If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Donal Mahoney: Jesus, Can We Talk?

Jesus, can we talk? Some folks say you're coming back any day now but many of them have been saying that for years. They say it could happen tomorrow, or maybe next week, and they've already put their affairs in order. They believe they will be swept up and taken into heaven, leaving many others on the ground, just standing there, slack-jawed and staring at all the backsides rising in the air.

I'd like to among those rising but my Baptist barber says he doesn't think papists will be issued passports for this trip. I've been his customer for 30 years so he plans to take a rope along and drop it down to me. If I grab hold and can hang on, he says I'm welcome to come along if Jesus doesn't cut me loose. I may be a papist, he says, but he knows from all our haircut debates over the years that I believe in Jesus and the bible as the inerrant Word of God. He even tells his Baptist and Four Square Gospel customers I'm okay, theologically speaking.

I keep telling him papists believe in Jesus just as strongly as he does. But that's not what he heard about Catholics growing up in the Ozarks as a child. What's more, since I grew up in Chicago, I talk kind of funny, he says. I always tell him I can sound just like him with a mouth full of cornbread.

In the meantime, Jesus, I need a favor on different matter entirely. I'm hoping you'll find time to make a quick visit to the house of a friend of mine around midnight any night of the week. He's been retired for many years and he's enjoying the fruits of his considerable labors. As I often remind him, he's enjoying the fruits of your favors as well. But he doesn't see it that way, necessarily, if you want to know the truth.

As I see it, you've been very good to this man for more than 70 years but now he needs a different kind of help. Like me, he's old enough to find himself any day now next up in the checkout line. But he talks as though the life we both enjoy has no end in sight. If he didn't live in a far-away city, I'd take him for a haircut at my barber's shop and there he would hear the truth with a little cornbread on the side.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't want to see my friend turn Baptist, not that there's anything wrong with Baptists, as Seinfeld might say. I just want him to get back to Mass every Sunday morning before someone has to push him down the aisle in a wheelchair. He has a lot to be thankful for and maybe not a whole lot of time to say thanks.

You see, he was a high school graduate who became a paratrooper during the Korean War. After he was discharged he found a job as a janitor. In no way dumb, he used diligence and brains to become vice-president of the same company in ten years. He got there by being a good salesman of condiments. The man can talk but then a lot of Irish-American papists can talk. Maybe we can't yodel like the Swiss but we can certainly talk.

Not satisfied with being president of that company, he quit and started his own company. He decided to manufacture and sell products that were just catching on when Woodstock was all the rage. You remember Woodstock. That's where all the musicians and Hippies showed up on a water-logged farm in the Catskills in 1969 to celebrate free love and other developments in society at that time.

In any event, my friend figured that supplying health food to vegans and vegetarians would be a gold mine in the future and it turned out he was right. This is a guy who spent his adolescence at White Castle restaurants eating double cheeseburgers by the sack. It must have taken a conversion experience akin to the one Saul of Tarsus had to get him to try health food. I'm not sure he eats that much of it himself but he sure can sell it.

Thirty years later, with his kids reared and on their own, he sold his company for seven million dollars. I haven't asked him yet if he had any outside help in his success or if he did it all by himself.

He still believed in you while the company was growing but I don't know what happened after that. He's a good man, basically. He has the same wife now as when he was a janitor, a big bunch of kids now grown up and doing well and a flock of grandkids who adore him. Excess of any kind has never been a problem with him. He simply lost his faith somewhere along the road to becoming a millionaire. Other millionaires have followed the same path, I imagine, but I have never known any others, personally.

Many decades ago in grammar school, he and I were always in the same grade and we both believed, without any doubt, that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead and opened the gates of heaven for the likes of us and maybe for the likes of the worst of us if they shaped up in time. Now my friend is living the good life but says he doesn't know if you exist or if you died on the cross or if you rose from the dead. He says he'd like to believe in you but he needs some evidence. Otherwise, he says he'll remain an agnostic, a word he says means "I don't know."

Well, Jesus, I don't think his problem is a simple one. First he has to come to believe in God again, a belief some philosophers say a man can reach through reason alone. After all, there are the five proofs for the existence of God that many philosophers accept. But then he has to come to believe again in Jesus Christ--that God sent his only begotten Son to die on the cross for the sins of all mankind. That's the hard part. He can't do that through reason alone. That takes faith, the gift you gave to both of us, the gift he lost and I somehow retained despite being no better than he is.

