Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Clerk

                                                           The Clerk
      Ethel and Henry were sitting in their cramped living room watching television. Their long suffering son, Benny,  who was afflicted with a rare malady called sanity, sat at his desk in the corner trying in vain to strengthen the invisible walls that surrounded him.
    "I'm telling you Ethel that I'm going to make it big this time. Marketing is the future and a clever guy like me belongs in the future."
    "So why when I wake up in the morning do I find your big toe stuck in my ear? This would indicate you are living in the present."
    "I told you it was a nightmare caused by too much MSG in Aunt Sue's Chicken! I have to be responsible for so much in this household which means it's easy to lose track of where my toe ends up in the morning! What do you have to say about that?"
    "It's Uncle Tso's Chicken, Henry."
Benny looked over and smiled and then went back to his homework.
   Henry opened his mouth, but no words came out immediately. "I'm sorry Ethel. Next time we get Chinese I"ll make sure I trim my toenails."
   Ethel softened. "That's considerate of you. Although, love means never having to trim your toenails."
   "That's a great saying! I've been thinking about marketing some greeting cards and this good be the first one. Who knew my wife is a poet?"
"Settle down big boy and tell me about the Real Meal Hamburger chain marketing plan."
"This is our big break! I have a big budget and an advance which means we can pay the mortgage on time this month."
"It's not going to get us into legal trouble like the State Trooper Kit you sold online?"
 "Yea, I'm sorry about that, but what a great idea. I sold 123 kits before that 'cease and desist' order put an end to the gravy train.You would think I was selling drugs instead of ketchup packets along with some simple instructions."
"Henry, you were helping people get out of speeding tickets by selling a box of five ketchup packets with instructions that, if you get pulled over by a trooper, then you only had to open a ketchup packet and squeeze it into your left ear and say, with red goo dripping down the side of your face,'I'm sorry officer I have a terrible headache and I'm trying to get to the nearest hospital.' It worked like a charm. I got testimonials from customers who got a high speed escort to the emergency room."
"I have to admit it was a brilliant idea done in by coincidence." replied Ethel.
"Very true, Ethel, who knew such a simple word would be my downfall. The same trooper stopped two different speeders in the same week both with terrible headaches and red goo dripping down their faces. For a brief moment, I could taste success and it tasted like ketchup."
 Ethel gently corrected him. "Not 'like' ketchup, Henry. It was ketchup."
Henry had the puzzled look of someone with an excruciating headache and just when he could find some word, a bright point of light appeared in the center of the living room.


Saturday, July 5, 2014


           Sometimes words wake me up and I have to write them down to get back to sleep. This doesn't mean I always understand them or know why they struggle for birth.
                                     In the middle of a pouring down night
                                             Trying to find...
                                    A Simon, A Peter, A Cepheus, A Petra, A Rock
                                         Something, anything to stand on
                                                     I found you
                                               Flesh and blood you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Low Hum of Purple Monkeys

Years ago in a writing class at the brain injury program with my friend Lee. He was a successful architect whose career and family disintegrated after a devastating stroke. He was and is a thoughtful, stoic man who has been bent, but not broken, which is not to say he doesn't laugh. It's just a rare, but welcome phenomenon, like rain in the desert that cause flowers to bloom. In the writing class that I don't remember he brings it up to me sometimes when I pick him up for the radio show (he is my co-host on "Don't Dis My Ability") that I came up with a title for a poem called "The Low Hum of Purple Monkeys"--a poem I never wrote. A smile breaks out when he says the low hum of the purple monkeys and asks me what was I thinking? I still have no idea.  This Sunday I am attending his 65th birthday party at the assisted living facility where he lives. My gift, although he is telling everyone to contribute to the radio station, is that a few days ago I wrote this poem which I will read at his party.
                                                       The Low Hum of Purple Monkeys
                                                                 They woke me up
                                                               Those darn purple monkeys
                                                              Ignoring the sign on the wall
                                                      "If you are a purple monkey, please do not hum."
                                                           Did the purple monkeys listen?
                                                             They could dance or sing
                                                              Even play the banjo
                                                        But all they wanted to do was hum
                                                                        We compromised
                                                         Something purple monkeys hate to do
                                                         After much discussion it was agreed
                                                             They could hum
                                                              But it had to be a low hum
                                                            Now, I can sleep through the night
                                                          Dreaming of lush jungles bathed in green light
                                                           Calmed by the low hum of purple monkeys

