On Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!

Her voice dragged me in, this old crone
who sat in her chair rigid like a schoolgirl.
It beat against the wisteria tendrilled heat
and the cloistered darkness where we sat,
my aunt and I, me home from school to the barren
bower of her past, where jilted desires hung unspoken,
an endlessly fingered bridal dress of twisted longing.

Continue reading “On Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!”

A Study in Scarlett and Tolstoy

Shamelessly exploitative title, I know. Yet I couldn’t resist the Sherlockian/Scarlett O’Hara pun since after reading War and Peace by the venerable Tolstoy, I found myself thinking paradoxically of “little ole” Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Both are hefty novels dealing with the devastating effects of a war and both treat tenderly yet critically the time and place and culture their authors evoke: Tolstoy of Russia, Mitchell of the antebellum South. And both compel a strangely enduring fascination even (or most especially) over those who have little to no knowledge of these particular regions.

Why? Ah! There’s the element of mystery. And like Sherlock, we must follow what leads we have.

The word tempestuous comes readily to mind as one point of similarity, not least because of characters like Scarlett O’Hara, Melanie Hamilton, Ashley Wilkes, and Rhett Butler in GWW and Natasha Rostova, Andrei Bolkonsky, and Pierre Buzukhov in W&P whose compelling personalities exert their own unique power.

Then there are the war-torn times in which they live, themselves tempestuous. Here, looming over ambitions and loves, sorrows and passions, is the juggernaut of history that rolls over man and beast alike leaving devastation and loss in its wake. Napoleon marches through Russia; Moscow is looted and burned. Sherman marches through the South; Atlanta is burned to the ground.

The scale of suffering is immense, relentless, and implacable. Death, famine, sickness,  cruelty, vice, and various brutalities indiscriminately litter the landscape with their victims. And through it all, the inescapable question: Why? What is this unseeing force of history that yet deals such fury and hate, destruction and death by the hands of petty men and women grappling over thrones and kingdoms?

Continue reading “A Study in Scarlett and Tolstoy”

Lara’s Tree

A story for children of all ages and a winner! Congratulations! As the Bethlehem Writer’s Group announced: “The challenge was to write a children’s story for any age, preschool through middle school, in 2000 words or fewer. From a large number of delightful, exciting, and intriguing stories, these two (see link) made it into the top three. We think you’ll agree that they are exceptional.” (Update: click here for link to  “Lara’s Tree” and “Rider in Black.”)

WALLIE'S WENTLETRAP

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Of course trees can talk to you. Sometimes they make the best of friends.

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Birds, Poets and Preachers

Every prisoner who can look outside his prison bars and see a bird in flight, or on waking hears its song, feels his heart drawn upwards in hope. So do those on beds of pain or suffering. The simple sight or music of birds accomplishes what songs and sermons cannot at times, wordlessly drawing our thought to heaven, to consider the power, the wonder, the love of God for His creation, even the least of us. “Consider the ravens,” said Jesus, pointing out the most common of birds. “They neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (Luke 12:24)

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Continue reading “Birds, Poets and Preachers”

Calling all Imps!

Wallie the Imp and Friend’s “The Changeling” is in the April 2016 issue of Bards & Sages Quarterly! But I’ll let them tell you about it.

WALLIE'S WENTLETRAP

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Wallie, my Friend, and I are delighted to announce the publication of one of our very own short stories.  And from the perspective of dotty hopefuls, with all the clarity we can manage for being too excited to talk, let alone write with good manners, we wish to share our joy with you via the following shameless promotion.

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Where All Books Lead

Every book that’s worth its salt leads me inexorably back to the only book that I read and re-read constantly, and which also happens to be the best-selling book of all time: the Bible. And let’s face it: all good books should do that, because every good story must have concerns that every one can relate to existentially, people, places, events that we can relate to, even identify with, and they must inevitably bring us back to the big questions in our life:

Why am I here? How can I know truth? What gives meaning to life? What should I do?

Continue reading “Where All Books Lead”

My Mother’s Smile

I wrote this to be delivered as a short eulogy to my mother the day she died a year ago this month. I miss her and my Daddy so much! Were it not for the grace of God through Christ Jesus whose salvation has wrought us the death of death, my grief would be unending, and for this great mercy, I rejoice in God my Savior!

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As a child, my mother’s smile gave me the greatest joy and the greatest comfort. It was my refuge against the harshness of the world and against disappointments. It made happy days even brighter and chased every shadow away. That smile never left me even when she was a great distance from me for most of my adult life. I heard that smile in her voice when we talked and it had the same impact on me that it always had.

There was much to smile about in her life because it was a life of service. Not only was she was a loving wife, mother, aunt, and grandmother, but she was committed to serving God with all her considerable energy and talents. Long before she and my father returned to India, she felt deeply the needs of her community back home. As members of the church here in America, she helped my father raise funds for the Polio Home for Children and organized annual Medical Mission trips to Karakonam and raised further funds so that a medical hospital could be built and even a medical school in an area that lacked both.

When she returned to live in India, that same work continued, first helping my father and then [at his death] taking over his responsibilities. Part of the Polio Home used to be her house when she was a child and her father was a pastor in the Church of South India. So when she was serving the Polio Home as Honorary [volunteer] Director it was a sweet thing for her to behold how the place had been transformed to help the children for whom there would have been no other help. And she devoted herself to improving it further, expanding it, and providing greater resources for the work of the Polio Home to continue long after she was no longer there. She would tell me of all that was being done for the people of Karakonam but especially the children and staff she had grown to love at the Polio Home.