Jesus, this man is 75 years old so perhaps you can sense the urgency of my request. There's not much time for him to believe again unless, of course, you step in.

That's why I'd like you to drop by his mansion some midnight when you have some free time. Just pull him out of bed by the ankles and hold him upside down for awhile before you introduce yourself. Then tell him you are Jesus Christ, a native of Bethlehem with strong ties to Galilee and Nazareth. Remind him about what you did with the loaves and fishes at Cana and ask him if he sees any parallels to that event in his own life. My hope is that before you leave, or shortly thereafter when someone revives him, he will find that he has the gift of faith again.

You see, I don't know how he lost his faith but I can't find it for him. The nuns who schooled us in the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ have been dead for many years. There are a couple of them who might have been able to turn him around. They had a way of making you see the truth. It's amazing how quickly you can see the truth clearly when an old-style nun in a big habit takes time to explain everything half an inch from your nose.

In any event, you gave both of us the gift of faith in 1938, the year of our Baptism, and I somehow still have my faith, despite not leading a noble life. I mean I was honest and was never arrested but there might be a lady or more who would take a bumbershoot to my backside if she ran into me, even at my age.

My friend, on the other hand, has done everything according to the book but he no longer reads the book. So, please, drop by his place some midnight before he dies and yank him out of bed by the ankles. Let him know who you are and mention that you look forward to seeing him at Mass on Sunday. Remind him that he can get a spiritually nutritious bite to eat at any Catholic church in the world in case he still likes to travel. Food that will stick to his soul for the long road ahead.

By the way, this man can afford to tithe, big-time. Even though papists don't tithe the way Protestants do, they nevertheless give a ton of money to charities managed by the Church and other not-for-profit organizations. But it's probably best if we don't mention his ability to tithe to my Baptist barber. He might be tempted to get on a plane and go see if my friend needs a trim.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Craig Shay: The Firecat Opened its Eyes

Dedication:  For my wife


“One may say courage
and one may say fear”

-George Oppen


It is the time of night
when worlds slip
in and out of focus

When the pulsating
fourth dimension
opens its gabardine jaws

White swans float still
on black lakes
sometimes plastic ones

and I cannot tell
which ones are real
and which ones are fake.


I saw you smile
one moment

while you
stopped singing

glared at the river
as it tamed our hearts

I broke down
tore off your clothes

and carried you
to the burial ground

If only
you’d have kept singing

you would know
about the silence

echoing between
each note –

those years
are gone

into the fire
and back

through the doorway
of miserable silhouettes.


Certainty – breaks you
into fragments

I fear – when dosed
with your metallic emblems

Your grace – passionate
Laughter – coming and

Calling, to hither,
the Grave is – a soft collapse

And the doorway to the unknown is
Here and a leap
from a Stone – to

Walk over water
and become the

Exchange rate
between alone, and

Becoming obscured
There is only

an Illusionist on the stage
Hypnotizing and

Mesmerizing us

into partaking

In his childish games.


The blackbird crawling
on the left side of my skull
started clawing

I opened my eyelids, and he flew out
and proceeded to wreck the room,
as he flew between
the bookshelves
causing them
to crash magnificently to the floor –

I became overwhelmed trying
to capture this manifestation
of my pain
and slipped on a glossy paperback,
losing consciousness for several days

When I came to my senses
books were everywhere, shaking with fear.

I saw the blackbird stuck beneath a book of unwritten poetry
and quickly clasped the pages shut.


I give a name to the void
that stirs me –
From sleep, it is not the same breathe
of life – but
the emergency of reality –
I do not know
its face – but
somehow it sure knows me.


When the swallows return to their towers
they will attempt to die between pages
trying to become immortal

ink will bleed from the pages

they will have kindle around their heads
they will have rose colored cheeks
and remember the intimate details of the  plague

the muse died long ago
boiled up while sleeping in a frozen pale death –


Because a horse is being beaten
I will become who I am
I will spread out my intentions
liquidating all of them –

Because a horse is being beaten
I will stare into its eyes
I will lose myself like a child
in a world of disguise

Because a horse is being beaten
I will cast myself aside
I will work for evil
and be the apple of its eye

Because a horse is being beaten
I will finally know
Why I said we were guilty
Of killing off that innocent man again.


