(for Everyone to Die)
… in irreverent tribute to “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin
As blue shadows of evening gathered between the snow drifts, Sar Kevlar Bananister swaggered a circuitous route to the tavern, glancing often over his shoulder to make sure he was not followed. After several months the snows had abated for a fortnight and a few street folk had emerged, shuffling here and there, looking for someone to eat. The only meat animals left in Kings Doormat were rats and the supply was quickly dwindling.
The snow was piled high against the buildings on either side, up to and sometimes over the second story windows and leaving only a narrow, icy path in the middle of the street. Kevlar squeezed past a gaggle of giggling, hungry-looking sluts at one intersection, shouldered his way through a thicket of withering thieves at another, and in Arsewipe Square maneuvered around a melange of mercenaries making merry. Must have caught a rat. One of the men made as if to trouble him, but looked quickly away when Sar Kevlar placed his hand on his sword hilt.
The Leaky Dick was by reputation a a dark, moist hole filled with distasteful whores, and dispirited folk too small to mention, name or care about, and redolent with bodily fluids, wood smoke, stale ale and free mashed turnip hors d’oeuvres during happy hour. Sar Kevlar wore a plain short coat of ring mail over a jerkin of parboiled leather, his longsword sheathed in a plain black lacquered sword condom devoid of device or arms so as not to declare his identity. I wouldn’t be caught dead there … It was nevertheless where he was bound.
Arriving at the Tavern, he grabbed the dirty knot of hempen rope that served as the door handle and pulled it open. His ears were immediately sodomized by a sudden tumult of conversation. What in the name of the seven bloody hells? His heart faltered, as just inside about two dozen teenagers stood near the door with daggers encrusted with dried blood in their hands. His blood, he realized.
“Druthers take you Little bastards!” whispered Kevlar. “What in the name of The Strange One are you doing here?”
“We don’t know, Sar,” piped a pimple-faced boy of about fifteen years – almost a man grown. “We’ve just been wandering around for six years, trying to stay out of the cold.”
“Aye, boy, haven’t we all, haven’t we all. Now pipe down and don’t call me ‘Sar.’ I’m pretending to be in incognito.”
The young man rolled his eyes. “As you wish, sar.”
Kevlar headed toward the back of the tavern where there was a curtained-off room for private rendezvous.
“Uncle, you old broom-up-the-arse!” said a voice that turned out to be his nephew, Haimy. “Back from the dead, are you? Well met and welcome!”
“Yes, right,” said Kevlar, glancing ruefully at the many eyes that were now turned upon him. Haimy brought back unwelcome memories of Shurethayn, Kevlar’s niece, being paraded naked and shaved through the streets of Kings Doormat. A sight burned into my brain forever. “You, too, I see. Seems we’re popping out of the ground almost as fast as they put us in.”
“I confess I didn’t expect to see you,” said Haimy. “Most of the time its the flawed and haunted characters that get raised, not the wholesome, well-adjusted sort like you.”
“Yes, I myself expected to stay dead,” said Kevlar. “Would have preferred it, truth be told. I’m only a bit player, after all, and I have morals. I have no business in this filthy story. Your resurrection is no surprise, though, wot? An incestuous swordsman deprived his sword hand who continues to dream of flogging his sister with the flesh noodle. You are the deadbeat dad of kings. They don’t come much more twisted than you.“
“Not so twisted anymore,” said Haimy, sadly. “Since I was hanged my sister-noodling days are over. It’s all part of my continuing very unlikely yet compelling transformation.” He grabbed the arm of what Kevlar had thought was a man who was facing the bar and spun her around to reveal a tall, muscular woman with broken teeth and one ear. She wore a shirt of mail and a longsword with a beautifully jeweled hilt at her belt. “This is my girl, Braindedda. Isn’t she the best?”
“I’m very happy for you both, I’m sure,” said Kevlar, shaking Haimy’s stump. “Pleased to meet you, my lady. But if you’ll excuse me I’m late for -“
“-Your ‘secret meeting.’ Yes, of course, go ahead. Thank you, uncle. Perhaps we’ll get together later.”
Kevlar smiled, nodded and turned away. Don’t count on it.
“Sar Kevlar Bananister!” rang out as he made his way to the back room, destroying whatever illusion of secrecy may have still remained. Kevlar nodded to Grand Maestro Payless, also newly resurrected and looking worse than ever. He had always been ugly, and the fresh scar where his throat had been slit was no improvement. The degree to which his eyes had sunk back into his head didn’t help either.
In the corner behind Payless stood two figures that seemed to be men, except their eyes were luminous blue and their hands were black. Also they were clearly dead, and not recently so. Rotting skin hung from their faces and hands, and there was exposed bone here and there as well. One raised a glass as if toasting Kevlar and drank. Wine ran out of a hole in his belly that looked like it came from a lance or spear. Kevlar shook his head and continued on.
