A Child’s Christmas in New England by Philip Scott Wikel

christmas-scene_onyx

Hi Folks,

I hope this post finds you and yours well and celebrating the season in whichever way your tradition dictates. Whether its Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, Solstice or Sadeh, Christmas or Pancha Ganapti, I wish you all the best.

Following is my version of the Winter Tradition; at least as it was when I was a child. Ours, my family’s and mine, was one steeped in the Christian and Secular Tradition. Informed by the Christian Bible and embellished with the story of Old Saint Nick, we observed the birth of Christ and the Spirit of Giving embodied in Santa.

I hope you will enjoy this little story of mine and I also hope you will enjoy the company of good friends and family at this magical time of year. “Magical” in that, for many, all differences are set aside and an overarching sense of togetherness and good will are the markers of these days.

So without further ado, here is my A Child’s Christmas in New England (or somewhere thereabout), inspired by my favorite poet Dylan Thomas who decades ago wrote his A Child’s Christmas in Wales and for who I named my son.

Mele Kalikimaka! Slainte! Merry Christmas! Le’chayim! Matunda ya kwanza! Feliz Navidad! Etc! Etc!

A Child’s Christmas in New England by Philip Scott Wikel

(Video At Bottom of Page)

One Christmas was never quite like the other in those years in upstate New York, nearby the black dirt and the pines and Sugar Loaf Mountain all covered since Thanksgiving with a healthy velvet of white; slick, crisp and slippery (depending upon the time of day, night or clouds, and angles of the sun).

One Christmas was never quite like another, but all, from the morning of my eyes to the time when this snow-packed, snow-suited, frost-bit and chapped-lip boy went bounding toward the adulthood that swallows us; left as such to wish for the simple truth of a greyish-yellow snowbound sky, and snowflakes that gave chase and cooled the tips of tongues.

And then there was the radio that gave us the freedom of a snow day:

“Following are the school closings for the greater Middletown area…”

“That’s mine,” said little Philip, squealing with glee.

“Quiet! I want to hear mine,” said Chris, the big brother, chomping at his bit.

“Quiet both of you,” said Carol, the sister sandwiched between two boys and wishing at least one was a sister.

“Breakfast is ready,” mom yelled from the kitchen.

Dad was off climbing poles restoring salvation to the phoneless, cut off by the crack of swirling winds with the intermittently gloved fingers to saving the hands that made us and brought home the turkeys and hams and the makings of egg nog, nutmeg and spice. Trudging in snow, cerrelled and scarfed, he strode like Gawain or Arthur and breathed deep draughts of freezing ether and blasted forth great clouds of short-lived warmth that fought with the air like messianic gospels, swallowed but never digested. His fight was alone in the cold, while we fought each other down the stairs that led to breakfast and a snow day on the edge of a Christmas vacation; two glorious weeks sans schoolbooks with unfettered sledding and ice-skating on the pond turned silver and soft where the seven year wreck sunk slowly in the ice-covered muddy banks and forgot about the factory. The brick factory and all its industry now defunct, but red and lettered forever in the walls of my school and every home that rose from its opening to its closing, decades later; its oral history a tradition known only by the few who dabble in trivia of livings and lives once lead.

Seven days ‘til Christmas,” exclaimed Philip, “better get this letter to Santa, who’s coming?”

The mailbox was just around the corner but, breakfasted and warm and snug in their snow day, the brother and sister couldn’t be bothered.

Perhaps I’ll see Mike McGar, he thought, and his guns and souvenirs from WWII or Mario and eat lasagna or Punky and his seven sisters or maybe still I’ll see Kevin and the whole of the Foley clan and they’ll invite me for egg nog and games and staying up all night if we can.

The days blend then, one to the other, and the clarity is in the coming, and Santa and drummer boys in the whistling wind of carol-singing strollers, mufflered, mittened, and smitten with the instance of meeting a thankful face and regular requests for more.

