Since I slid down the rabbit hole and
Heard the Pink Queen scream,
“Off with her breasts!”
and I fell to the bottom;
and I awoke with these scars
Across the front of my chest.
Since I decided to close my eyes,
to cut out the cancer;
To ace this great test.
And my family and friends
and my doctors stepped in to help me
Get through it; get much needed rest.
Since I finally went back to work;
And was told I had clearly forgotten
All that I knew with my surgery.
And I wept in the office,
And I thought I had gone mad.
Somehow I’d become a maimed, stupid pest.
Since I quit
And spit in their eye;
Laid their criticism to rest
And I found a new job
And I was laid off there, too
Left wondering about my true quest.
Since they laid off my entire team
And I find myself asking,
“God, is this how I’m blessed?
And is this how You care?
And show us Your mercy?
Encourage us forward through an intolerable mess?
And then I remember
And then I review
And I see I’ve survived
With work left to do.
With work left to do.
(first draft 4/7/14)
A way long time ago before even I was born, so you know that was quite a while ago, three sisters, Magda, Ruth and Gilda, were left at home to watch their baby brother while their mother and father took the wagon and rode into town to buy coffee, flour, sugar and salt at the Anderson store. Enough flour, sugar and salt to mix with the dozen eggs laid by the hens last week, and the pound of butter churned from the milk gathered from Flora, their gentle brown cow, to make a luscious cake for Magda’s thirteenth Name Day cake. It would be a glorious cake! Thirteen layers of golden nutmeg cake filled with thick, sweet, whipped cream and topped with melted bitter sweet chocolate frosting speckled with flakes of real gold. Each layer of the cake would hold a secret surprise…a copper coin, perhaps, or a tiny carved bird, or a silver thimble…and whoever was lucky enough to find the surprise would also be assured of good cheer for the whole coming year. Magda would surely remember this cake her entire life, no doubt about it.
But enough of the cake. I’m here to tell you what happened to Magda, Ruth and Gilda while watching their baby brother whose name was Albert. His three sisters thought Albert seemed a rather serious name for a small baby, so amongst themselves they called him Beanie.
As soon as Mother and Dad had ridden around the boulder at the edge of the creek, the three girls went to work. Magda stoked the wood stove with a fresh oak log, and put a pot of water on to boil. Ruth made up the beds, singing at the top of her voice and laughing hysterically at nothing in particular. Gilda swept the floor and out the door to finish on the front porch. When the water was boiled, and the tin bathtub filled about half full of hot and cold water, Magda called the girls together. They all pinned thick bath towels to the front of their house dresses, the Ruth ran to the crib and gently lifted Beanie out of his cradle and pulled his soft nightshirt up over his head. The shock of the cool air sent goose bumps racing across his fat tummy, and he almost began to holler, but he saw the tub filled with warm water waiting for him and he gave a baby giggle and clapped his hands.
Beanie loved to take a bath. He loved to splash, and kick, and screech, and whoever was bathing him soon become soaked through, hence the thick towels pinned to his sister’s dresses while the all worked to bathe him. Magda, Ruth and Gilda laughed along with Beanie, and danced and sang around the tub while he splashed. They all carried with glee for almost a full hour, then finally the girls pulled Beanie out of the tub, dried him until his skin shown and dressed him in his soft leggings, little leather boots and a warm red tunic. They parted his shining hair on the side and smoothed it all nice and neat. Gilda spread a bright quilt on the front porch and set Beanie in the middle of it to play with three pots while she and her sisters hung the wet towels on the clothesline. Magda and Ruth carried out the tub and poured out the bath water on the tomato plants full of smooth, green globes promising jars of tasty spaghetti sauce in two-three weeks’ time. They hung the tub on the side of the shed next to the house. All three girls stood a moment looking around the yard, then the kitchen, making sure all was neat and tidy, then headed to the porch to gather up Beanie into the wood sided wagon for a walk down to the lake to feed the ducks.
It had been a beautiful, easy morning, filled with song and laughter and Beanie’s giggles. The sisters walked arm in arm around the front of the house, tripping each other as they went.
“Beanie boy! It’s time for a walk!” they sang out, and started up the steps. “Beanie! Beanie? Baby? Oh!” They all covered their mouths with their hands, they’re sparkling eyes wide with shock.
Day Five 2014 NaPoWriMo
Quiet lengthens nights…
Darkness slithers down the hall
And knocks at my door.
rJo Herman 4/5/14
Fishy, fishy in a brook
Daddy catch you with a hook
Mama cook you in a pan
Baby eat you like a man
She sailed away
On a lovely summer day
On the back of a crocodile.
“You see,” said she,
“He’s as tame as he can be.
I’ll float him down the Nile.”
The croc winked his eye,
As the lady waved goodbye,
Wearing a happy smile.
At the end of the ride
The lady was inside,
And the smile was on the crocodile.
NaPoWriMo Day Three
COSMIC VORTEX STRIKES AGAIN
There was something awry at this morning’s Mass.
