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Fair Exchange

Sean Michael, February 2019

The ventilation system propping him up hummed steadily with an oddly soothing and meditative quality, as he sat up on the tenement roof smoking a cigarette, actually, his sixth in a row. Crushing the butt and redoing for the pack beside him he burst out laughing. The label read “Lights” but what sort of difference did that make? They were still killing him. Ah, well, if the cancer sticks didn’t get him, the booze, the dope, or the .38 caliber stashed beneath the mattress in his piece-of-shit studio apartment would.

As he fired up the last cigarette in the pack, he felt a warm body nuzzle up against him. It was his latest fling, and he hope she wasn’t expecting more that that. To her credit, she was probably a decent young lady, despite the fact that she gave it up in the first twenty minutes, but he wasn’t cut out for anything long term. He may have led her on a little in those respects, but it wasn’t intentional. Sweet nothings and such things were simply his way of trying to feel. He only ever pretended it was real, but the women often believed it was real.

“Hmm, you’re so great,” the girl purred in her after-sex voice.

“Oh yeah? In what way?” He responded almost absently.

“In every way,” she said, flipping her blonde hair seductively.

“And just how the fuck would you know that?” He spat bitterly.

“Wow, that sounded mean,” she replied, surprised at hearing a tone in his voice so drastically different from the one that he used in bed.

“Yeah, well, hey…what can I say?”

“Sorry, maybe?”

He decided that it was time to shatter this illusion of romantic fantasy and let it fade away. He’d find another one later. “Look, honey, I’m not the superman that you take me for. I’m good in bed. I made you come. I’m a handsome face with a silver tongue. Other that that, you really don’t know a goddamn thing about me. I whisper velvet lies in your ear, because they hide the ugly truth beneath and make me feel less shitty. If you knew what was actually inside of me, you wouldn’t even be sitting here. I think it’s time you move on. Go fuck somebody else.”

The girl recoiled, a look of hurt in her expression. “Wow, that was uh…”

“The fucking truth.”

“You’re an asshole!” The girl exclaimed, rising to her bare feet and crossing her arms over small, round breasts, thinly veiled in a sheer top.

“Look, don’t think that this meant nothing at all to me. It was really special in its own little way. It killed the pain for a little while, but now it’s back again. I wish you the very fucking best in life, I really do. I’m just not the man to give it to you. I’m a piece of crap.”

“You’re pretty hard on yourself,” the girl said, softening up. “how could you even say that about yourself?”

He stood and flicked his last smoke away. It skipped across the roof, sparking along the way. “I don’t want to talk about it. Look, if you want to stay over another night, I can whisper strings of pretty words in your ear and make us both feel better about ourselves, but come morning, we’ll have to part ways.” He paused and put his hand to his chest, pretending to pull something from deep within, then placed it against hers. “but you can take a piece of my heart, and if you’re willing, I’ll keep a piece of yours. Fair exchange?”

“You’re good,” the girl said laughing. “You’re real good. A sweet-talking devil, you are.”

He shrugged and took her by the hand then led her back downstairs to his studio. As she reached to turn out the lights, he said, “Keep them on…so I can see you.”

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Warrior Poets: Jordanus Jerome Olivas

Eternal Craving
Jordanus Jerome Olivas, December 2018
This paper craves for ink, it screams; “Place the pen in my veins!”
Am I wrong for supplying its escape?
The expectations of an altered state causes the paper to shake.
I perspire at the palms as I deliver what it craves. Pressing my
fingers down slowly, releasing the dose, the paper gasps, “Oh!”
The movement, “Ah!” The moan.
I’m so disgusted by this addict, poetic passages all over its body,
similar to marks from syringes. The scabbing ink, scratched at,
reopened, and bleeding, read it: “Just because my skin is blank,
or because I’m wrinkled, misplaced in some desk for decades, over-
looked and see through doesn’t mean I’m of no use or less value. I’m
seen as zero but one more I’ll be more to you, I’ll be touched by
your fingers and read for my story. I’ll be your hero!”
“Should I deliver more ink or will the page O.D.? It came to me,
“More! More! More! Please!” I get no sleep. I must stop. What will
the judge think? I supplied the paper with the ink, now the D.A.’s
charging me with its overdose and all jurors agree.
“Yeah, I delivered the ink, injected feelings of grief,” I began.
“Well, why?” Asks the D. A.
“I saw what I could become,” my answer.
“What?” The D.A.’s puzzled.
“I saw the blank paper and feared this,” I answered.
“Sir, please stop speaking in riddles,” says the judge.
“The paper was misplaced in some desk, left alone and stressed, over-
looked, bothered by its blank skin and self image.” I clarified.

