Lot Less

by Gale Acuff

I’ll be dead before you know it, before 

I know it anyway and maybe then 

or I mean afterward I won’t know it 

at all, ditto death, I’ll be alive some 

-how and maybe waiting for another 

life-to-come, maybe another after 

that, but all I get at church is that we’re 

all in this for the eternal life of 

it, I guess by it I mean the life we 

know now which is at least one-half of what’s 

to be and probably a lot less so 

after Sunday School today I asked my 

teacher What if we die and there’s nothing 

hereafter but she just smiled and said Pray.

 

Mr. Acuff’s work has appeared in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo NickelThe Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.

Countdown to Darkness

by Carl Scharwath

Translucent and awake 

Lost in broad daylight. 

The sun will vanish 

Flickering, unseeing. 

Blurring at the edges 

Darkening, hesitant  

And shinning curious. 

The light evanesces 

In a trace of sadness. 

For how long  

Will a stranger stop 

In a different light 

As the end announced. 

Looking for landmarks 

Talking to himself 

At the edge 

Of the world. 

Insanity feels good.

 

Carl Scharwath, has appeared globally with 150+ journals selecting his poetry, short stories, interviews, essays, plays or art photography (His photography was featured on the cover of 6 journals.) Two poetry books ‘Journey To Become Forgotten’ (Kind of a Hurricane Press) and ‘Abandoned’ (ScarsTv) have been published. His first photography book was recently published by Praxis. Carl is the art editor for Minute Magazine, poetry editor for TL Publishing Group, a competitive runner and 2nd degree black-belt in Taekwondo.

1959

by Carl Scharwath

Two children plaster forms

A decorum of  the 1950’s

Embellishment, quietly grace

The family road trip.

 

Baseball cards on the floor

Gum under the seat

A façade of happiness

As billboards  swoop by.

 

Telephone wires, a dizzying array of surrealistic lines crossing the clouds and pointing the way. Last chance gas stations, diners with dead end jobs, the radio static filled with a revival preacher admonishing the listeners to repent. Everything turns to Utopia.

 

Mom in the front seat

Dreams of a new washing machine

Perhaps a new house coat

And a husband who would love her again.

 

Father, eyes straight forward

Thinks of the next two martini lunch and

An evening rendezvous with his young secretary

In a secret hotel close to home.

 

Like a thick novel with empty pages-four lives down the highway in a  medal casket with tail fins. Route 66 attractions beckon for attention and a sparked conversation. This nuclear family just one of the forgotten many in the proto-industrialization of a historical timeline—a contaminated generation.

 

Carl Scharwath, has appeared globally with 150+ journals selecting his poetry, short stories, interviews, essays, plays or art photography (His photography was featured on the cover of 6 journals.) Two poetry books ‘Journey To Become Forgotten’ (Kind of a Hurricane Press) and ‘Abandoned’ (ScarsTv) have been published. His first photography book was recently published by Praxis. Carl is the art editor for Minute Magazine, poetry editor for TL Publishing Group, a competitive runner and 2nd degree black- belt in Taekwondo.

Beyond The Nightingale Floor (§.04)

Continued from §.03


The duo cautiously and slowly made passage through the cloying, hilly wood and passed into a narrow clearing where the land dipped into a long, sparsely covered dale through which ran a thin, babbling brook. To the south, a well-trod path was observable, which stretched from the edge of the stream into the far distance of the vegetal enclosure. Suddenly there came the sound of bristling brush whereupon both men took cover behind the nearest tree, slowly peeking out from behind it to behold a young man with a merry expression and a jug slung over his shoulder. The stranger knelt, filled the jug and then returned back up the trail.

Silently as possible Akechi and Haru crossed the stream and followed the young man along the narrow footpath through the wood which swiftly let out into a wide clearing where lay a fenced and ramshackle village that hummed with the sounds of arduous labor.

“We are in luck, Haru.”

“Or the converse.”

“Only one way to find out.”

“Aye. I’d kill for a bed of sheets and down.”

“Should our writ prove insufficient persuasion, you might just have to, old friend.”

The water-bearer paused before the gate where shortly, a guard emerged from over the top of the rough-hewn parapets. A short conversation ensued and the guard nodded and gave a signal for the great double doors which secured the portal to be opened.

After the water-bearer had vanished within the fortifications and the doors re-sealed, Haru and Akechi set out towards the veiled hamlet. Akechi greeted the guard with a cheery wave.