“Should we shovel driveways? Old Mr. Deanotoris might slip and fall,” said Philip.

“He pays good too,” replied Chris, well on his way to becoming an accountant.

“You’re like Ebenezer.”

“No, I just know what makes things go ‘round… come on little man, I’ll split it with you.”

Each driveway seemed to say something about the occupants of the house. This one had two strips of cement and one must be careful to keep on the track, and, at the same time, in spring they had more places for grass to grow. Another was blacktop and potholed and it might be said these folks could scarcely afford our labors and it was Christmas spirit that gave them to open their purses to two boys of seven and eleven. The Fancher’s house was a grail of sorts, and shiny. Ms. Fancher, the “lollipop lady” in summer, had a park named for her and the icicles that hung from her long porch glistened like silver corinthian columns and we’d get five dollars for just the walk, and tipped with candy canes for the family.

“You boys be good now, Santa’s watching, and be good to your mother and father,” she’d say as we left now moving to the far reaches of a tundra which seemed to encompass the known world. Brother would tell then of Jack London in the Yukon and cutting dogs open to keep your hands warm and I’d be glad that home was just a block away and that we hadn’t a dog for brother to butcher.

imageedit_5_7283274035
8 Prospect Ave. Middletown, NY

Flour, sugar, water, ginger, oil, baking soda, salt.

Dry stuff first, then wet; mixed in a Pyrex bowl.

Knead it,

roll it,

cut it (allowing for windows and doors)

then bake it.

White frosting mortar,

red & green M&M’s,

peppermint candies and red hots.

The kitchen is filled with the heavy scent of gingerbread.

“Now don’t eat too much of the icing, it’ll make you sick and rot your teeth.”

“Ok mom, but my stomach already hurts.”

“Drink some club soda. And Carol, can you hand me the icer.”

A classic “Saltbox” blueprint pressed in the pages of a 1962 Betty Crocker cookbook. The instructions written in a hand long since passed on.

“It’s important to get the first two walls together straight and strong.”

“Here mom, I’ll hold’em.” says the little boy.

“Thank you Philip, and Carol, can you get me a wet towel.”

Mom breathes heavily through her mouth, though her lips are close together. The air makes almost a whistling sound and Philip thinks how like music or the sound of the wind it is. Mom is copying the weather outside he thinks. Jack Frost north winds blowing across the continent and threatening to collapse the gingerbread walls. The weather sent dad out on overtime, fixing phone lines.

Her thumb struggles against the icer and turns red in places and flushes to white in others and the pressure looks to Philip as if it might hurt.

“Hard to push that thing down Mom?”

“Yes, but I’ve got it. It shouldn’t come out too fast or too slow. Do you want to try it?”

“You better do this first part mom. I’ll try on the next one.”

“Ok, hold the two walls up and steady.”

Philip holds the walls up and hopes his hands won’t shake or wobble. He feels his shoulder muscles tighten and his fingers tense. He starts to breathe like his mother and now he’s Jack Frost.

“Steady,” says mom.

“I’m trying,” says Philip.

Mom squirts the icing all the down the length of the walls where they make a corner together. “Ok,” she says and motions for Philip to let go. Mom then wiggles the walls so they fit tightly.

“Hold’em again, please.”

She squirts more icing on the inside and the outside of the walls and leans and takes a long satisfying breath.

“You guys want to go out and play now? This is going to take a while to dry.”

“I’ll get my sled.” says Philip.

“Your big brother should be down by the pond. Get your warm jackets on and I’ll see you in about an hour.”

Sister Carol has the watch and Philip admires that she will be the one to know when it’s time to come back. Out through the back door, the ground crunches under their feet with Philip nearly falling as he walked down the back steps. There is a layer of ice under a couple inches of snow and his rubber boots can’t find friction.

“Hurry up you little poop,” his sister says.

“It’s icy,” says Philip.

