The poet took a machete and cut his way through the field of golden daffodils coughing up blood from too many cigarettes, cheap whiskey and women gone bad. His field of dreams had been burned by looters years before and the only place he felt comfortable with now was a field hoed by blood, tears and guts. He had learnt the hard way that this was the only place a poet could write the truth. That the ugliness outside will always drive you inward.
He was well aware that there was no escape clause in his contract and no safety net for those who braved the high wire. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in God, they just weren’t on speaking terms since the Almighty had conspired to take Ruby from him in such a messy way.
He thought it was fitting that his best prose was written on toilet paper. He no longer craved awards or acknowledgements because he’d worn his heart out in the wanting when he was hungry and young, during that long drought before the rains came. Now, the only public he had was himself and the voices inside his head. Some belonged to long gone friends who, in his mind, would give him a slight smile and a nod when he wrote something that was real.
This was his domain now. Building monuments in the sand and watching the tide wash them away, lost to everyone but those it really mattered to.
Then he’d wander home to rest in the field of devastation to dream of beauty. After all, that was his job.
Oh what a life we had when we thought nothing of it. It was fun and sunny and we always got by. There was food to buy and things to do and by dinner time all that mattered was the scent of something delicious cooking. We watched movies and looked for the relevance in our lives. Some made us laugh, others made us cry. Sometimes we didn’t know why. Perhaps they were premonitions of things to come known only by our hearts.
It felt like home to me and I hadn’t had a home in such a long time. I was proud of our quaint apartment and comforted by the books and music that glued our lives together. Now all gone.
I worked hard to get money to keep the wheels moving but in the end you resented that I did. So everything stopped. Including me. Our small world became overcast with your moods and I couldn’t breathe without some light.
You complained that my friends didn’t speak to you enough, so I had to lose them. You couldn’t get any work so you resented mine. Every act of kindness I offered you was rejected because in your words you didn’t wish to feel beholden to me. Then you complained that I hadn’t offered. Please forgive me my confusion as to what to do in such a circumstance.
I had been at peace before you decided to crash into my life, appearing at my door every night around dinner time, with your troubled tales of how a troubadour had treated you badly – had not encouraged you – had not listened to you – had not supported you – had not helped you. I listened every night for hours and melted and let you into my heart.
But as time went by you contradicted your stories about the selfish troubadour and elevated him to a mythical status above me. But where was he when you were hungry? Where was he when you were cold? Where was he when you needed laughter? Where was he when you were offered kindness?
Now it seems, in your mind, I have become the troubled troubadour of bygone days.
You forced me out into the night by your verbal cruelty and ruined my Christmas.
I have wandered since, here and there, thinking too deep and caring too much, in an effort to harden my heart for self-preservation.
Please send no more Valentines my way, dear Lord, I have paid too many times and my heart is too weary to try again.
And so it goes
Once again I gave my all
Which wasn't enough
When I was happy
I was too happy
When I cried
There weren't enough tears
To please everybody
When I broke
It was so quiet
No one heard
I died that night
That night you ruined my Christmas
Alone in my room
Well, what was left of me
But still I went on
Not wanting to let anyone down
I was expected at so many events
And people are so easily offended
So here we are
Going through the motions
Of an impersonation
Of a man in control
There were no obituaries
Only slaps on the back
Some a little too hard
For a sensitive soul
Some hadn't been felt like this
Since the murder of unsuspecting Julius
But they got the wrong man
I didn't set out to conquer Rome
Or live for praise
Only to make my mother proud
And a safe place
Where I could do my work
And not be envied
Or made to stand trial
I think of the frightened boy
And shed a tear
When someone notices
I say I have something in my eye
And they believe me
I am a fugitive of your heart
That turn out to be premonitions
For those who have tired of happy endings
About men on the run
From a society that too readily believes
The worst in us
Cursed with too good a memory
It is impossible to forget
My face lined with lessons learned
The hard way
And there's nothing you can take to change that
As Elvis found out
Perhaps my only lasting friend has been the night
And that glimpse of heaven
That moment just before dawn
When the world is so silent
You can hear God's breath
If you listen close enough
That long night
When I forget to sleep
Because I'm addicted to the clarity
Of each rushing thought
That won't come again
And my job is to capture as many
Before they are gone
Like the women
Stampeding over the edge
And free falling
Into the darkness of the abyss
Joining my dreams of a happy home
And all those beautiful things
I didn't say to the right one
Who withered from waiting too long
And has now gone to Florida
To teach people how to act
So they can at least get things right in their art
And be convincing enough to pass as a human being
Without an alarm
I awaken to find
All victories shallow
All risks ill-timed
My laughter too loud to be acceptable
My critics misinformed and better suited to
The sports page
Where the results are more easily ascertained
My women merely visions
That fade too soon
Building residue in my heart
That heart that is too strong to break
Even by experts
For missing persons
Beneath the burden of searching for resolutions
It may never find
Not even at 3am
I too gambled for our savior's clothes
Winning only his crown of thorns
And the identity
Of a man who travels by the light of the moon
Some say he is based on a true story
(c) 2017 Frank Howson
Imagine, if you will, eternity in darkness, with darkness all there is in front of you. That was God’s lot in life. Those of you who’ve experienced short periods of meditation may be able to grasp just how chilled and cool God is. Sometimes His mind can wander for centuries. He apologises profusely for any inconvenience this caused during the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades.
