Welcome to Literary Corner. It is a compilation of poetry and short stories that have been submitted by friends of Tellus 360 near and far. The purpose of Literary Corner is to promote the talent we know exists in our community and to promote a positive message through this medium. Enjoy!!!
(click here to jump to poetry)
“Scourge of Jing Word”
by Ralph Spayd
As a young cowboy in Fleetwood, PA, in the mid 1950’s, I rode the high plains of Richmond Street on my bike. Constantly on guard and aware of the dangers all around me. In school, we were taught the basics plus the skills needed to help us survive our harsh environment in the suburbs. We learned key things like hiding under your desk if you saw a flash in the sky. Fortunately for me, I was able to supplement my education by watching TV to learn history as it really was. As a diversion at school, we were taught songs to help pass the long hard nights on the plains. One of my favorite songs was Home on the Range. But I was always concerned and confused by the part of the song referencing the phrase, “where never is heard of the Scourge of Jing Word! What the heck was that? How did you get it? Was it easily spread and could your horse get it? Geeze Louise! I assumed the Marlboro Man had it cause he didn’t look too good. I thought it would probably kill Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. What a shame. Really didn’t know what a “scourge” was, but knew it wasn’t a good thing. But worse than that, what was Jing Word? The actual disease? Thought it had something to do with your speech. I knew Gabby Hayes had it cause Lordy you couldn’t understand him. He must have had a really bad case. I pondered this for hours in between bouts of playing with my Army men and firing endless rounds of firecrackers from my cap gun. The cap gun ammo was funded by the proceeds from collecting soda bottles for deposit and redeemed at Strauss’s grocery store. Which by the way, was located past the south forty in the desert region of Arch Street. Time moves at a different beat when you are a kid. Thoughts rumble and rattle through your coon skin cap adorned head. But time does move forward and you do start to grow up. Back at school, we were still being taught things and new songs. I learned all about the Eerie Canal, which I believed was haunted and really scary. Sometimes we’d breakout an old favorite like Home on the Range. As we approached the dreaded phrase “where never is heard of the Scourge of Jing Word”, which I chose not to sing, I noticed something different for the first time. Possibly it was my lack of singing that peaked my auditory senses. But I finally caught the phrase “where never is heard a discouraging word”. OMG, there was no disease called “Scourge of Jing Word”, only a discouraging word” which is much less life threatening, but could possibly hurt your feelings. Roy and Gene weren’t doomed, but Gabby did have something wrong with his speech. A global pandemic was adverted and the world was again safe. Except for whoever was shooting whatever in the sky. I really didn’t like hiding under my desk, because it did remind me of how much gum I had been chewing. So, I decided to go watch TV and learn something.
“Early Morning Sparrows”
by Joe Weitzel
The crown of sparrow raised dirt dry side city house. They flapped their elfin wings and caused a ruckus. Some screeching and wrestling till they flew, specked Against the red brick row, the art gallery and the brothel.
The dust from their appointed early morning bath Still lingered as I passed through the storm to light. Each brown chick returned when I went past and flight From over wire, swinging from their takeoff, caused spark.
I turned around to see the spurger chirp of passerine and found That thought has nothing else to do but create a stir and why. Last night’s rain just dripping from the loosened gutter spout, Gullied to the dirt dust inched to line and abolished dry.
The pole transformer buzzed and exhaled a momentary groan, Then stopped…the cackle cry disrupted time and skippered wing Like delicate linen on the line to wind just flittered way to blue. And then, the golden maple, limp from drought, came alive with birds.
by John O’Donohue
Reading by Joe Devoy
“A Part Together”
by Daryl Snider
Cannot anyone see it? Who has walked all morning through any wild place;
Breathed the air freshened by the leaves laced with magical scents;
Watched the rich combinations Of colors and shapes Dancing in the light of the sun;
Listened to the songs of birds, The wind in the trees, The buzz of the bees, Or the orchestra of crickets, Or of bullfrogs… The gurgle of the babbling brook;
Been dazzled by the vastness of the universe, As the moon and comets Play across the star-strewn sky;
Marveled at the infinite finiteness Too small to see and too great to grasp?
