"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door." The Statue of Liberty (P.S. Please be so kind as to enter through the proper channels and in an orderly fashion)

Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

Friday, April 18, 2008

Okay, Seriously...

I actually have written a book of poems. Here's two of them (the second is a dramatized, sextupled sestina). I've had them for years. You're the first to see them. As always, don't feel obliged to comment.

"Achilles In Skyros"

He was obscure and was unknown although
He was the best; his mother, Thetis, feared
His great but dreadful gift and thought it best
To let it wither, unexpressed, at home.
And so this warrior was hid among
The maidens, cloistered in his mother's den.
He had mere hairpins for a sword and spear;
For headgear, far from bronze, he wore a veil
Of silk. He'd stare forlornly at the loom,
Whose round and spinning wheel invoked a shield.
He wept and sulked and bit his lip in shame.
He was the best in strength, and beauty, too,
But sitting there, among the giggling girls
Who ogled, he was just an ornament.
"I'm wasted, wasted!" he would cry when news
Was heard that men (inferior to he)
Won kudos and the honor meant for him
For feats of valor with the sword and spear.
Specifically, the sons of Atreus
Were all the rage, and overshadowing
The latent glory of this son of Peleus.
The elder brother, Agamemnon, with
The younger Menelaus, had become
The undisputed masters of the art
Of war. Achilles disagreed and seethed.
A connoisseur who knew the nuances
Of his fine art (that we call war), he'd shake
His head and would critique the clumsy strains
Of Agamemnon's poor technique: "He killed
But ten, and then let twenty get away?
He's lazy, and too sloppy in his work.
Mistakes like that cost victory in war."
And when these brothers would debase the code
Of honor with their vain and petty acts
(Weaknesses Achilles never saw
Within himself), he'd mutter with a frown
"Such men as these put war in ill-repute,
Whereas a man like me upkeeps the sport's
Integrity. Those dog-faced, pseudo-men!
They fight for low and earthly gain! I fight
For honor and for high Olympian glory."
And when those brothers (so unworthy in
Achilles' eyes) were awarded with
The fairest, richest sisters in the land,
The son of Peleus, cloistered and alone,
Would mutter by the matter of fact offended:
"Such heiresses as they deserve the best,
And that is me." Frustration made him dash
The hairpins on the floor and stand. The veil
Of silk fell from his face, as did the maids
Who fell back with a hush from eyes of fire.
Achilles turned from them and clasped his hands
And prayed to his Almighty God: "O Zeus,
My God, this awesome gift that You bestowed
Upon me withers on the vine. I don't
Belong in parlor-rooms with old nurse-maids
And ogling girls! The field of battle is
My stage, where I can put proud men to shame.
They'll say: `Behold! He's not a man, more like
The instrument of Zeus!' And thus, through me,
It's your Almighty Hand they'll see, and so
My glory will be yours." And Zeus was pleased
And bowed his head: "My gift in you will find
Expression. Thus will men acknowledge Me."
"What must I do to meet this Destiny?"
Achilles asked, "I sit unused, and your
Great gift lies wasted, mute, and unexpressed."
"You'll worry not," assured the God, "The gift
Appears inert to men and silent to
Their ears. Consider this: the stars above
Seem quiet and, mere ornaments, seem fixed,
But with a legion voices they do sing
While marching through the sky to mete out Fate.
Your gift of these same powers is composed;
What moves on earth moves not the gods, and what
Seems still to men is used by gods to move.
Be still, for now, until I choose to use."
Achilles bowed his head in thanks and sat
Back in his chair. He did not move but smiled,
For now he knew his gift would be expressed.

The Arguments at Troy

I. The Trojan Debate

Good subjects! Brave and noble citizens of Troy.
We are a merchant power on the land and sea,
Our horses are the best; we're at the height of honor.
Not long ago, we sent a diplomatic ship
To Sparta, where my son romanced this beauty, Helen.
Why now the outrage, loyal councilor of war?


