On a sidewalk bench in Nashville, Indiana, a September full moon was so intense that it made your face shine like a child's as we sat holding each other, contentedly looking up. Your love was so sure I couldn't distinguish ours apart coursing through my entire being capturing the surrounding beauty into us & filling the empty places-- There was only one light under the lamps on that midnight sidewalk.
Category Archives: Memoir
My ass is getting dirty with the black soil I'm now seated on, and I don't care because I found the portal to the path that I discovered last night. I had to see if it would have the identical enchantment in the morning as it did when I danced under the moonbeams and became one with the evening shadows-- About 9:30AM, I set out and readily found the path – it's an old Amish buggy path, a series of shortcuts, so the Amish do not have to take the main roads all the time. The funny thing is that they seem to prefer the main roads, and the path is almost unused. As I entered the path's first stretch, I was again struck by a sense of being totally alone. This was delicious, and my pace quickened with excitement, though my bones ached a bit from the night before – Growing things look so different outside of the cement enclosures of human contrivance. Wild Queen-Anne's-Lace, Buttercups, Sumac, Daisies, & Thistles were in abundance. I'm sad to say that I can't classify a wide variety of beautiful ornaments – what a magnificent study I have ahead. My aching joints loosened up, and my eyes began to focus on my surroundings - And it wasn't, at first, quite as impressive as my first discovery last night, but maybe more so - just differently and uniquely: no stream we cross is ever the same the next time. One similar thing, though, was my sense of being free and alone-- I tried to distinguish the things I had seen the night before and saw the wall of trees that had reminded me of an ancient castle in the moonlight. A path branched off and led into the trees and I decided to explore it. As I entered the densely wooded area, I crossed a small ravine jumping across a few smooth stones that surfaced like turtle shells. I noticed that many of the trees were conjoined at their bases like Siamese twins - I tried to sit in the fork of two big trunks but my ass was a bit too big from sitting at a computer too long. Then I scouted and found that I was on the edge of a large cornfield, so, like one of the disciples of Jesus on the Sabbath day, I plucked an ear of corn for my breakfast. The sweetness of my stolen feast is hard to describe - it wasn't so much the taste but the action of a free person that gave it a heady flavor. I remembered growing up on 8 acres of forested land, and when I would hike with my dad, we would always make a walking staff from fallen trees. So I found a nice big stick which I mean to keep as a souvenir - I want to shellac it and make it a token of the magic I feel in this forest. Now, as I write this on my old palm keyboard, I am sitting on a black mud hill in the shade just off the side of the path - mosquitoes are eating me, but I don't care - a buggy passed by and didn't see me – I feel mischievous in my anonymity-- Hiding here awakens the old feeling of an untamed youth - basic humanity that I'm glad to experience again- On the way back, I noticed litter on the side of the path – McDonald's wrappers and cups was being thrown out of the buggies. The garbage was a sign of intruders to me. So I will take a plastic bag and clean it up on one of my forays. Walking back was hot as the relentless sun beat on me, but, all of a sudden, I was met by a fluttering Monarch butterfly. It followed me for a while, and we greeted each other with the respect that royalty should be afforded. Three thistles are now hung on my bulletin board, and an ugly walking stick stands on the side of my door, calling me to new adventures.
About 9PM, a walk began filled with restlessness. Claustrophobia pushed every step with the urge to escape.
Off of Johnson Street, a block behind the house, there’s a dirt road with a placard saying: “No motorized vehicles allowed.” Seeing this, adventure presented itself, and the toes turned into it.
Picking up the pace, the town passed slowly out of sight, opening up to another world where trees, crickets, and frogs sounded their background uproar.
The moon was so bright its light enveloped everything with an aural glow overwhelming the feet to continue. Giant trees imagined the walls for ancient wood-folk castles–fields were charged with dancing fairies who rejoiced in the open-faced moon.
The heart swelled like one in love. Discerning a zest for life reigning at the moment was recreating a being unencumbered. Bullying thoughts fell off like a worn-out shell reborn in the cycle of youthful creation, timeless as the stars singing the moon.
The Big Dipper hung low and was twinkling down its magic dust. Every step on the Amish buggy path unveiled a new & more phenomenal beauty. The smell of Amish wood smoke, the silence, the rock formations, the hills, and trees–Every last moment was jealous of the next.
How did such a paradise exist so near to home? There is rapture here. It must be a star-gate to another parallel dimension.
Hours passed, which seemed only a minute. The light of the moon now hid behind some haunting trees.
Shadows leaped out from everywhere, with a dog’s howl in the distance. Fears jabbered within- what if? what if? –But, rejecting those fabrications, the realization arose that there was nothing to be afraid of. The dark stretch was just another kind of beauty to be enjoyed and embraced as part of the whole adventure.
