Holocaust

jarrell_milton_web

The white dove again lies maimed and bleeding.
Statistics, cold and hard to fathom,
tally the losses of one more day.
Horror and heartbreak between weather and sports.

But I don’t cry anymore
when the newsman tells his tales
of death and destruction.
In some worlds, death can be a blessing.

I don’t cry anymore when I learn
that another child has been slaughtered
because I know my tears would be useless
and tainted with hypocrisy.

I don’t cry because I know
that the murders I hear about
night after night
from the warmth and safety of my living room
are only the final, minor deaths.
Deaths of the flesh.
The true carnage took place long ago
when their young spirits were abandoned
to wither and fade
like unattended gardens in a desolate place
where beauty is buried too deeply to be touched,
where innocence is choked and pounded
until every trace of sweetness is gone, forever;
where the angel of mercy,
helplessly fleeing the bloody scene,
stumbles, shattering her delicate face
on the asphalt, unnoticed,
and the pastel dreams of childhood
swirl and die
in the hot dust
of the ghetto sidewalk.

The Liebster Award

screen-shot-2017-08-04-at-8-47-01-am

Thank you, A.J. Reeves, for the nomination for the . . . (insert trumpets here) . . . Liebster Award! (Dang, spellcheck keeps trying to call it The Lobster Award.)

Being new to blogging (at least regularly), it was a nice surprise to win a “major award” (A Christmas Story fans will get the reference).

A.J.’S 11 QUESTIONS FOR ME

1) What movie would be greatly improved if it was made into a musical?

Tombstone. Here, I’ll start writing it now –

DOC
I’m your huckleberry! That’s just my game!

COWBOY
Doc, your awful scary! Live up to your name!
Your name’s holiday so why don’t you try it
instead of shooting us to protect that Wyatt!

DOC
I’ll blast you and say “you’re no daisy at all”
then continue to annoy you as I watch you fall!

2) What inanimate object do you wish you could eliminate from existence?

Cell phones so people can talk to each other again while waiting for haircuts.

 

3) What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?

A lion tacked onto the wall. The lion wasn’t weird. The fact that insecure men need to kill them is.

 

4) What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever worn?

When I was about 21, I bought baby blue corduroy overalls because a girl I was dating liked them. I wore them once then came to my senses.

 

5) What part of a kid’s movie completely scarred you?

When Indian Joe threw the knife at Tom Sawyer in the courtroom.

 

6) If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends and family assume you had done?

Got into a fight. I have a black belt and no tolerance for men who curse around children or bully others. It’s a volatile mix.

 

7) What secret conspiracy would you like to start?

Certain flowers have developed the ability to talk and sing, but you must get very close to them to hear because their voices are very soft.

 

8) What mythical creature would improve the world most if it existed?

The Kraken, because the world never runs out of bad guys we could unleash it on.

 

9) You’re a mad scientist, what scientific experiment would you run if money and ethics weren’t an issue?

Cell rejuvenation experimentation to extend human life indefinitely. I just can’t get used to this death thing.

 

10) What’s the most imaginative insult you can come up with?

I like to stay with simple and direct insults. For instance, if someone is yelling at me, I’ll usually say, without movement or change in facial expression “you’ve been eating onions” or “your mouthwash ain’t makin’ it”, inspired by two of my heroes – Bugs Bunny and Clint Eastwood, respectively.

11) If you were wrongfully put into an insane asylum, how would you convince them that you’re actually sane and not just pretending to be sane?

I would ask them to take a test with me and compare scores. Whoever scores lowest is the crazy one.

 

11 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT MYSELF

  1. I read to my daughter every night and enjoy her kid books as much as she does.
  2. I am the most annoying dad in the world, but the kids enjoy it.
  3. I revel in innocence, mine and theirs.
  4. As a kid, I would purposely dress nicer when my mother took me to department stores so I could stand in display areas and pretend to be a mannequin, then scare people when they got close to me.
  5. I always stick my tongue out slightly when making a peanut butter sandwich.
  6. I love Brazilian, Greek and French songs even though I don’t understand a word of it.
  7. I once slept in a cave at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens.
  8. I like the artificial smell of bananas and strawberries more than I like bananas and strawberries.
  9. I gaze at light refractions and rainbow glints, trying to see secret, hidden worlds.
  10. I harbor wild west-like thoughts of violence against evil criminal types.
  11. I choose friends based on their sense of humor and lack of ego more than social standing.

