• The Pneumatic Steampunk Doorway – Yellow Days

    At a spot on the eastern edge of the scorched Mojave Desert, where the Colorado River converges on the Three State Lines, lies an area known as Cal-Nev-Ari. There, it is said once lived a terrible monster—a behemoth coal-fired steam power plant. Officially designated the Southern Mojave Generating Station by the engineers who created the steel and molybdenum beast, it was called SMOGS by everyone else. As if the infernal climate of heat and dust was not enough to make life miserable for those who lived under its shadow, at inexplicable times during the day, the giant erector set belched a cloud of noxious gas from its deceptively cheerful, candy-striped smokestack. This cloud of sulfurous ash hovered in the upper layers above the sleeping town of Cow Rock, a small resort just across the river from the gambling halls and casinos of Layton. The steam and vapor rising from the cooling towers, along with the yellow ash from its exhaust, gave a fearful impression. To the untrained eye, it was part living creature, part fire-breathing contraption—snorting death and carnage from its every orifice into the pristine skies of the bustling desert community.

    Ned Bean was a tool room attendant at SMOGS. Immersed in the inner sights and sounds of the steam plant at night, despite frequent fits of yawn and torpor, the unassuming clerk tried his best to keep alert. Motivated by his muse, the never-ending night, Ned often experienced moments of lucid wakeful dreaming. These visions, coupled with the active imagination of a man driven by a surreal sense of reality, are preserved in a log he kept as part of his work duties. The letters which you are about to read, along with the accompanying Pneumatic Steampunk Doorway are the result of the experiment in mental purgatory that was the life of the steam plant clerk.




    Yellow Days


    “I remember when the sunlight had a special kind of brightness…
    yellow days, yellow days”

    Alvaro Carillo and Alan Bernstein
    ©1965 1966 Ed B Marks Music Co



    the steam plant
    nestles on the banks
    of the Colorado River

    on an alluvial slope
    where the valley rises
    to meet the mountains to the west
    (another range flanks it to the east)

    in a rocky
    desert terrain
    dotted with scrub greasewood
    the electric power generator
    stands out-of-place
    with the idyllic scenario
    of the small desert resort town
    that lies just across the river

    it seems contrary
    that in a landscape so picturesque
    surrounded by rugged hills that slope
    down into a lake of dazzling cobalt
    topped by a sky so perennially blue
    the clouds become cameo
    —lies this ubiquitous
    mechanical skyscraper

    a labyrinth of girders and platforms
    a giant gray steel erector set
    cradled in the bosom
    of desert ecoloia

    a spewing volcano
    —it shrouds the basin
    in its jaundiced cloud

    “Yellow Days” originally published on Apr 19, 2015 

  • The Carnival – A Wagon Full of Empty


    A Wagon Full of Empty


    a wagon
    creaks down the lane
    towards a house
    on Maple

    the horses toil
    in sweat and froth
    as children gather around

    “Tin!” grandma grabs at her apron
    charging into the parlor
    calling up the stairs

    “It’s here!” she calls
    “Why aren’t you coming down?” gasping
    “Lord have mercy!”

    Tin Horn rushes out of the bathroom
    “All right Grandma” he rubs at his face with a towel
    “I’m coming!”

    “The wagon’s here!” cries baby Horn
    his sister Filo (short for Philomena)
    hustles him away from the door
    “The wagon! The wagon’s come”

    Tin Horn passes his two siblings
    puts on a shirt and calls out “Over here!”
    he approaches the wagon with

    “Are you Tin Horn?”
    the d-driver speaks under his breath
    with a stammer

    Tin Horn jumps on the running board
    of the panel van that is somewhat like a milk wagon
    (only empty) and swings himself into the front seat
    “Can we stop?”

    “For what?” the driver
    sh-shouts “We ain’t got all day!”
    “The neighbors want to see the wagon!”

    “Ah! Ya seen it once
    ya’ve seen ’em all!” he spits
    as he whips the lead horse with a snap

    the wagon turns onto Main Street
    “We’ve got Wally to pick up and Orly
    and that friend o’ yourn
    Chew? He’s comin’ too ain’t he?”

    “So what’s the hurry?” Tin Horn thinks out loud
    “It’s not even nightfall
    just hot”

    the wagon lumbers
    along magnolia covered streets
    and the rhododendron sculpted lawns
    of forgotten Victorian mansions

    on the edge of town at an old farmhouse
    the commotion starts all over again

    “My you’d think
    no one’s ever seen
    an empty wagon!” gr-griped the driver

    pulling the horses to a stop
    he calls to the next rider
    “Get on quick!”

    no sooner has Orly
    sprawled into the back
    than the wagon drives on
    his fan club left waving in the dust

    at the next stop
    Waldorf’s people rush towards the wagon
    fifteen strong and counting

    “No time to stop!” the d-driver yells
    “Get on now!” the wagon yanks forward
    leaving Wally in a heap
    next to Orly

    down the road
    in the dusky sunlight
    Chew Lin Fat’s is the last stop

    it is a huge hotel-restaurant-in-one called the “Forbidden City”
    only there are no guests living in the hotel
    just the workers who man the kitchen

    but don’t worry;
    despite the name
    the only thing served is Cantonese cuisine

