the oldest Delabell try to trap me below him and struggled to get out. Rolling, I kicked out at him wildly. He pulled me back under and hit me in the face. With my free hand, I punched him in the side. He hit me more savagely. He struck me several more blows. I saw him raise his hand again, then his dad stepped forward and caught it.

"Ease up, there, now, Rocky," he said laughing as he looked at my bloodstained face. "I think he's had enough." He pulled the oldest off of me, pulled me to my feet, and shoved me roughly back toward Main Street. "Go on, boy, go cry to your mama."

I started walking back toward Main Street. I thought about my mama and Karl. From the corner of my eye, I saw Jack sneaking back to join me. I remembered the rocks in my pocket. Turning, I threw one as hard as I could. For once my aim was good. It struck the Delabell's father full in the face. I ran as fast as I could without looking back.

Jack caught up with me near home. He had stayed behind in the tall brush near the creek and had seen the shocked look on the Delabells' father's face when my rock struck home.

“You did good,” said Jack. He reached into his pocket and put something in my hand. In spite of it all, I didn't cry until that moment. Jack had given me ten pennies, but I wanted a dime.