INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
Karyn M. Wolven
Paul B. Roth
THE OPEROSE HIERODULE OF THE MUSE
"As a good thing, slavery is strikingly peculiar,
in this, that it is the only thing that no man ever seeks the good of,
for himself." -- Abraham Lincoln
She noticed him first at five,
When he wrote his first poem,
Creating a world of subterranean
Mystics, enchanted with fire
And music, and obsessed
With luring others into
The golden bowel of their world.
She marked him then,
Touched him with the tip
Of her ethereal finger,
Gazed proudly at him and said,
"You're my boy."
He didn't know it, of course.
He knew only
That he heard and saw things
With enhanced intensity:
Flowers didn't merely blossom
But shivered with blue flames
Flickering on wicks
Of branches; music
Didn't merely waft by his ears
But danced in shifting chorus lines
Out of sparkling instruments; the dark
Didn't merely encompass the night;
It seized him by the throat
And whispered hoarsely
That he and all things on the earth
Were doomed; the day
Didn't merely break upon him,
But saved him with a joy
That drove him into it.
He wrote things
And in this unremitting,
But accepted always
Only years later,
After hundreds of poems
Did he understand
That all his life
He had stood at the portal
Of her temple
Scribbling her messages
And inviting others in,
And his only true reward
Remained her touch
And her word,
"You're my boy."
T. J.'s physician wrote:
The first bullet entered just
the optic foramen, crashing through, shattering bone,
smashing nerve endings and capillaries.
His hospital buddy on crushes
said, "We call him 'Left-eye Jones.'"
I, his visitor, thought:
He was always first to spot something
interesting in the dappled foliage. I remember how
he used to raise his binoculars, point and shout,
"There's one now! A red-winged blackbird!"
"There, on the towering pines swaying in
the wind. It's flitting from branch to branch like an
T. J. said, "You have to see them to know...what
those towns are like. All the
buildings are the same...and they're the same color as the earth around
them... and the streets are crooked. You never know...what's around a
corner...or catty- cornered from you. I saw them first...because I was
Then the bullet, itself broken, and bone
tore apart and seared through the olfactory bulb and the
"He's gotten stinky. We have to
help him change."
When we camped, he loved to sniff the air
and state, "Smell that? That's wild honeysuckle
and mint mixing in the breeze off the lake. What a
He liked to cook the rest of us breakfast and
brew the coffee whose rousing aroma wafted into
the slumbering tents and raised us to waddle forth
toward the bacon and eggs sizzling over the grill.
"Or...maybe I smelled...something different. I'm not...sure."
One bullet fragment ripped into the tympanic cavity
and destroyed the left osseous labyrinth.
"He's lop-sided: deaf on one
side, blind on the other."
Sometimes, because his hearing had been so
acute, he could lie still in the forest and identify
which bird's call we were hearing: the to-wit-to-
woo of a whippoorwill; the caw of jay, the warble
of prairie chicken, or the honk of geese, the wail of
a loon, or the sweet melody of a bluebird.
"Then explosions erupted...all around
us...the sound was deafening...and I
took hits right away."
A second bullet hit his right
wrist, smashed the
carpus and severed the pollicis, shearing away flesh,
ligaments, nerves and bones.
"We'd challenge him to arm wrestle, but he can't grip."
When we went fly fishing, he had a smooth
cast, grasping gently with his fingers on one side of
the rod and his thumb on the other like a fulcrum.
He'd draw the line back in a curving arch as
smooth as a bullwhip artist's, then flick the wrist
forward, so the fly would snap back as if catapulted,
and the line would arc over the water and the fly
would land soft as a flower petal settling off a
His flies were struck more often than anyone
else's, so he fed the rest of us.
"I was a mess...couldn't use my
weapon...couldn't see...couldn't hear."
A third bullet struck his left
ankle, smashed the
talus and tore boot and all away from the tibia and fibula.
"The stump's not a
problem. It's a wonder what they can do with prosthetics."
He was always first up a hill and the steeper the
climb the greater distance between him and us when he
reached the top. The rest of us would be huffing and
puffing, grasping at twigs while his strong stride sped him
upward and onward.
"I couldn't even...get up and run.
The pain...it's there...but it's not...
greater than the fear...or greater than the not knowing."
exploded as he fell, so fragments entered
both the pelvic and abdominal regions. Fragments
puncturing the abdomen disrupted the small intestines.
"He can't eat
anything he wants anymore. Gotta take it easy on the spices and
He loved Mexican food the hotter the better and
pizza with all the toppings. His appetite seemed bottomless.
We would grouse about how he never gained weight no
matter how heartily he ate -- a high metabolism and an iron
corpsmen...lifted me onto the stretcher...and carried me away...
I knew I was hurt bad...seemed to be leaking...everywhere."
pelvic region...fragments penetrated his bladder
and ripped away his scrotum with testicles, which were not
"He won't always
have those catheters and bags. They'll fix him up, so he won't need
His girlfriend waits back in his hometown. She was
the prettiest girl in the town, and we often marveled what
their children would look like with her beauty and his
athletic grace and confident bearing. The lovebirds would
have been married after his stint and started a family.
Does she know?
letter...mail it for me...because...she's got a right...to
a life...I can no longer...give her."
death: suicide by overdose.
"We thought he'd hang in. He didn't seem like a
quitter. Who knew he was
squirreling away his pain pills?"
We called him 'The Optimist' and 'Mr. Sunshine.'
More than any of us he had relished each coming day. For
him every day had been an opportunity to be the best that
he could be. People had been drawn to him because they
knew he was success waiting to happen.
His note to me,
written with his left hand, read:
This is the last thing I can do for everyone
who's been so good to me. Live a long, happy life and prosper for my
Jerry Blanton, Homestead, Florida