Chen Lei

Chen Lei shuffles across the doorstep into his house. He surprises his daughter, Chen Xi .
“How is your mother?”
“Sir, she is still quite ill.”
“I have come home to care for her . . .”
“Sir . . . a man of your standing must not do such . . .”
“Gentle one, any man who would fault me for caring for my wife when she is ill is not worthy of consideration.”
Chen Xi embraces her father and they exchange chi for a long time. “Sir, you are wise.”
“None of it. When was the last batch of medicine brewed?’
“Moments ago, it is still fresh and charged with content. I was preparing to feed her when you arrived.”
“You have spent too much time in this house, as you are a worthy daughter. Go to the market and get the ingredients for dinner. Avoid Gen Gaou, he always charges too much for vegetables.”
“Sir, I would stay here . . .”
“No more of this. I am here to care for your mother, as she has cared for me. Obey he in this. Go to the market, but change into some spring trappings.”
“On the way here I saw that young man . . what is his name?”
“Sir. I am embarrassed . . .”
“Young one, the present is always a gift and the future is only a promise. We must always prepare for the promise of the future. You are the future little one. Now go.”
Chen Xi shuffled out of the room. Chen Lei straighten his clothing, gathered the medicine into a tureen and stepped into the bed room.
“Hello, is my wife Ping here?”
“Husband, you are home early . . . I must fix you something to eat.”
“Yes, about that, I require that you eat . . .”
“Oh no, where is Xi?”
“She obeys her father in all things and is at the market gathering the ingredients for dinner.”
“She should . . .”
“About this eating thing you mentioned, please eat some of this.”
“Husband . . .”
“I am a man of some honor, am I not?”
“Yes, you are a good and noble man.”
“I am a good provider for this family, am I not?”
“I am honored above others . . .”
“And are my wishes to be ignored?”
“No sir.”
“Then please, Ping, please eat your medicine and care for yourself. You can not serve me and not serve yourself.”
“Husband . . .”
“Woman, you make me absent from court and the others will be talking. Let me help to heal you so that I may get back to my difficult job of service to the king and to the empire. I can not focus on the matters of state when I am silly with worry about you.”
She lifts her hand and brushes his hair the way she did when they were young. She sits up and takes the tureen. Knocks away his hand when he tries to feed her and starts to feed herself. “You are a stubborn old fool.”
“Madam. you might be correct. In matters concerning you my logic is often flawed.”

Guardian Angel

I watch as she drives home in traffic talking to herself about the about the Korean account. She’s such a good driver, always in control, it is such a pleasure . . . Damn, I slipped again. She can smell me now.
“OK, I know you’re here . . .”
She is clever. She says, “You know what, you smell like . . . like the scent of Christmas cookies. You’re like the sizzle of summer rain. You’re . . . just the perfect C chord progression. I wish just once you’d talk to me.”
I’m her guardian angel and I’m in love with her. I guess every one of us is in love with our charge but this one . . . this one is different, this love is wrong. I am not supposed to feel this way about a woman.
We’re stalled in traffic and she turns the radio off. She tilts her head and I swear I think she can hear me, hear me . . .
“You are music to me,” she says and her pursed lips relax into the merest shadow of a smile. Traffic surges and her mind is off again.

She parks in the lot of her comdo. In the spot not under the tree where all the birds gather to take their morning crap. Boy was she mad that time.
I exit the car and she opens her door and climbs into the sweltering heat. Digs her stuff out of the rear and I think for the thousandth time, ‘You really need to clean that back seat out.’
She opens her mailbox and finds she has a chance of winning millions . . . it’ll be some demon in a far place promising the same fortune in her e-mail. I know I peeked.
I watch her walk up the flights. My heart is in the sigh of the concrete steps. I love to watch her walk . . . I listen when she talks . . . This love is wrong.
She leaves the door open a fraction longer than absolutely necessary. She knows I’m following and she is taunting me. She kicks her shoes across the dining room and scrunches the pile carpet with her toes. She throws her business suit jacket across the recliner and hits the answering machine. I mean she physically hits the machine. Poor device, wonder how much longer it can last.
I do not follow her into the nether regions. Even angels must honor certain privacies.
She returns sorting the mail and tosses the envelopes onto the oaken buffet that Grandma Pennington left her. She fingers the lace crocheted doily that the kindest woman in the world knitted, well crocheted actually. Oh God, why must I watch this. She wants so much to touch the hand of a daughter, to have someone to hold. To hold her . . . I can’t watch, its too painful.
OK, I return.
She has set a place for me at the table. I never know how to feel about this, but then our relationship is not normal.
She nukes something French and puts a roll on my plate.
She stares at the chair where I sit for the longest time, then thanks God for his many blessings. Good, she’s hungry, always a good sign. I look at my roll.
She starts the conversation, as a courtesy I guess. She tells me all bout her advanced numerical torture and the absolute nonsense of her day.
I sit there and try not to cry. I would walk through five kinds of hell just to be able to pick up that bread. Not because I’m hungry but because she has offered it. Seven Kinds of Hell . . .
She loads the dish washer, checks out the chat on the net, reads all those nice emails from people she knows. Maybe if she had a dog or something . . . Not a cat, I hate cats. The way they just stare off into space, you know they’re watching us don’t you.
She stretches, rubs her own shoulder, plops down on the couch and tries in desperation to find something interesting. She finds a Cheeto in the couch lining, Oh please don’t eat . . . good, she throws it away.
The phone is ringing. Its her mom, I don’t even have to peek. I can tell from her facial expression, moms and daughters, go figure.
She is casting about and finds her favorite book. She has read it so many times. The cover says something like “City of . . .” the rest of the title is worn off. Again the smile. The glow . . . the soft wonder of that glow . . . I love this woman.
She’s reading, here’s her favorite part. Where he’s breathing in her ear and it is the gentlest of sounds. And she drifts away . . .
I pause consider that I would love to pull her cover over her exposed feet.
Her eyes are closed, she’s starting to dream.
“Goodnight.” she whispers
And she can almost hear me say. “I love you.”