Cannot anyone sense it? Upon returning to the small world Of humanity, so enraptured With itself that it believes itself To be separable from all the rest, Exalted above all others, Dominant?
Cannot anyone know it? That what we most need Is to remember That we belong In, among, with, to All;
That we are only apart in our minds And even the word ‘apart’ Is ‘a part’ together?
And what we try to escape Is this prison of separation We have imagined for ourselves.
Cannot we all Also imagine ourselves Free?
“I am a Sinner”
by Joe Devoy
I am a sinner
I always have been
Except for a right little time
When I was just a chap
I am getting better
As I get older
Or maybe just
My memory is getting worse
I cast stones
At the people casting stones
Because I am OK with my fellow sinners
Maybe better than OK
I love my fellow sinners
And addicts and humans
But I can’t find any time
For the stone throwers
No time for the righteous
No belief in being right
So I go on throwing stones
Throwing stones at the people
At the people throwing stones
So I go on pointing out
To the righteous people
That they are wrong about being right
And that this righteous sinner
Is right about them being wrong
I never feel bad about sinning
Never feel bad enough to hide from it
I face each sin and move on
To the next sin
Or to an effort to not sin
Until I sin again
But every time I cast a stone
Every time I throw a stone
From the moment the thought picks it up
Till the stone leaves my mouth
To watching the stone flying through the air
Till it lands and smash its target
Crushing their righteous head
I feel like shit
I feel wrong for thinking I’m right
I am wrong
Way worse than the worst sinner
Way worse than the worst sinner
I am a sinner
I am a sinner
And I am OK with that
Maybe better than OK
“A Haiku I Wrote About Perseverance”
by Alisha Lavinia
Paint peeling from tin
Telling tales of storms weathered
Rusted, but not through
by Kelsey Rothfus
There will be a time when you hit all the red lights, and
there will be a time when you forget that twenty-dollar bill on the coffee table.
The milk may be spoiled when you want to make a cheesecake,
and the flowers may die after sitting in that perfect sun spot.
The turbulence you feel is temporary and not life-threatening.
You will get a stuffy nose.
You will have buyer’s remorse.
You will forget that you needed gas.
But the wind will change direction.
You may meet the man of your dreams.
You may even cheat death once or twice,
Maybe you get to sleep in on a Tuesday.
You just have to find smooth air.
Your boss will critique you,
a stranger will be rude to you,
your daughter will challenge you.
You may spill your beer,
but sunshine is always near.
by Sharon Bolton
The brook it sings
in the tiny places
of water rocks
of different sizes
Notes quiet & sweet
composing a song
of its very own
to the one who paused
in a moment attending
a show without cost
A lifting of soul
and unexpected peace
not looking for comfort
yet receiving relief
In the middle of sadness
pervading the city
this treasure in nature
found without seeking
by Hawa Lassanah
Today I felt a tension, in the news and in the air.
A turquoise morning
bright and blue.
In the reaches of the atmosphere
where once there was sun
and big fluffy clouds
I blink to a sudden accost.
A torrent of icy crystals,
to white squalls.
There is work to be done
Yet, I am unsure of the weather.
There is beauty there.
Piqued by the outer sensations,
a dull uterine pain
increasing in intensity
to signify the coming of loss. 📈📉
I am witnessing my fear of such things.
I double over
Self care is the signal
to lie down,
Virtue is the ultimate
Today I think,
Whatfor I am?
It is my nature to move,
so mote it be.
May it be so.
by Dave Pedrick
nightly with purpose,
away from the dawn.
wind-whipped and weathered,
yet still pressing on.
a victim of progress
who soon must abide,
or cast to the tide,
a dictum which cadges for
beneath a new sun.
upon a hushed sea.
when days comes undone,
that north will be waiting for me
beyond the night.
“The Sound of Waves”
by Joe Weitzel
On those day trips to the beach,
We would collect shells washed up on the dirty sand.
My uncle would tell me to press the rough edges to my ear,
You can hear the waves crashing.
