Wednesday, December 11, 2019

lady elizabeth crew

by samantha monday sternwall

lady elizabeth crew
was beautiful, kind, and good
the very apotheosis
of british womanhood

she lived in a stately home
beside a placid sea
and everything in her life
was as it was meant to be

her cooks and servants loved her
as did her horses and grooms
adoring dogs and silent kittens
filled up her hundred rooms

every room held cases of books
filled with the wisdom of ages
and as the rain fell softly
lady elizabeth turned their pages

one day a gentleman caller
presented his card at the door
and stood before lady elizabeth
with his boots on the rug on the floor

i have come to you, my lady
the gentleman said with a bow
to say that you must come with me
you must come with me now

elizabeth closed the book in her lap
and placed it on the table
and said, i will do as you ask, sir
as soon as i am able

elizabeth put her hat on her head
and her shawl upon her shoulders
and left her home and life behind
before she was a day older

her younger sister, lady jane
took the house in her possession
and rules it with a steady hand
and admirable discretion

now jane stands at the window
with her hand upon the sill
and watches the birds fly over the sea
but the sea is forever still

Thursday, October 10, 2019

my little dog

by major stafford sternwall

i had a little dog
but he could not climb a tree
he was not a cat or a frog
and all he wanted was to be free

i called him alexander
because he was not free from sin
but he thought the view was grander
from the window of the inn

he begged me please to change his name
to peter or to paul
i told him he had to play the game
or be the death of us all

i heard a knocking in the wall
and knew the hour had struck
and now await the bishop’s call
to hear him spout his modern muck

Monday, September 16, 2019

old times

i remember the good old times
before i was covered with slime
and i was the president of the united states’s caddy
and all the women loved me madly

and i did just as i pleased
and sat beside the pool drinking daiquiris
and everybody was interested in my opinions
and when i wanted a prize, i would win one

stop - it seems to me
that i am mot engaging your sympathy
what is that you say?
that at least i had my day?

like every dog has its day?
put your martini back on the tray
stand up and challenge me like a human being
i can not believe what i am hearing and seeing

things were different then
cats were women and dogs were men
rain fell on the flowers and the road ran on
i was here and now i am gone

Sunday, August 18, 2019

a foggy day

as i walking to london town
i met a hangman and a clown
the clown was dressed in somber style
the hangman wore a happy smile

i asked the hangman for a dime
he paused, and took his own sweet time
who are you, he cheerfully asked
that i should favor you with cash?

i am a creature, sad and forlorn
who never requested to be born
around my neck are no silk scarves
all i wish is not to starve

the hangman nodded and replied
you have opened my eyes wide
i will wipe the smile from off my face
and make the world a better place

with that the hangman disappeared
as the clouds above me leered
the clown and i were left alone
and he was looking at his phone

whatever he saw there did not seem
to wake him from his dolourous dream
i left him and went on my way
what was his fate, i can not say

on a foggy day in london town
a beggar put a payment down
on a castle beside an apple tree
o how i wish that it were me

the beggar, the castle, or the tree
i would be any of the three
the beggar sleeps within the walls
and from the tree an apple falls

Saturday, July 13, 2019


a little man woke up at dawn
and put his orange jumpsuit on
there was nothing more to say
it was his execution day

he sat behind the door of steel
and waited for his final meal
he hoped to find it to his taste
and the cook’s hard work not go to waste

there was a book beside his bed
a book that he had never read
the book’s title, if you please
was “the man with excellent qualities”

he had received it from a friend
when he thought his life would never end
and every brand new day would bring
loves to laugh at, songs to sing

every day the road would roll
toward a sunset with no goal
a smile would beam on every face
and nothing he did would leave a trace

he would be free as a bird
that was an expression he had heard
how free was a bird, anyway?
it might be hard to say

some day he would rule the planet
and be so great he could hardly stand it
win some nobel prizes in his spare time
and throw every bum a brand new dime

but somehow that day never dawned
he never put his best suit on
he never married the farmer’s or the boss’s daughter
he never walked on water

to work at mcdonalds he was too proud
he fell in with a bad crowd
but the glory days of bad crowds had passed
and they were brought real low real fast

after the shootout on highway fifty-five
when only he was left alive
the little man stood before judge smith
and said, let’s get this over with

and now the day had dawned
that most people greeted with a yawn
but he tried to put on a smile
and go out in style

but nobody paid any attention
or thought his demeanor was worth a mention
down the corridor he was led
a bag was put over his head

here the tape ends
that is all, my friends
some day your connection will fail
so take heed of this sad tale

