The empty years stretch ahead of me, a desert without an oasis. I begin my journey with some hesitancy, knowing that the roads behind me are all blocked. Yet I cannot stay where I am either. That is an even greater peril. So I go forth on a path none have traveled though knowing I will well meet the passersby in the crossroads from time to time; that thought hangs in the back of my mind, giving comfort to the few provisions of my soul. The sands are hot, burning the bare soles of my feet with increasing intensity, the sun shines brightly over my naked body, but I continue on nonetheless, the burden growing daily from my frequent stumbles and falls. Now and then, I give a hearty greeting to some fellow wanderer in the dust and we embrace briefly, exchanging a hug and a kiss on either cheek before going our separate ways. The sun begins its descent; the moon and stars beckon at some greater distance. Ahead of me, I see the crags of mountains filling the sky like some greater need. I let out a sigh of gratitude and go forward to my destination, the place where horizons meet.
Once when I was young
and the life still dwelled in my bones,
I gathered together
the fortunes of my forefathers
and sent my ships far asea.
Across a trail, from a beach,
over where the rivers rage highest
from some distant mountain.
There lay Fredericktowne,
a distant dream;
a village of scant understanding.
There where the surveyors would plan,
my grandsons and great-grandsons would yet build.
A place for the evening mass
and the crooked thought.
Of the slaves’ early rebellion
down by the creek
where the dead men sat and wondered,
I gave no thought.
I thought only of charts and maps
and the pennies in my pocket.
Shame I shall never see
the sights that brought me down.
STEEPLED SPIRES AND CLUSTERED TOWN
Will S. Mayo
Steepled spires and clustered town,
cantankerous old men of the town,
watchful manchild peering through the town
that raised him up
to be a man,
tore him down
to be a child,
with small town eyes
slanted toward tinted vagaries
for small town norms,
he thinks with
young and old passions,
"This town belongs to me,
and I belong to it."
Garbage sale remedies
and small town blues,
manchild remains a newcomer to memory,
the citizen between steepled spires and clustered town.
Tell me, was there ever any day like yesterday?
Like the time we stumbled down a grass strewn slope,
landing in each other's arms all out of breath,
hoping school would never arrive?
Or perhaps the time we snuck a beer
in hopes we'd never be discovered?
A kiss stolen quickly from our first girl
(whose name we just can't recall)?
Weddings we attended.
Buddies we buried before their time and ours.
Till at last we grew old ourselves
and longing for some greater past.
Tell me, Brother, was there ever any day like yesterday?
a wisp of smoke
Caught between the denigration of life
and the whore of paradise,
I wander the earth.
My name, a wisp of wind.
My feet, the dust blowing in the air.
Together, they meet in a duststorm, a waterspout,
a pillar of fire, reaching to the skies.
The mountains are my home
as well as the valleys.
I ponder a sea of air,
a cave of ice.
I meditate in deepest silence
and the cacophony of a thousand birds.
When the will comes, I shall speak.
Otherwise, I listen.
And wait for the sound of thunder.
I'll finish with a few more of Will's flash fictions.
My Father And The Great Bull
One of those childhood memories I harken to as I get older is that time about 45 summers ago at the family farm when my father, a veterinarian by trade, was attempting to dehorn a bull both for its safety and ours and the bull suddenly let loose from his grasp and went charging towards us little kids helping out with the day to day work at the end of the pen.
My father looked about frantically for something with which to extricate himself from this situation and, seeing an old piece of hide lying about the pen, used it as a makeshift bullwhip.
“God damn you,” he said to the bull with the anger of a father who feared for his children’s safety. “God damn your sorry ass.” And rapidly lashed the whip about the ground.
The bull came charging towards us kids anyway and bashed its head and horns against the walls of the corral as we boys climbed the walls of the pen seeking cover. Then turned around and headed toward my father.
My father, with fear rapidly turning towards anger, lashed the bull about its body as it ran about what was increasingly seeming to be a very small space.
