There is a lot of static in the world. The drone or buzz of contention in the air. A steady hum in your ears if you’re like me. You can hear it if you stop to listen. It’s there, whether soft or loud, in the electric wires; in the throb of pulses, the steady march of Time. In the heat of a moment when everything stands still and some messed-up misguided member of society feels alienated or miserable enough to contemplate something unthinkable, drastic, catastrophic . . . in a vain unconscionable effort to balance chaos.
Bombilation is all around us, and if we paused to pay attention it might deafen us. Among the clamor is the figurative ticking of literal bombs. We’re practically tripping over them. I am not referring to the type that signifies a personal disaster, a public flub of some sort or other. Well, we do make mistakes. Big and little blunders. But I mean the real deal. Time-bombs, missiles, nuclear reactors, drones, torpedoes, pressure-cookers, landmines or what-have-yous that seem to permeate modern civilization. As in “Bombs away!”
You just never know when someone might drop or plant another bomb. Not the kind that means bad news, although technically any bomb is bad news because what possible good can a bomb amount to? It is bound to be trouble, inflicting damage, injury, mayhem. The world would be a much nicer place without them, and I wish all the craziness would stop.
Forget about the bombs, people! Stop putting them together, stop wearing them, stop scattering them around because it simply does not make any kind of sense-justice-statement to blow yourself up or anyone else. These days knowledge is much more than power — it could be a bomb, and that to me represents the height of ignorance.
Now, I know I tend to be humorous and even downright ridiculous in this column . . . yet I assure you I am being serious at the moment. I can be as serious as ripping off a bandaid! I can even pull the chain to turn off that figurative dangling cellar lightbulb and go dark. Very dark. This is a topic that is no laughing matter. It is sad and tragic and unnecessary. There has never been a positive bomb. Never a rational bomb. Never ever in my opinion a called-for, needed, unavoidable, inevitable bomb.
Explosive devices are impersonal. They do not look you in the face. They generally end lives indiscriminately even when attempting to target individuals. Others are affected, often randomly. I ask you, why do we need them with so many problems facing us all? Where is the sanity in making things worse? I just thought I would point this out. It needs to be said, over and over, at the risk of sounding redundant.
In Southern California, where I live, there has been a great victory for the entire planet with the closure of a nuclear power plant in San Onofre. The disasters in Chernobyl and Japan are grim reminders of the hazards. There have been more disasters and near disasters all around the globe. It is time (long overdue) to get rational and stop risking. It should be common sense to rely on safer cleaner methods like wind and water, the sun. So why not build those devices instead of bombs???
For some it is easier to turn a deaf ear and accept the dreadful deeds going on in the world . . . whether to humans, animals, or Nature. Most of us feel pretty helpless and so we shake our heads, shrug our shoulders, shut it out and move on. I merely suggest that we need to be aware of the evil proliferating around us. We need to hear the static; listen to the cautionary bells toll in our belfries once in a while; shatter the epidemic of silence from which no one is immune and almost everyone afraid to speak like in a church. At any level of Society, terrible things occur. Stay alert. Sound the alarm. Paranoid is forewarned, that’s what I always say. (Okay, that may sound a little . . . paranoid.)
But that is probably why I am a horror fan. To be prepared. Along with striving to derive some sort of logic out of the darkest corners in my life.
Some would blame Horror for what is going wrong. I write of horrors myself because it reflects the darkness if done well and shows us the light. It illuminates our fears and helps us face them, conquer them, control them. It equips us to be braver and feel better about our situations. Old-fashioned Horror makes us tingle with suspense, anticipation, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
My work demonstrates that I do not care for Horror without a conscience or message. There is no glory in violence, but since ancient cultures it has served as entertainment. Have we learned nothing in the centuries and centuries between?
