Friday, October 31, 2014

Cold Call

         This one's getting a lot of play lately, specifically since I didn't have much to read. (Least of These hadn't made it in reprint yet.) I hadn't read it in awhile, but it was nice to relive it.
        My former professor asked me to send it so her poetry class could discuss it. Here it is for you.
        Oh, hey, I almost forgot. You can buy the ebook of Back in the Saddle here

Cold Call

I fell in love tonight
with the operator
on the other end of the

Going farther
than I’d ever been
trying every which way
back and forth
until we were satisfied.

But in the end
we knew it had to.

Giving all of ourselves
there was nothing left to give
other than a premature goodbye
as we disconnect

and hold on

for the next available representative.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bearded Ballads: That Sinking Feeling

I dreamed about
what I remembered 'bout you
it wasn't good
but I wished you well anyway
you were not yet
the person you'd become
wouldn't recognize you
if you passed me on the street today

I heard your voice
amid all the noise
like a lazy broken record
crackling radio static
a Sunday preacher
bringing me Good News
A-men and hallelujah
finally knew what I meant to ya
how we spent these last few years
and now there's nothing left to lose

Oh, where had
where had our love gone
it was still there
if you looked real wonky and maybe crossed your eyes
things kept floating
nothing better left to do
then wallow in it
instead of setting out for a bigger prize

I heard your voice
amid all the noise
like a harpy out at sea
sings her siren song to me
sounds so lovely
till you're closer to the truth
what on earth are you afraid of?
show 'em what you're made of
circling back around
relying too much on the azimuth

tossed upon the rocks
shipwrecked, abandoned
captain of the the boat I've had a hand in
excuses pouring in like water
she's been that way for years

Thursday, August 7, 2014

...and that is the truth.

Welcome to Throwback Thursday here at The Oracular Beard!

Was feeling frisky just now, so I figured I'd dig through my old Facebook notes and post this instead of a picture.

This is a song directly after a break-up (two months or so) to the point where I was moving on, I think. There're some themes that have traveled to other songs and poems, but I like this. I don't recall writing it.

As an added bonus, there're some Dark Tower references here.


glad to be a part of something bigger
when all I can think of is myself
I would like to stop thinking of her
but I'm accustomed to this hell
flames lapping up about my feet
as she pours on gasoline
how I tied myself so tight to this tree
no wonder I cannot be free

oh how the fire it keeps on burning
oh unto a crispy black
all these things I should be learning
if I could only have her back

all the while I've been plotting
how I can triumph from this test
all these hecklers are a'watching
as I dance the dance of death
throw upon those useless branches
as smoky 'membrances rise higher
there go my bridges with my chances
as my vision's growing tired.

oh how the fire it keeps on burning
oh unto a crispy black
all these things I should be learning
if I could only have her back

calling out across the courtyard
calling out across the square
as my breath escapes me so hard
calling up into the air
someday soon I shall be born again
like a phoenix from the ash
I plead for all the help that you can send
so I can let go of my past

Sunday, August 3, 2014

How the Hummingbird Got His Sound

The glassy red feeder is dry, but I fill it up
with my words, ink drying as quickly as liquid sugar
as it permeates upon this page, sticky,
with the sensation of saccharine and empty calories.

There is a corona about my hands as my characters waltz airlessly
through the story, their auras attaining a rose-colored hue
memories of you and I. Even bad times
shade every sentence.

Hummingbirds, zumming across the porch
to sample its sweetnes, spanning
galaxies, singing space operas
with the force of their dancing wings.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Epic Beards of Review: CMYK

The bright blue cover staring at me two weeks ago in the comic shop did more than just that. It whispered and beckoned to me with its come hither stare. It seduced me with its four-color blocks. 

The fact that it was a Vertigo title made it even sexier.

I hate to admit this, especially this early in the game: sometimes, I’m not the nerd I purport myself to be. The letters CMYK in those four-color blocks taunted me, but I couldn’t remember why.

My nerdy mojo must be off.