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

All I know is that I have to write this stuff down to get it out of my head

                                                    The Mathematician
                         There was a man with a head filled with numbers
                          But the numbers brought him no happiness
                          The more numbers he gathered
                          The more sadder he became
                           Many a friend tried to help him
                           The philosopher, the scholar, the doctor
                            All offered wisdom
                            But to no avail
                            He sat crying in a dark room
                            Counting the tears with his forefinger
                            Numbering the days left to him in this world
                            Clutching each number tightly to his chest
                            Then came a knock on his door
                            "Please let me in! I can help you!"
                            "No one can save me. I have only a few numbers left
                             The philosopher, the scholar, the doctor have all tried and failed"
                             "But I am none of those
                              I speak the language of numbers
                              I am a Mathematician like you"
                              "Is this a cruel Joke?
                              Surely your numbers are also slipping through your fingers?
                              And, like me, you will perish counting your tears in a dark room"
                              "All I ask is one moment of your time. Open the door
                               Surely you can spare one moment--one uncounted tear"
                               The door slowly parted
                                A blinding light blinded the mathematician
                                His hands shielded his face
                                "Just listen to the voice of numbers
                                 The only voice you can ever hear
                                 Hold out your hand
                                  I give back to you the one moment you gave me
                                 Each morning when you wake
                                 Cut the moment in half again
                                 Do this every morning
                                 And you will never run out of numbers
                                 You will never run out of numbers
                                 You will never perish
                                 Remember and tell others
                                 To the philosopher, I am the Philosopher
                                 To the scholar, I am the Scholar
                                  To the doctor, I am the Doctor
                                  To the motherless child, I become the mother
                                  To the lonely, I become the Comforter
                                   To those lost in darkness
                                    I become the Blinding Light

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My brother's visions

I wonder if my brother's visions are related to my mother's visions? Is there a genetic link--once again more questions than answers. My brother was a loner with a capital "L". For example, he loved to play chess on a high level, but with a computer. My mother liked to frequently call him from Maine so he had the phone removed. He figured she could reach him at work. He subscribed to the Woody Allen philosophy of being part of a group. Woody said that he wouldn't join any organization that would have him as a member. I tell you this because he would be the least likely individually to attach himself to a belief wider than his outstretched hands. We would talk about God and religion--about being a Baha'i. He wasn't against it and perhaps believed there was some truth to the faith of his mother and brother, but there was no personal connection.Toward the end of his life he began to have visions when he slept. After one vision , he described a scene that reminded me of Baha'u'llah's home in Acca. It was like I was back reliving my two pilgrimages of years ago and visiting Bahji. He said Baha'u'llah was sitting at a desk writing and talking to him in an unknown language. Although he didn't know what the words meant, he still understood clearly what Baha'u'llah was saying. I have no memory of him explaining what the conversation was about. I think I would recall if he did. I always got the feeling that he was holding back for reasons that were private. Maybe he thought I would not understand. He did believe and would tell others that his brother was slow. I was and still am slow in many ways. I certainly could not do what he did like not go to physics class at RIT because it was too early in the morning and then read the text book the night before the final and pass. He became a firm believer in Baha'ullah, but felt no compunction to be part of the Baha'i community. I asked him why he didn't read any Baha'i books and he said if he needed to know anything it would come to him in a dream. I was puzzled and wanted an example. He usually wouldn't share much but explained that he didn't know where he stood in relation to Baha'u'llah. He asked the question and that night he had a dream of Abdu'l-Baha, the son and spiritual heir of Baha'u'llah. Ritchie said he was driving his car and came upon a long procession of cars at an intersection. He was about to break in and go the front when Abdu'l-Baha appeared  standing in the road and said he would have to wait because Baha'u'llah was in the lead car and no one was allowed to go ahead of Him. As I said , being a loner, he rarely shared these visions and had no interest in convincing anyone that they were true. He did tell me toward the end of his life that he knew what his job was going to be in the next world. I guess I'll find out in a few years--maybe its helping out slow brothers. His experience reminded me of a Hadith.  I'm paraphrasing, but it goes something like, "If you take one step toward Him, He will run toward you." . We like to believe that the reaching out is all done by us and maybe sometimes it is, but for some who can't seem to reach out, He runs toward them. I'm relying on old memories recalled by an old brain so take all of that into consideration when you read this. I'm sure I will meet him again and he will correct me in a kind way because he knows I'm slow.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dr. Mary's Pilgrimage and vision-1970

