Eye On Life Magazine

Lifestyle * Literary

Cheap Travel

Of course memories come
with scent of lilac
on warm afternoon air
or on fragments of “M’Lord”
sung by Piaf on an Oldies station,
time machines linking now
to the ineffable past.  
But mine mostly come
from what I was reading then:
DAVID COPPERFIELD,
the brittle paperback
with failing spine glue,
chunks left behind
to lighten luggage,
his agonies and joys
and awful Uriah Heep
skulking behind the swans
of Sligo, smooth-moving on the river,
or David in love at 3 a.m.
as the pub crowd spilled out
of the bar to stagger home
through dark Dublin streets,
and we trying     to sleep;  
my son’s sucking infant breath
sipping at air as I lived
the world of  Scott and Zelda
in TENDER IS THE NIGHT;
Pi’s huge, furry tiger
who shared passage and the spicy
scents of  a 24-hour trip
riding El Conejo bus into Mexico.
My life is layered with others’
memories, nightmares and delights.
It is true … a gritty smell
may hand me Lava Soap again,
or a powdery sweet lump of pinkness
give me back Double Bubble searches
on Saturdays during World War II
when our legs were young
and our silly hopes high.  
But I time travel best
with those whose words
walked with me through hell,
those who renewed my false hopes,
those who gave new eyes, new heart.  
Scanning my book shelves,
I am in the waiting room at JFK,
ready to board and take off.
My Frequent Flier miles
have made this trip virtually free.


-- Carol Hamilton

My Only Folk Dance

We try to do it right, weekly
and at weekend camps.
My only true one,
despedida high in the Andes
with bonfire and charangas,
flutes, pipes, rattles, drums
come from a neighboring village,
everyone danced.
No one did it right.
We whirled in pairs
or in circle with the children
shouting derecha and izquierda.
Our nurses feared brain damage
for the infants slapped
to and fro bound in rebozos
on their dervish mothers' backs.
We were the folk
and the night was dark
and all our imperfections
gaily glittered in firelight.

-- Carol Hamilton

Real Live Music in the D. C. Subway Station

Street performers are part of the landscape.
Joshua Bell, playing there without disguise,
earned  $40 in small change
for 40 minutes, and no one recognized him.
I should have been there in that
    cacophonous tube of rush
           echo
            people
              trains mere peripheral streaks.  
Music enlivens these vaulty, clattery spaces,
yet the musician's hat
       open case
            or palm
tends us toward evasive eye contact.

Certainly I would have recognized him.
Don't I rush pell-mell over the crowd
to get tickets each time he comes to town?
    ...  though  I often fail.

But who could hurry past
this  mystic music?  

A woman I know
tells me of an invading army
unseen or heard by its hapless victims,
for they were unprepared to see.
She says if I visualize myself
sitting in a black Porsche,
Jesus will instantly put me there.

Bolt of lightning strike me
at my next stop if I'm too rushed
to look and listen.Yes! Bolt of lightning!

But then again, perhaps I am just imagining
     that I am here at all.

-- Carol Hamilton

 

The Beggars of San Miguel

    Out the thundering door
    from the courtyard to clattery,
    overripe stench and bustle
    of stony streets in slant
    first light against adobe,
    I walk the gauntlet each day
    at dawn, again at one
    and two, again at six,
    and by nightfall the outstretch of hands,
    the sharp tongues,    the filmed-over eyes
    with pupils looking off,
    startled, in opposite directions,
    the stumped or withered legs,
    missing arms, all gone,
    all gone, collected with their portion
    of pity pay that day, scooped up
    like dog shit off the streets,
    carried back to where the day’s take
    is calculated.  Every morning
    they drop again like corn seed
    down the furrow of streets,
    productive soil and rain
    of guilt-ridden tourists,
    ready to buy indulgences
     against our garish sheen,
    this vulgar, frightening luck. 

-- Carol Hamilton

Pecking Order

We hung suet out
on the deck today
hoping the wrens
would come
and stay the winter,
nest in the yard
and next summer
fill the air with song.

In an hour or so
the wrens arrived
but minutes later
the beak of a flicker
hammered at them
and they flew away.

The flicker had time  
for a snack before
a blue jay brusque
as the weather came
and took over.

The jay as well
had a snack before
a squadron of starlings
landed to feast
and Fuzzy the cat
rolled over the fence
eager to leap.

With the starlings gone
the cat lost interest
and moseyed around
for a minute or two
and then dove back
over the fence.

