Poetry Tuesday – My Love for You

Nothing but tears as far as the eye can see,

But tears are blinding.

You cannot be

On the path to finding

Who you are.

All this fog and deception, the wound left a scar.

Blurry vision, twisted perception,

To where do they lead?

The ancient memories are haunting.

No life sprouts from the seed.

Life’s tasks are daunting

To an unguided soul such as you.

If I could see inside,

Would I find it is true–

From the world you hide?

Dare I speak your name

And try to reach your heart,

Would you call me insane

And pull from me apart?

The gap grows ever wide,

And the bridge begins to fall,

Yet you wonder why no one’s on your side,

Believing none love you at all.

How sad is such a tale

Of a lost child who refuses

To lift from his eyes the vale

That condemns and confuses.

Perhaps if I take a stand,

Ever-reaching for you,

One day you will understand

My love for you is true.

06/06/02

Excerpt from Mile Marker 139 (WIP) – Chapter Five

Chapter Five: Sarah Wilcox

A jazzy rendition of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” plays in the background.  Most people are oblivious to the music, but as Sarah spins out another order on the cappuccino machine, she sings softly and rocks her hips.  Caught up in the love of Christmastime, she whips up peppermint mochas and gingerbread lattes by the dozen.

“Here you go,” she says with a wide grin as she sets another order on the counter for pickup.

The middle-aged couple returns the smile.  

“Thank you,” the woman says, slipping a dollar into the tip jar.

“Merry Christmas,” Sarah replies as they walk away.

She glances at the full tip jar.  Normally, at the end of each shift, the workers divide the money evenly, but during the holiday season, they’ve been collecting the money to go toward buying gifts for underprivileged kids.

“We’ve made quite the dough today,” remarks Benny, a handsome African American man who’s been working beside Sarah that morning.

Sarah smiles at him.  “That’s part of what I love about this time of year.  It brings out the best in people.”  

While they talk, their hands are busy making drinks.  Benny winks at Sarah, and she feels the blush on her face.  She’s been working beside him more than just this morning.  In fact, they’ve been spending hours working together, and Sarah wonders if he’s into her like she is into him.  He can’t be much older than her, and he’s tall and lean, not overly-muscular.  Maybe he played basketball in high school or college.

“What are your plans for the holidays?” Benny asks over the rush of noise.

“Gotta work till noon, but then my family’s spending the afternoon and evening with my aunt and uncle and their kids and grandkids.  The grandkids are young, so it’s that fun age of watching them open gifts, still believing in Santa and all that.  There will be tons of family there–even more than I can remember.  How about you?”

“Would you believe they gave me off work like I requested?  My last day before we leave for Florida is the 24th, and then I won’t be back until after New Year’s.  My family’s all down there.”

“You’ll be having more days off if you aren’t careful, Benjamin,” the assistant manager, Tina Ross, barks.  “Now, pay attention and get back to work, both of you.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Benny says.  When Tina turns her back, he mock-salutes her.

Sarah and he are reduced to a fit of giggles.  

“Careful,” Sarah says lowly, “if you aren’t careful–”

Benny snickers.

Hours later, Sarah finishes her shift and steps outside to gently falling snow.  She walks slowly to her car, savoring the peace that the snow brings.  Despite the revving of semi-truck engines getting on and off the turnpike, Sarah finds a certain stillness as she gets into her car.  She sits in silence for a minute before turning it on, then turns the radio dial until she finds a station playing Christmas music.  The song ends within seconds, and the radio announcer starts up.

“And we’re still going strong on our drive to touch the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, who don’t have the money to have a Christmas dinner and a few gifts around the tree.  It’s true that our families and friends are greater than what money can buy, as is the birth of Jesus Christ.  That’s why in the spirit of giving and love, we are asking those who are able to call in and make a pledge.  We’ve already reached–”

Sarah turns off the radio as her eyes fall on the woman who sits at the picnic table every day.  Before she can let fear change her mind, she goes back inside the rest area and orders a cup of coffee.  Nothing fancy, just something warm.

“You know you don’t have to pay,” Janice says as she rings Sarah up.

“I know.”  Sarah shrugs with a soft, sad smile on her face.

“Hmm.”  Janice hands Sarah the coffee.  “See you tomorrow.”

“Thanks.”  

Sarah holds the cup carefully between her hands, like she’s cradling a precious treasure.  She stops at the stand where the cream and sugar are and grabs a few, stuffing them in her coat pockets.  She heads back outside into the snow, which is still falling gracefully.  With every step in the direction of the strange lady, Sarah’s heart thuds in her chest and up through her head.  She eventually reaches the woman, who is staring in the direction of the woods.  Standing a few feet away, Sarah hesitates with what to say.  She closes the distance between them and gingerly sets the coffee on the table, adding too many creams and sugars next to it with shaky fingers.

The woman turns — a sudden, jerky movement that takes Sarah by surprise.  She’s wearing sunglasses.  Sarah half-smiles.

