Notebook Miscellany

It’s a silly obsession with some of us who write, these gathered notebooks.

These bound things bind us to them in turn, using our words to link us to all of our thoughts, hold us to all of our promises, keep all of our secrets and confessions.

And yes, hide all of our pain.

Even though we may not use them all, it speaks of longing to fill them with something of ourselves that bears witness to our existence, and will speak of who we were to a world we’ll never see.

It’s the small sacrifice of a seemingly useless purchase that shows determination to leave something of value and beauty behind, born of something inside of us that we feel is worthy of legacy.

The empty notebooks perhaps tell the most noble of tales, bought as an act of defiance amid the onslaught of a world that speaks to us of random, earthly insignificance, an indifferent universe, and dead gods.

The empty, dusty notebooks you never fill are those that call the world a liar, for there is as much longing of the heart, profundity of thought, and depth of emotion on the blank page perhaps more than any other.

While there is yet time, you may impose the will of your intent on these blank pages, but if you never get the chance, or find your words unable to be shared in the end, they are no less a legacy to say something to the world, however joyous or painful.

Your work may be unfinished, Writer, but you are never incomplete.

Wish I Could Go Back Knowing What I Know Now

   Deep in the abandoned culvert, the portal appeared.

   Walking along the waterfront, I thought I heard kids playing inside the drain pipe.

   Stupid kids. Wish I could go back sometimes, knowing what I know now.

   I huffed my way down to  get them out of harm’s way.

   There was light where there shouldn’t have been.

    At the other end, I saw myself.


   Kid -me surrounded by friends, looking every bit the kid that got bullied. Skinny and awkward the way child nerds are,nowhere close to any slang that would describe him as cool. But he and his friends were happy. 

    About to make a wish, he saw me, and shook his head. 

   I wasn’t invited.


 Teenage-me walking down Broadway with my poet friend, the city streets energized in the warm evening, full of bright colors, short skirts, and festive noises, and a busking sax player trying to tear a hole in the sky. 

  We were on our way to my first poetry reading at the cafe.  I was nervous but excited.

  Teenage-me stopped talking to his friend when he saw me, and shook his head.

   I wasn’t welcome.



    A quiet Sunday afternoon in the hospital, grad-me stood beside the bed where his wife trembled from the c-section shots. The doctor handed the bundle to him.

   His newborn daughter looked at him, as quiet as the day, and melted his heart.

   ‘She’s beautiful.’ he told his wife, and let her see.

   Then grad-me saw me,standing at the end of the portal, and shook his head. 

   I wasn’t part of the family.




   The light faded, leaving me in darkness. 

    I walked back and started home, wiping tears.

    They weren’t invited, allowed to fall, or part of the family anymore.

    I never made that wish again.


A Place for Peace

The bright red of the painted bench seemed an act of rebellion in and of itself.
Since his discharge from the army, the prospects for his postwar success dried up like raisins in a drought. The rooms for rent grew cheaper and seedier, but never free, and a man can only descend so far.
He was down to just carrying his duffel bag, the last of his money, and the end of his rope. Swallowing the bitter pills of the last of his pride, he left the hot, dirty building for the hot, dirty streets.
Didn’t think I’d be sleeping under the stars again so soon.
The city’s citizenry were increasingly uneasy with the rising homeless population.             They were less helpful, more hostile, and there were bullies and worse who thought nothing of preying on them.
Fighting over there had prepared him. Still, he was aware of every nervous tic and twitch that made him look like a shell shocked, restless bum. All too aware of every movement, and every sound.
He saw the bright red bench gleaming like a rising red sun on a green sea; there was no one around, and he decided to take a rest on it. Perhaps even a nap.
I hope the cops don’t roust me; that could end badly.


He  searched his duffel bag, rooting around: with his fingers he shoved the medals aside and peered into it. He still had two camouflage jackets, two journals bound with black leather covers, and a knife with a large, wicked looking blade.
He repacked the medals and threw the knife in the manmade lake.  Curious, he opened one of the journals, but it was too dark to read it clearly now.
The park was emptying as people went home to their lights, warmth, and loved ones, but he had nowhere to go.
He went back in the duffel and took out one of the jackets, placed the duffel under his head, and stretched out to sleep. Where his previous training would have had him on edge listening for sounds that meant he was a target of someone hiding in the trees, he felt no sense of danger and vulnerability now.
Sleep took him under its wing.
Through the night, the dreams and nightmares played tag.
He relived it all.


         The long, hot nights with working girls that gave an artful illusion of love for a few hours in smoky, perfumed places.

        Running across the killing fields, legs pumping on adrenaline as bullets tugged at the extra cloth on his uniform as he fled, the splattering of broken, busted flesh with bones poking through skin at odd angles as the man running next to him was suddenly no longer there, and he couldn’t hear his own screams or his heart hammering in fear.
     The slap and flutter of well worn cards played by small fires, and eating silently in the dark on stormy, starless nights.
     Sleep was as rare as finding an uncut diamond in plain sight, and far more precious.
     Taking stock when the skirmishes were over: the dead, the soon-to-be dead, friends, and some precious few he’d named as brothers.
     The scent of blood, the cacophonous clusters of crows, flies, and vultures.

Something hit his head, jolting him; he’d fallen asleep, slipping off the bench, bumping his head.
He felt light and unburdened somehow.
He knew the dreams had been dark, but couldn’t remember them at all. Everything he recalled seemed innocent, even innocuous.
All the memories of war’s ravages were gone.
How did I get here? What am I doing here?

In the morning a jogger found him and called the police.
The EMT’s zipped the body bag closed as the birds began to sing and a rind of orange sun turned the night clouds shades of pink and blue.
The cops went through the duffel, saw the medals.
“All that combat,” one said, “and he gets to go out peacefully in the most quiet place in the park.”
The ME took a look at the bright red bench with an expression that got the cop’s attention, so he looked at the bench too.
“Something wrong, doc?”
“Nothing. Just, it’s not the first time it’s happened at this spot, and a lot of old veterans seem to find their way over here.”
“No kidding. Why do you think that is?”
The M.E. came out of his reverie, looked at the cop and shrugged.
“I don’t know. Guess it’s what you said yourself: it’s the quietest place in the park.”
“Makes it easier to slip away?”
The M.E. looked at the bench again, the red gathering some vibrancy in the growing, paling light, then at the midnight black body bag loaded in the back of the ambulance as the doors closed.
“To be finally at peace? Yeah, that ends all kinds of wars.”