Friday, March 5, 2010

What Might

I sit and listen with my imperfect ears
The music recalls all the imperfect years.
The mountains of sound rise in their majesty
To waterfall back in to obscurity.

Dreams dreamed through the many years of frustration
Fear that the talents endowed at formation
Went unused or abused as the path opened
And allowed to slip away unheralded.

Thoughts and emotions evoked from the dim past,
Beauty and good developed, but not to last.
Fleeting insights, intellect too seldom tested
Moments of near brilliance soon arrested.

The strains evolved by some long dead composer
Able to stir the depths quiescent, dormant.
Words written by some bygone obscure author
Striking an intoxicant chord, resplendent.

If only the beckoning gesture had been
Recognized, what worlds might have been sounded.
If only the unseeing eyes could have seen
What epiphanies, what thought been propounded.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Brother

We were born six years apart. Too many to allow for ordinary companionship. There might have been hero worship on his part. I never really knew. I was given to athletic pursuits, he was to a far lesser degree. It never occurred to me that that situation might have bothered him. We cared about each other but were never really close. That was far more my doing than his although the situation was not consciously developed. He simply was too young to be an ongoing part of my daily plans.

My father seemed to fear that I had a latent desire, perhaps due to sibling rivalry, to do some bodily harm to my brother. It was not true, though rough play may have led to the suspicion on my father's part. The only result of his concern was that it led me to believe that he cared for my brother far more than he cared for me.

I became philosophical in that regard and never really developed a relationship with my father. I was very wary of anything i said or did where my brother was concerned. I became a loner, relying very little on both of my parents. I was somewhat closer to my mother.

Life passed, our relationship grew no closer. He attained some considerable recognition in his field. His success pleased me greatly but I did not lavish praise on him. I never have been able to express deep feelings without becoming maudlin, and embarrassed. I discovered, after many years had passed, that he craved my adulation far more than I could have imagined. His need and my inability to satisfy it led to a gulf that developed between us.

Almost a lifetime has elapsed without either of us bridging the gap. But recent events and the wisdom of years has led to each of us reaching for the other. The reaching has led to a better understanding and an acceptance of our individuality. At long last, I believe that we have become friends and not just brothers.

We have a way to travel before all the barriers are removed but the wall has been breached. Whether we will be granted the years to remove all constraints is questionable, but it really is not a matter of great importance. We live many miles apart. That may change, but the physical proximity is not of prime importance thanks to the telephone.

It was always true, but now I can call my brother and say, "I love you."

Ghosts, Apparitions, Manifestations and Such

I am uncertain as to my acceptance of phantasmagorical subjects. Happenstance, chance optical illusions may be all the explanation necessary - and yet --!!

It was a beautiful old farmhouse in a remote section of western New Jersey. It had been completely remodeled inside and greeted one with a charming blend of the old and new. My wife and I bought it after one inspection.

We moved in and paid little heed to the frequent but annoying small accidents that kept occurring. A stubbed toe, a cut finger, a piece of china dropped and broken; it was all very normal.

There was a feed mill two miles away where I purchased items for our animals. I visited it every two weeks or so. About six months after our taking up residence in the farmhouse, I was making my routine visit to the mill when the lady behind the counter stopped me.

"Have you been bothered by the ghost yet?"

"What ghost?" I replied, puzzled.

"Don't you know what happened in your house?"

"No. What?"

She then proceeded to inform me that one of the former owners had done away with himself because of some unspecified woe in a particularly messy manner that involved a shotgun.

I returned home and imparted the pleasant tale to my wife. We both speculated that all the small mishaps and annoyances that had been plaguing us might be the manifestations of an unwanted spirit.

The little annoyances continued until one day, after tripped over a bucket in the bar, I grew exasperated and yelled.

"Look, we're here to stay. Your little tricks will not drive us away. You might as well learn to live with us. We are happy people and this is, and will be, a happy place."

I felt a little foolish and was pleased that no one had witnessed my outburst.

