Appalachian Woods

Our lives can best be understood in all the things we craft from wood
The dogwood laid our cabin floor, hung knotted pine our shanty door
Six bowls we carved from fallen maple, a burnt mahogany sets our table
A dozen spoons and forks by hand, hewn perfect fit for every man

And woman, too, with sharpened knife carve etchings of our humble life
Soft wicker thatched this rocking chair and spruce the toys sprawled everywhere
In wooden homes that we have built we hang on pegs our history quilts
Each patch a memory lovingly stitched, our purses poor, our lives quite rich

Our beds and wardrobes never falter, we hand-carved those from summer alder
Our coffins, too, of stout mesquite, for when our journey is complete
In wood we find our heart’s desire or pain if come the wayward fire
And even so, most grievous sin: not to build from wood again

So now you better understand how we live upon this land
Within the forest, and it in us, in God we hope, in wood we trust

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Echoes Across Time

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Love never dies…it echoes across time.

It is like a circle revolving with no beginning, no end. The pains of love diminishing as it journeys to the far side of the circle is real and deep…but remember the joy before the pain and listen for the echo.

Love has no dimension, yet it clearly defines all that it touches. It fills you up and leaves you empty all at the same time. Memories are the images carved as love passes along  our side of the circle; life’s subtle reminder to hold on and listen as love echoes across time.

Cast your ear to yesterday’s wind, if you must; do not be too surprised when the sounds you seek reach back to you from tomorrow. Echoes bounce in time and space, for that is their nature – but they must return, for that is their truth.

The circle cannot be denied.

Love cannot die…it echoes across time.

 

THE WANDERER by D.L. McHale

 

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I am what they call a “Wanderer.”  Not exactly a social pariah, more of a curiosity.  My disdain for social conventions puts me upon a lonely path, but I am not alone.  There are others like me; dark, brooding, faithless.  In another time we were called Writers.  Much like spiders who craft intricate webs to ensnare their prey, Writers painstakingly spin intricate phrases with the thread of words designed to trammel the unsuspecting Reader.

In another age, Writers were revered.  Turned and examined, magnified for detail, polished until their inherent nature shimmered in the light; their words lovingly bound in the finest of leather and placed high upon shelves as a beacon guiding the lost through the fog of Human condition.  We were Artisans and verbal Musicians, who, with the careful stroke of the pen cuts through the suffocating haze of uncertainty and lays straight the path toward true understanding.  But that was then.  Today, we are held in much lower esteem, not quite reviled, but avoided nonetheless. And so we Wander.

We Wanderers toil in the wee hours of the morning, honing our craft for eyes that cannot and will not see.  Our books, our life work, are used to prop open unruly doors and to serve as false counter-balance to the plasma screens and the computer monitors.  In a pinch, they still serve as excellent mortar to chuck at the wayward spouse.  Few of us who remain still wield the courage to load the printer with paper and actually print out that which we write.  As  long as our words remain framed in the relative safety of the Internet or the hidden Journals, no one can do more harm in their criticisms than the “delete” button or the roaring  fireplace  will allow.

We exist in the sharpened edges of social relevance, often cut asunder beneath the weight of the smart-phone and the IPad. We subsist by prostituting our vocabulary for a few meager coins of acknowledgement, often to our fellow Wanderers.  Yet we remain shackled to our craft and devoted to that slim chance that we might one day rise again in ascendency.  Like Moses, we roam the deserts of art with our tablets tightly tucked beneath our wings, searching for the promised land.

Until that day, we Wander.

An Abandoned Life is Still Worth Living

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“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”  Such a clever line, but it begs the question: where is “here?”

Here for me has been a myriad of people, places, and things.  Ever naïve and hopeful, I have entered relationships, new places, and acquired things with every expectation that “here” was laid my true path to happiness and self-fulfillment.  Surely bright and shiny people and places and things, when gathered in sufficient quantity, would fill my life with purpose and meaning.

It never did.

