On Friday morning, I wrote a poem about where fury drives us and then, ironically, a few hours later I witnessed this incident of road rage:
On Friday morning, I wrote a poem about where fury drives us and then, ironically, a few hours later I witnessed this incident of road rage:
This is the day we laud our Earth
who, from the first day of her birth
has gathered, to increase her girth
around her core, the fertile soil
that, by our labor and our toil,
helps us retain our mortal coil
by giving sustenance to all
residing on our spinning ball.
Yet, we have spread oil’s deadly pall
over this globe that gives us life
until, I fear, our home is rife
with that which cuts us like a knife,
our umbilical to sever.
Always, we deem ourselves so clever
with our improvements, but we never
seem to see the full effect––
how each gain is a defect.
It’s on this day that we reflect
on how we’ve served our mother ill.
And now we swallow that vile pill
and thereby finally pay our bill––
that fine we’re issued as we wait
for that improbable ending date
when all our poisoning will abate.
Knowing still, down in our heart
that all the evils that we start
are but that fatal stabbing dart
that will eventually bring an end
to each family member and friend
as nature’s laws we seek to bend.
Now as we wait in our human queue
to receive the verdict that we’re due,
there is one fact that’s sure and true.
As we vanish, here and yon,
and as, eventually, we’re gone,
the Earth will still be going on.
Both NaPoWriMo and WordPress gave “Earth Day” as a prompt today. I’m also using my illustration to fulfill Cee’s Flower of the Day prompt. Three birds, one stone.
When on some strange and lonely night
the choice is whether to take flight
or stand and face off for a fight,
I hope your soul turns still and white
and that you gather strength and might
to try to find that inner light
and conquer elements of fright.
Muster all your inner sight
and draw you to your furthest height.
All your inner truths recite.
Feel the solution’s tender bite,
your inner armies to incite.
Cast off the threat that holds you tight,
and lift off, soaring like a kite––
free once more for life’s delight.
The Rutted Road
It’s been two years since I wrote about the bad decision that led to life-threatening events that turned into one of the most exciting adventures of my lifetime. If you haven’t already read about my life in Ethiopia in the 1 1/2 years that led up to the revolution that deposed Haile Selassie, go HERE. After spending an hour finding links to the different segments of that story and getting ready to post this, I see that I posted a link to this story in July of 2015, so if you’ve already read it, you may choose not to read it again. I’ll post another response to this prompt later today. if you haven’t read it and have some time, then go to the link above. (In fact, I meant to post this twelve hours ago but just found it in drafts.)
The Prompt: The Road Less Traveled––Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.
Caught in the tangles of last year’s castoff wreaths in our local cemetery, I found the following words. They were scrawled in a frenzied adult handwriting in fading purple ink on a curled yellowing slip of lined paper with one jagged edge, as though it had been ripped from a journal:
Behind the door of my dream, I heard a knocking. I walked down a tree-lined corridor to the door at the end. As I drew nearer, the knocking grew louder and more frenzied. I struggled with the bolt, which would not open, but as I finally drew it back, there was an explosion of sound—organ music playing a dirge in such a joyful manner that it sounded like a celebration instead of the reflection of death.
As the door creaked open, I heard the crash of glass breaking and then the tinkle and scrape of this glass being ground down to shards and powder as the door opened over it. There was such a bright light shining from behind the figure standing on the other side of the door that I could make out only her silhouette—a woman with an elderly stance wearing a long skirt. She was large of bosom and had thin wisps of hair piled untidily on top of her head. In one hand, held down to her side, was a basket. In the other hand was a jar.
I drew closer to the woman, to try to get her body between my eyes and the source of the bright glare—to try to see who she was. When I was but six inches from her, I finally recognized her as my grandmother. She was wearing the same navy dress with pearl buttons and gravy stains down the front that she had been wearing the last time I remember seeing her. In the basket was a mother cat with three kittens nursing. In the jar was chokecherry jelly, if its handwritten label was to be believed.