Thursday, May 9, 2019

the garden

genevieve and hermione lived in a big old house by the side of the road to nowhere. the house had once held swarms of aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews but now only genevieve and hermione were left.

they had lived a long time and were running out of money.

they could not imagine selling the house because they had never lived anywhere else. they could not imagine renting rooms - assuming anyone would want to rent them - because the guests would want some kind of service or at least attention.

there was a wide empty space behind the house which had always been called “the garden”, although they could not remember anyone actually doing any gardening in it, not even in grandmother’s day.

“perhaps,” genevieve ventured, “we could rent out the garden.”

“you mean,” hermione answered, “to someone who would come every day and work in it and make a lot of noise? they might expect us to invite them in for tea or whatnot.”

“no,” genevieve said. “ do you remember how uncle isaac used to say the garden would be a perfect place to bury bodies, and aunt jennifer and aunt kathryn thought that was so funny? and uncle lawrence said it was a great place to hide buried treasure? well, perhaps we could put an ad in the gazette, or on craigslist, to rent the garden out to anyone who wanted to bury some bodies or buried treasure - or anything at all.”

“but surely ,“ hermione, who considered herself the more levelheaded of the two, protested, “we can not put the words ‘bodies’ or ‘buried treasure’ right in the ad. might that not attract the notice of the authorities?”

“we could just say. ’space to bury objects’ and leave to the imagination what is to be buried.”

“i suppose it is worth a try,” hermione agreed with a sigh.

they placed the ad. it read, “space available to bury large objects. discretion assured. “

they received no written or texted replies after two weeks, and had almost forgotten about the ad. then one afternoon they were sitting on the front porch as it was not too gloomy a day, when a dark blue van pulled up on the road in front of the house. the van had no lettering or pictures on it, but looked as if some had been painted over .

a man got out of the van and approached the house. he wore a dark suit, a bright red tie, and he wore a blue baseball cap on his head ,which both ladies thought looked quite ridiculous but of course they did not say so.

the man tipped the baseball cap to them, just as if it had been a real hat. “are you the owners of the plot of land suitable for the burial of large objects?”

“we are indeed,” genevieve answered, “and we are at your disposal to discuss terms.”

the man moved on up to the porch. “my name is jonathon walker,” he told them. “and this is my story.”

“it will not be necessary to tell your story,” hermione assured him.

“but i have a story all prepared,” jonathon walker protested, “and like to consider myself a forthright and up front fellow.”

jonathon’s story, which he recounted after being invited to take a seat on the porch, was that he was a dealer in tea, and.that he had developed a new blend of that beverage, which had not found favor with the world, but which he was confident was just ahead of its time. therefore, he had a large box of this tea, both in bulk and in teabags, which he wished to bury in the ground until its time finally arrived. he concluded his narrative, by asking the ladies if they would like to sample the tea, as he was always interested in feedback and constructive criticism.

how could they refuse? they would be only too happy to sample the gentleman’s wares. accordingly he produced three teabags, and sat and chatted amiably with hermione - they found common ground in deploring the insanity of the modern world - while genevieve prepared their three cups.

jonathon walker only pretended to sip his beverage, and when genevieve and hermione tasted theirs, they expired immediately, as the tea contained the strongest poisons from the remotest jungles.

the man who had called himself jonathon walker then set to work. his name was not really jonathon walker, but walter hargraves, and he had been born in wichita falls texas during a violent snowstorm. he had spent his life searching for the lost treasure of patheta-ru, last emperor of the lost continent of mu, and had been attracted to genevieve’s and hermione’s advertisement by the prospect of discovering that treasure, left behind by another respondent to the ad. it was a long shot to be sure, but had, he thought, been worth a try.

