Ashen Cross

March 6, 2019 § Leave a comment


When I first met Bernard I thought, judging from the dark smudge on his forehead, that I had missed Ash Wednesday. And for an instant I found myself in that terrifying world of dementia, an ugly, swirling world of lost moments and strangers with strange voices, a world where my mother had been spending more and more her time. The strong grip of Bernard’s handshake quickly restored my senses and transformed the dark, liturgical blemish into some sort of birthmark with irregular edges.

Bernard dealt in antiquities not antiques, my sister had joked, but antiquities; he worked in the admissions office of Oak Grove Retirement Community helping elderly clients in their transition from independence to assisted living.

He arrived on the front porch of the house in which I grew up and was preparing to sell with a briefcase full of brochures and paperwork. I invited him in and led the way to the sun room in back of the house through a maze of packed boxes and furniture wrapped in stretch film and moving blankets. I made him comfortable and went to the kitchen to pour coffee.

I returned to find Bernard sitting in front of documents neatly spread out on mother’s prized glass-topped table presumably in the order in which they were to be presented. It was a beautiful day and the sun streaming in through the windows reflected brightly off the gloss of an Oak Grove pamphlet.

Bernard tapped lightly on the table’s surface, “In my home country, it is popular with tourists to go for an excursion in a glass-bottomed boat to see the coral reefs and colorful fish without the need for diving.”

I stared through the table and tried to imagine the beauty of Neptune’s aquatic kingdom but could only see a tile floor in desperate need of sweeping. I looked back up at Bernard’s beaming smile as if he was pleased to share a wonder with me.

“This process I know is very difficult but I will help you and your family through it,” he assured me while unfolding some of the community’s literature and sliding it under my nose like a menu.

For many years after my father had died mother continued on with the diurnal routines of the retired: gardening, church, choir, volunteering for charity work. If during this time she had experienced episodes brought about by diminished cognizance it is not certain.

However, one afternoon she drove her Lincoln through the Buchanan’s boxwood hedge and onto the front lawn because she claimed it was the parking lot of her podiatrist’s office. This embarrassing event culminated with a visit to a neurologist who gave us a grim diagnosis.

Once dependent on others for transportation her activities dropped off. My sister and I took turns getting her to church, although a few mornings I would arrive at the house to find her still in bed. And once, on a Friday evening during a routine check-in, I found her waiting by the door dressed in her Sunday best and fuming that we would be late for the processional hymn.

Dick Dillon, organist and choir director, called me at work to say mother was no longer able to read the music on the page and insisted on singing an old show tune.

The worst of it came one night when a frantic message from my sister summonsed me over to mother’s. When I let myself in she called to me from the darkened sun room where she had taken refuge on a chaise lounge. The windows around her were like slabs of slick onyx. She had pulled her sweater around knees like a teenager curled into a ball of insecurity and her eyes were puffy and red. She had raided my stash of beer that I kept in a mini-fridge in the garage and two empty cans were on the floor beside her.

Before I sat down I asked if I needed to get a beer for myself before she told what had happened.

That night, while preparing for bed, mother had spoken to a woman in the bathroom mirror. That woman had told her she was going to die and be judged for terrible sins.

“That’s what mom said,” my sister told me in a quavering voice, ‘she pointed into the mirror and said it just like that.”

She apologized for drinking my beer but that she desperately needed something to soothe her nerves and that the first one tasted so good she had another.

“This is all very natural,” Bernard reassured me while we went over the benefits and amenities of Oak Grove before moving on to the legal documents. “Your mother will have the best of care and be with people of her generation. That will be fun for her. And don’t worry, with the house sold there will be plenty of funds to cover expenses.”

While Bernard spoke and shuffled papers I gazed at his birthmark. I wanted to see it once again as an ashen cross.


January 3, 2019 § Leave a comment

We know how Red feels


The more it is touched

Hot even


But how does Red taste?

Like blood? The blood of Christ?

Wine then.

