n a movie I just watched, one woman cut off the face of a younger woman who was like a daughter to her, then wore it like a mask to fool the guy both women wanted. Although extreme, that shocking and regrettable act symbolizes how envy can change a person.

Have you ever felt desperate to the point that you wanted what another had so bad, it caused an ugly little creature to evolve inside of you — let’s call it Not Very Nice, N.V.N. for short, like envying — which was turning you into a version of yourself you scarce could recognize? Be honest. Who hasn’t found themselves transforming at least a bit? Extra nose, third eye, monster claws? Losing a trace of their humanity due to coveting something or someone so intensely that it caused them to lose track of who they really were? Maybe it revealed a darker side that wasn’t too flattering. Perhaps just a few blemishes, a couple pointed ears, but admit it . . . for some indefinite amount of time however brief, you must have wanted to act on some motive or ambition to gain what wasn’t yours; to claim what seemed precious and out of reach as your own.

I’m not going to shake a finger and tell you it’s wrong. We have a built-in device known as a conscience that whispers advice into our ears. A tiny warning voice that in most cases unerringly will sound an alarm to caution us against rash judgement and measures. Whether we listen or not is what defines our character. Or, our current state of mind.

In dire straits it is too easy to share a sense of relief at not being the only one with problems. We may acknowledge the slightest twinge of regret after hearing of somebody else’s good fortune while we are feeling low; if we have little of nothing or have lost everything. We might resent the success of those we do not believe earned it. Crave what we allege they have stolen. Or simply wonder: Why them, not me? And vice versa when the bird is in the other hand. Out of our own sense of frustration and fear. Out of love and jealousy, intense dislike. Whatever the reason, this deadly sin can fester and infect us if we do not reassert control and stifle it, shirk it, reject it because we are better than that.

The one who permits it to grow risks a metaphysical Purgatory akin to eyes being sewn shut for the treachery of wishing an ill fate upon others. Or the peepers may adopt an evil unnatural shade of green, the stereotypic emblem of a jealous nature. Insults might be hurled like flaming arrows at the individual who has supposedly taken something or does not deserve the object of desire.

Maligners (whatever their excuse or impetus) often wave “Truth” as a banner, a badge, a blade to inflict wounds. They flaunt it as a pretense to thrust daggers of scorn, attempting to elevate themselves by comparison. The world is rampant with haters and thieves, harpies and sirens, who would destroy your life and rob your soul for their amusement. We can be targeted arbitrarily, without any defense, as they ply their tactics and sling poison-tipped darts, obeying the wicked creature inside. No, it isn’t very nice. But in the end, their twisted faces might get stuck that way. And then they will have to live with the nasty little fiend.

If you’ve ever been the recipient of harsh sentiments, unfair criticism, you know too well that words can wound. Despite our best attempts to shrug them off, they linger. Like four-letter bombs, insults are not harmless, not mere words as some contend. Words — whether to your face, behind your back, typed or etched or handwritten — bear significance. If words are just words and have no meaning, then neither does a story matter. A quote. A line of dialogue in a classic film. Sometimes all we have are words between us: soft, loud, light, weighted, hollow, profound, unspoken, reverberating. They are never “just words”. And to wield them cruelly or carelessly or falsely is bound to leave bruises, possibly scars.

As a writer I’ve been accused of using too many words, too big words, and of making words up. But that is by choice. It is part of my style. Sometimes I say the wrong words when I have to speak, an honest mistake, not for lack of sincerity or trying.

The opposite of envy is kindness, and a kind expression or gesture can go a long way. It can lift a person’s spirit out of the inky morass of despair. If you have the choice, aim high. Don’t surrender to a lowly wretch within. Resist the impulse and spread compassion. Don’t lose sight of yourself. Don’t tread too far. Don’t cross the line or reach for what isn’t rightfully yours. Don’t bite or rip or slice somebody’s face off. And likewise, expect the same in return.


Far below the expectations of a steepening ascent

Somewhere in the plain unpolished length of a bedraggled hope

A cabin nestles for the purpose of a Monger’s tent

That boasts of everything from tea to hangman’s rope

And all along the rafters clinging downside up

A chorus of gray fuzzies chitter endlessly

From where they stand, the world looks like a coffee cup

It makes no sense, but who are they to question me?

The bats are envious of their host’s prize possess

A volume of quaint recipes for insect soup

They scheme one night to swipe it, leave his lair a mess

Like burglary, no evidence of their foul swoop . . .