The D.A. asks, “But why the overdose?”
Then I stated my reply, “The paper asked for more ink.”
“But blank pages don’t speak!” shouts the D.A.
“That’s what I mean. I viewed this same judgement being cast upon
me. I feared being judged just because I was blank, so I assisted
the page; I helped its escape,” I stated.
“You’re guilty!” says the D.A.
“At first I feared being like this page, but now I prefer its place,
misplaced, crumbled, lost, hidden and forgotten. I know my written
words are power, they’ll never die and every blank page will receive
as much ink as it needs, may this create a revolution that burns
eternal.”
“Silence him!” shouts the D.A.
                                         But it was too late. The ink had
                                         already spilled.
* * * * * *
I’m Jordanus Jerome Olivas, 25 years old. I’ve been incarcerated since 16 years of age. Writing is my calling. My style is courageous, eccentric, and unorthodox. I plan to write films and documentaries. If my writing could change lives, I would be thankful for that. I pray it does. Thank you for giving me a chance. Two more of my poems, “16 Years Old” and “28 Phases of the Moon” can be found at PrisonFoundation.org.

Warrior Poet: Sylvester L. Coleman. Jr.

Let There Be Light
Sylvester L. Coleman, Jr., December 2018
A thousand points of light,
Focused; in the abyss—
Shine through Apollo’s eyes, on
Lucifer… baring the
Torch to reveal God’s image.
—An epitaph, in honor of George H. W. Bush
* * * * * *
Though he would not be inaugurated until January 20, 1989 (10 months after my birth), he was elected in the year of a New World Order. I grew up hardly aware of the man, yet made his acquaintance (with contemporaries) through the warm and friendly medium of a television show called “The Simpsons.” I suppose holding a modest reverence for individuals, such as George H. W. Bush, is only normal. I would have gladly fought for his son George W. Bush. But providence is such that others’ would die in my stead, farewell to them, Hail to the Chief! Hail! Hail! Hail!

Been Awhile…

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, but I’m back with a couple of poems and two pieces of good news. The first is my poem “Slay or Be Slain” (about drug addition) has been been published in Z Publishing House’s Anthology, “America’s Emerging Poets 2018: Pacific Region.” This book can be bought at Amazon.

The second is that I am recommencing my Warrior Poet’s Project and will create a new section of this website dedicated to that project. I have two new poets who will contribute their work to this project. Furthermore, I am attempting to turn Warrior Poet’s Project into an anthology of its own through a company called “Fire Venture.” I filled out an application presenting my project and hope they will seek to interview me and help me get started.

Here’s one of my poems:

“Who We Are Is Who We Are Not”
Sean Michael 12-5-2018

Love is not an ultimatum
Love is compromise
Trust
And sacrifice

Love is not a game
Love is a butterfly
A flutter
A smile

Love is not betrayal
Love is loyalty
Strength
And honor

Love is not you
Love is not me
Love is not us
This is not love

The Artistry of Viking Shipwrights

As the dragon’s head emerges through the fog upon the prow of a fast moving ship, cutting the waters of a formidable sea, the denizens of the invaded land turn on their heels and run. Yet, they hardly have time to escape before the ship has landed and Viking men, bellowing war cries, have embarked upon their shore to raid, pillage and plunder, intent on returning home full of riches and glory.
Viking shipwrights living at the shores of mercurial waters fashioned the most technologically advanced works of art of their era in the form of expertly crafted ships that were used for a multitude of purposes ranging from spiritual rituals, cargo and hauling, merchant trading, and war. The earliest discovery of these ships, dating back to between 500 and 300 BCE neither had a sail nor was rowed by oarsmen; instead, it was propelled by paddles. By ACE 350,