Ruby Bordeaux with a ribeye

Seared blue

Red and blue coalesce into luxurious purple

The palatine shade of sovereign indulgence

Red meat on the bone and exclusive vintages

The color of a pulsing vein

Engorged with warm, hot, inflamed


The Long Trip to Paradise

November 13, 2018 § Leave a comment

A pineapple cookie in both shape and taste

8000 feet below are souls I’ll never meet

The newly wedded groom has beer, his bride, vodka

Three hours has exhausted polite small talk with giddy strangers

Shades pulled. We are a fuselage of midnight

Crossing coordinates our bodies cannot understand

No matter how patiently the brain explains

Night swallows the East as the West basks in gold

We glide ahead of shadows on the shoulder of Apollo

Classes separated by diaphanous curtains

The sounds of crystal, silver, smiles

Drift back in a cloud of gourmet aromas

To the starving ears and noses of the budget proles

Hush! London is sleeping. New York yawns.

The stomach of earth churns and vomits

Molten sick into the shivering Pacific

Eons of uncomforted turmoil and viola, Paradise

Salted nuts and a cold martini, sudoku, a movie

Words yet unexperienced assemble to be written home

On the pale paper underbelly of a stunning view

I dream of white noise in sleep’s fitful lap

Stiff, restless, motionless at the speed of sound

Sipping black coffee in heaven’s blue parlor

I smell an exotic flower blooming in the travel guide

Her ancestors adorned waving, brown bodies

Welcoming His Majesty’s brave sailors

Ravenous with ribs showing, thirsty mouths agape

Months adrift in Neptune’s wilderness

Surviving on salt pork, beetle and grog rations

We dine on pasta primavera, white wine, salad

The nectars of dry land restored a sailor’s faith

Finding God waiting for them in a heathen paradise

Puzzle Wit

November 2, 2018 § Leave a comment

A bright light in the Texas sky over Walmart. Also, spoke that guy in German. Joyce filled Ulysses with enough symbols and metaphors to keep readers busy for years and criticized critics who criticized him for his lack of prudence and restraint for being puzzle wits. How does one reach a puzzle wit who tosses your masterpiece aside for a fast paced bit of pulp fiction? Is the author responsible for edification or entertainment? A concertina is limited but can still play a memorable tune whereas the extended range of a clarinet playing Schoenberg is ignored and from it a hasty retreat is made. The bright light in the sky over Walmart advertised a special on bratwurst. Sausage is a popular menu item at a Texas barbecue restaurant. It is has lineage to early German and Czech settlers who got lost on their way to Midwest homesteads. Just like Ulysses. Well, sort of. I wouldn’t know for sure because I am a puzzle wit who tossed the novel aside to watch the Dallas Cowboys. My mother’s family is from Texas but are not German or Irish like the brilliant James Joyce. Or, for that matter, Czech like Kafka who said of Ulysses, “one should not write while drinking.” Kafka was an Eastern European puzzle wit who might have benefited from the vitamin D in the Texas sun but he would have found the sausage too spicy, probably.

The Lament of a Veggie Sandwich

July 5, 2018 § 1 Comment


I’m the lonely veggie sandwich on the catering tray

No one wants to eat me and I’ll just get thrown away

Despite my zesty pesto and portobello meat

Ham and Swiss that old standby on rye is hard to beat

Grilled on open charcoal my zucchini hits that spot

Yet pastrami gets the attention with mustard that is hot

The tuna and the turkey breast are popular indeed

Even though I’m served on bread topped with pumpkin seed

Roast beef with smoked cheddar is a hearty midday meal

Yet somehow roasted peppers carry no appeal

Even the egg salad fills a culinary niche

Like curry chicken salad wraps, I might as well just be a quiche

Regardless of my first-rate healthy lifestyle cachet

I’m the lonely veggie sandwich who will be thrown away

For Leilani

May 14, 2018 § Leave a comment

Erupting Volcano credit Steven Hager

Photo credit Steven Hager








I am an active volcano
Beneath my mantle is magma fommented
Sulphur roils into toxic venting clouds