They had seemed disturbingly familiar. Why am I reminded of Edderd Stork? Poor Edderd had been the King’s Foot briefly before he was beheaded on the steps of the Great Septic Tank for telling the truth. He should have known better. It’s lie or die in the Game of Balls. Kevlar had learned that first hand, yet he maintained a grudging admiration for Edderd, whose balls had certainly been among the biggest. With all the dead people walking around, perhaps the wights were a couple of the many dead sons of Stork.
A middle aged woman, fair of face with auburn hair collided with him. “Excuse me, Sar,” she said, and curtsied. “I beg your pardon.”
“Mensa Stork!” he said. “Why do you look so sad?”
“Because, sar, I’m thirty-nine years old and still a virgin,” she said. “Oh, great virtue and all that rot, but the only chance I’ve had at sex in my miserable life was with your dwarf nephew, who thank the gods was not up to the task. Since then I’ve just been stuck in limbo while-“ her voice dropped to a whisper “-the Forgetful One works ‘on other projects’.”
“Your unlikely continued maidenhood is a mystery to be sure, my lady Mensa, even as is your very life,” nodded Kevlar, sagely. “You had more likely been raped or beheaded or both a dozen times – not necessarily in that order – rather than continuing on as you have in your quintessentially blithe terror and stupidity. Indeed, you might be the least likely person I have ever known.”
“I do feel rather like a cartoon character, sar,” she replied, sighing. She whispered, “Perhaps when the Forgetful One remembers us, if he ever does remember us, he’ll either give me a bit more realistic life or a least an abrupt and violent end.”
“I wish you the best of outcomes, my lady.”
“Thank you, Sar Kevlar, my husband is waiting inside for you.”
“Thank you, My lady.”
Kevlar opened the curtain just wide enough to slip through. The darkness of the room relieved but dimly by the wavering light of a few earwax candles smoldering in sconces made of human bone. There were windows, but they were covered by the deep snow piled outside against the side of the building. The room felt close and airless.
“Welcome, oh mediocre one,” said Tyrsome Bananister, from the head of the long table. The table was polished where-wood, pale as milk, the candles reflected in its surface as in a still pond. Arrayed before him were steaming plates of the gods knew what kind of meat, with cheeses and oaten biscuit. “Please join us in our meal.”
To Tyrsome’s right sat another dwarf, a female one, dressed in scratched and battered armor that had been repainted with the Bananister Liar sigil. “Let me introduce the newest member of the family, Badpenny Bananister.”
“You can’t marry! You have a wife!”
“That’s true,” replied Tyrsome, and paused to scratch what was left of his nose, most of which had been lost to friendly fire during the defense of Kings Doormat against Stainless Barathonanonanon (Are we confused yet?) “But Badpenny is not my wife. She’s my adopted daughter. But enough about me. We have much to discuss, Uncle.”
“I can’t imagine what you mean,” replied Kevlar, looking away.
“That’s not surprising given your legendary lack of imagination,” said Tyrsome. “I am of course speaking of the Forgetful One.”
“Keep your voice down!” said Kevlar.
“Gods why?” said Tyrsome. “Every one of the characters in this accursed world will soon starve to death in this endless winter he’s left us in. All his toys will be gone. Not that he cares. He’s clearly tired of the Game of Balls.”
“I believe in the Seven,” whispered Kevlar.
“Why are you whispering, then? We all know by now that The Forgetful Asshole is the only god for the likes of us. It’s his twisted imagination that made me as I am, gave me my horrible back story and led me through my various painful and humiliating adventures. I’d be happy to shoot him through the eye with my trusty crossbow given half a chance. And it’s his so-called ‘creativity’ that caused you to be assassinated by a fat castrati and a kindergarten class.”
Suddenly the wind began to howl outside. The walls creaked. Blended with the howling of the wind were the howls of wolves, and as if from far away, a deeper, much more terrifying roar that could only come from dragons.
“Now you’ve done it,” said Kevlar. “You woke him up and now he’s going to kill us all.”
“Relax, uncle,” replied Tyrsome. “That’s not the way things work here. Only the folk too small to have names are killed wholesale. Characters like us are dragged around Festeros or across the Cesspool Sea to Bloody Fluxville and roasted to death over a slow fire while serenaded by odiously long descriptions of clothing and food. You’re right, he will kill us all in the end, but with long and painstaking hideousness and words beyond count. In fact, perhaps he’ll just use the words and we’ll all just expire of old age.”
During Tyrsome’s soliloquy the wind had gained strength. The walls of the tavern were visibly shaking. A window shattered and in popped the head of a dragon, black as night, smoke drifting from its nostrils. It opened its mouth and a gout of fire enveloped Badpenny. She screamed briefly in agony as she was cooked to perfection in an instant.
