THROUGH A LOOKING GLASS DARKLY


I grew up in Wonderland. I can say this now, after having lived and died a little in some of the ugliest cities. Brevard, NC is an impossible town, and it should have died like it did every night at 9 PM when the traffic lights down town went off duty and reverted to four-way flashers. It should have hemorrhaged to death when so many of us left it, bleeding.

Life after Brevard consisted of marrying your high school sweetie, snagging a second shift job at Du Pont or Olin with the right influence, and hopefully, getting a double wide so say, in ten years and with a lot of overtime, you’d get a real home one day. Or you could get out, go to college, find a decent job never once thinking of the wounds or how inane it was, back then.

Exactly an hour later almost as an addendum, the one TV channel with consistent reception reminded our parents it was 11 o’ clock, and somehow, as if it were possible, not knowing where we were was the last thing they heard, the constant back question: Do you know where your children are?

Yes, we were cuturally deprived. The population inside city limits strained to top 5500. You knew everyone and everyone knew you, and even if you did not comprehend it, there was security in this, and a little resentment at not being able to live so unanonymously. The lone radio station was AM, and on week nights, the melodious voice of John Anderson brought us serenely to “the close of another broadcast day”, promptly at 10 PM and the strains of his voice were the last heard of the day for many of us.

You waited on everything in Brevard, and you waited for Brevard to catch up to the rest of the world, but it could not, and you knew it.

Mustangs, Barracudas, Chevelles, Impalas- all those horses and nowhere to run- the dichotomy of excess speed in a town that prided itself, almost to the point of codification, on operating at the pace of thickening molasses.

Go ahead and laugh at this, but on Friday nights in summer, the parking lot which now comprises Princess Plaza was cordoned off for square dancing. Do-se do, I kid you not. The whole town turned out. You slapped your face with Canoe or English Leather, slick in your favorite jeans, leaning against -something-until you found the courage or waited for the competition to die down so you could sidle up to Anne or Beth or Cindy or Marsha and ask for this next round?

You could not help but worry just a little because what if the Hokey Pokey really IS what its all about? How would you know? Left foot in, do-se-do.

Maybe you’d get lucky. Maybe a friend shared a can of beer with you, fresh from a “run” to Hendersonville. Not enough so you could feel it, but enough to leave a taste in your mouth for more, and enough to taint your breath and enhance your image. Image was all we had at times.

The bowling alley was the hottest place in town, except of course for Hardee’s. Before everything and after everything, there was Hardee’s. The simplicity of it was its appeal: you want to be found, go to Hardee’s. There you’d catch a glimpse of a wild Mustang perhaps, or split an order of fries. Even the cops had names like “Elvis” and “Tinker” and most of the time, they’d be hanging too, only parked conspicuously in the center of the lot with the window down.

Paegentry and dances were relegated to the American Legion, and we cut up, showed off, smoked an joked under the ancient machinery of a WWII anti aircraft gun whose trajectory would have placed a round about three feet over the court house and made impact say, close to Wal Mart, windage and elevation being considered.

To the students at Brevard College we were “townies”; to the tourists we were “hicks”. Always, there was this battle for our own town. Some of us fought it while others hung back considering Brevard not worth an ass kicking. But we shared a common perplexity, and try as we might, could never grasp the concept of driving 100 or maybe 150 miles just to look at LEAVES. White squirrels were common as mud, and any kid who had his driver’s license over 60 days knew every waterfall within 30 miles by rote.
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As inevitable as daffodils in spring were the well-intended young women who arrived from UNC-Asheville. I never asked, but there had to be some deep spiritual power that propelled them onto the capstone of the court house retaining wall to save our dying town.

This was done usually at the top of their rather expanded lungs and usually, when mixed with the background of traffic, was for the most part unintelligble. But you learned to read their faces and even if you missed your appointed hour, you knew something serious was going on, and that there would surely be a next time.

“The City On The Hill” has been euphemised since the time of the ancients. In the Bible, it signifys both strength and depravity. Nostradamus saw it over and over and over. Those few of us fortunate enough to have lived there knew its pinnacle conjoined at the corner of Main and Jail House Hill, precisely where the wisewomen from Asheville stood.

They call Rome the Eternal City. I argue with history from time to time.
If you lived this Brevard, you know it like you knew your first kiss, you know it now with your eyes closed, it has always been. It resides on tongue- tip like the good news ready to spring forth across the land, it is deeper than skin, a fabric of which a part of you is indelibly woven.

My best years. Wonderland and “The Last Picture Show” with a Buck Owens twist. Red pill or blue, it is waiting for you.

The Holiness of Suffering


By Dennis McHale

I am not yet dead.

Do not call this a miracle or raise your hands in praise.
First, you should know how long I prayed, and how I came to know the silence of the Lord.

He does not arrive in a ball of light blinding on the road to Damascus. He comes in silence.

Lie there night after night and you will come to know the things I speak of.

My God speaks in the tongue of suffering.

I have survived, but do not call that brave.

I rattled this body from the inside out. There are those who dared get close to me who can testify. I could not find its latch. I would have escaped it if I could.

I say this to you because I know, you too have suffered — a body can be rummaged through like a medicine cabinet.

The flesh can be unfurled. Stitched, unbound, mended and stitched again.

Nothing is lost; nothing can be unmade.

But do not underestimate how hard it is to die and do not think death will save you.The dead have forgotten suffering.

Remember what I tell you here.

Remember how hard I held on. Remember the long nights I prayed.

Remember: whole days and nights I wandered outside myself. My body opened to wind and latched like a door against it.