For the uninitiated, CMYK (that is to say [C]yan, [M]agenta, [Y]ellow and [B]lack ) are the four colors that make up the basic building blocks of color comics. You can combine these colors to get just about any hue you want. Vertigo (a mature DC Comics imprint) is known for their quarterlies and one-shots in recent years, and this year they’re making an attempt for these colors to serve as a 
base for their writers and artists.
The “blue” theme works well enough here, though it’s not as solid as some previous installments such as Time Warp and Ghosts. Not to say the offerings this quarter weren’t stellar: they just didn’t fit together solidly. Have no fear, there’re buckets of good things happening here.

There are three “price of fame” pieces that resonate deeply for one reason or another. The book opens up with a pretty gritty ditty about a girl the papers who they’re tagging with the moniker of “Banksy of Murder.” Another visits a washed-up has-been pop starlet making way for new blood. In the third, Madame Bluebeard takes a stab at the old folktale pairing a gay male with a woman to make their Hollywood relationship seem passable. This is by far the funniest offering in the issue, with a realization at the end as to who the narrators are.

Just two tales feel incomplete, or perhaps I’m clamoring for more. One such story, Blue Sundae, is about two British ice cream truck drivers. What starts out as a crazed call in the middle of the night turns into heroes battling supernatural forces beyond their understanding. And did I mention they’re British?

These nine stories showcase the intricacies of pacing within six-to-eight pages and the oomph contained therein to tell a tale. Different writers and artists bring about a deeper storytelling that works hand-in-hand to properly get the job done. These six-to-eight-page stories fit the format of the medium well, and the re-readability makes for a well-spent eight dollars. It can be a pretty hefty sum to pay for a comic, but I’ve not been disappointed yet. 

Very much looking forward to next quarter with [M]agenta.

This review originally appeared in the July 3 issue of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette Showcase.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fairy Tales for Unbelievers

lately I've been having trouble sleeping
not because you snore or he needs to feed
aches and pains they come and go to these old bones
still sometimes I'm afraid to face my dreams

like spinning gold from piles of straw
just got to listen to where you're led
fairy tales for unbelievers
found the needle and I'll thread it 'til I'm dead

a month ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find them
they'll slink on in if you don't watch your back
not going gray, I swear, it's silver
biting at your heels they run in packs


these old eyes are sunk like ghosts
they've seen a lot they'd soon forget
but all that came before is how I came to you
and baby this is as good as it gets

I'm taking this journey
never thought that I'd be on
holding your hand and he in my arm
thankful I don't have to walk alone


Monday, July 7, 2014

Road Song

the open road called to him
the only thing that it could've been
didn't feel like just a whim
old 55 at the highest
needs to find what he's all about
he wants to scream and he wants to shout
leave behind all these aches and doubts
try, tryer, tryest

faith seemed to force his hand
riding cross this blasted land
coming back a changed man
what did you expect?
he had to cry, he had to grieve
he's seen things you would not believe
and soon again he'll have to leave
an another won'drous trek

