A Father’s Wish – Verse #2

Oh my little child, what changes will you see?
So unaware of the world now that is now to be

your new home so far away from my heart,
now that we have grown up and grown apart.

Oh my little child, were you ever aware
of the gaze of the world’s persistent stare?

To look upon a child so meek and so mild
discouraged to ever let you once run wild.

Oh my child, what will this new found freedom show
to your young mind so inquisitive, so eager to know

those secrets of the universe, waiting to be unlocked.
I pray for you, that you’ll never once be blocked
     in your quest to find who you really are .

Oh my child, I pray so heartily that you are never far
in spirit from the loving arms where you now are.

With a world now at your fingers, so easy to touch
you’ll never be who you were, at least, not so much.

Oh my child, once again, above all I pray that will you forever know this;
I’ll always be there, in spirit or flesh, to give you one last goodnight kiss.

Forever will you stay here, tucked in my arms,
Never, ever, will you have to fear for safety or harm.

© 2014 p.hill

The Most Special Christmas Present

     Not 30 miles south of Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, just off of a blacktopped two lane Highway 6, sits an old farmhouse. Originally built in the early portion of the 1900s this particular farmhouse has sat on two separate foundations, has been added to, subtracted from, resided from its original wood frame to its now yellow fiberboard siding. Its bright coloring make it an easy mark to spot, even from down the highway.
      Windswept and eroded green and brown hills gently rise from prairie grasses that in summer time wave under incessant breezes, but on this December day sit mute and dampened under grey skies and white snow. Fields that in other seasons bear the fruits of golden wheat and green timothy hay sit empty and brown; ragged scars that refuse to heal up, even under majestic white snowfall.
      Various farmsteads sit nestled in clumps of trees, near natural irrigation ditches carved into the landscape by the glacial past. It’s the one with the yellow siding that is sought at this special time. Surrounding farms sport new tractors and grain silos, fancy ranch vehicles and state of the art buildings. This particular farmstead has slowly faded into the history of retirement, the empty chicken coop now but a memory of summer days, catching the fattest chicken to butcher for that night’s dinner. Sagging roof panels are the hallmark of the red pole barn and decayed wooden gates serve to pen in the nonexistent hogs. A few cattle still mill about but these past years the main source of income has been water pumped out of the nearby slough and paid for by the highway department as widening and resurfacing of Highway 6 turned in from little more than a glorified gravel road to a proper roadway.
      Christmas Day, the ultimate day of gift giving and receiving, is all but upon the land. Presents shall abound and be strewn through mountains and tunnels of foiled wrapping paper, fancy cut ribbons and bags of bows collected for someone’s mother. 8:15 p.m. The countdown is T-36 hours until that magical moment arrives. For the moment, anticipation is the name of the game.
     Slowly relatives have begun to arrive from all corners of the state, and the country. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes are stacked bumper to bumper, in the gravel driveway and dooryard of this tiny farm; one of the many that dot this prairie landscape. License plates tacked to these vehicles speak of roads traveled and miles added for these joyous if all too brief occasions. Cousins reunite and hug as if no time has passed at all since their last meeting. Aunts pinch the cheeks of their nieces and nephews, commenting on how big they have gotten since they last saw each other, even if it was only last Monday.
     Smells of hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and spiced apple cider with cinnamon hang heavy in the humid air of the kitchen as the ham slowly roasts itself to golden perfection in the old white oven, not too far from the watchful eye of a dutiful kitchen taskmaster (Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa have all taken their turn in this capacity). Mashed potatoes and stuffing slowly hiss at each other from cast iron pans and pots, as if they too are savoring the moment when they will be drenched in a bath of homemade gravy, made from meat drippings and corn starch. Relish trays of baby carrots, celery, pickles and black olives (there are never enough black olives) sit in the center of the “Adult’s Table.” Spiced pumpkin plachendla, meant to be one of the many desserts, is slowly picked apart handful by handful by adults and kids alike who pass the table, earning a not so subtle HARUMPH of distaste from Grandma. Soon the ancient pie tin bears not much more than a few scraps of the homemade crust.
     Dutifully, the “Kids’ Table” is set in the corner of the living room, adjacent to the dining room, across from the tree, but where parents can still keep an eye on the gleeful youngsters. Cousins of all age gather around this folding card table because there are no looks of disapproval when mashed potato mountains erupt with gravy lava all over the disposable plastic table cloth. The fine linen table cloths are reserved for the adults table.