    Chew Lin is standing outside as the wagon pulls up
    and is on and aboard without fanfare
    the driver mumbles and grumbles
    for nothing else to say

    a yellow moon rises
    in the dark velvet sky
    vapors float around the wagon’s lamp
    in dreamlike

    (To be continued…)

  • The Carnival – Tin Horn


    Tin Horn


    Tin Horn stands on a deserted city street
    strewn with the rubble and chaos of war

    empty storefronts yawn like the gaping mouths
    eye sockets of bleached skulls lining limestone cliffs

    in the distance
    he hears
    a clock strike the hour

    a voice calls out
    “Hello” softly

    he reels in his step
    he must be dreaming

    stooping to pick up
    a piece of paper that floats to the ground

    he reads words
    smeared and smudged
    written in a terrifying scrawl

    “And look at you boy
    gone crazy in the night
    barking at the moon

    and look at you boy
    you are lost”

    he pauses

    “You have thrown
    every anchor
    of Saving Grace

    and you have cut the lines!
    and my god!” he reads
    “Oh my god,
    you’re still lost!”

    he tears up the paper and screams: “No!
    No!” he stumbles around a corner running

    a crowd of faceless people
    their clothes tattered and bloody
    emerge from the ruins of a cathedral pock-marked
    by mortar shells

    he hears the voice again
    Hello” this time with a sense of urgency
    “Hello!” yet, it is as soft as the flutter of a dove

    the crowd raises their arms in unison
    they point at a tower
    with a huge clock hands frozen

    Tin Horn!” they call his name!
    “Tin Horn!” they speak in a soft babble murmuring

    Tin Horn!
    The time! Check The Time!”

    out of nowhere
    the voice he’s heard becomes a dove
    and lands on one of the hands of the clock

    time stands still…and so does Tin Horn

    he turns pallid
    an incomprehensible grief consumes him
    and he sputters like a child:

    “I have searched through books
    and scoured the ink on printed page
    and have I found an answer? no
    I could not find one there

    “And I have tried to catch the rainbow’s end
    in hopes to find

    a pot of gold but only found a bucket of illusion”

    he trembles with an unspeakable sense of loss and sobs
    groaning in his sleep

    (To be continued…)

  • The Carnival – The Anthem of the Dove




    Walking down streets and empty harbors of the city;
    I look for an answer; one is nowhere to be found.

    A sound reaches from behind broken storefront windows
    a sound that echoes in the emptiness:

    “Hello,”—a voice soft and gentle.
    “Hello, what are you doing here?”

    But, I have searched through tome and printed page
    to find the answer to that question; I found nothing but despair.

    While words fell like curtains from the page in candlelight,
    I’ve found nothing to guide me.

    And I have tried to catch the rainbow in my hand;
    for a pot of gold— knowledge more than riches.

    A barren dream is what I earned—
    a cauldron full of wishes—a worthless treasure chest of emptiness.

    (A dove flew past my window in the morning.
    It cooed a song, a soft ‘hello’.)

    And tho’ I felt the sun warm roses yellow on the bough
    in the distance I heard thunder.

    The dove became a hawk;
    and the thunder tolled (and answers hadn’t found me);
    I saw a searing wind that burned the leaves off every thing,
    and left nothing.

  • The Carnival – Phantasmagoria




    “Are you OK?” Wally is shaking Tin Horn
    the driver is trying to ignore his rider’s jerking and kicking
    in his sleep

    “Aw he’s alright.
    Just let him sleep it off” he sh-shrugs

    Tin Horn shakes himself from the grips of the dream
    “Where are we?” he looks around and tries to regain composure
    he growls to compensate for his show of weakness

    Aren’t we there yet?”
    he smacks the driver on the shoulder

    “When will we be there?”
    “Soon.” the cabbie flicks the whip ever so slightly for the lead horse
    to step up the gait

    all five men are rocking to the rhythm and sway of the wagon
    as it ambles along a dirt road outside the halo of the city lights

    in the distance—

    there is a glow above the horizon
    there must be a city just beyond the summit

    as the wagon pulls over the crest of the hill
    they come upon spotlights crisscrossing the night sky
    and a Ferris wheel

    a hubbub of excitement
    sprawling across the landscape

    it is a carnival

    an illusion of lights and mirrors
    gawking wildly in a swirling careening
    idiotic phantasmagoria of mayhem
    in the nocturnal countryside

    the wagon stops inside the confines of a farmyard vivid with noise and excitement
    strings of lights draped across creosote darkened electric poles
    glow the night

    the driver ties the horses and leaves; Tin Horn must fodder them
    “See ya later!” Wally calls out running after Orly

    Chew Lin stays behind
    “What are you waiting for?” Tin Horn asks
    “Just waiting for you.” Chewin’ shrugs
    “I don’t know my way around.”
    “I’ll be with you in a flash
    I’ve just got to feed these beasts.”

    the two walk the horses
    to the livery

    (To be continued…)

%d bloggers like this: