Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Last Leaf

Finally, the last leaf let go and died, and stumbled over the air to her feet. She stepped on it and it made no sound.

Grey was the color of the sky and of the frozen river, and grey was the color of her dress. Her nearly white hair and the dress danced longingly in the sharp cold wind. She stood upon the cobblestone path that winded in unison with the river along the edge of the park.

Dying grass covered with brittle leaves the colors of dying flames blanketed the rolling hills of the park. Barren trees reached in futility toward the clouds, silent wooden sentinels observing their domain.

She gazed across the river, her bright blue eyes fading into the pale whiteness of her skin. There was a house across the river that seemed to spark a distant fleeting memory in her, but she knew not what of. She just knew that she wished the lone tear that fell from her right eye was water enough to put out the flames that enveloped the home.

Fire consumed both stories of the old Victorian style house, which by now was a crumbling shadow behind the red inferno. Grey and black smoke billowed and rose to the sky and was lost in the clouds of the same color.

Unmoving, she watched as the firefighter carried a young woman’s body out of the blaze, but even from across the river, it was clear he was too late. The limp and charred body was set on a stretcher and paramedics tried in vain to revive her.

A teardrop fell from her left eye as the clouds sighed and let loose the first of many snowflakes to come. It fluttered—gleaming white brilliance—toward her. She extended her palm to catch it, but the flake continued on to the ground, never having noticed her at all.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rainbows Preceded By Raindrops

It was raining. The days I remember best are always in the rain.

I was tired. I was trudging through the gray and the wet in search of a place that was neither of those things. The rain poured off of the rim of my top hat, giving me the illusion of perpetually walking through a waterfall. My black suit and pants were drenched and heavy.

I came upon a small café and purchased a black coffee to warm my insides, having given up utterly on saving my outsides. I sat at a little round table and drank my steaming beverage. I was alone in the establishment—the only one dumb enough to venture outside.

Why had I been outside? I don’t remember, and it doesn’t matter, really.

The pitter-pattering of the gray drops on the brown brick walkways drummed a melancholy rhythm into my eardrums. I tapped along to the beat with my fingers on the table, and then the sound of footsteps entered the song.

An elderly man entered the café wearing a bright yellow raincoat, a red shirt underneath, and green and purple striped pants. He had a thick white beard and curly white hair which hung down in front of his uncomfortably large glasses. He ordered a type of drink that I’d never heard of and sat down across the table from me and drank it in enthusiastic gulps.

“I couldn’t help but notice the drumming as I walked in,” the man said, motioning to my fingers. “Are you a musician?”

“Ha!” I chuckled. “No, I’ve never touched an instrument in my life.”

“What’s funny about that?” the old man was taken aback. “In fact, I find that quite sad.”

“Well, it isn’t intentional,” I replied. “I’ve just never found the time.”

“Busy with what?”

“School at first. Then girls. Then college. Now work. You know… life.”

“Pshaw! How proper,” he said as he looked up at my top hat. “Do you at least draw?”

“No,” I told him.





“So tragic,” he sighed as he stood up. “Why don’t you stop following the path you’re expected to take, and just wander?” He snagged my hat and walked out the door.

I smiled for reasons I’m still not sure of. Something was different, and it was good. The rain stopped, but the beat carried on in my head. I started to drum again, and began humming a little tune along with it. The sun pushed the clouds aside and turned the puddles into pools of gold. I whistled my song and took my jacket off and untied my tie. I left them on my chair and rolled up my sleeves as I walked outside.

Whatever surface my whistling echoed off of seemed to brighten up. The red bricks of the café building, the emerald pines on the side of the street, the cerulean sky. It all seemed brighter now that I had my song.

I whistled…

                I walked…

                                I wandered…

Monday, March 19, 2012

Working the Late Shift

He watched as a subgalactic whaleshark breached the dark matter veil. It twirled in the vacuum of space as it emerged, flinging subatomic particles off of its five-dimensional dorsal fin. As it dove back out of the timestream, the chronal splash tore millions of black holes in the reality pool, which dissipated immediately before they began.

The watchman yawned.

It wasn't exactly a rare occurrence to see that species out there. The Andromeda XIV Cosmic Observatory was stationed on the moon of a gas giant that orbited right off of their migration axis, and the watchman had been working the night shift long enough that the local cosmofauna no longer held his attention as it used to. He straightened the back of his chair so that he was sitting upright, and with a click on his control panel, he hovered to the edge of the observation dome, where the central computer was located. He began to recite his observations to the monitors, detailing the whaleshark and the time and location of sighting. He then sighed, lifted his glasses from his face, and rubbed his forehead with his fingers in an attempt to rid himself of his boredom-induced headache. He returned his chair to the center of the room once more, laid back, and stared out the observation dome once again.

There was a flash of brilliant blue light and a sound like a band-aid being torn off. The watchman sat back up casually and looked to his left.

