If I Entered Hell

My Beatrice would be a monk with whom I would never confess I was in love with

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If I became the female self of Dante

I would hope that Hans Rookmaaker would be my Virgil.

Hell then would be a circular art gallery, a gradual, seven story spiral ending in an ice box.

And within the ice box perhaps Monet, paint brush in hand.

Frozen in the act of painting light, a perplexed look on his face.

“Where is the sensation?” — his eyes would ask; sensation being the only reality of life

for him.

I would ask my guide if I should tell him that he is dead — and my guild would shake his head,

no.

‘Monet lives at last, he feels the cold of his encased death.’

And my guide would pity me, and take me to my Beatrice — a monk who writes the classics and beautifies the deep well walls of knowledge.

There I would stay never saying I was deeply in love with him.

 

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

 

It’s Not Difficult

You can enter my mind through my heart

Just so you know, staying up late is not good for me, I’m a morning person.

Weary, I’ve stepped out on to my high tower ledge and found the big dipper just overhead;

Close but not touchable.

So, I point the momentum North and ride the will to survive into the icy cold.

The bay is rocky smooth, Superior ice blue and now I feel safe away from you.

Odd, I don’t fear the scythe-man and am terrified of you.

A vulnerability is impossible to live with.

The levitation is sudden, the atmosphere heavy, ripping down my body as I move up

No nest is a temptation from this lofty spot where I see the seas spin deep frothing white.

The ghosts step along the streets their staffs diamond willows that no one but a few knows exists.

Sit down across from me and answer my questions

Answer me

Love is what you’re best at, that is obvious while I ponder the ideology of believing in death

And not God.  So answer me, what has the world come to?

To each their own, to each their own.

To the west, to the east what was once frozen has dropped upon my front door and taken

The Limberlost

No, no she has simply gone deep as the stars have gone just out of reach

Don’t be afraid, I won’t ask any questions you can answer

You can get into my mind through my heart.

Please answer my question.  It’s not difficult.

 

Photo by Alfonso Ninguno on Unsplash

She Still Loves You, Sir Walter Scott

“The only thing I’m saying is that if you want a good example, for your class, of what an oxymoron is, use ‘nice guy.’” She felt that sinking, suffocating sensation that she always felt when around him and wondered why she wasn’t home reading.

He was seven years younger than her; tall, slender, with large amber brown eyes, and a wooly but trimmed beard. They were employed together by the Jefferson County School System. She taught freshman English as a way and means to write literary prose on her fall, winter, and summer breaks (when she was in elementary school those breaks had titles such as Halloween, Christmas and thanked God, it’s summer vacation). He taught fourth-grade with a concentration in Mathematics. They were aware of each other or rather she was aware of him because he always sat in the front row of the Teacher’s Union meetings. She sat in the back and graded papers that lead her to seek professional help.

That’s where they met. He was walking out of his therapy session with Dr. Monroe while she was walking in, deep in thought and wanting to purge the sick feeling of guilt she felt for reading Ivanhoe for the fourth time in three years. She was startled by the fourth-grade teacher’s appearance, and he smiled at her.

“Do I know you?”

She blinked and felt her nose begin to itch and the inevitable wetness that sidetracks all social discourse. Frantically she looked in her purse for a tissue, “Um no, sorry,” she sniffed. He took a tissue from the box on the receptionist desk and handed it to her. She took it gratefully and spoke over the fourth-grade teacher’s shoulder, to the receptionist. “Sorry I’m late, will she still see me?”

“Yes, Ms. Miller.”

She turned back to him who had stayed and was apparently looking her up and down. “You know,” he said, “I think you look familiar.”

“I teach at Jefferson High. Freshman English. I’ve noticed you at the Teacher’s Union Meetings.”

“Ahh, because I sit up front.” He smiled and adjusted his backpack across his shoulders. “Will you be at the freshman basketball game tonight?” She looked at him as if he had grown three heads, “No. I don’t care for basketball.” She turned around and walked toward the Doctor’s office door.

“Wait one minute Ms. Miller; Doctor is not quite ready.” She huffed at the strident demand of the receptionist. She turned, the fourth-grade teacher was still standing there. She wondered if the ‘Doctor,’ wasn’t recouping from some wild tryst with the young man in front of her.

“I teach fourth grade, with a concentration in mathematics.”

“Yes, you’ve mentioned that in the meetings.”

“And you’ve remembered.”

She felt herself reddening slightly. She wasn’t sure if he was referring to her age and therefore her weakening faculty of mind or if he thought that he had made an impression on her. So, she only smiled without meaning it and said, ‘yes,’ in a long drawn out breath.

Her rudeness didn’t seem to cause any self-examination regarding his manners. “Well, we should have coffee together sometime and compare notes.”

“Ms. Miller, the Doctor is ready for you.”

“Sure, we should do that.”