As I drew up to hug her and kiss her cheek, she started humming a song—some church hymn, perhaps “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” It was hard to recognize because she hummed it under her breath—with little inward gasps at times that made it sound like she was eating the song and then regurgitating it.
Her eyes were vacant as she looked over my shoulder. “Grandma, it’s me!” I said, but she still didn’t look at or acknowledge me.
“Do you want to play Chinese Checkers?” I asked. It was the one activity I could remember that both my grandma and I enjoyed.
She expressed a long intake of breath, shook her head no and held out the basket to me.
“Is this a gift?” I asked.
“No, it is an obligation,” she hissed, and as the basket passed from her hand to mine, she seemed to deflate—whooshing backwards out of sight—until only the basket of cat and kittens and the jar of chokecherry jelly lying sideways on the trail she had vanished down gave testimony to her presence.
“Bye, Grandma,” I called wistfully down the trail she had vanished down. “I love you.”
But I didn’t love her. I had this memory of sleeping with her in her feather bed and almost smothering trapped between the thick feather pillow and comforter. I have an explicit memory of holding the pillow over her face and her struggling to get free. It was a joke and I hadn’t meant to smother her, really, but there was such power in the fact that she could not fight off an 8-year-old girl that it made me hold the pillow over her face for a few seconds longer than I wanted to or should have. She was all right. Just frightened as I had been frightened so often by her stories of poor little Ella and all the wrongs done to her in her lifetime. It was as though I had to choose sides—her side or the side of the people who had done mean things to her. And like the little devil she always made me out to be—I chose the other side.
The Prompt: Everything Changes––You encounter a folded slip of paper. You pick it up and read it and immediately, your life has changed. Describe this experience.https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/everything-changes/
Hide and Go Seek in Paradise
Yesterday Morrie, who was lying right in front of my chair behind my heels, his nose between my feet, suddenly jumped three feet in the air. I looked down and this lovely fellow was on the floor between my feet. I quickly took off a shoe and bashed him three or four times, which wasn’t very effective because I had Croc sandals on, but I finally scraped him to death. Morrie licked his lips and then his paw, but didn’t keep licking and didn’t swell or cry. Something must have happened to make him jump, but he has had no ill effects.
I have found five of these creatures on my bedroom or bathroom floor in the past four days! I found two this morning alone and I think nine have met their demise by my foot in the past couple of weeks. I don’t know what is bringing them in at this point as I hadn’t seen any for a few months.
The fellow pictured was about 2 inches long from his head to his stinger, not counting his pincers. Some are black, some reddish brown and some tan. Although the huge black ones are the scariest, supposedly the small tan ones are the most poisonous. About six days ago I took my capris off a hook on the wall, put them on, then put on a blouse and walked into the bathroom, which is better lit than my bedroom. I looked down and saw a twist of thread on the thigh of my capri leg and picked it off, but when I did, it moved; so I quickly dropped it onto the floor to discover it was one of the tiny beige scorpions!!! I stomped and scraped it. Can’t figure out why it didn’t sting me.
I’ve learned never to walk barefoot, but do occasionally. Once in the middle of the night I neglected to put on my sandals when I went to the bathroom. As I sat down, I felt something prick my heel and immediately shook my foot and a scorpion fell down. I felt only a slight prick and it never really burned or hurt much. I think it had stung me on the tougher skin of my heel and just didn’t puncture it enough.
Another time a scorpion climbed between the heel of my Birkenstock and my heel as my heel raised up when I was walking. As I rested it back down, I felt and heard a crackling noise and I investigated to find I’d cut the scorpion in two. The front part of his body was still in my shoe under my heel whereas the stinger and rear legs were on the floor!!!
