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The Afterlife of Arthur James


Arthur James died in downtown Portland on the eighth of September, shot outside a tavern on Jefferson Street. The police didn't know who had shot him, but a witness reported that Arthur had been in an argument with another man inside. Three days later, he was buried with full military honors, including the six gun salute—he had been discharged from the Air Force in August after having flown jet planes for four years.

His wife sat in tears during the ceremony and was given a United States flag after a six-gun salute, which is the custom when a military person dies. When the ceremony was over, Arthur’s wife and other friends went to her house for a farewell party.

Several weeks after Arthur’s body was put into the ground, his wife went to the gravesite and started talking to her deceased husband, as wives might sometimes do. She had brought a folding chair with her to sit on while she talked to him. She told him how much she missed him and how much she loved him. As she sat there, she thought about the good times that they had had together. Then, suddenly, she heard a voice say, “I love you, Honey.”

Where is that voice coming from, she wondered. She looked all around, forward and backward, to the left and to the right. She looked up to the sky and underneath her chair. There was no one there. Then she said into the air, “Artie. is that you?” There was no answer.

Artie's. wife was confused. “The dead don't talk. Am I hearing things?” Then she heard the voice again. “I miss you.”

She stood up and checked everywhere again, waited a few moments, then folded the chair and went home, not knowing what to think.

A week later, Artie's wife went to the burial grounds again. The grave was still there, and nothing had changed. Maybe the grass surrounding the grave had grown some, but the rest was the same. She wondered if she might hear the voice again. She had not been able to really believe that she had heard Artie’s voice the last time she was there. She remembered talking with friends and her Mother and Father about what had happened. They all thought it was just what she had wanted to hear—nothing more. So, she took what they said and passed it off as “her head talking to her.”

She had brought her folding chair, so she sat down and started talking to the grave again, telling Artie how much she loved him and how much she missed him. She wondered if she would hear his voice again like she did the last time After being at the grave for a while with no words from Artie, she folded the chair and went home. Shortly after arriving at her home, she heard the phone ring. When she picked it up and said, “Hello,” the person on the other end hung up.

Helen didn't know who the caller was and why they would be calling her now. So, she took the chair and her coat and put them away. Later, as she sat alone in the kitchen, she began to think about what happened at her husband’s grave. She found it hard to believe that her man could really have been talking to her.

Meanwhile, a vicious storm that had been pounding the coast for the

the last couple of hours moved inland. The next day, the cemetery called and told Helen that several trees had fallen, and that two of them landed on her husband’s gravesite. The tombstone had been damaged, and she would have to come to the cemetery, so they could determine what could be fixed. When she got to the cemetery, she found the attendant who had called and chatted with him for a while. She liked him and thought he was really attractive

After a while, the damaged tombstone was repaired and put back on the grave. The attendant, whose name was Colin, asked Helen if she would like to go out with him once in a while, since he was lonely as well. She said, “Yes, I would.” So, they started dating several times a week and really enjoyed each other.

Then one day she went to the grave to talk to Artie about what had happened since her last visit. She told him about how much she liked the attendant. Soon she thought she heard Artie say, “Go for it, Helen.”

Three months later, Colin asked Helen to be his wife. She said, "Yes," and never visited Artie's grave again.




I never thought I’d be so slow.

This aging thing has got to go.


My body’s stiff and I need a face lift.

I can hardly see and keep needing to pee.


Forgot to mention that I can not hear.

I’m falling apart year after year,


And my friends are croaking.

I’m not joking.


Hells Bells—what can I do?

Oh well, no sense in being blue.

Checkbook Balance



I faced a pile of bills and

a sadly lacking

checkbook balance.

Tears welled up as I caught

A glimpse of sunshine

Through my window.


Emerald green grass

And crystal blue skies

Captured my attention.

Yellow buttercups waved

In a gentle breeze.

I picked one for my love.

Then herd his voice and turned.

Smiling, I held the flower out.

Surprised it was a pen

He looked puzzled,

Gently tugged my ear

And kissed my cheek.


Soon he left and I returned

To the checks,


Life cannot be measured

By a checkbook.


Enjoy the Day


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


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


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


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


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


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.

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