“Well step down hard like me.” Carol steps down hard and Philip sees that her footsteps are deep and the ridges around her footsteps serve as support walls for her boots. They don’t slip and she strides like an eskimo around the back of the garage and into Mr. Van Leuven’s yard.

“D’ya think we could toboggan Mr. Van Leuven’s yard?” Philip asks.

“Not steep enough,” Carol replies.

They trudge through the open space of the yard. The snow is deeper there in the open space away from the trees and it threatens to sneak into their boots. Philip keeps his head down watching for it to do so and runs head first into his sister.

“What’re you doing?” he asks.

‘My underwear is crawling up my butt,” she says, adjusting the seat of her pants.

“You’ve got a wedgie,” Philip says smiling.

“Shut up you little poop.” Carol says.

At the guard rail where [Washington] street turns and goes down they drag their sleds around the end of the rail and look for signs of their brother and other kids. Their breath is like pipe smoke and Philip thinks how it looks like they’re a couple of Godzillas about to burn each other.

“I’m Godzilla,” he says and rushes at his sister, “Rarrrrrr.”

“Get away you little dork.”

“Stop calling me names or I’ll tell mom.”

“I’m sorry,” she replies smiling, “you little dork.”

“How’d you like it?” he says.

“All right, I’m sorry.”

“I’m going first.” he says and jumps in front of his sister. The trail is steep but smooth. In summer it’s strewn with craggy rocks and divots but the ice has filled it in and Philip flies like an Olympic luge racer on a Yankee Clipper. He negotiates the twists and turns with grace, ducking beneath “sticker” bushes as he nearly derails a couple of times, then slows to the opening of the woods, where he grabs the sled’s “leash” and begins to drag it toward the pond.

He looks up at the hills which they call the pines and is projected in his mind along the dusted treetops and imagines himself again as Jack Frost; this time flying and blowing the snow into little tornadoes. The pines are his Sherwood or Black Forest and he situates himself among them as some claymation figure from the Christmas shows on TV.

Carol comes sliding in behind him, red-faced and smiling.

“The trail’s perfect huh?” he says.

“Yeah that was a good run.”

The two continue walking toward the pond.

“Can I drag your sled for ya,” asks Philip.

“I’ve got it, thanks.”

“How do ya think the gingerbread’s doing?”

“We’ve got a little time.”

“I love you sis.”

“I love you too.”

The two would be grounded together soon after and it was because they loved each other that it would be ok.

Snowmen rolled in spheres that revealed the green of grass beneath and, stacked in threes we endeavored to emulate the likes of which we’d seen on TV with Rudolph and Hermy, Silver and Gold, Yukon Cornelius and Heat Miser, the story of Jesus and Nestor the long-eared donkey, an ugly-duckling made blesséd in the great act of carrying divinely chosen mothers.

In the evenings when dad returned from Siberian drifts and pole-high wind-chills we huddled on an itchy couch and wound ourselves for a concert of five voices in the firelight, Mitch Miller songbooks chocked with chestnuts roasting, winter wonderlands and Merry Gentleman resting with the chiming of silver bells and memories of our grandparents in Yonkers and the clean streets of Manhattan made glorious with garlands and “Chock full of nuts” cups of coffee and hot chocolate with peppermints, the buildings lit like candies dancing toward a sky that reached for the convening of Santas race around the world.

John Denver shared Aspenglow and taught us the beauty of a cowboy’s Christmas, myself riding a black beauty in the heart of plains with thanks given to the stars that cities never see. And I would imagine his Zachary as me and think dad would have sung this to me if song had been his life. Talk then turns to the wooded journey for our tree and me pretending I’m Tiny Tim and finding a pine branch to use as a crutch.

And in the end the scene descends to a baby in the manger placed by my mother with loving insistence and a wish for another year filled with love and hardships overcome.

