Poem #6

A gilded house atop a hill,

Staring down the town around,

Through thick glass on a dark oak sill.

Tarnished knobs on large double doors,

Opening to the foreground,

And projecting over the moors.

The towering chimney centered,

Red brick and curly smoke clouds,

Over furled gutters not ventured.

Darkened old curtains catching dust,

A wrinkled pair of deep shrouds,

Hiding a tabled golden bust.


Poem #5

The air vents run cold,

A kind of vacuous rattling.

The wood floor creeks, old,

And splintered along it’s dark grain.

A fall breeze sways leaves,

A crisp type of signaling sound.

Rain drips from the eaves,

Gutters joining the symphony.

Fall is here today,

With its dark but charming mindset.

Clouds are here to stay,

Narrowed paths ahead and behind.

New sounds overpower the hymns of yesterday.

Poem #4

Night and Day,

Are they really that different?

Seems that Way,

But they share the same space.

Nine to Five,

The Sun rises up and then sets.

Works and Strives,

Like someone with purpose.

Set to Rise,

The Moon then takes up the night shift.

Don’t Surmise,

That this work is somehow worthless.

The Sun is,

A light in the sky burning bright.

The Moon is,

A guide for all those in the night.

The split of the two is not even clear.

Both can be seen as the horizon grows near.

For all their different features,

They still blend and mix.

A beautiful red matures,

Forever fixed.

Though Night and Day may be different,

Doves still call at Dawn and Dusk.

Poem #3

Life is peculiar to say the least.

Bustling and Rapid,

Quiet and Vapid.

Love doesn’t ferment too well with yeast.

Bubbling and Building,

Fading and Gilding.

Sadness is its own little journey.

Crying and Swelling,

Dying and Yelling.

You could just end up in a gurney.

Hoping and Praying,

Leaving or Staying.

Not everyone knows what’s in their range.

Dreaming and Scoring,

Falling or Soaring.

No one can tell you how life will be.

It’s really different for you and me.

There’s no changing the past or forgetting the present.

Life is Strange.

Normalni High: The Jock

Normalni High School has been the education site for the Town of Normalni for five generations. It’s a wide building which sits squat upon a hill in the center of town. Around seven thirty every weekday morning you can see students making their way to the whitewash brick walls. All of them carrying an assortment of bags and books and instruments. A wave of people marching to school, much too disorganized and mismatched to be a unified army. They all fly their own colors and cling to their own.

The season has been going on for a while now and we’re one game away from playoffs. Once playoffs start up the practices will ramp up and so will my school work. The last two years we didn’t get very far before a team of monsters clobbered us. Zloy Community High School always knocks us out of the playoffs. They have a massive team of at least sixty players and all of them must be at least six and a half feet tall. They look like a group of full-grown, heavily bearded lumberjacks all huddled onto three cold-steel benches. I’m the biggest guy on our team and I look like one of their sons. And I’m the QB! During games I can see clearly right over the top of our linemen. There’s always at least one receiver open and almost always enough time to get a pass off. Our defense is pretty strong, but our new left tackle, Sean Mattard, is nowhere near as good as Hank Quinton. He was our left tackle last year and I don’t think I ever got touched from the left. A senior; I heard he went to Notre Dame on a scholarship. I guess I can’t complain though. We haven’t lost a game yet, but it’s all gonna come down to the game against Zloy. Our next game is up against Malenka High School. We’ve beat them every year for at least six years and I’m not too worried about tomorrow.

The day’s almost over, just one more class to go. Ugh! Literature is the fucking worst. “Hey!” someone shouts to me in the hall. “Good luck at your game!” “Thanks.” A little bit of a dull response, but I have to suffer through literature before I can get psyched for the game. Too much reading. Too many fancy words to remember. It’s not like math where I can just get the answers; compare with friends or even cheat when time gets short. With literature you have to actually read. Either you know the story or not. Sure there’s SparkNotes and other summaries online. But teachers know when you haven’t read. They figure it out from our responses on stupid reading tests with super specific questions. I hate it so much. We read the oldest stories in the world, which have no use in real life. Plus the essays. How do they expect you to write so much about a stupid topic like how the American Dream is portrayed in The Great Gatsby or Shakespeare’s word use in Sonnet One Billion. Lately, we’ve been reading bible stories and other religious stuff in class. Each person takes turns reading paragraphs aloud and it might as well be another language. We stop every other word trying to figure out what we’re reading. “Are we all ready?” We’ve all shuffled into class now and sat down at our desks. I pick up the paper on my desk; 1 Samuel 17. “Today we’ll be reading David and Goliath. David, it seems appropriate that you start off our reading today.” Thank god it’s not me first. This is a fifty five minute long class and we’ve never finished a story earlier than twenty minutes into the class. That means a thirty minute discussion where the teachers tries to pry answers out of us about silly questions like, why was this word chosen over another? How does that qualify as teaching? She thinks we care?