I'll try to set the scene for this story. The time is late Dec., 1970. My mother is at the pilgrim house which is a very short distance from the Shrine of the Ba'b which is situated about half way up Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.. She is with a small group of pilgrims who are taking turns answering a question put to them by Hand of the Cause of God, Paul Haney. The question was, "How did they find Baha'u'llah?". This is my mother's answer.
" When it came to my turn I told how I had a vision when I was five years old at the home I am now living in 125 So Chestnut St, Beacon, N.Y. which I own. I was playing in the dirt on the side of the house. Every once in a while I would look up at Mt. Beacon which I liked. All at once a gold door opened in the mountain and a woman came out of this door. She stood there holding a white callalilly in her right hand. She was wearing a veil and long dress. Biblical type of a woman. She smiled and smiled. I got up and went to get my mother. She did not want to come as she was entertaining her girl friend on the front porch, but I insisted she come and talk to the pretty lady. She finally turned left walking slowly had her face turned to me and opened another gold door in the mountain. She looked back for the last time her face was so warm her face was so radiant. She beckoned to me then the door closed. The mountain was once more a mountain. From that day til today I said I do not know what that vision meant. He (Paul Haney?) smiled and said nothing. Now all of us were taken to to the Shrine as we started up the path.You could not write your feelings on paper. We got closer and closer to the Shrine of the Ba'b. How can a mere human describe the inner feeling. Paul Haney went to the threshold and placed his forehead on it. I went along side of him and down I went on my knees. A force was so strong I wept and wept and couldn't stop. I prayed for a cleansing of myself to become selfless in servitude to God. Let me be a hollow reed. I asked forgiveness for all the wrong things I have done. The power was tearing me apart. I had to back off from the threshold and got into a corner and cried and cried. Everyone was was crying so. Prayers were said then we all backed out. And then we went into the Shrine of Abdu'l-Baha. Then it hit me--the two gold doors to Baha'u'llah. 48 years I wondered what it meant. The spiritual force was so great I was forced to go away from there.I had to go back into a corner. The tears went down the wall. I was touching-could not break away from the wall.Prayers were said--a Persian woman chanted. We finally came out. I was so weak I could hardly get back to the pilgrim house. We all once more sat around the room. Finally, I said to Dr. A. Furatan now I know the two gold doors to Baha'u'llah. He said yes that is true. You are fortunate to have this. He asked us to write down things like this so persons in the future will be able to read this."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reason # 856

I keep thinking of more and more reasons to live in Maine. Reason # 856 was added to the ever growing list today when Laurel, Samaya,Violet and I ventured like Old World explorers to Raven Hill Orchard, a two hundred year old farm about 45 minutes inland. The sun was winning its battle with the morning clouds. The last of the mist covered warriors faded into the apple trees as we parked on the grass. The ladies quickly took their bags and went on the hunt while I never left after spying a copper espresso machine in the hard times cafe. Stephen, the owner, made me some coffee  and told me all about how he ended up here by  following a lady to Maine and buying this farm. The dream ran away like the morning clouds although it took some years for that to happen--more like the dream stepped away one cross word--one look at a time. Faded newspaper accounts yellowing on the wooden walls spoke of happier times when love lived here--when people gathered here, when the cafe was thriving. I sipped my coffee (which I'm very adept at) and talked with organic families seeking bags for their organic fruit who came and went. The lost Stephen guided families to where they should go in the orchard while I picked up a jar of apple salsa and a homemade birthday card for Karen in a long abandoned rack. I resisted the flights of illusion that passed  by and refrained from cautioning the foreign tourists about teasing bears when they ate their mid day snacks from the trees. Stephen talked about the isolation of the farm when  there were no customers coming and going. I invited him to a gathering at friend's house next Saturday.  I thought about the impact of feeling alone in paradise-- somewhat like getting struck by a meteor listening to Don Maclean while watching Vincent paint the beyond beautiful "Starry,Starry Night."