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Family of Ghosts

Much like his father before him, Barry was a boy of the forests.  
                He’d taken to the trees like his old man, though Carl Woodson and his wife died much too young. Mad Cow, Chicken Sick, Hog Cough: one of the many flus that flew hard and fast following the fall. Barry Carlson will say he doesn’t remember any of the day his parents passed, but he has yet to forget that cold, sleepless night spent in the tree house outside his bedroom window. Now, long from his ancestral home, Barry had strayed far from the stands in which he and his family walked.
                Until his tenth year, the three of them ventured side by side, each of them a part of the landscape as the landscape was a part of them. His mother Mary taught him of the plants and animals, and of the webs that were so intimately woven between them all. His father saw what was hidden in each tree, the life that was given, and to what more they could give back. Barry listened, and he stored all these things in his heart.
                Barry, on the other hand, told stories.  He was gifted when it came to the word, and when he wasn’t listening, he was talking. His pappy had told him the old folks’ lore and he’d heard a lotta bit up the bend at Half-Truth. He had a penchant for telling his own tales to his mother and father when they could listen, or to the trees when they couldn’t.
                Sunlit days then, as the three of them held picnic, waiting for travelers to make their way along the Sus’kenna Road. They would stop in to barter, to and fro the inn at Half-Truth, always looking forward to seeing the family. Carl Woodson kept with the pleasant trees, offering up cider, syrup and an assortment of carved wooden items from walking to eating, or eating while you walked. His wife Mary, showcased all manners of fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, flowers and medicines. Barry liked to listen to the tales and talk of the town from Lou and Mr. Matt.
                His father tended to his carvings and his trees and his mother tended to her gardens and her bees.  Barry tended to the rock in the yard, staging elaborate battles with his much sought after collection of Yo Joes action figures. Though the set was meager, it varied greatly from change-bots to men with lasers coming out of their wrists to his prized Clark Kent in mid-change to Superman. It was the only one he had ever seen.
                Darker days, now.  He halted there at the top of the hill, struck still, and that was the beauty of it.  Barry was transfixed as the memories came and enveloped him much like the arms of his parents, feeding the tree from beneath the dirt. They were buried there, he knew. Nothing to mark the spot save the lone stone, nondescript in its permanence. There were no carvings upon the face of it to identify their internment therein.  This was where the simplicity stood out—you just had to know, the way Barry did.  Once you knew, you could never forget.
                Its proximity to a culvert that bordered the Sus’kenna Road lay just beyond the trees that lined the Woodson’s property. Pappy had planted the willow in the spring of his parents’ passing near the base of the rock, and the water fed it well. Shaded, the canopy drooping over the headstone lending cover from much of the harsher elements.None of this was lost on Barry: this rock was here in life as it was in death.  Time stood still for him. Then, as now at this moment, Barry’s heart was fixated with the certainty that this would be his final resting place as well. 
               He shivered, as if a goose walked over his grave. Unless, of course, it was he himself treading past, present and future, all in the same cautious step. 
               It was still early evening, but the homestead could wait until the morrow. It was best to do what scavenging they could in the full light of day. Barry knew the outlying buildings were on the verge of collapse, yet was thankful the main home structure wasn’t the frightening shambles that he purported it to be.  It bothered not that Ogethan continued down the hill as Barry paid his respects—until it was almost too late. 
               Even separated by the expanse of the drive, the house and then the pond opposite, Barry could still make out a little deer family at the wood’s edge. Bespeckled with white, a fawn was escorted by a majestic buck and regal doe. He felt and heard Ogethan’s deep intake of breath as the large man filled his lungs to capacity and his arm pulled back on the bowstring. 
               Barry barely had time to register that there was even a bow in the other man’s hands at all. He lifted his hand, slowly, so as not to startle his friend’s concentration.
Shoulders slumped, Ogethan slowly left his weight off the string. Grumpily, he loosed the arrow, and back into the quiver it went. Barry thought, not for the first time, that if there had been an arrow with a punching glove attached to the tip, Barry himself would be on the receiving end. The bigger of the two bared his teeth.
               “I had a clear shot, and dinner on the table.”
               “Our packs are full, buddy. Gramma Sal packed quite the spread for us.” Barry countered. 
               Ogethan muttered something unintelligible as they both turned to the house.
               They studied it from the drive, looked at it with a sense of humble trepidation. It was getting onto dusk and the bats were beginning to fly recklessly from all about the house. Even from this far, the boys ducked so as not to be assaulted. Their vantage point offered them a glimpse of the front porch, banister spindles missing like broken teeth, porch swing idly swung like a tongue. Eyes at half mast: sleepy, yet watchful. An addition to the house reached out for them.
                Ogethan shuddered.
                “You think it’s haunted, Bar'?”
                Barry just shrugged.
                “Wouldn’t doubt it.”

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Epic Beards of Review: Saga

One of the more exciting moments of this column will be discovering new things. Yes, from time to time, even I shall take the plunge. I myself, however, get the privilege to read some of these books for the second (or more!) times. Saga is written by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Runaways) and illustrated by Fiona Staples, a swashbuckling space-faring fantasy I could shout across galaxies.

Marko and Alana are in love. They’re of differing species, however, and they’ve a baby on the way. The only problem (okay, one of MANY) is that their species are at war with each other. The three of them are being chased across star systems by bounty hunters, in-laws and ex-girlfriends. There are quite a lot of hands involved with their daughter Hazel’s upbringing, and bringing up a little bagging is part of that.

Hazel’s story (and that of her parents’) is told from an indeterminate time in the future. We know her parents are no longer alive, already darkening the edges of our story. She is an unreliable narrator of sorts, beginning her tale at the as she makes her escape from the womb, unfolding as she bounces around between the past and present-day from somewhere farther along down the line.