“Damn you. Damn you,” my father said and whipped the beast about the neck sending it flying out the gate and into the fields beyond our simple catch pen.
With apparent frustration, my Dad, normally a quiet scholarly man in his day job performing research on laboratory mice, watched off into the field with a distant look in his eyes.
“I guess we’ll have to start over again,” he said. We climbed down and began to work. It was but another day about the family farm.
The clearing is a desolate place, full of sawdust, torn timber, and rotting logs. Machinery noises its way to the surface and the air is filled with foul odors and unpleasant emanations. It is a place devoid of all life, save man’s.
Such was not always the case. Once deer roamed the meadow where the clearing now stands, munching contentedly on weeds and wild herbs that grew with their roots so deep in the verdant earth. Surrounding the meadow, the forest stretched for hundreds of miles, pausing only occasionally for a rapidly flowing river or a frothy stream filled with trout, themselves the nibblers of microscopic things that filled the worlds that no animal eye could see, or bird’s either, for that matter.
And beyond all this, in ages long ago, before the reckoning of man or beast, great monsters rumbled through the land, their reptile feet catching many a small mouse-like animal and tossing him into the chasm of a mouth filled with fangs many yards across. This then was the age of legends, when bloodthirst, not minds, determined one’s destiny.
No more. The man with the saw fells first one limb, then another, finally a whole tree. Soon a shopping center shall dawn here, filled with the Golden Arches, a Barnes And Noble, a Tires ‘R Us. Many miles of traffic shall snake along the highway. Passersby will argue at coffee stands and over hot dogs. Housewives will grow drowsy and bored, reading romance novels and dreaming of a knight that will never arrive. Their husbands will grow old at jobs that will never go beyond the corporate ladder. Whilst their children shall play at games that will take them further and further away from the reality of the moment.
The tree slams into the sawdust as the bloody rays of the sun crawl over the last horizon. The man steps away from the clearing, from the place of desolation. Steps into a combustion-powered vehicle, calls it a day.
Overhead, a buzzard floats in languid circles above what was once a meadow, hoping for any prey that might linger too long near the man’s shadow. His mind the absence of any thought he watches carefully as night slowly encompasses the land.
Me And The Stripper
It began with the strike of a match on a hot summer afternoon in June of ’85 and ended a month later in a beer fogged glaze in a lonely stripper bar, but in there laid a world of difference. I was young then (no excuse at all, I know) and quite literally insane, attending classes on a crowded urban campus by day and making my way through the ways of flesh by nights lit only by a two faced moon. I knew somewhere in there that there had to be something wrong in all this madness but as to what it was I had absolutely no idea. Rather, I continued on as if it was quite all right, attending lectures in post feminist theory in early morning. Then, hours later, to an antiapartheid rally over sushi and crackers. Followed, as if it were only the rightful order of things, to Lady Godiva’s performance on Queen’s Chapel Road.
And who was this creature, born of night, who enticed me so easily like the once legged reptile in the Garden Of Eden? Well, before you, Dear Reader, go on making wild assumptions as to beauty, class, and charm, let me assure you that this girl was by no means a “lady.” Instead, if you were to peer with me into this lens of her suffering, you would see needle tracked arms and legs, a junkie’s listless eyes, and breasts hung like a child’s from shoulders sagging with despair. This was no radiant beauty. This was no class act. No, here, Friend, was the worm of a Tequila bottle ripe for the bite. I have here no illusions in my simple tale, no little men pulling magic tricks behind the curtain as fairyteller Baum would have it. No, Sir, here is only rock bottom despair from which redemption might only come from dirty streets and a whore’s angry cry. There with, beware my tale.
How our paths met was most simple indeed. I sat there at the stage, nursing that All American Budweiser while she, up above, went through her motions about the May pole as she had done a hundred, no, a thousand, no, gang, let’s make that a million times before, oblivious as usual to my sight. Without question, I was just another guy in the bar watching her performance in life’s mud puddle. But, then again, that may never have changed. Only the opportunity presented itself to be proven by the parties in question. Such has happened ever since Jezebel first presented her skirts to the king, and, no doubt, will continue long after we are gone from this earth. That’s the road we walk on, hard and rocky as it is.
