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Archives for August 2018

The Night Before the First Day of School

‘Twas the first day of school, when all through the class
Not a brain cell was stirring and I needed a pass;
My classmates were sitting like lumps in their chairs,
Hoping the teacher would fall down the stairs.
The principal hid in her office and cried
While the flowers of summer wilted and died;
And mamma with her suntan and dad with his beer
Had just waved goodbye and got the hell outta here,
When out on the playground there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The teacher freaked out and said, Sit back down!
We don’t need such behavior from a would-be class clown!
When what to my wondering eyes did appear
But a gigantic monster truck that was hitting third gear,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he was a lunatic.
More rapid than seagulls his curses they came,
And he whistled, and squawked, and called out my name.
Oh shit, I thought, this lunatic’s fixin’
To demolish the school like a linebacker blitzin’.
I said to my classmates, We can’t wait for the bell,
Now dash away! dash away! Like bats outta hell.
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So out of the schoolhouse everyone flew
With backpacks full of books (and some with weed too).
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the street
The flipping and flapping of flip-flop-clad feet.
As I lept from the schoolyard and was turning around,
The dude in the truck made a cackling sound.
He put on the brakes and skidded to a stop;
I’m not really a lunatic, he said, I’m a cop
And I’m here to arrest you for gradeschool truancy
And make you learn math and linguistic fluency.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how scary!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a frown
And the beard on his chin was dirt-like and brown.
The stump of an e-cig he held tight in his teeth,
And the vapor encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump like a horror movie elf,
And I screamed when I saw him and wet myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Confirmed that I had something to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Rounding us up and being a jerk.
And poking his finger deep into his nose,
He said, You’ve been binge watching too many shows.
But then all of a sudden I heard a loud whistle
That tore at my brain like a thorn on a thistle.
It was my mom waking me up and turning on the light—
“Happy first day of school, did you sleep well last night?”

4 Million Wonders of the Bronx

"WELL,  WELL, WELL. WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT,” SAYS MR. PORTER. "IT LOOKS LIKE BABBSIO WENT AHEAD AND GOT HERSELF A BLOGGY THINGY... GOD BLESS HER HEART!"

“WELL, WELL, WELL. WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT,” SAYS MR. PORTER. “IT LOOKS LIKE BABBSIO WENT AHEAD AND GOT HERSELF A BLOGGY THINGY… GOD BLESS HER HEART!”

O’Brien on O. Henry:

In 1906, following the successful publication of his first collection of short stories, Sydney William Porter, under the pen name O. Henry, published a collection titled The Four Million. Included in this collection was his famous, well-loved Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi. The author wrote this series of stories in response to Ward McAllister’s statement of “there are only 4 hundred people worth noticing in New York City” – at a time when the city’s population was approximately 4 million. On February 16th, 1892, this self-appointed arbiter of New York society proceeded to publish a list of these “worth noticing” people in The New York Times. But in O. Henry’s mind, every human being in New York was worth noticing – the socialite and the downcast, the banker and the street vendor. He believed that every person had a story to tell and a life worth noticing. He set out to prove this belief and the result was his collection of short, witty stories with characters modeled after the downtrodden and everyday members of society.

Although the population of this metropolis has doubled since the publication of The Four Million, I, like O. Henry, want to find and notice all the unnoticed people of New York City. I am not a blogger but I will attempt in this blog to relate all of my experiences as a long-time “country mouse” living among the “city mice.” I have never written anything publicly so please forgive my early attempts at self-published work. I am neither an eloquent nor a brilliant writer, but I try to write as I wish to speak – simply, clearly, and honestly.

I hope my stories and reflections help you see a little of the world I see everyday.

Love or Nothing

i

The hardest part
is getting started.
Until you do.

The hardest part then
is continuing, because
once you’ve started,

you need to find a way
to continue continuing …
all the way to the end.

And then you realize
there was nothing to it.
Nothing at all.

ii

Steel tracks and barbed-wire fences,
a square and squat, brick ding
every thing points beyond everything,
beyond even time and its tenses.

The welcoming arbeit macht frei,
albeit in iron. A hidden fire.
A gentle breeze, and smoke now
for our Intuition als Wesensschau.

For Edith Stein, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, martyred at Auschwitz 9 August 1942

The Secret of Phantom Lake

(To the tune Identikit, by Radiohead)

Our country club was one tennis court
in the middle of a marsh,

and a large, rectangular pool

doubling a small, moon-shaped lake,
whose surface was always as black

as cannonballs stacked in the sun.

The girl was saved from drowning
in the deep end under the diving boards,

as I ran back and forth along the edge,

dripping dry, nothing to assuage
my guilt choking on action

even as it tried to swallow inaction.

Anger, that dispels all phantoms
and then creates more of its own.

To have a will as clear as water
without urine and chlorine.

Next morning, steam rose from the lake,

pieces of a ragdoll mankind,
that we can create, that we can create

as witnessed by reeds and cattails.