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Contact Mizeta at mizetasworld@live.com, or Howard at fhschneider@comcast.net

Enjoy the Day

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It’s finally cool and not so hot.

I’ve found a seat and like this spot

I’m here alone and thinking clear—

remembering things that I hold dear.

Certain people come to mind.

All I want is someone kind.

No one to bug me or give advice.

If they get on my nerves they'll pay the price.

I’ll wrap this up and be on my way.

Moving along to enjoy this day.

It’s Your Hair That’s Important

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When I was in high school in the 1950s, one of the most popular ways for girls to wear their hair was in a style called a bouffant, commonly known as a beehive.  The hair was built-up on top of their head and actually did resemble a beehive. Somehow, the girls got their hair piled up and then used a lot of hairspray to keep that shape. This hairstyle took a lot of time and trouble, so once done it was not often taken down—sometimes for weeks on end. As a result, the hair could become awfully stiff and dirty. 

I remember one girl who was so devoted to this hairstyle that she carried things a little bit too far. After a couple of weeks without washing or combing her hair, her head became awfully itchy. She thought by applying more spray the itching would go away. But alas, it got worse. She still continued with the spraying, and in spite of a lot of scratching the itching didn’t stop. Then one day she went into a convulsion and died. No one knew why. Even the doctor couldn’t find a reason for her death.

Finally, her body was taken to the mortuary, where she would be prepared for the funeral. When the undertaker took her hair down he found a thriving nest of cockroaches. They had eaten through her scalp and deep into her brain. Her death certificate stated, death by cockroach.

The Many Angles of Love

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can’t explain it,

predict it, coin it or bottle it

yet it tends to rule the show.

snacks on a kiss but needs

oceans to oxygenate for the long haul.

can be an anesthetic for sadness,

inspire soft yielding smiles

and flicker on as fast as it flickers off.

is overbearing when unwanted,

can injure the innocent,

but also be a refuge

from life’s bitter requirements.

can bring splendor to the soul

and body,

veiled in its own truths.

can cause some to duck

out of the way.

comes in large and small doses,

savors lips

and brings out the heroic

in most.

full of sweet fire.

often peaceful like kittens

curled in a basket.

on everyone’s wish list

at least once.

More of Ken's poetry can be found at his website, standuppoet.com

A Poem for Linda

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Back from San Fran and what a trip,

everywhere you go someone wants a tip.

I left there broke and spent too much money.

What you are charged for things isn’t even funny.

Nothing is cheap, and prices are high,

but I wanted to see San Fran before I die.

I rode on the Bart, and bus’s, too,

Saw Golden Gate bridge, there’s so much to do.

Hopped on a cable car which went up a steep hill.

After 3 days there, I had my fill.

It’s good to be back here with nothing to do,

except write this for Linda, and maybe make some beef stew.

Writing Class

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I need to think of something new to share in writing class,

Susan gives us homework, so I better get off my ass.

To think of something funny, like Howard does each week,

puts me under pressure and makes my bladder leak.

Each week we write for 10 minutes at a time,

another source of stress for me.

I’m no longer in my prime.

Which brings me to the topic of getting old like this,

I’m glad I haven’t croaked yet,

there’d be so many things I’d miss.

Our Summer Home

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I loved our summer home. The room ran the length of the house. There were two windows that faced the river. There wasn’t much furniture. Just a few chairs, a table, and an old mattress. The floor boards were a bit uneven, but Mom and my aunts and cousins didn`t care. We snuggled together and slept like rocks.

The family came every June and stayed until September. My Dad and my uncles preferred the outdoors and found a quiet place in the woods to sleep.

Mom and Dad were “night owls.” Mom began to get restless about sunset. She waited impatiently for the dark of night, then off she would go. My cousins and I would fend for ourselves knowing that she and my aunts would return by morning. They had a grand old time eating and drinking and who knows what else. Mom never talked about her night excursions but seemed happy and content when she returned. I begged to go with her, but she just smiled and said, “Someday.”

Finally, one night Mom whispered, “Okay it is time for you to join us.” The stars glittered in the velvety black sky. A crescent moon peeped over the mountain, and the scent of honeysuckle wafted on the breeze of hot, humid summer air. We stopped for a cool drink before joining some others. Then it was a night of feasting and dancing—with lots of swaying and circling.

We repeated this night after night, and I grew fat and content. Who knew you could gain weight on a diet of mosquitoes and moths?                                    