People came and left. Either they abandoned me, or more likely, I abandoned them. As the song goes, “disappointment was my closest friend.”  Places shifted according to financial necessity or in my awkward attempt to substitute geography for responsibility.  And things, well, I’ve lost everything I’ve owned several times and I’ve never truly missed any of it.  It became clear to me that lack of commitment and abandonment were my sunrises and sunsets.

The funny thing about life, though,  is no matter how utterly you screw things up; no matter how isolated and diminished you allow yourself to become, it comes looking for you, continually seeking to make amends. It is relentless.  Life only abandons you once, and in that moment, it doesn’t really matter anyway…you’re dead!

Abandonment is a shifty thing.  We are never truly alone, nor could we be.  We are all threads in the colorful tapestry of life and together we are woven into a continual fabric of oneness. I’ve long since stopped confusing abandonment with growth…being ruthlessly thrust out in new directions for my own spiritual good.   If I find myself alone, in a new place, surrounded by new things, well then, I’ll grasp a little less frantically and simply enjoy the moment.

I still hope.

This Is How I Start My Days

This is how I start my days.

At four a.m., I awaken with a start. It isn’t that I wasn’t sleeping well, but this is my witching hour. I reach over and pull the covers up over my wife and take a moment to gaze in absolute awe at this beauty, this incredible effervescent woman sharing my bed.

I quietly swing my feet to the floor and sit for a moment. My muse is impatiently pulling me into awakening, but I do my best to resist. I want to sleep just a little bit more, but my eyes have already made out the flashing light on my hibernating computer and just like that, I want to be writing more than I want to be dreaming.

I quietly close the bedroom door behind me and make my way into the kitchen. I put water in the kettle, light the stove, and grab my pack of cigarettes. I head out the door into the blackness of the night, sit upon the second stoop, and light up. The ritual never changes. And there, beneath the canopy of constellations, I look for my special star. I don’t know what it is called, and I don’t know why it is that star…but I need to start each day in silent commune before it. Once I find it, I stare at it for a few minutes, emptying my mind of creeping thoughts. I slowly close my eyes, inhale another drag, and listen.

Like little mice on padded feet, the words start scampering around my brain. The writing has begun.

I toss the cigarette into the night, watching a spiral of red sparks ascend, then descend, as if to punctuate the purpose of this ritual. From the kitchen, the kettle begins to sing, and I rush in before it hits full crescendo and awakens my wife. I pour the steaming water over a cone of coffee grains and inhale the rising steam. In a seamless arch, I take my cup of coffee to the kitchen table, flip open the lid to my computer, and hit the resume button.

And then I write. And write and write and write. At this point, what I write is irrelevant. That I write is the point. The wee hours of the morning are not the time to self-critique or to spin a plot. It is the time for the bleeding of words.

This is how I start my days.

The Hard Truth About “Undecided” Voters

Okay, it has to be said. This business of “undecided voters” needs to be addressed. We need to stop coddling these people and treating the issue like the old man who has spinach in his beard but we are too worried about coming off like insensitive boobs to say anything even though every fiber in our being is screaming out, “You have f!#&ing spinach in your beard, you slob!”

For all intents and purposes, the election season started two years ago. Two years ago, people! And it isn’t like the candidates are churning out new messages every week! No, what we hear today is nothing more than louder, more commercially hacked versions of the same thing each has been saying for twenty-four months. Hell, we know the message so well by now that anyone of us could step in a campaign press secretaries on a moment’s notice. Truth be told, the message for each camp hasn’t really changed in decades, so why is it that we keep hearing about this wide swath of “undecideds?” Either these people are so completely A.D.D., or they are so tone deaf that they can’t discern the difference between a campaign stump speech and the ingredients on a box of shredded wheat.