The Binder and the Dark-spawn

Jenelle is sleeping on the couch. I sit in the chair, right beside her head.
Her demon is running back and forth across the back of the couch. It does that a lot when it’s bored.
It is a slither of smoke with oversized paws that conceal nasty little claws. I have seen it for as long as I have known her. It is my small talent/curse.
It’s time I spoke to it directly. The myst that makes me demon-proof is kinda thick and it take a bit of concentration to thin it enough to speak Hesirith. That, and it makes the shielding kinda itchy and cantankerous.
“You. . . on the couch.” It ignores me.
“Shac-akawak-naw wa-tokata. . .” That gets its attention.
My hand is on her arm before it can get back into her. “Sorry, old sport, but no.”
If it dissipates, then problem solved, one less of its kind.
It decides to try attacking me. Bad choice. The shielding holds. They hate it when I laugh at them.
By its actions it has created a relationship with me. I reach through the connection and grab it by the underside. They really hate that.
An hour of really pointless struggle ensues and the dark-spawn starts to run down. It can’t feed on either of us and I’m not letting it out, so its starving.
It whines for a while; threatens for a while more and at length goes silent.
“Now, little pup, I am sure you have heard of Binders. Yeah, it’s like that. I am gonna make a deal. Either you dissipate and leave this plane for all eternity or I bind you to something inanimate and throw it into the ocean.”
It tries to bite my face. I sigh.
“Son this is pointless,” and I find the part of me that does the binding.
The creatures speaks, “Hold thy hand. Lest you in haste bring a misfortune to all concerned.”
“You mean Jenelle?”
“She summoned me and in exchange for the gifts she gives me I provide her with. . . entertainments.”
“About that, I don’t care, leave now or be bound and learn to entertain fish.”
“You insolent human, if you knew of my master. . .”
“I am the Keewah of Sultac, Binder of Nethers and Dark-spawn. I am the Fear-god of your fathers and your master fears me. Stop the rhetoric and decide your fate.”
“She needs me. . .”
“No, she doesn’t.”
And it is gone, choosing dissipation above binding. Eh’.
Jenelle awakes and is dulled by the experience.

Within an hour she has thrown me out of the apartment. The last thing she said to me before throwing her cell phone out the window was, “How can I write now! I needed that inspiration if I’m ever do anything worth a crap. You did this to me, and I hate you! Never come back!”

So, I guess its true, you must be careful when you throw out a demon, that you don’t throw away the best part. . .

Eclipse August 21, 2017

Two people
under a cyan sky
just barely troubled by white strato-nimbus clouds

Two people
in a rose garden tended by an artist
a maestro of the topiary art
soft sculptures molded by growth and inhibition

Two standing stones
in the swirl and flow
of that most ethereal fluid. . . time

A woman
and a man

A poet and a poem

As the sun was consumed
by the lesser light
now strangely dark
As there came upon their scalps a coolness
a zephyr from the west
As the sky faded from cyan to turquoise
She said
“Speak comfort to me. . .
For I have sinned
and I would not have it
that all of these here might be punished. . .
I deserve this
but surely those gathered here should not be hurt
for standing near
in my time of judgment”

He laughed
A dry and pained laugh
then said
“How is your sin so vast?
How is your offense so egregious
so outrageous
that the heavens would be darkened by your wickedness?”

She said
“Painful and dry is your rebuke
Do you love nothing?”

“I have loved you for so many lifetimes
so many dark nights and ardent, searing days
I love you more than self
or religion”

And the sky went totally dark
Where the light of the world used to be
there now dwelled a hole into infinity
A circular pitch-black fear
A Stygian sphere. . .