As hard as I tried to listen to the ocean,
The only thing I heard were the seagulls above me crying for food.
A stranger came up to me.
My family was back at the blanket beneath the umbrella.
She leaned down posed like a frog ready to leap in her green bathing suit.
I looked over my shoulder and saw my sister watching, digging in the sand.
The lady took the shell from my hand and skimmed it across the waves.
Now, take a look out there, right in front of you, do you hear it?
The seagulls stopped crying and the tide rushed in burying my feet.
And finally, the sound of the waves.
by Joe Devoy
The weeds keep on growing
The birds never forget to say hello
The sun keeps coming out and smiling
And if I could only leave it all alone
Bumping down the road
sitting and looking
Accumulating nothing and
leaving it all go free
Starting with myself and continuing
through the persistent thought that I
should stop trying to change stuff
and finishing in the realization
that nothing matters
You can’t love anything
Without loving everything
by Robert Hager
A pathogen, coursing through our unending discourse, interrupting enlightened conversation, subtly diverting once almighty progress. conveying information,
this so called pestilence.
defiantly floating, slowly drifting in a placid sunlit pool,
set in place by gravity, rock, and hardened, preordained, ruination.
with instructions for reconstruction, containing the road map for resurrection. sniffing out inherited vulnerabilities, greedily inhaling memories of isolated small triumphs.
siting in a a drop of spit, subtly planted to isolate the assorted frameworks of concerted reconstitution, and directed to try, if it can, to destroy it.
visual, chemical, acoustic processes interacting, signs signifying a continuation, each instance, each thing being a message unto itself a beacon for future generations.
values, the usefulness of objects, eating, sleeping, moving, growing, killing, so to be able to reproduce uninterrupted,
to be allowed to continue to build a supporting world, by subjectively interpreting relations, signs, signifiers, the nodes and edges girding the scaffold of one’s own meaning in a defiant act of self-created significance.
little Craigdon was on fire. Augusta with 5 other children in the cramped walk up couldn’t take the risk of infecting them as well, so she implored John to take the baby somewhere, anywhere else. She didn’t want to let him go for fear of losing him once and for all, but she had no choice. John took Craigdon to Methodist Hospital but it was overflowing with the dying and the dead, so he bundled their little boy up thinking of Grant who died several years before, pneumonia, following a fall into the ice while trying to learn to skate. John stopped at Callahans Bar, saying he needed to get milk for the child. the bartender gruffly sent them back out, but satisfied both their needs, in matching frosted canisters. beer in ice cold pewter, good enough for John, the almost freezing milk though too much for the feverish infant, so John pleaded with the barkeep for a pair of rubber gloves which he cut at the tip of the index finger and filled with father’s milk
which he warmed a little with his hands.
There was nowhere to go really, the Spanish flu was everywhere, striking not just the old, the young, and the weak. soldiers came back from France only to die by the thousands, on native soil, taking up most of the room in the infirmaries which could not turn them away as easily as they could the poor, the defenseless, the young and the the old, so John and Craigdon headed for the beach, Coney Island, so much cooler, away from the urban heat of Dyker Heights.
they looked at the healthy babies on display in a new machine called an incubator, designed for infants brought into the world a bit too soon. John looked at his own child, shivering outside in a wet, soiled blanket, then back at the quietly sleeping newborns embraced in the warmth of artificial light. a decision had been made. and it didn’t favor them.
there it sits, tempting the wall of might running along the bay of moonlit midnight, keeping alive the dreams of dreamers walled in by the endless pleasantness of their dreams,
until they can finally summon the consternation required to take a stand against the iron midnight sun, illuminating the contours of their own collective inaction.
value exerting itself
in perpetuating reproduction. a bacteria, a virus can build material, if not mental, models of themselves, perpetuating templates with exact instructions for replicating further instances of themselves.