“Hail, stalwart. Your armour marks you captain. You are, are you not?”

“I am. And you are?”

“Ayumu Akechi and this is Haru Fujiyoshi,” he removed a scroll from his inner coat pocket and, unfurling it, held the artifact up for the guardsman to see, “We’ve come from the far side of Sōzō-ryoku seeking employ.”

The captain placed his palms upon the parapet and gazed down on the ensign upon the scroll, written in the golden ink characteristic of Lord Tenchi’s loyalist scribes – too costly to buy and nigh impossible to steal.

The captain gestured towards Haru, “You look a friend to battle. But you—Akechi, was it?”

“Aye.”

“You do not look the part of a fighter.”

Two of the guards along the top of the wall sniggered.

“If you find me such a doubtful specimen, why not test me, sir?”

The captain was taken aback and stood for a moment in silence with a slight furrow in his brow as his subordinates looked on expectantly. Unwilling to look fool or coward before his men, he gave the signal to open the gate.

Ochre Sepulchre

Hraban Amsler came to the end of the forest path and continued apace. The sparse, charming wood thickening swiftly before him. Ochre and gold. Colors the harbingers of Fall.

He knew the route well and yet felt as if he’d taken a wrong turning. The feeling came unbidden into his mind, though the man knew he had taken the correct path, as he had countless times before.

After several minutes spent vainly attempting to recall his surroundings, he paused in a clearing and looked about, puzzled by the alien peculiarity of the place.

Skeletal branches scrapped the barren welkin as if in the throes of anguished fury and where once there had been stars there was now only ruts of deeper blackness, like scars upon shadow.

There was no wind; nor bird-song; nor cricket cry; nor the croaking of frogs; nor the gallop of deer; nor the skittering of skinks; nor the grunting of boar.

All about were bones and silence and nowhere was the path to Harrohane.

I swore I took the right path. And yet…

Amsler looked down at the watch strapped to his left wrist and muttered a curse. It was later than he expected, though the sun seemed not to have moved at all from when he left the well-worn path. If he didn’t arrive on time he was sure he’d be fired.

Amsler paused and rescanned the forest which seemed to be closing in about him. All about the trunks of the mangled wood were marks of wear, the bark torn and smoothed like deer-sign. He moved closer to the nearest tree, which bore no similarity to any species the man could recall, and bent to the smoothed area about its radius.

They were the marks of hands.

Human hands.

Hands moved by desperate, reptilian fear.

“What place is this?” Amsler wondered aloud, his breath coming cold before him, despite the oppressive heat of the vegetal enclosure. Again when he looked the trees had closed about him, the ground becoming thicker with snaking vines and grasping roots.

“Perhaps I’m dreaming.”

He felt his head as the sky became dark with the leafy canopy, the malevolent foliage drawing shadows upon the ground which danced as if in mockery and obscured the skittering insects which poured forth from flesh-sated soil and spilled like ocean waves against Amsler’s boots.

“Or hallucinating.”

The stalks of the ferns and trunks of the trees were now so thick about the man that the forty-by-forty clearing into which he had stumbled, had nearly disappeared, having now shrunk to the size of a living room.

“What I see, what I hear—this cannot be real, but rather some trickery—of my mind’s construction, or another’s. The marks upon the trees and the bones beneath them attests to the utility of panic. Even if this is some strange, new reality—which I do not believe—to react as my predecessors would prove fruitless. No, this is nothing more than a momentary fit of some kind. I know not its origins, but I know its solution.”

Steeled of mind, Amsler moved loquaciously forth, to a small stone mound in the middle of the clearing and there sat down upon it as branches reached out to him and insects flooded about his boots, exhuming the bones of the wood’s victims with their consumptive fervour.

He closed his eyes and inhaled as the stars, like arrows, fell from the welkin.

“I am unafraid of illusions, truthful though they be.”

When he opened his eyes the wood, and all within it, had gone. In place of the forest, a great sea of ash stretched out before him. The detritus began to shift, revealing a human form, skin cracked and glassy and breathless, and in its hand, a small bronze key, pristine amongst the flat, sandy expanse. Some fifty feet away from the ashen exhumation, a great manse stood out against the starless sky. Amsler observed the door of the house, which, like the key, was also of aged bronze. He bent to the curled corpse and trepidatiously reached towards the artifact.