Tuesday, August 28, 2018

railroad men

by horace p sternwall

railroad bill
railroad bill
had a dog named harry
and a cat named phil

railroad bob
railroad bob
never drank whiskey
except on the job

railroad joe
railroad joe
got up in the morning
and took it slow

railroad mike
railroad mike
never flew an airplane
or rode a bike

railroad tom
railroad tom
hated his pappy
but loved his mom

railroad jim
railroad jim
played poker with the sheriff
who cheated him

railtoad bill
railroad bill
caught a big old catfish
down by the mill

railroad john
railroad john
never came home
before the break of dawn

railroad dan
railroad dan
the railroad was the railroad
but he was the man

railroad men
railroad men
ask for eleven
they will give you ten

mothers, look out the window
at a duck and a hen
don’t raise your sons
to be railroad men

Sunday, August 26, 2018

paths... (5)

by human being

illustrations by rhoda penmarq and human being

fifth of five parts

to begin at the beginning, click here


if the path is blocked by stones
i'll become water

بر سر راهم اگر سنگ بود
آب می شوم

if the path is blocked by water
i'll become the wind

بر سر راهم اگر آب بود
باد می شوم

if the path is blocked by the wind
i'll disappear into thin air

بر سر راهم اما اگر باد بود
نیست می شوم


my heart
to the rhythm of the path


along the path
i always find some generous hands
growing among thistles


sometimes i sit on a rock by the road
and watch people pass by

she's a beggar, some say
and throw some coins for me
i pick them up
one by one
to watch
then i throw them back to their owners
but they never land in their hands
or at their feet
in midair they change into butterflies
and fly off
she's a trickster, some say

if you happen to sit on a rock by the road
ask it
and it will tell you who i really am


i never leave a trail on the path
to find the way back home

all paths are circles
all goings are returns


i turn
and turn
yet i go upper and upper

my mind gathers 'n gains
my heart joyfully unlearns


just when the path turns in re
you find the secrets of the uni

Thursday, June 7, 2018


by ricky joe sternwall

i don’t mean to whine
i just want what’s mine
i want my fellow humans to realize
that i am one of those special guys

i am not like those other folks
those losers, wasters, mopes, and mokes
those fish in a barrel waiting to get shot
i am not like them - honest i’m not

i’m the one who knows the score
the one you have all been waiting for
if i could just catch a break
the world i would remake

it is really elemental
if i could just reach my potential
if i could just be wild and free
the world would revolve around me

the way it was meant to be
why can’t you all see?
stop saying no to me and say yes
and recognize my uniqueness

i’m the one who was prophesied
through the universe to glide
wiping out the whole world’s frown
if you would only stop bringing me down

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

in a churchyard

by horace p sternwall

on a dreary rainy eve
a hand plucked at my sleeve
i turned to see a pallid sprite
flickering in the fading light

and though i made protest
it put me to the test
and as the rain did drip
it did not relax its grip

and down a muddy lane
like a runaway train
he proceeded to tell a tale
old and sad as a rusty nail

he was a sad and lonely cuss
of whom the world made little fuss
the desires with which he was torn
met with society's scorn

he became an incubus
possessed with sodden lusts
vainly seeking peace at last
in the worlds through which he passed

the particulars of his tale
sought my pity, to no avail
perhaps we all have stories
but their resonance and glories

are best left to our own selves
everyone else leaves on the shelves
the narratives of others
so let me go, brother

let us each go our own way
perhaps on judgment day
we may our acquaintance renew
until then - adieu

so i reasoned with the shade
who, in fact, began to fade
with a look in his pale eyes
more of sadness than surprise

i looked around the gloom
at the wet grass and the tombs
the faded words scribed on the stones
again - happily - alone

Saturday, May 12, 2018

walking past you

by horace p sternwall

remember people
when you are feeling blue
whether you are sad or happy
you are only you

the fellow walking past you
with his briefcase in his hand
inside he may be weeping
because his dreams have turned to sand

the kid behind the counter
at subway or burger king
do not tell him your troubles
to him they don’t mean a thing

sadness is all human’s fate
sung by heavenly voices
whether you walk the dusty roads
or ride in rolls royces<

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

bob and bill and brad

by horace p sternwall

a guy named bob and a guy named bill
lived in a shack on top of a hill
they were watched by a guy named brad
whose binoculars were all he had

brad kept an eye on bill and bob
because it was his job
he watched their actions ebb and surge
and a certain pattern emerged

bill had the upper hand
and abused bob to beat the band
bob did all the work
and bill claimed all the perks

this went on for about a year
and brad began to fear
there was nothing more to see
in this here territory

brad was ready to move on
and then awoke at dawn
at the shack he took one last glance
and what should he see by chance

but bob pounding on bill!
suddenly the air grew still
brad looked on with surprisement
as bob gave bill his chastisement

from then on bob was king
and bill was the underling
bob cut bill no slack
and watched the sunset with his feet on bill’s back

brad made out his report
and tried to keep it short
had everything changed?
or were they still the same?

brad looked out at the sky
white clouds drifted by
somewhere a child scraped its knee
and a bird sang in a tree

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

you'll be sorry

by corinne delmonico

illustrations by eddie el greco

aurelia received a letter in the mail. it stood out from the junk mail by being addressed by hand.

it had no return address.

she opened it.