     Pies that were placed into that very same white oven, earlier in the day, are now slowly cooling on the back steps; old concrete steps that have a metal pipe handrail bolted to the house’s siding to provide traction when they become iced over. Tubs of frozen whipped cream sit next to the pies, sweating from the temperature difference.
     Even though temperatures are dipping into the low 20s, the back door is cracked open, to keep the readout on the thermometer in this tiny, humid kitchen bearable, allowing the mournful whistle of a frigid December wind to mix and mash the savory aromas from said kitchen and deliver them to the waiting guests who are congregating and gabbing and laughing, in and around the living room.
     New age tunes from the Trans Siberian Orchestra song “Ornament” are spilling from the speakers of a nearby CD player. This is a stark contrast to the traditional sounds of Bing Crosby that is usually played on a battered, wooden record player which takes up one entire corner of the tiny living room, competing for space on the far wall with an equally ancient and battered piano. Grandkids are growing up and suddenly they have a voice in what music will be heard this Christmas season, creating an out of sync, yet still harmonious rhythm.      Christmas music, no matter what decade of origin, will always find a way to come together.
      Adults mill about the living room, conversing in hushed tones so that the music can still be heard, while sipping cups of coffee that have been discreetly laced with shots of Kahlua. Others are in the basement, smoking unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes because it’s too cold to smoke outside, and Grandma won’t allow them to smoke upstairs where the kids are. Briefly someone attempts to play a harmonica in tune with Trans Siberian Orchestra, but as quickly as it starts, it ends. A haunting melody…
     There is no formal dress code for this event, as turtle neck sweaters, faded blue jeans are a standard affair.
     Children have pilfered, and continue to do so, handfuls of Grandma’s homemade caramels and have been stuffing their cheeks full of them, not minding the occasional bit of foil that gets stuck between their teeth. Tin foil wrappers become instant wads of valuable silver to be hidden by cousins and then later “discovered” by other cousins, who hoard those wads as if they were indeed precious metals.
      Trails of air popped corn litter the scarred linoleum floor of the kitchen and the dining room as these very same children sneak handful after handful to the back bedroom where games of Chinese checkers, Scrabble and UNO are scattered between Lincoln log forts where GI Joes and Lego characters do battle.
      Here in the back bedroom children can be as loud as they want because they are far enough away from the adults for anyone to mind. Down the hall, on the opposite end of the house, is Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom. Identical twin beds with hand stitched identical orange comforters and a dresser with a mounted mirror are the only furnishings. Children don’t dare play in this room, but still they steal peeks into the room, admiring those orange comforters because of the intriguing way two simple blankets can so brightly light a tiny room.
      Piles of soaked mittens, boots, caps, snow pants and coats are strewn about the basement; a damp reminder of the earlier afternoon’s outdoor activities. The pungent aroma of woolen socks drying out over heater vents rises up to do battle with the aromas from the kitchen. Occasionally an adult coming down the steps, to retrieve a jar of chokecherry jam will trip over an article of clothing, muttering under their breath, but there is no harm or ill intent. Children coming in from outside are never mindful where the wet clothes fall when there is a promise of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows.
Sleds that went rocketing down the frozen slopes of Flintstone Hill, behind the house, are now stacked haphazardly by the pies, on those same frozen concrete steps. Multiple treks up the slope, through the shelter belt of trees that the grandkids have dubbed “The Enchanted Forest,” past the cow fence, and the frozen slough, to the very top where, in the summer time, children of all ages have dug into the soft, sand coated earth, building forts of all shapes and sizes, have left child and adult alike exhausted and out of breath; that is until the next rocket ride down the hill.
     Through the mayhem a child wanders towards the centerpiece of the festivities this evening. A beautiful green tree stands in the corner of the living room, compliments and adorations are thrown in regards to the beautiful, if mismatched ornaments that decorate the tree in the truly haphazard way that only the small fingers of a dedicated child artist could master. Construction paper rings frame wallet sized school portraits of bucktoothed grandkids smiling their toothiest grin that only grandparents could love, threaded with colored yard hang from the short needles of the Douglas fir purchased from The Green Thumb; an ancient looking windowless greenhouse composed of soot grey cinder block that is a permanent fixture on North Interstate Avenue, in Bismarck.  In all respects a relic left over from when Bismarck was an up and coming town and the north side was nothing more than prairie. Smells of freshly cut pine sawdust hang heavy in the cool air as prospective buyers wind up and down aisles, stepping over piles of orange bailing twine and green metal tree stands, looking for that one perfect tree, ready to haggle over price with all the enthusiasm of a Middle Eastern market dweller. Each year alternates between long needle and short needle trees, just to make sure everyone was happy.