“My daughter smells delicious,” remarked Tyrsome, as Kevlar simultaneously vomited on the table and soiled himself.
Tyrsome turned to the Forgetful One as the dragon bit off one of Badpenny’s arms. “They compare you to Tolkien, but there is one important difference. Tolkien could finish a story.”
The dragon turned toward him, heatwaves rippling from its jaws. Tyrsome squinted against the heat.
“Oh yes, please do,” said Tyrsome. “Please, please, please end this.”
Whenever people get together and align their intentions, their personal energies combine to create a communal energy that is greater than the sum of its parts. When I meditate with a group with my eyes closed I can feel connectedness between my life essence and that of the other meditators. Empowered by this connection, I feel I attain a greater depth of relaxation in the group setting as opposed to meditating on my own.
Feeling shared essential energy is not limited to group meditation. You can feel it at sports events, where it might be called ‘team spirit’; at religious services, where it’s called ‘religious fervor’; or during political campaigns wherein like-minded people witness a leader who expresses views that resonate with their own experience. This communal energy produces strong and pleasant feelings of belonging.
However, whereas communal energy in group meditation can create a feeling of universal connectedness, not just with the other humans in the room but with all manifestations of the physical existence, communal energy in sporting events, religious services or in support of a political candidate may create a feeling of connectedness only with others who share enthusiasm for their particular sports team, chosen religion or candidate.
We have all seen or heard about violence at sporting events between the fans of opposing teams, and violence between members of different religious faiths has occurred frequently in human history. Violence between people with opposing political views is also common. Just as one can begin to identify themselves as belonging to the group, one can begin to recognize those outside the group as inferior, wrong, or perhaps evil, or to to feel that outsiders may deserve misfortune, or punishment, or death.
Of course the other people do not really usually deserve misfortune, or punishment, or death. Other people usually deserve the same things we do: happiness, freedom and justice.
I believe a very powerful response to group energy that has been poisoned by anger, blaming, hatred and other negative emotions is to cultivate openness within the self through a daily practice of meditation. When one learns to find their own inner light it becomes easier to find that light in others.
If you don’t meditate, try it out. If you already meditate, invite someone to join you. If you can open your mind and help one other person open theirs you will have made a profound improvement to our world.
Life is change, so if one loves life I guess one must at least tolerate change. Yet it seems natural to most of us to resist change, maintain the status quo, preserve the past, etc. One of the significant challenges of life seems to be to avoid clinging to the past. However, at times, one finds one must choose between the things (and sometimes people) they love and move toward one, leaving the other behind. This can be a painful process, and it is difficult to know if one’s decision is the correct one – yet often I find that I am left with no choice but to choose. Either I make the choice or the choice is made on my behalf by the same forces that brought the choice in the first place.
So I have left Eye On Life and I am no longer a poetry editor, only a poet. So I continue to write my own poetry, but I no longer publish the work of others. Now my judgments of others’ poetry are freed from the looming and often conflicting influences of such megaliths as free speech vs. my own tastes and values, the common good of the poetic community vs. the good of the magazine.
Eye On Life remains a good and worthwhile magazine. I hope it will remain a place where good poetry is published as well as a place to read interesting and unique articles.
Most of my poetic energy nowadays is going into song lyrics and I am having a lot of fun with all that. Generally I am posting works in progress on SoundCloud and more or less finished products on Bandcamp. I hope you’ll listen to my offerings at either or both.
In the Door Hardware Genius world my role continues to evolve as I become more involved in training other door hardware geniuses and helping to define and streamline processes where I work. In serving installers and hardware dealers I find that my depth of knowledge remains useful. I remain grateful for that, and hope it remains so for years to come.
My wife and I just returned from two weeks in Israel with the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) mission, “Follow Me To Israel.” The 10-day mission was to interview youth groups visiting Israel to find out their motivations for coming and learn about their experience there, and also to explore first hand the range of opportunities that Israel offers to young people. Now that we are back it will be our job to promote trips to Israel for teenagers at our synagogue.
It was a very action-packed trip, as each day we interviewed a youth group or two and had a lecture or presentation or brainstorming session, and also toured an historic site. We spent a few nights in Jerusalem, a couple nights in Haifa, and then a few more nights in Jerusalem. We returned to our hotel happily exhausted every night. We return to Boston energized and equipped with the information and experiences we need to promote Israel travel.
At the end of the Israel phase of the mission we left the group and went off on our own to spend three relatively leisurely days in the city of Tzfat in northern Israel. Tzfat (often shown on the map as Safed) is said to be the birthplace of Kabbalah and remains a center for Jewish spirituality today, as it has been for thousands of years. There we were able to make personal connections with several remarkable people. Although we were universally welcomed throughout Israel, especially since we did not cancel our trip due to current circumstances there, in Tzfat I think we found some of the friendliest people I have ever met.
