Forevermore

My Iphone softly played Reveille as my 4:30 morning alarm. Without opening my eyes, I found the phone in the dark and tapped off the alarm.

I gradually worked my way out of the guest bedroom bed where I have been sleeping the past few weeks as my wife continues to battle a sinus problem causing her to snore throughout the night through which I find it hard to sleep.

I silently tiptoed past my wife loudly slumbering in the master bedroom bed on my way to the en suite bathroom where I closed the doors before turning on any lights. My eyes rapidly blinked as I adjusted to the abrupt change in the room’s brightness.

I reached my hands into the shower stall to turn on the water and noticed that the flow of water was already hot without having to wait the usual couple of minutes for it to warm up. I wondered what might have caused that to occur before just accepting it as a good sign for the day yet to come.

As I stepped into the shower, the steaming water felt so good that I just stood under the flowing stream, basking in the cleansing sense with which it baptized my awakening soul. I lost track of time as I just stood there in a mesmerized state with the water pouring over my head and down the sides of body.

When I finally stepped out of the shower, I realized I had left my cell phone by the bed and could not check to see how late it was, not realizing how long I stood there enjoying my morning wash. When I looked at my face in the mirror, I did not notice any signs of a stubbled beard on my face and decided that I could skip shaving this morning. I brushed my teeth and swigged a capful of mouthwash not really tasting the toothpaste or feeling the burn of the rinse.

I turned out the lights before reopening the bathroom doors; I stood there for a minute or two to allow my eyes to readjust to the darkness. As I slowly felt my way to the bed, where I would kiss my sleeping bride good-bye, I found that the bed was empty. This was odd and I wondered where my wife might be and why was she up so early in her morning?

As I went into the guest bedroom to retrieve my Iphone, I found my wife shaking the bed covers and crying. She was pleading, “Wake up, Joe. Joe, wake up. Oh God, please, wake up.”

I then noticed that it was not just the bed covers she was shaking. I also realized I was listening to the sounds of Reveille coming from my phone and I stood there, in my pajamas – not the suit and tie I had just put on – watching my wife trying to wake me in the bed.

I cried a tear or two; whispered, “Good-bye, Dear” to my wife; and, slowly slid back into my body lying upon the bed and went to sleep forevermore.

A Congregation of Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins held a conference deep within
my fragile, mortal soul with destruction as their goal.
Pride took the role of lead, but was monopolized by Greed;
Sloth paid no attention; Anger interrupted the convention;
Envy held a jealous hunch; Gluttony moved they break for lunch;
Every member knew they couldn’t trust, any suggestions made by Lust.

As the sins hemmed and hawed, Faith and Hope built a wall
around the deadly caucus, among all the raucous;
Love put a lock on the door, holding the sins in evermore,
as Empathy and Charity, planted seeds inside of me.
Even though I know that they’re there, and I carry them everywhere,
As long as I remember the lessons I’ve been taught, their discussions will come to naught.

I Want to Write a New Poem

I want to write a new poem every single day.
Life, however, keeps getting in the way;
There are planes to catch and bills I have to pay,
So, poem writing time keeps slip sliding far away.

I’d like to pen a new song every coming week;
Mix notes with my words that add to their mystique,
But, at music composition I am tragically weak;
Time to sharpen that skill I just cannot seem to seek.

I want to take a new class on a regular monthly basis;
Better prepare my life for all the challenges it faces.
On my calendar there are found no empty spaces,
So, my education will have to come from several other places.

I’d like to fall in love again each and every year,
To the very same woman who I currently hold dear;
Complacency and routine are the traits of which I fear;
Responsibilities in our lives seem to bring them ever near.

So, I’ll just have to write new poems whenever I find the time;
In my own head I’ll have to add music to the rhyme;
Educate myself with the daily lessons that I find,
And, fall in love again – even if just inside my mind.

The Process

You walk into the waiting room nervous and a little bit embarrassed but with a resolve to do this because you love her that much.  The room is crowded with men reading, or pretending to read, one of the “Golf”, “Sailing” or “National Geographic” magazines with a doctor’s name on the white mailing label on the cover page – anything to avoid catching another man’s eyes.

Very silently, in a barely audible whisper, you check in with the nurse at the front desk – also avoiding eye contact with her.

As the nurse calls another man’s name, you keep your eyes on your magazine, knowing what he is being beckoned for and pretending that you might actually be there for another reason.