it read, you have an appointment with doctor carter on wednesday, june 16, at 3 pm. it gave dr carter’s address, which was on the next street over from a second hand clothing store aurelia often patronized. it also listed a phone number and an e-mail address.

aurelia had never heard of dr carter. she had had a checkup with her own regular doctor the month before, and the doctor had not referred her to anyone, or indicated that she needed any kind of treatments or visits to specialists.

aurelia called the number listed in the letter. she immediately got a message to leave a message. she decided not to leave one. as it happened, wednesday was an afternoon off for her - she had an elaborately staggered schedule in her job as a waitress - and she decided to just drop by dr carters office and explain that there had been some kind of mistake. it was a saturday when she received the letter, so wednesday was only four days away.

but except when she was busy at work, aurelia found that she could not get the strange letter out of her mind. she wished she had tried to get through to a person on the phone, although she realized how unlikely success would have been.

she sent an e-mail, but as she expected, got no reply.

she decided to go through with the visit. it did not occur to her, as it might have to some people, that she might be kidnapped or murdered.

it did occur to her that she might be charged for the visit, and one reason she was going was to make sure that she was not. if she did not show up, they might try to charge her some ridiculous fee for missing the appointment!

wednesday afternoon arrived, and aurelia arrived at the address in the letter. it was an old brick office building. the front door was unlocked and she entered. there was no security guard inside. a directory beside the single elevator showed dr carter’s office to be on the fourth floor, which she had already guessed by the office number, 404.

aurelia knocked on the door of number 404 and entered. there was a small reception area but nobody at the desk.

a man suddenly appeared. aurelia assumed he was dr carter. he was younger than she had expected, with curly hair, a little mustache, and he looked a bit nervous.

“come in, aurelia, come in, “ the man said. “we have been expecting you.” even though she was five minutes early.

“are you dr carter?” aurelia asked.

“yes, of course, who did you think i was? “

“one question, please, before we go on,” said aurelia. “how much is this going to cost?”

“oh, your employer is paying. you don’t have to concern yourself.”

“mrs johnson’s restaurants is paying?”

“of course, why wouldn’t they? but please come in , your father is here, we have had a nice talk.”

her father? aurelia had not seen or talked to her father in years, and had forgotten all about him.

aurelia followed dr carter down a narrow corridor behind the reception area and into a small bare office. there was no desk, just a computer station and what looked like a dentist’s chair.

a man was seated in the office, in a low chair beside the computer station. he was definitely not aurelia’s father.

aurelia’s father had been short and stocky, with five o’clock shadow, with nothing much to say and a permanently surly expression, although he was not at all violent and had almost no energy of any kind.

the man seated in the office was tall and thin and pale and had glasses with small thick lenses. he wore a sports jacket with leather elbow patches. he was definitely not the man aurelia had thought was her father.

what was this about? was this guy supposed to be her real father? and if he was, so what?

“tom here has been telling me all about you,“ dr carter said, as he took a seat himself at the computer.

there was no place for aurelia to sit, except the dentist’s chair or on the floor, so she remained standing.

“i have never seen this gentleman before,” said aurelia, “and my father’s name wasn’t tom.”

“tom” ignored this, and without saying hello to aurelia or introducing himself, launched into what seemed a continuation of a story he had been telling dr carter. something about aurelia’s being taken to the beach - or maybe it was some kind of county fair or a family picnic - where she, aurelia, had amazed the assembled listeners with her ability to - to do something, aurelia could not really understand what - even though she was only - some age or other, aurelia did not catch the number, as tom talked rapidly, and made jerky little movements as he talked.

dr carter listened attentively to tom, never taking his eyes off his face, and nodding encouragement, particularly at the most incomprehensible parts of his disjointed narrative.

“this is ridiculous,” aurelia attempted to interrupt tom. “i have had enough.” and she turned to go.

dr carter stood up suddenly. “i don’t think you want to leave just yet, aurelia,” he said. “i think you might want to hear what tom has to say.”

“not really.” aurelia opened the door behind her.

“you’ll be sorry,” the doctor said. “you should stay.”

for the first time aurelia felt a twinge of fear. was there anybody else, she wondered, in the whole building? she had not seen any sign of anybody. would anybody hear her if she screamed for help?

but neither the doctor nor tom followed her as she made her way down the corridor, through the reception center, and back to the elevator.

the elevator was still on the fourth floor and she took it down to the lobby and made it safely to the street.

what was that all about? aurelia laughed out loud, happy to be in the sunny street, and a couple of teenaged boys walking by turned and stared at her.

that was weird, thought aurelia, but she knew, from the internet and reading newspapers, that far weirder things happened to people every day.

she thought she might send her story to some website - to be included in something like “31 weird creepy things that happened to real people”. but it probably was not strange enough.

she went shopping. shopping was her favorite thing to do.

the next morning aurelia did not show up for work at mrs johnson’s restaurant. darlene, the manager, called and texted and e-mailed her but did not receive any response.

when she did not show up or respond to messages the next day, she was sent a letter that she was fired, and the letter enclosed a check for the wages she was owed. employees often quit suddenly, and mrs johnsons restaurant chain did not waste time or energy on them.

when aurelia did not pay her rent on the first of the month, the manager of her apartment building found her room empty. the letter from mrs johnson’s with the enclosed check was later found in her post office box along with forty-five pieces of junk mail.