Letters From Home performing Ballad of the Green Beret:
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You could have heard a pin dropPosted by Robert A Graser Sr on Monday, April 13, 2015
↓ ↓ ↓ The Flea and the Elephant: a fable
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Once upon a time there was a common flea (Pulex irritans). This flea was no more and no less ordinary than any other flea for that matter but you could not convince him of it. For you see this flea had traveled to Rome to witness the coronation of the king; after having accepted a formal invitation by stowing away in the beard of a celebrated thespian who was top of the line fare for a flea; but seeing that he could not hear above the hush of the audience and the telescopic view being quite unacceptable he made his way through the procession by hopping from head to head until he had gained the foremost seat in the cathedral. Of course he was so small and unimposing the Pope did not see him poised atop the future king's balding pate when he placed on the crown until after the deed was done. By this time it was too late to rectify the matter and the flea received the coronation first.
"By Jehovah the title is mine," Proclaimed the flea. "Kneel down before me my ambrosia?d subject," He demanded of the deposed heir incumbent; and he bit the would-be king forthwith and with much gusto right on the top of his bald scalp."
"Ouch!" cried out the unappreciative recipient and he slapped his hand to his wounded head in a most violent manner. This would have been a fitting end to this particular parable and the last we would have heard of the flea had not the Pope stayed the hand with his own.
"Hold thy temper, my liege. You cannot do harm to your king."
"What sacrilege is this I hear," Shouted the angered potentate. "It is I who am the king."
"Not so. The flea has been made Monarch in your stead 'by the grace of God'."
"But such a blasphemy cannot be permitted. The flea is not of royal lineage."
"Oh but you are mistaken for it carries the same blood as yours. It bit you did it not?"
"Mercy, it did at that," confessed the king.
"Then you had better do as your newly appointed king demands of you and kneel before him."
And so, the would-be king knelt down albeit reluctantly and bowed before the newly crowned flea. Forthwith the entire attending constituency followed suit by prostrating themselves to his new majesty, the flea. The flea in the meantime was swelling with a new born emotion. Call it exultation, call it confidence, call it pride, or call it ego, it was most unbecoming one of his stature.
"This is my Queen I presume," Said the flea of the Arian goddess standing like stone nearby. "Come my dear; let us retire to our chamber for a nightcap." He hopped onto her elbow and the brave lady paled but nonetheless retired with him. I affirm she was brave for what strength it must have required for a refined lady to associate with a flea.
Some while later as the sky turned to fire in the west the flea emerged to look out over his kingdom from the high balcony of his immodest castle. "There is justice in the world after all," He shouted in a flea voice that carried not very far.
"All of my life I have been discriminated against and frowned on," thought the flea to himself, for as you see he could not for that matter think it to anyone else now could he. "This day I have broken a new ground. I have achieved what no one thought my low class was capable of. I have gained an audience with the Pope and am crowned king by the grace of god. In effect I am the chosen one."
"As a monarch I can do no wrong. Therefore I have decided it is time to level the playing field. I will do away with the classes. I will co-mingle all the blood in my kingdom until I am everyman."
The flea called his royal guard to him and instructed them to parade a new citizen before him each hour and he would command that person kneel down obediently while he would bite him on the ear. In this fashion the flea was never without devotion, did not lack for variety in his diet, and could never be accused of being out of touch with his subjects.
Eventually however the flea had accounted for every citizen within his realm and as far beyond as his influence could extend. "Are there no more subjects," He asked.
"No Sire. Only the pets of the households, the lambs in the fold, and the oxen of the field, among others."
"Then have all the dumb animals to bow before me," He commanded. "I will assimilate everything."
"One after the other the flea bit all the animals of the kingdom on the ear; and so their blood mingled with that already coursing inside him and he was well on his way to becoming all things."
"It is not accomplished yet, your majesty," Apprised a most observant advisor to his advisors. "Word has come to me that the elephant refuses to comply with your wishes."
"Then have the miscreant bound in chains, marched throughout the kingdom, and flogged nonstop until he agrees. I must have full compliance if my dream is to be realized. Have him understand that noncompliance is not an option. I will become everything if it is the last thing I do."
Therefore, by express orders of the king the elephant was bound in chains, marched throughout the kingdom, and flogged for days on end until its willpower began to falter and it burst into tears and agreed to abide by the kings edict.
"Why have you refused to do as I say," Asked the king.
"I felt it was an unwise thing to request of me, your majesty."
"Are you suggesting that you are more savvy than your king who has assimilated 99.9999 percent all living things?"
"Not in all matters, your majesty. But in this one instance I am quite convinced of it."