With all that being said: this is NOT a family-friendly comic, nor is it what the kids these days call Not Safe For Work (NSFW.) There are copious amounts of violence, sex and swearing; almost so much so that I honestly had to think twice about this being my first column.

I won’t go into the gory details here because, frankly, some of those details paint gory in a good light. Staples paints us a lush picture of space travel and warmongering that’s worth a thousand words. Cliché, yes, but in those panels which there are no words, you begin to understand where I’m coming from.

Aside from great story and art, there are plenty of other shenanigans jangling around here. There’s an honest-to-goodness letter page, something that has fallen by the wayside in today’s mainstream comics culture. The column only accepts letters sent through the postal service, making more of an eclectic feel to this comic. Letters are answered, and Vaughan and Staples occasionally throw in writing and art processes to titillate readers.

There’s a yearly reader’s survey and costume contest, and every month a best letter is chosen, netting winners with often irreverent ephemera from Vaughan’s desk drawer. Saga has created a community of readers, many of whom are sharing their own stories of love and loss. Veterans and active-duty soldiers, mothers and fathers, even book clubs are jumping on board.

Saga’s publisher Image Comics is also a whiz at handling the marketing angle for this series as well. At some point, issue one was selling for one dollar to get folks reading. As with all of their collected trades, the first trade sells for $9.99 instead of the $14.99 cover price follow-ups are tagged with. Vaughan and Staples also commit to taking two months off between arcs (every six issues) to make sure they’re caught up, as well as the readers. There’s always the hope fans will start buying single issues: there are no letter pages reprinted in the trades.

Saga (now in three trade collections and clocking in at 19 issues) is awash with originality and inventiveness the likes of which I’ve never seen. Every issue is better than the last and every character is your favorite.

This article originally appeared  06/05/2014 in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette Showcase as The Oracular Beard Presents...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Interview IV

So, here's a place we've not seen you before: an office.

You could call it that. It's really a storage room in some undisclosed location on campus where we've piled all of the goodies that wouldn't fit in the apartment with the arrival of our baby earlier this year.

The place is in varying states of disarray. Surprisingly, my desk is the cleanest area in the room. Have some art up and an action figure or two, some book ephemera.

Just my own little cubby away from everything.

Sounds like a good fit for you.

Yah. Harrison Dale Conti was born February 5 at 255am. It was a bit of a scare at first, but everything turned out okay.

We named him after Harrison Ford, not William Henry Harrison like everyone thinks. The Dale comes from my wife's aunt. Okay, and maybe a little from the guy in The Walking Dead.

A little Traveling Tales trivia for you: HD are also the initials missing from the title of the fourth book of the series. Didn't realize that until later, but very hinky to see that pop up.

And how's your post-apocalyptic folk tale coming along?

Ah, you know. It comes in fits and starts. I was offered a lead this morning about writing for a local newspaper, so I may think about serializing the series somehow. Got the wheels turning, for sure.

So, baby. Have your writing practices changed?

Again, you know... I get to it when I can which is the completely wrong answer. I long to be doing this every day. Even this interview is just potchking until I sit down to the real thing.

Raising a youngling is hard work. The first couple of nights I was up all the time with feeding, piddling around at Traveling Tales, mainly Barry's story after the fact, and then my superhero short I was tackling for a workshop I attended earlier this winter.

I'd like this to be a job some day, so I need to start treating it as such.

And speaking of jobs, you've got something coming out tomorrow?

Yah, I do. The Oracular Beard now has a monthly gig in the Williamsport Sun Gazette reviewing comics. Funny, but this month is about a young family with a newborn on the run from some pretty unsavory characters. Very similar to our situation right now.


No, just the fact that we've got a baby. It can be pretty hectic at times.

Anything else before we let you get down tot the nitty gritty?

Well, I've some photography down at the Avenue to finance my newest project. Maybe another chapbook of poetry, maybe a short story.

I think I'm going to try and coincide this with an appearance at LHU this fall so I have something new to shill and talk about. If I can dovetail it into Lock Haven's 175th birthday, that'd be pretty swank.

That superhero short story I finished for workshop was the first thing I've completed in five years, so that's given me a push to do some other stuff. I've a collection in mind, so we'll see where that gets me.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Breaking news!