Indeed the fault is ours, were this to lead to war.
Your playboy son's romancing has endangered Troy.
This `beauty' is the married queen of Sparta, Helen.
And now the angered Agamemnon sails the sea,
Bedecked in bronze, invading with uncounted ships,
Because we brought upon his brother's head dishonor.


The proud Achaeans are, I saw, obsessed with honor.
The Spartan king's cuckolded, and, for that, will war.
Mycenean Agamemnon has a hundred ships,
The Spartan king himself but sixty. Less than Troy,
Commercial power that we are on land and sea;
But are there more of them unknown? What say you, Helen?


Forgive me, all. So kind of you to call me `Helen,'
When other names might come to mind. Upon my honor!
I did not think that when I left him for the sea,
My husband, Menelaus, would cry out for war.
But now, I must confess, and say, I fear for Troy.
The Achaeans, when united, have a thousand ships.


What's that, you say? My god, A thousand ships!
You wicked, wretched whore! I curse the name of Helen!
And you, my son! Were there no worthy maids in Troy?
Why must you always bring upon our head dishonor?
Now this, my god! Your shameless lust has caused a war!
When you were born, I should have drowned you in the sea!


Oh mother, please! Achaeans bark and bluff, you'll see!
I'm not afraid of Menelaus, nor his ships!
What `this'? Their women run from them, and they cry war?
Look now who's crying, thanks to you! Come here, poor Helen!
Misunderstood, like me! Have we no sense of honor?
Since when has love and beauty been maligned in Troy?

CALCHAS (a Trojan prophet):

You stupid fool! You are the Firebrand of Troy!
The oracle had said: `Troy's doom comes from the sea!'
And then we give to you the undeserved honor
Of making you ambassador-at-large! The ship
You sailed was meant to bring back peace, and not this Helen!
Behold the prophecy! This boy has caused a war!


Shut up, old priest! You talk too much of doom and war!
You're silly superstitions count for naught in Troy!
Father, look. The issue here is not fair Helen!
Those Greeks resent our tax, our tolling of the sea!
That's Agamemnon's protest, with his show of ships!
He wants our Dardanelles, disguising greed with `honor!'


Indeed his cause is gold, but some will fight for honor.
It's those I fear; they fight the fiercest in a war.
Beware their best, the son of Peleus and his ships.
He's born to find his glory on the plain of Troy.
I've heard them talk of him, he's feared on land and sea;
In strength supreme, in beauty only matched by Helen.


He speaks of beauty. Empty is this phantom, Helen!
The last thing on her mind are thoughts of love and honor.
The priest is right; this blunder is our doom, I see:
I see the wrath and passion of a bloody war,
A wrath that will bring doom upon the House of Troy.
These men! I will be chained and thrown upon a ship...


Here's what we'll do. We'll go and meet their coming ships
And hear their grievance. But we'll not give up fair Helen!
This beauty best resides with us in sea-side Troy.
She is, at least, my guest! I won't betray that honor.
And we, as well, have swords and spears enough for war!
And we'll make plain the terms of business in our sea.


Agreed. My men and I will meet them at the sea.
We will harass with jeers, and throw stones at their ships!
They'll find our Trojan mettle more than fit for war.
We will protect you from your brutal people, Helen!
We're not barbarians, but men with codes of honor.
We are the model of perfection here in Troy.

II. The Achaeans Assemble


Achaeans, one and all! I welcome you to Troy!
For weeks, with oars, for lack of wind, we've worked the sea,
Enduring loss, and heartache! for the sake of honor.
Now we've arrived, and are entrenched, we've beached our ships.
Dawn brings our interest from the principle of Helen.
You saw! They ran from us! They are not fit for war.


They're safe behind their walls, impregnable by war.


Impregnate is my solemn motto here at Troy!


So we attack at dawn and get my wife, fair Helen!



Achaean chieftains! Look what's freshly brought by sea!
All rest assured now for the safety of our ships!