It may have begun before I arrived late, just after the initial blessing,
But in time to confess to almighty God and all my brothers and sisters
That I have greatly sinned,
Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.
We all beat our chests,
Then stood for the reading of the Gospel.
We all did something different.
Some of us stood, some knelt, some sat, all at the same time.
One man was oblivious through the ringing of the Eucharist bells,
Reading his missal
even after Father said “Please kneel.”
Everyone looked at everyone, half up, half down, not wanting to be the one to get it wrong;
Uncertain what to do
As if none of us had ever gone through this same ritual
At least three hundred times in our lives.
Perhaps it was the shifting of the pews earlier this month
That led to the confusion on ancient procedure this morning.
One thing is for certain,
Change is in the air at St. Mark’s Catholic Church.
It’s becoming almost unbearable,
this wait for the poppies to bloom.
The leaves are lush and full,
and the furry pods have been teasing
for at least a week now.
I want to stay at the window
or hover over them until the first bloom splits.
Just do it!
Pop, or crack, or burst like a ballon!
Just do whatever it is you do!
Bloom, damn you! Bloom!
I cannot stand the wait!
rJo Herman 5/31/14
2014 April 2
“April Fool’s is past!
You’re the biggest fool at last,”
So my mother said
When we kids hollered
“April Fools!” on April two,
Laughing our heads off.
She knew we did not
care. The fun of it was there
and pranks all around.
rJo Herman 4/2/14
Dear Mary Ellen,
I have started this letter so many times, and something always seems to come up to pull me away, but today I’m going to finish it.
I hope Bill and you and the kids are well. I made a New Year’s Resolution to visit you for a good, long weekend this coming year. Of course, that’s barring layoffs or unplanned medical events. It was just about this time last year when I got that crazy diagnosis. I never expected that, and it surely changed all my plans for the rest of the year. But it all worked out well, eh?
I have joined an on-line writing group, and it has been a fantastic experience, seeing what others write about, and how they do it. It’s pretty amazing to hear how many writers are fascinated with witchcraft and vampires, just as we were “in our day.” I don’t remember stories and movies being so bloody and gory, but really, who am I kidding? To this day I shudder when I think of that Grim Reaper picture in that TV show called Chiller, where the scythe blade bled just before someone’s head was sliced off, and my brothers hid in the bedroom and bathroom off the hallway and made swishing sounds just like in the show, and my sister and I ran screaming to our room, sure we were next to lose our heads. Ha, we were pretty scared and the boys were brats.
Anyway, everyone in the writing group has agreed to take on a writing challenge about the elements for Earth Day, 2014. I chose water. It seemed it would be fairly easy, y’know? We need water to live, and all that, but I began researching it and cannot imagine how to narrow it down into one story, even a long one. I first thought to take a scientific, environmental stand. Save the water, and all that, but I haven’t been able to keep interested in that tact.
Then I thought to write a tale from a western pioneer’s viewpoint, reading diaries of women trekking across the plains with their families, following their husbands, leaving prized possessions in piles by the wheel ruts on any of a hundred difficult passes. These stories enthralled me, and I can just imagine, after sixty, eighty days out, finding a small, sweet stream with five or six tall cottonwoods for shade, some dear woman said to her dear, disillusioned husband,
“Stop! I will take not one step more on this ridiculous journey,”
and settled right there and then, eventually attracting other tired travelers who pooled their energies and resources to build a small way station with water troughs for tired horses, and a small trading post for weary, broke dreamers who needed to pay their wagon masters, and only had their grandmother’s long case clock left to barter.
The only word for how Emil felt as he watched two mourning doves flutter down to peck at fresh seed on the sidewalk.
and his mouth watered.
It was only a minute before he had been so bored watching his human shovel the walks clear of this snow.
rJo Herman 12/26/14
Marith and her children came twenty three miles the day before. Twenty three miles across the dusty, dry, scrub covered prairie, dragging their feet only the last hour, only after the captain had sent word down the line of wagons that they’d be stopping shortly, all lifting their eyes beyond the trail in front of them and searching the near horizon for willow bushes or tall cottonwoods promising shade, fresh water, and a deep rest.
There was no evidence of water, no shade, just stunted, twisted sagebrush, and occasional yucca plants with large ant mounds between. Their hearts sunk. They would rest in the shade of their wagon, take careful sips from their water barrel, chew some pemmican and dried apricots, then sleep the sleep of the dead until the captain called start in the morning.
Marith had five living children. She had begun this trek with six. Her baby, Lura, had died in the third week, only two months old. Marith’s milk had dried up with the arduous march, and though her dairy cow held up and produced buckets of milk each day, Lura’s tiny stomach could not digest it. She sucked and sucked on the milk soaked tea towel Marith offered her during the day, only to vomit it up. It was painful and slow, the death of this beautiful, starving child, and Marith’s mind shifted from great enthusiasm for a new life in Oregon to a dread that all the promises had been lies.
She was tired and heart sick; her soul depleted. She fed the children, looked long into her husband’s eyes, then lay down to sleep, determined that tomorrow would be better.