Just finished up my first column for the Williamsport Sun-Gazette Showcase, premiering next Thursday!

Any guesses on what I'll be reviewing?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unfinished Business

tell me, where does the time go
when you're busy wasting time
I swear I meant to call you
but I got to feeling fine
looks like I took you for granted
said some things I didn't mean
I long to have you back my friend
you're the best there's ever been

time takes us by the hand
and in mine I'm taking time
such a spinning, circling dance we lead
and I'm all punch-drunk on the rhyme
guess I forgot what this was for
thought, I didn't need you anymore
so when you're feeling down and out
all you have to do is shout
I'll be here forever more

haven't seen you in awhile
can't help but wonder where you've been
wander too far, you might get lost
with the state of affairs you're in
you've been running through my mind all day
your legs must be pretty tired
caught up in the quicksand of this world
in all the mud and muck and mire

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 15/30: Song of Psalms

two-faced Janus
talking out both ends
a silver-forked tongued devil
still trying to make amends
a Judas kiss
why can't we be friends

gave you up
hoping you'd deliver
sold my soul
for thirty pieces of silver
but it broke my heart
yah, it broke my heart
maybe it's a start
baby, it's a start

sin it adds up
till it start to compound
blood on my hands
still it won't come out
fall on my knees
to you the Lord I shout

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 13/30: Because I missed yesterday

I want to see how many people read my poems:
copy and paste this to your status shows me who is really paying attention.
NO cheating!

Without rhyme or reason,
meter does not belong here.
My poems fall on deaf ears.

Or could it be the interwebs itself?
"It's poetry. I don't have time for that."
"Which 80s cartoon character are you?"
"Top twenty reasons your twenties blah blah blah..."

The overstauration of the written word
or that you just don't get it
or even care.

Confessions of a christian hipster stay-at-home-dad.
Tired of trying to figure out what I'm going to write.
I can't imagine what the rest of you feel like.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 11/30: "They grow up so fast."

Nine months or so of waiting
(moreso if you've been trying)
from when you see the results.
Home pregnancy test, a dipstick for her pee.

Doctor's visits and watching what you eat.
Ultrasound offering a glimpse
of a bouncing baby joy.
Sleepless nights
keeping with the rhythms.
When it comes down to it,
those last two weeks last too long.

Freddy Flintsone in the waiting room
pacing back and forth
wearing down the bedrock
worrying Wilma in the wings.

Until: "Look what we've got here!"
Holding him up
naked as the day is long
in front of God and everyone.
The world revolves around this son
pinching, poking, prodding
just to get a reading
parental paparazzi
pics between the feeding.
Stuck in the biliruben rave machine
dancing 'cross the scene.
Kids these days.

Parenting knit into our nature,
fawning over this young buck.
Could hibernate for days
if only he could bear it.
We'd love to have you longer,
but it's past his bedtime, you see.

There's this time-dump
sitting and staring
wondering what came before
and what we're missing out on now.
There could be so much more in the periphery,
but I'm afraid to miss something.

Up with the cries
dawning that sleep is
but a figment.
Caught in dreams
fragmented follies
because the sleep's so broken.
Change, sleep, play.
Working magic
and the tricks up sleeves
wave a wand of wonders.

Sing a song about a bumblebee.
Patty-cake with his feet
marking with a "B"
when clearly Harrison
begins with an "H."
Today, I watched this
over and over.

Where does the time go?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 10/30: Crisis of Infinite Girlfriends

I cannot exist in this.

My life has since
upon this timeline,
a criss-crossing web
where alternate histories,
collide and crash in upon themselves.

A simple breeze could undo
these threads
and shatter the illusion
of a safety net.
Balancing a sticky situation
wound tight
blood, draining from you
and the fear that catches you
off guard.

Lies have been spun.
All eyes are upon
watching your struggle.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 9/30: Voices

These characters won't stop talking to me:
gibberish whispers, when all I wish for
is a coherent sentence
traveling tides
from here to there
and back again.

Competition is stiff
like the risen undead
in Five Ancients
or wherever that thread sends us.

Not cutting it
when the Barbershop Quartet
can't sit still
long enough for a trim.
No help looking for other Supers
hidden behind their masks.

