Archive for the ‘Language of the Leaves’ Category

The Whale Shaman.

“Whalebone and love.” The mother of the sea spoke softly to herself as she cast her handful of pebbles, bones, and wishes. She tossed the handful of pebbles and bones gently pulling her hands away quickly letting the cascading pebbles and bones fall on the patterns incised in the wet sandy beach. The tide was rising and would soon put an end to their game.

“No! My turn.” Croaked the winds. “Two stones and chaos.” He said in a mischiefs tone.  Winds hands wove wildly in the above his head rattling the runes of destiny. He blew into his cupped hands invoking an ageless gamblers habit.  His hands spreading like birdwings tossing the odd assortment of  bones and pebbles skyward. His hand faring only a little better, one stone falling inside the delicately carved circle in the sand, the other landing on the line marking the circumference of the circle with the spine of the whale vertebrae over shadowing the pebble. Not a safe omen. “Once more, for luck.” urged the mother of the sea to her lover the ageless winds of change. “They will need it” was his reply.

With those words Moshup awoke from his troubling dream. I must be ready for the golden wave, the tipping point, an event that like an untethered boat riding the cresting waves of change. It is free, and has no chosen outcome, like his dream, nature takes a gamble with the great world mother throwing great whalebone dice in their game. Calling out the proposed outcomes as they play, naming the changes in midair. Relying on the answers found in the falling dice. Ageless wind was right. This is not a good omen.

This is the intro to my next story that takes place off of the island of Noepe, now known as Martha’s Vinyard.


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I have felt all my life…. that life was a ripe succulent peach
Just out of my reach, just one limb away.
Just a few summer crinkled leaves away.

Achievable by leaning just…that much farther….
I’ll be careful I say.  While I test my footing  and balance myself.
I even think far enough to wrap my other are around the black brittle trunk.

In accordance with my life…..either the peach ripens Falling….while I make my assent….
or mom calls me to supper… or far too often the limb beneath me breaks.

Wind Stone peaches…that grow in central Texas; although they are hearty and
drought resistant.

(god knows they need to be)

They were always small and withered, or pecked into and ruined
by the time I caught up with one of them.

Now there were persimmons on a  tree in the hollow,
well watered by a drainage flu.

They were sour enough to make your eyes water.

They always seemed to ripen without incidence…..
On the tree in the musty forested hollow.

So as a child I tried to accustom myself to their bitter,
yet abundant presence in my life.

Telling myself that they were as genteel tasting as the majestic Clings of Georgia,
to an eight year old on any hot summer evening…. along the 33rd parallel.

I even half believed it….. Sometimes.

Peach trees In Texas are not tall ……and where I grew up….They’re stunted,
their roots can’t grow too deep in the Eagle ford shale beneath our house on Chalk Hill.

Poor things grew brittle, blackened and withered from the alkaline soil.

Like those pitiful trees trying to bare fruit under the lands’ impossible

I think sometimes…. I am caught by the same starvation.

Unable to grow beyond the Chalk Hill of my situation.


05/03/96 10:08 AM Dallas, TX.

at the home of childhood friend Evelyn Ann Frazer.

my Dearest ‘Evey Sue.’

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A slight tinkling sound filled the air followed by the familiar whack of  the narrow wet broom. A sound heard and felt all to frequently  by the blonde blue eyed six year old. “Now cross yourself and pray to St. Hermis to protect you.” Old  Momma Aggie’s voice was emphatic. She was always emphatic when it came to learning to steal.
The old woman snatched the purse from the folds of the wire dress makers mannequin deftly without so much as  one chime of the silver bells Elesabette feared.  Her gnarled hand  opened like a claw revealing the small draw string purse and it’s contents. She had gutted the purse like a carrion bird in one swift move. She was a Gypsy.
“Old Dolly” was dressed as a society lady today. Although, it could be dressed as solider or farmer or anyone except another gypsy. You could get your finger cut off for stealing from the Family.

Agraphene kissed the relic she held in her hand.  The purse frayed from centuries of use. It had belonged to five generations of Gypsy grandmothers.

The velvet bag was only  five and a half inches tall and only a palms width across. Purple,  blue and  clear glass beads made a long fringe down the sides and bottom. Beads were stitched in a harlequin pattern across the face of the faded reddish-purple bag. Each  lozenge had a tiny silver bell at its center. Each stitch, bead and bell held symbolic meaning for the  gypsy band. It told of the trek across southern Europe. It held the fantastic tales of  the voyage to America. The history of a thousand council fires, of births, deaths. It held the soul of the tribe.  Momma  Aggie wrapped the purse in a  yellow silk scarf and thrust it in to the folds of her blouse.
“We should have sold you to that nurse in San Antonio for 300 dollars.” she barked at the child. “You are a danger to the Family.”  Old Momma aggies’ worst insult.

Elseabetta  had known for a long time how important the family  is.  It was all she had known since her mother Julianna had died trying to help  Roman steal  chickens  four years ago. Julianna  She was told, was clumsy, as were all gauchos”  and foolish. She had  screamed  and rushed the old farmer outside of San Marcus. Her mother: Not understanding the age old  dance between Gypsies and  farmers, had died needlessly.  Her father Roman, Prince and one day king of their gypsy  tribe, had gone against all custom to marry her.