Guard against apathy. Beware of turning stone-cold inside like a chunk of jaded rock. I fear it is happening, spreading, a Medusa Disease, for a number of reasons. One, I believe, is that we are desensitized by the escalation of real-life horrors in the news that rob us of the shock value similar stories once held, fictional or nonfictional. There have been atrocities throughout history, but people didn’t hear about them as frequently. Another may be that we are losing the ability to concentrate and think on a deeper level. Or am I the only one who feels increasingly distracted? Perhaps, “bit” by “bit”, daily doses of Internet exposure will both transform and traumatize us into . . . what? Generations less human than the last? A race of fleshbots, humanoid machines existing by rote, governed by a mindless focus?
Aren’t Thought and Emotion supposedly what make us Human? And yet, there are nonhuman creatures who think and feel as well. What truly separates us from other species? Is it the soul? Is it simply a matter of degrees?
There are human beings, and then there are human beasts who kill for pleasure. Or because someone else (real or imagined) told them what to do. Or they just don’t think about the consequences of their acts.
Any tool or instrument can be used for destructive purposes. A video game might indirectly be wielded as a weapon, or inadvertently train a disturbed individual to become a detached killer; to solve problems bluntly and accurately without feelings, by merely aiming a rocket or a gun. Don’t governments train soldiers to do the same?
Excessive violence in movies and books, without redeeming value and context, can either inspire or dull the senses of sociopaths. News of shooting sprees and other mayhem could condition mixed-up minds to seek infamy, to demand attention. Just as abuse can occasionally, not always, produce a chain of abuse or the desire for revenge, whether conscious or unconscious . . . like a ticking bomb waiting to explode.
Which brings us back to bombilation. We can block noises by focusing on the quietness, the lulls; we can filter out the wars and terror in the world by concentrating on interludes of peace. But ignoring bombs won’t make them go away. Let us build a world that does not rely on building bombs to make a point. That is the point I am trying to make here.
I know, I know. Not everybody you meet is a mad bomber or some maniac with a grudge. It could seem I am making a mountain out of a molehill of beans with these dire utterings. However, such a feat would require the balance of a Karate Kid and the mind-over-matter control of a Jedi Knight. Or perhaps the stick-to-itiveness of Elmer Fudd’s Glue. Yes, there most likely would be gluing involved. If, that is, moles were able to stack beans. And should one attempt to stack a molehill of Jumping Beans, well, the critter is either incessantly ambitious or ambitiously incessant . . .
Which brings us to my conclusion: In case you failed to notice, I just turned back on the light. It’s as easy as that. And now it’s time for some poems. I can’t guarantee anything. They could go up the cellar stairs or down. I find it is best to simply let them go where they will and do my best to follow . . .
It began with a quiver, or was it a quaver?
No, I believe I am certain it was the note of a waver
Rising shrill to the sky like the whistle of falling,
Yet it played in my ears with a tone quite appalling
That was neither a whine nor the scream of descent . . .
The result of it was that my eardrums got bent.
You may think it my fault for not fleeing at once;
There are times, I’ll confess, I’m a bit of a dunce.
So here I stood hoping to figure it out,
And that’s when it hit me without any doubt
That some noises are signals it is wiser to heed
Than be standing around googly-eyed, might I concede.
Knowing what to expect is contrary to Life,
Whether mundane or exotic, quixotic a trife —
Raining cataracts, dog-thistles, violetberries or smudges;
Woodchuckles, pink canaries, rabid rabbits, green drudges;
The truest curiosities are never those that pretend,
For no Mystery is best solved by skipping to the end.
I could look to the sky and presume to see it coming,
Which might explain why there’s a flabbergasted humming
That tickles my nose and ties knots in my throat
Like the tail of a squirrel or the beard of a goat.
I would prefer to surmise until nearly it lands,
Then surprise it with a glance and catch it in my hands.
Bombilations can fall from the blue with due warning,
As obvious or eminent as the lament of sheer mourning
That awakens the heart to the sorrow of others,
Just as war bears the witness all soldiers have mothers
And the whine of metal hail is more sudden than a bee,
Yet the holes that erupt are not the stings we foresee.
