Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A New Pantoum

                                                              Between Dark and Dark

I find myself

between two dark spaces.

If I do not find her,

I will die in this forest.


Between two dark places

staring into the water

I will die in the forest

for the wound is always there.


Staring into the water,

that shining space,

the wound is always there

between dark and dark.


That shining space.

If I do not find her

bewtween dark and dark,
I find myself.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I Am That Woman... by P.D. Gourlais

If your heart is lonely and aching, I am that woman who will take the time to listen to help you heal your hurt...

If you need to make a phone call in the middle of the night, I am that woman who will answer the phone when your name comes up on the caller ID, because your life matters to me more than anything in this world, and I worry if you'll make it through the night...

If you need loyalty, I am the woman that will stick with you until the bitter end... I never give up on anyone, because everyone deserves forgiveness and a second chance or third chance to make things right... Unless you ask me to, I will never abandon you.

If you need a smile to brighten your day, I am that woman who will notice, and I will send one your way, even on days when I feel discouraged myself...

If you feel as if you are falling apart, and you need the tender touch of two loving arms, I will greet you with a hug... screw political correctness! Our world is starving for affection, and we don't need anymore bullshit...

If you're searching for a message to uplift and inspire your soul, I am that woman who will search for those words, and if and when I find them, I will share them with you...

If you are lost, and seeking for someone to help guide you to a safer place, I will be a lantern in the darkness, and I will lead you to better ground as best as I know how... With me, you are never alone. I care for you, because you mean everything to me... you are a part of my big circle- the world is my family, and I am here on Earth to serve.

If you are tired and weary, and need a place to rest, I will invite you in, and give you a hot meal and a cup of warm tea... magical things happen with a little TLC...

I am that woman who takes time to listen.
I am that woman who will heal your hurt.
I am that woman who will answer the phone 24/7.
I am that woman who will stand by your side until death do we part.
I am that woman who has a bright smile even when it rains.
I am that woman who has the courage to share the power of my touch.
I am that woman who loves words and bits and pieces that weave us together.
I am that woman who is willing to take your hand and walk with you.
I am that woman who shares her home, heart and hearth.

Believe me when I say, you're worth it! Believe that it's true, because there is nobody more important to me in this world than wonderful, unique YOU.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rafael (New Story)

Rafael He loved the nights when he dreamed about his father. Last night his mother was there too. They were in the car driving somewhere. It was a summer day. School was out. "You need to find a job," his mother told him. She suggested the fast food place on the corner as they drove by it on their way home. His father turned on the radio and sang along. Loudly.

Once, he dreamed they were at the ocean-- he, his father and his father's mother. They said nothing as they looked out at the end of the world and the water came to their feet and then rushed away. They stood with their backs to him in his dream-- his father, his grandmother and himself as a boy. But he knew they were smiling.

Rafael had a uncle in Miami. He was his father's brother. His name was Paulo. Paulo had a friend that everyone called Pico. Paulo took Rafael fishing and Pico often came along. Rafael watched as the water lay still and clear beneath them. He watched as his reflection rippled with the casting of their fishing lines. He remained silent as he knew he should so as not to frighten the fish away. But, truth be told, he remained silent out of habit.

He tried to sleep but he could hear them downstairs. They were drinking. He could tell. He heard music and laughter and he knew they only played when they drank. He heard Paolo's guitar and Pico's sweet tenor, his accent all but lost in the twang he imitated. Hank Williams had nothing on him.'
"Let's call it a night," Paolo said.
"Just one more," Pico pleaded, "You remember, 'I Still Miss Someone?'"

When the music stopped Rafael tried to sleep again. He heard their footsteps up the stairs. He heard them stumble along the hallway. He heard their laughter. He new he should not listen. He knew he should be asleep. He tried to sleep. He heard them.

"Te amo, Paolo." He heard them.
"Te amo, Pico..." He heard a scuffle. One fell to the floor.
"Diablito," Paolo laughed nervously. He heard a scuffle.
"Si, diablito," Pico growled.
"We are not boys anymore," Paolo said.
"True," Pico said. Then there was the slamming of the door. Then there was silence like one hears in moments of prayers for the dead. Complimentary, but insincere and with good intention. Then there were footsteps along the the hall. Then there was the opening of the door, hesitant but certain, the light falling across the floor.
"Diablito..." Paolo whispered as he crawled into the bed beside Rafael.

And then the day came, as it always does, when life would never be the same. Rafael's father, Emanuel, after months of struggle breathed his last.

