Monday, June 25, 2018

a trip to chicago

i decided to take a trip to chicago.

actually, i had no place to go, but i had to go somewhere, so i decided to look up my old friend harry in chicago. harry had let me sleep on his couch or on his floor on many occasions in the past.

i found harry’s apartment - number 68. the door to the apartment 68 was very narrow and heavy looking. the whole apartment building had a heavy, old-fashioned look about it.

i knocked on the door. nobody answered right away, and i knocked a little louder.

finally a man opened the door. i didn’t recognize him. for a second i thought it might be harry, so changed since i last saw him that i did not recognize him, but then i saw that it was not.

is harry jones here? i asked.

yes, come on in, the man said, he did not seem surprised by my appearance, or interested in me.

i followed him down a very narrow hallway. the hallway opened into a surprisingly wide room.

the room was cluttered with chairs and couches, mostly cheap looking old-fashioned leather couches, and the chairs and couches were about two thirds filled with people.

not people who looked like members of the ruling class. but not out-and-out bums either. and they weren’t talking much, just staring into space like they were waiting for somebody.

the man who had let me in disappeared into a little side room. i could hear voices. harry? what was harry up to here, i wondered.

i remembered that harry had passed the bar, but never actually practiced law. maybe he was practicing law now? the place did not look exactly like a law office.

i sat down in a little red leather armchair. before i put my bag down, i checked it to make sure everything i owned was still in it. everything was there - some socks and underwear, toothbrush and toothpaste and such, and the two books i always carried with me - think and grow rich, by napoleon hill, and the collected poems of edgar guest.

i looked up and saw a very old woman seated across from me on one of the couches. she was leaning forward on a cane and seemed to be looking at me through impenetrably thick glasses.

do you know harry? i asked her.

of course, she answered, don’t you?

i’ve known him for a long time, i said.

harry is a wonderful person, the old woman said.

yes, he is, i agreed.

he does so much for the community.

i am sure he does, i said. it sounds like harry has a good thing going here, i thought. he must be practicing law, or maybe he is a - what do you call it - community organizer or something. surely he can put me up for a while, at least let me sleep on one of these couches.

an old black man sat down on the couch beside the old woman. i tried to think of something to say to him. the only thing i knew about chicago was that the cubs were on the north side and the white sox were on the south side. or was it the other way around?

and were the “north side” and the “south side” actually the two halves of the whole city or were they just the names of neighborhoods, like “south philly” or “south boston”?

how about those cubs?, i asked the old man.

how about them? he replied.

what does the ticket to a game cost these days? i asked him. the cheapest seat?

you can get in for thirty dollars.

wow, i said, that is cheap. i noticed that the room was filling up all around me - most of the chairs and couches now looked filled.

the man who had let me in came out of the little room. harry will see you now, he said to somebody.

and he will see me, too, i thought. it will be like old times. everything is going to be all right.

i woke up. i had fallen asleep on a bench in the park.

it took me a few seconds to remember who i was, and where i was.

harry had been dead for years.

and i had not spoken to him or looked him up for thirty years before that.

Monday, June 18, 2018

the shadow

a beggar, sitting in the shade of a bridge, watched a traveler approach.

the traveler’s shadow fell on the bridge.

o traveler, cried the beggar, give me what i want.

the traveler, not breaking stride as he crossed the bridge, laughed.

but i do not know what you want, the traveler replied, not glancing down at the beggar.

i want whatever you have, cried the beggar - a bird, a bag of gold, a book with pretty colored pictures, your soul, your memories, a letter to the emperor testifying to my unique worth, a mythical beast, immortal life - anything.

i have a shadow, said the traveler, laughing, you can have that.

and the traveler’s shadow stayed behind on the bridge for a few seconds after the traveler had crossed it.

the beggar reached for the shadow but the sun went down and the shadow vanished.

the beggar continued to sit beside the bridge for many years, calling to the travelers who crossed it to give him what he wanted, to give him anything they had.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

water in the stream

who will save the last wanderer
when he falls in the last stream
who will wake the dreamer
dreaming the last dream

i fell in the gutter
and the gutter kept flowing
i, like the water
do not know where i’m going

around the fireplace

up in the city, down on the farm
a rollicking yarn will do you no harm
around the fireplace, listen to the rain
and a tale with the wallop of a freight train

and what really makes a story go best
is the introduction of a mystery guest
whose sudden appearance always must
alter the entire narrative thrust

come on grandpa, do we really have to wait
a whole week to hear the hero's fate?
and grandpa sez, don't holler, don't shout
just stayed tuned - and find out

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

a vision of eternity

i dreamed i went to heaven
and all the seats were taken
st peter smiled and shook my hand
’twas then i did awaken

i wish i could remember
what st peter had to say
for it would surely comfort me
on yet another dreary day

dream of a hero

in the insane rioting of his soul
he knew he had to play the role
of a debonair lothario
and go on with the show

as the huns rode over the hill
he stood perfectly still
and with the trace of a smile
said "darling, i may be a while"

"not too long, darling, please"
she sank to her satin covered knees
through the french window he strolled
to a sunset red and gold

where are the heroes of yesteryear?
who laughed at fate and smiled at fear?
and what would they now defend?
for, alas, we have come to the end

the garden is barren of flowers
the day is bereft of hours
the telephone in the drawing room
waits for a call from an empty tomb

Thursday, June 7, 2018


by ricky joe sternwall

i don’t mean to whine
i just want what’s mine
i want my fellow humans to realize
that i am one of those special guys

i am not like those other folks
those losers, wasters, mopes, and mokes
those fish in a barrel waiting to get shot
i am not like them - honest i’m not

i’m the one who knows the score
the one you have all been waiting for
if i could just catch a break
the world i would remake

it is really elemental
if i could just reach my potential
if i could just be wild and free
the world would revolve around me

the way it was meant to be
why can’t you all see?
stop saying no to me and say yes
and recognize my uniqueness

i’m the one who was prophesied
through the universe to glide
wiping out the whole world’s frown
if you would only stop bringing me down

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

in a churchyard

on a dreary rainy eve
a hand plucked at my sleeve
i turned to see a pallid sprite
flickering in the fading light

and though i made protest
it put me to the test
and as the rain did drip
it did not relax its grip

and down a muddy lane
like a runaway train
he proceeded to tell a tale
old and sad as a rusty nail

he was a sad and lonely cuss
of whom the world made little fuss
the desires with which he was torn
met with society's scorn

he became an incubus
possessed with sodden lusts
vainly seeking peace at last
in the worlds through which he passed

the particulars of his tale
sought my pity, to no avail
perhaps we all have stories
but their resonance and glories

are best left to our own selves
everyone else leaves on the shelves
the narratives of others
so let me go, brother

let us each go our own way
perhaps on judgment day
we may our acquaintance renew
until then - adieu

so i reasoned with the shade
who, in fact, began to fade
with a look in his pale eyes
more of sadness than surprise

i looked around the gloom
at the wet grass and the tombs
the faded words scribed on the stones
again - happily - alone