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

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Donal Mahoney: Hilda's Family Reunion

Paddy didn't want to go to his wife's family reunion. He told her that in the same nice way he had told her in years past so as to avoid other reunions over the many years they had been married. Hilda had always given him a pass, telling her relatives his job required that he stay home. After he retired she'd tell them he wasn't up to the trip--a case of the flu or something. No one ever believed her but many were happy not to have Paddy there. It wasn't that he caused a problem. He just stuck out among the Ottos and Hanses. He would forever be an Irish interloper at a German family reunion. But this time Hilda was adamant about Paddy going with her. 

"Everyone's getting older," Hilda said, "and we should see them before someone else dies." 

Hilda was right, of course, Paddy had to admit, as she usually was. He was part of the family whether they liked him or not. 

"I grew up with those people, Paddy, and I may be seeing some of them for the last time. They may be boring to you but they're my family."

Unlike Hilda's relatives, Paddy's relatives, the ones already dead and the ones still alive, didn't hold family reunions, confining contact to cards at Christmas with signatures only, free of any personal messages unless someone had died, and that was just as well, Paddy thought. 

At any gathering of his people, the angry ones, and most of them had been angry since birth, would, after a few drinks, start picking scabs off old problems and fresh blood would flow. Hilda's folks did the same thing but with more discretion. You'd be bleeding and didn't know why.

There was a real din the last time Paddy's family had a reunion and that was 30 years ago. 

"It was a catastrophe lost in cacophony," Paddy told Hilda as he tried to recapture the ambience. Nevertheless, Paddy still saw his relatives at wakes. And the wakes were more frequent in recent years. 

"Hilda, the odd thing is the angriest ones look the most peaceful in a casket with or without a boutonniere or corsage."

A few in his family, however, still hoped there would be one more family reunion despite the debacle at the last one. They hoped that Paddy's cousin, Margaret Mary O'Mara, who'd been going to Mass every day since puberty, and was once a contemplative nun, would hold a final family reunion. 

"Everybody likes her corned beef and cabbage," Paddy told Hilda, who was wondering why anyone in Paddy's family would want another reunion after the last fracas 30 years ago. 

"Hilda, the problem at the last one was Timmy served tankards of Guinness before, after and during the meal and the Guinness prompted inevitable arguments about the past. Liquor and grudges are a bad mix. One of my cousins knocked another one out with one punch. We were lucky another cousin didn't count him out. He was once a boxing referee."

Hilda's people, however, weren't like his loud Irish relatives. Paddy had to grant them that. They were somber Germans who drank as much as Paddy's people did but they were steady drinkers, not given to jokes and laughter. They were quiet even when drunk, so Paddy couldn't tell which one of them would rip the first scab off the past and that was always a problem. 

He knew from the start Hilda's family didn't want her to marry him, an Irish Catholic from the wrong side of the theological tracks. He never fit in well with their German Lutheran culture beyond liking some of the food. They were serious, pious people not given to the frivolous, everything Paddy's family was not. In the beginning Paddy had tried to fit in but he had enough trouble keeping up with his own faith, never mind trying to understand everything Lutheran.

This time, however, Paddy silently decided he would go to his wife's reunion unless one of her kin died beforehand and everyone would go to the wake instead. It had happened before and could happen again but it's not the kind of thing Paddy would pray for. That would be bad form. Besides Germans take death seriously. None of the uproar and laughter that can occur at an Irish wake, especially if there were a tavern next door to the funeral home, which in Paddy's experience there always seemed to be. 

Truth be told, both families were moving closer and closer to the end of their life span and the lines on both sides were getting shorter. Every year it seemed someone else would drop out.

"All right, Hilda, I'll go," Paddy announced. "But I'll never go to another one even if all your people die first."

Hilda thought something didn't sound right about that. Why would there be another family reunion if all of her relatives died first? But as long as Paddy was willing to go to this one, she thought she'd be wise to say nothing and leave well enough alone.

"How about a nice dish of pickled pigs feet for supper, Paddy," she said with a smile. "I remember that was one of the few things you liked when you went with me to the other family reunion. And you said the bratwurst and kraut weren't that bad, either."

Monday, June 9, 2014

John Pursch: Amelia, Queeg of Sots

Amelia aired her heart across the ivory dusk
to seize in wondrous plangent overflight
of tundra youth and glockenspiel hilarity
for twisted tantrums, bellicose
in all verbosity’s splendid kingdom:
“I’ll warn you, Harold, but this once:
we’ll start the dreaded seizures,
whence again your hairy doctored species
won’t have half a chalice of grassroots
juicy floozy staid remission spume,
held in reversal’s timeless easement,
plying buck and board or otherwise,
to skimp along inhalant newsstand stocking grunge.”