Probably my worst near miss with one of these evil creatures was when I took my swim suit down from the shower nozzle where I had hung it to dry and for some reason shook it out (I never had before) and a scorpion fell out of the flap of material over the crotch. Yes–Ew. I know. Ouch! Now I always shake out clothes. Well, except for my capris the other day.
Yesterday I asked Pasiano to spray for scorpions in front of all the doors that lead into the house. So far it seems not to have kept them out, but perhaps it will slow them down long enough for me to catch them before they catch me.
Living in paradise is pretty nice, folks, but it isn’t free. Weather’s perfect, nature is gorgeous, labor and food and lodging are comparatively cheap, but oh yeah. We have scorpions!!!
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.” Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it? This is the conclusion to a true story that was begun yesterday. I don’t think you want to read the ending without reading the beginning first. To do so, go HERE.
“The One Who Got Away”
Devil #3, Part II
Perhaps if I acted normal, it all would go away–
this little game they’d started that I didn’t want to play.
I said, “Please let me out right here, a friend lives down the block!”
But silence met my pleas, as though they couldn’t hear me talk.
As the three of them kept talking about which way to turn,
the man I’d danced with quickly turned cold and taciturn.
He had said he was a stranger who came from the east coast,
yet he didn’t ask directions of the one who knew the most.
“Which way should we go, man?” He asked the one behind
as though there was a certain road he wanted to find.
Of me they took no notice–as though I wasn’t there.
The driver just looked straight ahead with a hardened stare.
My life’s worst fear had been to be in someone else’s power,
so the thought of what was happening made me want to cower
and beg and plead and scream and cry; but I did none of that,
though I felt like a bird first toyed with by a cruel cat.
My heartbeat raced but my thoughts raced ahead of them to find
escape from what must have been planned by his devious mind.
They took the road past houseless land—a golf course and a farm.
I knew the way led out of town—a cause of much alarm.
“Turn right here,” I said as we approached a lighted junction,
but as he turned left I knew that there would not be any unction.
I won’t go into all the times I pleaded with them to stop.
“My friend lives down this road,” I said, “Just leave me at the top!”
“Are we heading out for Casper?” said the stranger on my right.
I wondered what would happen if I chose this time to fight.
To slug him once and climb over to jump out of the car,
but with three of them I knew that I would not get far.
I also knew the stretch of lonely road from here to there.
The bodies found along that road—and knew how I would fare.
When I had left my house a party had been going strong.
I wondered who would still be there for I’d been gone so long.
Yet it was a plan and there were neighbors who might hear my screams,
so I gave them an alternative to their frightening schemes.
“It’s so far to Casper,” I said in a normal voice,
“Perhaps it would be better if you made another choice.
A good night’s sleep and food and drink is what might serve you best.
I live alone, my house is near. Why don’t you come and rest
and start out again tomorrow for wherever you are going?
If you are strangers here, then you could have no way of knowing
how far it is to Casper with no place to stop for gas.”
My suggestions fell on deaf ears. No one answered me, alas.
Once on the open road I would have no chance to escape,
What would happen next? Would it be Torture? Murder? Rape?
In less than a mile we would reach the Interstate–
the beginning of the ending of this ill-fated date.
I thought of all the stories where women were abducted.
It was a grim sorority into which I’d been inducted.
How would they tell my mother, my sister, my best friend?
Would I be another story for which no one knows an end?
I tried to think how I could end it, but could see no way.
No knife, no gun, no poison to aid me on this day.
I looked at the glove box. Was there a gun inside?
Was there at least one bullet in it? Enough for suicide?
Years ago when I first worried how I’d fare if I were one
of those unfortunate women snatched for a sadist’s fun,
I thought I’d get a capsule of cyanide that fit
on a chain around my neck in case I needed it.
But that seemed so excessive, so improbable and crazy.
Now I chided myself for being too damn lazy
to cover every angle to protect myself for what
I realized was happening –and this was the cruelest cut.
How did I feel? Not panicked, just the deepest sort of dread
of all that they could do to me before they left me dead.
