I thought I saw Tom
walking toward me today;
by the look on his face
I thought he had something
to say.

He walked through a door
I’m not yet allowed to see
and passed into the sea of memory.

I remember listening to
Tom and Bob on stage
at an astro-themed park
long since relegated to
exist only in my memories.

An odd pair, the kid from the
sweaty locus of Florida with
the confident guitar swagger
and the elder icon of my
father’s generation,
wheezing out his protest songs
that fueled the revolution
that wasn’t.

In a box somewhere in a closet
there is a worn out tape of
Damn the Torpedoes,
each song an anthem to an
merica we all wanted to be
but has been relegated to
exist only in our mental collective.

I thought I saw Tom,
walking down the street,
that crooked smile of
undeniable and
flashing in the sun;

I thought I saw him,
but I was wrong…
I wish I’d been right.

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A Fairy Garden I Chanced to Find

The road spools out before me,
Between trees giving way to fall,
A bridge spans across a nameless creek,
Beneath a sky too blue to be real.

A fairy garden hidden among the flowers,
And it seems I have just missed them,
Perhaps they’ve gone into the shadows
For a spot of afternoon tea…
If only they had invited me.

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I went three days without speaking.

In the Cimitero dei Cappuccini, the desiccated lips of four thousand friars curl in laughter.

“Amateur,” wag tongues long since crumbled to dust. “You don’t know what it means to be silent.”

It’s true enough, by any measure of solitude, three days is hardly worthy of mention.

But three days in my data saturated world of media overload was more than enough…

To hear my own thoughts…

To hear the wind stir in the leaves, the chitanous whisper of insects, the bubbly chatter of unseen birds, to harken to the barking of the fox…

To listen as people talked and said nothing and nonsense…

I was silent for three days.

It wasn’t nearly long enough.

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Softball Follies

It happened in an instant, but the pain has lasted for months.

I watched as it went down, the yellow ball flung toward the plate.

Her arm reached out and caught the ball but then the collision.

She went down hard and I panicked as she has a surgically repaired knee.

I rushed in from shortstop and hovered over her: is it your knee?

No, she said. I can’t move my shoulder. Fractured in three places.

Two months later she’s in PT and doing well, mobility coming back.

Last Sunday I was at first and dove after a ball, put myself in the path of the runner and we both went down hard.

As he lay there in the dirt I was paralyzed by fear; was he hurt?

He got up and looked at me; was that necessary, he seemed to ask?

It wasn’t. But in that instant I made a choice and it wasn’t the right one.

No one wants to get injured playing a game. No one wants to be the cause.

I felt terrible the rest of the evening, and when we crossed paths at the end of each inning I couldn’t hide my shame.

I hope he’ll be okay.

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The Summer of ’76

We drove into the city at night

on a freeway lined with lights

past car dealerships hunkered down

for the evening on the edge of town.

From the back of the VW wagon

where I had a pallet of sorts

I watched this new city appear behind me

as it spooled out in the rear window.

The next morning I stepped

out and gasped to steal a breath

from air as thick and sticky as my

grandmother’s make-up in church.

A tree made for climbing dominated

one side a the vast expanse of lawn;

I clambered up the trunk and

perched on a limb, an eight year old

human bird child afraid to fly

but not so scared that I wouldn’t try.

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My Broken Electronic Companion

You were ever
so smooth;
my fingers ran across
your flawless face,
gnosis unlocked
with a gentle touch.

But time, o time,
the perfect butcher
of perfection,
went to work with
grim precision,
stress and strain
the twin tools
that crease and furrow.

In an instant
you fell to the ground,
you shattered
and fractured,
a web of destruction,
frozen lightening.

I feel the splinters
and my touch evokes
pain as you struggle
to function
beneath my fingers;
you are broken.

Using you causes
me pain and yet I
don’t abandon you—

One does not easily
discard that which
has been so useful
for so long. You will
be replaced but it
will never be the same.

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Lament of the Lone Guardsman

(This is Warhammer 40k fan fiction. Everything other than the main character and his unit is copyright of Games Workshop, used without their permission but hopefully with their indulgence.)