“I just, uh, wanted to give you this.  It’s cold outside and all, so I thought you might want something to keep your warm.  If you don’t like coffee, I can get you tea or hot chocolate.  I work at the coffee place right inside.”  

Sarah stops babbling as the woman picks up the cup and takes a sip.  “Coffee’s fine.  Thank you.”

Sarah’s face eases into a full smile.  “You’re welcome.”

The woman doesn’t say anything else, but as she takes another sip of the coffee, Sarah is certain she hears a contented sigh.  Before the happy moment falls into awkwardness, Sarah says a quiet goodbye and leaves, smiling to herself all the way to the car and all the way on the drive home.

“What are you smiling for?” Sarah’s mom asks when she enters the kitchen.

“Just, you know, Christmas and the season of giving and all that, Mom.”  Sarah kisses her mom’s cheek, asking, “What can I do to help?”

 

All These Things I Believe

 

God calls us Home,
Each in His own time,
And that is why life is precious.
Do not fill your days with worry and fear,
But rather, be grateful for the life given you.
Mourn lost loved ones,
But rest safely in the comfort of knowing they are with their Lord.
Do not bemoan getting older;
Each year is another gift from God.
It’s true that life is short,
So don’t waste time on anger, bitterness, and all forms of negativity.
Blessings surround you more than you know;
Embrace them.
The pain and suffering of this world cannot compare to the One who has overcome the world.
You are God’s precious child,
Deserving of love like everyone.
All these things I believe.

Poetry Tuesday – Within These Walls

If time could speak,

Would we find what we seek?

Memories long ago forgotten,

Children every year begotten,

Echoes down these long halls,

All hidden within these walls.

 

If time could see,

Would we find who we ought to be?

Words etched on aged stone,

Left cold and alone,

Shadows of what was rise and fall,

All kept within these walls.

 

If time could reflect,

Would we find what we call perfect?

Laughter since faded,

Emptiness invaded,

Forever striving to recall,

All shrouded within these walls.

 

05/27/02

Ode to Christmas Insanity

Shopping is done,
And presents are wrapped.
Wasn’t that fun?
More like whacked?!
Staying up late
Addressing the cards;
Now, wait,
What’s in my front yard?!
The mail truck is here;
Let’s run like a fool!
Oh, dear, oh, dear!
All this for Yule?!
Covered in flour up to each elbow,
More cookies to bake,
Stack and frost in a row.
Oh, for Pete’s sake,
What is that smell?
I forget one batch.
Oh, well, oh, well.
Start again from scratch!
I swear, if I get one more email
Begging for my business –
This is why I hate retail!
Nothing but a mess!
Pull out the tree
And untangle the lights,
Oh, whee, oh, whee!
This gives me the frights!
Here comes the cat
To knock it all down.
Now what do you think of that?
Maybe next year I’ll just go out of town.
Now, I think myself generous,
But how many a charity
Must ask for my Ebay bonus?
Do you want me to live in poverty?
Elf on a shelf
Can take the plunge in the lake;
I’m beside myself
With dancing in the snowflakes!

Excerpt from Mile Marker 139 (WIP) – Chapter Four

Previous chapters: one,  two, and three.

Chapter Four: Mike Popkins

He’s out of breath.  Mike rests his hands on his thighs as he leans forward a bit, trying to calm his heart and get some oxygen.  He glares at the treadmill next to him.  Ten minutes.  Ten lousy minutes and the thing whooped his backside.  Barb used to walk on the damn thing at least thirty minutes every morning, even before breakfast or a cup of coffee.  And look where that got her.  For all her commitment to regular exercise and eating healthy, she’d died of an unexpected heart attack.

When Mike finally catches his breath, he heads into the kitchen and grabs a beer and a bag of chips.  Right to his favorite, well-worn recliner it is.  He plops down with a grunt and flicks on the TV, mindlessly clicking through the channels.  There’s nothing but talk shows, infomercials, news, and soap operas on in the mid-afternoon.  

“I pay how much every month for how many channels, and there’s nothing good on?” Mike mutters to himself.

He sighs and opens the beer, taking a long drag.  The potato chips are calling him, so he spends the next fifteen minutes eating through half of the bag and finishing his beer while a lady on TV goes on about buying “the special woman in your life a dazzling gold charm bracelet.”  And “If you order in now, there’s guaranteed delivery just in time for Christmas.”

The ringing of the phone shakes Mike out of his dream.  He was just about to kiss Barb and give her one of those silly bracelets.  Not realizing he’d fallen asleep, he momentarily panics as he reaches in his pocket for his phone.  It’s already 7:30, but there’s still time before he needs to leave for work.  Seeing his daughter-in-law’s name on the screen, he sighs.  Let it go to voicemail or pick up?

“Hi, Annie.”

“Hi, Mike.”  Annie sounds cheerful, like always, but Mike isn’t fooled.  She wears her smiles like they’re painted on and is that forced kind of happy you find in Disney World workers.  “I was hoping I’d reach you.”

