Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Birdcatchers

If you were to be in possession of keen eyes, you might just see them, Emilio and Grandpapa walking upon the dirty streets of Rome. Grandpapa walks in all too calloused form, spared only in his heart, he taps his makeshift cane in shaky rhythm to his own shuffling steps that attempt to lead, but fail miserably to fall ahead of, Emilio's own bouncy trot.

"Hurry Grandpapa!"

Grandpapa waves weakly and follows the child's voice, his final treasure, the progeny of a drunken man's promises and his own daughter's last breath. Grandpapa knows his own time is soon and shudders forth with chattering teeth in spite of what he feels to be the warmth of the sun's own veering death.

"Hurry Grandpapa!"

Grandpapa hears the boy, Emilio's body, casting itself forth by waves to recede and cycle further and further until he can heed the boy no longer. Grandpapa is not worried, he can hear the fountain of one of the many city's shady squares and knows that they have at last arrived.

"Emilio! Emilio! You musn't stray too far and leave your Grandpapa! He shall never find you!"

The patter again recedes bringing forth Emilio in rapid breaths, the salvage of his many voyages to and fro.

"Will you teach me? Will you? Will you? You promised Grandpapa! You promised to teach me to be a birdcatcher!"

"Yes Emilio, yes, your Grandpapa must teach you to be a bird catcher, you must learn Emilio, but you must first be silent and give Grandpapa the bread we have brought. You must be silent Emilio. You must not startle the birds."

"Yes Grandpapa, and then what happens, do we eat the birds?"

"No Emilio, you must never eat the bird. When you eat the bird, Emilio, you shall gain the taste of it, you will never again be able to be still Emilio, you shall never again be silent, you shall always be tasting the bird and your hands will grow greedy and slow."

"I don't understand Grandpapa. We do not eat the birds?"

Grandpapa shakes his head.

"No Emilio, the bird is small, it is not enough. You must sell the bird Emilio. You must go to the street with wagons and sell the bird to the men with cages. They will give you coins, Emilio. Coins with which you can buy bread. Enough Emilio, for you and the birds."

As the boy considers this his Grandpapa asks:

"Now are you ready Emilio? Are you ready to watch your Grandpapa?" 

Even Grandpapa can feel the force of Emilio's rapid nods.

With a finger to his lips, the old man hunches legs splayed and listens; his crooked back bent painfully at an awkward angle. He listens for the coo. Grandpapa cannot use his tapping cane. He must breathe through his mouth, quietly, as if tasting the air for the birds' direction. Grandpapa reaches into his bread bag knowing that it shall never be enough. The last of his grace is spent in the subtle action of the bread-flicking wrist. Grandpapa waits and listens for the coo.

He can feel them, Emilio's eyes must be like saucers in anticipation. For what may be the first time in his life, Grandpapa is proud. Grandpapa knows the birds, his hands dart forth for the neck of the fattest coo amongst the crumbs. He feels the tips of his fingers just graze the neck, his grasp too far wayward for the bird's own veering right. With an awful pop, his arms quiver with the recoil in searing agony, as Grandpapa's own wandering eyes squeeze shut in pain.

Grandpapa's pain does not register in Emilio's tiny mind choked to capacity with the anticipation, he cannot yet appreciate his grandpapa's struggle. Emilio does not know age; Emilio does not know blindness.

"Do you see now Emilio? Do you see? You must see Emilio! You must try like your Grandpapa! You must be silent Emilio! You must feel the birds! Know the bread Emilio! We have far too little!"

In the primordial instinct of the boy's heart he knows now that some form of torch has been passed and that his own time has now come. Emilio is to be a birdcatcher. Emilio knows that he must do like his Grandpapa, he must feel the birds, he must know the bread, he must be silent.

Emilio sees his Grandpapa sit upon the edge of the fountain in silence waiting for him to show that he has learned; but Emilio does not yet know the birds, and his hands always fall short over the course of the final hours. With tears of frustration, Emilio looks to his Grandpapa and sees his lips moving silently in words of encouragement. They repeat like a chant, a prayer, and from them Emilio finds his strength. A deep breath drawn from across the southern wind flows through the boy with a tremor and in that moment Emilio hears only the breath, the water, and the birds. Emilio is to be a birdcatcher. With a thrust, the birdcatcher's hands move forth with graceful desperation, and as if clutching hard the rapid wings of some magnificent angel, he raises them toward the orange light of the setting sun in exalted glory to show his Grandpapa who is nodding in shuddering time with the youth's own cheers.

"Do you see? Do you see? I did it Grandpapa! I did it!"

"Yes Emilio! Yes! I have seen you! You have learned and now you must never go hungry again!"