MY QUESTIONS TO MY NOMINEES: (As you can see, I’m big on why’s.)

  1. What’s your favorite scent and why?
  2. What’s the craziest thing you believe in and why? (Bigfoot, aliens, Loch Ness Monster, etc.)
  3. Describe the plot of a TV show you’d like to see.
  4. What would you say to your seven-year old self if you could talk to him/her?
  5. What was your happiest day and why?
  6. What is standing in the way of your happiness now, if anything?
  7. What is your favorite song and why?
  8. What is your favorite book and why?
  9. What is your favorite poem and why?
  10. What is your favorite painting and why?
  11. What fact or personal experience gives you the most faith that God exists?

RULES:

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs (with under 200 followers).
  5. Notify these blogs of the nomination.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

His response – https://milesofpagesblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/liebster-award/

Nominations:

https://amanpan.blog

http://littlefears.co.uk

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/50166732

https://dirtyscifibuddha.com

https://milesofpagesblog.wordpress.com

https://bensbitterblog.com

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/62618666

https://bookemjanoblog.wordpress.com

http://adamharkus.com

https://sarainlalaland.wordpress.com

https://abravemess.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/Vegetarianrecipesbypooja/

https://lifesfinewhine.wordpress.com/about-2/

Is Faith Strengthened by Tests?

My journey with faith has been labyrinthine, to say the least. I believed unquestioningly as a child, when I would recite The Lord’s Prayer with my mother at bedtime every night. But as the years passed and I encountered atheistic college professors, read books by atheist philosophers like Bertrand Russell, and saw horrific things happen to good, God-fearing people enough, the pristine beauty of my early faith was chipped away at until barely anything was left of it. I’m currently working to build it back. Like innocence, I don’t know if the natural hue of youth can ever be fully restored. I have seen too much. But I think we can access that original faith, and innocence, which to me are very similar. It comes in fragments and moments, like savoring something sweet carried on the wind from far away until it dissipates again. But oh, the majesty of that moment, when we remember how pure it was, how sure we felt that good would be rewarded and evil would be punished, how comforting it was to know our prayers were heard and taken seriously. 

I had this conversation today on Facebook with a friend. I was at our local church/preschool to turn in my three-year old’s registration papers when I saw this – the community library exchange box with a book about zombies and another about witches (Roald Dahl’s The Witches.)

20643561_10155605979831350_6477824697390733239_o

I thought it was funny so I posted it on Facebook. This is the conversation that ensued.

Friend: It doesn’t hurt to learn something new.
Me: I can’t agree with you on that one. Some things are better left unlearned. Innocence needs to be protected sometimes, even in adults. Although I will say one’s faith should be so strong, he can watch any movie, read any book, and walk with the biggest sinners in the world, and still have his faith completely intact afterward. Faith should withstand any test. The questions are do we want to put our faith through all that unnecessarily, or taint our souls more than life already does? Things seen and heard cannot be unseen and unheard. Nobody who wants to live would put poison in their body, but most of us will carelessly poison our minds in the name of worldly knowledge. I used to like gory horror films, but after I saw actual horrors in the world, I didn’t like them as much. I feel better when my mind is clean.
What do you think? Is faith strengthened by tests, or should we keep our minds and spirits pure? Does watching a horror film or reading a horror story invite dark spirits into our lives? Does anything return to us void, or does everything we do have consequences one way or another – spiritually or psychologically?

To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme

1-1

A war has been raging for decades. It’s a war we don’t hear about on the news. Like religion and politics, it isn’t discussed in civilized company. This war is not fought with guns and bombs, it’s fought with pens. It is the horrible, ghastly war between . . . rhymers and non-rhymers. The iambic pentameter crowd versus the free verse crowd. No prisoners are taken and no mercy is shown by either side.

