Wo Am I

all of my parents are dead

and all of my frienships are lost

my brother stubbed his toe

my sister was crushed by a meteor

I was abused by a woodchuck

and lost my last friend’s hammer

my house was foreclosed

under the meteor and

my engine knocks and pings

I cannot afford Valvoline

the walls of my home are crumbling

since I’ve been using rocks

to hammer in the nails

to hang up my pictures

if only I could find that hammer

PS-I am currently in France, so the $5 prize for winning this poetry contest must be forwarded per bank transfer. I’ll give you the details as soon as you declare me the winner and don’t forget-I don’t like to wait.

Harriet Tubman-Five Times Before Breakfast

First there was the Night. Under cover of darkness, Harriet Tubman herded scores of slaves northwards towards freedom, hidden under its black blanket. Dozens of times she returned, always by night, until she knew the way without having to open her eyes, always for the good of others. It was the night, after all, their great black friend, that gave them their only hope of ever becoming more than 3/5 of a person, and of being treated as human beings were meant to be treated. Perhaps it was the bottomless night that gave her her bottomless strength.

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery between 1815 and 1825, depending on which source you find. It was a large family, and her mother Rit struggled to keep it together. Their slave master Brodess sold three of her daughters early on, separating them from the family forever. 

When a trader from Georgia approached Brodess about buying Rit’s youngest son, Moses, she hid him for a month. At one point she confronted her owner about the sale. Finally, Brodess and the buyer came to seize the child, where Rit told them, “You are after my son; but the first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open.” Brodess backed away and abandoned the sale. It was thought that this event convinced Tubman that it was possible to resist.

At five or six she was hired by a woman named “Miss Susan” to rock her baby’s cradle when it slept, and was whipped when it didn’t. She later said she was once whipped five times before breakfast. Some of her scars never healed.

Only three things helped her avoid these whippings: running away (sometimes for five days), wearing more layers of clothing to dull the whip’s blows, or fighting back.

Later, she was hired to check muskrat traps in the nearby marshes, or perform field and forest work, all of which enabled her to gather important geographical knowledge that she would use later on.

At one point around this time she happened to be standing too close to an escaping slave. An overseer threw a metal weight that hit Harriet in the head which, she said (no doctor was ever called to care for her), fractured her skull. She was left on the seat of a loom, bleeding and unconscious, for two days. For the rest of her life she often suffered painful headaches, seizures, and would fall unconscious.

In addition, she also had strange dreams and visions, which she interpreted as revelations from God. From that point on she became a religious person, but rejected the New Testament and its urgings of obedience. She preferred Old Testament tales of deliverance.

Around 1844, she married a free black man, John Tubman.

In 1849 her owner died, which increased the chances that her family would be split apart. She was not going to wait and see. Against her husbands wishes, she decided to flee. Later, she said “There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”

In order to not raise suspicion, she sent a message in code to her mother. A friend was to sing a good morning song to her: “I’ll meet you in the morning. I’m going to the Promised Land.”

The Underground Railroad was alive and well at that time. It was not a train line, it was made up of good people, Abolitionists or others who just wanted to help. They fed the escaped slaves, hid them in secret parts of their houses, got them jobs and places where they could be safe.

Harriet used this “Railroad” and her knowledge of Maryland’s backcountry to wander up into Delaware. She traveled by night, using the North Star as a guide, and hid during the day to avoid greedy fugitive slave hunters. At one of the stops on her “line,” a “conductor” of the Railroad told her to sweep out in front of the house to make it look like she worked there. Finally, she crossed the border into Pennsylvania-freedom. She said:

“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

Nearly every year she would return to Maryland to lead slaves to freedom, which earned her the nickname “Moses.” She had many to chose from, as it was once estimated that Africa had lost over 12 million of their sons and daughters in the slave trade.

They used their feet, were buried in carriages, or sat on log canoes for up to 100 kilometres to reach their freedom. And Harriet was always there to help them, she and the Night. Her name became a legend, and the famous black Abolitionist and ex-slave Frederick Douglass once said:

The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have laboured in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night… The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown– of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”

Tubman rescued some 70 slaves in about 13 expeditions, including her other brothers, Henry, Ben, and Robert, their wives and some of their children. She also provided specific instructions to 50 to 60 other slaves who escaped to the north. One of her last missions into Maryland was to retrieve her ageing parents. She brought both parents north to Canada, where a community of former slaves (including Tubman’s brothers, other relatives, and many friends) had gathered.