She didn’t realize that she had committed herself. On the afternoon, just before the long winter break (that would be spent preparing, for the principal and three vice principals another plan for teaching freshman English and a dissertation on why grades were so low), she looked up to see him standing at her classroom door.

“Hi!”

“Hello.”

Did you receive my emails?”

She thought for a moment that she would feign complete ignorance and check her spam, but she was too tired and only said: “Yes, I did.” Annoyed at having to confess her remissness she thought wildly of asking him why he didn’t ask for her kerchief or go gallantly out in her name to right wrongs.

“Didn’t want to answer me huh?” He looked a bit crestfallen, and guilt crept along her neck and wisped about her ankles in a cold little chill.

“No, I didn’t. I’ve been kind of busy.”

“Yeah, the rumor is that you really do try and teach Freshman English. That must be burdensome. Why don’t you let me buy you a cup of coffee? We can go to the teacher’s lounge…”

“No.” her disdain was evident in one word, and she rose from her desk as if she was rising to command Nelson’s ship Victory.

“Excellent then let’s go over to a nice little coffee shop I know.”

She looked outside, the clouds were low, and it had begun to snow in earnest. She felt tired and longed for her little apartment uptown above the yoga center. The landlord had made a deal with her on the rent three years ago, because of the late hours and the weird music that came up from the old furnace vents. She didn’t mind because she kept her classical music plugged in and the heat low – it helped her write.

“Why don’t you come to my apartment and I’ll make us coffee.” She was hoping he would refuse, but he readily agreed.

They had coffee. He left in time for her to order a medium plain pizza with cheese in which she ate three-quarters and then made herself sick. Something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager and had fallen in love with Sir Walter Scott of Waverly fame. She tested transcendentalism in hopes of eventually uniting with her writing icon which sent her parents running back to their Catholic faith.

She was looking at him now wondering what and who a ‘nice guy,’ really was and if he had married someone else and was tripping over kids and wondering what happened to her.

“Do you think we should start a relationship?” he asked.

“What?” She shook her head; she wondered if she had been falling asleep.

“I spoke to Dr. Monroe about the two of us, and he said an older woman (not too much older, mind you) might be a good experience for me.”

“An experience.” She said, deadpan and weary.

“You never know,” he said shyly and smiled, “it might last.”

She took a deep breath, letting herself for a moment breathe in his perceived freedom and open minded aura and felt within her throat and lungs the sharp pain deception.

“’Nice guy,’ young man, is not an oxymoron. I’m too old to be your girlfriend is not an oxymoron, and I’m not going back to that shrink who agrees with you that everyone on has a commodity status…”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I didn’t…”

“You didn’t ask me out for a cup of coffee so that you could lose your virginity, I know. You are so predictable you know, despite being told all your life that you are unique.

“So is Sir Walter Scott,” he said hotly.

“No, we just haven’t come up with anything original since. We’ve only managed to redefine words, concepts, and morals to appease our insecurities. We’ve done it until we’ve come up with a human like you, who believes there is no such thing as an oxymoron. You don’t, you know, you don’t even know enough to be honestly self-deprecating.”

He sat and stared at her for a moment. She could see he was struggling. He stood, “Well, I’ll just take care of this bill and when you feel like you can speak to me with some respect, let me know.”

She gave him no reply while he hesitated and then left. She ordered another strong coffee and felt cold. Perhaps a priest would understand her love for a dead novelist and poet better than a psychologist. Sipping her coffee and watching the fourth-grade teacher walk away.

 

No Make Believe

Makes little difference to me, the lifting wind that brushes the sun darken oak leaves up. The sylvan world moves from dark to light in shifting shades of green-

Makes little difference to me, the lifting wind that brushes the sun darken oak leaves up. The sylvan world moves from dark to light in shifting shades of green-

Means little to me.

I care not for the song of the lark or the longing flight of the cardinal for his mate. The scarlet dark against the shifting green all directed by who knows what; so why care for the cause of a hidden effect?

I could care less.

And I do not mind the boom of guns nor the crack of the whip that separates me from those I should love. What does their life matter as I have been taught that only my life should revolve my world?

What matters the words written that saves souls?

I think little of peace or what contentment is and soon all theses distractions I mention will falter due to lack of attention.

How could the world continue to spin without my permission?. Oh, and by the way, I most certainly don’t believe in evil.

 

We Lose and We Win

I was coming down off a serious high and the police brought me into the drunk tank, found out after I had been raped by the local female gorilla (yes women rape other women), that I was underage and with all abject apology tucked me into an upper scale dry-out clinic.

“Where you go, I shall go also.  Your God shall be my God.”  The book of Ruth.

That’s a paraphrase I’m afraid.  I know being a child of the 21st century this may sound either condescending or an out and out lie but I prefer the King James Version the best.  There is something about the King James version of the Bible that is more poetic, more believable.