     Colored glass globes with wire hooks that always seem to disappear between holidays mingle with toy soldier and locomotive decorations purchased from the Hallmark store in Kirkwood Mall, on South 3rd. Ancient, fat bulbs with their colored paint chipping off from decades of stringing that were most surely a fire hazard looped through the sagging branches of the fir, sagging under the weight of decades’ worth of ornaments, marking milestones gone long out of memory. Topped with a ragged silver star that should light up, but often doesn’t due to its age, the tree has become the iconic celebratory decoration of the season. No longer a simple tree, but a beacon for eyes young and old alike, drawing gazes and the occasional guess as to what bounty lay wrapped in bright paper and perfect bows and ribbons.
     Hand created and decorated stockings frame the tree in a postcard, picturesque setting. Names stitched into the fabric ensure no one will awake confused as to what trinkets Santa has provided for whom. Tacked to the sun faded wallpaper with colored pushpins they are no more matched than the ornaments.
     Having been nudged away and silently shushed from asking about presents on several previous occasions the child peers out the weather frosted windows. For just a moment winter’s howling wind dies down and there is a break in the flying snowflakes; the light of one lone star shines down to light the face of the child.
      He can see the chicken coop with the tattered hexagonal wire fencing, across the snow covered gravel driveway, the horse barn with the hayloft that is too dangerous to climb up to anymore, and abandoned pig shed. The minimal traffic of the highway seems so far away; insubstantial.
      With just the briefest moment of courage, and hope in the child’s heart, he steals his father’s attention, for just an instant. In that instant he asks, with longing in his eyes, could he open just one present? Just this once? Just a little bit early? There are no other kids around and no one would even notice.
     Dressed in faded work jeans and a flannel shirt, the father smiles down at the child, his unshaven face bearing a full day’s bearded stubble with years of sun wrinkles and creases at the corners of his lips from laughing, reassuring him that it will only be a little while longer before the presents are unwrapped. They aren’t going anywhere. In the back of his mind, the father briefly thinks about giving in and letting the young child open a small gift. But, that wouldn’t be fair to everyone else, would it?
     With the tiniest of sighs the child silently walks away. Not in anger, but with longing. For in that instant when all the world is right; lit in the glow of a turned down lamp in the opposite corner and the electric hues of the bright bulbs on the tree that have to be unplugged at night lest they catch the dried branches of the fir on fire. Longing for that instant when it’s OK, for just for a moment, to spill your cider on the living room rug because the mounds of wrapping paper will hide the mess and when it dries, it will be just one more stain in a long history on that ancient orange shag, indistinguishable from previous markings. Longing for that instant when it will be OK to stay up past bedtime because there is no school tomorrow and the excitement of the presents will keep him awake, anyway.
     What the child doesn’t know, as his tiny hands are grasping at the fingers of his father’s rough hand is that there was one present that was already opened. The father chokes back his own sigh as he realizes he was given the present of such a beautiful wife, and such wonderful children. Beautiful friends and generous and loving family grace his world in a way that cannot be measured by any amount of money or wealth. And while it is not always apparent to those around him, the father would give all that he had to live in that one instant for all of eternity. Others cannot see or feel the joy in the father’s heart as he grips his son’s tiny hand, so smooth, not yet calloused by work and the world around him.
     The father has been given a present that only the wisdom of time can open. And while it’s sometimes time consuming and often bitter to learn how to properly untie that knot on the bow of that special present it’s a skill that can only be mastered through trial and error, lest the beauty of the gift be tarnished through the rushing and careless act of negligence.
     And so while the snow swirls down, around and amid the cold currents of December air, the house with the orange shag carpet, hand crocheted sofa covers and strings of fat, colored bulbs from the 1960s adorning the tree and windows, lit by the warm orange glow of an arc sodium light, standing watch over the entire yard; that house has become the center of all that is right and good in the world.
     The father watches his son wander through the mix of people, silently grateful, tears brimming in his eyes, as he takes a sip of his coffee. No toy or bauble or scarf or gizmo from a magazine could compare to this moment. The father is not embarrassed by the tear on his cheek.