She usually came in winter, when the nights were long and dark. It was cold, but freedom was a greater prize than comfort. They would leave on Saturdays, because news of the slaves’ escape would not be printed until Monday, giving them a head start. She would dress in costumes. Once she wore a bonnet and carried two chickens, and spotted a former master. She tugged at the strings holding the chicken’s legs, and their commotion helped her avoid eye contact. 

She would sing “Go Down Moses” and changed the words to tell slaves if it was safe to go on or not.

For all of her achievements leading slaves to freedom in the North, her deeds during the American Civil War (1861-1865) were perhaps more remarkable. Wishing to do everything in her power to aid the North and to free slaves everywhere, she began as a nurse in Port Royal, South Carolina, tending to wounded troops, even calling out President Lincoln because he was at the time not willing to end slavery.

But Harriet was made to do even greater things than being a nurse. In 1863, she began leading scouting parties into the swamps of South Carolina, similar to those in Maryland, and her knowledge of traveling secretly, as well as her charisma, enabled her to lead men deep into enemy territory. They mapped unfamiliar terrain and scouted the people living in the area.

On June 2nd of that year, Tubman became the first woman to lead an armed assault in the Civil War. They destroyed three plantations, captured thousands of dollars worth of supplies, and rescued about 750 slaves.

For the rest of the war she continued tending to freed slaves, nursing wounded soldiers, and scouting enemy territory.

Despite all of these accomplishments, which put her higher than most people ever dared to dream of being, she found at home in New York that African-Americans still had a very long way to go. While on a train in 1869, the conductor told her to move from a half-price section into the baggage car. She refused, showing government papers that allowed her to ride there. He cursed and grabbed her, but she fought, and he called two other passengers for help. While clutching the railing, they muscled her away and  broke her arm. As this happened, other white passengers cursed Tubman and shouted for the conductor to kick her off the train. This was 86 years before Rosa Parks.

In addition, it would be another thirty years before the government recognised Tubman’s services during the War and granted her a monthly pension, but did not recognise her as a spy and a scout, only a nurse.

Her headaches and seizures worsened with age, and she finally decided to be operated on in the 1890’s. Afterwards her pain lessened, but during the operation, she was not given anaesthesia. She chose to bite a bullet as she had seen Civil War soldiers do when their legs were amputated instead.

She died in poverty in 1913, but was surrounded by friends and family members.

Her last words were “I go to prepare a place for you.” Somewhere, deep in the depths of the nighttime sky, maybe in costume, she is waiting to lead the many downtrodden and enslaved masses to their own visions of heaven.

Recipe

If Life Gives You Nothing But Lemons, Try This Lemon Sheetcake*

1 cup o’ almond flour

1/5th cup o’ coconut flour

7/8th cups o’ Xylit(ol?)

1 pack o’ baking soda

juice ‘n’ peel o’ 1 lemon (or, better, 5 drops lemon essential oil)

approx 1/2 cups o’ coconut oil

approx 3/4 cups o’ mineral water

about a ten-inch baking tray

stir all ingredients, fill baking tray, pre-heat oven, bake at 350 deg. for 20 min.

Gluten free, sugar free, vegan, and totally yummy…**

*not shitcake

**unless my metric to shit kings English measurement conversions are off-then it’s out of my hands..8^)

#MenCanBakeShitToo, wait, that sounds wrong…

Geomythology

Geomythology is the study of alleged references to geological events in mythologyDorothy Vitaliano, a geologist at Indiana University, coined the term in 1968.

“Geomythology indicates every case in which the origin of myths and legends can be shown to contain references to geological phenomena.  The venerable Mrs. Vitaliano indicated that geology and geological events, especially catastrophes like earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcano eruptions, are often explained in oral traditions and folklore, and it would behoove us to study these traditions, a position held in ancient Greece by Euhemerus around 400-300 BC.  He maintained that myths about divinities and their activities were poetic accounts of real people and events” (“history in disguise”).  His followers rationalized myths by stripping away supernatural and impossible details to reveal an underlying core of facts.  