And how's about Traveling Tales?
Hitch a ride
at the end of my pen
walk all through this notebook
with footsteps I can't fill.

Thirty//Thirty 2014 8/30: 1107

Fifteen years ago
friendships found, yet not bound.
I see these names, yet cannot connect
pictures to them.
they do not register like they once had.

Recording dreams as if they were
some portent to my soul.
Superficiality in the shallow end.
In over your head
is for those unafraid to swim.

Poems and songs, endlessly in love
written for the changing of the seasons
as next door neighbors turn to ash.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 7/30: I am sinner, hear me roar.

God, bless the rains down in Africa.

The parched plain, choking on chaff
and the ozone of the upcoming deluge
of Genesis proportions and implications.

It is an old wives' tale
of how far away the storm lay
counting seconds between thunderclaps
congratulating bench work
as the ball strikes the bedposts.

Yet make no mistake:
there is truth in the telling.

You can also hear the lion's roar
up to three miles away,
but he could always be closer.
Looking for someone to devour
the enemy prowls around
a little of everyone in his path
tasty morsels feasting on the flesh
of the Father's children.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 6/30: Eats

Dessert consisted of some sort of chocolate cake, cascaded with strawberries
washed down with a glass of milk.

One small Clementine,
a piece of not-fried chicken and
a couple of swigs of hot sauce to get the zip just right.
A slice of Cooper and a cookie
and another glass of milk.

I'm no longer hungry, but my mouth still is.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 5/30: Upon Being the First

Upon exiting the theater,
we all agree on those pivotal
moments, accentuated by
the 'ooohs' and 'aaahs,'
chatter, chasing down the aisle.
"Yes, Jared, we could tell you liked it."

The Nerdestary assembles.
Roster changing upon availability
and qualifying expertise
all variants of "Can someone watch the kid tonight?"

My mother swoops in to save the day,
and the operative is a success.
Now, we shall see if she can put him to sleep.
Two months old.
The longest we've been apart, together.

On the ride home
instead of discussion on how good the movie was
we consider the individual merits of when it may be appropriate
for inclusion in such outings.
You've one parental unit in which they're watching them at six
and another that strictly adheres to the PG-13 policy.

Comic books, waiting, bagged and boarded
in their own time capsule cryogenic chambers
to be unearthed not
before such and such a date. Reading
is an investment in our future.

We can rattle off a half dozen cartoons, followed up by the movie originals.
Netflix and DVDs make Saturday morning, a bowl of cereal whenever we please.

Dinosaurs, cars and trucks, animals.
These each have their worth,
this cannot be denied.
Yet to lose one from the grasp of nerd-dom?
Heart wrenching.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 3/30: She heard my voice and she moved

Sailor's shanties like a siren's song
compelling you
cast yourself upon the rocks.
The old albatross
is tossed, about
by wind and wave.

He reaches up like his father before him
though no child of his own
to impart his salty pearls of wisdom
but to the cabin boy.
The only one left who'll listen.

It is a tale of woe
but for the telling
of the days long gone.
Where haughty stories
once did dwell.

He loved once
a girl in port
and harbored no others
for she left him to die at sea.

in the salty air
hardening his heart.

He sits and stares
having long ago set sail
and labors listlessly.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 2/30: Feeding Time

You are dealing quite well with mommy and daddy overestimating our stay this evening.

And now, the frantic wails of infancy are in their prime.
You're growing up so fast.

Yes, it's late.
Yes, you're hungry.
Yes, we'll be home soon.

Yet these words do not soothe
and the developmental stage
upon which you deliver
your tear-stained monologue
startles the unrehearsed understudies who've yet to memorize their lines.

Missing cues and freeway exits
as safety is disregarded
blocking with the binkie before the blinking
ghostlight waiting in the wings
reminds me to fasten my seatbelt.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Thirty//Thirty 2014 1/30: Wings

I meander through the aisles, absent from the task at hand
and the list you've meticulously scrawled for me on the back of an envelope.
I neglect the SPAM and the Hamburger Helper if only because you're not here to harass.

And I see HIM standing there.
Looooong black jacket, pants, shirt and shoes.
Looooong black hair and top hat with a silver skull upon it.
Goth would be too trite, wondering if your reflection can withstand mine and call it as I see it:
Vampire works for me, and I'm haunted because I mean no malice, but it lingers regardless.