She wasn’t my mother-in-law but she was widowed when I met her.  I was coming down off a serious high and the police brought me into the drunk tank, found out after I had been raped by the local female gorilla (yes women rape other women), that I was underage and with all abject apology tucked me into an upper scale dry-out clinic.

I met her there she was a volunteer mentor to under advantaged girls like me.  Now her idea of upper scale and my idea were two different things and at first I just didn’t like her.  She was an old widowed Jew who, I felt, was there just to see how the outer echelon lived outside her pampered world.

“What was your mother’s name?”

“Why was?  My Mom’s name is Kathy.  Some call her Kate.  She wanted to be called Kate but she decided that way too late in life, it never stuck.”

“Why isn’t Kate here?”

“Why should she be?”

“Because she is your mother,” she said quietly.  To her the fact that Kate was my mother obligated her to come and see about me.

“Kate never cared about me, she never will and that, is they say is that.  Where’s your mother?” I asked. She was old as dirt and I knew her mother was dead but decided to be cruel our first meeting so she wouldn’t come back.”

“With God,” she replied

“Does she like it better there?”

“I would think so,” she said evenly and looking me directly in the eye.  I got the feeling that the interrogation was all on my side but I was feel less and less in control.

“Right, like she has a choice.  God said that’s it and she had to go.”

“So you believe in God?”

“Sure, He’s a male, on the male side of everything and He created women so He and all his male buddies could be made to feel superior.”

She laughed out loud.  She laughed with real mirth and her eyes went from a slate gray to a brilliant blue and all the wrinkles in her face softened and crinkled to her forehead.  I was feeling like I had been kicked several times (I knew how that felt) and my mouth was dry and I knew my breath was rank from not eating but I had to laugh at her laughing at me.

It was the first time I felt as if I didn’t know it all and that fact was okay.  It was the first time I felt that I could put all my observed ideas before someone who wouldn’t tell me I was wrong but tell me how to see my observations from another view point.

I was incarcerated for three years in a juvenile detention center and for three years I had no choice but to dry out.  She came every Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening.

“What’s it like being a Jew?  Did you go through the Holocaust?”

“What’s it like being a Christian?  Did you go through the Inquisition?”

She was good with things like that.  She taught me that I couldn’t have the same feelings as her and she couldn’t have the same feelings as me – we could compare notes and meet on mutual ground, sometimes we couldn’t even do that.

“Do you think I’d make a good Jew?”

“No.”

It was the first time I laughed out loud at her and she smiled and I could tell almost cried.  I don’t know what happened but at that moment, beyond the book recommends, the letters we wrote, the drug rehab and the mourning we shared, it was the first time we were miles apart culturally and never closer spiritually.

“Women need women,” she said.

I suddenly began to talk of my rape, why I ended up in a better place than all of my other drug induced cohorts.  She frowned slightly and leaned forward listening, intently – interrupting only to bring my language up when I felt the power of hopelessness overcome me.  “Genitles,” for “cunt.” “Penetration,” for “fucked,” and so on.  I was sweaty and chilled when I finished telling her of my night in lock up.

“My husband came from a long line of Jews – as you call me.  Some of his family wore the traditional garb.  He was more liberated and though he celebrated the holidays and the Sabbath, his diet wasn’t kosher, nor was his ideas strictly that of his more conservative family members.  Our marriage was arranged.  Yes, even in this country.  It was many, many years ago.  I came from a very wealthy family and my dowry was large.  I did not have to marry him; I could have refused but I wanted to feel a part of my ancient heritage.  I was young and thought doing rather than thinking was the way I should go.  He was brutal.  He could only come to a sexual climax by cruelty.  My children, I have three who lived, were begot in horrific ways.  It was not their fault.”

“What happened?  How did you survive?”

“I had him murdered.  I could not stand one more rape.  I had begged for a divorce and I had run away with the children but he would fine me.  You must understand that many men of all races and cultures are like this.”

“Is that why you laughed at me when I described God to you?”

“Perhaps.  I simply saw a young, hurt woman lashing out upon a Being you had no concept of; your anger was against your circumstance and you had placed God as a sort of surrogate of that circumstance.  Not surprising as you are a Christian and your Church teaches that Christ has paid the price for your sins.  Not a bad plan but it does have its repercussions on the human mind. I think Christians are the front runners for blaming God for everything.”

“But what happened?  How are you here?”

“I got away with it dear.  I paid for his demise and no one is the wiser, except now for you.”

I stared at this white haired old lady, her bright blue eyes shining.  I was dumbfounded.

“Dear girl, I only tell you because you have grown tremendously in the three years we have known each other.  Let this be our parting gift to each other – bad happens, we lose and we win but through it all God grants a chance at human connection that make the bad bearable and the good a humbling experience; not all take advantage or cherish that connection.”

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