Saturday, December 22, 2012

The End or the Beginning?

Certainly not my title, but it's apt, no?  I'm sorry this isn't up sooner, but the end of the world was upon us, and I really didn't have time with everything else that was going on.

Anyhow, my good friend Morgan Myers took over editorial duties for The Williamsport Guardian for the December/January issue.  The local paper is known for "promoting awareness, arts, culture and education in north-central PA," and what better way to do that through poetry.  Although I don't have much faith in myself sometimes, I'm quite lucky to be blessed with this writing that just flows through me.

I've got two environmentally-minded pieces on page 8 and 14, my reactions to all the "fracking" going on locally.  Page 11 features an special interest piece with inspiration from a friend of mine.

Incidentally, these are the first three pieces I've had published.  Make sure you pick up your hard copy at Avenue 209 Coffee House or other local outlets.


They’ve given the business
to my mother’s favorite hill,
just off Little Plum Run Road.
Once, a cascading glade,
the kind you’d see
in those old movies
couples, bounding
endless love in
slow motion.
Science and Progress
their noble steeds
in the name of domestic independence
these star-crossed lovers
lost, the flames from the rigs
blotting out the night,
targets of this endless
economic war.
Taken up arms
taking aim
as we, our protest signs
our faltering flags
the white fields of surrender
with the soot
of a cleaner,
more “natural” gas.
Fracking 900ft
beneath the surface,
much too far
to do any harm.
Besides, these are safe chemicals,
parts per million.

Enjoying the view
from your ivory towers
as they dig our graves
one well at a time.


My heart is heavy.

Rock of ages.
strip mined
of what’s stuck beneath
the surface.

All this runoff
just so I could,
baring it all
and laying it to waste.

A cold coal
of once-living
stratified plants,
and these dinosaur’s bones
as layer
upon stinking layer,
the fecal fecundity
of fickle feelings
though it seems
as if it doesn’t

The hardness,
burning hot and dirty
so close to beauty
can’t see
for buried too deep.

Time and pressure,
like Superman,
taken in his hands
to make a diamond
out of me.

“Every time I hand him an olive branch, he whittles it into a Lincoln Log and adds it to his angry fort.”

Dove done gone pecked out mah eyes
an’ made nests outta tha sockets.
At’s why ah cain’t see straight.
Well, that, an’ tha pigtails
you been pullin’
an’ takin’ off yer kiddie gloves,
no punches, neither.

We continue
to play this game
cowboys an’ injuns
wrangling me
from the safety
of my tee-pee
saving me
from whichever gods
I hold dear.

Square dancin’
line dancin’
doin’ the Texas Star
all over mah feelings.

Offerin’ up this here white flag
mah handkerchief
symbologizin’ surrender
and you give me no quarter.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Apples & Honey

Well… onceuponatime waybackwhen longlongago at the very beginning of things, man and bear used to be a bit more…civilized with each other.

Oh, it wasn’t like it is now, the bears is raiding our chicken coops and our honeyhives.

No, in fact it was the bears that taught us how to treat them honeybees all nice-like to get ‘em to work for us.  They knew just the right time to get the smoke going under the hives to put those bees to sleep.  Ah, but once they wake up and get to work: what happy honey those hives harbor.  

But enough about the bees for the moment.  Though the bears lived in the mountains and man lived in the cities, they was still friends.  The bears knew all about hunting and honey and woodworking while men knew all about farming, building and mechanicals.

They worked hard in those days (much harder than some do now, mind me) and there’re even some folk say the bears worked twice as hard, it being their job to tend to all the flora and fauna of the forests they was responsible for.  And man, well, let’s just say they got fat and slow, like most of them farm animals they gots to take care of.

Yet no matter where you hailed from, hills and valley or anywhere in between, the thing that they all had most in common was baseball.

They held their tournaments here, Haven being the center of all of Clint, and the same distance for just about everyone to get to from everywhere.  Keating Mountain Keggers, Spangler’s Spokes, Hammer’s Mill—you name ‘em, this is where they played.

Petty’s has always had their ball fields here, but what is now apple trees was once rows upon rows of the freshest sweet corn you ever did taste, better than that over in Logan’s Valley, mind me.  Corn over here stretchted up both sides of the magical Sus’kenna River, back when its magic waters still ran pure.

