Shelter in the Night

The boy was a street kid, probably had some kind of home but his parents didn’t care a whole lot, or maybe he just had one parent at home, and this parent worked a lot, or had some kind of addiction.  In any case he was dirty and he was needy.  Need, and longing and feeling helpless make people do bad things.

I’m not giving any excuses for the boy’s behavior but I am explaining why she loved this boy.  Because he’s just a boy, and boys do things that they shouldn’t, and this boy at least knew when he had been beat.  Because he had been beaten before, and she could tell because he gave in and resigned himself to his lot.  He knew he had done wrong, and he knew he deserved something.  He didn’t know the woman but he knew he was in the custody of someone braver and wiser than he.

The woman was strong in character.  She knew the boy, weather he knew it or not.  She had seen her brother, and her father and the son who she had lost in him.  She saw the innocence that even the boy who at the age of twelve had thought he had lost.

The woman was strong and brave and had spent much time alone on account of it.  When someone spends brave time alone they see others and they look in themselves, and if their not hardened by it they grow soft, and her large softness had made her heart grow big.  She wasn’t surprised when the boy grabbed for her purse (not as surprised as he was when she grabbed him), not because she had seen him coming, because she had not.  She was not surprised because she knew it was coming.  She knew one night walking that street that she walked so often that this would happen.  At first she was gun shy, even with her wonderful bravery, when she walked down that lonely night street lit up and speckled with night people, she would see out of the corner of her eye this boy.  Not this very boy, but this boy.  She would tell herself “that boy there is lonely,” and “that boy is needy,” or “that boy is hungry,” and in this way, over time, she had softened herself with her hardness.

This is why when the boy, this very boy came, she was not surprised.  She took him in, and she fed him, and she would even find herself at times wanting to keep him, but she knew that she could not.  Because when she looked at him she saw her brother, and her father and the son she had lost.  Because of all of this she was glad to feed him.



Travel On Roads


Some roads we only travel. Some roads we follow and we see where we are going.  We drive them and we know.  The grass at the side of the road is green, the trees making shadows are tall. In theSalinasvalley you can almost taste the richness of the soil in the air.  Smell, the ocean meet the shore and the pines, on HWY 101 along theOregoncoast.  The pressure builds in your ears as you climb, up, over and through theRocky Mountains.  You can stand on the continental divide and ether piss in the Pacific Ocean or theMississippi River.   See the brilliant green grasses of theDakotas’ in the spring time, and the browns and yellows of the late summer.  On a warm night sounds surround you in the forested swamps ofFlorida.  The gravel feels different under your bare feet almost everywhere.  Some are fortunate enough to see where they go.  Some roads are only traveled.


Two souls

Two souls fight a hart felt battle

Both fighting for good
Both fighting for god

Evil laces itself around them

Sweat drips
Muscles strain
Back and forth

Evil is the enemy

Even with their righteous thoughts evil becomes them

Eyes are poked
Bite marks speckle ankle and back

Spectators jeer and cheer
Depending on who is easiest on the eye
Or most helpful on their pockets

A glancing blow spatters blood on her fresh white blouse
They spit and curse and ask their friends if they can believe this

The circle of the ring spreads

A chair is broken that belongs to our cousin
Our cousin had nothing to do with this
That chair is a family heirloom

I saw who broke that chair
He did it on purpose

We will make this right

God is on our side!



Little Green Houses


Tony Ahlers’ house is completely gone.  Just a little open lot, a house on either side.  I remember the kitchen, the bathroom with the old fashion tub, the huge living room and his messy bedroom.  Now it’s gone.  Kids walking by today on the uneven sidewalk that was such a pain to shovel may not even know that the old green house was once there.

The town seems so small now.  By city standards New Lisbon is small, about 1,400 people reside there.  When I was a kid walking to school on my child legs from my child vantage point it seemed big, the streets long and vast.  Today as I drive threw I feel as though I could get out of my car and stand next to the houses at eye level with the roof tops.

My childhood home is still where it once was, with the addition of new siding on the house and garage.  My dad built the garage when I was seven.  Most of the wood came from the abandoned house in the lot next door to ours.  Walkers Stainless was expanding and tore the old house down leaving the wood for whoever wanted to take it off the lot.  I pulled nails from the boards and straightened them on the cement slab poured for the new garage, and my dad put the nails back into the boards to erect the frame of the garage.  It is a very nice garage.  We moved out of that house and into the country when I was in fifth grade, but the town still felt like it was mine, my home.

I went to kindergarten at New Lisbon Elementary and graduated fromNewLisbonHigh school.  There were 45 kids in my graduating class and I shared a kindergarten room with most of them.  A person can actually walk from the kindergarten to the high school without leaving the building.  It wasn’t always connected, before I was around a new addition connected the elementary to the middle school, when I was in eighth grade they built a long hallway between the middle school and the high school, and added a new cafeteria/gym in the center.