© 2013 p.hill

Remember, Remember… Our 11th of September…

11 Sept 01. It’s been 12 years, an eternity, an instant. The events still don’t seem real, and in very much a fashion, they aren’t. In an instant my generation had a moment akin to 22 Nov 63. There are people who can tell you where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, etc. How will my children understand this? Will my children understand the impact? My oldest daughter was barely a month old and not even aware of the world outside her tiny view. My other children have never set foot in a world where there existed “the Twin Towers” outside of history books.

Terrorists, in a very real sense, sought to dismantle an American way of life and in doing so slaughtered thousands of people. In the years since, the best men and women this country could muster up went to war and some came home, some did not. All over this globe there are small patches of earth that are distinctly American because a soldier with the stars and stripes on their shoulder fell there. This is not a new concept, or a new thought process. War has been war since the dawn of time.

What is different, now, is that it is people I know, people I have loved, people whose faces are now imprinted on my mind, hiding in the dark recesses of my mind, whose ghosts come to see me at night. These are the people who are paying the price for war.

What I would say, though, to the terrorists that purport to their ability to destroy America is this: You can’t. You won’t. Because in all of the pain, intolerance, resistance that you have caused the American people; all the new laws, rules and hassles that abound, you will never be able to see inside the heart of the American spirit.

What you terrorists don’t see is that the blood of my fellow citizens flows freely and while our society has been torn up and rent inside and out, we will make it bigger, better, stronger. We are resistant to change, but physics tell me that most things are. But we can adapt, we can grow. Where you see only hate, we see opportunity. Where you see hatred, we see an opportunity for love. Where you see an enemy I see a person to not judge.

What the terrorists of 11 Sept 01 did was bring a country together, even if only for a brief amount of time, and remind them what great things they can be capable of. As the WBC did so recently in my city, the terrorists unified its members for the forces of good. So while you terrorists seek to destroy and maim what we know is good, we will always rebuild and go on. My children will grow in a world that knows about you but they will also know about the love and the greatness that this nation has to offer.

To the terrorists: you failed. You tried to break the American spirit and you couldn’t. Each time you bloodied us, we got up. Each time you jabbed at us, we punched back. Each time you insulted us, we smiled and said, “Thank you, sir. May I have another?” You taught me not to hate, but rather to take all life for the precious gift it is. You have shown me that there is still good left in my society, because when you came to our door, my brothers and sisters of this nation answered.

God / Allah / Heavenly Father, whatever name you attach to a supreme being, or don’t, is a being of love and benevolence, and it saddens me that you will never be able to realize that gift. These last 12 years have taught me to never forget that lesson.

To the thousands who have perished in this nation’s quest for peace, your names will ring loud in Heaven and on this day, remember those who were lost. Share the stories so that our children never forget and that they always remember the gift we do have.