“I didn’t mean to kill her, honest. I was just going to scare ya’ll off ma’ land. Hell, I didn’t even think it waz loaded.” The surprised  and dazed farmer said as he realized what he had done. Each Party  involved  went numb for a while. Then as reality began to sink  in. “She was my wife.”  was all that  Roman could say to the farmer.

The council of elders and the farmer  took only thirty minutes to decide Julianna’s fate as a corpse. Their decision, to bury her in an abandoned well.  She was not Family, so Agraphena  and the other wives  could cross them selves and  by doing so Cross out any Malefic  luck that accompanied  not adhering to custom of holding a wake.  They hastily dressed her in  a  fuchsia polyester print dress  and a yellow wool shawl  placed pennies over her life less eyes and lowered her into the well.

Roman’s depression lasted three days. Until, the tears of  his tiny daughter rinsed away his selfish feelings of  heart break.  He vowed someday her life would be better than the one he had offered her mother.

They broke camp at dusk and were well passed Austin city limits heading north  before  midnight.  Realdo Joseph was sure they were safe.   Julianna’s death was not the first time in his seventy three years on the road with the family he had   had witnessed  senseless tragedy. Experience told him the farmer would not talk as long as the body was safely hidden  in his deserted well.

The old Gypsy King was fond of the  young blond ethnology student Julianna. She reminded him  of  his youth  and  brought out the best in his son Roman  Joseph.  But, she had crazy ideas.  dangerous ideas  like his  first wife did.  Elesabetta Joseph taught the children  of the family to read. She had spent five years of her youth in a reformatory for petty theft and prostitution.  She wasn’t  a prostitute. She would lure men from bars with her charm  and  deliver them into the hands of  her uncles and cousins waiting outside to club the foolish gauchos and relive them of their wallets.

Reading. Well, the world was changing. Elesebetta Joseph was right. Reading was good for the family. It allowed them to  understand the changing world around them.  He found himself stealing  magazines from the groceries for their son  Roman. Once he even visited the library at UTA. He  had never believed his wife. So many books. What did people have to say that they needed so many books?  He stole  the  “Aradia  Gospel  of the Witches”  it was the only thing listed on Gypsies in the Card Catalogue said the librarian. The scowl on his face deepened as his wife read it to him. He cursed  and tossed the book into their camp fire. “Pigs filth!” he exclaimed as he watched it burn. The leaves of paper curling backward beneath the flames  like the passage of time.

“Perhaps gypsies in Italy are different papa.” said the young Roman Joseph.
“We are the first people” replied Joseph, “Never forget that we are the first people! Even before the Bible. Even before Moses.”
“Realdo!” cried his wife crossing herself  “do not blaspheme. It is bad luck.”
“You women are crazy!” he replied. His beloved  ‘Betta  had not been crazy.  She had understood  the Gauchos and their crazy ways; Building roads and fences that limited life’s possibilities. Once his tribe had been over hundred  strong just three years ago there had been fifty, now only thirty five remained.  “Every body wants a television.” “Betta had argued. “Joseph the world of the Traveling Gypsy is gone forever.” “Gypsies are god’s chosen” he had replied.

Two months later  his wife  ‘Betta died from pneumonia.  The doctor in Jonesbourgh had refused to treat her. There was the matter of his daughter. She had come to ‘Betta for the ‘Cure’ for pregnancy.  The infusion of herbs  Elesebetta Joseph had caused the baby to be still born. Angela, the old Doctors  daughter was too afraid to tell her father she had misscarried and had almost died of infection and complications.  In the harsh world of the Family these things are  common. His Black eyes looked forward into the familiar night, Her cloak of darkness beckoning them to the safety of the road.

The DALLAS TIMES HERALD posted the usual warnings “THE GYPSIES ARE BACK IN TOWN” as they had for  years. The city would batten down like a village beset by  Vissagoths. I remember the Gypsies traveling through  Texas during the 1960’s. My memories of them  sent my imagination soaring. How did they live I wondered? How many of the stories I’d heard as a child were true?

Gypsy Town materialized each year like a mist one summer morning and  then dissolved. They  would camp under the VIA DUCT in painted wagons. We could see their campfires from the Trinity bridge. There they lived dancing, telling fortunes, selling charms and potions and of course STEALING anything from bicycles to children.. Well, that’s my mother said. We had to look the other way if they passed us on the street. But, I wouldn’t look away. Braving the pinching all good mothers gave disobedient children. I saw colorful people with a strong since of pride. There was a mystery about them as heavy as the sent of  the cedar wood fires they made in their river bottom summer home. They don’t travel the roads here in painted wagons any more.  Many have acclimated to the life of the city. I’m sure many have not. How many still keep to the road; who knows? Why does the Gypsy travel the roads? Because he must.

Who: Fictional band of gypsies, traveling through south Texas.
What :An intro. to their lives exploring a few  beliefs and the impact of those beliefs on the world around them.
Where: Texas
When: circa 1968 ad
Why: it could be informative.
How: a narrative

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Happy Birthday to me I am 57 on Monday the 23rd of March. 

The crest of the year is upon me I refuse to admit to my decline.


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