Being alive seemed to take on a new sense of meaning, listening to those night sounds & to the darkness. The earth’s odors were spicy as an overpowering balm filling the nose and lungs with wholesome delight; mint, maple leaves, and muck combined.
Where the road concluded seemed impossible, for it was several miles away. Somehow, over 5 miles passed under exploring feet. The return journey was just as spectacular. A spectator in what seemed to be an elaborate dream finally arrived home a little more than an hour after setting out.
In the house, a reoccurring childhood dream came to mind. It was about finding a hidden path that was the shortcut to a distant Shangri-La.
Now that dream felt like it had become a reality. Imagine where feet were headed the following day?
a wild little elf with wide-eyed wonderment I was magically alive and frolicked owner of a child's idyllic home named Cherrybrook all by himself, dad constructed a house in the late 1950s from a dilapidated 1800s barn our spread was situated on eight acres of untamed sugar-bush forests with old wagon trails crisscrossing the woods hung with grapevines dad also made a lake with a dock to dive and fish from filled with bluegill, catfish, and frogs turtles, ducks, snakes, muskrat, and heron (I loved the wildlife in my back yard) here, nature's drama was constantly unfolding and I ran as untamed as the land I was possessed of an ancient wood-lore spirit swiftly hopping rocks down gurgling ravines catching crayfish and salamander barehanded climbing trees and shaving my own spears making my own sling from leather bootlaces lord of my enchanted world with my tawny German Shepherd, Major he looked like the famous Rin-Tin-Tin and loved a little boy half his size lolling his slobbery tongue with a smile he loved to chase sticks and chew them into bits, until his gums would bleed next to me, Maj ran, grinning at me in our wild outdoor freedom, but protective as a mother bear we were easy whether I pretended to be an Indian or cowboy or spaceman I could be anything I fancied, and shapeshifted while leaping along in the forest for I was a scrubby little wood creature
© Brian Hodgkinson Jr. (aka) –Limericist 2007/2021
Sitting in class during 6th grade, waiting for the teacher's arrival, a few kids engaged in a conversation about whether there was life after death. My best friend was John. His father was a noted geologist who worked for the metallurgical society in Ohio. Like his father, John was an atheist. He was adamant that we just go to the soil to be eaten by worms after we die. And that's all there is; there is no soul or spirit. Somehow, that made no sense to my 10-year-old mind because I lived with a deep sensibility of the unseen even then. John got bitterly angry with me because I said I believed there is life after death. He even said he couldn't be my friend anymore if I persisted in accepting it. My father never went to church, and I was pretty irreligious too. Still, from my earliest memories, I lived with the feeling of an unseen realm. I felt I was even visited on occasion. So, my belief was not conditioned by a religious upbringing at all. John invited me on a picnic to meet his scientist father. It was an annual picnic for the metallurgic group his father worked for. John's father soon cornered me and asked me about my belief in an afterlife. He assured me that it didn't exist, that his scientific knowledge proved it didn't. Then he said that unless I gave up what I believed, I could not be his son's friend anymore. Wow, a 10-year-old was a threat to a scientist. I felt like I was on another planet. It's important to note, I never pushed or preached my point of view. Others would draw me out by asking my opinion, and I was simply honest to state what it was. After the picnic, John caught me at school and told me that his father had forbidden him to be my friend anymore. He said he would honor his father's wishes and that was that -- unless I renounced believing in an unseen world. I told John that I couldn't stop trusting in some kind of life after death, though I had no idea exactly what it consisted of. Emboldened by his father's decree, he made fun of me in front of the other kids. I told him that I would make a bet with him. He agreed. I said, "Whatever currency is on the other side, a hundred." He scoffing, laughed, and said, "No worries." John never spoke to me again. 55 years later, I still hope I don't have the opportunity to say I told you so.
In Memory of Imbayi Francis
We walked together
with many smiles on those dusty Kenyan roads.
You taught me how to see
through your African face. We laughed. We wept.
I was a young, 28-year-old, hot-headed foreigner,
but you patiently led me by the hand
and showed me your home, taught me your language and customs.
You were my multilingual interpreter.
You were wise, and I, often, foolish.
So many times, I tested you,
challenged by my inability to patiently listen.
and heard between the lines for me.
Your smile was always on the ready,
a palliative measure against my frustration.
You were the consummate diplomat.
You were the wise old man of twenty-five —
I, the American
who was supposed to know everything. Right? Nope.
You were also a tough footballer with feet like iron.
That afternoon on Shibuli field,
I was supposed to be the striker.