The season had gone well (as well as it ever could with a team like the Cubbies bumping everyone out of the brackets) and the home field advantage went to Haven’s own Petty’s Punch against the mythical Cubbies Clubber’s.

The stands were packed, and the crowd was throwing a big hullabaloo—chanting, cheering, mascots chasing each other about the field.  The crowd was getting rowdier, the ballads bawdier, and the moonshine flowing fine. 

But what really moved them was the game.  It looked as if the Cubbies were going to clinch it again this year, but as the Punch took to the dugout, there was an air about the boys that was hard to ignore.

It didn’t take long until it was the bottom of the ninth, and though the bases were loaded, there were two outs and the Punch was still down by three.  Now…the air that was hard to ignore…well, it had blown out of the Punch’s sails.   

But…up to the plate swaggered Sullivan Slugger.  Well, Sullivan didn’t let that first pitch go by without swinging.  Strike one.  And the second?  You guessed it:  strike two.   But the third? 

Well, ‘ol Slugging Sullivan lived up to his namesake, and boy-howdy connected with a loud CRACK that split the bat in half and tore the hide clean off the ball.  The Cubbies could only watch in disbelief as the ball flew over their heads, knowing all was lost.  Both sides cheered and greeted the Punch on the ball field while the Cubbies lowered their heads in defeat, and retreated to the cornfield to search for the missing baseball.

The game had taken most of the evening, and by now it was getting late, but there was a full moon rising, and they went deeper into the cornfields…it had to be around there somewhere, right?  Now on top of getting awful late, the Cubbies were getting a might tired and hungry to boot.  They’d been walking a long time.

Harvest had come and gone, and the crop had been especially high that year on account of the Great Flood after the spring thaw, and ‘sides, all had had their fair share of corn for awhile.  Yet with their tum-tums rumbling, them industrious bears smelled something better.

It was in that instant that they saw it, as if their rumblings and ramblings had opened up the earth.  There before them grew a gi-normous tree, branches ripe with buds near-big as the baseball they were a-searching for.  Having not been there mere moments ago, not to mention being a superstitious people, the bears assumed that the magic of the full moon on Hallow’s Eve coupled with the fertile land and the pure waters of the Sus’kenna—anything could happen.  And as in this case, it usually did. 

As the bears approached the tree, the buds exploded, opening into the dazzling white apple blossoms.  And even though the night air was chilly, heat radiated from the tree, pulling warmth from the good earth.  Hot sap pumped through the tree’s veins, they could hear it’s lifeblood beneath the bark, now joined by a chorus of bees. 

The bears looked up in awe as the bees made their way in and out between the branches.  Blossoms fell upon the bears as the temperature dropped outside the canopy of the apple tree and snow blanketed the outer world. 

Patiently, they waited.  It was by instinct, and their protesting stomachs longed for the fruit that was bound to form before long.  The bears eyed the limbs hungrily, heavy-laden with apples, mouths watering as the fruit reddened in the night air, and the bees lit upon the bears’ shoulders saying:

            Pleez eat from the treez, but do not dizturb our honey hivez within the hollowz  
            of our homez.

One was only to harvest from the hive, as the bears had promised no to even longer ago.  The bears promised again not to (in typical bear fashion) and the bears stuck to eating of the tree.  They ate and ate and ate until the apples filled the bears’ bellies to bursting.  But bears being bears, hungry and tired as they were, made the move to eat something sweeter.  Hmph—and you thought the apple was the forbidden fruit.

Though the bears knew how to treat them bees, they waited for ‘em to fall into a restless sleep, even though they didn’t have any smoke to put ‘em down.  So there they were, sticking it to them bees, the bears’ arms up to the elbow in honeycomb.  A-course, the bears getting stuck was the first of their problems.  It didn’t take long for those bees to wake and take flight once they found out they’d been stung.

But the bees stung back.  And it didn’t take long for the bears to realize they were on the wrong end of the deal.  The sheer number of bees sacrificing their lives for the cause decimated the population, but they won out in the end.

The bees attacked, over and over again, until the bears freed their paws from their prison.  As much as those stingers stung, there was nothing worse than one getting stuck under the thick skin of the bears.  The bears pawed and clawed at the bees and the stickers, running back through the fields for their lives.  Running, this way and that, swarms of them bees confusing the bears.  And the bears having eaten too much of the apples and defecating all over the place, it wasn’t long until they all lost their way.