And she asked
“All around the sphere of fear. . .
a halo. . .
A mockery?”

He put his arms around her
“No my love
That is the promise of hope
The sun will return”

She pushed his away
“Surely this is the Fear-god of the ancients
This is no passing thing
This is divine retribution. . .”

He held out his hand
as if asking to dance
there are stars
The Sun will come again
and we shall dance in Light”

She refused
“How do you know?”

Day 18 ~ Lucent, My Own Personal Demon

kind numb now
its been . . . weeks?

isn’t it funny how things just . . . fall away
just . . . fall

dreams and reality converge
when you cook your brain

better than drugs
but i feel so . . . so bad

put one foot in front of the other
lift drop

a shadow detaches itself
come to stare me in the face


this demon says
‘you’re a scurvy clot . . .’
that is not the sound of rescue

he says
‘what are you doing out in this heat?’
‘i’m on a journey . . . a quest of sorts’
(all of the sudden i feel so lower case. . . )

he says
‘what the bloddy hell?’
i’ figured
it worked for the French Foreign Legion . . .
i want to forget . . .’

‘how come you aren’t dead?’
‘there is a microfine mesh on my skin
a type of johnsonian junction strand thingy
as long as electrical current runs through it
it cools my skin . . .
the technology was prototyped on beer coolers’

‘but at night it gets bloddy frigid out here’
‘the current reverses
and it heats’

‘but your skin . . .’
‘SPF 437’

‘water condenses from my breath
and my sweat on the mesh
and some from the air
and some in my gear’

i say
‘i carry some food
the rest falls from the sky
at Manna Stations along the way’
he says

i say
‘what is your name demon?’
‘me . . .?
i’m Lucent’

‘not Lucifer?’
‘oh heavens no
i’m only a minor demon’

‘why not Lucifer?’
‘You hardly rate Him old son
seeing how you are nobody important
just me . . .’

put one foot in front of the other
lift drop

he says
‘so if that battery thing . . . breaks?’
‘in that event . . . i’m everso screwed’

Day 13 ~ Rust ~ Voyages of a Ship Named Heart

The metamorph awakes
and the entire ship has been rendered transparent

She has learned the trick
of navigating the chambers and corridors of the Heart
by touch

Resonating in the hallways . . .
The sound of one violin (maybe a viola)
A bow scraping . . .
A knife cutting heart strings . . .
It’s the loneliest sound
in the ‘Verse

She finds the pilot in the center of the Ship
reclining in mid-air
(or so it appears)
Without speaking she turns to see
the World over which they are float

It is a place peopled by barren trees the color of rust
the color of old blood
forking up from the pulped-dank soil like frozen lightning bolts
And the irregularly shaped clumps of pewter cloud
are streaming through the tree fingers
like a rivers of mist

She notices convolutions in the mist
Fantasy Creatures the form and then disperse
All to the macabre strains
of a tormented viola

She says . . .
‘I wonder what the First Ones thought . . .
This is it
isn’t it?’
He remains silent
‘This is where we all came from
this is Heaven . . . isn’t it?
I can see why they left . . .’

She moves beside him
and kinda leans into him
a playful gesture
He says
“You haven’t told me your name”
She says
‘I’m saving it for a surprise’
He says
“Surprise me . . .”
She says

She watches as the Beasts of Heaven
dissolve . . .
There is no pattern

The Ship Chimes lunch
the Pilot remains still
the viola plays . . .

Day 12 ~ Names ~ Voyages of a Ship Named Heart

With steely determination
She climbs into the part of the ship
That no one speaks of

A slight tingling sensation prickles
all over her body
This part of the ship is invisible and she
Must grope toward this unknown goal

Her finger-tips brush against a barrier
Pushing through the barrier
She moves into a room that a dusty
rich and aged smell
The room was silent
save a disquieting sub-sonic hum

In the center stands a massive marble table
The rest of the room contains only a reading chair
a massive bookcase
hunting tapestries
and a few other odd pieces

As her eyes adapt
She makes out four semi-sentient watchers
Stationed at strategic points around the seven-sided table
Their inhumanly intense regard focused on the center
Where a woman’s pearl-handled
Silver mirror floats within a pale violet amethyst crystal

Air circulating through the room
Makes the watchers’ gossamer hair ripple
Like sea weed dancing as the waves pass
Sensing the watcher’s attention is only for the thing inside the crystal
She ventures into the room

She sees the mirror holds the likeness
of a rather plain looking woman beside a lake
As the crystal and mirror revolve
The woman scoops a handful of water
and offers it to someone off to the right

She feels somehow strangely compelled
to feel sorrow for the woman

The Pilot is beside her
He says
“Her name is . . .”
And his voice breaks
She can’t hear the name