There was pain in the opening and pain in the parts that healed.

Remember what I said of prayer: to house the soul in a body is a way of it.

Sometimes we suffer for one another. I am sorry for those who have suffered for me. But mostly, I am grateful.

If you like, we can call it holy.

HAIKU CHAINSTREAM


haiku_symbolfb

angry thunderstorms
across deep blue ocean swells
star-kissed explosions

star-kissed explosions
lover’s passion-clenched eyelids
soon sleep descending

soon sleep descending
life demands its sacrifice
death a bitter toll

death a bitter toll
human souls ascend the scale
stars suddenly aglow

stars sudden aglow
midnight meadows bathed in light
winds begin to blow

winds begin to blow
softly swaying, children dance
to music unheard

to music unheard
new life from true love formed
the world rejoices

the world rejoices
eagles screech their summer songs
eyes glancing upward

eyes glancing upward
a silent voice offers prayer
clouds begin to weep

clouds begin to weep
lashing rains, the voice of God
angry thunderstorms

BEFORE by D.L.McHale


Before the ashes, Vulcan’s vengeful fire.
Before the sex, a deep and burning desire
Before the storm, a dark and restless quiet;
Before the morning, a deep and somber night.

Before the hunt, the frightened fleeing fox,
Before the race, coiled tightly in starter’s blocks.
Before the cut, such soft unblemished skin;
Before the blade, sparks fly, the  whetstone spins.

Before new love, the queasy, nauseous start;
Before the kiss, a young and hopeful heart.
Before rejection, all things possible, bright, and new;
Before enlightenment, faith in what we say and do.

Before Sun’s rays, dark clouds enshroud the planet
Before the sculptor, beauty locked in blocks of granite.
Before the fall, transcendence true and boldly rising;
Before the gasp, in silent awe, a sweet surprising.

Before the rose arises first the lowly bloom –
Before the family, a dark and empty room.
Before old age comes the child full of life!
Before victory, the pain of loss and bitter strife.

Before the Universe, a bright and solitary star
Before the nearness, a cold and distant far
Before the night, a day of brilliant cerulean blue
Before the “Us,”  a prayer for joining “Me” to “You”

ONE LAST DANCE by D.L.McHale


Lovers and Dancers

In Spring she danced with her true love
Each step in softness, lights descending
From the silver rays of moon above
Terpsichore's guidance never-ending.
Summer found her slightly winded
Though to her lover’s hand she held
And while this dance more quickly ended,
Within his arms all fears were quelled.
Upon a chilled wind Fall did follow
Fatigued, she cried, “No more to dance!”
He prayed to her beloved, Apollo,
“What price secures another chance?”
In Winter’s snow she found her rest
His tears upon her funeral pyre;
Now holding close within his chest
One final dance, his heart’s desire.

DEPARTURE by D.L.McHale


image

Plant my sorrows ‘neath soils deep
I will not pray, nor shall I weep
    bitter secrets, mine to keep
    bitter harvest, mine to reap

I dreamt of the rapture, dreamt of the pain
I dreamt of the fire, of the iron chains
This tortured heart beats cold and quivering
This tortured soul, fatigued and shivering.

Into the waters my steps descend
For this is the beginning of the final end
     Let the rivers wash my tired bones
     Let the currents carry my body home

Self-Reflection by D.L.McHale


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I am the ripe green apple, 
plucked from Eden’s garden
Contemptuously bitten, 
no hope for God’s pardon.
I am Achilles heel 
that hobbles my stride;
Odysseus’ curse, 
my insufferable pride..
That lock of hair 
claiming Sampson’s life, 
And the brother of Able, 
I’m Cain with a knife!
I am the snakes coiled 
in Medusa’s dark mane –
Like a lance to the boil, 
my mercy is strained.
I’m the brew in the cauldron 
of deep-forested witches –
The ugliness that comes 
from Frankenstein’s stitches.
I am alone and afraid, 
but too stubborn to change;
Hopeless and lost 
and most certain deranged!
I’m broken, defeated, 
and reeking of sin,
The lowest of cowards, 
the most evil of men.
A life, ever wasted 
on cheap wine and women,
My descent into Death 
is just now beginning.
This ghost will remain 
as my specter of shame –
I’d rather be dead 
than live more of the same ~

THE HOLINESS OF SUFFERING by D.L.McHale


image

I am not yet dead.

Do not call this a miracle or raise your hands in praise. 
First, you should know how long I prayed, and how I came to know the silence of the Lord.

He does not arrive in a ball of light blinding on the road to Damascus. He comes in silence.

Lie there night after night and you will come to know the things I speak of.

My God speaks in the tongue of suffering.

I have survived, but do not call that brave.

I rattled this body from the inside out. There are those who dared get close to me who can testify. I could not find its latch.  I would have escaped it if I could. 

I say this to you because I know, you too have suffered — a body can be rummaged through like a medicine cabinet.

The flesh can be unfurled. Stitched, unbound, mended and stitched again.

Nothing is lost; nothing can be unmade.

But do not underestimate how hard it is to die and do not think death will save you.The dead have forgotten suffering.

Remember what I tell you here.

Remember how hard I held on. Remember the long nights I prayed.

Remember: whole days and nights I wandered outside myself. My body opened to wind and latched like a door against it.

There was pain in the opening and pain in the parts that healed.

Remember what I said of prayer: to house the soul in a body is a way of it.

Sometimes we suffer for one another. I am sorry for those who have suffered for me. But mostly, I am grateful.

If you like, we can call it holy.