"Hello Ajax," the watchman said to the man that was now standing in the observation dome next to him. He wore a white jumpsuit with plated armor over it. He held a strange looking gun, which he looked down at, and then clicked a dial a few notches counter-clockwise before holstering it.

"Are you really so jaded," Ajax said, "that seeing yourself from the future doesn't amaze you?"

"Maybe if you'd stop visiting so often it would be more exciting," the watchman said.

Ajax sighed. "Isn't it about time for your break?"

Annoyed, the watchman glared at him and then entered a code on his control panel. The screens in the observation deck turned off and the door opened with a hiss of compressed air. The watchman stood up and walked out, and Ajax followed.

"What do you want this time?" the watchman groaned as they entered the cafeteria.

"I want to change you, same as I always have," Ajax said as they took a seat in the deserted room. "I want you to see how important this is. I want you to turn out better than I did."

"Well, considering that you're me," the watchman said with a roll of his eyes, "I don't think that you're going to have much luck with that. I'm going to turn out to be you."

"You sure about that? I wouldn't claim to know a lot about time travel, considering it hasn't been invented yet."

The watchman took a cup of coffee from the android waitress and sipped it in silence.

"So are you going to collect on your promise you made?" the watchman asked.


"So you're going to kill me. Because I wouldn't 'cheer up.'"

"Yes I am," Ajax said as he pulled out his gun. He clicked the dial clockwise a few notches. "Unless you can be persuaded."

"Persuaded of what? That this job doesn't suck? That my life isn't meaningless and repetitive?"

"The job is what you make of it. And life is a precious thing."

"I don't need to be lectured by myself," the watchman said.

"Apparently you do. I never forgot that whaleshark you saw today," Ajax pleaded. "That was a beautiful thing. To not find joy in that is to waste what you've been given."

"So you're going to kill me for it? And won't this kill you too?"

"Not growing is the same thing as being dead." Ajax lifted the gun and pointed it at the watchman's forehead.

"And stop thinking you understand time travel."

Ajax pulled the trigger and the watchman erupted in a flash of cerulean radiation. Ajax stood up calmly, picked up his coffee, and walked toward the cafeteria exit. He stopped as he reached the door and pulled his gun out its holster, then tossed it into a garbage can. The door slid open with a hiss and he entered the observation dome. He sat down in his chair and punched in a code on the control panel and the screens came back on. As the chair hovered back to the center of the room, Ajax reclined and looked up out of the dome.

As he watched, a dark nebula tarantula emerged from its hiding place behind a cloud of gamma photons to devour the cometbird that it had caught in its bosonic web.

"I love this job," said the watchman.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Night Skies

There were two skies that night, and both were filled with stars. The one above—static and reassuring—and the one below—a fluid and uncertain reflection, destroying itself and reforming as it crashed against the Corinthian cliffs.

“I couldn’t save her,” the weary man said.

“I know,” said the woman in the flowing robes. Her tattered garments danced in the wind, giving her an appearance as ever-changing as that of the sky below. “But you can do nothing about that now.”

“I need answers, Pythia!” the chiseled and bearded man demanded. “I must know why.”

“You are not asking the correct questions, hero.”

“I don’t care. I have to know. Why would the gods give me all of my strength—surpassing that of any other man!—and make it still not enough?”

“I am but a guide for the way forward. I am not an interpreter of history.”

The man sat silent. As he looked up, a comet flew passed a galaxy. In the sky above, its tail was a clean and confident arc. Below, an aimless line tossed at the whims of black waves.

“I’ve been told that I will be among the stars someday. Is that true?”

“It could be,” said the servant of Apollo.

His eyes fell slowly below the horizon, and the bearded man examined the ambiguity of the sky below as he ran his fingers—thick and calloused with violence—through his curly black hair.

“I killed her,” he said quietly after a long while. 

“I know,” she whispered.

“I don’t know how or why. But I did.”

Tears began to run down his cheeks in torrents that glittered with the images of stars.

“I couldn’t control it. I don’t remember all of it, but I do remember not being in control. I know it happened. I know it was me. But somehow…”

He wiped the back of his hand across his face and looked up at the woman in the flowing robe.

“Somehow I know it wasn’t my fault.”

The man looked at the sky above. Photons bounce off his retina that came from a star that had died before the world was born.

The man looked at the sky below. He felt the cool salty mist against his cheeks as a nebula exploded into a billion droplets against the cliff.

“It’s your choice,” said the woman. “You may remember.” She motioned to the sky above. “Or you may find what lies ahead.” She motioned to the sky below.

He stood and removed his clothes.

He breathed in.

He breathed out.

He dove off the cliff.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Journey

This poem is a bit of a thematic sequel to my earlier poem "They Have No Answers."