When it is your name that is called, you put down the magazine you have been staring at for a half hour without ever reading a single word, and cautiously approach the front desk.  Although you have heard the instructions whispered to the dozen of men who went before you, you listen as if this is all news to you.

“You are in room three.  Here is a receptacle; here are the instructions; and, here is some soap and lubricant.  Please follow the instructions carefully.  When you are finished, place the receptacle in the cabinet door and press the green button on the side.  Make sure you place this label over the lid of the receptacle once you have finished sealing the container.

“Is the information typed on the label accurate?  Is that your information?  Is that you wife’s name?

“When you are finished, leave the door opened and go to room 272 down the hall and wait for someone to take you to your wife.  Any questions?  Good”, without waiting for an answer, “room three is just down the hall.”

You think to yourself, “What?  No good luck?”

As you confidently walk into room three, which is no more than a small bathroom with an E-Z Boy lounge chair  squeezed in beside the toilet and far wall, and a small TV with a video player mounted to the wall, your first thought is, “Which one of those guys was just in here?”

Your second thought is, “I hope she appreciates this.”

Then, you read the first part of the instructions: “Wash your penis and testicles with the soap provided.  Thoroughly rinse, removing all of the soap residue.”

Although this instruction sounds easy enough, you look at the toilet and the small, waist-high bathroom sink and wonder, “How?”

“How, exactly, do I wash and rinse my penis and balls?  Do I dangle them in the toilet and splash toilet water over them to rinse, or do I somehow climb up onto the sink and do it?”

This now explains why there was a mop and bucket outside the bathroom door.

Although you were not planning on doing this, you decide to completely take off all of your clothes so whatever wash and rinse technique you settle on you will not get your clothes soaked in the process.

After pulling a couple muscles and wrenching your back trying to wash and rinse your private parts, you read the next part of the instructions:  “Completely dry yourself off before applying the lubricant provided for the process.”

After chuckling over the phrase, “the process”, you now notice that there are no towels in the room.  This is when you become aware of the chest-high, hot air hand dryer mounted to the wall.  You try to imagine a way to move the E-Z-Boy chair close enough to the dryer for you to stand on to complete the drying process and realize that this cannot be achieved without opening the bathroom door to provide enough maneuvering room.

This is when you decide to use your underwear as a towel and wonder if you now just contaminated the parts you sanitized with that special brownish-yellow soap – and, then say, “The hell with it”, and move on to the next step in the process.

Even though you are now completely naked in a small bathroom, with soapy water all over the floor, the video tapes and magazines in the side pocket of the E-Z-Boy recliner are so raunchy they even make you blush.

“Really”, you think, “this is the kind of stuff they think is going to help me with ‘the process’?  I am here to try to help my wife get pregnant; can’t they offer something a little softer than hard-core porn?”

You now are wondering how long you have been in here, without making any progress on the real business, and get a better understanding of why your wait in the waiting room was so long.  You also picture your wife in the other room wondering what the hell is taking you so long.  So, you pop in any video without prejudice to the title or picture on the sleeve.

The video was not re-round and starts off right in the middle of some serious action.  This is when you realize you do not know where the remote control is and the TV volume is turned up to the max.  You slip and slide around on the pleather E-Z-Chair trying to get to the volume control on the TV and decide to simply unplug the set because you can more easily reach the electrical cord than the TV itself.

After relaxing enough to stop the sweating, you settle on a magazine and search for a picture that looks more like erotica than a gynecologist’s text book, before simply closing your eyes and just letting your imagination conjure up the images that make “the process” easier.

It is when you have just about achieved your objective that you realize you left the receptacle on the sink, out of your reach.  Trying to hold it in, but stay at the ready, you maneuver over to the plastic container and realize it is going to require two hands, now slippery with the special lubricant, to open the top.

After wrestling with the jar to open the lid, the urgency of doing so has faded.  You return to the recliner, open jar in one hand, and continue “the process” with the other, once again thinking, “I hope she appreciates this.”

Once you have completed your assignment and seal the container, you open the cabinet door and see that this “cabinet” has no back side and opens directly into a room that looks like a science lab.  All that was between you and this room of lab technicians walking around in lab coats was the thin, medal door of this medicine cabinet-sized window.  It is now that you realize you should have gotten dressed first, before opening the cabinet door.  You quickly shut the door upon seeing a lab technician walking your way because you prematurely pressed the green light and hope that you didn’t just knock your container off of the shelf.

When you get dressed again, you must go commando because your towel/underwear is soaking wet and covered with soap residue.  You coyly shove your underwear into the trash container in the hallway where you notice about a dozen other pairs of wet Haines.

