The Gentlemen’s Club

The answers to life’s biggest problems can be found where we don’t normally go. -Intellectual Shaman

It was a tired work day. Some employees were sleepwalking through their jobs and having nightmares. They didn’t know it, but they were troubled. Jon looked at them and they didn’t look at him. The answers were not reflected there. There is a hummm, a frequency, and everyone listens. He put in his earplugs and when that didn’t work, he visited the country golf course. It was raining. What possessed him to play in the rain? There was nobody out there, but him. It was like a different planet in a different time. There was no visible technology, just the storm. After 9, he was soaked. And when he went inside, it was the same thing—the pro didn’t look at him, the world didn’t see him. And when he walked into the restroom, the mirror didn’t reflect. He was invisible. At first, Jon was frightened. Being invisible meant that he didn’t exist, but the world seemed real enough, normal— the worst prospered.

As he adjusted his hair in the reflection he couldn’t see, he began thinking… I can still enjoy the game that loves me. He flushed and watched the water straining through the urinal cake. The room was green with golfers playing on the walls. They looked like gentlemen, not the half-desperate husbands who yearned for a different life. He put his hand on the brown door and looked over his shoulder at the black one. Was it a janitor’s closet? Jon walked across the restroom, half-expecting it to be locked, but the door handle turned.

Imagining to see mops and toilet plungers, Jon was shocked by the bright sunlight. It was like an enormous egg in the sky. Men were walking around quickly, tying their shoes, and adjusting their knickerbockers. Three of them tipped their caps to him. “Have you joined a group yet? We tee-off in five minutes.” Jon looked at his reflection in the mirror. He was no longer invisible. He belonged here. An old bag and clubs were stashed in the corner. He slung them over his shoulder and joined the group. There was a rainbow outside, even though it wasn’t raining. It was a reminder of where he had come from. The black door to the janitor’s closet was always waiting, where he could enter the world that didn’t see him.

Mad Dog

Steam floats across the mirror

and a hand wipes it off

proud eyes look at an evil face

that contorts to be good

and then droops back again

it shudders and quivers

what is good?

it seems that good is normal

and normal is mad

it’s a dog park with fences

walked on a leash

and trained to sit or stay

fed kibble when it wants to hunt

you can tell a wolf

it’s not a friendly dog

it can go it alone

or work in a pack

it has no master

it will starve for months

it’s wild and hunted

dangerous to those who fear danger

it runs between suburban civilized society

“Hey young man, will you help me out?” A woman in a wheelchair asks

and the wolf stops

“You’re that young man who runs every day.”

“Yes.”

“Why do you do it?”

He throws her trash in the dumpster. “I don’t know.”

and he doesn’t know why he said that

the mad dog becomes angry

no fat dog catcher will ever get the better of it

no civilized bitch

will ever seduce it

the mad dog is mad

because it is not good

good is normal

and normal is mad.

Sunrise Superman

Sunrise Superman

consumed by shadows

I stare out, into the sun

where an old man is walking his dog

by the city sign

his bulldog lifts a leg and pisses

on the red and white community flowers

smiling at his master

while his master smiles back

I smile at both of them

and then my light turns green

and I drive to the park

where I park next to a Prius and a Subaru

and I start running down the trail

man and dog stick in my mind

like a Zen moment

the lake is liquid glass

like a magnifying glass, reflecting the sun

and a younger man and his dog walk past

he is depressed

and his dog is sad

then the day turns dark

and there are lights in perfect windows

like candles in their holders

burning through the trees

as I walk into the middle of the lake, on the dock

on top of the world, surrounded by those candles

under a crescent moon, staring at all the planets and stars

Jupiter looks like it might fall from the sky

but it’s not a worry,

and I walk back

through the thick fog

smelling a big cigar

seeing an old man, puffing

he lights it again, with a match

and smiles

in the dark

it’s a Zen moment

Sundown Superman.

Fire Philosophy

this life is going to take me

and it won’t thank me

like a flame, burning rich

if you can’t avoid the fire

let it burn you

let it eat you

let it blacken

with curling flames

a fire place

a red iron grate

coals that glow

in the belly of a lost cabin

in a blind blizzard

where forgotten winds

blow

a book left

that was loved

when the fire

burned him up

it was hell

it was passion

it was the charcoal dust of the dead

When we’re forgotten

when we’re taken

when our hearts hurt for something we cannot find

we search for the answers

the good book is not good to many

burning those who read it

but there are some words that stay closer

than a close friend

and we’ll keep reading them

until

the very end.

Bad Moses Leading Teachers to the Promised Land

I craved solitude, but some force in the universe delighted in denying me that. Teachers were gossiping behind me and I heard bits and pieces, “Aaron is such a strong and handsome man, with a good sense of humor, he’ll be pastoring our church on Planet X.”

I thought about men like Aaron. Having the attention of women makes a man feel powerful, but when he settles down with one, all of that power evaporates, like an oasis in the desert. It was getting hot and I didn’t know how long our supplies would last.

“Maintenance man, what’s your name?”

“Pete.”

“Oh, Peter, like in the bible, bold and courageous.”

“No, just Pete.” I could tell they were trying to build me up into their leader, and I also knew that once we got back to civilization, I would be cleaning their toilets, their metaphorical thrones, and they would look down on me or not see me at all.

“How many miles have we walked?”

I checked the tracker and lied, “looks like five miles.”

“We’re making good time,” they said.

The sky was black now and the temperature was dropping.

“I’m cold,” a teacher complained. So, I threw her a blanket and she smiled at me, but it was the type of smile that had sneered more often and her sarcastic lips gave me the shivers like a tempting kiss of death.