“Thomas?” My focus immediately shifts. “Uhm…” I can hear students snickering and feel the blood rushing to my face. Where were we!? “As the Philistine…” The teacher starts, hinting me the location. Found it, the first paragraph on the second page.

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.” I can see that the teacher is satisfied even if she’s a little off-put by the monotone.

Raul starts the next paragraph and my face is starting to cool down. This is one of the reasons I hate literature.

Finally the day is over after the longest discussion ever held about a kid slinging rocks like some prankster. I head to the Junior lockers. Some more people wish me good luck as I put my stuff together. I put my books away and bring my backpack with me to the boy’s locker room. I’m the first one here and I start getting out of my clothes. The rest of the team is streaming in with their bags hanging from one strap off of their shoulders and a helmet or some pads in the other hand. As I switch into my pads I hear Sean ask if everyone’s ready for the game. “Are we ready to win or what!?” A collective “Hell Yeah!” rises up and echoes in the locker room. I can’t wait to play. Now all my gears on except for my helmet. The team colors are gray and a bluish purple just like our mascot, the Man O’ War. So, the helmets are gray and our home jerseys are mostly a light gray with two vertical purple stripes that line up with the shoulders. I don’t like the color combination that much, but no one else seems to mind. I like more colorful jerseys and a little bit of a difference between the helmets and jerseys. So, it’s pretty fortunate that I get a special helmet since I’m QB and all. Unlike all the others who have the plain gray helmets, I have a brownish gold colored helmet. It has a kind of brazen look to it, which is a nice contrast to the jerseys. Plus it helps my teammates pick me out in the heat of plays. I put my helmet on as we begin our pregame practice. I wear a mouth guard as well, but I save that for the actual game.

It’s getting dark out and the field lights have switched on. There’s four minutes left in the fourth quarter and the scoreboard reads; Home: 42, Away: 6. I’m on the bench waiting for Malenka to lose possession. To my left the cheerleaders are leading the crowd in a chant of “Dee Fense, Dee Fense, Dee Fense!” I look over my shoulder and I can see our mascot, Manny the Man O’ War, dancing along. Every move he makes causes the fat, purple tentacles to sway and jiggle. Good thing it’s a cold night I guess. I’d hate to have to wear that when it’s warm out. I wonder if that’s the same guy who fell over at the beginning of the season. I hear the referee’s shrill whistle and turn my head back to the game. “That’s a turnover for Normalni High!” says the announcer from up in the press box. The band starts up the fight song as I make my way to the field with our offensive line. Three minutes, seventeen seconds left on the clock. All I need to do is stall and waste away the clock. We’ve got a huge lead, this should be no problem. Can’t start celebrating yet though. I call hike and receive the snap. My left wide receiver is wide open and three quarters of the way down the field within seconds of the snap. An easy throw over the top and a well executed catch. He almost makes it all the way before he’s tackled. We’ve gone from the fifty all the way to five yards in just one down. “A wonderful throw by Thomas Jacobsen and a catch by Ryan Colton!” The announcer can just be heard above the cheer of parents and students in the stands and the lively, but slightly sour and flat, fanfare of the band. We should probably do a run play next, but I can see the Malenka line is being set up thick. Let’s go with another throw and catch them off guard. “HIKE” The ball is snapped my way, but it’s a little too high. I catch it right above my head. I try to regain some balance and scan the field. Ryan is making his way from right to left across the end zone. I need to hit him in his run. As my eyes follow Ryan I see a break in the line. Someone’s got past Sean on my left. He’s a short scrawny looking kid bolting straight for me. I quickly scoot to my right in order to gain some space to get off the throw. Ryan’s doubling back now; heading towards the right end of the field. I shift my right shoulder back to get the proper angle and put my full weight behind the ball as I send it into Ryan’s gut. As I turn my head left I catch the scrawny kid out of the corner of my eye. He’s airborne and before I can do anything I’m on the ground. My head bashes the dirt; forced down by all this kid’s weight. It hurts like the worst migraine ever. “Holy Shit!” I scream. I’m muffled by the kid’s  jersey and the mouth guard. I try to get him off me, but I can’t mouth my arm to push him off. In fact, I can’t feel anything below the neck. “God Dammit! NO! Fuck!” My team rips the scrawny kid off me with ease and asks me if I’m okay. “I can’t feel my lower half!” I’m nearly in tears now. The coach is calling 911 with his cell phone and the school nurse is asking me if I can see how many fingers she’s holding up. Next thing I know I’m on a gurney. The ambulance siren is blaring in the distance and then closer. Then very close before being very muffled.