Seams tear through my crust, opening
Furious pools of boiling crimson, spitting
White, scaly ash in the air, landing
All over everything like oily snow

Capricious Pele is offered sacrificial ointments, salves and creams
Pacified, the inflamed goddess sleeps
Dormant for days, erupting again with no warning

And yet I am not Paradise rising
A gift to Heaven from the Sea
Covered in flowers, fruit, and trees


October 20, 2017 § Leave a comment


I have nothing against the duck

They are very well and good

The emerald sheen on the mallard head

In the flesh or a decoy of wood

Yet sometimes they hint of discarded old shoes

On the banks filthy and wet

Then in glides the swan and all that is foul

We are obliged to forget

Penance of a Stampcrab

July 13, 2017 § Leave a comment


If you are familiar with your Old English then you must know that the word “Stampcrab” refers to a person who is heavy-footed, clumsy and ungraceful.

Although I am slight of build, in days of yore I could have been known as Stampcrab Truelove especially by anyone living in the chambers below me or by the fair maiden accepting my invitation to dance the gigue.

My stampcrabbiness has landed me into more trouble recently in the form of a broken toe. Before the age of modern medicine this type of injury might have proven fatal but in 21st century it just serves as a painful reminder of my oafishness with every step.

There’s nothing wrong with my hands, thankfully, so I scratched out a little verse under the influence of Percocet while icing my poor little piggy.

Penance of Stampcrab

Every footfall, an electric prod of human frailty

Each limp betrays weakness to predators

Each and every slogging step sends a contrite apology

Ahead of me, people wait impatiently

Behind me, the swift curse at my heels, exasperated

The price of a clumsy gait through life


June 29, 2017 § Leave a comment

sheep-headThistle the Hampshire sheep was enjoying her ten minute break between performances of the dog show. She played sheep number 3 in the five sheep flock that was herded and separated by two champion border collies to the thrill and delight of tourists brought to the farm by the bus load.

She looked across the rolling green of the Irish countryside, past the quaintness of Glenbeigh village and out to the furious blue of the Atlantic. Her tiny sheep brain dreamed of her retirement and the sweet grass of Great Blasket Island where she would live out her final years. Little did Thistle know, after the spring shearing she would be sold for mutton chops.

Beer Gut

March 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

beergut-oil2Let me first apologize to anyone who was sent to this page as a result of an internet search for “losing belly fat”. Please feel free to keep reading but I feel it is fair to warn you that not one iota of scientific research went into writing this article.

The average 40-something male will probably attest to experiencing some increase in abdominal girth since their leaner 20s. This is due in large part to the sedentary lifestyle of middle age and some of the comfortable excesses it provides, we deserve you might say.

It is, however, also a natural part of the aging process caused to some degree by a decrease in testosterone production. (For the aforementioned seeking a flat stomach, perform another search for “Abs Over 40” and read, or be bombarded by, their sales pitch.)

Tragically, the natural course of things is in no way hindered by our passion and weakness for the greatest drink ever created: BEER.

The fact that BEER is loaded with calories is not news but it might be news to discover, despite what you’ve witnessed in bars during football season, that the consumption of BEER lowers testosterone levels. Worse, it stimulates estrogen production; men don’t necessarily turn into their dads.

This triumvirate of extra calories, lower testosterone and increased male estrogen creates the perfect conditions for growing a prize winning Beer Gut in your odious fat garden, proving once again that reap what we sow.

Many work very hard to counteract their love for BEER with diet and exercise. Others let nature take its visceral course. Whatever path you choose take heart in this Classic Country song Beer Gut while imbibing your favorite flavor.

Rusted Honey

Poetry, haiku, tanka, and micropoetry

@ bittersweet diary

Floating thoughts, A place where my beautifully weird thoughts floating around in my mind are posted.

Covered in Beer

by Thomas Cochran