I am a long-time resident of Austin, Texas, where I received my education at the University of Texas. I am an importer/wholesaler of Tibetan/Nepalese art and jewelry. Favorite quote: "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's" by William Blake, my mentor.
The Once Beautiful
The mechanism’s faulty. The music box
No longer plays. The gloss is gone, and the lovers
In woodland play have faded out of color.
Once beautiful, I took it from the drawer
And placed it on the mantle, a sentimental
Relic reminder of days dissolved in time.
Recently I chanced to meet her who gave it
As a present to play her song of love;
The shine of her hair had lost its lustre,
The once bright eyes were missing their starlight.
But years ago we were years together,
And still I saw her as she was (which must
Belong to what she is now), retaining
Love of long ago, aged yet untarnished.
We chatted nervously and parted ways.
The music box remains on the mantle.
Though worn and broken, I see it as it was;
It retains a beauty tinged with sorrow
As a display of what once was and is.
To a Man in a Café
When you are sitting alone in the café
And you have taken a seat at the last empty table
And the wet mist outside covers the glistening street
And droplets stream down the window beside your face
So that noise does not come through the glass
But the distant din of mingled chatter and clanging cups is held inside
And you have become isolated between sounds
Then a woman tall and thin stands at the door looking for an open table
And she looks your way then sits at your table
Because none are vacant and you're alone and would you mind
Perhaps it is a good excuse if she wants to meet someone
Because she stays to order when the people at the next table leave
And now it is empty but she remains across from you
Though you continue reading your paper while thinking of her
Because her eyes are like twin stars shining in a vacant blue universe
Then the waitress takes her order for coffee toast and jam
Amid the ebb and flow of floating words and clattering dishes
And her blouse has the top two buttons undone showing cleavage
And you see the expansion and contraction of her heart
The sinking and swelling of flesh revealing fear and desire
Meaning perhaps she likes your looks your manner your shyness
And silverware rattles against plates
While the dreariness outside presses against the window
Pushing you closer to her and she to you
While voices merge into one sound from the background of time
And your eyes meet hers midway over salt pepper and sugar
And she speaks purling a murmuring attempt at conversation
With her hand placed forward upon the red checkered tablecloth
And here is Aphrodite not quite as good as the original
For this one ages and the traces can be seen
So now her beauty comes in a mildness in her eyes
In which you sense yearning fighting against meekness
And in the power of silken hair and slender cheeks
And in the tenderness of loneliness desiring companionship
Which you recognize because you know it so well
While the tranquil drizzling of the sky reminds you of who you are
As you realize that you are no longer the center of the universe
And you strain against feelings as you make polite conversation
And you wonder if she is really so or is it a mere projection of hope
For now you are being drawn into her orbit
And you begin to revolve in the sphere of a smile
Which flutters on the mouth of a fidgeting Cleopatra
More lovely for not knowing what she is
And the noise comes back as music,
Then I ask you
When you are sitting all alone in the café
And you forget your self in a revelation of mutual oneness
Do you grasp it now that it has become tangible
Or does the fear of death blind you to what we are
And to knowing that you have become invulnerable.
-To a Man in a Café was previously published in Rejects anthology.
Elon John Farnsworth (1837 - 1863)
Farnsworth's Charge at Gettysburg
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The last action of the battle of Gettysburg occurred at 5:30 P.M. on July 3, 1863. General Elon J. Farnsworth led a cavalry charge on the Confederate right flank. Tall, pale, moustached, Farnsworth had been promoted from Captain to Brigadier General just four days earlier. After learning of the defeat of Pickett's charge, division commander General Judson Kilpatrick assumed a major Union counterattack would be ordered by the Union army's commander, General Meade. Kilpatrick believed a charge by one of his brigades would distract and confuse the enemy. He assigned the task to Farnsworth's brigade. After two charges by a West Virginia regiment against well-entrenched infantry failed, Kilpatrick ordered Farnsworth to attack again. Farnsworth protested another suicide charge. Kilpatrick accused him of cowardice. Furious, Farnsworth demanded an apology then led the charge. Farnsworth had his horse shot from under him. A trooper sprang from his saddle and turned his horse over to his leader. Farnsworth remounted and continued to race into battle…
"Kilpatrick, these men are too good to kill!"
"Sir, if you are afraid to lead this charge, I will."
"Take that back!"
"I didn't mean it. I am sorry, Elon."
"Very well, General, I will attack
But you're to blame for those who don't come back!"
And so it began:
With sad expectation the orders were
Sent for the First Vermont to mount up for
The charge. Across the green terrain waited
Arrays of enemy rifles concealed
Behind stone fences and granite boulders.
The regiment, lined in columns of four,
Charged where the West Virginians charged before,
Trotting off at ever-quickening pace
To that point of life we all must face.
With three hundred men Farnsworth rides
Toward the rebel skirmish line;
He draws his sword to dropping sun,
Its polished steel reflects the shine.
With glare in eyes he squints and winces
As faster the regiment moves,
Leaping over wooden fences
Charging to the sound of horse hooves
As they pound
In his ears, screaming fears
Of death and blood and gore,
The essences of war.
In his head, scenes of dead
Soldiers on the ground,
Horses running 'round.
Soaring earth! Crashing steed!
Black equine nostrils spraying blood!
"Here Sir! Take my mount!"
flashing smoke loud around
Hot pain cracks his ribs!
Flaming lead tears his flesh!
Oozing crimson stains
A riderless horse thunders off in panic.
The troopers hit the rebel line
As their commander fell covered
With wounds. The whistling bullets' whine
Whispered apocalyptic word.
Obedience obscured the doubt
Left unexpressed in fearful hearts;
The sound of battle roared about
Exhorting men to play their parts.
They fought the rebels hand to hand before
The survivors had had enough of war;
They broke off combat and turned away
So they could live to die another day.
They fled to safety as the sky grew dark
With horseless stragglers following behind-
And ninety-eight comrades did not come back.
Kilpatrick gravely watched the men return
And sullenly inquired of their leader:
"Soldier, have you seen General Farnsworth?"
"Yes sir, I saw him fall. He's out there dead, sir."
"Poor Elon, I should never have called him coward.
I am to blame; Meade's attack never came,
What was to have been my glory is now my shame."
©2014 Benjamin Pehr