taking a shovel from the back of his van, he proceeded to spend the rest of the day until nightfall digging up the garden, with, as the reader has no doubt surmised, no results. he had brought a large box with him, as part of his story to be used as necessary, and after giving up on finding the treasure, he placed the bodies of the two ladies in the box and covered it with the dirt he had dug up. he then returned to the van and proceeded on his way.

a year later, two small flowers sprouted in the garden, one white, and one red.

Monday, May 6, 2019

the dead man

the dead man woke up. it was dark. he had an overwhelming urge to play a game of checkers.

remembering his recent unpleasant experiences in the elevator, he walked down the five flights of stairs to the lobby on the second floor. daniel boone was behind the desk at the foot of the stairs and the dead man nodded to him.

genghis khan, ed gein, and winston churchill were slumped in chairs around the lobby. churchill was smoking his eternal cigar and the other two were just staring into space. the television and the big cabinet radio were both turned off, and the checkerboard was nowhere in sight. neither was the gray cat.

“anybody up for a game of checkers?” the dead man asked hopefully.

“no, man,” ed gein told him. “nobody wants to play checkers with you.”

“where is everybody?’ the dead man asked. “where are the teds?”

“they went across the river to newark,” genghis khan said, “to see the new hoochie koochie show.”

“the hoochie koochie show? at this time of night?”

“where you been, brother?” ed gein asked. “this is the modern world, not like old times. the action runs all night, if you just know where to find it.”

stonewall jackson wandered in, and joined the conversation. “i remember when the blue laws had teeth in them, and you couldn’t smoke a cigar or buy a pack of gum on sunday.”

“that must have been before my time,” winston churchill growled.

“must have been,” stonewall agreed.

the dead man went down the last flight of stairs to the street. there was a bit of fog in the air.

a little girl approached him. she might have been the little match girl or she might have just been anybody from nowhere.

“they stole my duck,” the little girl said to the dead man.


“the bad men stole my duck,” the little girl repeated, with a sob.

“they did, did they?”

“i will give you ten million dollars to get it back.”

“you don’t have to do that, honey. i will do it just because i am a good guy. show me where these rascals are and i will fry up their bacon in the devil’s own grease.”

“follow me, then,”

the dead man followed the little girl down a long flight of wide stone steps. the fog got heavier.

at the bottom of the stone steps the little girl pointed to a warehouse . its door was cracked open, and a dim light showed through.

“they are in there. but be careful.”

“they are the ones who are going to have to be careful,” the dead man assured the little girl.

the dead man pushed the door of the warehouse open. and there, sitting around a card table with a bottle of whiskey and some glasses, were his old nemeses - pope ignatius xv, and his two henchmen, allen dulles and sir edward gray.

“got him again, boys! “ pope ignatius cackled.

“fell for the oldest trick in the book!” allen dulles crowed.

“please, fellows, don’t do this to me,” the dead man begged.

“we got you fair and square,” pope ignatius intoned. “now, listen up , and listen good, because we will only go through this once. get down to waterloo station and get the 4:45 to istanbul. it will make a stop at vienna. a woman will get on wearing a green hat and carrying a red briefcase…”

three days later, after the most desperate, hair raising, and yet tedious and interminable hours of his existence, the dead man crawled back up the stairs of his hotel. churchill was still in the lobby, along with two of the teds - bundy and roosevelt.

the dead man started to tell his sad story but none of them wanted to hear it. “why do these things happen to me?” he cried. “only to me?”

“stop your whining,” ted bundy told him. “why don’t you pull yourself together and try to make yourself useful for once and make something out of your life?”

“out of my life? but i am already dead - dead!”