Her service there brought her the greatest happiness and the greatest satisfaction. Through it she was able to express her love of God and her dedication of her talents to the tasks He called her to perform. When she spoke of what was being accomplished, I would hear that smile in her voice that I so loved.

For the past few months that voice and that smile remained silent as my mother suffered the ravages of illness. Now her suffering at long last is over and she is home with the Savior of us all, Christ Jesus. For after all this wonderfully long life of service that my mother enjoyed, her deepest desire was not to be able to smile at what she had accomplished in the lives of her family and the lives of all those she helped.

Rather, her deepest desire was to see the smile on her Savior’s face as He said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).

Now that desire has been answered. And I know that my mother’s smile is sweeter and brighter than the sun, moon, and stars above. And I know that one day, by the grace of God, I will see it for all eternity.

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So She Quoth

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Spitzweg, “The Bookworm”

There are some things I read or hear said that for some inexplicable reason, certainly not by design, stick in my head. Not only that, when I think of one, I seem naturally to think of the other. Or here’s a different scenario: during the course of a day or a week, I randomly encounter different texts by totally dissimilar authors and yet their ideas fall along the same lines and “fit” together in a startling way. Such unsought moments are blissful pools of mystery to a bookworm like me.

Continue reading “So She Quoth”

A Fool and the Truth

I am Gimpel the fool. I don't think myself a fool. On the
contrary. But that's what folks call me. They gave me the
name while I was still in school. I had seven names in all:
imbecile, donkey, flax-head, dope, flump, ninny, and fool.
The last name stuck. What did my foolishness consist of? I
was easy to take in. They said, "Gimpel, you know the
rabbi's wife has been brought to childbed?" So I skipped
school. Well, it turned out to be a lie. How was I
supposed to know? She hadn't had a big belly. But I never
looked at her belly. Was that really so foolish? The gang
laughed and hee-hawed, stomped and danced and chanted a
good-night prayer. And instead of the raisins they give
when a woman's lying in, they stuffed my hand full of goat
turds. I was no weakling. If I slapped someone he'd see
all the way to Cracow. But I'm really not a slugger by
nature. I think to myself: Let it pass. So they take
advantage of me.

—from “Gimpel the Fool,” by Isaac Bashevis Singer (trans. Saul Bellow), 1957

Continue reading “A Fool and the Truth”

Wallie on Words | Wallie’s Wentletrap

After my half year of blogging, my fellow bloggers have made me appreciate anew how many words are “set free” to reveal inner worlds, many of which have enhanced mine. Thanks to those like WalliesWentletrap.com who have made 2014 a memorable year with their “words” – pressed or wrinkled! And a Happy New Year of blogging!

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Wallie on Words

If words go in one ear and out
With all the meaning left without
How sad it is for little words
To know they are not ever heard.
How sad for letters black on white
To know their only hope is sight
And yet it’s lovely too, that we
Can speak the words, and set them free.

via Wallie on Words | Wallie’s Wentletrap

When October Goes

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I know October hasn’t gone yet but the nostalgia, the sentimental overload of years gone by has settled itself in my thoughts like that old Johnny Mercer song …

And when October goes
The snow begins to fly
Above the smoky roofs
I watch the planes go by
The children running home
Beneath a twilight sky –

… and I have to shake my head to clear out the old mists and let the chill winds blow through me and bring me back to the present, new days, new breezes, new moments which go by too fast but will be savored in later years.

Yet as October goes, I can’t help but linger in it just a little longer, because there have been mornings when I’ve walked with someone “through the parables of the sunlight and the legends of the green chapels,” when the presence of that person beside me – in that moment, in that time – has impressed itself upon me because of the added presence of Another, an unseen Presence, all-encompassing and immediate, who in His infinite grace, mercy, and inscrutable wisdom had ordained that moment from all eternity, and there is nothing like the autumn sunlight to cloak it all in golden mystery. Relived, it becomes a golden moment once again, lost only to be recaptured as a foretaste of what yet awaits in that promised golden time still to come, and  I think Dylan Thomas, for one, would understand.

Poem In October

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
Summery
On the hill’s shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart’s truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year’s turning.

—-Dylan Thomas (1914)

(On this his 100th birthday, listen to Dylan Thomas read his poem and be sure to check out an accompanying slideshow of what the poet saw.)

I Love Twist Endings

I love stories with twist endings, and thought I’d share one from a favorite blogger who writes fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction, novels, and short stories.
Enjoy!

There Will Never Be Any More Solken Wine (fantasy short story reblogged from Heaven, Hell & All of Us)

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“There will always be more emeralds,” Jaidus said, studying the still, moonlit valley below. “And rubies? A pence apiece! But there will never be any more Solken wine.”

“Diamonds? A dinar a dozen! But there will never be any more Solken wine,” Durpen agreed.

Jaidus surveyed the narrow valley of the Stanis River, far below the rock ledge where he lay, steep walls heavily forested with oak and poplar as the hills drew together here where the river tumbled out of the mountains, the snow still covering the higher slopes not far beyond the crumbling arches that led into the ruined palace of the last, and now long dead, Solken king. He rolled to the side and shifted his dagger, pinching him at his waist.

“Did you ever taste any of it?” Jaidus asked.

continue reading via There Will Never Be Any More Solken Wine (fantasy short story) | Heaven, Hell, and All of Us.