Walk it out: An unimpeachable suggestion, and works by Karine Marshall and J. Thomas Brown


 

Walk it out: An unimpeachable suggestion

            I’m a pushover for psychobabble, searches for meaning, and fiction about psychological pilgrimages, like Scott D. Carpenter’s Theory of Remainders, about a psychiatrist who returns to the scene of his daughter’s murder in Normandy fifteen years earlier in order to find her body and find personal peace. Working as a detective with the tools of psychiatry, he discovers much more. In Collette Shedd’s Facing Lillia, recently published by BairInk (https://www.bairink.com/ ), the pilgrimage is shown through the struggling language of a combative psychiatric patient, an indigenous woman who attempts suicide and sometimes spends days at a time watching herself walk in a dream beset by demons and compulsive, suicidal thoughts.

            In a period of mass hysteria, it seems glib to say, “walk it out.” Surely, I should at least offer an explication of groupthink or sociopathy. Instead, I take a walk and invite you to come along. No phone or earplugs, please. Listen to the noise, the screeches of machines, the squawk of Amazon vans turning around, the chatter of squirrels. Look at the sky. The moon has not yet disappeared. Look at other walkers—all ages, all colors, all taking their own steps. Swing your arms. Feel your heart beating. Sniff the camellias, the diesel exhaust, the black compost being raked by a Guatemalan couple into the flower beds of the shopping mall. Breathe it all in. Hold the breath. Process it. Squeeze the energy from the oxygen to release clarity of mind, sustained attention, focus on the moment. Slowly release the breath. Make it into something—a thought, a purpose, a meaning, a poem, or a better story.             —Richard Rose

A Poem for Now

By Karine Marshall, http://www.karinemarshall.com

Blood sacrifices on the Capitol, bow down to the God of fear and hate.

Oh Prince of peace, my heart cries out to thee.

Rise we up in our own righteousness!

But none is righteous only thee.

Blood sacrifices in the cities, shattered glass in the streets,

Active flames of pain for words not heard, actions speak louder.

But he said no more sacrifices were needed, not even the smallest ant need lose his little life?

When comes the dawn of the new day, when the lion lays down with the lamb?

No, No, No, we must fight fight, fight!

Hate war, Hate war, march on, march on.

Rage war, Rage war, lift those knees higher, march on, march on.

Peace Peace Peace, Ohm shanti, shanti, shanti-heeeeeeee

Where are you now my Prince of peace? When will our hearts turn once and for all?

The little girl is skipping alongside her mother, as she ponders….

“Remember when human beings used kill other human beings?” Curls bouncing as she goes.

“Oh little bear, don’t think on such things.”

“Ok mamma, it’s just so weird, people must have been very strange back then.”

Corpus Sancti

by J. Thomas Brown, www.jthomasbrown.com

            Henry, the oldest, had failed to launch. He lived with his family in a house built in 1738 that stood in the middle of twenty acres of corn field in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. George Washington used it as an infirmary for his troops during the Revolutionary War and their blood stains remain in the wide plank floors today. Sometimes, as he fell asleep at night, the worn floorboards, loose on their hobnails, rattled. He would turn the night table lamp on, get up and set the lock on the door latch, then return to bed to wait for sleep with the light on.

The hand-fitted Pennsylvania blue-gray fieldstone walls were two feet thick, but not thick enough to keep out the world’s contumely. The airwaves carried in news of the assassination of Dr. King, American war crimes in Vietnam, and the violent 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Yet life was still pleasant in the old stone house and Henry did nothing to change the world but grow his hair long and sew paisley patches into the legs of his jeans to widen them into bell bottoms. 

He dubbed 1968 as The Year of St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors and those with stomach ailments, whose intestines were wound on a windlass to torture the saint into praying to pagan gods. One sultry evening in early fall he bought a nickel bag of grass from a classmate at a poetry reading by Allen Ginsberg. He returned home afterward and smoked a joint of it in his bedroom. It was so potent the plumed birds on the antique wallpaper came to life and flew around the room. He opened the window to let the smoke out. It was a clammy night with heat lightning flashing. The smell of rain was in the air.

That is when the St. Elmo’s Fire came. His sister, Julia, was in the kitchen with a friend. They both saw it and started yelling. An undulating blue light drifted through the screen door and floated into the dining room, gathered itself into a ball and rolled down the hall. At the sound of their shouting, Henry ran down the stairs and into the family room in time to see it pass through the side entrance door. He followed it outside and stood by his car parked at the side of the house. It climbed the copper lightning rod that ran up the stones from the ground up to the rooftop. The fire perched on the spire, hissing. Blue snakes writhed from its rim and a violet glow spread over the roof. The rain gushed at once and plastered his shirt to his skin. He stared until lightning flashed upward from the spire into a cloud overhead and it extinguished.

A week after the visitation of the Corpus Sancti, Henry moved into an apartment in New Hope with a friend. It is said that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but he knew that was not true.

Corpus Sancti

by J. Thomas Brown www.jthomasbrown.com

Outer canards penetrate walls not 

thick enough to hold them out,

-display on the TV screen

contumely late at night.

Inner truths held dear

leak away like electric charge 

from a capacitor. Drained, 

the mind boils away to a 

coacervate primordial soup.

Is there a champion to intercede?

A storm moils near; the air smells

of rain. Lightning flashes overhead. 

The clouds glow blue.

St. Elmo, who could neither be 

consumed by fire nor lightning, 

whose entrails were wound on a 

windless to make him pray to 

pagan gods – but would not,

has arrived. 

Spectral light floats through the 

open window, spreads itself on

the edges of the TV, hums and 

hisses, spitting snakes of violet fire.

A clap of thunder and the house goes 

dark, falls silent. The visitation of the

Corpus Sancti clears out diabolical 

effluvia. I am no traitor to my soul. 

I am set free by the light of St. Elmo.

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