“nobody wants to play checkers with you, man.”

three numbers

clarence albert fanshaw was a dreamer, had always been one, and had never done an honest day’s work in his life.

in his youth his dreams had been somewhat varied, involving fame, achievement, romance, and even good works, but after his small inheritance had been wiped out in one of the more obscure financial crises of the late twentieth century, his dreams had focused almost exclusively on money - on winning a lottery, finding buried treasure, doing a good deed for an anonymous person who would turn out to fabulously wealthy and properly grateful, or some other windfall which would restore him to some measure of the comfort he had known in his youth.

meanwhile he spent his days in the streets, cafeterias, libraries, and homeless shelters of the great city, dreaming… always dreaming…

the times changed, never for the better. clarence missed the cheap movie theaters where he had spent so much time in the vanished century, and which had virtually disappeared. so had the old-fashioned missions, which would give you a feed and ask nothing more of a guy than that he say a prayer or sing a hymn. they had already been fading away when clarence first hit the streets, and he had rather enjoyed them.

clarence had another, somewhat curious grievance. there was not as much paper to be found in the streets, or left behind in cafeterias, as before. one of his most persistent fantasies had always been of finding a letter, or scrap of paper, which would contain a secret message which would somehow unlock a mysterious source of wealth, or contain a map or clue to the recovery of buried treasure. treasure island and the count of monte cristo had been his two favorite books as a child, and had made a permanent impression on him.

but now, of course, in the miserable and unromantic twenty-first century, nobody wrote letters, or wrote down telephone numbers or much of anything else on paper. everything was transmitted or recorded on the same infernal cell phones which prevented them from meeting the eyes of a guy asking for spare change.

so it was with both pleasure and surprise that clarence found, one rainy morning on a table at a burger king, a small piece of lined paper, apparently torn from a pocket sized notebook. the piece had three numbers written on it in blue ink. the three numbers were:




what could they mean?


despite his hatred of the modern world, clarence had learned to use the computers available in libraries. so, the first thing he did when he found the piece of paper with the three numbers was to google the numbers.

the first thing he did was google the three numbers together. what he got seemed like a whole lot of nothing, including. “the annual report of the secretary of state to the governor of ohio”, and “ the annual report of the water department of cincinnati”, and “coins of the world - netherlands” and “growth - coconino community college.” nothing much there.

next he tried the numbers separately. when he put in 3,000,000 he immediately got “convert 3,000,000 seconds to years”. it turned about to be 95 years. that might be promising. the treasure had been buried 95 years ago!

next he put in 8,000,000,000. the first thing that came up was “don’t take that call from 800-000-0000”. all right, clarence thought, i won’t. he scrolled through 4 more pages and found somrthing on reddit - saying “there are about 8,000,000,000 people on the planet”. yes, and they are all looking for the treasure.

finally, he tried 150. all sorts of nothing. the best was on the fourth page of scrolling.

“nancy pelosi removed a 150-year-old sign reading “in god we trust" from the entrance to the u s house of representatives chamber.”

what a bitch! to do somerthing like that! but did it have anything to do with the treasure? maybe the 150 year old sign was worth 3,000,000 dollars? maybe nancy pelosi was going to bury it for 95 years and come back and dig it up and it would be worth 8,000,000,000 dollars.

clarence felt that he was getting somewhere now. but just then he heard a loud recorded voice behind him announcing: “the library will be closing in ten minutes. if you have anything to check out, please do so now.”

clarence sighed. he would have to come back and resume his researches tomorrow. but maybe it was just as well, as his head was starting to hurt.

why did everything have to be so complicated?

and would his dreams ever come true?

like 8 billion other people living lives of possibly 3 billion seconds, clarence asked himself these questions about 150 times a day.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

evening train

as i was waiting for the evening train
a beautiful flower grew in my brain
and told me not to be afraid
because every song had already been played

the train pulled in, it began to rain
i knew i would never see the moon again
the iady from spain was in compartment c
as lovely as she was reported to be

the conductor arrived with his waxed mustache
i paid for both our tickets in cash
as i had been instructed by colonel k
was it only yesterday?

a strange way for the world to end!
the train picked up speed as it approached the bend
i picked up my chips and placed my bets
for who among us has no regrets?