My wife loves music. It was not unusual for a radio or stereo to be playing most of the time. However, I noticed that a radio was left playing, softly, even when we had retired for the night. I mentioned it to my spouse and she told me that she had informed the house that pleasant music and laughter were to be a part of every day, and it might as well accept that fact and join us in our approach to life each day.

Strangely, my outburst and her ultimatum had occurred on the same day. Even more strangely, the little accidents stopped. The easily explainable but annoying troubles ceased. Coincidence? Very likely. Yet food for thought.

We lived in and enjoyed our home for four years. Then fate stepped in and decreed that we had to move once more. We had grown to love our home and were truly upset at the necessity for uprooting ourselves.

The day we listed our house for sale and the brokers' sign was erected on our front lawn, the little accidents began, once more, to occur.

There's so much more to this story than Dad told. A beloved antique, cast iron woodstove was broken in half by the movers when they moved in. A sudden burst pipe caused the ceiling in the living room to collapse right on top of Mom's most prized possession, her antique baby grand piano. And then peace was established as Dad recounts here. And my mother told me that once the house was for sale, the sense of a fog lifted that they'd enjoyed once that peace was made descended again. She felt guilty; they'd made a friend with an unquiet spirit, then had had to say goodbye, leaving it to its restless and unhappy tenancy.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Deal Maker

He would trade or sell anything he owned. His wife would leave their house and return to find pieces of furniture, rugs, pictures or kitchen items missing and learn that someone had visited, indicated a liking for the particular and her husband had sold it.

I only knew him for three or four years and I have no idea where he is now. But I found his idiosyncrasies quite fascinating.

Prior to our meeting he had read an ad in a New York City newspaper placed by a munitions company famous the world over. They had closed their operations, sold most of their stock and were advertising that anyone with a truck and twenty four dollars could visit their New York location, load their truck with whatever they could find there and carry it away. So he, I shall call him Carl, hired a truck, persuaded a friend to join him and drove to New York City.

Upon arrival, he found that the offer was legimate and he began to walk through the debris and items scattered about. there were several levels above ground, a basement and two sub-basements. He was disappointed. Very little of value was left.

Then he came to a small locked door barring the space created by a staircase running over it. Not being a respecter of locks he managed to open the door and at last found something to justify his trip - a roll top desk. There were two small paintings hanging over the desk and these he took as well.

After loading his prizes he returned to his foraging. Nothing else took his eye until he found twelve or thirteen cases in a dark corner of the lowest sub-basement. They were about two feet wide and six feet long. They were securely packaged with iron straps and Carl had no tools with him. He had room in his truck, so he decided to take them sight unseen. He and his friends struggled with the cases up the stairs to the truck, loaded them on and drove off after paying their twenty four dollars.

Curiosity gnawed at him once he was home so he got a crowbar, hammer and flashlight and began to unseal one of the boxes late at night. He pried the lid open and found something wrapped in oil impregnated material. He worked at unwinding the wrapping and exposed a rounded piece of metal. He continued to work until the whole length was exposed. As he stared, the realization of what he had bought thundered down upon him. Carl had procured, for twenty four dollars, more than a dozen items that were the central props in many a Western movie; mint condition Gatling guns.

He was consumed by his purchase and dove into research on Gatling guns. He became an expert on the origin, use and history of them and eventually wrote and published a book on the subject.

The roll top desk was as it appeared, but one of the two pictures acquired with it proved to be an oil painting by a minor Italian master.

Carl had made a very good deal.

The only deal Carl ever regretted, as far as I know, was when he sold his bear. Carl enjoyed collecting guns and he enjoyed hunting. One of his desires was to go to Kodiak Island, Alaska and bag a brown bear. Eventually he went, encountered a brown bear, rendered the bear hors-de-combat and had it skinned. He brought the skin back whole and had it stuff a la Teddy Roosevelt in the film "The Wind and the Lion". That is to stay, erect, on its back feet and looking thoroughly threatening.

One fateful day a visitor to his home expressed a deep interest in the stuffed bear. Carl immediately shifted into selling mode, negotiated a price and sold the bear.