Months passed under the weight of his mother's widowhood which she bore with not only grace, but a certain elegance for she dressed in red and green not black and her demeanor was always one of gratitude that was mere shadowed by grief. Paolo, her beloved brother, could not bear it and pleaded with her to dance again. To sing. He coaxed her with tequila and the strumming of his guitar. Pico was there and danced with her, the only man to ever touch her besides Emanuel. Rafael sat on the floor at Paolo's feet and watched Pico's fingers trace the small of Rosa's back, his hand slowly slithered down to her hip, pulling slightly on the fabric of her dress. He leered over her shoulder and down at Rafael before he shut his eyes and his lips grazed her cheek as he drew away from her.

Rafael was sent to bed but the music played on and the voices and laughed chased away any hope of sleep until finally there was the shutting of the door and a moment of silence. At first Rafael thought that he and his mother were alone in the house, but then he heard two voices, his and hers, along the stairs and down the hall passing his room.

"Shhhh," he heard his mother admonish as Pico's booted footstep faltered, "You'll wake Rafa."

Months passed and before Rafael could utter a word in protest his mother married Pico.
"Be happy, as I am," his mother said, "Mijo," she called him.
"Si, mijo," Pico repeated, "Be happy for us."
They married and went away for days and Rafel lay in his room in his uncles house. And when they returned Rafael returned to his home, to his mother's house.

They had married. Rosa and Pico. He heard them. Their laughter. Their songs. Their singing.
"Mijo," his mother called him.
"Mijo," Pico called him at daytime, "Diablito," he called him at night.

It was raining the night that Rafael left home. He left with only the cloths he wore, walking along the road. His shadow sparkled in the wet pavement of lit by the streetlights he passed. Finally, a passing car stopped and offered him a ride.
 "Where are you going?" the driver asked.
"Where are you going?" Rafael replied.
"New York," the driver answered.
"It's as good a place as any," Rafael said. Rafael stared out at the long white line on the road as it appeared and disappeared. He tried to imagine New York but could not. It did not matter. The long white line appeared and disappeared and soon he would be in New York.

It was as good a place as any.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Prose Poem

I have always hesitated at writing a poem-- or anything else for that matter-- about September 11th. However, last night I watched a reading with Simon Armitage and was inspired. So here is a new poem, written in haste, all in a flash I must admit. It is, essentially, my recollection of that day.

The Thing to Do

Shakespeare was always a problem. Teenage sex and suicide. Macbeth's killers dressed in black trench coats. Kate the Shrew swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels. Small things, seemingly trite, loomed paramount. Lunch, for example.

The news that day was another problem. No phoenix rose from the ash that day. No hero came to save us save for the firemen and the Po Po. A white shirt dangling demurely above the debris. And then the call came and the parents arrived. Someone close to home in harm's way. One of us. Someones father. A man we knew. You shook his hand once and he brought you deer meat for venison stew. His wife signed his name to the Christmas card each year. There's his son sitting at a desk. There's his wife waiting in the doorway, stoic but shaken. No new news so we went home. His wife sent word that danger and death had been averted. He was safe in a hotel room and coming home on the next plane. She asked us to pray or light a candle for those who were not as lucky.

And then life went on. We went to work. We went to school. We went shopping because the President said it was the thing to do.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Revised Prose Poem

Three Chords and the Truth


I used to dance alone in an empty room. Just me and three chords and the truth. Songs I sang at seventeen.When all I wanted was to dance with a stranger.When all I wanted was to jump in the river.

I tried it once I was grown. I hitch-hiked southbound down 65. Across the Ohio River. Across the Kennedy Bridge. I stopped at King’s Record Shop. I found Elvis sitting in the corner strumming a guitar. I found Johnny Cash behind the counter. Dylan smoking in the doorway. Cohen beside him rambling about some girl in the Chelsea Hotel.

I bought Horses and wandered off. I wandered down to River Road. Down by the water tower. There was reggae, blues and barbeque. There was a new moon and a boy in ragged jeans. Ragged jeans and a torn T-shirt. He looked as tattered as I felt. So I took his hand. Johnny Cash was on the radio. And I still missed someone.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Story-- First Chapter

New story-- or rather a "novel" excerpt. Hope you like.


Chapter I



My grandma still lives in that house on the hill that my grandpa built when they were married. She was just eighteen then and she has lived in that house ever since."This is where he wanted me to live," she told me once as she looked down the hill to a piece of Lake Cumberland below, "So right here is where I'll stay." There's no bringing her down from that hill; no seducing her with promises of running water and central air conditioning. She still lives in that house here in Monticello, the town where she was born and the place where she'll die, "If the Lord's willin' and the creek don't rise," she says. Like most people in Monticello, she makes do and gets by and takes pride in doing so.