In Einstein’s time
there were rhetorical theories,
with rational pathos of logic

A gold cat opened its eye

After Einstein’s time
there were concept with holes,
trapdoors of logic,
and an expanding space

The gold cat opened another eye

With the arms of Atlas
Einstein threw the rock, to
disrupt the still
lukewarm water
of fixed neutrons

The gold cat
yawned –
was nothing
left in the world
he could do.


in my bones
I woke up
this morning,
and couldn’t
I was never
how to think,
only what to think.
They spit
the party’s motto
into my face
Later I spit it right back,
like a bloody tooth,
beaten loose,
from my jawbone.


Once I saw
the whole world
was on fire –
and I tried
to put out the
flames with my
single drop of water –
until I remembered
I was the whole ocean –
and I could
put the fire out
whenever I chose.


I fear little
when dosed

your light is passionate
I feel a laugh
coming on

calling the gravedigger
to hoe

I am walking
on stones
across a dark ocean.


are molded
into forms
they do not sign up for
The world goes
mad for reasons
no one
to understand

She listens to the rain,
because it speaks
to her
wants to be
her friend
has their ideas
sewn into their

I uprooted
my crops
this morning
because I knew
it would
make her laugh
I undid
the curtain
I knew she
in the bath.


I feel a great
I must not say

I see a great
I must not think

I cannot say
what needs
to be said –

I cannot think
this –

I cannot know this –

are waiting
the thinker
at the end
of a rope or
a gun or
an unmarked grave –

It is closing time
for the mind
get your
nice and


I woke up
found your lips –
just a moment before
I was writing a poem

It was easy to
close my eyes
I would see you again –

‘Peachy’ was the color
that I saw I had written
it was the color of your lips

The poem made
the harvest grow
and we made love
every morning –

The rows were planted
with words
and in early May they came alive.


On the canvas
there are no clusters
of paint
but only a series
of misfortunes –

And all I know
of these moments,
are my own obscenities

They are dead faces
losing lotto tickets
wrecked cars
empty bank accounts

The composition
is not so random –
at times

It accurately
the solidarity
of the people
within walls of their own creation

and go.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Deborah L. Wymbs: The Store Owner’s Day

“What time do the polls close?” Chris asks as she approaches the food counter to pick up another order.

“I think seven,” I answer and I look around the near empty dine”

”I’m going to need to slip away to do my civic duty.” Chris’s words are packed with pride.

“Why not now? Things are slow.”

Chris was her husband’s second vote. He always told her who to vote for and why. Chris had been the high school beauty queen, the one all of the good looking guys trailed after and all of the nerdy guys dreamt about. When I met her five years ago, the traces of Miss Popularity were still there. Her fine dish water blond hair hung right on the tip of her ass. She has a healthy mane and she always keeps her ends clipped. Whenever I have a chance, I would give her a scalp massage. Her icy blue eyes would grow heavy and oftentimes she’d fall asleep. Her five foot eleven inch figure is filled out with soft curves. She towered over her husband by at least six inches. There’s a saying that he who has the highest head is the ruler. This is not the case between Chris and her husband, Dean.
“If Dean calls, tell him, where I have gone,” she says as she leaves the diner.
“When he calls, I hope I’m the one answering the phone. Makes me sick how he controls her,” Nan says with an arsenal of molten aggravation. She stares at me waiting to here my comments.

“I’m not saying a word,” I answer. I do not want to fuel Nan’s anger.

She never liked Dean’s male control center bit. He buried himself the day we were supposed to have a girl’s luncheon and he took off from work and joined us uninvited. Nan and I felt like we were imposing with all of the hand holding going on.

“Chris’s thingy is more like a hostage abduction scenario. I heard about those situations on Nightline,” Jan joins us.

“What?” Nan shouts impatiently at Jan’s observation. “That does not make any sense.” Nan lets her head drop to the side as if her neck has given out. She steers her eyes right into mine. I know that look: she is getting ready to verbally assault someone. Her classy Southern drawl is about to be unleashed on Jan. I have only so many seconds to respond. The clock is ticking. When she turns away from me, the words of mass destruction will exit the mouth from the south.

I say the first thing that comes to mind: “Jan, you know I habitually monitor the missing persons poster. I share my huge smile with both of them. Good save. Now all I have to do is keep dribbling till the whistle blows. “What I think is happening is Chris has a love/hate relationship with that man.” I use my best therapist voice.

“He’s a super jerk,” Nan belts out in disgust. “She is not a prisoner. I saw the wedding photos. They were two smiling fools.”

One would not believe that this loving band of women works together at the Lynx Diner.

“Nannette, its ok for people to smile. Look at me. I’m smiling. Relax and see the beauty.” I take a deep breath.

Jan takes a sip from her glass of ice tea and says, “Someone’s feathers are ruffled.”

