SEVERED DREAMS

UltraShorts Anthology: 12-6-2013

hilltop grove

The snore that severed me from peaceful dreams

Was his zipper, ragged as the pull stroke of a chain saw.

Though the act was six thousand and many nights ago,

The sound still rips through me as I edge toward sleep.

The cruelest wedge he drove forced comfort from my bed,

Where I might have healed when the pounding stopped.

My duvet of down and sheets of Egyptian weave don’t soothe

The girl of twelve, sobbing, shattered, on her closet floor.

The graft never takes; split forever, my seam is open to the world.

From dark to dawn, till I stand up, fully clothed,

I count the hundred saplings around her grave

And, weary, guard that little forest with my life.

Married Love, Year Thirty

MARRIED LOVE, YEAR THIRTY      by Erik Svehaug

first published: UMM Binnacle Ultrashorts, 12-12-12

Moon-Jupiter-cloud-and-trees

Fading memory is now our little family’s art,
And gravity unwraps the careful packaging of youth;
So let’s meet in serenity, embracing grief and joy,
In the mercy of moments that dawn perpetually.
When you quit pressing weekdays into weeks,
And I stop scraping flotsam into heaps,
We’ll come together in the unmapped dark
And shine our flashlights at the moon.

Keeping Time

pubbed here

It was close to 9 A.M. when he hoisted his case and stepped outside. He felt late. The day had started badly. Green Bay was out of Super Bowl contention already. Shake it off. The street was filled with black grit and slush and snow lay like old manna on strips and patches of grass. Up the street, pitch and run. Sell. Tune in. Make it.
“Look, just bear with me a minute,” he told the short, shiny man wiping the snow from a parked car. “How many ways do you know to boil an egg? One. How many ways to chew it? One. You sleep, you wake up, you chew your eggs the same way every time. Do you want to just hang around till you die of old age?”
The little man was listening. He was buying, Diskus knew. Continue reading

Life Off the Cliff

Lessons that we all have learned from Pete:

Be blunt: rip the Band-Aid off the truth.

Share: it makes your ownership complete.

And laugh: some days refined, some days uncouth.

Bad news? Scream ugly once, then turn the page,

You are the writer at this theater, not the show.

No bragging rights unless you scar with age;

Drive off the cliff, if what you want’s below.

During the blink of light, the gasp of breath, that’s life,

Some brothers lock their doors, seat belts secured.

Back from the edge, to stay unhurt, to just survive,

They never climb the railing, jump the curb.

But some things aren’t revealed at a distance.

Fledgling egrets or nursing otter pups,

Cliffside terns or parading pelicans,

Fluttering monarchs or rhythmic waves of kelp.

Each day’s unique and sunrise is the proof.

One buffets the beach, like storms attack a boat.

Another fades to gray, with sun aloof.

Then, clouds and sea in stained glass seem to float.

Pete, the image of you that is going to last:

You let each and every morning have its day.

You take the good from all you see go past.

You love, and are loved, more than words can say.

aired on:  KZSC radio 6-8-2010

Dead Battery

pubbed here

He reached the parking lot with just enough time to punch in; to beat the clock.  His veteran ears had been listening to radio news about the Sarajevo trials.  The unpronounceable had committed the unimaginable against the unfamiliar.  “Here we go again,” he said.

“There have been countless genocides,” the newscaster said.  “The Hugenots, Beziers and Albigensians.  Tenochitlan.  Pequots.  Auschwitz and the Sicherheitsdienst.”

He reached for the off switch.  Work time.  “Viet Minh, Ngo Dinh Diem, My Lai.”  The announcer pronounced them perfectly.  These names went with his memories of friends:  ‘Frank,’ ‘Stace,’ ‘Tom,’ ‘Ryan.’

His hand dropped to the car seat.      “Lubyanka and Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky,” she said.  “Chmielnitzki.  Vijayanagara.  Khmer Rouge.  Khmer Noir.  Rwandi-Burundi.  Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.  Kampuchea.  Quiripi-Unquachog.  Hissane Habre.”  He was pinned down.

Millions rolled into a hundred million.

The announcer explained:  “This countdown during Atrocity Awareness Week uses the Voice of America Pronunciation Guide,” she said.  The irony sparked against the fragment in his heart.

“The names are not so hard.  Tianahmen Square.  Deng Xiaoping.  Try repeating after me,” she said.

“DUH-ng SH-how PEENG.”

“Duhng show peeng,” he said.

“OH-marr HAS-san AL BAS-hir,” he said, after her.

“AWN SAN soo CHEE.”  Way too easy.

“RAHT-koh MLAHD-ihch,” they said.

“RAH-doh-van KAHR-ah-jeech.”  She had to break for a commercial.  He picked up where she left off.

“Tan Son Nhut.  Binh Long.  Quang Nai.  Hue Phu Bai.  An Phu.  Loc Minh. Nui Ba Den.  Bu Prang.  Dak Dahm. Quang Tri.”  Place names from his personal collection.

Soon, she was back,  “Trien Phong.  Dien Phuk.  Song Be.  Khe Sanh.  Cu Chi.”  And on.

They hadn’t completed the list when the battery, too, died.

He had to look for his hands, because he felt transparent.  Powerless.

Had it taken him fifty years to see that everyone was in on it, from their DNA on up?  A bus full of his accomplices rumbled by.  Though his boots were bloody and his eyes were scarred with horror, they each had kept a hand on his back:  Andy, Ellen, Ray, Pat.  Citizen perpetrators with less exotic names.  Everyone could turn on anyone.

In the silence of his car, he tried to make sense of that single syllable:  ‘Work.’