The lucky ones escape to Louisville for a while. They earn a degree or learn a trade and then they return here to family and friends and the devil they know. Some make their way up to Michigan to work in the factories and this is called success back home in Monticello. "But you'll be back," they say, "Who do you think you are?"

I'm Jacob. My mother named me after my father because when the nurse asked it was the only name she could think of. My father was named after Jacob in the bible. Jacob, who wrestled with God. Jacob, who was maimed and anointed. Jacob, who dreamed of falling angels and a ladder to heaven. A blessing and a curse.

Life is like that I guess.

Life is good here, so they say. "Look," they say, "Your grandma still lives in the house your granddaddy built her. Your mamma is married to a good man."

My parents married after Daddy graduated high school and then joined the army and went off to Vietnam. He said war made him a man. But now he drinks himself to sleep at night because otherwise he can't sleep because the bomb that killed his buddy--who was just eighteen-- is still detonating in his dreams.

Daddy graduated but Mamma was just sixteen when the rabbit died and so her school days were over. "You don't need an education to raise a baby," they told her. She got a job at Druthers and never went back. When I was born she named me after my father and took me home to that house on the hill.

And waited.

For a while after Daddy got home things were good. He got a job as a carpenter and made furniture in his spare time. They bought a new car. They took a trip to Florida. They bought a house on the rural route They had a daughter they named Sara. Daddy drove down to Nashville to drink on Saturday nights because Monticello is a dry town and on Sundays he dressed in black and he and Mamma took us to church. They raised two children-- me and my sister, Sara. They made do and got by and took pride in doing so.

But my daddy wanted me to succeed so he beat me. Anytime I didn't get an "A" in school, he beat me.

"I don't want you to die in this town," he said.

My grandma died in this town just like she knew she would. Just like she wanted. We buried her next to Grandpa on a Monday afternoon.

"We are gathered here to remember Sara," the pastor said.

I remember her wearing my cowboy hat. I still have the picture I took that day. I remember her coaxing me into to the cold pool: "Just jump in you pantywaste," she said. I remember we drove her up to my cousin's wedding in Little Nashville: "Lord, they must've followed a snake when they paved this road," she said. I remember the smell of food--hot chili and chocolate fudge and her "Eggless. Milkless, Butterless," cake. I remember her making hot chocolate every year on Christmas Eve,"The way my mom used to make it," she said every year. I remember Sunday matinees and old movies and a place to call home when home was too much to bare. Daddy drank, Mamma and Daddy fought; I played sick and was sent home from school and Grandma was always there.

I remember the day we buried Grandpa, and the headstone that marked his life: "Harold Jencar," it read. "May 24, 1926-July 12,1984," it read. "This world is not my home," it read.

"The only thing written in stone is on your grave," Grandma said.

I remember the last Thanksgiving when Grandma could barely sit up and she told everyone-- her children and grandchildren-- "I love you," as they left. I remember the night she died-- her hair was brushed, her face was flawless, there was a diamond ring on her finger, the only one she owned, the one Granddaddy gave her on their wedding day. She was going to meet her maker and she was dressed for the occasion.

It was a Monday afternoon when we buried her. January 4, 1986 according to the obituary.

It rained. The rain turned to snow.

It was January, 1986. Just after New Year and a new beginning.

And an ending.

Maybe that's what an ending is-- a beginning in disguise.

A week later we went to see the headstone. "Sara Jencar," it read; "July 7, 1928-January 4, 1986," it read. "Be still and know that I am God," it read.

The only thing written in stone is on your grave.

It was June. Six months had passed but nothing had changed. Until the night of the accident. Uncle Simon, Mamma's brother, was a truck driver and had been in an accident and was in a hospital in Chicago. Mamma and Daddy went to be with him and we stayed with Aunt Maggie, Daddy's sister..

Strange that there was music playing when we arrived, but so it was and there was Maggie dancing, drink in hand.

"You two be good for your aunt Maggie," Daddy said. "And you be good too," he said, looking her straight in the eyes. "No drinking, no smoking, no shenanigans."

"So you want me to bore them to death?" she replied, smiling.

"Yes," Daddy answered and kissed her cheek. "You be good," he said to us, pointing his finger.

Mamma kissed us goodbye as Daddy stood by the door staring at his watch. "We'll be home soon," she whispered as if it was a prayer.

Maggie closed the door. "Thank God and Greyhound they're gone," she said, locking the door and turning toward us. "Lord, child, look at the way y'all are dressed," she said as if we had committed a crime. Maggie made clothes and ran a shop in town. Maggie made clothes and her own wine and something she called walnut water. She kept her cellar stocked. She made her living because Monticello was a dry town and folks who didn't want to drive down to Nashville drove out to her place. Maggie drank her coffee with walnut water in the morning and sipped the wine she made at night and sold the rest to people in town. Monticello was a dry town but Maggie got by and made do.