“The only reason she married him is because when they broke up, he stopped eating. He told her he would not stop killing himself unless she married him.” Ban grumbles and tries to catch her breath. Anger makes her feel this way.

“Looks like bullying to me,” Jan interjects.

I give Jan the let it rest look. “You think.”

A customer comes into the diner with his family. Thank goodness. I hate talking about Chris behind her back. Jan hurries off to greet the family while I run off to the general store part of the café. A customer new top Tampy is in the store.

“Do you have anything for dry hair?” she asks. She looks to be in her thirties wearing too tight exercise sweats. I look over to Nan who has joined me behind the counter. She hasn’t finished her thoughts on Chris and the look she gives me means she has not yet let go of the flow. I hope she will let it go. I hope the customer distracts her. Nan has been trying to include a health section in the store because she herself is definitely into healthy living. She’s in her forties, but looks much younger. Nan gives me a devilish look and informs me she is going to see if Jan needs any help. She puffs at her beautiful auburn hair as she struts away.

“This way,” I direct the customer. “You’ll find five different brand names.”

The customer is about the same age Nan was when I first met her. I study her without her noticing. I bet she has a somewhat carefree and mobile lifestyle—the one Jan wanted, but it got away from her. The guy Jan was with for ten years promised her marriage and children. Funny thing he kept putting it off. She was exactly like his prom date: they both had purchased their gowns and never got to wear them because he stood them up at the last possible moment. When she meticulously unwrapped the paper protecting her wedding dress, I could only gasp. I would say that I do not remember. My memory may have been worse.

“Do you think this will help?” Ms. Thirty Something asks.

“Biotin? I have heard good things about it.”

“I think this is all I will need,” she says running her fingers through her professionally bleached ponytail.

As I ring her up, I ask if she is new to Tampy.

“No,” she answers, “my husband and I are visiting an alumnus. No way I could live here. Oh, God, no. I just couldn’t live here away from everything and everyone.” Her words sound like a group of coiled snakes hissing. Mrs. Thirty Something realizes how condescending she sounds and changes her tone: “How long have you lived here?” she asks.

“Five years and by choice.”

“I would have thought communities like this were made up of mostly elderly residents.”

“Nope,” I answer, we’re very diverse and a very wise group of individuals. This place is the true meaning of community.”

The pride in my voice is so obvious, all she can say in response is that she is a big city girl, always has been and always will be. Good thing daddy’s spoiled brat won’t be moving here. No one should be forced to watch the way she twiddles with her hair.

“Thanks for your insights and enjoy your biotin,” I say.

She gives me a pleasant I don’t like your smile smile, takes her change, and leaves.

Nan enters the general store. “Jan has a new understanding of what goes on between Chris and Demon, I mean Dean,” she says matter of fact.

“I hope you didn’t beat her up.”

Her eyes widen, than narrow, and I know what’s coming next. Her eyes turn into red laser beams. She is getting ready to attack. Five, four, three, two, one, I silently count down.

“Why are you still ordering organic chewing tobacco?” she harshly questions.

“It’s for my baby, Tyler,” I answer with glee in my voice.
“”Nobody feeds a tree a home made concoction. People feed their plants all of the time. Jerry the Tree Man has his own natural formula. I feed my baby every four months.”

“Tobacco, beer, music, dancing—no one does this stuff,” Nan says.

I find Nan’s bark amusing so I toy with her further: “Tobacco is a disinfectant; beer wakes up the trees enzymes, and all growing plants need nitrogen.”

“Stop. Just stop.”

“Can’t stop. You’ve opened the Pandora’s Box. People play music for their plants all of the time. What’s even better—“ and I start singing—“than singing live music to my tree?”

“You need a man.”

“Tyler likes his malt liquor at forty degrees.”

“I’m leaving,” Nan says.

I follow her singing, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. I don’t need a man, why can’t you understand?”

“I’m back.” Chris is all smiles as if she has just brought home an all A report card.

“Feel better cause you voted?” I ask.

“Dean came to the poll to make sure I made the right choice.”

Dammit,” Nan utters under her breath, “isn’t that against the law?”

“I wish I was a citizen so I could null her vote,” Jan says.

Nan informs all of us she is going to the back. She is now a certified hateful individual.

“Nan,” Chris stops her, “don’t forget the meeting tomorrow night. The developer is trying to buy up virgin land and it’s got something to do with AmerunUE, the EPA and illegal dumping.”

Nan lets out a loud huff and disappears into the storage area.