Sparta, being inland and fed by the fruits of vast tracts of farmland, Sparta, not dependent on sustenance imported by ships from lands elsewhere, was spared the creeping disease infecting the imported foodstuffs killing the city of Athens, and its populace, a populace squeezed in behind high city walls for protection during the ongoing war, pressed together even further by the added influx of workers and slaves fleeing from the countryside, all together inside a perfect living laboratory for the transmission of disease.
the Spartans had only to wait.
over time, those Athenians fortunate enough to have been be spared, were struck down by yet another plague, that of dissatisfaction with the world created. money to be saved for a future now stolen began to be freely spent, by those knowing the end could arrive at any time.
cultivating a reputation was now deemed a useless act of vanity as slaves, newly enriched by their dying masters’ remaining wealth,,
could achieve status in an instant, and enrich themselves even more by being the only ones willing to handle the dead, creating an opportunity for further advantageous theft. worship of the Gods stopped for the most part, only the most pious still spending their time within the temple walls, shuffling slowly along the trails of hemorrhaged blood and bodies piled indiscriminately inside, maintained the rituals of personal faith, until they too succumbed and joined the dead who preceded them..
data streams pool in collective constructs, parceled out by viral allocation. a multitude of hosts breeding contagion by refusing to adapt to differentiation, by transmitting their similarities endlessly, on endlessly repeating platforms of similar nature, packaging contagion by allowing objects to differentiate the effects, but not the essential structure, nor true nature of the objects controlling re-creation.
the emperor Justinian attributed his survival from the effects of the plague in Constantinople to God’s need for him to continue his work to reunite the eastern and western halves of the empire, to allow Christianity to thrive and spread to all corners of a world still hidden in darkness. yet, Constantinople smelled of death. there wasn’t enough ground to bury the dead, so bodies piled up along the fetid shore of the Mediterranean Sea while the emperor carried on with the business at hand.
he had reconquered much of Italy,
even closing in on Rome itself. there was no time to let up. the expedition must continue.
The price of food was skyrocketing. even with all the fatalities, there still wasn’t enough to sustain the survivors, so as he always did, his Imperial Divinity took action. ignoring even the divine Theodora, beloved of the common folk, he embarked on an almost desperate program of wartime revenue enhancement. well off families, losing a loved one without benefit of a legal means of property transfer, found it forfeit to the empire’s coffers. those lucky enough to survive with their assets intact, were assessed for the tax shortfalls of neighbors not so fortunate. but it proved to no avail. the Goths, reinvigorated by Constantinople’s current weakness, pressed their advantage, while the Lombard in Italy were able to beat back the small force remaining there, cut off from it’s supply line by the the devastation created by the pox along the coastal trade routes. the Empire never re-united.
human signs, memes, elevating self-defense beyond the simple needs of reproduction, to encompass shared constructs of meaning, providing semantic closure, sharing meaning with yet other memes beyond themselves, providing closure at higher levels still, breeding cooperation or competition, depending on the inevitable clash between self-interpretation and interpretation by others with visions not always in strict semantic alignment.
forging progress by both achievement and loss, chiseling away useless remnants of self-awareness not helpful for navigating forward in a world of competing acts of self-creation, signs are bound by contractual agreement within and between blinking beacons semiotically threaded among competing islands of self-awareness.
sentence fragments, strings of letters with no fixed meaning, their usefulness lying solely in their ability to help negotiate a temporal truce between those whose self-awareness is welcoming and expansive enough to accept reinterpretation based upon an ability to appreciate the desirability of reinvented perceptions of reality.
existential risk management, preserving internal meaning, while bartering away those portions less closely held, retaining those ways of doing things, elements of culture and social relationships, not strictly necessary for steeling up for a war of genetic domination but essential for retaining the essence necessary for continued self value.
here, on my aerie, I spy the slowly receding arc of light passing selectively across the shadowed crags of the snow capped mountains across from me, the last rays finally descending, stubbornly, into the valley below, disappearing down far lower than I can see even if I peer, self-consciously, timidly, yet still too dangerously perched over the gated edge protecting my safety,
an act not natural to my nature.
I still cannot fathom the solid floor which I must somehow trust, beyond the reassurance of my own senses, to exist.
there is movement below, I can feel it. I can sometimes hear it working towards it’s own purposes, its true ambitions known not to myself nor to any of those who attend to my comfort.