Until I see the bite mark tattoo.
Absolved of my sin, knowing I am safe,
slipping by as you mesmerize customers in search of one thing or another.
Flickering fluorescent castle catacombs of the supermarket maze.

I met you today, outside your element, the fantasy of your profession.
You need the coffee to stay awake during the day.
An egg sandwich because you're saving your pennies.
We joke of the quality of the Weis store bagels, because we buy them two departments down.
It doesn't surprise me one bit you moonlight in the meat department,
training to be certified to wield those blades.

So he's human, just like the rest of us.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Epic Beards of Review: The Garden of Darkness

Gillian Murray Kendall’s The Garden of Darkness blooms with subtlety. This post-apocalyptic young adult novel is like a little plot of land: you till in early Spring, plant your seeds and sit back to watch it grow.  In an age where these end of the world novels are shooting up like weeds, Garden blossoms and crowds out the others, soaking up the glory of the sun for itself. Sure you’ve got to water and weed it, but in the end, you’ve quite the bumper crop.

As an overburdened field suffers from loss of nutrients, we get your obligatory plague decimation—but there’s a twist: the Cure. Of course, if you happen to weather the plague and get said Cure, you’ve become a stark-raving lunatic, much creepier than being a zombie. If you’re a kid and haven’t yet succumbed to the plague, you now have to overcome the Cured and the day-to-day survival of a fallen world.

There’s a certain honesty here in the way different children handle their new-found lifestyles. It’s not just about missing their folks, it’s about how they deal. Our heroes are at times child-like, but not childish. The fact that survivors mentioned child services more than once was interesting, as were the way suicide and death in general. Much love to a character’s lethargy in response to basic hygiene. Too neat.

And although the main character wore her crush’s letterman jacket for the entirety of the novel, it acted as a tether to the former world, but not in a gooey, overly sentimental way. There is the slightest hint of love story taking place here, too, but it is deftly handled as mild flirtation.  Without the pressures of societal norms and high school drama, it allows itself to develop naturally.

Character development is spot-on as more and more hangers-on are introduced into bands. They balance well, unlike typical adventure novels where particular characters have special skill sets. Here, they just are: kids will be kids. Even the behemoth of a dog, Bear, our main character befriends early in the story, isn’t used as an easy way out of harmful situations.

Two of the more stellar plot points to note:

Not giving anything away, but there’s a grown man who deems himself “master-of-the-situation” whom is gathering children to his aid. As the book progresses, his intentions become clearer and it is compelling to see his chapters interspersed amid the novel as a parallel to our roving band of children and teens.

There’s also an aside about halfway through highlighting characters which we’ll never get a chance to interact with. As a brief interlude it was captivating to read of their ill-fated exploits in comparison to our main characters.

The ending sneaks up on you, and it’s worrisome that loose ends won’t be tied up. It was, however, clear, concise and a quite sharp way of ending things. It is beautifully wrought, and won’t be tied up in another series where you get a book and movie deal.

And so we return to the garden aspect of this book. Its shooting tendrils sprout up time and again about the pages literally and figuratively looking for a way to grow amid the darkness. There is some good fruit here, and it should be eaten of heartily.

The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall is due out 6/25/2014 from Ravenstone

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Shootout at the O.K. Corral

Shootout at the O.K. Corral

Tumble weeds whisper
across the barren landscapes of my heart.
The ghost town stands empty,
save that last lone leper
holding on with dear life
pulling up that poisonous patch of devil grass.
Wind whipping through
the bat wings of the saloon
looking for one last shot.

Speak those words to me
amid all the excuses
back peddling
and dried up wells.
Water and oil parting ways
still panning for fool’s gold
a King’s ransom
bought and paid for
by his blood,
slipping through your fingers
like a sieve.

Bid me pick up my mat and walk.
Walk the walk and talk the talk
shake off the dust of this world
in places that are too close for comfort.
I know not how it got there.

Get out of Dodge
while you still can.
circling overhead
this town’s for the birds.

Keep on keeping on
the path.
one step at a time,
one day at a time.
Because over that hill
is your oasis,
maybe more desert
or just a mirage.

But at least you’re making good time.