The Nydam oak boat on display at Gottorf Castle, Schleswig, Germany. Wikipedia

ships, such as the Nydam vessel, were powered by oars; and by ACE 850, ships, such as the Gokstad vessel, were powered by both a square sail and a steering oar. These expertly crafted ships were not only prime examples of the shipwright’s creative and artistic abilities but their extensive knowledge of the waters which surrounded them, having been built to withstand the unforgiving conditions of the sea. The superlative ships of the Nordic tribes allowed men and women to voyage, discover and conquer many lands, expanding horizons of trade and leading to new settlements and civilizations carrying on a rich and dominant European culture.

Vessels made for travel and war were long and narrow for increased speed in the water, with more advanced designs having masts that could be lowered manually, so that oarsmen could take over hen more maneuverability was necessary, while cargo ships were tall and broad with a set mast. Although these ships differed greatly in appearance they were constructed in a similar manner, having been fashioned from tall oak trees, reaching up to ninety feet in length. Naturally curved pieces of oak were used for the keel of the ship which was meant to host the main weight of items taken and brought home on voyages. Thick strakes were then overlaid across the ribs of the vessel, fastened with iron rivets and tied down with spruce root cords for extra support and durability.

To “go-a-viking” was an integral part of Nordic life as young men sought to live honorably and die courageously, Furthermore, a social structure, which did not offer equal opportunity to all, often determined the role that one would fill in Viking society. Atop the social ladder stood the aristocracy, who owned large plots of land, and on the lowest rung sat the slaves, prisoners of war, and their progeny. In between were the free peasants who consisted of shipwrights, merchants and artisans among other. Those who stood to receive no inheritance from there progenitors were those most likely to set sail to foreign lands in search of fortune and fame, although it was requisite for the aristocrats to make such expeditions with their sons in order to broaden their following, strengthen their war band, and reign as chieftain.
Indeed, no man could ever be a king without performing the deeds he expected of his followers, as the Viking code of ethics demanded this of any potential leader. In this code know as “drengeskapur,” “Self-respect, honor, and reputation were necessary above all, and these could not exist without a firm foundation of loyalty to family and comrades.” (34) These virtues were earned in part by voyaging, exploring, and returning home as one who’d done good deeds and earned a good name. Unfortunately, achieving the status of a hero who’d done great deeds often dictated that kings died at an early age, but a good name meant eternal honor. Without the beautiful ships crafted by the free peasant shipwrights, none of this would have been possible; therefore, Viking culture depended wholeheartedly on the dexterity of the shipwright and the technological advances achieved through his unsurpassed knowledge of the ice cold waters that surrounded him.
Living in frigid conditions upon nearly barren lands that offered little in the way of agriculture, precious metas and other resources, to “go-a-viking” was a necessary aspect of life for Nordic tribes, although free peasant merchants also found a living through trade with foreign visitors and travel to distant lands. Merchant traders from Sweden ventured as far as China, returning home with fine silks probably procured in exchange for amber, a valuable item used in bartering during the Viking era in Europe. Vikings set their magnificent ships into the unpredictable waters and expanding routes from their Norwegian homelands through the continents of Europe and Asia, using trade of items such as amber and fur as well as sheer force on raids. Arabic silver and other precious metals were also acquired and became a new standard of currency in Northern Europe, where previously only cattle and proprietorship of land determined wealth. Discovering a lavish market in Western Europe called Dorestad which had its own mint for stamping silver deniers and Frisian pennies, Viking raiders took full advantage of their strength versus Dorestad’s weak defenses and sacked the town repeatedly, pillaging the precious metals and leaving dead and dying in their fiery wake.
The expertly crafted vessels of shipwrights with menacing dragon heads upon the prow and intricately carved knot work on the sides were used for more than Viking raids and merchant voyages, but also the discovery of new lands. Raudi the Red, a Norse hero, exiled from his Norwegian homelands for terror that he caused and all who opposed him, discovered Iceland when his mistakenly bumped into the unknown territory. Raudi the Red was clever enough to name his new home Iceland, despite its brilliant greenery, in order to keep other adventurers away, but eventually the populations would rise, farmlands would be occupied, and the place that Raudi had discovered for himself would become busy. Raudi the Red would eventually be exiled form Iceland as well for apparently sending henchmen to cause an avalanche that crushed a neighbor’s home in an attempt to steal their farmland. Viking influence has been found through Europe in places such as Britain, Italy, Sicily, Ireland and Scotland, as they had been tenacious and obstinate in the many faces of adversity, setting their ships to new lands.
Viking burials were extravagant and at times brutal occasions. The importance of custom and ritual in Viking culture is most evident in discoveries of burial mounds throughout Europe. One such mound discovered at Sutton Hoo in England “contains the remains of a wealthy and powerful Anglo-Saxon man, probably a seventh-century king” (145) in a ship ninety feet long and fourteen feet wide. The extravagant ship contained a cache of treasures inside a small house that had been erect amid the bow and stern of the vessel. The treasures ranged from a wooden harp and armor to silver and gold coins. On occasions when warriors were not buried with their ships they were set aflame and sent out to sea for one last voyage.
Burial ritual of the Run tribe were far more violent which is evidenced by discoveries made at burial mound thirteen in the pine forests of Gnezdovo, the resting place of a Viking chieftain and his servant woman. After adorning the ship and corpse with treasures, the young maidservant, who sought honor and eternal freedom by perishing in a bellicose ritual that called for her to be slain beside her dead master, appeared ready to sacrifice herself. Ibn Fadlan who observed the ritual wrote,
The men beat with their staves on the shields so that her shrieks should not be heard, and other girls should not be frightened. They laid her by the side of her dead master, then two took her legs, two took her hands, and the old woman, who is called Angel of Death, put a rope round her neck and gave it to two men to pull; then she came with a dagger with a broad blade and began to thrust it time and again between the girl’s ribs, while the two men choked her with rope so that she died.” (70)
At this point the ship and the corpses were set ablaze and soon the flames would burn brilliantly, ensconcing them.
The vessels of the Viking shipwrights were used in every aspect of Viking culture and without them the Nordic way of life would have dwindled and died miserably before it was ever launched into waters. Instead, the use of these magnificent vessels allow for import/export of goods and other trade practices that still exist today. Furthermore, the Norse effectively created the world’s first mighty naval fleets. Without these ships, foreign lands would have remained unchartered and unsettled for unknown periods of time. The importance of Viking shipwrights and their ancient vessels can  n9t be overstated, as they not only carried men and women to new lands but also tradition and a rich culture that was clearly a shaping force of the modern world, especially for Europe and North America.
Works Cited:
1993 Time-Life Books, U.S.A. Alexandria, Virginia. Lost Civilizations, Vikings: Raiders from the North. (34, 70)
2013 Pearson Education, Inc. U.S.A. Discovering the Humanities, Henry M. Sayre (145)