I wake up to a bright white ceiling. “Please be a dream” I think hopefully. I know it’s not. I try to look around but my head is braced in place. I manage to see in my peripherals that I’m definitely in a hospital room. A monitor is beeping next to me and I can hear an announcement over the speaker in the hallway. I bring my chin to my chest as close as it will get and I see a remote sitting there. I instinctively try to grab it. “Shit.” My arm doesn’t budge an inch. I sit there for a while, thirty minutes perhaps, before my parents and a doctor show up. My parents look sad; my mom much more than my dad. The doctor asks me what limbs I can and can’t feel. He pokes at my feet with a pin. Eventually he tells me that I probably won’t be able to walk for a while. “At least six months. Maybe longer.” He seems so nonchalant about it all. I absorb his apathy a little. The only part of my body I can feel, my face, is blank. After the doctor leaves my parents talk to me. “We were so worried. We were so scared you were dead. It’s our worst fear in the world. Be strong sweety, we’ll help you all along the way. At least it’s not worse.” My mom cries a little and my dad wraps his arm around hers. “Here’s a get well card the team made for you.” My dad says as he holds it up so I can read. It’s got all their names there. Ryan, Sean, and even the JV team. After I read the card my parents kiss me on the forehead. It’s still a little soar. “We’re going to lunch real quick. We’ll be back as soon as we’re done.” My parents leave to go eat lunch and I sit there thinking about the card. “Dammit Sean.” “God Dammit. I’ll never play football again.” I start to cry. Thick, salty tears that irritate my eyes. They collect on the edges of my eyes and roll down the side of my head, leaving warm trails on my temples. I don’t stop crying until just a few minutes before my parents get back. For the rest of the term I’m unable to work or really do anything. I mostly watch TV. I don’t return to Normalni High until midway through second semester.

Normalni High: The Mascot

Normalni High School has been the education site for the Town of Normalni for five generations. It’s a wide building which sits squat upon a hill in the center of town. Around seven thirty every weekday morning you can see students making their way to the whitewash brick walls. All of them carrying an assortment of bags and books and instruments. A wave of people marching to school, much too disorganized and mismatched to be a unified army. They all fly their own colors and cling to their own.