But the ensuing months brought a strange feeling - he missed his bear. He fervently wished that he had not sold it. It became such an obsession that he contacted the bear's new owner and announced that he wanted to buy it back. The new owner shifted into selling mode, negotiated a price and Carl redeemed his bear. He would never discuss the transaction, but one got the impression that the reversal of that transaction had left a very severe dent in Carl's will to deal.

NOTE: I remember that bear when I was a kid. He was damned impressive and nothing could induce me to walk by him in the dark. S

Friday, March 13, 2009


They march in ranks, row on row,
All the hosts of men brought low;
No escape and none aspired,
Just peace of mind - they're all retired.

Youth considers, then rejects
Such lonely thoughts in all respects
To wake one day and find, somehow,
That they've been found and are in tow.

Years of labor, swiftly flown
Joyous moments gone too soon,
Years of hopes, mostly vain,
Time to think, too much pain.

Days gone past, too few remain;
Too little sun, too much rain.
Without God how stay sane?
Hallelujah, it's all inane.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Cedar Man

He wasn't really staggering; he just wandered from one side of the dirt road to the other. The movement forward was inexorable, though a straight line would have cut the distance in half.

"Everybody get inside". It was my mother's admonishing voice that broke our intense scrutiny of the approaching apparition. I was ten, my cousins younger.

Bob Hanson lived in a tar-paper covered shack on someone else's Shawangunk Mountains acre, quietly and alone. The trail to his abode was badly rutted and just barely navigable by auto. It came to an abrupt end about three hundred yards beyond his quarters.

Bob survived by constructing bird houses, flower pot holders and sundry items from fragrant cedar wood about one inch in diameter. He left the bark on. He would essay building anything to order and once built a high chair for my younger brother.

His shack was dirt-floored. It was redolent with the odor of wood smoke and cedar. It was utterly enchanting. Its magic was enhanced by several cages hosting chipmunks and other wild creatures from the surrounding forest.

About once a month he would walk to town bearing a load of his hand-made articles. He always sold all his goods, bought food, visited the barroom and then teetered the long path home.

On more lucid occasions, he told me he often encountered "catamounts" on his way home. I had no reason to doubt him. His talks of those events held me riveted and wondering as to how a lanky, elderly, unarmed man was lucky enough to have survived such dangerous situations. But there he was, living proof that his ability to survive had been tested and that he had prevailed.

I was much taken with his caged chipmunks and whenever I had the opportunity I would question him as to how the little creatures had been captured. I wanted to trap one for myself. He told me about his method and I asked if he would make a trap for me. It took several importunings before, one day, he stopped at our gate on his way to town, called to me and presented me with a small trap and a huge disappointment.

I had envisioned some kind of mechanical device that would attract the unsuspecting beastie and then automatically close, leaving the little animal to await my pleasure. What he had constructed joined two pieces of wood about eight inches long and five inches wide forming the top and bottom, with a piece of wire mesh forming the four sides. At one end was a small opening with a little door that swung on a pivot. The door had a lead weight to keep it in the shut position when it was closed. But it was not self-actuated. One would have to attach a string to the door and hide close by, waiting for the advent of the chipmunk, then close the door on the unsuspecting target.

The prospect of spending long, perhaps fruitless, hours chipmunk-waiting was not to my taste at all. Bob Hanson had had hours to while away. A ten year old had many important things to do and could not become, himself, entrapped in an endless, perhaps, waiting game. I never used the device.

I cannot remember how many years the spare form of Bob Hanson shared my summers. I cannot remember when he stopped coming down the road. I do remember, with the greater wisdom of adulthood, that he gave up some of his chipmunk waiting time to talk patiently to a young boy and devoted some portion of his life to fulfilling that boy's wish for a chipmunk trap.

It did not matter that it was never used. I remember that he built it for me and, for the time that remains to me, his kindness is appreciated.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Infinite, A Riddle

I think he was very proud of this one. He should be.

God made the sun and said, "'Tis good";
And God spoke truth.
God made the earth and said, "'Tis good";
And God spoke truth.
God made the beast, the bird, the toad,
And gazing on't He said, "'Tis good"'
And God spoke truth.
Then God made man and said, "'Tis good"'
Can God be wrong?