You figure someone must have the job of cleaning up your mess before the next victim and you sneak off down the hallway to the appointed, next waiting room.  In this room, you find the same men that were in the first waiting room with their heads buried deeper into magazines then they were before.  You notice half of the magazines are upside-down because they are just being used as veils of embarrassment and the person on the other side has no idea which way he is holding it.

You tell this room’s nurse your name, knowing that she knows full well why you have beads of sweat still on your forehead, and pray that your wife gets pregnant this time so you never have to go through this process ever again!

The Man in the Irony Mask

I sat,
Silently watching a spider crawl up the pristine white wall,
Wondering where it had come from,
Wondering where it was going.

The straps from the straight jacket were chafing my neck;
My hands were not free to relieve the discomfort.

Where, exactly, was the light source in this room coming from?
And, why did I not cast any shadow?
Where was that spider going?

The annoying humming of some unseen electrical device was driving me mad.
I smiled at the irony in that thought.
The unseen electrical device was probably the hidden camera by which those who already thought me mad were watching me;
Watching me watching the spider with nowhere to go.

The madness was not in the acts I took to end his life;
The madness was in enduring the pain he inflicted for so long before doing so.

Now,
In a padded cell,
Forced to hug myself by a tightly strapped straight jacket,
Unable to move,
Unable to relieve the discomfort against my neck,
Unable to smash that damn spider,
I am free.
Free of everything, it seems, but irony.

Go ahead little spider and crawl up that wall,
There are no cracks from which to escape,
There are no flies to be caught,
And there are no monsters to force you to do unmentionable things.
We are safe in their prison, free of his.

I am not sure when I realized that I was actually the source of that annoying humming;
Perhaps it was when the cell door flung open and smashed the spider against the wall.

The Lottery Winner

Thelma’s ten hour shift at the City Line Diner ended at 4:00 pm.  She helped set up for the dinner service, said her goodbyes to the incoming waitresses and kitchen staff, punched out on the grease covered clock mounted on the kitchen wall and started on her journey home.  After spending ten hours waiting on and busing her own tables, there was not much pep left in Thelma’s steps as she shuffled her 5’4”, 200 pound frame down four city blocks to catch her Harlem bound bus.

It was starting to get dark as Thelma exited the bus and continued walking north three blocks to her one-room apartment in the run-down tenements.  There was no surprise or anguish when Thelma met the “Out of Order” sign still on the elevator door; Thelma simply made her way to the stairs and, grabbing the railing, started the climb up the three stories to her apartment past bodies in the stairwell, broken bottles and the accompanying smells of urine, alcohol, marijuana and other odors causing her to hold her breathe for short intervals of time as best she could.

Panting at her doorway from the climb, Thelma inserted her key and entered the empty apartment.

Thelma said, “Hello, Dear” to the picture of her now dead husband, grabbed a notebook, pencil and envelopes off of the counter in the portion of the room that served as a kitchen and sat down on the one chair at the small kitchen table.  Thelma emptied her pockets of the tips she had gathered for the day and began her “account’n”.  Thelma made an entry in her notebook and then put a portion of today’s tips in an envelope marked “Rent & Bills”, some in the envelope labeled “Food” and the remainder in an envelope with the words “Lottery Money” printed on the front.

After tucking the flaps back in on the first two envelopes, Thelma emptied out the “Lottery Money” envelope and started counting up the bills.

“Fifty dollars,” she exclaimed.  “Donald,” she addressed to her husband’s picture, “I think it’s time.  The Powerball is up to eight hundred million dollar, Sweet Lord, and we’s ready to win that money for sure.”

For over six months, Thelma had put what little bit she had left over from the other two envelops into her “Lottery Money” account just waiting for the Powerball to reach a number high enough to entice her to make this investment.  And now, the time was right.

“I’s got to get me down to Jackson’s corner store afore seven-o’clock for tonight’s drawing, Donald.  Wish me luck, Sweetheart, ‘cause I sure could use it.  You tell Jesus up thar with you that I am praying like I’ve never prayed before to help me wins this lottery.”

Thelma pocketed the fifty dollars and retraced her steps back down the foul-smelling stairwell and onto the noisy city streets.  At two dollars apiece, Thelma could purchase twenty-five Powerball tickets.  Thelma clutched a piece of paper detailing twenty-five sets of numbers she had constructed with special meaning from her fifty-five years on earth.  Each set of numbers was meticulously thought about and grouped with other numbers to make each ticket its own story in six number increments.