The school football season’s starting up and I’ve heard that our team’s looking pretty good for this year. I’m a freshman so I haven’t seen what they can do just yet, but I’ve heard from some upperclassmen that we have a good chance to win our conference this year. I’ve always loved watching football. My dad and I watch it every Sunday during the NFL season. He sits in his recliner with his legs out and a magazine in his left hand for during the commercials. I sit on our old couch. It has splotches and stains, and a tough spot right in the middle where you can see the spring pressing up against the fabric. I eat cheese puffs as we rant and rave over the game. “Flag! There was nothing there!” Or, “Touchdown!!! Let’s go Boys, that’s how it’s done!” When it gets really late in the season and the games get more and more intense my dad gets way more involved. He turns into a complete stereotype of a fan. Thick polyester football jersey, face-paint under the eyes, can of Miller Lite in hand and everything. I’m almost as devoted to the character; covered from head to toe in my football attire and any good luck charm that might just make the game. The only thing I’m missing is the beer, except for once. I was ten or eleven and it was the Superbowl and we’d made it. My dad was psyched. Our team had come this far and now all that stood between us and eternal glory was a single game. There was no way that we would ever actually get tickets to the game, but we did set up our living room for optimum viewing comfort. This was essentially setting our chairs as close to the TV as possible. The game was a real nail-biter, but we came out on top with a field goal in the last minute of the game that pushed us just one point ahead. So, the celebration began, we stuffed our faces with a bunch of food until my dad offered me a single beer. In hindsight, he was definitely drunk at this point, hence this decision to give me the beer. But I was young and I was full of excitement from our win, so I trusted him and took the Miller Light. I popped the tab and heard the shrill fizz that sent a slight tingling up my spine. I took a big swig. Bad decision; I hacked and coughed trying to rid my mouth of the bitter taste and my throat of the burning sensation. Once it faded I tried again, this time more slowly sipping it down. It didn’t taste good, but I did feel a warmness inside. It wasn’t until a hour later when I was upturning my stomach into the toilet that I began to regret my decision. That and the hangover the next morning all because of one beer.