(Proclaimed with such authority, as if to signal
supper’s come and gone and nary her fairy
codpiece’s latent motherhood lullaby,
in tandem tamed or utterly repaid
with lucid fleshly blurs.)

Stir Harold, Skeg of Pallid Froth,
Turd Pearl of Doubter Tripedia,
listened dryly, plunging headlong
into wafer-thin custard sluice:
“Quite, yes; breast for brats,
bully for BLT’s, a posh trope,
angered by locales of inflammation
corduroys or carrion lagoons,
if idling séance media medallions
still mean anything.”

“Height of the seasoning, my feared dalliance!”
Amelia, herself no lust than Queeg of Hemp
or Alderwoman of Halted Turnover Smile Quartets,
sawed off a fit of piquant equipage,
baring all 47 of her falsetto teeth,
plushly realigned that selfsame afternoon
in painstakingly paraded adjutant
adjudication lunchroom tryst.

Skeg Harold, erstwhile Hairy O’Turbulent,
himself a wild canoe on mangy an open lake
and prolonged key to heavenly moorings
from God’s Ivy palaces to bedpost-banging district
donor spume receptacles in humble humming format;

well then, Wild Harry was wise and wizened enough
to scare not half a wit regarding formal battlements
in certitude of breaching moats, gunwales,
or fuming in canals, so variously plundered.
“All the more to make ‘em happier to serve the crown,
especially when mythos tattles savory know-it-salt
on peppered fragrant flagrancies,
what none can demonstrate or even dream to prove,
in skirt of laundry woman’s realm
of lured-to-courtyard debutante’s infernal wick
of sanded hourly disputation.”

He paused thoughtfully, swallowing a healthy blast
of yardarm port, puffed long and slowly on a dead cigar,
convolved to ashen eggplant muse, and so continued:
“Slung as so-called seismic activation commences posthaste,
keeping the masses fully hocked and piled in tertiary tasks
of tusk line duty,” eyeing his opponent
(or was it partner; no one moniker will quite suffice),
“I, for one, would certainly welcome regulation outbreaks
of whatever virulent and strange concoctions
our blessed biologics care to cast upon
the albeit already somewhat turbid seas
of our own immodest disrepair.”

Raising one eyebrow, then the other,
finally registering a twinkle,
Amelia, Queeg of Hallowed Turnstile Lawns,
let fly her goblet, spraying
Campers, Neighing Sovereigns,
Charred Oles, and Preening Gringos
in rainbow arch across the table,
soaking Hairy’s whale-trimmed beard,
drenching his immaculately laundered monkey suit,
reducing his fine coiffeur to placid dishrag fair:
“You, for one, for once, can sire a wrecked mutative lot
of seized and fallow terriers, you impudent buffoon,
furrower of slotted termagants, chastened toiler of tail
after hefty snail hooker sniggerer!”

At this, a hush fell over the room.

Servants froze, the music stopped mid-beat,
even the dancers hung as if in time suspended
(every one would swear to dying day
to have remained aloft until
the Skeg of Pallid Froth himself
had finally deemed the moment fit to rise).

By all accounts, for possibly a paralyzingly
interminable skein of five minutes or more,
Skeg Harold sat rigid, silently transfixed,
in thought perhaps or inner rage or simple quandary,
obviously preparing the finest form of regal retort;
or so all present had imagined and would attest
in later biographical reviews.

Finally he shoved back his chair,
the wooden echo filling everyone’s ears
with certain terror of impending purges,
ignominious beheadings, defenestrations,
capsized yachts, tugboats aflame,
drained moats, village idiocy,
pilloried knaves…

He slowly rose, stepped from the table’s disarray,
and thereupon began his excruciatingly deliberate
first of his table, then the crown Prince’s,
then the Duchess of Elderhairy Fine’s,
then the Harshdupe Furtive Gland’s,
followed by the dreaded inspection of the orchestra pit,
the emptying of pockets (including the conductor’s!),
the discovery of 318 crack pipes, innumerable bags of weed,
half-full snorters, lighters, spoons, syringes,
crumbled pills of opiates, designer shrugs,
time-travelers masquerading as low-level functionaries,
Robert E. Lee in full retreat from Gettysburg (again!),
Charlemagne selling codfish to underage penguins,
a bathroom packed with pharaohs
on parole from Asphyxiation Row.

John Pursch lives in Tucson, Arizona. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in many literary journals. A collection of his poetry, Intunesia, is available in paperback at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/whiteskybooks. His recently released experimental lit-rap video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l33aUs7obVc. He’s @johnpursch on Twitter and john.pursch on Facebook.

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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