Though I’m brave, I don’t do well with pain, so I have to say
I’ve always known if tortured, I’d give everything away.
There was no chance these men’s intentions were anything but grim,
so I kept my eyes upon the road and never looked at them.
Then I shifted to the dashboard. Was there any help for me
I was overlooking? And then I spied the key.
What if I grabbed the keys out and threw them in the air
into the grass beside the road. I wondered, did I dare?
Then I saw two headlights in the mirror, far back, but coming fast.
At nearly 4 a.m., I knew this chance would be my last.
As the truck got nearer, I reached out for the keys,
ripped them from the ignition, and then fast as you please,
hurled them from the car into the tall grass by the side.
The car came to a rolling stop as the engine died.
The man next to me grabbed out for the handle of the door,
but the driver screamed out to him with a mighty roar.
“Don’t leave the girl,” he said, and then he told the other guy
to hop out and find the keys—and then I knew that I would die
if I didn’t make a move and so I wedged my back and feet
and catapulted from the front right into the back seat.
I rolled over the car’s rear trunk and it was just my luck
that I landed in the road just as the headlights of the truck
came up behind and brakes went on and I went running back,
pursued by all three members of that frightening pack.
The driver of the truck was young—twenty-two or twenty-three
I beat upon his window, saying, “Help me! Please help me!
These men are trying to kidnap me! Please, let me in your truck!”
By then my former “savior” had arrived to try his luck.
“Don’t believe her, she’s a con artist. She’ll hit you in the head
and make away with all your money. Leave you in the ditch for dead!
She tried to do it to us, man. We were trying to find a cop
when she grabbed the keys out of the car and brought us to a stop!”
“My name is Judy Dykstra. I teach English at Central High.
Please don’t leave me with these men, for if you do, I’ll die!”
The driver then called out to him—angry to the core,
“You’re making a mistake, man,” as he opened up the door.
I ran around and climbed inside. The last things we could see
were three backsides in the grass, searching for a key.
We knew they couldn’t follow us, but still he floored the pedal
while I went on and on about how he deserved a medal.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I said three times or more.
Then, “Why did you believe me and open up the door?”
“Because two of those characters looked so low down and crass,
but mainly ‘cause my sister had you last year for a class!”
This story that I’ve told you could have had a different end,
But as it was I spent the night with a longtime friend
who persuaded me that I should never ever tell
what happened on this evening, for it had turned out well.
“Do you know their plate number? Can you describe their car?
Could you tell their face descriptions? Do you know where they are?
And even if they find them, what could you possibly say?
They’ll say that you were just a girl picked up along the way.
They met you in a crowded bar. You asked them for a ride.
They walked you to their car and you chose to get inside.
You asked them all to stay with you, but they all said no.
Then you suddenly got angry and said you had to go.
They didn’t want to let you out and leave you all alone.
They said that they would rather take you safely to your home.
But you were drunk and even though they all said, ‘Lady, please. . . ‘
You reached out and suddenly you grabbed for the keys.
You threw them in the tall grass and jumped out of the car
a totally different person than that lady in the bar!
You convinced some poor kid they were kidnapping you.
And there was nothing else that they could think of they could do!
They didn’t try to stop you or to argue if you please.
They simply went back looking to try to find their keys.
Can you imagine in a trial what they would make of this?
You know you are the sort of person that they love to diss.
A female teacher out at bars who had been heavily drinking,
closing down the barroom. What could you have been thinking?
Your friends all say that when they left, you just didn’t show.
So you left the bar at 3 A.M. with someone you don’t know.
You get into his car with two more men you’ve never seen
For a teacher you appear to be other than squeaky clean.
You could lose your job for this, and your reputation!”
She ended her soliloquy in a state of great frustration.
So tell me please what do you think, was I right or not
In not reporting these three men, so they were never caught?
All I can say is that I wonder to this very day
how many other women died because they got away.