© 2013 p.hill

Those Times We Danced

do you remember the night we danced;
the time we twirled under the moonlight?
times you held me close so that your perfume
eased its way into my nostrils…
do you remember the time that we held each under meteor showers
how the sky rained down around us as if the world were ending?
I remember that was the night we danced

do you remember the morning we woke up in each others’ arms?
how we dared not look away from each other
afraid that the image would be a dream and that we might wake
next to someone else or worse next to no one at all?
do you remember how we danced around the bed
our fingers gently touching each other in a special way
with a special purpose and intent
we fed our hunger with lust from our hearts
that morning we danced

do you remember the night we lost our way?
how we spent an endless cold night in a strange and foreign place?
that special and scary time was trying and it was true
we survived those harsh realities and persevered
do you remember how we held our hands close to one another?
afraid that if we let go, we’d be lost?
I remember it all…
that cold night we danced

through all of these years and these miles
that we have traveled together
with all the ups and the downs;
joys and the horrors that we’ve lived through
my favorite memories are of
those days and nights we danced together
with all the world watching; all eyes on you
we danced until our feet hurt; our eyes red with tears brimmed over
tears of happiness; tears of relief… we made it…

© 2013 p.hill

Nightmares in Color

Chemically balanced hallucinations
     brought to life by memories no longer buried,
     past visions of what were sins
     embedded in the psyche; married

As it were. Bound in form and shape
      as ethereal portraits, tattered canvases
     strung end to end. Macabre film tape
     overexposed to garish glass

Statuettes of disillusionment. Memory spark
      gives light to dim horrors
      so soon forgotten but with a careless    remark
      comes back with such savage roar.

Too curious about the dead and what cannot be,
     sitting alone at a impasse, precipice,
     the mirror of time shows a reflection not of me.
      A strange face stares back, identity amiss

To the relation of the soul. Monsters and resurrection
      dominate all thought process and function.
     God. Damn. It. If only I could shun
     what seems to demand and dominate attention;

More than its fair share of my time.
     If I could push them back down
     these unsightly demons of mine
     would they weigh so heavy, an unpleasant crown

Made of thorns, of brambles and things made to prick
      causing blood to draw from unsightly wounds
      heavy on my heart like a cinder brick
      sewn mortar with flesh, a self contained tomb.

Heavy is the heart behind the eyelids of the damned
     wishes for sanity and longing for sleep
     inside this crazed mind they now become crammed
     nothing left to do now, but lie in the dark and weep.

© 2013 p.hill

Gentleman; Bastard

bees wax poetic on a dusty record player
warped ancient vinyl dancing circular
designed to emanate symphonic melody;
instead a discordant sound.

I stood in the doorway and watched her cry
that last bit of life we shared now gone,
extinguished in a single barbed comment
because we went to bed angry.

what should have been whimsical and delicious
now the tinny cat gut sound of dying affection.
heat swelters through this old stick frame house
baking the trapped occupants to a sickly sticky end.

while the world spins oblivious outside
the night calls out, but the stars can’t reach;
light dimmed by the cloud of emotion that hangs
damp and deep over our heads.

sweat from frustrations long pent up
soaks the sheets where we once tossed.
words should be so poetic but fall hollow on a page
hollow as the sound of an empty chamber in the gun,

hollow as the sound of an empty glass that once held liquor
and dreams and romance and desires and lust
all things that would have made this life complete
but for the fact that effort couldn’t compete with impotence.

and now Ginsburg himself can hear the howl;
tortured scream of pain that should have been mistaken for ecstasy
now sounds of an animal in its death throes.
if only a simple apology could fix all the wrongs

a kiss good night could say all the things that needed said.
we might not be here now wasting away
dying of thirst because we are too oblivious to notice
we were each others’ resuscitation.

too late too bad so sad now gone.
the world has moved on and I wasn’t invited.