A slow talking voice interrupts us. “Good evening, ladies,” Scott says, “have you been keeping yourselves out of trouble.” He walks to his favorite booth, sits down and spreads his school papers across the table.

“We’ve been kind of bad,” Jan says. “We’ve been fighting and name calling.”

Scott gives Jan his special smile and says, “I figured as much.”

She hands Scott a menu and rests her knee on the booth.

Scott lowers his voice and says, “Well, you girls need to be nice or Scotty will give you a spanking, Jan.”

Jan lets out a girlish laugh. She has a crush on Scott. What wasn’t there to like? He was tall, dark from his beach combing days and intelligent. Very cerebral. He is a math professor at the university twenty-five miles north of Tampy. Everyday he commutes from his home in Tampy to his job. He could easily live near the university, but he claims small towns remind him of his childhood when he was growing up in a small fringe town south of Dallas. His light brown hair matches his soft brown eyes that smile even when his lips do not. One of his eyeballs is off center. This gives him a boyish look. He keeps his body lean and well toned. I saw pictures of him when he was in his early thirties, two hundred pounds eight packed and super-ripped testosterone. At sixty, he still has it. He never married and never had children. I suppose he never found the one or is simply afraid of commitment and he has a hermit recluse side to him that some might not find appealing. Scott feeds off of a concentrated intelligent mental philosophy analytical stimulation. In other words, scholarly debated conversations with several cups of coffee.

We were talking to one another about three years ago. Nothing ever became of it. We went out on a couple of movie dates. Didn’t click. Scott is too consumed with his work and his analysis of things. We drifted apart in a healthy way. I bought my house, met Jan, bought the diner, and married my own interests.

Some people do not understand why I don’t live above my store. There’s plenty of room. It’s just that I like my wood slat house with its wooden floors and coffered ceilings. I walk to wherever I feel like and it’s only a little over a mile to the diner and when I go to work, I’m leaving one place for another. It’s a mental thing. My house is really not that great, but the moment I saw the giant weeping willow my mind was made up. You can tell a weeping willow from all other trees. When the wind blows, its branches sway and dance with grace and character. The golden willow near my house I named Tyler. I could never see myself sharing my house with a man, but a man tree—everything is perfect, I am comfortable, and I do not want the feeling to diminish.

“Tyler, I have a few new songs for you. Give me a chance to settle in and I’ll be back.”

I go towards my house that sits away from the blacktop. A gravel driveway coils through the trees. Every time I arrive home, I feel as though I have been vacationing somewhere remote and very private. Nan insists that I am too isolated and someone will be able to take advantage of me. She kept giving me her big sister scolding until my birthday came around and her gift to me was a puppy. I tried to get rid of the puppy without hurting her feelings. I love dogs. I just didn’t want the responsibility. Looking after myself is a chore sometimes. When you reach fifty, you must take better care of yourself. Eating right, exercising the body and brain, drinking better liquids and trying to keep you up and running like a car. I finally convinced Chris to take the puppy. I sat him down and told him this was just not going to work out and during my speech he gave me an odd look and growled. I was trying to dump this Australian dingo and he was just not going to have it. I named him Husband and the name was a perfect fit: dominant, demanding, protective and always hungry.

“Husband, Husband, I’m home,” I shout into the open space.

One of the most important things I learned when I decided to purchase my own place was to find a daydreamer’s view. It can be inside or outside of the home. The background should be soft enough to allow your mind to ramble with a minimum of interruptions. It would be a spot you could be comfortable for hours on end. My spot is the sun porch. It’s perfect. In the daytime I watch the big plants dance as the wind choreographs their movements.

“Here’s your beer, room temperature, just like you like it,” I tell the willow tree. I pick up my cool glass of Zinfedel wine and tell Tyler I am having my usual.

“Are you ready for the gavotte?” I ask as I page through my book of music. “Sure you are. I know how much you like sixteenth century French court dance music.” I speak the last sentence with my best imitation French accent. I begin to play. My long rayon dress slides softly against my skin. I feel very much feminized. Some say clothes doesn’t make a person, but this dress makes me always. Pedicures, bubble baths and girlie clothes make me feel like a woman.

The wind dies down. It’s as if the audience has taken an unscheduled intermission. What is odd is how the tree continues to move even when there is no breeze. I’m not really surprised. If they can bend towards the sunlight, why can’t they bend towards sounds they like? Tyler sways again.
“I see you,” I address all of the trees. “Don’t think that I didn’t.”
I begin to sing.

Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


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