All kidding aside, I like them both, but only if both are ultimately understandable. “Ultimately” meaning after two readings. If the poem is so abstract that only the writer gets it, the writer failed, not the reader.

The free verse army says rhyming poetry is childish and unsophisticated, largely as a result of syrupy poems in Hallmark greeting cards. And let’s face it, they usually are. It’s hard to rhyme well (without sounding like a nursery rhyme) and tell a good story that accesses emotion.

The rhyming crowd argues that it takes as much or more talent to write a meaningful, emotionally impactful poem that also rhymes and has meter, structure and rhythm than it does to write one that has none of that. To them, criticizing rhyming poetry is like saying Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost and even Shakespeare (who wrote a heck of a lot of sonnets) were a bunch of nincompoops.

Here’s a good example of a rhyming, emotionally moving poem. The story behind it is almost as good as the poem itself.

A friend of mine found it at the bottom of an old box in his parents’ garage. He asked his dad about it. He said the author was a man named Vernon Watson, who performed in theaters around London in the 1930’s and 40’s. He would sing, dance, tell stories and recite poems. A little bit of everything. The audience would start out laughing and end up crying, or vice-versa. He performed under the name Nosmo King, and thought up that name one night while looking at a “No Smoking” sign in one of the theaters. Here it is. I dare you not to get choked up.

muzhik-gorod-valenki-chb-bomzh-dozhd

Providence

Have you ever been broke? Just broke to the wide?
With what you stand up in and nothing beside?
Living on scraps the best part of the week
When you can get them, and with nowhere to sleep?

1959-slapende-zwerver-ed-van-der-elsken

I’ve been like that on a cold winter’s night
When the streets were deserted and nothing in sight
But a slow-moving bobby whose job is to see
That the public’s protected from fellows like me.
Who get put inside to answer in court
Why they’re wandering around without means of support.

It always strikes me as a queer sort of joke –
To pick on a man just because he is broke.
Do they think he enjoys wandering around in the rain,
Soaked to the skin with a dull, aching pain
Through his stomach, forgetting his last decent meal
And just praying for the time when he’s too numb to feel.
Life isn’t worth much when you get to that state –
Of just waiting to die and nowhere to wait.

8311bac156cf97c5812188daacd5903a

I remember the time, it’s a long while ago,
When I stood on a bridge with the river below.
The last food I’d had was two days before
And I never expected I’d need anymore.
That night was the worst that ever I’d known,
With a dirty, wet fog that chilled to the bone.
I set my teeth hard and I set down my heel
On the rail that my hands were too perished to feel
When a sniveling pup came out of the fog
And whimpered at me, just a scrap of a dog.
Bedraggled and dirty, like me, just a wreck,
With  a sad, little face on his poor, scraggy neck.

Unknown

A few seconds more and I would have died
But he licked my hand and I just sat down and cried.
I wrapped up the poor little chap in my coat
And carried him off with a lump in my throat.
I took him along to the one place I knew
Where they’d give him a bed and a biscuit or two.

ca461f07f0900c39766ab6f7c2279aed

They didn’t seem keen on taking him in
But the sergeant-in-charge gave a bit of a grin
When I told him, “The dog could do with a meal.”
He said, “I’ll fix him up, but how do you feel?”
It may be perhaps that the sergeant had seen
the state I was in, I wasn’t too clean.
The hunger and cold that I’d suffered all day
Exhausted my limits and I fainted away.

Well, they fed me and slept me gave me two bob.
The following day, they found me a job.
I’ve worked ever since and I’ve put a bit by.
I’m comfortable now and I don’t want to die.
I’ve a nice, little house in a quiet, little street
With a decent-sized garden that’s always kept neat.
I’ve worked there a lot when I’ve had time to spare
And I’m so proud of one little corner that’s there,
With the pick of my flowers ‘round a little old stone,
That stands in a corner, all on its own.
It bears an inscription, not very grand.
The letters are crooked, but you’ll understand –
That I wasn’t too steady, I couldn’t quite see,
At the time that I carved it, quite recently.

These are the words I carved on the stone –
“Here lies my friend when I was alone.
Hopeless and friendless, just lost in a fog,
God saved my life with the help of a dog.”