You accidentally confused the side of my knee for the ball.
I was hobbled on a crutch for a year. Ouch.
We always enjoyed each other’s company.
You became my best friend. I believe you felt the same of me.
You understood I was the lost child there.
You guided me patiently
and taught me how to love Africa
despite my culture shock.
That sad day, you went to your last bed of pain.
Diabetes unwound you
until your black eyes disappeared behind your smile forever. You faded away.
You were a friend of the Savior.
He carried you across in peace.
Now you know the whole story.
A piece of me left with you. O Francis Imbayi.
My eyes see more now because you once knew me
as a friend – and I knew you,
African wise man.
Brian Hodgkinson Jr. 2007
O moon, why are you vain tonight?
inflated with yourself so bright
I walk this forest meadow lit
by your luminescent grin
You cause the trees to cast about
as giants stumble when they doubt
from shadow creatures thin and stout
the crickets make a din
I see a chanted castle grand
upon a misted hilltop stand
it’s stretching out a ghostly hand
that tempts me to come in
The vision dimmed, the nightshades grew
your swollen face turned black and blue
eclipsed your glare, I lost my view
the portal closed within
I groped along the stone-toothed road
now dark as muck, though once it glowed,
and felt as if I should have slowed
to wait for you again.
Traumatic experiences are always present-tense to us. I am writing my earliest childhood memories as they happened to me 60 years ago:
He lumbers up the stairs and smacks the door. “Are you home?” he roars. Mom sign-languages me not to make a peep. She pretends that she wants him to go away. Through the door, he hears her snicker and tries to force his way in, bawling his protests of being kept out.
I’m only three, but I help my mother hold the door closed, terrified. She pretends she wants to keep him out, but her smile is a fishy giveaway. She slurs her words and smells like what she’s drinking. The loud man comes in after banging and cursing. He smells just like her, a combination of cigarettes and drinks.
The man likes big-time wrestling and sits staring at a black-and-white TV in the smoke-hazy room. On it, big fat bodies are slapping each other. Brown bottles with cigarette butts litter the dingy room. In a stairwell with itching eyes, a 3-year-old boy watches.
Later, alone in my crib, I wait for someone to act like my mother. I wallow in a day-old mess, soaked and cold. A coke bottle with a rubber nipple stuck on it next to me.
Next scene, mom with thick reddish hair sits across a glossy table with her face in her hands, sobbing and repeating, “I don’t want to give you up.” She turns to me and begs, “Please always take care of your little brother.” I hear her but forbid her words. My mind argues, “You can’t do this. You are not leaving. I don’t accept this. This can’t stand.”
Next, my brother and I are in a vast open dormitory-style room lined with cribs. I mark the one that’s my brother’s and watch it like a security guard. I am protective since our mother hasn’t returned yet. Likewise, I fear they may try and take away my brother too.
Above my bed, a square hatch is on the ceiling. It looks like a little door above my head. The other kids tell me that the boogeyman lives up there and will come down to eat me when I sleep. I am not planning to sleep ever again anyway.
All night, I tried my hardest to always watch my brother’s crib and the little door above. But waking in the morning only to discover my brother is gone. Enduring incredible frustration and fear, I am panicking.
Not only that, but I run around in circles asking everyone if they know where my little brother is. I am taken to a fat man behind a desk who tries to cool me down. He offers me candy and toys if I only stop my fussing. He says I don’t have a brother anymore, and I have to get used to the idea. I become louder and more tearful, shouting, “NO, no, no!” Toys and candy are nothing to me. I WANT MY BROTHER NOW!
Forlorn and miserable, I’m led back to the playroom. A boy named Jimmy tinkles on a metal firetruck while I watch. He says my little brother won’t ever be coming back. He continues, “Once they take them, they never come back.” I cannot accept this. Overwhelmed with grief, I blackout. I was told later that I was taken to the emergency room.
To my relief, my brother returns. I had crashed so entirely that they feared for my life. There were no two ways about it. My brother and I would stay together.
Next scene, our adoption agent, Mrs. Robinson, tells me that some friendly people want to be our new parents. I’m still convinced my real mother is going to pick us up. Furthermore, my mind tells me that I shouldn’t be in this situation. I already have a mom.
The day comes, Mrs. Robinson takes me to the bathroom and dunks my head in a sink full of hot water. She’s anything but gentle. I fight her off. Business-like, she teaches that I must make an excellent impression on our possible new parents. She rubs my ears red, noting how filthy I am. My brother isn’t with us because only I can talk articulately. I also can understand him, but no one else can. Mrs. Robinson drives me to a big red house with a lake. She tells me to go up to the giant front door and knock. I’m scared, but follow orders.