Children asleep, parents take the last minutes of this silent night to assemble that which Santa hadn’t time then settle in for a few hours rest and the best day of the year when all will rise to the birth of Christ and open the gifts given in His honor.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower…

dylan-thomasOne of my favorite poets and the man after whom I named my son:
Dylan Marlais Thomas, born October 27, 1914, in South Wales, was the archetypal Romantic poet of the popular American imagination—he was flamboyantly theatrical, a heavy drinker, engaged in roaring disputes in public, and read his work aloud with tremendous depth of feeling and a singing Welsh lilt.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
by Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.

And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

“A Chat With The Publisher 1996” Rediscovered…

10342772_10204117206519161_374920507208225317_nJust came across this buried on my hard drive. Had forgotten entirely I ever did this interview. It was meant to be published in the fourth issue of my watersports magazine The Surfwriter’s Quarterly back in the summer of 1996.

That issue and this interview never saw the light of day. The magazine was distributed nationally with a good response. We just didn’t have the advertising support we needed to keep it going.

It’s a typical chilly winter evening in Ventura as we sit down by the side of the fire to chat. Beneath a colorful seascape by the artist Andre Derain, Phil sits contemplatively, reflecting on a similar night nearly two years ago when the idea for TSQ had kept him from sleep. During that evening and into that night, the idea crystallized into the form of a flyer for a writing contest which he felt would serve as the basis for a new publication wherein the true voices of surfing and the sea would be heard and thereby reestablish surfing and the beach lifestyle as the purely spiritual and soulful experience it once had been, and still in some remote geographic places, and in the far corners of our collective souls, still exists. Simply put, a publication of expression, voices, and fusion, as stated in the Introduction of the Premier Issue. Like the fire before us, Phil felt that surfing soul needed a bit of stoking.
Phil hand delivered the flyer to seventy-five surf shops in Southern and Central California, mailed some to friends in Santa Cruz and Northern Cal., then waited as patiently as possible to see what the response would be. It took about three weeks for the first submissions to trickle in, and then, soon after, came the flood.

In the next moment, almost simultaneously, Phil reached for the fire poker and opened spaces for the fire to breathe as his fiance Gretchen came in from the kitchen with three hot cups of coffee. Phil was back again, in his totality, here in the present. Gretchen claimed her place between the two of us and we began to chat…

B.F. What events led to the inspiration and development of The Surfwriter’s Quarterly?

P.W. Around 1989 I had begun to dislike the image of “The Surfer” so I started to distance myself from surfing as a whole. After a while I realized that I was placing too much emphasis on the collective image of surfers and not enough on my personal connection to the experience. I had distanced myself from something I loved so as not to be identified with the stereotype.

B.F. Who has been your biggest inspiration?

P.W. (Contemplates seriously) Mike Doyle, because he once said, Don’t waste your time thinking about what you want to do. If you feel strongly enough about going somewhere or doing something, go there, and figure out the rest later.

B.F. What goals did you set out to achieve in the beginning?

P.W. A more well rounded representation of surf ing and the beach lifestyle.

B.F. Do you feel you’ve achieved that goal?

P.W. Yes, but the magazine is an open forum and there is always room for input.

B.F. Where were your thoughts two years ago?

P.W. I had just finished school and was considering becoming a teacher.

B.F. And now?

P.W. Gretchen and I are getting married soon, considering adoption, and teaching our three-year-old, Lauren, to surf.

B.F. What message if any are you hoping to get out there to people?

P.W. Everyone is welcome.

B.F. What do you do with your free time these days?

P.W. Free time? (Gretchen backs this up) I’m working two jobs in addition to working on the magazine.

B.F. How has your life changed in the past year and a half?

P.W. I’ve found true focus in my life and a family.

B.F. Did you ever think you would just give up?

P.W. Everyone needs to reserve an out clause for themselves.

B.F. What kept you motivated?

P.W. Gretchen, my friends, my family and the readers! (Gretchen adds that Phil wanted to just give up one night when the next morning a letter came from a reader that stoked the fire.)