The recording transcribed here was collected during the recovery of bodies in the aftermath of a campaign against the ork corsairs in Segmentum Pacificus, during which the 401st Purganto was overrun and massacred. The speaker has been identified from remains in the destroyed bunker as Sgt. Pard Geram, who had been with the 401st for ten standard years. It is not clear why he recorded this, but it serves as his last words.

“All the others are dead or missing. I woke up and Kerath, who’d been on watch, was gone. What happened to him I can’t say but these damn greenskins can be sneaky bastards when they want. Why they left me I can’t imagine. Or maybe I can. Anyone who thinks orks are stupid hasn’t battled against them. They want me to suffer…

“I’m not done yet, you miserable green murderous bastards!

(Incoming artillery shells can be heard)

“Hear that?

“That’s our own artillery turned against us.The greenskins overran a Basilisk position a few days ago, looted the guns and turned them against us. They’re miserable shots. They like the noise of the big guns. More likely to blow themselves up than anything else… though at this point a stray shell dropping on my head might not be the worst thing.

“It doesn’t matter anymore though, does it? Maybe it never did. I’ve put in my time and done it with whatever sad attempt at pride a man like me could muster. I’ve come to believe that humanity is a shit stain upon the galaxy. I wish I’d been born and died on one of those backward, out of the way planets and remained ignorant of the rest of the galaxy.

“They tell us we serve the Emperor of all humankind, who sacrificed himself to save us from Chaos Undivided, or the green hordes, even from ourselves.They tell us we are the first line of defense against xenos and heretics and chaos and things that go bump in the night… the hammer of the Imperium, the Emperor’s fist!

“This the damned priests would have us believe. They should save their lies for the new recruits, who need inspiration to give up their lives for the greater glory of the Golden Throne. Words are nothing more than a thin veil drawn across the truth: we are nothing more than barely armored and lightly armed meat bags, commanded by idiots who feed us into the grinder by the millions. We are shot, burnt, exploded and torn to pieces by every horror the galaxy has to offer. No victory but death, or so they say.

“If you you’ve been in the Guard and survived with your limbs and sanity intact then you were likely in the Munitorum and I don’t have the spit to spare for you.

“I’ve seen entire regiments of new recruits decimated before they had a chance to reload. I’ve seen whole worlds burnt to a crisp. I’ve killed the servants of the archenemy, xenos, and things I can’t begin to describe or explain across worlds beyond my ability to recall.

“My body is broken. My lungs were grown in a vat as a replacement for the damage done while fighting a bunch of heretics on some industrial hive world. I’ve been stitched back together by the chirugeons more times than I can remember.

“And for what… the glory of the Imperium?

“I don’t know much about this galaxy. I sleep, eat and shit and if I’m lucky I get to fuck a Guard provided whore when I’m not slaughtering the enemies of the Emperor. I was born to serve and it’s likely I’m going to die on this shithole of a planet.

“What happens after that is like the rest of my life: out of my control, no matter what the Ecclesiarchy priests tell us. Any afterlife can go fuck itself. A seat at the Emperor’s table? I think any reasonable soldier would know that’s a lie and who in their right mind would want to eat with a ten-thousand year old corpse?

“Commissar Vindlu would shoot me on the spot if she merely suspected I was thinking this, much less said it aloud and that’s just the way it is. There is no doubt she would quite enjoy blowing my brains out, after all the trouble I’ve given her. Even the life debt she owes me would be conveniently forgotten. Order must be maintained. I would not be missed, no matter how many scars prove my worth.

“It doesn’t matter now though, does it? I’ll be dead before dawn, shredded by the next wave of those bastard greenskins. How much ammunition is left… I’ve got one fully charged cell and a couple of frags. I’ve got my knives but I can tell you it’s about as easy to knife an orc to death as it is to eat the crap they feed us without gagging… but I’ll go down killing because we don’t roll over and die without a fight. Not in the 401st we don’t.

“At least I won’t have to see the inside of that filthy troop ship again. That almost makes dying down here in the muck worthwhile.

“Here comes the damn artillery again. By the Throne how I wish they’d do whatever it is they’re going to do. I can’t raise anyone on the vox. I don’t even know if the lines are still intact. My last orders were to hold to the last and so I hold. I am the last…”

(The recording ends abruptly.)

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