Concerning the Conflict:
As our Israel journey was approaching, hostilities escalated between Israel and Gaza. Our CJP sponsors satisfied our safety concerns and so we did not change our plans, but went as scheduled on July 15, 2014. As we traveled through Israel under the watchful eyes of “The Situation Room”, an Israeli office run by the Israeli police, the IDF and the Israeli environmental agency that advises all groups visiting Israel about where it may be safe or unsafe to go, and our excellent guides, logistics people and leaders, we neither saw nor heard any direct evidence of the conflict.
Although our itinerary was changed daily, we never knew it because they never told us where we were going until they were sure themselves. The itineraries of the groups we were to interview were being changed daily as well, so our itinerary was a dynamically unfolding phenomenon.
We heard no sirens and saw no rockets but were advised what to do should we hear an air raid alert. As our journey unfolded we saw more IDF soldiers. On our way north we saw many heavy equipment trailers loaded with Israeli tanks on the southbound side. Israeli fighter jets flew at high altitude over Tzvat and Tel Aviv.
Yet wherever we went people were welcoming and friendly. They were happy to see us, glad that we did not cancel our trip in time of trouble. “It’s very bad this time,” I heard several Israelis say on several different occasions. Israel is a very small country, so the degrees of separation tend to be less than one might find in larger nations.
Inevitably as conversation progressed with the Israelis we met, it would emerge that someone they know had been called to active duty, was engaged in combat or combat support, or was sadly wounded or killed in the line of duty. The daughter of Asher, our guide, a champion swimmer, had been called to active duty before we arrived. Rabbi Binny Freedman’s son, who shared Shabbat dinner with us reported to breakfast on Sunday in his IDF uniform and left from there to join the other fighters in the south. I do not think that it is a stretch to say that almost every Israeli knows someone close to them who is, was, or will be directly involved in the conflict.
I pray that peace will come soon.
Sometimes this is a philosophy of peace and sometimes it is a philosophy of conflict because some change just feels wrong.
Comes to an end one day
As I see instead of trees
A few branches strewn
On torn earth
There the machine
Parked on the gravel
Tree cutter, skidder, stump puller
All in one
Invention of a human
But no judgement
Remember the tearing
Of your heart
Lets the Eternal in
What can I say
As this beautiful pair
Who captured my imagination last year
I can say only
Now the door to my heart
Is torn open
So more of the Eternal
Can come inside
I owe a debt
As I have paid more attention to the details of life as they occur I am finding my emotions and feelings magnified in my surroundings. For example, seeing my work as ‘hellish’ brought something to make it more so: a cold. The thought of my work being ‘hellish’ is laughable to me, since it is indeed exactly what I wished for. Like so many things one wishes for, once one has them they rapidly lose their shine and my work is no different, yet I know I have much for which to be grateful. In fact is that I am incredibly fortunate to be exactly where I am and will make it a point to ‘thank my lucky stars’ every day.
Elsewhere I have said that the holidays are a time of extremes. Both the best and worst of humanity tends to show itself during this time. Looking closely at exchanging gifts for example, one can see the entire spectrum of negative and positive ranging from jealousy, entitlement and unworthiness to genuine selflessness, charity and caring for others.
For me what works best is to focus on the positive and ignore the negative as much as possible. Life seems much more pleasant when one looks for happiness, kindness, and goodness in others and does their best to ignore their perhaps less attractive attributes.
So have yourself a happy Hanukah, merry Christmas, sensational Solstice, quintessential Kwanza, or winter holiday of your choice. Be healthy, happy, needful of nothing and surrounded by the infinite love that is in the universe.
We have some Christmas poems actually up at Eye On Life by the way if you’d like to stop by.
Mass recognition, AKA fame
Destination or accidental
Of something otherwise natural
To be known by others
To attract attention
An inborn need
Hardwired survival prerequisite
As the newborn kitten must compete
For its place at a teat
Or as we
For a Bruce Springsteen seat
Fame is necessary
For some perceived successes
Often resulting in excesses
Rock star, screen or TV actor
Renowned artist or race car driver
Poet laureate or virtuoso musician
Comedian, magician or politician
Clothes horse or captain of industry
Or even lucky wealthy idiot
Notoriety attains its own status
Becomes a critical-social-mass entity
With its own well of gravity
The event horizon of celebrity
Infinite eyes seeking
Infinite mouths praising
Infinite brains imagining
Infinite hearts loving
Infinite minds claiming
Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland
John Lennon, George Harrison
Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan
Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston
Some by their own hands met fate
Some by others, like Sharon Tate
White teeth shining
Machined to perfection
Massive privilege and obscene wealth
Between addictions and sordid scenes
Alien lifestyles we don’t understand
Though they are only woman or man
Temptation is great to see them as “other”
Instead of sister or brother
Elevated by a mass illusion
In the public mind
Always seeking the Creative.
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