The Edge of a Dream

Sean Michael, April 2018

Many nights I’ve lain awake
Floating at the edge of a dream
Of what used to be
Of what could have been
What will never be

Hanging from a windblown gallows
The truth I know has gotten shadowed
Voices from the shadows make no sense
Distorted visage bellows laughter
Feeding on the dreams I’ve been after

Many nights I’ve lain awake
On the precipices of reality
Of what used to be
Of what could have been
What will never be

Fallen from the tree of worlds
Awakened to illusions unfurled
Another twisting turning maze
I meander in a daze
Alone I make my way

Many nights I’ve lain awake
But I will finally sleep
In the pyres of what used to be
And the ashes of what could have been
What’s to come I do not know my friend

 

Posted for dVerse Poets, Open Link Night #220, May 17, 2018

I’m Alright

Sean Michael, April 2018

I smile and I nod
I say everything is alright
You smile and nod
Though you know it’s just a lie

I say hello
What I really mean is goodbye
I smile for you
When I’m alone I cry
I laugh out loud
As I scream inside

I don’t know how much I can take
My mind bends until I start to break
I need to be alone
So I run away
No matter how far I go
I can’t seem to escape

So I smile and I nod
I say everything’s alright
You smile and you nod
Though you know it’s just a lie

 

Posted for dVerse Poets, Open Link Night #219, May 3, 2018

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