Now, even more tired than before, sluggish from their feast, and the honey sticking to them, slowing them down, the bears couldn’t help but pass out in the snow, sleeping that long slumber that we call hibernation.  Upon waking, the bears were a might testy, what with their rearends all stung and hurting from the apples and the bees. 

We never do see much of them anymore, keeping to the woods, except for when they come to rob us of our honey.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why so serious?

So, Thursdays are going to be review days.  For now, I suppose I'll alternate weeks with a new review from the Lock Haven Express with an older one from The Eagle Eye.  LHU Eagle Eye, 10/13/11

In keeping with the news, I've got this one that coincides with the release of the Dark Knight box set.

In it you will find:


Sunday, December 9, 2012


As per last week, you know that Pastor Josh over at The Common Place has asked me to write a poem in the weeks leading up to Advent.  In a stunning revelation, he chose to read John 1:1-14, verses that don't overtly include the Christ Child.

In keeping accord with the theme of introducing scripture to Christmas carols, Josh chose "What Child is This" and focused on verse two.  Personally, I think he just wanted to use the pulpit to get away with using the word "ass."

       Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!

In a stunning revelation, Pastor Josh chose to read John 1:1-14, verses that don't overtly include the Christ Child.  Instead of taking us back to the beginning where Christ was born (in the flesh,) John zips us way back to the beginning of everything to where the Trinity was just hanging out and God said: "Let there be light."  God has a message that he wants to communicate with us, and Jesus is how He wants to get that message across.

Christ wasn't accepted in his time because he taught something different than what the people wanted.  They wanted a king to avenge them by force.  It wasn't what Jesus came to do.  What is the voice of God telling you now?  What has He got to say to you in this moment?

Amid all the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, stop and listen a moment for that still, small voice.


Here's my poem:

What child is this?
to be the bearer
of our bad news
the burden of the cross
that he carries
the weight
of the whole world
in his hands
pierced by the nails
the physical embodiment
of our sin
my name
your name
your name
with the hammer of our conviction.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Perks of Being a Book Reviewer

I’m often amazed by the characters in the books I choose to read. I’m always a sucker for a good hero, especially those one would never expect to be so.

Lately, however (three times since I’ve started this column) I’ve included characters with severe psychological disorders. I’m wondering what that says about me.

I also wonder what it means when I’ve read something multiple times. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is one such book. It’s short and sweet, and easily accessible once you get around the stream-of-consciousness writing.

Charlie tells the story of his first year of high school, grueling and heartbreaking in the wake of a friend’s suicide.  Coupled with the typical teen angst of drinking, dating and trying to appease his peers, there’s something off about our boy.

Amid the concerned characters revolving in and out of Charlie’s life is his English teacher who keeps feeding him books and telling him to “participate” in life. It’s funny that the books his teacher delves out are those of folks living on the fringe.  Even funnier is that this book is one that he would recommend.

Charlie’s experiences are told through a series of letters about the mish-mash of experiences and his reactions in the face of all this change. You never get a handle on who he’s writing to, but it could be you as you carefully pick among pieces of Charlie’s brain. He’s been through a lot, but it is high school, so just go along for the ride.

(This review first appeared in The Lock Haven Express 12/06/12)

Monday, December 3, 2012

An "Empire State" of Mind

I'm not one to primp my own beard, but I can scarcely believe I made it this far into Monday without mentioning the sheer awesome that slapped me upside the head Friday evening.

Still new to this whole blog thing, I finally figured how to track just where my hits were coming from.  Turns out my REVIEW of Adam Christopher's Seven Wonders is up on his site!

So, not only did this make my weekend, but he's also got a sequel to Empire State coming out in March called The Age Atomic.  Just like in my review Empire State of Mind, Eagle Eye 04/26/12, you can't judge a book by its cover, but boy-howdy did they do a bang-up job.  Reminds me a lot of Metropolis, Sky Captain or The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Pastor Josh over at The Common Place asked me this past week to write up a poem to introduce Advent.  He's starting this five-week series leading up to Christmas with some sermons pointing to traditional Christmas carols and tying them into scripture and the Gospel.