Wrestling practice was in the cafeteria, for track we ran around town (literally) and as children we walked the streets.  I have on little feet walked every street in that little town, to and from friend’s houses, to Kwik Trip to get candy after school.  Who knows all the reasons a kid may have to walk down a street.

In second grade after a fresh snow we made giant snow balls on the grass play ground after school.  I forgot my gloves that day (or maybe I just lost them I can’t remember) and started the twelve blocks home when my hands were getting to cold to play in the snow.  At first I ran—my hands so cold they felt like they were on fire.  I cut throughSaint Paul’s Catholic Church parking lot and Charlie Purz’s back yard.  The main thing I remember is crying the whole last block I wasn’t running anymore at this point I didn’t even have my hands in my pockets I just walked and cried and felt sorry for myself.  When I got home my dad ran my hands under lukewarm water.

I learned how to swim at the dam.  Above the dam there was a small fenced in beach—swimming lessons were in the morning.  A pretty older girl taught me how to dive off the board, ‘if she can do it I can do it.’  The diving board was above the dam and when jumped off it placed you about thirty feet from the spill way.  A large raft was tethered about fifty feet from the beach.  The older kids swam to the spill way and rode it down even though technically this wasn’t permitted.  I think I was seven when a high school kid drowned in the spillway.  After that the diving board, the raft and the rope of buoys were taken down and no one was allowed to swim there ever again.

We played in the streets when we snuck out at night.  Brian: “Mom, I’m staying at Doug’s.”  Brent: “I’m staying at Brian’s.” Jason, Elliot, myself, whoever could convince there parents they were staying somewhere else.  Fourteen and fifteen years old we roamed the streets at night.

Cop tag consisted of finding the town cop after curfew, making sure he saw us and when he started chasing we started running.  Across parking lots, through front yards out the back, between houses, over fences, hearts pumping, adrenaline flowing, everyone meets back up behind the football field house.  Three people are required for street light Super Man.  On a long straight street, wait for a car to come your direction from about five blocks down, run into the street, two people push the third person down and pretend to kick him.  He is positioned in the path of the oncoming vehicle, but since the situation was set to be seen there isn’t much chance of getting hit.  The car stops, the two standing kids run off.  The driver has several choices; some shout out the window, some actually get out of the car.  “Are you ok?”  The driver says. “Yeah,” the person lying in the street says jumping up and running off, “because I’m Street Light Superman!”  Once on a particularly dark street a green van stopped and laid on the horn, didn’t even open the window to yell.  So I got up, brushed the dirt from myself and walked off the street, shaking my head at the person in the van and wagging my finger ashamedly.  At the end of the night when we got tired or cold we would pry the door open on the bus behind the Baptist church, curl up and fall asleep on the bus seats.

When I turned sixteen, and got my drivers license, the nearby countryside became part of our play ground, and the playground of the world expanded from there.  As a child New Lisbon was my home, it was all I really knew.  I left home two weeks after graduation—my ten year class reunion is this summer.

Carlos Castaneda found that you can never really go home.  Tony Ahlers can never really go home.  Today driving through it almost didn’t feel like I was there.  It felt like a dream or a stolen memory.  I didn’t really see the trickle of snow flakes drifting down, I saw a spring day, the sweet warm smell of waking grass, the weight of my backpack bulging with my jacket stuffed inside, looking up to the clouds and the huge sky…walking down that street right over there.


Seek Only To Find

It was three of us who wadded out.


We had to go a long way.  I was surprised looking across this great lake that this far out it could be waist deep.  But we had to find the edge.

How far
We could

The water was cold at first touch.  Wadding in with goose bumps.  Once one summons the courage to fully submerge, one finds that it is not that bad.
Only three of us went, though there were ten at the shore.  Ten brave seekers with nothing to find.

I for one
My comrades for three
Needed to know
We were different
Us three

One amongst us, normally quiet, with an air of distrust, laughed as he dashed against the on coming waves.  He smiled and threw his hands to the blue sky.  I could see in his face—or was it only in his eye—that he gave thanks to the ground below his feet, the water incasing his legs and the breeze letting him know that he was being anointed with the air around him.

Waist deep
Back floating
Spraying water with thrusts of feet

The other among us, happy to be there.  Veteran of journeys within and without.  New story to tell.  New something to do.  Diving under to feel the cold on skin.  Wetting hair not to make clean, but to feel it wet.  As he shakes his head droplets of water run to the ends of his hair, leap from the strand to form droplets, suspended only momentarily, then like they had never existed, or left their home, disappear back into the waving mass.