© 2013 p.hill

Kites In a Cemetery

recall with such vivid memory
      burst into tears!
no less appropriate
than flying kites in a cemetery
waterfalls of tears drown down
echoes of the woman; gone
precious images from derelict hotels
shadowy clips in clouded past
I wish you could see me now
but you don’t see me anymore
you see no one at all
subtle pulse of my heartbeat
backbeat, soundtrack to my pain
your sound has gone dark
rhythmic scratching of a needle
on record’s side done
if I could say one thing, anything
just now I would say I am
when we said goodbye
on steps of the church so cold
in the warm spring sun
it wasn’t supposed to be forever
forever goes by too fast to count
what happened to our innocent
lying under pool tables, kissing to
the sounds of Spacehog…
we didn’t just grow apart but
     fell apart
torn apart ripped apart thrown
to the four winds of future and
the noose fell tight and choked
the light out of our naivety
strangled by the weight on the
simple third left that left us with
even now we pass in politeness
but never more do we speak
of the fateful nights when
passion ran free and so did our
inexperienced hands and tongues
salt stains the face now, still now
why now? why not go and leave
the happy memories of youth?
we erected those markers of youth
and bowed before them and lived
in the happiness of impropriety
just like kites flying in a cemetery

© 2013 p.hill

A Father’s Wish – Verse #1

My child little child where do you go
When your feet now touch winter’s new snow?

My child little child what do you see
When you wander so very far from me?

My child little child what clues do you leave
When you wander away and your parents now grieve?

My child little child what sights does the world show
When you are off to the places you will go?

My child little child are you scared now
When you realize you are on your own now?

My child oh my little child know this above all
I will always love you most of all…

© 2013 p.hill

That Time I Said Too Much

Neon green meteorites rained down
on an old brown Buick Century;
windshield glass fogged by indiscretion.

Too delicate to look away and
too embarrassed to admit that
he was rubbing the armrest that
he mistook for her leg.

Stealing quick glances at her
petite breasts that leapt out of her low cut
sundress as she bent over to retrieve her bag.

Hippies don’t wear bras, thank God.

I tell this story and laugh because
that was a long time ago and
the mental trauma has faded to hilarity.

So I pen this story in atypical orange ink.

That’s right motherfuckers I’m comfortable
with my sexuality; stupid hot pink tattoos
that I’d love to show off on my pale biceps
because they are so damn awesome.

But I would have to take off my shirt
and I dare say no one wants to see my scarred
nipples from 10 gage rings that used to
sag my man boobs and bleed through
my best shirts because they never fully healed.

Do people see the hidden meaning of the
fact that there is no hidden meaning
in my artwork?

If dinosaurs could diffuse bombs then
our pop machines would always be
stocked by poor tyrannosaurs with short
arms and senior citizen style extension grips
used to retrieve soup cans by people confined
to their Hoverounds and fueled by
a desire to never give up
as they cruised the Grand Canyon and Wal Mart aisles.

I’d write more but I can’t feel my hand…


© 2013 p.hill

Toy Soldiers in Maple’s Autumn

I would if I could tell you we died well
that in glorious fashion a charge we led
such that men might remember and tell stories
these things I would love to tell you about
but the truth is not simple
it never is

instead on a fall’s cold day staring down
the impending onslaught of winter’s embrace
an old man stooped in the last sad rays of muted sunlight
blood that once ran hot in his veins
now lies tacky, spilled on forested floors

a valiant knight once stood tall in his saddle,
white hair signifying an age but not condemning
him to the sentence of a number
his brave band of armed countrymen stand defiant, to the last
against the coming assault; a ragged fence

I would if I could tell you that he died well
but, in the summer’s last light his life he gave
stood barrier between women and men, so proud and brave
however as the sun sank low in the western sky
with puncture wound drawn open, he led his charge, bled and fell

the knight we so bravely and so valiantly defended
stood tall in his saddle for the very last time
but even our brave Lord could not hold out
against the final insults of treacherous hands
placed in power by the same ones that stripped him bare

and we brave few held out as long as we dared
no matter time of day we kept our charge close
until bitter end when we too must give up this ghost
facing the long slow fall on brisk breeze’s wings
back towards the earth from once we sprang

the piles of our fallen brethren
await collection by unknown hands
uncaring as they are piled into
heavy plastic bags in an attempt to
ferry us away

but my brothers do not go easily
and in one last act of defiance
destroy the bonds that attempt to hold them
scattered to the winds as prisoners set loose
their muted rustle marks passage of time
but they do not get far, poor lost squires

dead mingled with dead
vibrant colors drained to earthly brown
I would if I could tell you that we died well

© 2013 p.hill