20748274_10155604580756350_4140877580574991524_o-1

~ Vernon Watson AKA Nosmo King, 1930

 

11. Homeless

maxresdefault

3d1bf6ee0b7cbf816a6937511dbcf499--vintage-dachshund-vintage-dog

one_man_and_his_dog___by_fbuk

The photo of the dog’s tombstone was actually made by a friend of mine as a prop for a filmed version of this poem we made. (I played the homeless man.) The words on the stone are a little different because I wrote it from memory and didn’t have this – – –

A YouTube video uploaded by someone who had one of Vernon’s old 78’s. (For you youngsters, 78’s were vinyl LP’s that pre-dated 33’s and 45’s.) His diction and delivery is very heightened and melodramatic, as was the style of the time. His voice reminds me of Boris Karloff’s quite a bit. Oddly, the version I have also has a few more lines than Nosmo’s recorded version. Enjoy!

End of the Road (love poem)

images-1

I once walked through a forest,
deep and cool and wild,
filled with awe and wonder
as if I were just a child.

I once stood on a mountain.
Ancient winds flew through my hair.
It seemed the world around me
had become a silent prayer.

But despite the roads I traveled
and all the ground I gained,
this empty place, this darkness
in my spirit, still remained.

I’ve walked a thousand lonely miles
and crossed stormy oceans blue
searching for a feeling
that I’ve found right here with you.

And I could tell a thousand stories
of what the earth, to me, has shown
but all the beauty of this world
falls far short of your own.

For there is no greater wonder
nor peace that I have found
than holding you in darkness
with your heart the only sound.

Your laughter heals my deepest sorrow
and your eyes, so kind and warm,
have become this torn ships refuge
from a bitter, raging storm.

Mark Who? (Versatile Blogger Award)

Blogger award

I’m so new to blogging, I didn’t even know blogger awards existed, so it was a surprise and an honor when I received a message from Kathrin S. at https://mycupofenglishtea.wordpress.com letting me know she had nominated me. Thanks, Kathrin!

I started this blog a few years ago but didn’t really commit to it until recently. Now that I’m in the habit of writing every day, I’m starting to see what all the fuss is about. It’s a great outlet and healthy to get stuff out of our systems regularly, whether venting or celebrating.

One of the requirements for winning this award is talk about myself, which is not usually my favorite thing to do, but here goes –

  1. I’m Mark Rickerby. I’ve been married for ten years and have two daughters, 3 and 6 years old, who remind me constantly to stop writing about life and actually live. I’m pretty sure I learn more from them than they do from me. My life began when they were born. All the things that mattered to me so much before they came along don’t matter anymore. The desire to make them proud of me brings out my best and pushes me beyond the point where I stopped before.
  2. When my first daughter was born, my wife overheard me singing little songs to her to make her laugh, stop crying, fall asleep, etc., and said, “That’s kinda catchy. You should record it.” I think she meant I should record it into a sound file on my phone, but I wanted to do it right so I found a phenomenal composer with a recording studio (Rick Balentine) and a rollicking collaboration ensued. The next thing I knew, I had 15 songs in the bag that seemed to come to me whole, and a CD called Great Big World. Rick arranged backup singers and musicians. It felt like I had hijacked somebody else’s life. I found out in a new way (other than writing) what people meant by “divine inspiration.” But then if my first child didn’t inspire me, what would? Here it is –
  3. I’ve had stories published in 17 Chicken Soup for the Soul books and in magazines like Black Belt, Inside Kung Fu, Nostalgia and Whole Life Times, but it took me forever to trust myself as a writer. Paralysis by analysis and very little trust. I felt like I needed to read every book about writing before I could attempt anything serious. But as Dan Millman wrote, I finally accepted that we don’t need to know everything about the ocean in order to swim in it. I’m trusting the process, seeing where the path takes me, and enjoying life more than ever before.
  4. I spent a lot of time in my twenties traveling the world, to both seek adventure, of course, but also to figure out who I was, as cliche as that sounds. I must have been a young soul because I had no idea for a long time. So, I rode a camel and did a bunch of other distracting things until time and circumstances forced me to stop playing around, confront myself and do the friggin’ work already.14
  5. My parents were born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I helped my father finish his memoir titled The Other Belfast – An Irish Youth. Here it is –

    He died in December of 2014 after five years with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. I’m still wrecked by it.