Your tardy presence, son of Peleus, does us honor.


Considering the circumstances, mine's the honor;
You've given me the opportunity to war.
First thing tomorrow morning, I will take my ships
And ravage all the allied lands surrounding Troy.
We'll sweep the land of goods, and rule the Trojan sea;
Then we relax and milk from them the price for Helen.


Campaigns like that will take us years to get back Helen!


The strategy's decided! Shortening your dishonor.
Tomorrow we smash Troy! And then take to the sea.


A lightning strike? You're mad. A siege will win this war.


He is correct. Attrition is advised for Troy.


If so, we must then build a wall around our ships...


They're out-manned ten-to-one! They can not touch our ships!


I won't permit that prince another night with Helen!


Tonight's his last for that. Tomorrow we smash Troy!


The field of bloody battle proves the test of honor!
Tomorrow all will see my prowess in the war!
Stand by my shield! I'll be your bulwark! You shall see!


Ha ha, Great Ajax. My way's more sport, you shall see.
But first! we hunker down, and then dispatch the ships!


And nothing's better than a long protracted war!


Does this mean that...that man in there...he and Helen?


For many nights to come, if you remain dishonored.
But it is I whose chief commander here in Troy!
And my command suggests, tomorrow we burn Troy!


And by their arrows driven back here by the sea,
While carrying dead on shields? A stupid waste of honor.
The only things that burn that day...will be our ships!
And from the battlements! Who's looking down? It's Helen!
She'll see her husband running chicken in the war.


You son of...I am chief commander of this war!


We vote on this, as proper! while I'm here in Troy.


Do not forget! We are here for the sake of Helen!


Now all you, hush! When I was young, I sailed the sea
With Jason. The Argo was a ship! The finest ship
And crew; our teamwork won us all the crown of honor!


The only thing I`ve won are horns to crown dishonor.
But I will make amends with hateful, bloody war!
He wrecked my home, that pretty prince, with his sleek ship!
Coveting wives, he wrecks two homes; mine, and Troy!
I'll drag him through the dust, and drown him in the sea!
And then I'll rescue, and apologize, to Helen.


You really should have patience, in regards to Helen.
For years to come, that Trojan prince must do the honors,
For first! We must take time to sweep and clear the sea!


I fear he's right. This boy knows how to fight a war...


I do know how to fight. I'll make that plain in Troy.


And so you leave us, to go plunder with your ships?


I'll bring back gold, and wine, and women on my ships.

AGAMEMNON (to others):

A-ha! He's here, I see, for booty, not for Helen!


Ungrateful man! He's here to win your war on Troy!


I'm here for glory, and for high Olympian honor!
You dog-face! I'll show you the glorious sport of war!


He'll bring us wine, and women! Let him go to sea!

ODYSSEUS: (aside, to Diomedes):

What fun. Our chief and best do not agree, I see,
And they will learn to hate, when quagmired by the ships.


The gods themselves, it seems, are meddling in this war.


Good Menelaus. Think how you'll be missed by Helen!
Great Agamemnon. Prudence calls for no dishonor.

AGAMEMNON (quickly standing, then sitting, discomfitted):

I have decided! We will sit, and starve out Troy.

III. Ten Years Later: The Achaean Gambit


Equivocating Calchas! Renegade of Troy!
You left your people and have joined us by the sea!
Your cowardly life, you say, being worth more than your honor?
And here you hide among our huts, and earthbound ships,
While there your people revel, with the pampered Helen!
And still you prophecy that we will win this war?


Ten years gone by, and we've been pasted in this war!
The gods, it seems, decided to deny us Troy.
Achilles and Patroclus, dead for faithless Helen!
All we can do is while away the years by sea,
And throw dice while we watch the rotting of our ships.
My life was wasted here, in vain pursuit of honor!


Why do you think I brought upon my head dishonor,
If not because I knew that you would win the war?
A prophet does not lie. This year you board your ships!
The god Poseidon holds a grudge against proud Troy;
He sends a giant horse, a horse spawned by the sea!