With no one around
and the suet deserted
the wrens came back
and ate some more
until the jay came back
and took over again.

Any minute now
we expect to see
the starlings return
and take over the suet
for a raucous dessert.

-- Donal Mahoney

Answer Now

I was just a boy  
but I remember Hitler
at the start

and how too few
understood his plan to
do away with Jews.

I’m a codger now
certain that too few  
understand ISIS

so let the word go forth
for all with eyes to see
and ears to hear:

We have another genocide,
this one more inclusive.  
We must answer now

or else Christians, Jews
and Muslims too will keep
dying in the sand.


-- Donal Mahoney

Agnostic in Hospice

One by one
each brick falls.
No mason now
can fix the wall.

Here comes
another cannonball.
Nowhere now
for him to go.

A prayer can’t hurt,
he tells himself,
if someone’s
on the other side.

For years his friends
have said that’s so.
What if they’re right?
Too soon he’ll know.


-- Donal Mahoney

A NIGHT IN HARLEM

Darkness dives upon Harlem,
tearing off the moon from the knife-edged snow
splinters of gold bleed the ground,
and smear the lidded heads of thick human throng.
Set bay windows stack in symmetry under the
shop awnings,
chalky flakes blur the cut-out frames,
glowing of scavenged light.
Tonight, the moon hitches on the back of sleep,
snagging flying notes ping-pong over from
the nearby Paris Blues' bar,
where a drove of patrons loiter on pulverized sidewalk,
a ghost of mist snake round their scuffed boots,
as yellow cabs scurry upon potholed street, spewing an ocean
of acid rain.
A short-skirted dame tumbles out of a dark limousine
with spinning wheels by the loading dock,
a textile cloud of laurel green, champagne pink and licorice black,
struts up the steps,
trailing of perfume and sable fur.
Patting her puffed up hair,
tossing a hello at the bouncer there,
she digs through her long-strap purse for a pack
of Lucky Strike.
Cold air slaps wild and hard,
she lurches to cordon off the blast with her cupped fingers over
the cigarette, and the others flick fast on the flint wheel
it sputters then jolts to life in curious
states, part wind, part snow, part pitfall
the slim butt passes from stained lips
into deep smoky drags
entering, exiting,
then settling like a goodbye kiss.
She draws in the burned foliage of the evening,
tasting stale breath and hollow New York’s moon.


-- Lana Bella

UPTURNED HAND

I see my upturned hand in the fog.
Familiar.
Yet distantly.
A hair's-breadth in reach I can almost
sense its tender protest
as the bones unfurl then draw close.
The same winged fingertips,
where the stirred shadows
pulse inside an outstretched palm,
laying peel like artful laceration.
A yellowed leaf falls to the ground,
and how my hand swiftly turns
upside down
in the smoky light,
tracing its gold edge,
leaving a marking of whispered skin.
When it grows dim, I stand still,
watching,
hand to be unfurled,
and pressed flat against my goose-
pimpled leg,
sensing a spilling breath
from within the marbled veins.

-- Lana Bella  

THE HOUSE OF WRINKLED BONES

Outside, the air is crisp with wrinkled bones,
while the violet hours
slowly discard its poorly dressed skin
over the starved body
before slinking atop the frosty ground;
when the crescent moon
slopes saffron rays upon a lone woman
in a house gnarls of bordered evergreens.
Inside, long, white drapes
sweep the brown-carpeted floor,
as she sits by a squeaky window with its chipping paint
worn down from years of famished termites and rotting rain,
waiting there,
reeling in her foamed suspension
for the visiting ghost to
roll out of its pockmarked void at the chimes
of midnight bells.
Dung smoke knits the sleeping cold a wisp of pale sweater,
slightly puckered where the skirting tears,
when it lurks beneath the gold-crocheted chair,
that is wrought with ivory roses and cat's eye stitch
the woman stirs.
Eyes shift, nose sniffs the flowing scent, tongue darts
to taste the turning air
then she leans out,
with clawed whisper of
cold fingertips,
reaches over to stroke
the low-hanging stumps,
smooths back the sloppy curls of its silvered mane
grasps the unfurled hands
and sways against the caressed notes of
a carved out mandolin.