How it pains to confront what we least anticipate —
Oh the specter of limbs still clutching at Fate,
No longer attached, merely going through the motions
Like a legion of locusts hopping mad, consuming oceans
Of gold that bow down to the Reaper’s sweeper blade,
Which tallies the hollow costs human hands have made.
Brushstrokes paint a grim mural, a warrish aftermath;
A double-sided coin tossed in empathy or wrath.
The result as it rings bouncing or lies flat is still the same;
You cannot call Death with your final breath by any other name.
In the eyeless blink of blind faith lost, overly underlooked,
Bombastic riddled pieces can leave wits gobbledegooked.
Brains falter like a flutter in the struggle to adapt
At the conclusion of the drone that precedes being zapped
Out of the moment in an instant of sizzle in the air,
Fandangled and perswallopped as devil may care
In the gleaning of the muzzle and buzzle’s fluidry,
Carving craters in the face of the Moon’s symmetry.
A vibrant specter overhead, overheard to not remark:
“Watch the mockingbirdy’s antics!”, the source of lucid spark.
A visage creased and rock-pitted that displays an iceman frown,
Loosing bands of radiance that filter blithely down
Where I raptly speculate on the tone of its expression
As I’m drenched beneath a shower of cold lunar confession.
If my meaning is unclear, let me add to the confusion . . .
Amidst a no-fly-zone hush, awhisper with profusion,
Take note of jangled harmonies that clash like unmatched cymbals,
The ceaseless gab of stitch-lipped dolls sewn minus safety thimbles.
And should a glowering moonstone pierce my lovely tinfoil hat,
I shall listen next time better, I can guarantee you that!
a lichen leech’s tale
The tree-bark stalkings
Of forested entrails
The earthen inner reaches
Home to worms, grubs and snails
A fen of striking lapses
Under cover of fernish fronds
Where boogeymen fear to tread
Through the gnarly paths and ponds
Overgrown with angry thistles
Rather gritty and arcane
Herein lurks the Lichen Leech
Whose bite is most profane
Its teeth are sliver sharp
Tongue pointed like a drill
Purring frothish saliva foul
Can render your flesh nil
Rough and slimy to the touch
Lips that lock with needle suction
The slightest nip too much
Its latch cannot be broken
Upon a thrashing victim’s skin
The Lichen Leech will get you
Whatever shape you’re in
And remain a part of you
For the rest of your sad life
Till absorbing your entirety
As piercing as a knife
And then you’ve become him too
A transfer, more a trade
When you stepped into his lair
And allowed him to invade.
We are subterranean dwellers in our
Minds burrowing through the dross that spewed
From the frigid decades of pent-up tension
That sculpted the anatomy of a stricken brood
Like a rabbit clan of quivering bodies huddled
Through a catacomb of shafts without a map
We reside in the graves of our own digging
Afraid to leave, afraid to live, afraid to even nap
In the time-honored tradition of fears passed down
To the root of the problem where courage cowers
In the panic of a soul that cannot see the sky
For delving too far below the surface of its towers
Erected for defense, the castle keeps and monumental
Forms of punishment and doom that stay
Inside of us a thousand years contaminating
Like the fall-out of the monsters that one day may
Turn on their creators and defeat us all
To render a garden into sterile dust
While perhaps a lucky few of us like rodents
Take shelter still in tombs beneath the crust.
The surly dawn of an afternight
That enlightened the age of endeavoring
Shone stagnant yellow as a jaundiced grape
Clinging shriveled on the vine past severing.
A grumpy sort by the name of Jasper
Did sally forth at the brink of light
To load his trundle with a burnished lady
Christened MARILYN in bold letters of white.
His dolly groaned neath the damsel’s girth
As the man wheeled forth his prominent date —
She a complacent gleaming hulk,
And he but a weathered gunner’s mate.
“Come on, darlin’. This is our dance.”
Winking, he gave the bombshell a pat.
An iron maiden of stately proportions,
Rumbling with dangerous curves and a hat
To a warship of bolts and jagged wings
Both futuristic and long-ago
In a Steampunk realm of parallel circumstance
Where conflicts were settled by the strongest blow.