You mean to say a horse will come to rescue Helen?

ODYSSEUS (aside, to Diomedes):

A well-hung stud. That seems appropriate for Helen.


I heard that jest! I warn you, don't provoke my honor!


So great Poseidon sends a horse from out the sea.
And how, pray tell, can giant horses win our war?
By dropping giant hills of dung and burying Troy?


Blasphemous man! Don't ask the gods to save your ships!


A horse from out the sea...built from the planks of ships...
A gift for them...we'll make them think we gave up Helen...


Now watch him go! His wily mind is feared in Troy!


And hated here! He robbed Great Ajax of his honor!
Insulting him, we lost our bulwark of the war!
Our mighty giant took his own life by the sea.


Great Ajax lost his wits, while brooding by the sea!


Gods' breath of paranoia kissed him by the ships.


Your plan, Odysseus, can it really win the war?


It's crazy, but can work! By the breasts of Helen!


Take back that oath! Don't force me to defend her honor!


I know men well. It's men, not gods, who live in Troy.

IV. The Trojans Deliberate

KING PRIAM (astonished, on the battlements):

Is this a dream? Empty is the yard of Troy;
And there, across the plain, I see the sparkling sea!
I hesitate to claim the victory and honor;
Although I see no troops, and not a single ship!
Go summon my good councilors! And fetch fair Helen!
Come one, come all, and see! I think we've won the war!


I've lost my boys, all but one, because of war.
But still, inside, I've always held out hope for Troy.

PRINCE DEIPHOBUS (in Helen's bedchamber):

You have been widowed by my brother, poor, sweet Helen!
But I am now your husband, and for that you'll see
The part you play as harbor, for my sturdy ship...



Get up, you two! Deiphobus! You are always on her!
Do you not hear without, the clarion call of honor?
Make haste, get dressed, and see! They say we've won the war!

HELEN (aside, to her herself):

I do not think they'd leave without me on their ships.

KING PRIAM (on the plain, with others):

They are all gone! But what is this? A gift for Troy?


A monstrous horse! As if it galloped from the sea!

PRINCE DEIPHOBUS (gazing up at horse's phallus):

A great, grand horse! A perfect gift for pleasing Helen!

PANTHOUS (a Trojan priest):

It's carved out: "To the goddess Pallas," not to Helen!
We'll haul the trophy in! A prize of highest honor!

LAOCOON (High Priest of Troy):

You fools! Ten years they fought, and now fly over sea?
You bring that monster in, indoors you'll find the war!
And Pallas favors them! What fool reigns over Troy?


Shut up, old priest! All doom and gloom! Do you see ships?

ODYSSEUS (quietly, within horse):

They'll find my man in hiding, while searching for stray ships.
My man's trained well to speak his part; can we trust Helen?


I know my wife. She knows who'll win the fight for Troy.
To save her selfish skin, she won't betray our honor.


You hear? They've found my man; he's saying we left the war.
Tonight, they sleep; and then a signal's sent to sea.

CASSANDRA (from the tower):

They cheer, and pull that monstrous horse inside, I see.
Indeed, behind that island, hide a thousand ships.
Best brother, Hector! Killed and dragged in vain for war.
Ignoring me, a seer, they hear the lies of Helen.
Hot smoke and ashes will substantiate our honor;
And only poets, now, will make out ghostly Troy.

MENELAUS (within horse):

Tomorrow I will re-embrace my dearest Helen!

DIOMEDES (grumbling):

This slyness doesn't sit well. Where is manly honor?


All that's hot air. It's brains, not brawn, that's conquered Troy!

Poetry For The Ages

Hello. I decided to pursue my dream and be a poet, and I'm posting a poem I wrote. I think it has the potential to be published in a literary journal. I'd appreciate some feedback. What do you think, really? Be honest.