I suspect neither is true. It’s time to call it for what it really is. These “undecideds” are not undecided, but rather nothing more than a sampling of the most ego-centric, narcissistic bloc of voters who, if truth be told, are probably too attention starved to be allowed within a country mile of a voting booth. Hell, I’d wager they aren’t going to vote anyway. For them, elections are not about validating a politician. It’s about seeking validation for their own miserable, lonely selves. For them, elections aren’t about ideas and platforms. Elections are simply an opportunity for them to run out into the streets in their birthday suits screaming, “Love me! Love me! Won’t someone love me.” They are the social equivalent of your batty Aunt Mary who lives alone with her herd of smelly cats. She thinks she’s coolly eccentric and secretly desirable, but she lives alone with a herd of smelly cats! And she always will.

Undecided voters are the restaurant patron who arrives as soon as the doors open and keep sending the waiter away when he comes to take their order with a polite, “do you need a few more moments?” Yes, they demur. And this goes on until five minutes before closing when they finally ask, “What were the specials, again?” It isn’t about the food. Hell, they aren’t hungry anyway. It’s about someone showing up every fifteen minutes to fawn over them and “take their order.” It’s about controlling the affections of others.

We treat the “undecideds” like the crown jewel in the Triple Crown. If only we can convince them, we will break away in the stretch of the longest, most boring race imaginable and trot off with the prize of being the next elected this or that. What we should be doing is ignoring this self-adoring conflagration of attention starved lunatics and getting on with our miserable, pathetic voting lives.

The only way to deal with these “undecideds” is to completely ignore them. You weren’t going to get their votes anyway, because it was never about the vote. It was always about them. Send them home to their herd of smelly cats and for God’s sake, old man…you have freakin’ spinach in your freakin’ beard!

Writing for Ghosts

It is 4 a.m. and once again I am planted before the keyboard attempting to craft words into clever sentences…and there you go, failure in the first keystrokes. The good news, based upon my dearth of hits on WordPress, is that no one will read this anyway.

I once envisioned myself a budding writer, but now I am thoroughly convinced that feeling was nothing more than insomnia in the early morning hours combined with a pot of cheap coffee flushing out last night’s indigestion (don’t worry, that’s as graphic as I am capable of writing!)

I know I could be a good writer, if it wasn’t for all that grammar and words and things. But who am I kidding? It’s all about the words…the fucking words! (Hey, I used “dearth” in my second sentence…doesn’t that count for anything?) Well, I don’t have words or ideas or pesky plots, but what I do have is way too much time on my hands, so here you go.

When I write, I don’t have a particular audience in mind. Well, sort of, I guess…I have the ghosts of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Hemingway, and Plath. Sweet Sylvia Plath. Lots of dead people who, while not necessarily helpful critics, at least show up in my head and watch the circus of confusion unfold. Sometimes I can hear the occasional clicking of the tongue, a sure sign to lay on the backspace and come at a line from a new direction. Or maybe the clicking is the melting cubes in Ernest’s posthumous cocktail. The revolver of his pistol being locked into place? Who knows? The point is, I’m often guided by the whispers of spirits.

It feels as though when I write it has less to do with me having something to say than something that has to be said having me to write it. (Wow, I just plagiarized myself..that last line was something I wrote a year ago!) But it’s true, nonetheless. I often find that it is sufficient for me to just press the keys, and somehow the story will tell itself. Don’t believe me? I just wrote everything above without a thought in my head.

The key to being a great writer, I’m convinced, is to be a great reader. There is nothing I can say now, or will ever write, that hasn’t been said or written before. But a studious reader understands that there are a million ways to say the same thing, and that’s the beauty, and salvation, of writing. You don’t have to be original. You just have to have a unique dialect. In my case, it also helps to have a really poor opinion of most of today’s writing. I continually lie to myself and say, “I can do better!” And sometimes…I do. Then I pull down a worn copy of Pushkin and think, “shit..fuck this!! I can’t write!” And again, I am right.

So I continue my early morning ritual and if it’s true what they say, that if you give 1,000 monkeys 1,000 typewriters, in a thousand years, one of them will bang out the complete works of William Shakespeare, then surely, if this continues for a thousand mornings, I can bang out something worth reading.