If you’d kindly follow me through this wardrobe
the White Rabbit says
I’ll help you find your way back to Kansas

But to find Ithaca, you must first know where it is
the Cat informs me with a tip of its Hat
You must know which star on the right is the second

You’ll get no fairer by polishing your mirror, and your city will not unbottle itself
my friend tiger tells me
You're the only one who can destroy the ring

Just riddle me this, before you pull that sword from the stone
insists Tabaqui
Will Atlantis be the same if you raise it?

All of El Dorado’s wealth has long since been spent, and Themiscyra doesn’t want you back
Scheherazade whispers in my ear
So what kingdom are you thieving to save?

There is nowhere to build but up, and the towers you swing from have done what Babylon couldn’t
the second of the three spirits bellows
It’s a long walk from Xibalba to Valhalla, but your boulder will weigh less at the top

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Unknown

The scythe
the claws
the hockey mask
Do I even dare to ask?
That question we've all heard once before
What is lurking behind this door?

A shriek
a moan
a sound of terror
Will I make a fatal error?
Will the raven scream Nevermore
If I open this creaking door?

The ghost
the monster
the psychopath
Will I face its ghoulish wrath?
Shall I be turned to blood and gore
When I see what's beyond this ancient door?

A breath
a heartbeat
a trembling hand
Has my hourglass run out of sand?
With my feet firmly planted upon the weak wood floor
I turn the knob and I open the door...

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Farmer

A paper crane sat in the middle of the trail that morning, right in the shadow of the abandoned tower. The farmer stooped and picked it up, puzzled.

The farmer walked past the abandoned tower every time he went to town. Nearly every weekend he had to take that trail to get supplies, and so he would pass the tower on the way there, and again on the way back, and not once had he ever heard a sound from within, nor seen any movement. So where had this come from?

He unfolded the crane, and inside, a message was written:

Dear noble sir, it read. I have watched you from the top of my tower for many years now, and think you very handsome. I believe I may love you. I am trapped here by oni who have cast a curse on me so that I may only be carried out of this tower by the man I love. Please help me.

Thinking it odd, but never one to turn down a woman in distress, the farmer turned to the tower and approached the door. Mounted above it was a blood-red katana and an oni mask of matching color. Shrugging his shoulders, the man slowly opened the door. He slipped inside the dark, musty room, which was nothing more than the floor and the bottom of a flight of stairs. He tiptoed to the stairs, but before he could take the first step, a flash of light burst in front of his face.

Floating in front of him was the bodiless head of an oni. It glowed an eerie green and had large tusks and horns protruding from its grotesque face.

“She will not love you. Turn back,” it growled in a voice that seemed to speak directly into the farmers mind.

The farmer shoved the levitating head out of the way and ascended the steps to the second floor, where he was met by a second oni.

“No matter what you do, she will never love you. Turn back.”

The farmer pushed ahead anyway. All told, there were nineteen floors, each with their own oni, which each warned him similarly.

Finally, panting heavily, the farmer reached the top, where there was a door. He pushed it open and stepped inside. There was a bed inside, and sitting upon it was the most beautiful woman the farmer had ever seen. He gulped nervously and tried to look presentable. He greeted her warmly and told her that he had received her note and that he was going to take her away with him. She smiled a dazzling smile and embraced him tightly, and then kissed him.

“Thank you, my love,” she whispered sweetly in his ear. “I knew you’d come.”

He led her back down the stairs, but the oni did not appear this time. Without any struggle, they left the tower, and walked down the trail back to the farmer’s home.

There they stayed for nineteen months, and they were deeply in love and deeply happy. But on the day before the twentieth month, the woman asked him an odd question.

“When are you going to take me to my castle?”

The farmer was puzzled at the question.

“What castle do you mean?”

“I am a princess after all, surely you didn’t think to rescue me without having a proper castle to take me back to?”

“I confess that I didn’t, my love. But I’ll build you a castle if that would make you happy.”

“Yes, do it now.”

“It will take time, my love.”

“Then you should get all of your fellow samurai to help you,” she said irritably.

Another strange thing to say, the farmer thought.

“I am not a samurai, my love. I am a farmer.”

“Then you must become one. I can’t be with a lowly farmer.”

“I will train to join the samurai, for you, but it will take time.”

“Time is something I do not have,” she hissed.

“Am I not worth waiting for, my love?” the farmer pleaded.

“No, you are not. I do not love you anymore and never will,” she said coldly.

The farmer stared at her in shock. He could feel his soul crumble as she spoke those words.

“I miss my home, please take me back.”

The farmer nodded silently and picked up a lantern. He led her down the trail to the tower and opened the door for her, tears welling up in his eyes. She lifted his chin and looked at him intensely.

“Do not cry,” she said with a smile. “A little part of you will always be with me.”

She kissed him gently and then disappeared into the shadows of her tower. The door shut silently behind her. The man collapsed to his knees, sobbing. He looked up to the top of the tower, hoping to see her face looking down, but he saw nothing. His gaze lowered down the tower until it fell upon the oni mask and the blood-red sword. He pulled them both down from their place above the door and tied the mask on.

He raised the blade…