Anyway, at some point during an eternity of darkness and nothingness, God got really bored. Really bored. So bored He created stars. Diamond pinholes in eternal night. Some of them he gave names to like DeVinci, Beethoven, Lincoln, Chaplin, Welles, Tesla, Bell, Hawking, Turan, Picasso, Einstein, Elvis, Beatles, Dylan – oh, and Kanye West.
When interviewed by Neale Donald Walsch, God stated that His “…greatest creation was free will.” He gave it to us as His gift to make our own way through the darkness as best we could and to experience, hopefully, in a smaller way, the joy He experienced in creating something from scratch. Trouble is, He said, “…although I’ve given you complete freedom to make your own decisions, as soon as something goes wrong, you blame me!” God is now in therapy thanks to us. And, like a poor person, Hs only option for therapy is to talk to Himself. Sometimes in that magic hour, in the silence just before dawn, if you listen closely you may hear Him.
When asked why He invented suffering, He replied, “It is necessary to pass through hell before you can fully appreciate heaven.”
During that same interview He, a little impatiently, addressed the concern regarding apathy and boredom for those of us who toil below in the wastelands, “Look, I gave you music, Broadway musicals and Bob Dylan didn’t I? You think you’re bored, try living alone in total darkness for eternity!”
Yes, He has lost his patience with us on many occasions. Read the Old Testament and you will find God in a very bad mood who, like all youth, is angry, impatient, revengeful, and quick to judge. By the New Testament, with the help of some therapy and much soul searching, we have an older, more understanding God who’s able to look past our ignorant day-to-day mistakes and embrace the bigger picture. He sent His son to herald this new age and inform us of the “good news” but unfortunately there were those amongst us who weren’t ready for the outrageous and angst-making concept that “we should all love each other and try to get along for the betterment of all” – and they killed him. God has sent us many other messengers in the years since who’ve attempted to give us the same message, ie., Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, etc., but, unfortunately, we killed them too. It seems if you preach hate you’re as safe as milk and will die in your bed of old age. But have the audacity to peddle love and understanding and your days are numbered.
This loss of his own son caused God to withdraw from the world and to distance Himself from us. It is indeed a revealing fact that any ensuing visions to bring us messages from the other world have been in the form of Mary. Not Jesus. And, just like a woman, she still attempts to see the best in us and loves us despite our flaws and hurtful, destructive actions. The miracle of unconditional love.
In contrast, Jesus thinks we’re a bunch of idiots with a thirst for blood who haven’t learnt a thing from the past 2000 years, or his death. Word has it He has given up on us and spends most of his time gardening.
For those amongst us who hate God because they didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas, spare a thought for His suffering. He had been alone for eternity, living in darkness with no one to love. Knowing full well what it was like to feel like an orphan, God gave birth to a huge family and tried to send us to school to learn a few things to prepare us for our final home. He now knows the pain of having had that family, in main, disown, slander, and hate their father for being the cause of their existence.
Perhaps that is why God created a miracle called forgiveness. He lives in the hope that we will all find it. As He has.
When asked if He ever worried about our future, He replied, “No. Not at all. I worry about your present but never the future for the I know outcome and what, ultimately, awaits you. You see, at the end of your journey all roads lead to me. And, like any parent that loves their child, regardless of what you’ve done, you are greeted with forgiveness and abundant, unconditional, love. And welcomed home.”
Jesus, on the other hand, although a lovely soul, may take some time to warm to you.
Harold Blimp had always been an actor. “I was born into this” he once said. The truth is he’d been treading the boards since his seventh birthday and that was some time ago, although he was loathe to reveal just how long. This business of show had given him so much. It had taken as much too, if not more, but it was useless to dwell on such things. To do so could numb you with pain and one must always be positive and ready for that next big break. This industry thrived on positive people – and if you couldn’t be one you could always act it.
Tonight Harold sat in his dressing room and prepared for the performance. His whole life was about preparation. When he performed he had no time for anything else. Several wives had found that impossible to deal with so they were gone and here he was, still preparing. His day consisted of sleeping in until midday. He needed that sleep to recover from the previous night’s performance and to fully rest his voice. He would rise and shower. Nothing refreshed him more than standing under a hot shower and he used to always say it was one of the great rewards in life. It seemed to wash everything away. Like a daily baptism. He dried and dressed and then strolled to the local coffee shop where he took breakfast every day. He was something of a legend there. The people who ran it remembered him from some of his television performances in the 60s and they treated him like he was still somebody. They were always bragging about him being a regular although not many found the name that familiar anymore. But out of manners to the kind family that owned Dino’s Coffee Place most people acted as though they did.