Devil # 3
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.” Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?
Okay, I was going to give this prompt a “miss” and went to the new prompt generator I’ve been using for the past few days. I hit the button and was served up the two-word prompt: “Ill Devil”. At first I read this as #3 Devil, and I must admit, I got a chill, because what I immediately thought about when I read the prompt was the third time I was in a near-death situation where I felt totally helpless. What are the chances, I thought, that these two prompts would line up? This must be something I’m meant to write about. But then reason stepped in and I realized this prompt always gave an adjective and a noun. What they probably meant by the prompt was ill Devil. (Changing the capital to a small “i” clarified the prompt.) But then I realized that ill devil described the occurrence I am trying not to talk about as much as #3 devil did, so I guess, prodded on twice by fate or coincidence or synchronicity, I will try.
I have written to a similar prompt twice in 2015, so probably most of you who read my blog have chanced upon one of those posts, but when I wrote to a similar prompt in June of 2014, I wrote a different piece and since I had few of my present-day readers then, I’ll mention that THIS is what I wrote. It may not be obvious that the topic given in today’s prompt was what I was really talking about then, however, because it was a poem where I actually stood to one side of what I was really remembering and wrote about the subject as an onlooker rather than a participant. I only alluded to the real subject, which is what I’m going to attempt to write about today. That real subject is Ted Bundy and how otherwise respectable women sometimes fall prey to such predators. Okay, deep breath. I’m going to tell to the world something I have actually told to very few people. Yes, this is a true story.
Devil # 3
Nineteen seventy-something. In the bar with friends.
When you are in your twenties, the partying never ends.
It was rodeo season and the big one was in town.
As one by one they ordered drinks, I couldn’t turn them down.
We were a rather rowdy bunch of teachers in our prime
Devoted in the classroom, but wild on our own time.
The bar was crowded hip to hip, the music barely heard
over the loud cacophony of laugh and shouted word.
It was my turn to buy a round. I struggled towards the bar.
My polite “Excuse me’s!” really hadn’t gotten me too far
when a guy appeared in front of me and moved the crowd aside
as though he had appointed himself to be my guide.
As I returned with eight full drinks, again he stemmed the tide
by walking close in front of me and spreading elbows wide.
He smiled and then departed, back to the teeming mass.
Impressive that he had not even tried to make a pass!
My friends all wondered who he was. I said I had no clue.
Tall and dark and ivy-league, he vanished from our view.
This story happened long ago. Some details I’ve forgotten,
and any memories he retains, you’ll learn were ill-begotten.
I think we danced a dance or two. I know we talked awhile.
I liked his fine intelligence, his low-key polite style.
At three o’clock the barman’s bell commenced it’s clanging chime
and I made off to find my friends, for it was closing time.
Two lines of men had split the bar, lined up back to back.
Their hands locked and their arms spread wide–they moved into the pack.
One line moved east, the other west, forcing one and all
Either out the front door or towards the back door hall.
I was forced out the back way–out into the alley.
My friends and I had made no plans of where we were to rally
and so I walked around the block, sure that was where they waited,
but there was no one there at all–the crowd had soon abated.
I went back to the alleyway to see if they were there.
but all was dark and still, and soon I began to fear
that both carloads of friends had thought I was with the other.
I had no recourse but to walk, though I prayed for another.
I combed my mind to try to think of anyone at all
living in this part of town where I could go to call
a friend to come and get me and furnish me a ride
for 3 a.m. was not a time to be alone outside.
There were no outside phone booths and I lived so far away
I simply had to rouse someone, but what was I to say?
But since I had no other choice I thought I’d check once more
if any single soul was waiting at the bar’s front door.
And as I left the alley to be off to see,
I saw a new familiar face looking back at me.
It was my dancing partner, his face split in a grin.
It seems that he was going to save me once again.