-- Lana Bella

RED LACE DRESS

You reach out,
to caress the faint shadow of
her collar bone,
and at the turn of that snowy neck
is where the blue-black hair stops
and the red lace dress begins.
Impresses upon you,
the breath-thieving contours
inviolable like an enchanter's kiss
but heavy of dripping nectar
clotting you whole from
tendons to bones.
Chalice raised at the curve
of her lips full,
bourbon-lush ice cube's
convoyed over
with the gentle
flick of her tongue
like a knife edge
sliced through
your senses,
leaving you
open veined with
a violent
blue shudder.

-- Lana Bella

THE CASUALTY OF A FORGOTTEN BOOK

The words come
barreling out of a book,
slightly
round in shape,
yet sharp and angled
at the flutter of fingertips.
A quick drip of "and"s,
then a torrent
of "dust"s
tumble into my hand.
So I lay their broken bones
like a wrong symphony,
flat on my palm.
They appear crisp-skinned
with veins of toasted brown.
A concerted sigh.
I gather them into
a pile of alphabet
grief.

-- Lana Bella

Giants

Childhood memories
lurk at the back
of your mind
like when you were six
and you got out of bed,
snuck downstairs
and listened to the
adults talk and laugh
to find out
what you were missing.
Nothing they said
made sense to you
but the fact
that you had
infiltrated their secret meeting
made you feel
like a giant.
Childhood memories
come out of the shadows
when they feel like it:
unbidden,
while eating dinner,
on the cusp of sleep.
What was once so clear
is now murky
and mysterious,
details are lost
and you wonder
“How could I forget something
that meant so much to me?”
Now we are adults,
true giants,
standing over our memories
asking only good ones
to reappear,
eventually realizing
we are weak
and have no control.

-- Christopher Hivner 

Serfs of Walmart

The drudgery of the day
brought me here,
a parking lot
in the rain,
where good people
and bad
congregate to commune,
vend, consume and rest
before returning to lives
brought under
by commonality and normalcy.
Here, for a moment,
we can feel better about ourselves
because of the car we drive
compared to the guy who
pulled in next to us.
We can judge the clothes
or shoes of others
to build our pedestal.
Their cheap hair cut
primps the cushion
of our throne
and how they speak or behave
creates a twisted ladder
for us to climb to the top
of our tower to sit
in judgment.
For a few minutes
we are the king or queen
of our realm.
But when we start our car engine
and pull out
back to our life
we are us again;
errands, problems,
tension, worries;
our tower crumbles,
throne cleaved in two.
We are them and
they are us,
the kingdom laid bare.

-- Christopher Hivner 

Chicago

The plane put me down
on the fret
of a finely tuned
Stratocaster
and the blues rose
through every nerve in my body.
The ‘L’
carried me the length of the neck
changing chords
until Muddy Waters
ran through my veins.

The streets welcomed me
in AAB rhythm.
Yes, I said the Chicago streets welcomed me
in AAB rhythm
just like I knew they would.
When night fell,
the doors
of Blue Chicago
opened wide
and I walked into the sound
of Willie Kent and the Gents,
a bass beat rumbling
up through the soles of my feet
while guitar notes squealed
for me to feel their pain
and then roared for me
to understand their redemption.

Days spent with friends
on the streets
of Chicago
walking in the rain,
sharing deep dish
and wishes,
seeing all the city
will allow
in a short time.
Goodbyes echo
between the buildings
rattling like bones
in the tightening air.
The final notes
are played,
progressing in sweet descent
until I touch down
back home
on the coast.

-- Christopher Hivner

My Captain

for Skip

The ink stained my hands
as I held the newspaper
reading your obituary.
Where had you been
for all these years
now gone?
Where had I been
when we could have connected?
I'll take my share of the blame and regret
and bury it
under my skin
so I can't forget.
We loved each other
but didn't  know one another,
the essence of family,
even closeness
has its fears.
I wish I still had
what you gave me
when I was three feet high.
I wish I had given you something
in return,
but we have the same blood
and I can't lose that.
When my boat sails
you will be the captain.

-- Christopher Hivner

 

Living in a Two-Word World

Last Monday,
I lived life with powerful chaos

On Tuesday,
I tried ridiculous insouciance

Wednesday was
my attempt at paramount freedom

In desperation, Thursday
became a vague acclamation of possibly attempting to live
life with an undercurrent of a supreme out-of-control
kind of thingy. Sort of. It's hard to explain.

Friday,
majestic exuberance? Forget it.

Saturday morning
I lapsed into a weak noble enthusiasm

but finally, on Sunday,
I got it right, and existed in a state of pure sublime abandon

-- Christopher Hivner