“Well, you have.  What’s going on?”  Mike asks the question, even though he knows the answer.  Annie tries too hard to play the peacemaker between his son and him.

“Well, we missed you at Thanksgiving.  We were hoping to see you for Christmas.  The boys would love to see you.”

Mike’s heart clenches.  “By ‘boys,’ I’m sure you mean my grandkids, not my son.”

“Come on, Mike.  We’ve got an extra bed.”

He knows it’s petty, but Mike wants to know why his son’s family doesn’t come visit him.  He’s the old man.  The kids aren’t that little anymore.

“I’ll think about it.  Might be hard to get the time off work.  Lots of people traveling, you know.  Gotta keep the rest stop clean.”  Yeah, lots of people traveling but you, Mike, he thinks sourly.  Still, his pride won’t step aside long enough for him to give his poor daughter-in-law a straight answer.

“All right.  Just give me a call, all right?”

“Sure thing, Annie.  Thanks.”

“Bye.”

The line goes dead.  Bless Annie.  She was the one who’d really invited him for Thanksgiving, not Calvin.  Ever since Barb died, Mike and Calvin have been at odds.  They couldn’t be the same room without someone starting an argument.  Mike knew what Calvin thought of him — that he was lazy, that he hadn’t honored his mom’s wishes that he take care of himself, that he wouldn’t make the effort to keep the family together without her.

What did Calvin know?  

“Your mother was the picture of perfect health, young man, and she’s gone now.  Ain’t nothing gonna change that.  Not I’ve gotta figure out how to do things on my own.”

Mike knew grief.  Hell, Barb and he had known it together for years.  He often wished he would have had a daughter.  Maybe she would’ve understood what his stubborn son didn’t.  Annie didn’t need the burden of trying to fix a broken family.  But Mike and Barb were lucky to have the one child they did.  Years of miscarriages or not conceiving at all nearly drove them apart, but then Barb became pregnant with Calvin.

Mike shakes his head, trying to push the thoughts of the past away.  He stands, leaving crumbs on the chair and the empty beer can and half-empty chip bag on the tray next to the chair.  After a quick shower, he puts on his uniform of a light blue shirt and black pants that are getting too tight.

As Mike gets in his car, he marvels at how mild it’s been so far for December.  Besides that snowstorm right before Thanksgiving, the white stuff hasn’t been back.  On the drive to work, he knows he’d be smart to wrestle it out with that damn treadmill again come tomorrow.  

When he arrives, he is greeted by several people who work in the restaurants and by Gloria, who’s working in the gift shop.  Mike nods and waves to them.  They’re nice enough people, but he’s not much of a talker.  He sidles up to the burger joint and orders some food.  There’s still a half-hour until his shift starts.

“The usual?” asks Wayne from behind the counter.

“Yep, two doubles, a large fry, and a Coke, Wayne, young man.”

Wayne smiles.  “One of these days, it should be on the house, Mike.”

Mike waves him off and forks over the cash.  He doesn’t carry credit cards, much to the younger generations’ shock.  He adds the change to his other pocket.  It’ll go in the change jar that sits on the kitchen counter when he gets home, a leftover from when Barb was alive.  “Fun money,” as she liked to call it.  

Ten minutes later, Mike is done with his dinner.  He can hear Calvin’s whiney voice saying, “Dad, this is exactly the sort of thing Mom would’ve hated.  What, you couldn’t take a few minutes to cook yourself dinner at home?”

But cooking for one lonely old man isn’t practical, and Mike doesn’t cook.  He eyes the clock.  Still fifteen minutes.  Clocking in early isn’t okay with the boss, so Mike steps outside to smoke.  He grumbles at himself for eating so quickly as the indigestion hits him.

Lighting up, he scans the outside in the dark.  Of course, she’s not there yet.  It’s too early.  A few minutes later, Mike puts out his cigarette and goes inside to begin his shift: 9:00 to 6:00 every day but Wednesdays and Sundays.

Several hours later, Mike takes a break and reaches for another cigarette.  This time, he sees her, sitting in her usual spot, that crazy lady.  Mike isn’t sure what propels him, but he walks over to her.

“Hey, you mind if I join you?” he asks, offering a cigarette.

“What?”  She seems snapped out of a daze.  Removing her sunglasses, her eyes settle on Mike.  Recognition stirs in them and she even smiles slightly as she takes the cigarette.  “Thanks.”

Mike sits down slowly on the seat.  “You know, you’re lucky winter hasn’t really started yet.  Are you still gonna sit out here then?”

The woman takes a couple of drags from her cigarette.  “I haven’t thought about it yet.”

“It’s warmer inside.”  Mike finishes his cigarette, stands, and crushes it in the cigarette disposal.  “Gotta get back to work, but think about what I said.  Warmer inside.”

He leaves her gaping at his back as he walks away.