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Memoir for A Stranger, My Private Confession

In some way I knew. I had it all figured out. On the morning of my twenty fourth birthday; I became Death. It was a sort of apprehension, a feeling, there really wasn't any room for doubt, no room for the imagination to run wild filling in the blanks of a conjured sort of bump an old house might make on a particularly windy night. Nothing of the sort. I just knew. The sun was warm that morning. I suspect it might have awoken me. I remember feeling calm. That day really was a day just like any other, it'd be a lie to say I remember it all very clearly. It all progressed as otherwise expected, with of course, the exception, of that one very odd little fact. Work was incredibly busy, It didn't really leave me a lot of room for idle thought.

That night I made a particularly uncharacteristic effort to catch the news. I'm not sure if I was surprised or not. There had been a bad traffic accident, at least two people were dead. What would you think? Would that be evidence for or against my morning epiphany?

I guess in a way, I had to have known what was coming, and so I decided to believe. As time passed I came to my own sort of understanding and it was as follows: despite the lack of any particular effort in the pursuit of it, I had become the world's absolute worst mass murderer. No contest. Sobering thought isn't it?

That night I decided that I would no longer watch the news, not that I ever really did before. Yelling "Over here!" when a crying family appears on the camera wondering aloud why tragedy strikes really wasn't the sort of macabre humor I could bring myself to. I guess I wasn't a very funny Death. I'd like to think I wasn't a very mean one either.

Only once did I try to soften the blow. He actually worked in my office. His retirement party was only a few weeks away, and so once more deciding to act uncharacteristically, I went out of my way to befriend him. He wasn't married, slightly overweight, practically alone in the city. A painfully average man for his age, but still no otherwise majorly obvious cause of death. I agreed to take some time off to travel with him and if you can imagine counting down the days I'm sure you can imagine it wasn't very pleasant. Still, we had fun. The last place we visited was a quiet beach: sleepy, quaint, and decidedly off season.

They asked me to speak at his funeral. It was a relatively small affair, some family, a few old friends that had fallen out of contact. Can you imagine the irony? I felt awful. Wouldn't you? That moment had made it real. Real may not be the right word for it, tragedies on the news are real too. Faint and distant they don't really effect us. No, I guess a better word would be reality. It had become a reality I was now truly aware of.

It wasn't too long after that I just so happened to happen across you. I assure you it was purely chance; crowds passing crowds. I had known how you would go, and I'm sorry to say that after my experience I just couldn't forgive you. It was an unforgivable waste. You can't make change with time and you certainly can't give it out to the more wanting. Perhaps I was meddlesome. I'd like to think that waking up on that hospital bed you're feeling a little uncertain. Maybe though, you feel just like I did, and so I wrote you a letter.

It'd be a relief for you to feel grateful to me for having given you a bit more time to rethink your decision, but in reality I have given you a terrible curse. I do not think I'd mind it very much if you hated me. Let me just say that I now know for certain that nobody would ever stay Death for very long. With this formal apology that reads a bit like a life story, I'm wishing you the best.

I do not know what you believe, but from my perspective, this may be the only chance you get to truly change things. In my experience fate is a terribly scary thing. This may be the one hickup in the way things happen. A very real magic trick, a copout that leaves a curse. It's up to you now to decide what's next. Who's next. I wouldn't squander it. I really have played an awful trick and won't even be around for you to get even. Well, maybe you don't need to. You can laugh knowing even Death gets a funeral and I can tell mine will be quite soon enough. It would seem after all, that the price of Death is death. It's all rather poetic. I like that. I think death should be poetic, beautiful. Knowing may be a blessing or a curse, I'll leave it to you to decide. Even so I wish you well.

With Sincerity,

Your one time guardian angel,

Death (former)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

And Sisyphus Toiled

And Sisyphus Toiled...

Sisyphus was no sissy
As Zeus up high was never wont to realize,
Sisyphus was keeping count
And beneath forlorn sigh at task reset
Belied a maddened grin of reckless ambition.
Zeus could never know the man at perpetual bottom of ever fleeting top.
He would never comprehend the stolen fire of that man's heart.
With certainty time did pass, and Sisyphus did toil, his count did grow,
And on and on and on forever here and ever after,
Was there again and again snatched victory at the jaws of defeat.
For every hour the record grew:

And Sisyphus Toiled....

Thursday, November 7, 2013



a toilet a bowl

stenching human alchemy

brown dandelion

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Dance Macabre

The Dance Macabre

She announced with a loud cry

the start

of the dance of masks

but she was far too late

they had already begun

the people

went about their days

as all days before

and all days since

in brutal abjective harmony...



I have seen your reflection

your hypocrite smile

taunting in jest

the world.

light's illusion

may play its stringent tricks

but i see

the real you:

my unwanted



A seven year crime

would be a pittance

to pay

so i would not push

your luck.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Flood

The Flood

the play of water

the trickling lights

worries the bones

whips and whirls

solidly conducts

your fossil self...

if we could only move

if we could only breathe

if this were not water:

a gentle breeze

a playful melody, the rustling of hair

not the embalming grasp

not the deep resounding bass: bohm! bohm!

but air

the mere semblance of it

the end of drownings: freedom

but there is only water

and i fear the ship cannot hold.