• The Road to Damascus

    The Sunday morning streets are quiet
    except for the sound of the cold pavement. ~a pilgrimage

    they say there’s a place in the
    Sahara where you can buy Jeeps;
    ride into the desert all the way to

    electronic billboards replace neon
    fountains | decorate Souqs;
    vendors entice you with the
    spoils of early morning;
    devil’s horns
    roast goat heads
    fly covered dung heaps
    and kefir washed Shish Barak

    north past the palm circled Camelots
    taxis weave in and out of traffic under the
    towers of Babel through the
    maddened crowds

    enterprising Sumerian chariot drivers
    scribble their fares on clay tablets;
    1,000 dinar will take you
    to the Northern regions
    of Damascus

    urban sprawl and
    the smell of industry
    where concrete underpasses
    open to a long silver ribbon between
    snow-capped vistas and the
    mountain passes of
    the Moab

    where virgins bathe
    in that river beneath the canyons;
    they wave and say,

    you who travel the road to Salvation
    the road to the land of the Saints
    the road to the Sun | where
    Saint George once slew
    the dragons of Zion and
    God now sleeps;

    Originally published on: Aug 30, 2017

  • Through the Eye of the Needle – Future Tense



    Future Tense


    it was a time of firestorm
    of hopes tumbling in despair
    the world had surely passed the cross roads
    the social structure of Democracy come
    apart like the ill-fated dream it was

    weakened by abuse and neglect
    the infrastructure of our politics began to crumble
    undermined by the ravages of a reality that flooded against
    the foundations of reason and hope; in an instant
    the world’s accomplishments condemned
    to no more than a mere column
    in the Pages of History

    the land had become shrouded
    with the stench of death; and though many had avoided
    the destructive malevolence of the First Strike
    we were left with the deadliest plague:
    the vision of those who survived
    and the implications linked
    to such a victory

    left to founder on an ocean
    of bewilderment; lost with but a
    prayer; the world was ever
    changed after the War

    – The Professor
    (anno 2035)

    Originally published: 08/06/2014
  • Paco – Messerschmitts and Isettas


    Messerschmitts and Isettas

    The street at the end of the courtyard was busy and Paco was only allowed to go there with Joaquin, who was old enough to fetch long French baguette at the bakery. They walked past their courtyard to the cobblestone street, admiring the egg-shaped Isettas and torpedo-like Messerschmitts.

    Joaquin told him the Messerschmitts came from W.W.II German fighter plane cockpits. Paco believed him. They looked as if someone had taken one of those cockpits and just stuck wheels under it. They had a long glass bubble over the passenger compartment just like the fighters in war clips.

    The Isettas looked like eggs riding on three wheels! The boys knew those little cars were just the right size for them to drive, if they could only afford one. Joaquin assured Paco they cost a million bucks, at least!

    They watched in envy as old men wearing white nylon shirts, pockets bulging with cigarette packs and matchbooks, climbed in and out of tiny doors that opened from the front, like eggs with flip-top lids, or from the side, like a glass gull’s wing. They could feel the groans of the men as they strained their large bodies in and out of cars that were obviously too small for them. Those cars were for boys!

    They were just as fascinated by the turquoise tint of the cars’ windows. They gave the autos an exotic appearance, like fish tanks at an aquarium. How the world must look through those windows! They reveled in their fantasies, bending to peer through the blue cockpits to the other side of the street, convinced that inside, looking out, would have made all the difference.

  • Paco – Fire Trucks


    Fire Trucks

    In the French countryside, Paco waited while the mother finished whatever old-wives’ business she was tending to with the local mamie. He stood in the driveway, playing with a toy Greyhound bus the father had brought him from the U.S. In the distance, the stomach wrenching wail of a fire engine’s siren raced toward the house.

    Surrounded by tall grass way over his head, he couldn’t see where the truck was coming from, but the sound filled the boy with a terror he couldn’t explain. It reminded him of the air raid drills he often heard on the Army base.

    At the time, he was stupid enough to believe what his brother, Joaquín, had told him. On the Rue Avignon, they watched a fire truck speed by. Paco had never seen a fire brigade in action, and with the simple curiosity of a four-year old—and the utter faith in an older brother’s ability to know everything—he asked, “What is that?”

    “It’s a fire engine!”