Well, I lit my match for the cigarette (bumming it from the tight skirted waitress as was my wont), lighting it on the brown pad that sidled the pack and sliding the whole thing back in my pocket without giving much more thought to the matter. I lifted my beer bottle and my now lit Kool smoke instanteously to my mouth as if to sample both at the same time when my shirt went up in flames. I had not even bothered to blow the match out before sticking the cinder into my pocket! Flames blew up from my shirt as my beer bottle and cigarette went rolling on the floor. Before I knew it, the waitress and the stripper were both by my side.
“Do you need some help?” the waitress asked while I ripped out the pocket from my shirt, scattering ashes and soot onto the edge of the bar from the heel of my hand.
“Yeah,” I said. “Another beer.”
“Right up,” the still dressed girl replied while the naked one hung from her metal pole, saying, “Cool.” And so it began.
The stripper wrapped a robe of green dragons about herself and joined me on the floor, me with my shirt hanging in rags from my forearms, she with but little else to tell. And so we talked. She discussed life on the streets and in rehab centers while I spoke of classes on campus as if she was just another coed from a dorm across the way (now that she was down from the stage that made all the difference in the world). We drank our beers (complimentary drinks were the order of the day) and spoke of matters large and small, from global politics (hey, girl, dig that Ayatollah!) to our choice of smokes, and pressed our still clothed bodies to one another with the ease of practiced lovers discovering some new road to travel. Afterwards, a hug, a kiss, and a goodbye with the promise to meet again. And again. Hell, as many times as possible. While she was possibly in mind of just another trick, I was after some crazed romance, as if this was just an overgrown little boy’s latest bag of tricks. How quickly we learn.
We met every day after classes and stripping affairs, again discussing things as if nothing was the matter. A whole world of futures unknown appeared before us, from new dances to learn to post modern economics in the world of today’s junkies. We met over drinks paid with ill gotten gains and talked about a life together; dreaming both with lust and puppy dog love intermingled together. Tables for two, please. Always.
I mentioned the possibility of her moving in with me. She did the same and then some. We’d meet outside the bar, tongues dancing as her scarred legs might, and discussed this as if it were the most natural thing to do. Never mind that our two worlds would scarce meet in those rooms, filled as they were with pictures of middle class parents and shelves of tattered paperbacks on Post-Beat literature. Until the day came that a fork appeared in the world and we each walked our separate paths. She, to an early grave. Me, well, back to Momma. And so it goes.
One day, it seems, I stopped in the bar after one too many drinks under my belt already and sat at a table far away from the stage, indifferent to her world and mine. She danced her way through another number and sat before a gentleman three chairs from me who enticed her with his silence. I sat peering at the label on my bottle, reading the ingredients (hops, water), thinking perhaps some answer to my problems lay beneath its surface. She waved me to come sit with her and the well dressed (coat, tie) man who stared straight across thin air to his property. Over and over, she beckoned me to her world and that of what could only be her pimp, her dealer, or an animal of erstwhile persuasion, but there was a wall I could not cross even in the state I was in. The beer foamed in my glass. The sweat misted its way onto my glasses. And the next thing I knew, I was on my feet, the half empty mug behind me, the dusk filling the ruddy sky of the doorway before me, my steps echoing in the streets all around.
Behind me, I could hear some strange ragged voice calling out into the night, “What about us?” But I walked on, rendered whole if only for a moment. Home was still a dream away.
The other day I was trying to find a YouTube version of Michael Nesmith's "Joanne", so here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyKHtUntrp4
This song is one of my favorites, and I think that it goes well with Will's work.
So does "The Crippled Lion," also by Nesmith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXtMnPRtT8E
Might as well make it a trifecta with his "Hollywood": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_2ezShBhXw