“This spot is as good as any,” I said. And I poured rocket fuel into a hole in the ground and lit a match. It burned like a pillar of fire and we all got warm. Then I lit my cigar.

“That will give you cancer,” a teacher said.

“There are many cancers, most of them invisible.”

“You’re such a negative person.”

“Someone has to balance out all the positive people.” Then I cracked open a beer and stared at the stars.

Hit and Run

I doubt many of us suffer from a life that is too perfect. If we could just add one more thing… I was driving home from work and I saw her, 18 or 19, perfect, untouched by the world, jogging up the hill I took to work. She was wearing tight-fitting spandex and I was wearing khaki pants and a collared shirt. I was the perfect student who became the perfect teacher. Rigidity ruled my life, so that everything in it could be measured and quantified.

The PE Teacher I worked with was slovenly and unmotivated—everyone liked him, including his boss, who was my boss, who didn’t like me. I had so many rules to be right, but most people like someone who is wrong, who always makes a few mistakes. My evaluation was right now.

“Tom, you’re a perfectionist, the kids don’t like you, I don’t like you, you need to lighten up. This is a school, relationships come first, we don’t want robots.”

I had so much rage inside, but all I could say was, “yes sir.”

I tried to act more human, but the kids laughed at me.

I got into my pickup and drove home, but before I got there, I saw that girl, running alongside the road. How was it that I tried to be perfect, but could never be; she never had to try, and simply was? Then I blacked out, and my truck swerved across the fog line and shattered her like a crystal glass.

When my head hit the steering wheel, my truck landed in the ditch, and I woke up. What had I done? There she was and it didn’t look good. I checked her pulse. Nothing. Her life was gone. It left in a second. And I was responsible. Half of her body was lying in the ditch, so I pushed the other half in.

There were no cameras. No one came to talk to me. When people would find her, perhaps they would treat this like a deer hit on the road. I would resume my regular schedule, but the next day the road was taped off. A state trooper in a green hat approached my vehicle.

“Do you take 34th Street often?” He asked.

“On my way to work.”

“A young girl was killed. She was bruised by the license plate that hit her. We don’t have the full plate, but let me check your rig.” He disappeared below my hood. “Did you hit a deer?”

“My mother did. This is her car.”

“Oh, well let me take a picture of your plate.” He stood back and snapped. I had told my mother my car needed repairs. What if I had taken my truck? It would be a life sentence.

At my office, I sat down at my desk, but I couldn’t focus. The paperwork seemed like calculus. Health Histories were not important when my own life was on the line. So, I waited out my time and went home. The next day, police were checking parking lot security cameras, specifically the one pointed at my truck.

“Can you zoom in?” An officer asked the secretary.

“Sure,” she said in a bubbly voice.

“That’s a match. The girl’s bruise fits the license plate. Now where is Tom Johnson?”

“He’s standing behind you.”

“Oh, kind of a creepy fellow, huh. Well… I guess I’d better read you your rights.” Cold cuffs tightened around my wrists, choking my circulation. I couldn’t breathe. Then I woke up.

The End

But I’m Such a Beautiful Leaf?

the road is long and windy

the leaves are dropping like rain

the darkness is above me and mixing with the atmosphere

like seasonal smoke

or the changing emotions you might see on a person’s face

if we could stand above the world, ignoring our own human nature

we could be gods

but instead,

we are leaves blowing in the wind

we are falling to the cold ground

frosty

or warm

faded or full of dead colors

the tragedy is not to admire the other leaves

as we float on empty air

their veins popping

with stress

and discoloration

their rage, unable to be eloquently expressed

we are all dying, discolored leaves

falling from the same tree

blown by the same wind

frozen on the same ground

a convertible drives by

mixing us up

as we gain levity

and fall back to the earth again

“I don’t understand…

I’m such a beautiful leaf

Why don’t the other leaves like me?”

All of them are shouting

and not asking

to be noticed

for their beautiful colors

to be pressed

between the pages of a wise book

to be preserved

by loving hands

but they fall to the ground anyway

spinning in circles

piling on top of each other

lost between the layers of seasons

pressed by the pressure

of forgotten leaves.

Believe in Something Different

As my mind wanders around corners in a maze of desire

it wants what it wants

like a kid in a candy store

and sometimes

it becomes sick

of sweets

looking from one treat to the next

without interest

A mind without desire

is free

needing no stimulation

but then emotions flood the banks of my boredom

with aggressive, expansive, visions

leading other minds

in a world regulated

and sedated

I’m lifting weights

running on a cold trail

my insides are mad

because limits are fake

and everyone believes in them

So, I have to believe in something different.

I’m a Charmer

If I was a snake charmer

I’d try to charm something else

they strike the warm-blooded and happy

they slither in the dark

where I can’t see them

I can be charming, but I’m not very good at it

I’ve been bitten several times

and the venom circulates within me

Ask a snake how they became a snake

and they’ll hsss at you

the pit is not fair

the sneakiest shed their scales

and when they spy their skin

they can’t deny

what they are

I’ve been getting colder

and it’s not just the weather outside

warm

happy

healthy

people

keep running by

and I hsss at them

I’m a charmer.

Who Is Locked Up?

there is a creeping senility

like a vine that wraps around our framework of meaning

and chokes it to death

in Education, teachers raise their hands in the Board Meeting

and the psychologist tries to understand his colleagues

teachers teach their students and when they leave the classroom

they can’t stop

which is probably true for all people

who identify with their jobs

the garbage man sees trash everywhere

the dentist spies his patients buying candy in the grocery store

the race car driver sits in traffic

and the accountant balances his checkbook

the prison guards watch the inmates

and the inmates watch the prison guards

who is locked up?