A leather wingtip bumps a mountain of eyelashes

Which topples then dislodges a book stack beside

The Monger’s hoard of all the tea in China crashes

Precisely when a tower of leaning pizzas slide

And nudge a bulk of rubber-ducky penguins to capsize

That cause a clump of wide-eyed-rattling dolly heads to spiral

As toy squeaks fright a squirmy lump of munching mealworm flies

The dust plumes tickle spiderlings to sneeze and float off viral

The next to tumble, bowling shoes with panting tongues

Soon followed by a mound of stale and moldy donut holes

These fungus balls bounce screamily as if containing lungs

Their echoes ping-pong tremulous, unresting souls

A ghost gob scatters rowdy with blithe melancholic wails

That domino a teetering scrapheap of stupid-phones

While everywhere the din of raining clutterance prevails

The Monger’s home is rife with splitting hairs and bones

Accordioning stiffs unfold from crowded closet space

The overloaded den begins tobogganing hillside

And Monger shrieks, twin handprints clapped across his face

His skidding cabin winds up with a new address

The bottom of the slope is where he now calls home

What happened to the bats who started this whole mess?

Up there still hanging from the ceiling, cranky as a gnome

Their stomachs grumbling, cooking yet another pot of broth

To learn repeatedly you can’t boil soup that’s upside down

It splashes out and fills a bowl upon his tablecloth

The envy of those bats, the Monger wears a happy frown.

ravens and crows

A bleak black sheen blent into night

As the toll of a jealous heart was rung

Her raucous cry announced the flight

A curved dark plume the gauntlet flung


A husky voice would proud contend

With bluish glassen hue did gleam

The large bird needn’t condescend

Her stature would the outcome deem


This challenger’s shrill tone conveyed

A note of envy, and a taunt

The dive would prove the braver maid

The loser, who succumbed to daunt


Mists rolled across a moon-faced globe

That peered as if a referee

The aerialists spread wings like a robe

The smallest soared contemptfully


Aloft they rose with well-matched strokes

And beak to beak they reached the sky

The pair did turn, there was no hoax

That on this field a bird would die


Alas, it was a familiar battle

The contest of two bitter rivals

The little shrew fought hard to rattle

A veteran hard from grim survival


The classic raven swept toward earth

A lesser crow in swift pursuit

Whose harsh refrain would have no worth

For gaining ground in this dispute


Then side by side and nose to nose

They hurtled brashly to the ground

Their plummet whistled; one arose

At dawn, a dead bird would be found


One pointed quill lay on the page

As History would earmark the duel

A crumpled crow had slammed the stage

Her death symbolic, more the fool


Since crows and ravens disagree

Their kind will never get along

The crow is jealous naturally

The raven, lovelier and strong.

the green-eyed monster

A monster was born in a damp fruit cellar

Beneath a relic of farmhouse above

She would know no pity, only stark revulsion

For her no warmth, respect or love

She was never quite human, her mother claimed

The spawn of Satan, of some impure deed

She had nothing to live for and so her soul died

Until the day she learned to read


The monster had green eyes but they were unsightly

Her ma’s were green, rather beautiful

The daughter was whipped and beat with a stick

To learn how to be more dutiful

Some people go crazy from a life of misfortune

While others are born with an abnormal gene

Some monsters are cruel and deliberately awful

There are those who are victims of those who are mean


“You’re a beast!” sneered her mother. “A pathetic creature!

I tried to put you out of your misery!”

The woman buried her baby in a shallow grave

Where a resolute dog dug her up to be

A foundling rescued by a lonely old couple

As lightning flashdanced and the wind rustled boughs

But the grave was discovered excavated and barren

Her mother would follow, butcher them and their cows


Devil Worship was the official verdict

No one suspected a sweet innocent schoolmarm

Who hid her condition, being large in girth

Now she raised the monster with resentment and harm

Though the daughter was taught to read and write

She never attended a traditional class

A box of books in a cobwebbed attic

Helped salvage her mind and gave her a pass


In her head she was normal, in her heart she was good

In the mirror she was ugly for Mommy said so

But the truth of the matter was she was too perfect

And Mommy felt threatened by her unnatural glow

For the woman’s true face behind a smiling facade

Was the hideous reflection of a torn and scarred life

Inside she was damaged, all shriveled and ghastly

Carved with a network of ruin like a knife


A green-eyed monster so ordinary outside

She hated the girl, the perfect angel she’d had

Yet each time she tried to dispose of the child

Fate intervened as if an angel were Dad

One disenchanted eve, while the hour approached Midnight

She plotted to spill her own daughter’s vein

Invoking a demon, she raised high a dagger

But before it could plunge, she was driven quite sane


As the blade penetrated, green eyes opened wide

Blood spurted from the hole in a broken heart

Her ultimate thought ere she breathed her last

Was that mother and daughter must finally part

She felt a strange loss, an uncommon sensation

Then collapsed to the floor of her daughter’s room

The young woman woke to some very big changes

No longer a monster, she emerged from the gloom.

~ Published ~
January 31, 2012

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