"Nonsense," Said the king. "Kneel down to me that I might bite you on the ear."
"But your majesty ?"
"Silence! I'll have no more insubordination from you. Do as I command you or I?ll instruct a mouse to take up residence in your trunk."
And so the elephant effused a big sob and knelt in a most subservient manner. But as it did so its enormous knee bore down onto the flea with such force that it burst him. And that is how the stain came to be in the royal red carpet. It happened so long ago that no one remembers but the elephant; and he has the most reason to remember.
Let this be a lesson to you good Christian; when you find yourself up to your eyeballs in cake realize your limits lest you bite off more than you can swallow.
Geo. Lewis Avery † [- yours for moderation]
↓ ↓ ↓ A FISH'S TALE ↓ ↓ ↓
Eugene wanted a fish for his supper;
but on his trip to the market
he encountered a blind woman
holding out a cup seeking alms;
burthened by his yen for trout
on the one hand,
and a consciencious piety
to assist a suffering sapien
on the other,
Eugene thumbed the coin in his pocket;
only to find he'd inherited a hole in the fabric, and no coin.
Apparently his moral compass had fallen through as well
leaving Eugene with little sense of direction,
for on impulse
he reached into the cup and withdrew enough for the carp;
bolting away as the miser made a swipe at him with her cane.
- returning with the fish under his arm,
Eugene was pointed out by the vagrant
to a cop patrolling his afternoon beat
as the man who'd assaulted her
and robbed from her till;
so Eugene engaged in a short footrace
what ended in his getting pummelled with a billy club
and dragged away to the city jail,
where he was abused by his cellmate
in a manner most heathenish;
and shamed so humiliatingly,
Eugene strangled himself with a bedsheet.
In the meantime the humble beggar woman
has placed the frozen carp atop her shopping cart
and is stooping to pick up a shiny coin on the pavement;
a scene repeated numerous times as she ambles down the walk.
Once beyond the brightness of the street lamps,
and for reasons of her own, she detours into an alley
to emerge on the far side sans rags, sans cart,
and sans disguise;
Her nimble feet navigate her to a modest apartment
where she enters, runs a hot bath, and prepares the fish;
- after a hearty meal she changes into gym shorts
and jogs downtown, and past the city precinct
just as a body is being hauled outside on a stretcher
by paramedics who pause in their grim duties
to admire the shapely brunette as she jiggles past.
All Eugene wanted was a fish for his supper.
Geo. Lewis Avery † [- but whose was the worse crime?]
↓ ↓ ↓ A POE-ISH TALE ↓ ↓ ↓
that gentle narcosis
what refreshes the body
and rejuvenates the mind.
Who requires it?
Certainly not I:
For I was a man that did not sleep,
although sleep pursued me
with her coy eyes ogling
from out the dark confines of my study,
or from the stark maw of an alley
as I crossed the bustling boulevard
en route to some urgent venture.
She loitered in the shadows: beneath
drooping lampposts along the avenues,
fluttering her painted lashes,
vying for my attentions.
But I would not acknowledge her.
With disfavor I diverted my eyes.
I burned the candle at both ends
and in the interim it paid dividends,
as I had become a self-made man
and was to marry into a family of prominence
whereby my station in life was secured.
And yet sleep would not be dismissed,
for I had scorned her outright
and her ego was bruised.
With my approaching engagement
I began to experience migraines,
what became more intense
with each new day, so that
soon I could not abide the sunlight.
Even dark glasses offered me little relief.
My eyes had become sensitive
to even filtered particulates of light
so that I was in constant torment.
I sought remedies but treatments failed.
Out of desperation
I shut myself away.
I became a recluse:
with heavy curtains drawn
on the windows of my apartment.
I no longer ventured outside.
I had my meals delivered.
Calls from my betrothed were dismissed;
her knocks at the door went unanswered;
and soon she came no more.
But more significant was it
that my migraines were subsiding.
I had found a remedy it seemed.
At long last
I could sit behind my armored stile
with an agreeable smile,
listening to the hustle and the bustle
of normalcy outside my dark fortress;
persons passing, voices chirruping
like crickets in a faraway field;
and it soon occurred to me
mine was no mishap of fate.
I had been singled out by sleep.
She would be my courtier; and she,
whose selfish piety eclipses all others,
would not be denied me this time;
as with nimble fingers
she massaged my temples,
bringing me to the brink of rapture.
How she gained entry into my room
was and is a mystery, but more
and more I was become enamored by her:
so much so that I begrudged nothing
of what she had cost me to win my favor.