B.F. What’s a typical day in the life of Phil Wikel?

P.W. Up at 7:00AM, have coffee, sit at my desk and sketch out the daily plan for the magazine. Then I take Gretchen to work, go back to the office/home to with Lauren and work on the mag until 12:30PM. Then I take Lauren to school, check the surf and go out if it’s good. After that I go to work at the Ventura Concert Theater as an Assistant in the Promotion Department. At 6:00PM I pick up Gretchen and Lauren. Then, I either go back to the theater to do more promo work, or tend bar, or watch Lauren while Gretchen is out house cleaning. In the evenings we watch an occasional documentary film, have dinner, play with Lauren, make more phone calls, do more magazine planning, in bed by midnight.

B.F. Who is your favorite writer or what writers have inspired you most?

P.W. There are five; Joseph Conrad, Dylan Thomas,Herman Melville, Dan Millman, and Ernest Hemingway.

B.F. Why?

P.W. Simply put, Conrad for his understanding of the ocean and the human spirit, Thomas for his love of language, Melville for similar reasons as Conrad, Millman for his simplicity, and Hemingway for his ability to say so much with so few words.
B.F. What is your favorite book?

P.W. (After long contemplation) Red and Black by Stendahl.

B.F. Why?

P.W. Because Stendahl was a fanatic about the truth.

(To lighten things up I asked the following:)

B.F. What is your favorite film?

P.W. Recently, Before Sunrise, and Fearless.

B.F. Why?

P.W. Before Sunrise for its realism, and Fearless for its representation of the strength of an empowered individual.

B.F. What is your favorite Surf Movie?

P.W. Endless Summer

B.F. Why?

P.W. Because it was about fun and simplicity and devoid of ego.

B.F. Where did you go on the first surfing trip you ever took?

P.W. San Onofre, Easter break ‘84.

B.F. Where did you go on your latest surfing trip?

P.W. Cabo San Lucas with Gretchen and some friends.

B.F. Any surf trips planned for the near future?

P.W. Cabo in July. Mexico is our home away from home.

B.F. Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

P.W. Publishing TSQ, surfing with my family, and growing old gracefully.

(My focus turns to Gretchen)

B.F. How did you guys meet?

G. . I was working for a Title Insurance Company and Phil was working for a Courier Company on summer break. Phil thought I was married so he never asked me out. Then a year later we finally went to lunch. Somehow we kept crossing paths. (They both disagree with this entire answer.)

B.F. How do you fit into this? (This gets deep)

P.W. Very nicely. (smiles)

G. . Emotional support when everything gets crazy. WE’RE A TEAM!

B.F. As a woman, what would you add to this publication?

G. . While I’m very happy with the Women’s Forum, I hope we can get more women involved with the magazine and with
surfing. Right now the guys have, well, almost a monopoly on the surfing scene.

B.F. If you could freeze one moment in time in the past year and half what would it be?

G. . Two weeks ago, there was so much positive news about the magazine that Phil called me at work three times in 15 minutes. Finally he drove to my office to show me all the great material that was coming in. His excitement was very contagious.

B.F. Who is your biggest inspiration?

G. Lauren Bacall, whom my daughter is named after.

B.F. Why?

G. . She has grown old so beautifully. I don’t mean her looks necessarily, she has carried herself gracefully for all these years and she doesn’t have to scream for respect from men she’s earned it. She’s a lady.

B.F. Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

G. I would like to be surfing with my kids, celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversary, and to be an inspiration to my children.

(To Both)

B.F. In closing, any thank you’s?

P&G. (Heavy concentration) Our friends, our families, all the people we’ve had the privilege of meeting that we would have never met otherwise, and people who still believe in people.

B.F. Finish this sentence: The ocean for us means…

P&G. LIFE!

surfwriter_emboss

Schematic of all Things – All Things Being Equal?