He had asked me earlier if needed a ride,
but I had told him wisely that I had friends inside
and so I thought he’d left, but I could see he was still there.
Yet, ride home with a stranger? Did I really dare?
And yet I had no other choice, abandoned as I was.
And so I said I guess that yes, I would, simply because
I knew there was just one of him and I was young and strong.
And he seemed kind, polite and gentle. What could go so wrong?
His car was just a block away. Our walk was short and brief.
And when he pointed out his car, I felt a great relief.
For it was a convertible–and easy to escape
If I detected the first signs of robbery or rape!
He opened up the door for me. I got in the front seat.
But as he started up the car, my heart skipped a beat.
For from the bushes, two more men emerged and jumped inside–
one man in the backseat, the other at my side!
He pulled out into the street, though I protested so.
I didn’t really want a ride, so please, just let me go!
(And here I have to beg off and say I’ll finish this story tomorrow. Right now my heart is pumping and my head throbbing as though I’m re-enacting this whole tale physically as well as mentally. I’m totally exhausted. Why I decided to write this in rhyme I don’t know. Perhaps I thought it would be easier, or more fun or more lighthearted, but there is simply no way to write this from any other frame of mind but the terror I felt that night. So, sorry, but I will resume tomorrow. You all know that I’m here telling the story, so be assured that the worst didn’t happen…but the story is by no means over, so join me tomorrow for the rest. I, for one, could really use a drink, but it is only 1:40 in the afternoon so I’ll find some other means of escape.)
To see the conclusion of this poem, go HERE.
If you’d like to try out Jennifer’s new prompt generator, go HERE.
Change of Mind
Tattooed pierced and branded, or to be marked for life
with patterns carved into the skin with a sterile knife?
I cannot help but tell you that I find it very strange–
this trend to decorate ourselves by means that we can’t change.
When I was in my twenties, I bought a gorgeous hat
of pink and blue with colored plumes that swayed this way and that.
But what if I had had it sewn forever to my head,
so when I desired a wedding veil, I had feathers instead?
What if those chandelier earrings I found so cool in my teens
were implanted so I couldn’t take them off by any means?
So when I trekked across the jungles, weaving through the trees,
those earrings caught upon the vines and brought me to my knees?
My hair would be a helmet, and my eyes would look so queer
if worn like I did at twenty with eyeliner ear to ear.
So I cannot help but think this child with corks stretching her lobes
might regret them in her forties as she dons her judge’s robes.
Or the youngsters with the tongue studs, one day when they are men
might regret it as the shots they drink leak out onto their chin.
I’m so glad those mini skirts I wore—a poor choice even then––
are not still sewn upon my hips now that I am more Zen.
Thank God those darker outlined colors that made our lips less thin
and those psychedelic tie-dyes are not printed in our skin.
For although our taste was laughable, at least we can repent–
for the choices that we made in youth were not permanent.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Tattoo….You?.” Do you have a tattoo? If so, what’s the story behind your ink? If you don’t have a tattoo, what might you consider getting emblazoned on you skin?
I’ve often thought about how I might react in a crisis and generally I have feared that I would become scattered and rattled and not be of much use. When I think back on past crises, however, it seems that I act the opposite of how I project I would act in future crises. What I have done in the past is to calm down and think very quickly of possible responses to the situation, settle on one and act. The fact that I am still alive is testimony to my actually being able to act very calmly in a crisis. I think I’ve described all of the situations in past posts, so rather than repeat them here, I’m going to try to find links.
Kidnapping in Africa: Naive in Africa
Shooting incident in Africa:
Trapped Outside in a Mountain Blizzard in Wyoming:
Well, due to my terrible tagging, I could only find a link to one of the stories. I’ll keep searching, but in the meantime if anyone else can find a link to these other stories, please HELP. I’m trying to remain calm in spite of my frustration over this crisis!!!
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In a Crisis.” Honestly evaluate the way you respond to crisis situations. Are you happy with the way you react?