The claim is that oral traditions about nature are often expressed mythologically and may contain genuine and perceptive natural knowledge based on careful observation of physical evidence. Geomythology can offer valuable information about natural disasters and other events which are otherwise difficult or impossible to trace.

Up until 2002 it was thought the Greek myth about the Oracle at Delphi was a poetic allegory.  A team of archaeologists and geologists, however, found that intoxicating methane and other gases escaped from the ground below the site, which explained how the priestess Pythia became “fuzzy-headed” and “was inspired” by the vapours seeping from the Earth.

Then of course there was the case of the tsunami in 2004, which swept across the Indian Ocean and killed almost 228,000 people.  One hard-hit area were the Andaman Islands, south of Bangladesh.  When scientists visited the islands, they feared the worst, as the indigenous people there had no warning of the impending wave.  To their surprise, all but one community survived with minimal casualties.  The islanders related a cultural myth that told them if the ocean rapidly receded, they needed to get to high ground so they would not “be eaten” by the huge waves, a myth that saved their lives.  The only community to suffer heavy casualties had been converted to Christianity and many of their oral traditions were lost (Australian Aboriginal Geomythology: Eyewitness Accounts of Cosmic Impacts? Hamacher & Norris, 2009).

Patrick Nunn has done pioneering work in the field.  Though the example used below might not have the impact that others do, we have included it, and the example following it, for a far more important and relevant reason:

Nabukelevu (Mt. Washington) is a domed volcano at the western end of Kadavu Island in Fiji which was last thought by geologists to have erupted tens of thousands of years ago.  The people of the neighbouring Ono Island had a legend that left that up for debate. In their story, the Ono chief went to watch the sunset from a beach on the island, as was his wont, but found his view blocked one day by a mountain (Nabukelevu) that had suddenly appeared on Kadavu to the west.

He was peeved, and promptly flew to Kadavu to battle the chief of the new mountain, but was overwhelmed.  This story naturally implies people were around to see the appearance of the mountain, which meant the eruption and consequent forming of the mountain must have happened within the last 3000 years. It seems the legend invalidated the science.  Years later, a road was cut around the foot of Nabukelevu, and a section through the volcano’s flanks was exposed.  It showed buried soil with pottery fragments (a sure sign of human occupation) overlain by freshly deposited volcanic scoria rock.  Clearly the legend was a more accurate indicator of the age of this volcano than science had once been (Geomythology—How A Geographer Began Mining Myths, Patrick D. Nunn, The Conversation December 8 , 2017).

Another convincing geomyth of surprising antiquity is the Klamath Indians’ oral tradition about the largest Holocene eruption in North America, the volcanic explosion of Mount Mazama in the Cascades Range of southern Oregon. About 7,500 years ago, the spectacular eruption blew off the top of the mountain and rained ash over a half million square miles. The resulting caldera formed Crater Lake. Surviving paleo-Native American witnesses created a detailed oral tradition of the violent event, expressed in a mythological story that has been transmitted in the original Native American language over some 250 generations. The Klamath myth contains geological facts about the eruption and collapse of the mountain that were unknown to scientists until the early twentieth century  (GEOMYTHOLOGY, Adrienne Mayor, Enclopedia of Geology, Forthcoming, Elsevier, fall 2004.

According to the myth of the Klamath Indians, Llao, the chief of the Below World, standing on Mt Mazama, was battling Skell, the chief of the Above World, who stood on Mt Shasta in California, about a hundred miles away (Clark 1953). They hurled rocks and flames at each other, and darkness covered the land. The fight ended when Mt Mazama collapsed under Llao and hurled him back into his underworld domain. The large hole that was created then filled up to form Crater Lake. (Geomythology: Geological Origins Of Myths And Legends,  DOROTHY B. VITALIANO , Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 273, 1-7, 1 January 2007)