I sit until my skin shreds red and raw, my lips beginning to flake and peel, while fetally perched, desperately trying to absorb the last stingy bit of ice cold light squeezing its way onto this tiny balcony, serving as an inadequate reminder of the ever present warmth I would normally take for granted at my villa outside of Rome.
two thousand a day, they say. the Appian Way clogged with bodies, head to tail, arrayed end to end.
the emperor Marcus Aurelius, endless years spent in the field, trying to keep a lid on endlessly restive German and Dacian tribes, had no way of knowing if his wife or any of his ten children were also dead, arrayed in all their imperial splendor somewhere along the highway system transecting each part of the massive Roman landscape.
it started with the legions returning to Rome from Syria, infecting the empire from one coastal city to the next as they more and more slowly made their way home.
efforts were made at home to
constrain their return, but to no avail. the legions were weakened but still armed, defeated yet still lethal if resisted, Angry, scared, and determined to die in their own beds, motivated to finish the final fight of their life in some comfort, the few thousand who did return alive were more than enough to infect the Tiber and the paths it took outward via elevated aqueducts and underground sewers, carrying contagion to the millions crowded into the suburas of Rome.
eventually it found its way back north to Gaul and the emperor’s door here in the mountain forests of Germania, likely from an innocent convoy of supplies or foodstuffs brought especially from Italy his for his comfort.
Many turned to magic for protection. Not just the mountain tribes, the rain worshipers, but the Romans themselves, here at the encampment, where isolation and fear drove them to search for comfort and answers beyond those found in the religious and philosophical concepts so reassuring back within the self-referential envelope that is Rome, but next to useless here in the wild. Marcus Aurelius was forced to accommodate obvious charlatans whose claims of otherworldly cures at any other time would be dismissed out of hand. Christian clerics descended upon the fort as well, their cult enjoying a slow but steady growth in popularity throughout the empire. now, in a world suffused with a newly heightened sense of mortality, their vision of an endlessly rich life beyond death had taken on a powerful new appeal even to those who heretofore would have rejected their teachings of their gospel with varying degrees of severity.
he portrays himself as a simple priest, yet he isn’t alone, Marcus complained. a large group of attendants make themselves annoyingly at home, moving about and helping themselves to whatever is available both here
in the fort but also down among the locals in their mud hut villages. who knows what trouble they will make down there. what hostilities they will stir up once they start insulting the local gods and goddesses, both Germanic and Roman, and start trying to replace them with one of their own.
Jehovah, they call him.
I’m not feeling well. a small pain in my side, yet it crowds out everything else. and still he descends upon my presence, talking about the blood of Christ. Christ, the name of their martyred leader. being somewhat ill, this talk of blood is most upsetting. normally I would be happy to debate theology, or, better yet, philosophy, but my side aches, and it’s quite obvious this man has no ability to perform the kind of miracles I would expect from a cult that claims to possess the ability to raise the living from the dead. but all he does is talk about drinking blood as if it were wine, and consuming body parts, while constantly trying to take my hand to force me down upon my knees in an act of contrition most unbecoming of the emperor of the Roman world!
I had my guard remove him from the apartment next to mine in the middle of the night. he wasn’t taken far enough away as I could still hear him complaining about the paucity of his accommodations, not to mention his reduction in status in being so far removed from my imperial person. If Ormenedes had not returned
with my medication, I probably would have had him removed to the wild, then worried all night about his condition, as such acts are not normally in my nature, yet expected nonetheless lest I show myself weak before the men. Weak, as I am now.
Put out the candle, so I may sleep for a while. Emperor Ling and the Silk Road will have to wait for another day.
In sleep, all is non-computable yet not random, collapsed in isolation yet dancing closely enough at times to ignite sparks of entanglement, each position holding it’s own piece of spacetime, vibrating together in heated electric frequencies, cooking up shocks of awareness, lighting up the storehouses of memories yet to come, until the dipoles disperse, and night once again covers the Road to Reality.