I was convinced I had wronged her more.
I indulged her whims: and the while we loitered
it seemed that time had ceased to exist.
So confident I was of absolution
I verbally pledged to her my troth:
It was then a blow was struck
outside the door to my apartment
what made the shy maid slip away;
and with her unrehearsed retreat
I felt a pang rend my cavernous core.
Theirs was a most untimely interruption,
but the rapping was unlike any other:
it was more of a "thump".
As if some free weight had fallen against the timbers:
listen ... for there it was
"Go away!" I instructed harshly,
although in vain, for the assault continued:
"THUMP .... THUMP ....... THUMP"
with no regard to my loud objections.
Angered by the industry of my visitor
I assayed to rise and dismiss him,
only to discover I could not;
sleep's fetters held me firmly ensconced.
I fumbled in the darkness for the door;
but it was not where it should have been.
Inching around in the cramped quarters
I was met by a corner;
and then another;
It took me some moments to grasp:
this was not my apartment
but a resinous box.
I began to claw at the timbers, even while
serrated splinters tore loose my nails;
my fingers raw and bleeding, and my nose
incensed by the sweet sickness of pine.
Meanwhile from above
wafted the faint whistling
of an industrious gravedigger;
and with each shovels payload
loose particulates trickled down
through the cracks,
stinging my blood veined eyes; while
the taste of raw earth wetted my tongue,
and my throat: so dry
that I was strangling on the coarse silicates
of my own frenzied SCREEEEEEEEEAMS;
frozen in a perpetuum
of inescapable wakefulness.
Woe is me:
for with laced lips
sleep had drugged me;
and missing the alarm
I'd awakened to discover:
had inhumed me
Geo. Lewis Avery † [ever yours for karma]
↓ ↓ ↓ HIGHNOTE TODAY ↓ ↓ ↓
Is scrub oak and sandy farmland
With intermittent home;
This was a community once
In more than name alone.
It owned a church,
A general store,
A barber shop,
A central road,
For wagon wheel and shodden hoof;
Who worked the soil
With hope and a promise
For what the future held;
Who rallied when a neighbor called;
But all that changed
In the lapse of one long winter.
Three quarters of a century
Have come and gone:
Their story is archived
Beneath aging trees
Whose fibrous roots
Have a history of intimacy
With rotting pine boards
I was here once before:
With my father, and still
It has taken me hours to find it again;
For there remain no landmarks
And few are left who know it exists at all.
Though it lies only a short distance
Off the decrepit clay road
In a thicket of scrubby oaks.
Have been rooting here
For acorns I suppose;
Whose engravings have worn thin
With the wear of sun and weather,
And precursory tears.
I tread uneasily,
For I do not know
On whose mound I stand.
Sparse markers lie overturned,
Buried beneath the mulching leaves
In two parts, or incomplete.
It pains me to imagine
Any man would have desecrated this place
Where so many promising youth were interred
Within the lapse of a single year.
I kneel to examine five stone markers,
Faded but legible still:
Five siblings aligned
So close together their shoulders rub.
Aged from 19 to infantile:
A sight familiar
At many angles,
But the majority
Have been disturbed.
The poorest graves lie unmarked
As wooden crosses
Have not endured
And like the cemetery itself
Fell into gloom and disrepair
With the final interment.
For I have the feeling
Few could bring themselves
To venture here again.
The trees have remained
Assigned to their care;
Au pairs of distinction
Who huddle in collusion
On the twilight of each eve;
An arboreal crow
Who cocks its head
With a bodeful eye, till
Unfolding an ebon wing
It darts away
Beneath the canopy.
The harshness of its cry
Shatters the gilded silence;
I realize time has gotten away from me;
For nighttime is eminent
And daemon shadows have begun to appear
To pirouette atop the rotting leaves.
Is that the laughter of children I hear?
Conversing in whispers.
So muffled I cannot catch the words.
The temperature is dropping rapidly.
An icy breeze gropes at cuff and collar;
It toys at the hairs
On the nape of my neck.
As a bugbear treks down my spine,
Running panicked with cold naked feet
Touching my skin.
I draw my windbreaker close
And hurry off in the direction of the road;
And telling myself I am silly
To be feeling uneasy;
But relieved to reach my truck
I lock the doors before I drive away;
I only begin to relax
Once I have left the oak bottom behind me
And have turned onto the blacktop
I know of a half dozen former home sites
On my small and modest acreage alone;
Where the plow overturns remnants
Of a community once tightly knit;
A community whose bell knolled
With the flu pandemic of 1918.
- Geo. Lewis Avery †