  6. I’m very happy during the day, but struggle with insomnia. My mind becomes a bad neighborhood at night sometimes, especially since and because of how my dad passed away. As if that weren’t enough, all the love letters he wrote to my mother when they were young were stolen by burglars shortly after he died. I have some dark thoughts about finding them and punishing them worse than the courts did, but I won’t because I don’t like the idea of my daughters seeing me in an orange prison jumpsuit.
  7. My main escape from the sadness and anger caused by the above events are writing and singing. If I didn’t have those outlets (and my wife and daughters), I would most certainly be insane right now.
  8. My favorite book is Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. Every sentence is a poem. The movie is pretty good, too.670f82f771e1d30f28b1517fedf9bba2
  9. I’m the co-creator and head writer of a western TV show called Big Sky that I and the rest of the team are in the process of pitching to studios right now. I’ve been obsessed with it for years. I feel like I live there and the characters are all close friends of mine. We’re getting a lot of interest and weighing our options. I hope to make an announcement that the show has been picked up soon.15822609_10154224026862215_7309990749250450755_n
  10. I’m ridiculously nostalgic and, as a result, a little neurotic. Freud defined “neurotic” as “wanting the world and others to be as we are rather than as they are.” I have this persistent image in my mind of how the world should be and how people should treat each other, collected and stored deep in my psyche from old movies and TV shows set in places and times when people still had some expectations of each other. (The Andy Griffith Show chief among them.) I battle with it constantly because I know the world is full of people who refuse to accept things the way they are, and they are miserable to the degree that they don’t. It’s not only one of the main reasons for unhappiness, it’s the cause of war. The most extreme current example would be ISIS running around beheading everyone who doesn’t pray, think, dress and live exactly as they do. I just want to be friends with everyone and to see more kindness in the world, so disappointment is inevitable, especially on L.A. freeways.
  11. I revel in and love nature like a baby being cuddled by his mama. There’s nothing I love more than waking in a forest and feeling different consciousnesses greeting the day, especially flowers opening and turning toward the sun. How the heck do they know how to do that? I don’t care how science explains it, that’s thinking.
  12. One of the writings I’m most proud of is a poem called How We Survive that has traveled all over the internet in the twenty years since I wrote it. Every now and then, I Google it to see where it went, like checking to see what a child or old friend has been up to. It’s about the grieving process. I wrote it after my brother died. It has helped a lot of people struggling with grief feel a little better. What better thing can I do as a writer than that?
  13. I started having trouble with faith after losing my brother and only sibling to a drug overdose twenty years ago, but I persist in seeking God everywhere, like in the owl’s eye complete with light reflection on the wing of a butterfly so it can scare off predators. In fact, despite my questions and doubts, 7 of the 17 stories I’ve written for Chicken Soup for the Soul are spiritual. Strange things keep happening to me, as if God is saying, “I’m right here!”
  14. I’m just adding this one so I won’t end on #13. I’m not very superstitious, but why take chances? 🙂

I hope I didn’t get too maudlin there, but then, life is always a grab bag of ups and downs, isn’t it? The trick is to not let the downs make us forget the ups. Thanks for reading.

I’m required to post the rules of the award, too. Here they are –

Rules (for the people below that I nominated)

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate up to 15 bloggers for this award and inform them.
  • Share seven (or more) facts about yourself.
  • Put the logo of Versatile Blogger in your post and display the rules also.

Nominations – In case anyone whose blog I’m following is wondering why I didn’t nominate them, it’s probably because you have a lot of followers already, or at least more than 300. I chose these people below because a) I like the way they write for some reason, and b) their blogs are new and in need of readers like mine.

  1. Marvin Leo
  2. Westerngurl
  3. Michael Goodman
  4. Manuscript Notes
  5. Epiphany 2.0
  6. Angie – Freckled Foolery
  7. Lakeland Walking Tales
  8. The Caffeine Chaser (Justin Groep)
  9. Oregon Dogs
  10. Love Letters to Rock and Roll