The Dancing Tree Bird

Dancing tree bird standing fifteen feet tall,

holding her head high with nose toward the sky.

She just stands tall all day long as people walk by

and admire how beautiful and green she is.

She stands with pride.

When night starts to fall,

the moon sits up in the sky, so bright and proud.

When midnight comes, she breaks free into her dance,

her head upward toward the sky,

her arms reaching for the clouds,

dancing gracefully on her limb toes,

moving off the ground and back down once again.

She does this all night until daylight starts to break,

then back she goes to her standing spot till evening falls.

Cat

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It’s evening, 6:30 to be sort of exact. 

I look out my window in the glass-paned door,

And there's “Big Goldie” as I call him

for lack of a better name.

 

He is a large, furry, proud gold cat.

He sits on the railing of the balcony, across the courtyard from my apartment.

The Proud Owner.

No one tells big Goldie what to do! 

 

Sometimes he’s in the window 

on the ledge

Sometimes he’s on the railing.

Always you feel he’s the boss.

 

I wouldn’t want to humiliate him by calling him anything else.

Not “just a cat.”

He’s a presence in the neighborhood.

His home is on the third floor

And even on cold days,

The window, or the door, or both are open.

 

My neighbor, Kathie,

who knows what goes on around here,

told me he fell one day,

from the third floor (yes!) to the ground.

 

But he doesn’t give up. He’s doesn’t allow himself to let a simple fall keep him in.

Like an athlete, he gets out there, back on the horse, as they say, and conquers the railing again.

 

An example to the rest of us; 

Keep at it! You only have one life!

Live it to the fullest!

Yes, you may fall, but get up and try again.

The lumps and bruises are proof,

That you have lived well and hard.

You are a survivor!

White Lightning

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Mark and Kevin are the only ones on the swing shift. Though they were raised less than thirty miles apart as Jim Crow flies, in 1961, their home towns remain worlds apart in culture and history. Mark drives to the city from northern Virginia, where he lives among the remains of the first and second Civil War battles of Manassas. Kevin, from Chevy Chase, Maryland, has always felt the waters of the Potomac River separate him from a foreign territory, the South. A land where, if one didn’t watch what flowed out of his mouth, one could drown in prejudice. The little exposure to the war that lingers in Kevin’s world are “White Only” signs on restrooms, bars, drinking fountains in rural Eastern Shore, Maryland. And, oh yes, cars sporting a rebel flags on antennae. In Manassas these are frequent, almost required sights. Some might say Mark isn’t fully committed to the Southern cause. He flies no flag. Kevin’s flag is a work in progress. Working together will be interesting.

After a few weeks of cautious forays, they begin to explore their different worlds. To get a taste of alcohol, minors in Maryland depend on sneaking into their parent’s liquor cabinet or approaching strangers who lurk about liquor stores. Kevin explains you give money to the lurker who buys a bottle for himself and one for you and your buddies. Mark’s experience is more of a family affair. In the woods around Manassas, everyone and his cousin sips moonshine. Late one dark-of-moon night, on an unmarked dirt road, Mark introduces Kevin to his cousin who provides his first taste of ‘shine. Burns Kevin’s throat and sears his eyes, that liquid lightning from a backwoods furnace does.

Like a post Appomattox parley, those sips begin to dissolve barriers. Gradually, they probe and poke a little deeper into the worlds they inhabit. Religious and social differences raise their heads in conversation. Though the one is a southern Baptist, the other a Catholic, they remain open and deferential. Discussions about birth control, celibate versus married clergy, a literal understanding of the bible, the Civil—or War of Northern Aggression as Mark’s folks prefer to characterize it, ease into the room. Not that either one takes an absolutist stance on any topic, but they do glimpse new perspectives on life. Slavery and Negros never comes up. However, it is clear that for Mark there are no shades of color, there is white and then there are, “The Colored.”