He never read the papers as he did not want any distractions on his mind other than the mountain he was preparing to nightly climb – the performance. It was all that mattered. He would nod and smile at the lovely family that served him but they long ago knew the rules – he could not chat as he was preserving the voice. Eight shows a week and every one must contain the very best of him. One never knew who was out there in the darkness watching. Even at the matinees. In fact, he remembered the time Lord Olivier was present at a Wednesday matinee and came backstage to tell Harold how marvelous he’d been. Dear Larry had even asked Harold if he’d come to London and join his National Theatre troupe. Alas, Harold was married at the time and, with one thing and another, he never got there. He often wondered where his life would’ve gone if he’d accepted Larry’s invitation. Maybe he’d be receiving Oscars and Tony awards and the like. But he believed in God and that there was a reason for everything and that God somehow wanted him to be performing at the Elwood Players Theatre. Life was funny, wasn’t it? The way things work out. He consoled himself that going to London may’ve made him a big star but he could’ve wound up burned out and disenchanted like so many of them. Here, at home, he was a big fish in Elwood and unless he was delusional was convinced he was giving some of his finest performances. In fact, only recently, a young critic for the Elwood Times wrote that Mr. Blimp “…gave what can only be described as a stunning interpretation of King Lear revealing that Shakespeare was right up there with Neil Simon when it came to comedy and had us all rolling in the aisles.” Mr. Blimp was quite proud that the word “stunning” had been attributed to his performance and wondered why the producers had not displayed it in the foyer. But they too were young and he was finding it lonely that he didn’t have too many people left his own age to talk to anymore. Most of the people he talked about or quoted were met with blank expressions by the younger generation who seemed to only have a working knowledge of the past five years. Tops.
After his two poached eggs on toast with a slice of burnt streaky bacon washed down by a pot of coffee, Mr. Blimp would bid his admirers at Dino’s Coffee Place a silent good day and wander the streets to clear his mind and think through his impending performance. Every minute of his day was dedicated to being ready to give his best at 8pm.
Sometimes memories would invade his mind and he would find it difficult to function. He would stop and passers-by would sometimes enquire if the old man was alright. Especially when he started talking back to ghosts. He had apologized to Mildred so many times on street corners for not loving her enough. And sometimes he wondered how old his son was now and what he was doing. He had tried to get word to him on so many occasions but could never quite track him down. He hoped he didn’t still harbor resentment towards his father. Didn’t he know that every performance he gave was dedicated to him? And that all he wanted was his son to be proud of him and to one day admit that he was Harold Blimp’s son. Maybe even use his real name and not his stepfather’s.
Harold generally got to the theatre at 4pm, well before anyone else. He would walk the stage area and practice some of his moves and gestures. Then he’d sit in his dressing room and do his vocal exercises to warm up his voice. That would take an hour or so. Then the detailed make-up process would begin and he would transform himself from Harold Blimp into King Lear, or Don Quixote, or Shylock, or a father who was loved and forgiven.
At 7.45pm Mr. Blimp would walk up the stairs to the stage level and stand in the wings. It was one of his rituals. He had so many rituals he needed a whole day to devote to them. Sometimes his second wife Gladys would pop into his mind and ask him why he’d betrayed her with her best friend. The stage manager was by now quite used to Mr. Blimp’s nightly conversations with Gladys. “I’m so sorry, Gladys, I don’t know why I did that. I was just a silly young insecure man who didn’t feel worthy unless I was loved by everyone. Silly young men make mistakes. I loved you, Gladys, I truly did. Isn’t it time you forgave me? I have outlived everyone and there’s no one left to forgive me.”
“Are you alright, Mr. Blimp?” asked Jerry, the stage manager. Mr. Blimp was jolted back to here and now and played the part of a man who was in total control. “Why yes, Jerry, I’m fine. Just going over some lines. That’s all. Us thespians are a mad lot, huh?”
Jerry thought that was an understatement but decided it was best not to reply lest he have an honesty attack.
“House lights down,” Jerry whispered into his intercom. “Curtain! Mr. Blimp, your entrance.”
“Thank you, Jerry. You’re a good boy.”
Harold walked in the darkness to the centre of the stage and found his mark. As he stood in the dark awaiting his pool of light, Harold Blimp summoned up the energy from his soul to once more play a man who descends into hell – one who traded everything he loved for flattery – who was once a king but is now mad with grief.
Only in it for the money
Only in it for the money, honey
Here makin’ some bread so I can spread my wealth
Countin’ my money, countin’ the time
To give it away
Find some broken people
And give them somewhere to stay
People like to accuse you
Of all the things they are
It’s makes them feel comfortable
That you’re in the same car
“He only likes her cause she’s got dough”
“She only likes him cause he’s got blow”
They got to tear down everything
That has love’s glorious glow
Spiritual vampires that suck your life
So they can live
They hate you because you remind them
That they’ve nothing to give
Only in it for the money
Only in it for the money, honey
Here makin’ some bread so I can spread my wealth
Countin’ my money, makin’ the rent
To give it away
So that evil angels
Just might have somewhere to stay
I’m movin’ out baby
Just as soon as I can
While I still remember
That I’m a man