Thelma walked into Jackson’s Market with just one purpose – purchase her twenty-five Powerball tickets of which she was sure one would save her from her sorry lot in life.

Thelma walked into the store and immediately got in line behind a woman with three young children buying some groceries.  The clerk had already wrung up the few items the lady had brought to the counter as she tried her best to open her purse with a small infant strapped to her front, a two year old hugging her leg and a ten year old boy pouting at her side.

The young mother nervously stated, “Just a minute, I can’t find my money.  I just got my money this morning and I am sure I put it in my purse.”

The clerk did not look happy.

The ten year old boy whined, “You ain’t got no money, Momma?”

“Yes, yes I got the money, I just can’t find it now”, she announced as she frantically shuffled through her purse.

“Come on lady, we don’t have all day,” stated the clerk as a few more people were now waiting in line to check out.

“I, I, must have left it back in the shelter.  Can I just take this and bring the money back tomorrow.  They close the shelter doors at eight and I can’t get there and back by then.”

“Hey, Lady, this is a grocery store this ain’t no charity place.  You shouldn’t come in here if you ain’t got no money,” the clerk rudely responded.

“Can’t I just have the diapers?  My baby is all wet and we ain’t got no diapers,” the poor lady pleaded.

“No, you can’t have no diapers for free,” snapped back the clerk.  He then spoke into a microphone, “Bob, I need you up front to void an order.”

The people in line behind Thelma were now getting agitated and also giving the lady a hard time for creating a backup in line.

Thelma then spoke up.  “Now hold on,” she said, speaking to the clerk.  “Why you got to be so rude?  This lady lost her money and she got these children to feed.  You ain’t got to be like that.”

“Yeah, right, she lost her money – bull-shit, she ain’t got no money,” shouted one of the customers behind Thelma.

Bob then approached the cashier and took out his key to void the transaction.

“Now just stop,” Thelma shouted.  “Just stop.  How much is it?”

“Forty-five dollars and thirty-two cents,” announced the clerk.

“Fine,” said Thelma, “here’s fifty dollars,” she announced handing over six months’ worth of saving left-over tip money for lottery tickets.

“Oh ma’am, you ain’t got to do that,” cried the young mother.

“Don’t you worry, Honey, you need to feed your family,” Thelma replied with her outstretched hand clutching the fifty dollars in front of the clerk.

The small boy announced, “It’s okay, Momma, I don’t need the candy bar – and you can give back the cereal.”

The woman said, “Maybe just the diapers, maybe you could buy us just the diapers.”

“Now hush up,” Thelma replied, “These are the groceries you needed, these are the groceries we is buying.  And son, you can have that candy bar, you just promise me that you won’t pout anymore and you will help your Momma out, okay.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said the little boy.

The clerk took Thelma’s fifty dollars and Bob walked away satisfied that everything was taken care of.

The mother said, “Thank you ma’am.  Thank you very much.  Now you give me your name and address and I will bring that money back to you tomorrow.”

Thelma smiled and said, “It’s okay, Honey, life has been good to me.  You just remember this and when life is good to you again in the future, you do this for someone else.”

“Yes, ma’am, I will,” promised the embarrassed woman.

The little boy looked up at Thelma and asked, “Lady, are you an angel?”

“No,” Thelma chuckled, “I ain’t no angel – but my husband is an angel and he sent me here to help ya’ll tonight.”

“Are you rich,” asked the boy.

“I is rich enough,” smiled Thelma.

The clerk finished bagging the groceries and handed them to the mother and the little boy.  Thelma followed the family out of the market.

The mother asked, “Ma’am, didn’t you buy nothun?  Did we take all of your money?  Wasn’t you here to buy something?”

“Nay, I wasn’t here for nothing important.  Like I said, my husband and Jesus sent me here to help you and to help me remember what is important in life.”

“Well thank you ma’am, and thank your husband and Jesus for us, too” said the mother as they started off in opposite directions.

Thelma walked into her lonely apartment and threw the empty “Lottery Money” envelope into the trash can.

As Thelma laid in bed that night watching the News on her little TV, the news anchor announced, “Well, there were no winners in the Powerball Lottery tonight, the next drawing will be worth over one billion dollars.”

“Now, Donald and Jesus,” Thelma said aloud, “We all knows that ain’t true, there was one winner tonight – thank you for showing me the way.  Good night, husband.  Good night, Lord.”