A hatch in the aircraft gaped to the tarmac
And Marilyn’s bulk was thrust inside
With a tender shove and a kiss on a fingertip,
As if parting from a wartime bride.
“Goodbye, old girl,” bade Jasper fondly,
Slamming closed the cargo hatch.
She was bound for glory, the stunning beauty,
Yet an aching heart caused his voice to catch.
A pilot arrived. “All set?” he asked.
“Let her down easy,” grunted the fool.
“I’ll miss her.” A sentiment tough to admit,
For talking to her shattered every rule.
It was never wise to become attached
To something brief that could not endure,
But Jasper was smitten by Marilyn’s charm
And his heart could not see beyond the allure.
He had lived without love for being afraid,
Thus he jumped at a generous invitation:
“My gunner is ill, won’t you hop aboard
And escort her to the destination?”
Jasper was thrilled to gain a reprieve;
To accompany his gal on her sole foray.
So he sprang to the rear seat, split by a grin,
And the three were on their way.
Hissing, props whirling, with a trail of vapor
They lifted up from Heaven’s floor,
The goggled men exchanging thumbs up,
While the vessel climbed to soar.
Moments fled rapidly until they arrived
At a target that was shielded only by mist,
And the pilot circled with steady precision
To find the right angle to complete their tryst.
“This is it,” spoke he, to Jasper’s dismay.
“We’ll unload the cargo above that base.”
The man failed to notice a look of regret
That disfigured his passenger’s face.
And then from the clouds buzzed an enemy aircraft
Looming hard and straight before widening eyes.
Through the cockpit glass stared a female flyer,
Scarce grown enough to defend the skies.
Jasper’s jaw went slack and his pulse increased,
While his brow grew wrinkled by intent concern.
“Man the Blue Blazes!” yelled a less-confident ace,
But his crew of one seemed taciturn.
The aviator threw himself into the task
Of swerving and looping to avoid deadly fire.
“Shoot!” he screamed as the plane did a roll
To miss being roasted to a funeral pyre.
The haze on the ground dissipated for a second,
And their bulls-eye was visible in a glimmer of sun:
Below was no camp filled with articles of war . . .
To the tune of loud sirens were children on the run.
The intelligence was flawed, their coordinates skewed,
An error committed by man or machine,
Resulting in near tragedy, a horror of war —
“It’s an orphanage!” cried Jasper, his complexion green.
A laserbeam scorched the sharp nose of the bomber
As the gunner sat rigid in a dreamlike trance
On a carousel spin that could do them in,
While the captain grappled and the ship flew askance.
Then it all became clear what Jasper must do,
And he wrestled the fellow for control of the helm;
They skirmished as their flight wove erratic,
Till Jasper clubbed the pilot and did overwhelm.
The fighter craft hovered in vigilant resolve
To guard those below from a bombing raid;
In war, lines were crossed that should never be drawn
And too often a price by the innocent paid.
Jasper claimed the rudder with selfless gravity
To right a wrong and divert Marilyn’s last . . .
It was more than his heart that was now at stake;
He must spare the orphans from a tremendous blast.
The airship was crippled and might even so fall
With flagging engines in a bumpy glide,
And all of his strength was required to maneuver
What was going to be one helluva ride.
“Don’t worry, dear girl, we shall go down together.”
His calm vow was sealed by a wink of the eye.
Here would his life reach a watery conclusion,
But he pledged to first waltz on top of the sky.
Releasing the visor, he dragged a prone pilot
Back in his seat then pushed to eject it;
Strapped with a parachute, the ace catapulted
As Jasper said a prayer that his friend be protected.
Regaining the stick, the hero guided a missile
Away from orphans and the surrounding village,
To a horizon where day would embrace the sea
And a man could fly without a drop of blood spillage
Toward a destiny chosen by a poor set of choices,
Yet the noble did not rue what had to be done;
The bravest souls were they who like Jasper knew
That they were the only sensible one.