We stayed with Maggie at her house; she let us cuss and smoke and drink and make prank phone calls late at night. She took us to the midnight movies and carried a bottle of Johnnie Walker in her purse and poured it in our cups when the movie started. On the way home we hid in the bushes and threw eggs at passing cars then ran through the field behind Druthers back to Maggie's house. Maggie would stay up all night playing records and singing along. Songs of love lost; songs soaked in gin and regret. Her voice echoed up the stairs and down the hallway to the room where we tried to sleep. Poor Maggie.That was a sound only the wounded would make, even a child knew that.

"All men fuck me over," Maggie complained to a friend on the phone on Sunday morning when she thought we weren't awake yet, "But Johnnie Walker’s the only one that left me without a memory." Just as we walked into the kitchen she was saying, "Well, you know the best way to get over one is to get under another one." She turned and saw us standing there. "I have to go Suzie," she said and hung up the phone.

Maggie fixed eggs and drank Johnnie Walker and orange juice—a hair of the dog that bit her.

"I don't like eggs," I complained as she set the plate on the table before me.

"Oh, eat child. It won't hurt you," she said as she sat down, "But I will," she said, looking me in the eyes, lest I have any doubt.

Then there were voices at the door and Mamma and Daddy walked into the kitchen. Daddy drank coffee and walnut water; Mamma kissed our cheeks and clutched her purse, staring down at her feet. "Ready for church?" she asked.

"I don't suppose you wanna go with us?" Daddy asked.

"The Lord and me have an understanding," Maggie said, "I don't pester him with my problems and he leaves me alone."

"What would Daddy say?" Daddy asked

Daddy's father was a preacher. He was in the business of saving souls when he wasn't chasing women from here to Chattanooga.

"He'd say, 'You've got one life to live,'" Aunt Maggie said.

Mamma and Daddy died. Hit by a drunk driver on a Sunday morning. They were driving home from Chicago. Daddy's brother came home from the hospital and Daddy and Mamma went to Chicago to get him settled. They applied for disability income, found a new apartment with handicapped access, bought a truck with handicapped accommodations, arranged for physical therapy, home-bound assistance and independent living counseling. "Pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start all over again," Daddy said as if it were just that easy. These arrangements took six weeks. Six weeks of driving from Monticello to Chicago, leaving us with Aunt Maggie. One late Saturday night, early Sunday morning, Mamma and Daddy started the drive home. They missed us. They wanted to take us to Mass in the morning just like always, just like normal, but they were hit by a drunk driver.

"We are gathered today to remember Jacob and his wife, Elena," the preacher said.

I remember Sunday Mass and holding hands with Mamma or Daddy as we said our prayers. I remember Daddy teaching me how to ride a bike. I remember the smell of fried chicken and how Mamma's fudge never did turn out like Grandma's. I remember Christmas mornings opening presents and Easter baskets filled with candy rabbits and small toys. There used to be a wood paddle with a rubber ball suspended by a rubber band and when the rubber band snapped Mamma took the paddles to use for our discipline. I remember yelling and screaming and shattered beer bottles and Mamma lying on the floor. I remember that once a week we would pack all of our things just to prove a point and once Mamma got her way we would head inside and the next day we would skip school to unpack. I remember records playing and Mamma singing along-- songs of love lost; songs soaked in gin and regret.

We had them cremated and poured their ashes into Lake Cumberland. Lake Cumberland flows out to the Cumberland River which eventually flows out into the Ocean. After that, God knows where it goes.

We went to live with Aunt Maggie. "Look,"Maggie said as she wiped our eyes, "You've got real tears,"

That was the first night I stayed up all night drinking and singing with Maggie.

We must've sang "Piece of My Heart," a dozen times. We sang, "Piece of My Heart," until the sun came up. We sang, "Piece of My Heart," until it didn't hurt anymore. We sang, "Piece of My Heart.." because that was a sound only the wounded could make. Even a child knew that.

We got by and we made do, but we were wounded. Maggie looked in my eyes, lest there was any doubt.

Mamma and Daddy died, and Maggie sold that house on the rural route. She put the money in the bank. "For college," she said. Grandma left her house to Mamma and Mamma left it to me. I planned to sell it, but Maggie had other plans. "What fool would buy a house with no running water?" she reasoned. So we bulldozed the house and watched it fall.

"I don't want you to die in this town," Maggie said.

It was June, 1986. Just after high school graduation. Mamma and Daddy died and we poured their ashes into Lake Cumberland because Daddy didn't want to be buried in Kentucky. So we set them free.








Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Songs for My Ex's

For Stephen: For Alex: For John...most of all