Cross-Fit Hero

when she left, she took:

the air

the warmth

the light

the hope

the years following marked by:

the tears

the pain & mud

the clawing & scrambling & scraping

the war

his breast thereafter blemished by:

the scar from heart to navel

the infections

the ice fire burning cold

that which despised sleep

born from the back end of his misery:

he couldn’t bloom

saw through people

his muscles got huge

& he wielded the power to destroy

Lullaby

it is in the space between breaths

it is between each and every step

it’s in the moment before the tornado touches down

and it dances and prances the moment

you shut off the light

at bedtime every night

it is the pause before the next attacking wave

or the tremble of a leaf before it decides to fall

it is there before you step on the gas and go

while it whispers its stories unkind

when you shut off the light

at bedtime every night

it is the minutes before the rising of the sun

and the second you realize he is gone

it is the moment of silence at the grave

between salvos of a 3-gun salute

and your insomnia at night

in the absence of light

it is New Tear’s morning, new year’s mourning,

the first Christmas after the kids have gone away

an empty house once filled with children

a closetful of clothes with no one to show them to

that make noises at night

in your room without light

it is an early morning coffe shop

and empty, idle conversation

or the one place without distractions

in a world pathetically

shining a lonely light

through omnipotent night

it is make up and a shining smile

or the warbly voice of a pop star

or the assumption you deserve that prize

and the knowledge you’ll never win

it’s there when you shut off the light

no matter how you polish it white

it’s deep inside the cracks sprouting in your mind

and ticking and tocking the minutes away

it’s a world of empty hands and hearts

and a proud collection of lies

to light you up right

at bedtime every night

Tragicomedy

Birth

There was once a small close-knit community of friends and family living in the part of the world we’ve come to call the Middle East.  They lived in the highlands, where the air was clean and pure, every kind of fruit and vegetable one could imagine grew, and the water that trickled down from the tops of the mountains which surrounded them was fresh and invigorating.  They wanted of nothing.  They had it all. 

    These people stumbled upon the brilliant idea that they could grow their food themselves, harvest it whenever it was ripe, and enjoy whatever they wanted whenever they wanted.  The fertile soil that stretched as far as the eye could see ensured their idea would be a total and complete success.  And it was good.  

    One of the mountains, however, was only pretending to sleep.  One day, about 5,700 years ago, the volcano woke up with a giant tummy ache.  It rolled put of bed and the Earth shook.  There was nothing to hold on to.  There was nothing to protect these people from the sickly fury of the volcano right at their doorstep.  When the ground wasn’t shaking and moaning, flames and fire shot from the top of the mountain hundreds of meters high.  Snakes of fire slithered their way down the mountain and scalded everything in their path.  The Earth split in places, and poisonous gases spewed from the apertures.  

    The loss was great.  Many of these people perished, and many more of the animals they had learned to cultivate died as well.  They could not explain how their gods let something like this happen.  They were desolate.

    But the volcano wasn’t done.

    While the ground continued to shake and moan, and the mouth of the volcano continued to shoot fiery arrows into the sky, a different kind of snake rose upward instead of crawling downhill.  We call this phenomenon a “lava spine” nowadays, an unusual but regular occurrence on volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens (2005) and Martinique (1902).  Those primitive peoples, however, had never seen anything like it, and as the lava spine grew to an immense height in a very short time, two things happened to a portion of the survivors:  1), They realized they were forsaken.  If they weren’t dead, they might as well have been.  It wasn’t so bad that their homes, their families, their animals, and many of their own family members were destroyed, but their gods had deserted them.  They were lost.

     And 2), one small portion of the community, perhaps it was only one person, looked at the lava spine rising from the volcano, felt how utterly alone he was now that he was without gods, felt the power of the Earth’s core surging all around him, grew his first widdle hard-on he had had in a long time, and began having the first inklings of a very special, new story in his mind.

    The volcano roared for a while afterwards.  The lava flow from the crater ran down to the West, where the streams cascading down the mountains of that one-time Paradise met the sources of two mighty rivers.  A lava dam was built, and the mountain streams began to back up.  

    The community had up until the eruption lived in a bowl between high mountaintops, and now that the stream outlets were bottled up, the bowl began to fill.  All of the houses, all of the livestock, and all of the injured or aging people still in the scorched valley drowned.