    Joaquín’s excitement over the noise of the truck was electrifying. Paco asked, “Well, what does it do?”

    “They go to your house and burn it down!” Joaquín said, deadpan—not a laugh, not a snicker, not a smile.

    That day, waiting for the mother, Paco could only imagine that the blazing red truck was rushing down the road to set somebody’s house on fire, maybe even his own home in the village. At that moment Paco felt what might have been that very first sense of ahor, (ah-HAH-rah; a horror), the unexplained dread that continued to plague every dark corner of his life from that moment on.

    Originally published on: Oct 15, 2014

  • Gather Wood


    Gather Wood

    (A Dirge)

    go gather wood for your fires boys; gather wood to burn | don’t pick wood that’s wet or rotten, or it will not burn  ::the cherry trees stand withered the orchards bare and dry | the grass parched and dying from a scourge sent from the sky

    the leaves eaten by the sun; the water line is clear | the lake is showing rooftops of a town once disappeared  ::it rains and rains for days on end; so the fires burn out | the sun shines from the sky; suddenly it’s a drought

    there’s flooding in the valley, chaos in the hills | the roads washed out by the creek that once ran deep and still | the river swollen to the banks, the farmlands turned to swamp | the city center’s four feet deep of a rage that just won’t stop

    the government is sending troops and sandbags by the score, but the angry skies won’t listen; tomorrow—another storm | the national guard stands ready with its soldiers and their guns | but the thunder’s roll is louder; the battle has begun

    Written during The Southern California Wildfires and The Great Mississippi and Missouri Rivers Flood of 1993


  • Paco




    Riding in a taxicab in 1954, from Cavignac to the Army base at Boussac, France, Señora Carbonero listened patiently to the driver. He was complaining about the flying gravel from passing cars showering against the taxi’s windshield. As predicted, one especially heavy hail of rocks shattered the windshield.

    Rosa and her son sat stunned, motionless, as the glass broke into a thousand pieces.

    “See? You see what it has done? Merde!” Cursing and gesturing wildly the driver stopped to clean up the glass from the front seat. He then drove on, still cursing.“Fils de cochon! I knew eet woode happen!”

    After awhile, his attention focused once again on his fare.

    “You speak French, but you are not from here?” He winked at Rosa, noticing her supple tan. He ignored the rushing air that blew his hair wildly and caused sparks to fly from his lit cigarette into the back seat.

    “We are from the islands. But that is not a matter for your concern.” Rosa tried to ignore his remarks, swiftly brushing the flying cinders from the driver’s cigarette off her son’s clothes.

    “Ah, but madame, you are such a beautiful woman. And so young! Your husband?”

    “He is in the US Army. He is here.” She spoke brusquely. “Aren’t you going to replace the window?”

    “Heh heh. These things are not done in an instant, madame” He downshifted, cornering onto the Rue Albemarle. “First I must take you to your dear husband… then I can take care of le auto. Et bien!” he said, with a curt nod of the head.

    After they reached the entrance to the base the car stopped. The mother paid the fare, then led the boy by the arm past the guard shack, where she showed her papers to the guard as he waved them on. Struggling for her son’s attention, she had to drag him through the gate, because through it all, Paco’s eyes never left the hollow cavern of the car’s cockpit and the shattered windshield.

  • The Belles of Picardy



    The Belles of Picardy


    the Vietnam War
    I became a conscientious objector

    I looked with horror at photographs
    of overcrowded cemeteries
    no room left to bury the dead
    white crosses lined up
    shoulder to shoulder
    on the graded hills
    and green lawns
    of Arlington
    like soldiers
    marching to their death

    I remember the portrait of my father
    in uniform—it brought to mind
    that he, indeed
    was one of the lucky ones
    who made it back in one piece
    from the Pacific Theater; World War II

    in my head I heard tolling
    bells; hammering to the beat of foot brigades
    anthems to the dead and to my brother;
    who was yet to die the slow death
    of Vietnam’s lingering poison

    I called it
    The Belles of Picardy
    an imaginary war march sung
    by the muse that beckons soldiers
    from cathedral bell towers and flag ceremonies
    rallies; and public squares in every corner of the world
    pointing them in the direction of the fields
    of Flanders
    Da Nang


    for years I watched the dismal gray theater of Eastern Europe’s film industry
    never realizing that what they depicted could one day come true

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