The poem he had me write was about the shepherds, and I think I hit it.  I've been in a conversation recently with my buddy Ben over at about Advent calendars and the fact that Jesus doesn't get mentioned anymore.  You often just get candy (or in my case, Lego) and He's nowhere to be found.  Advent is about the coming of the Christ child, our savior.  This poem is a bit about that, and what you do get.  

Anyhow, Josh started his series discussing Luke 2:8-20, or the better known Peanuts Christmas special where Linus lays out the real meaning of Christmas.  Josh brought O Come, All Ye Faithful into the mix and the fact that the heavenly hosts made themselves (and Christ) known to shepherds of all people.

"Worship is gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth." says John Piper in Desiring God.  Pastor Josh says that the attitude behind the gift we've been given reflects back to the giver.

What have you been given?  What've you got to give?


The countdown to Christmas
isn’t about what’s behind
door number one.
All of that
is already behind you.

Leading up
to this
the culmination
of the many rooms
within His mansion.

No room at this inn
is no matter.

Shiftless shepherds
make their way.
Sleeping out under the stars
better than behind bars
of the rooms
that keep us
locked away.

Unending numbered days
far afield,
common as
the countless stars above.
How, then,
did they get to be
the chosen ones
to see the star
of the advent
of the
Chosen One?

Friday, November 30, 2012

O Discordia!

I've not yet figured out much of a running functionality to The Oracular Beard yet and I'm getting into a habit of just posting something whenever I feel like it.  In the coming weeks, I'm going to bust my hump to make a more streamlined effort in making my web presence established.

So today, for your listening and reading enjoyment, I'm posting one of the debut songs from my new musical collective Whitman's Ghost.  The chorus and musical arrangement is by band member Aron Agerton and the verses are adapted from the poem of the same name by yours truly.

Whitman's Ghost. O Discordia.

This is the original poem for you.  It was after a break-up where I wasn't sure where I was headed, but remembered all the pain I'd been getting, but at the same time dishing out my own.  Definitely wasn't on the path I was needing to be on.

It's also got a bunch of literary reference, the majority of which come from Stephen King's magnum opus The Dark Tower.  It's this sprawling western/fantasy epic that kicks butt over seven novels (there's more now) and has some pretty strong connections to the rest of his work.  All told, there's a bunch of reference that has our main character spinning his wheels trying to make up for his past.

O Discordia

I am me, and you are not
I am the last thing that I've got
all these open doors will soon be shut
here I come, ready or not

I have not forgot the face of my father
or the clearing at the end of the path
the direction of my travels tend to wander
until I'm faced with the aftermath
I'm going down, my guns a-blazin'
out of bullets when I turn to the sword
zig and zag those peals of lightning
as if I'd forgotten what I'm fighting for

I am me, and you are not
I am the last thing that I've got
all these open doors will soon be shut
here I come, ready or not

bodies piled high in the courtyard
it's not the outcome we deserve
seeing through shades of gray is so hard
when all along it's the white we're to serve
not that I aim to take no prisoners
the price to fight for our sake
and as the ranks are growing thinner
dead and wounded lie in our wake

bang bang, shoot shoot
we deal our trade in lead
happiness is a warm gun
forever pointed at your head
call off these harriers
please, please, and thankee sai
break down these barriers
and remove the plank from my eye

all is quiet on the western front
not a sound to be heard
picking, poking, prodding at the remains
is a single, solitary bird
this old crow's wings been clipped
hopping back and forth from corpse to corpse
all that's left that seems alive
is this sputtering, guttering, blackened torch

I am me, and you are not
I am the last thing that I've got
all these open doors will soon be shut
here I come, ready or not

Don't click on this next link unless you want major spoilers to the series!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hunting things that hunt you in the night...

Future vampires, sexy vampires, teen angst vampires. 

Now there’s even Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

The market these days is dripping in vampiric and supernatural literature. And while I’m never one to shirk the ghosts and goblins, especially around Halloween, I don’t really know the nitty gritty about most things that go bump in the night.

Not to worry.  Lee Collins’ debut novel The Dead of Winter takes care of that for us.

This dark fantasy novel set in the wild west follows the adventures of a team of “monster hunters.” What makes this band of heroes unique is the husband-and-wife team of Cora and Ben Oglesby. She’s a boozin’, gamblin’ lady with a hair-trigger temper. Ben does the book learnin’ and doesn’t talk much.