    The survivors straggled down from the highlands with lifeless eyes.  Most of them.  With a clear and piercing 1000-yard stare, one did not waste his time to look back.  One had already forgotten what had been.  One had just invented the word “destiny”.  They entered the area known as Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  As the land fell away, and these people could see for the first time hundreds of kilometers in every direction, one in their number thought, “it’s all mine.”

    It’s kind of a funny story, what happened between that first glimpse of the Mesopotamian plains and today.  However, after millions of years of providing a home and food for all of its creatures who all did their best to live in harmony with Nature, the Earth now discovered one small group of humans amongst its many guests who had decided they had their own story to tell, a better one.  

    And whatever kinds of story you might like to read, this one will not have a happy ending.

Two Days, Two Worlds

When Turner woke up he felt strange, but quickly attributed it to the strange Oriental meal he had eaten the night before. He felt light headed, but strangely focussed. He felt weak, but energized. He decided a shower was a good idea, and moved off to the bathroom, trying not to wake his girlfriend.

After the shower he brushed his teeth, mind empty, until he happened to raise his eyes and look in the mirror. His toothbrush-laden hand stopped brushing. He saw himself.

Turner could not remember feeling like that. Sure, he had seen himself in the morror lots of times, but never really seen himself. He looked past his eyes and his fine-looking features, and the hair he wouldn’t brag about but was definitely proud of, past the well-built shoulders and muscular torso and into the person he really was underneath all the layers. For the very first time in his life, he understood who he was inside, and it was good.

He started brushing his teeth again, looking down, and couldn’t help smiling. He had the feeling it was going to be a great day.

Outside the world was spinning, encumbered by its own morning routine. As Turner walked through it, he felt no longer a part of the disorder, frustration, and anger that draped the city as the night had only a few hours prior. He almost did not want to admit it to himself-it was kind of cheesy-but Turner was a being of light and love, there was no getting around it, and, really, what was wrong with that?

So as the horns sounded, brakes squealed, and voices from people afraid to be shortchanged screeched, Turner passed it all, aloof, and headed towards his office. It was a short walk, but it was long enough to see that others, also, were noticing the change.

“Good morning,” he said warmly, smiling at people. Heads started to turn.

“How’s it going, man?” a young man stopped him. “Nice day, isn’t it?”

“It sure is,” Turner agreed, for once in no rush. He stopped and scanned the sky. “It sure is. Anything can happen. What do you have planned for today?”

“Weeeell,” the young man began, apparently satisfied he had stopped the stranger. “I have to work now, but later I’m going to take my girlfriend down towards the water.”

“That sounds magnificent!” Turner couldn’t help saying. “You make sure that girl gets the best of you while you’re with her. She deserves it, doesn’t she? But I guess I don’t have to tell you that, do I?” Turner smiled, intensely happy for the young man.

“No, sir, you do not!” the young man answered, moving off. “You have a good one.”

Turner watched him bounce off, admiring his youthful vigor.

At work people all but stared at Turner. He passed the time listening to his colleagues, being generous with his time and smiles, offering a good word whenever he could. The meeting he had-they had all seemed so important-no longer had an aggressive, urgent edge. There was something about his presence in the room that made it easier for everyone else to listen, to appreciate, and even to let their guards down. No one seemed to need to prove anything. Upon leaving, someone mentioned that the meeting was the best one they had had in a long time, and everyone agreed. Turner smiled.

When he got home later that day he took his girlfriend in his arms and squeezed her tight. Leaning back, he said: “You are easily the most magnificent thing that has happened to me today, which says a lot. You are the best thing that has happened to me in my life, and I can’t thank you enough for it. There is nothing else I could want from this day, or this life, than to be with you here and now.” He shushed her before she could answer, and pressed a passionate, warm kiss to her lips.

The next morning the alarm went off and Turner hammered at it, bleary-eyed. He stumbled groggily to the bathroom and began brushing his teeth in a daze. He found himself looking in the mirror but could not say how long he had been doing it. Maybe he was done brushing his teeth?

Leaving the bathroom, he stubbed his toe on the door frame, and it took all of his energy not to scream. It was going to be a long day…