I am a long-time resident of Austin, Texas, where I received my education at the University of Texas. Favorite quote: "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's" by William Blake, my mentor.
Tied To Trees
A grandmother's true tale
About a childhood long ago
In Russia, a different place
Than this country, so we will know…
There were pogroms in her region.
At those times children were taken
By their parents into the forest
To seek safety, to hide their dearest,
Then they concealed the hiding places.
Unusual actions were embraced:
To keep silence, the mouths of infants
Were gagged; and in these instances
(As was needed to prevent movements
Of those who would run seeking parents)
All the children were tied to trees.
After the murderers and thieves
Departed, sated with pillage,
The families returned to their village.
Now understand why they left home
With nothing but a distant hope
For America, “The Golden Land”,
Where neighbors live in friendship and
Where children are not tied to trees.
-Tied to Trees was previously published in Di-verse-city Anthology 2014
The Moon over Huntington Beach
The full moon rises over Huntington Beach.
Sweethearts sit on the sand and watch the surf.
Waves wash in then always return to sea.
Beneath the pier the couples kiss and love,
Just as they have for many years gone by.
They leave and others come to take their place.
The wind blows clouds across the evening;
The dark of ocean merges with sky.
The water tumbles over fields of sand;
Seagulls swoop low over waves rolling by,
And the moonlight shines on the ebb and flow
Just as it did a thousand years ago.
-Previously published in The Huntington Beach Gazette
Jeff Davis Charity Hospital
Houston, Texas, 1947
Silent beyond long empty fields:
A tall and dark foreboding brick structure,
Like a huge looming temple with glowing windows.
The moon cast a silver light upon blackness.
Across the way were hissing trains
Resting on the tracks of the Southern Pacific station.
Passengers were boarding, taking their seats,
Staring dumbly at the luminous glowing windows.
On the third floor, facing the station,
Shared a room with a woman who groaned all night long.
Mrs. Jones was still not used to it, would never be used to it.
She turned on the radio her son had brought;
It crackled, low volume.
Al Jolson was singing:
"I'm happy! So happy! Walkin' on air!
The why and the wherefore is someone I care for…”
The nurse in her starched white uniform entered:
"Time for your injection, Mizzis Jones."
"I hurts bad, nurse. I feels so bad,"
"There's a rainbow around my shoulders
And a sky of blue above . . ."
"The Intern will stop by in a few minutes."
"Please send him quick. I hurt, I do."
"Let it blow and storm, I'll be warm, ‘cause I'm in love!"
The other woman was groaning again.
The radio made popping sounds,
Mrs. Jones adjusted the knob.
"Hallelujah! How the folks will stare
When they see that great big solitaire
That my little sugar baby is going to wear…”
From out the window and down the corridors
A great pain seemed to flow into her room,
Into her body, and out again
As it made its way through the world.
"And I'm shouting so the world will know that I'm in love!"
As usual, the doctor was late arriving.
Tomorrow she would get her daughter-in-law
To wheel her down to the maternity ward again.
She knew she would not leave the hospital.
There was a baby in the maternity window,
Distinct among the rows of infants,
Who looked just like her son when he was newly born.
She hoped her daughter Rose would be in to visit
And bring the children to see her.
The pain got worse every day
And every day she felt weaker.
"Down among the sheltering palms..."
Her son looked just like his father,
Had his eyes, God rest his soul.
He had taken a part of her with him.
“How my heart is yearning, yearning, yearning…”
She hoped that Rose would bring her children;
Her grandchildren were the most precious things,
She would like to tell each one how she loved them;
It was so important.
“Your silvery beams will bring love’s dreams,
We’ll be cuddling soon…”
She turned off the radio.
No use waiting for the doctor any more,
He didn't help much anyway.
She gripped the Old Testament by her side.
She was so tired… sleepy…
A long, lonesome whistle drifted over the fields.
A passenger train went clicking down the tracks
While a swinging lantern was calling another in.
The windows of the station glowed in the moonlight.
©2014 Benjamin Pehr