Eventually another southern-bred joins them on the swing shift. He is older by ten years and taller by half a foot than they are. This one hails from the hills of Eastern Kentucky, where the land can roll over, into, under and against itself. Travis Mac Tagert, descendent of Scottish scratch farmers and wrangler of raw dreams. He carries his shoulders hunched and his chin punched forward, wanting to dominate the landscape with the excess verbiage he stores in his ample jowls, as if they are dogs waiting for the master to call them to a ‘coon hunt. He likes to revel “the boys,” as he calls Kevin and Mark, with stories of his prowess and acquisitions. He has every first pressing of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, a flintlock rifle collection second only to the one in the Davey Crockett museum, and has eaten real southern bar-b-cue in every town east of the Mississippi and south of Vicksburg. In fact, if you’ve done it, seen it, or have it, he slides the trap door of his bald spot open and conjures as to how he owns more, has done more – is more. The Wizard-of-Quite-a-Lot, he likes what he sees in the mirror, Travis does.   

One night, Travis is sitting in the corner on break, Mark and Kevin are talking quietly. The topic of race peeks out of the woodwork. Mark says he doesn’t think Negros and whites could live together as equals. For instance, who could ever elect a Negro sheriff? In that moment, in that sterile, institutional green, windowless office where the floors are spread out in shades of out-house brown, a would-be idealist attempts to wade into the waters of separation. Kevin disagrees.

“They read the bible and live by the golden rule much as anybody. Someday Negros and whites might even have families together.”

On hearing Kevin, Travis jumps off his backside and barks, “Why, no white man in his right mind would marry a Nigger, not on your life he wouldn’t.”

Kevin glances at Mark, who is studying the floor, then rubs his nose in preparation for opening his mouth. He barely gets out an “I” before Travis cuts him off. As if he’s throwing his grandfather’s moth-eaten, white sheet and cotton gloves in the face of a relentless foe, Travis rises to his full height, takes a preemptive, three-stomp-march forward, thrusts his chest into muggy air that likes to cling about him and jabs a trembling finger at Kevin.

“I know, by damn, you wouldn’t let your sister marry one of them darkies, buster.”

Attempting to complete his foray in the third battle of Manassas, Travis struts back to his corner, puffs his lungs out further, thrusts a clenched fist to the heavens as if he is the second coming of Stonewall Jackson and fizzles slowly down to his chair.

Silence, wanting to take up residence, slithers out from the corners of the room and slinks along the floor sucking up any spare oxygen. Mark ducks in a furtive smile. Kevin edges under the fluorescence, willing its meager clarity to wash over him. After a moment’s pause, sporting a red face, more from fear for what he is about to say than anything, Kevin stammers, “It’s not my decision who my sister marries. Besides, if her choice is between you and any Negro, you’d be dead in the water.”

Second Innocence

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Dour dawns, where do they come from?

I wake up in danger and fear. When did that start? The last few years, a decade maybe. I know as a young man, in my twenties, thirties, forties, and so on, I woke up as bright as the morning sun, ready to have fun, knowing I could walk into the day feeling the warm swathe of life about me, knowing good things were afoot. But that has changed. Perhaps after I left, the kitchen, the desk, the pulpit, after I turned the corner of my careers to a certain age and began to wander about—beginning to feel mortal, wondering how far this retirement thing is to go; what do I have left to give, get, or be; that’s when it started.

So, I ask, what is here for me to make into a worthwhile day? I have the three writing groups, conversations with my son, wife, friends. And grandchildren, yes three granddaughters. Hey, maybe that’s the secret about grandparents and grandchildren: there is pure innocence in the one and the search for lost innocence—no, the search for a path to return to innocence, in the other. I mean us oldies once knew what innocence was and now we so much want a reprise, an encore, a déjà vu. But we fear it’s no longer to be had at this age, because, in truth, we can’t quite recall the look, feel, and touch of that pure, fresh morning-sky-innocence. We feel lost in the vapor of a memory in which innocence resides, fogged over now in a dissipating contrail of time and fears.

Somewhere out of the depths of our past our innocence calls for a rebirth. But this seems impossible. Decades of mortgages, performance reviews, words in conflict and confusion with significant others, strangers, and friends as to how we can do this life together, have drowned our connection with the virtue of the uncontaminated and good life. But each granddaughter lives. She lives in the pure field of expectation that life is here for her simply because she is alive. She smiles and the world smiles back. She is a special person and it is all good.

Maybe in the next decade I’ll find the courage to return to those plains of grace where I know I am special and life is here for me. As it was for me then, as it is for her now, as it should be for all of us, always, equally. I mean there is enough to go around. The stars cannot not contain the hopes and the faith we wish to have about those hopes. But, if we look closely, if we allow the natural compassion and grace in our hearts to have their say, we will find we do retain all the beliefs and love of the pure soul of a three-year-old.

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