Belly button
Not far over
A long way
From shore
No matter

There has to be an edge. We must see the boundary.  We must know where we can survive by treading alone.  On the shore others sit.  Most not aware of our quest, or at least only visually aware that we are far off.  A couple wishing they were with—only a couple.
Has to be soon

I am drawn.  I am pulled as if by a current, into the face of the head of the wind, yet it’s like a sail carrying me forward.  I am not lost.  I only seek to find.  Everything is a box, I tell myself.  I do not fear the edge, I embrace it with wonder.

Bending my knees I kneel on the bottom, tilting my head to the sky.  Sucking the air, as water threatens my mouth with each approaching ripple of wave.

Nothing below

We tread laughing for a long time.  From sounding the bottom we know that it drops off here.  We let ourselves sink, the water envelops our up-stretched finger tips, hit the soft silty bottom and push up.  Now we know where we stand, treading water looking back at the shore.

Breast stroke
Back float
Looking into the sky
Wisps of white
Contrasting the water
Wind at our backs
Propelling us
To shore

Engulfed in the space that has allowed me to slip into itself, form fitting as a mold, exact replica of me.  Opening my eyes I see through the blackness of this space and can pick out my companions, who also submerged could be stars far off in this galaxy.


The music I woke up to

And I’m left with longing
And hope
And a sense that the world is imperfect
Because there must be something deeply ironic about the whole thing
And if it doesn’t get better
At least it will get over
In the dream I was conducting this kind of symphony of life
Everything flowed
Because it generally had to
That’s the thing
In that state when you know you’re in a dream
You make
Yet the dream still has a way of making you
If you do nothing
It will still do
But you can’t always do something
You can’t always do something
You can’t always do something
My enemy was in the dream
I confronted him
Well he was at my home and he was wearing my shoes so I guess he confronted me
I thought I might fight him
But instead he showed me something
I thought it a great sign of compassion
Something I could learn from
He showed me imperfection
No one else around me saw it
They had there own lives
Their own dreams
They didn’t even know I was conducting
Because they were conducting too


On the Bus or Off the Bus

On the Bus or Off the Bus

We’re riding on the math bus
You’re not even in my class
So I don’t know why
But, we finally get to the place where we are going
We all go inside
Our professor hands us our homework
The object of this
Seems to be
To make the necessary corrections
Then hand the work back
I struggle on the first correction
For a little bit
Then go where you sit
To ask for help
Just then I notice
The people in the row ahead (well kind of ahead)
Start making out
Luckily they have covers
And I’m pretty sure a bed
Yeah, it had to be a bed
We’re in some room
There is a divider between the rows
But, I know what their doing up there
So we start making out too
Pretty soon we’re naked
And wrapped around each other
And we still aren’t done making the corrections
Well I think that you may be done
I feel stupid for not being done yet
“Do you think the professor minds that we’re naked,” I ask
That’s when I realize I’m not naked
I’m wearing socks


Savior from Genocide

I don’t think they know
I’m trying to help them
Hundreds of Chinese
Lady Beetles
At the bottom of he sash
Skeletal remains
Of the souls who
Didn’t make it
I open the window
Then the screen
I start at the top and begin
Brushing them down
They try to scratch
With their little legs
To the other side
Of the glass
I try to be careful
Their little shells
Protect them
Pretty well
After being brushed
They drop
Half-way down
The hard shell splits
Little wings pop out
As they feel the air
At the bottom of the sash
They putter off
I wonder if they will think of me
Will they remember me
As there large savior
I wonder what they expect
Out in the big world


27 Years 159 Days

I have a balloon,
it is rounding, it is large, it is filling. You can’t see what is in it,
but it is voluptuous, so I know  it is filling.  My  balloon  is  filled with ideas  not  air.
Big  ideas, little  ideas, crafty and simple  ideas.  Now can you see my balloon?  It is lighter than air,
if you suck on it, it may make you talk funny.  Do you have a balloon?   Is  your  balloon  lighter  than  air,  or  do  you  use  it  as  an  anchor?  That’s ok to, after all it is your balloon to do what you wish with.  Close your eyes, look at your balloon.  What color is it?  If you do have a balloon like mine,
I have an idea.  We can take both of our balloons  and tie them to a lawn chair.  If we get
enough balloons, and are really brave we could fly.  I’m serious we could do it.
It’s actually been done before.  A guy did it back in the 80’s.  Real balloons,
real lawn chair. He did it alone though, with our balloons we could take as
many people as we want to invite along.
I think we should invite
















Above is the shape of my balloon.  It’s not quite round because it is not quite full.  Maybe tomorrow or ten years from now it will be a little fuller. No matter how full it gets it will still always be lighter than air.  When I die I  will go  inside  my  balloon,  and it will take me wherever I am going.  Then my balloon will be full. P Q R S T U V W X Y Z