The dinner from the night before
Was dammed up in his gut.
It pressed against the flume
And so he ran into the room
That had the temple of Charybdis,
Bolted to the floor.
He dropped his pants
And turned about,
Then settled down
Upon the porcelain throne;
Relaxing the retention,
Opening the sluice,
Deflating to allow the exodus

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Dark & Stormy Story

Hello. I decided to pursue my dream and be a creative writer, and I'm posting a short-short story I wrote. I think it has the potential to be expanded into novel length, or converted into a screenplay. I'd appreciate some feedback. What do you think, really? Be honest.

The Quaking

The fourth quarter was down to its last millisecond and, although we were down by five points, we had the ball at fourth and goal and could score six (points) in the next fateful play (and, btw, it was the State Championship, with many scholarships, futures, and reputations on the line, not to mention school spirit).

This was it: My whole life seemed to have been building towards this Do-or-Die, To-Be-or-Not-To-Be Moment.

I was the quarterback of the Scrankbury Knockers, the football team for Scrankbury High School of Scrankbury, Pennsylvana, United States of America, Planet...


Beads of sweat beaded up on my forehead (beneath the helmet, of course, but not because of it) and my heart pitter-pattered like a triphammer, but that came with the territory.

And in that last, irrevocable instant before the word "HIKE!" would determine the course of my life for the rest of it (and maybe then some, forevermore, in glory...or infamy), I looked over to the sidelines one last final time and caught a fleeting glimpse of Martha, my girlfriend.

Martha came from a family of Quakers but decided that she was agnostic and had embarked on a personal, spiritual journey that was essential to her personal fulfilment, growth, development, and actualization. Her mom and dad disapproved of that, but they were powerless to stop what was no less than a demiurgic, existential Urge that separated her from the sheeplike, obedient, and mindlessly conformist herd of lemmings that was not only her Luddite community, but humanity at large, and it was that independent, searching spirit that had attracted me to her to begin with, for my bourgeois paradise had become a...


And there she was, standing quietly, not quite aloof but neither assimilated, not quite separate but certainly not equal, either, among the cheering, screaming, rabid, howling and shouting spectators, some of whom wanted me to score and win, others to fumble and...


Others, I suspected, just liked to yell and make trouble (I knew the type well), but they were my masters, now, and I had to deliver (or undeliver, depending on who was or was not rooting for me, of course).

But lo (and behold), in that brief, shining instant, our (e.i. me and Martha's) eyes locked and a photonic bridge corded the two of us (almost umbilically, though not literally), and I saw her lips form the word:


"You can do it," she continued, "Do it, but not just for me, but for us, and the child to come, for thou hast impregnated me."

And I looked and noticed, beneath her simple, unassuming smock (a far cry from the ostentatious sea of pretentious fashion that she was immersed in) that her soft, white belly (Yes, I had seen that, and more...) bulged; but in the split percentile of a second between the epiphany and the gaping of my jaw behind the cage of my helmet's facemask (Time had slowed down to a tortuous crawl by then, you see, for obvious, reasons, and think about the connotations of "cage") I saw that she began to get jostled about by the noisome crowd that she was in the thick of (like a lost, little girl in a crowded subway station in NYC, surrounded by menacing strangers in trenchcoats who wanted to give her lollipops).

She got shoved; she got pushed...

And she fell.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" I bellowed, and, in a transmogrified, blistering rage worthy of the Irish hero Cuchulain (because my eyes peeped out and my hair stood on end, like his, though--once again-- beneath the helmet and despite my not being Irish), I suddenly wanted to rip off my helmet so (1) the whole world could see my disfigured outrage and (2) so I could swing it around and around by the chin-straps like a mace, go charging into the ravenous--no, rapacious--rioters and bash their brains in, one after another, because I realized, right then and there, that I was in love with Martha.

The mother of my child.

But it was too late for that, too late for everything, for in the next infinitesimal nanite of a nanosecond, the gun went off with a thunderous (and/or deafening):