A beautiful blond-haired lady with a warm smile greets me, inviting me in. We sit at a wooden table in a dim room. She uses several telephone books to get my face higher than the table. She is pleasant and expresses surprise at how well we can talk together. I am her “little gentleman caller.”
I don’t remember what we discussed, but I sure liked talking to her. She asked if I wanted some coffee. Then she asked if I knew what coffee was. “Yes.” I fibbed. I did not want to miss out on whatever she was offering. She put warm milk with lots of sugar in a cup with a dribble of coffee. The problem is, I am lactose intolerant.
In a very few minutes, my eyes open wide with that urge. I shout, “I have to shit!” Shocked, she thought it hilarious. She asks, “What did you say?” I repeat myself. I warn her that if you don’t get me to a toilet right away, I will shit myself. She leads me to the bathroom. She asks me how I learned the word shit.
Her question puzzles me. She tells me that the word shit is a bad word. I misunderstand because, to me, a bad word means the wrong meaning. I argue, “shit is the word and I have to shit now.” She explains that “unintelligent people” use that word. If I want to be polite and intelligent, I say, “BM.” I insist that the word shit is the correct word.
She replies patiently, “It’s okay. I thought you were an intelligent and polite boy. But I could be mistaken.” So, to impress her, I repeat, “BM, BM, BM, I have to go BM.” In this way, I experienced my first lesson from my beautiful mother-to-be.
a crossroad day
arrives with a soliloquy of
sweat drenches the bed
an overhead fan is moving
very slowly (flies are hopping a ride)
i watch it be useless
it hums hypnotic
tears run sideways to the ears
i smell bad to myself
nose itches filled with disgusting
black boogers from sooty smog
a cacophony day and night
from please-honk-okay vehicles
blaring laaree gari & motor-ricks
traveling some 40-odd kilometers
from the airport to Ramat Hotel
clingy sounds and smells
follow into the room
and onto the bed
jet-lag & bleary-eyed
lying in bed and watching a fan
in Mumbai near Grant Rd train station
there to speak at a college
but feeling useless and empty
beat-up from family issues
numb from paddle-wheel
self-pity throat-sobs convulse
but hear an almost audible voice and
know it from some distant long-ago life
and realize a lost child is speaking up
to prevent self-destructing
by a reality-check
there is only one
you & i
must live with
on this earth
here and now
and it is me
so why should you shame
your undivorceable life partner?
you are your own traveling companion
from this moment to your last breath
and possibly beyond
so why waste the journey
trying to change what you cannot?
side with anyone against yourself
no more from now until my last breath
vow to honor, respect, and love
me, myself, and i
from this now to every other
as the very best way
to honor my source
the other dress-up self scoffs
its familiar diatribe began
it is all gone
pronounce it & say it
certify yourself a failure
wrong to the root
hearing the familiar mantra
a legion demon-voice
mimicking mine in a thousand others
that crossroad day
the next moment budded like a spring day
from hearing my forever-young child
its word is here now
and always nearer than my breath
knowing now with fresh self-respecting eyes
no matter how I try to hold them close
and shoving is futile
for these cannot be anything else
then what they already are
must use the bathroom
almost would rather piddle the bed
resisting the strange fishy commode
venture to tinkle in its hole
do not know how long i lay in that putrid bed
lost track of time — it may have been days
I feel a new adventure beginning
living with myself on my terms
with my child at one with source
from now on determined
to cultivate the experience
my own best friend
from that crossroad day
the child wants to soar through
former shadows up and out
making them into new playthings
for everything is a chance to allow
the constant romance
it can seem like a long way off
to reach a crossroad day
the junction can be found
where the pain is seen as only pain
and nothing more
not someone or your self
Never allow yourself
to be taken hostage
by the story of
another but also
you may be
ignore the parroting mimic
those false dress-up selves
who would steal your voice
and your very life
then you will discover
your child is always waiting
to come out
the giggle of a child resurfaced
lying on a wet stinky bed near a train station
on a crossroad day
Have I done all I can do? When the answer is “yes,” what else is there? What else? The echoing becomes my voice accusing me. Maybe, just maybe, I overlooked some loose-end. Maybe? Or did I do it on purpose, deceiving myself that I was ignorant? What else. What else. What else. ???
What did I leave out? What did I press too hard? It wasn’t my fault. Or was it? I’m not responsible. Or am I? Of course, I am. Not. Am. Not. Am.
There was a town in Alabama I passed through called Bug Tussle. I stopped at a ma and pop’s gas-station and asked how the town got its name. They said some folks had seen two bugs wrestling in the street, hence the name.
Call my mind that too.