Despite my football fandom I’ve never played. I’ve always been too scrawny and weak to do something like that. Plus I can’t catch for the life of me and my throwing accuracy is as poor as a mute bat’s. But I can’t let that stop me from contributing to the team somehow. Fortunately, the old mascot graduated last year, so there’s an opening. We’re the Man O Wars. I don’t know who decided to pick a jellyfish as our mascot or why they decided on a slimy marine creature over the classics; Bulldogs, Mustangs, Panthers, and Eagles, but I do know the costume is a hot, suffocating hassle. Classes were over and it was the day of tryouts so I made my way down the cluttered halls toward the gymnasium. As I moved through the Freshman’s lockers, I waved goodbye to some of my friends and answered Tom that I was headed to the mascot tryouts. He was heading to a soccer game so I wished him luck and he wished me luck as well. I finally arrived at the green double doors that open to the gym. So, I meet with the leader of the cheer squad and he asks me if I was here for cheerleading or mascot tryouts. He seems very surely and a little too heavy and hairy to be a cheer coach. I simply say “Mascot” and he points to the costume sitting against the edge of table just behind him. It’s massive. At least three times my size and with thick bluish-purplish tentacles reaching out in all directions grasping at things that aren’t there. It looks more like a colorful beanbag chair than a jellyfish; something I’d lay on while watching TV. It’d probably be more comfortable than the couch. Put this on and report back to me, he says. So, I grab the costume and lug it to the locker rooms just across the hall. It weighs a ton and barely fits through the door on the right, the men’s locker room. I get into the locker room and it smells like pure, concentrated sweat. The football team must have just gotten ready for practice. There are bags, shoes, and pants strewn all across the benches and floor. I pick the first clear spot I can find and sit down on the hardwood bench. I take off my shoes, then socks, then pants and shirt. The costume is weirdly segmented so that the top and bottom are connected at the front of the costume, but I can also step into the pants of the costume from the back before finally pulling the top of the costume over my head. The costume smells worse than the locker room, but at least I’m the right height to see through the eye-holes. Now that I’m in the costume it’s time to make my way back to the gym. The first few steps are very awkward, but now I’m finally moving at a slow walking pace. I can see the walls around me and I skillfully fit just between the narrow space.I’m about five feet away from the door. Suddenly I feel something beneath my foot and all I can see is the ground rushing towards me as my feet fly into the air. I’m now lying face first on the rough, grey concrete floor. I instinctively reach to the ground with my hands, but they don’t move more than a few inches rubbing against the soft plushy inside of the suit. My hands are trapped! The suit has no arm holes and I hadn’t even noticed. I try as hard as I can to wiggle them free, but they’re good and stuck under my body weight. My blood is fiercely pumping and I can feel the thud of my heart. Maybe I can kick my legs and get a little closer to freedom? As I’m frantically kicking my legs I notice just how sweaty I am. It’s getting real hot in this thick suit. Even without my shirt and pants I feel like I’m in an oven. This is not good. I stop kicking; it’s just tiring. Can I tilt myself over? I try to turn and I start to get closer to lying on my side, but then I feel the wall on my back. “Shit!” I can’t even flip onto my back? I’m fucked. All I can see is the floor through my tiny eye-holes. I’m overheating and my knees are scraped up from the concrete floor. There’s no way anyone’s here. “Is anyone there?” Of course, no reply.  “Help!” I guess I’m trapped till the coach comes to check were I am. How long has it been, 2 minutes, 3, 4, 5? I don’t know. It already feels like I’ve been laying here for hours. Why hasn’t he come to check on me yet. Did something happen? He couldn’t have forgotten about me, could he? I need to calm down. He’ll come back and I’ll be fine. Very embarrassed, but at least physically fine. I wonder if I even have a chance of being mascot now. Falling over and getting trapped just after putting it on doesn’t make the best first impression. Finally, I hear a voice. “What the hell? Is someone in there?” “Help me !” I replied. Thank god someone finally came. I feel hands grabbing at the top of the suit. As they pull up my legs gain traction on the ground and I’m finally back on my feet. I clumsily turn around to thank them and see a big guy with arms the size of my costume’s. He’s wearing padding and has a  new-looking helmet at his feet. “Thanks” I say. “No problem, what happened?” A group of other football players was now shuffling into the locker room from the door behind my rescuer. “I tripped and fell over something and I couldn’t get up.” I ask, “Is football practice over?” “Yeah it just ended.” Now all the other players were gathering around to see what was up. “Does that mean it’s five O’clock?” I ask the new formed collective. “Actually it’s five thirty.” one of them answers before I’m quickly asked why I’m still here. “He fell and got stuck, so I helped him up.” Immediately most of them are laughing. Some of them start to go about switching back into their normal clothes. Another of them asks if I’m the new mascot and I tell him that I don’t know. I’m supposed to be trying out. He seems satisfied and sits at a bench. I thank my savior again and clumsily turn around again to get to the gym. How the hell have I been laying here for two and a half hours. Where’s coach and why didn’t he come find me. I’m a mix of furious and worried if I’ll actually find him. I get into the gym, still in the mascot costume. No ones here. I start to turn around when I hear the outside gym door click. It opens and in comes twenty or so cheerleaders and the coach in behind them. He seems startled to see me at first, with his wide eyes and slightly lowered jaw, but he quickly gains some composure. “I’m so sorry. I completely forgot and got hung up in the cheerleader’s practice. I’m surprised your still here. Why didn’t you head home?” “I’ve been stuck in the boy’s locker room for the last two hours.” I say this somewhat angrily, but also ashamedly. He seems a little bit more guilty now. “I’m so sorry, how did you get stuck?” “I fell down and couldn’t move. It was super hot and smelly.” This is in a more aggressive and naggy tone. “I’m really sorry about that. But on the bright side, no one else seems to have applied, so you’re our new mascot.” “What if I don’t want to be mascot anymore.” He takes a second to consider his response. “Well isn’t that what you came here for. Plus the team really needs you. They need Manny the Man O’ War.” All I can think about is how stupid a name Manny the Man O’ War is as I say, “Fine”. “Thanks. Be here again tomorrow after school.” He’s very obviously rushing this conversation, so I let him go without anymore questions and he heads out the door and into the hall. I go back into the locker room and change back into my clothes. Pull off the top and step out of the bottom. Then, pants, shirt, socks, and shoes. I lug the massive costume through the door, into the gym and leave it were I found it. How bad can it be? At least I get to be a part of the team now. I’m truly involved at Normalni High.

Poem #2

The air is a fine mist of rain,

Like breathing underwater.

It relieves my lungs of all strain,

Taking deep breaths in and out.

There is a faint breeze today,

The branches teeter-totter.

The sky is a dullish grey,

Nothing living is about.

New spring leaves already falling,

Leaving home like old daughters.

None of the spring birds are calling,

Even they are left with doubt.

Certainly it’s not spring yet,

There is not a sign nor clue.

Is there a way we’d forget,

All the things that spring feels like.

Maybe our calendar was cut,

Or we skipped a month or two?

This isn’t really open-shut,

It’s like a wandering hike.

To be able to hike’s nice,

If only, this I could do.

Right now the ground is a vice,

Thick mud ’cause of the rain spike.

A little sunshine could make dry,

A way for me to pass through.

Much more of this and I will die,

I want to walk, run, swim, and bike.