The story opens in the mining town of Leadville, Colorado, that has a problem with a pesky creature called a wendigo. After a few harrowing encounters, Cora regroups to her priest confidant in Denver to get the skinny of the baddie. In short order, she returns to dispose of the beastie and collect the bounty.

I can’t gush quite enough as to how well this book holds up. The vampires and gunslinging are all well and good, but where the light really breaks through the clouds is the attention to character detail. Collins subtly weaves backstory with plotlines and introduces characters whom are ripe for exploration in further installments.

This is another offering of Angry Robot Books who even as a smaller publisher of fantasy and science fiction excel at their craft. I’ve had the opportunity to read half a dozen titles, and they only get better.
The Dead of Winter is scheduled for an October 30 release.  Just in time to scare the socks off you.

(Originally published in The Lock Haven Express as Books with your Barista, 10/25/12)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

LHU Eagle Eye 02/16/2012

Three things I am thankful for (among many) on this Thanksgiving day.  

Listen, read, enjoy.

It was the year of the Beatles
 it was the year of the Stones
 it was the year after JFK

Paul Simon
The Late Great Johnny Ace


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Interview I

As my first post to the new-ish blog, I thought I'd let loose a little and give you a glimpse to not only the process, but how I cope on a day-to-day basis.  There's a lot going on up there, and I've just started interviewing myself when I can't seem to get the words down on the page.  

Now that the blog's back up and running, I'll be sure to post "interviews" as they happen.  This is from a long weekend back in late September in the southern tier of New York.  The in-laws always get the Sunday Times, and it always makes for good reading.

So, Jared, what're you working on today?

Not too sure yet.  I've had my cuppa and some breakfast cereal, doped around on the internets.  Did read an article about ephemera of New York City earlier.  More than likely it'll be Metro again today.

Isn't that something like the third book in the series?

Yah.  I got caught up reading this old issue of the New York Times talking about this sightseeing tour of the city, by boat.  There were two things that struck me as interesting, so I jumped on 'em.

How the inspiration hits me.  It makes connection to stuff I've already thought of and it unravels onto the page.

Sure, third book, but it'll lead me to something farther (or earlier) on down the road.

Doesn't it get confusing?  Frustrating?


I mean, I've been working on this stuff since time outta mind.  I'd love for it to be written so it's not in my head anymore or so I could work on something else.

Then I realize--this is it.  If it weren't for this story, there wouldn't be the Jared you know now, interviewing himself instead of "writing."

I've a few other ideas rolling around up there, but the reason they haven't made their way out is that they're not ready yet either.  I'm working on it, piecemeal, and it's coming.

Patience is all.

This is all part of the process.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Counting more than seven wonders

Books With Your Barista
Jared A. Conti

Counting more than seven wonders

I may never get to be the superhero I long to in my own mind: the sting of bullets bouncing off my torso, the rising temperature behind my eyes before heat vision kicks in, losing my breath running at mach speeds, or my absolute favorite, just seeing what this great city looks like from above, under the powers of flight.

No longer. Adam Christopher has taken care of that for me.

Christopher’s first outing turned detective noir fiction on its ear, bending and breaking where he saw fit with alternate realities gone awry in Empire State, a tough mystery at best. His second novel Seven Wonders, however, plays superheroes straight, and it reads like any good comic should.

From the get-go, we’re thrown into the action—our “hero” is just beginning to realize the extent of his newly-begotten powers and foiling (with little grace) San Ventura’s one and only remaining villain. Seven Wonders throws a new spin on the arch-nemesis, and I use hero loosely, because face it: sometimes learning how to use your newfound skill set is just as important as what you do with it.

A wildly imaginative cast is introduced in the super team, police force and the villain that for some reason they can’t seem to put down. At one point during the novel’s climax, Christopher spends a page or two listing off a roster of ancillary characters whom not only sound impressive in name, but even more fun comes from deciphering what their powers might be according to their codenames.

Seven Wonders keeps you guessing until the very end, as twists and turns abound amid the action. The story jumps out of comic panels with more excitement better than the latest issue of your favorite hero…or summer blockbuster.

Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher landed in stores August 28.

Jared A. Conti is a local writer, blogger and Lock Haven University graduate who spends his work time as a barista at Avenue 209 Coffee House. He would love to hear your suggestions on great books, movies or comics to review. He can be reached at