Worth a second time around…

activistThis poem came to me a few days after 9/11. It was originally part of a short story called “Love Among the Anthrax.” It’s now part of Ticket to Ride. It’s about coming together to achieve common goals. Which goals are up to you.

schematic of all things

by philip scott wikel

I think myself not superior,
but apart,
or better,
and at the same time,
a part.
I think of the things I do as not greater,
but lesser,
at least,
of less apparent impact.
I will not shine in your eyes erudition
on the subject
but instead give you a dim view.
And it’s the you of this that must be figured,
you figure,
and I’ll do the same and am doing the same.
because the definitions are that grey;
the sea joins the sky on a day heavy with fog,
that we must do so together.

Inspirational Youtube Videos

The sun in myself on you and the apparent them,

What first they are not,
what you are not,
and then what I most certainly am;
the I being you as you become the eye in this and not superior,
but apart,
or better,
and at the same time
a part.
And then as a part of the greater,
or the higher,
reaching down to perform the lesser,
or less apparent,
the minute,
the trivial task that strikes like flint,
the power fed feeds.
I,
or now you,
won’t speak in specifics.
I,
or you,
and finally we,
will not give logistics or diagramatic signs of the specific.
Specificity dims the impact of the metaphor,
(the intellectuospiritual machine)
in which to plug the act,
the response,
the thought,
or the feeling,
and then push “play.”

An Artist's Journey

activist This poem came to me a few days after 9/11. It was originally part of a short story called “Love Among the Anthrax.” It’s now part of Ticket to Ride. It’s about coming together to achieve common goals. Which goals are up to you.

schematic of all things

by philip scott wikel

I think myself not superior,
but apart,
or better,
and at the same time,
a part.
I think of the things I do as not greater,
but lesser,
at least,
of less apparent impact.
I will not shine in your eyes erudition
on the subject
but instead give you a dim view.
And it’s the you of this that must be figured,
you figure,
and I’ll do the same and am doing the same.
because the definitions are that grey;
the sea joins the sky on a day heavy with fog,
that we must do so together.

View original post 135 more words

She’s Immune – Her Best Sarah Mclachlan…

saraImmune

 

smiling eyes pouring together

with a voice

that drips like sweet maple

 

her best sarah mclachlan knows

distress

but the first three lines

diminish the difference,

and when one is within their

gaze and song

sweet fawns and flowers

appear in dreams around her

 

dream-dipped tiki girl

lives outside of time,

the “old girl” she says she is

is forever ten,

precocious and immune.

Coy, Honeyed Mistress (Makes Me Long for Shakespearean Love & Language)

KeiraKnightley3Coy, Honeyed Mistress (Makes Me Long for Shakespearean Love & Language)

by Philip Scott Wikel

 

 

Likely,

were you not yet betrothed,

twixt with you would I seek

engagement

and bathe thee

with a thousand charms,

admirations,

and salutations.

 

What of this “yours”

addressed to me?

the better of me interprets

possession offered, an invitation.

Coy, honeyed mistress

this wishing of being

equally measured against

that woman penned

leaveth me to believe

that which I dare not equate.

Thou art more and forever.

Thy beauty is such that

mine eyes wish no other.

 

So then wherefore wouldst thee such address

this intrepid and envious heart in such manner?

Have care sweet maiden

for my intent follows thy lead,

and this “yours” holds implication and power.

Common closing or enticement?

Let it not be cloaked.

Sketches of Spain in Spring – Sevilla

2004_barrio_santa_cruz_sevillaSketches of Spain, Spring by Philip Scott Wikel

I.

I caught a bus in front of the pensione and headed into the fields and orchards of southern Spain and three days without sleep. The sky was grey and I’ve always had this thing about grey skies, sleepy, inward, ponderous. Cafe con leche at every stop was more than a feeble attempt to defy my mood and, mixed with a pack of cigarettes, kept me at least somewhat focused.

In a cafe at the Huelva railway station I ate two ham sandwiches and went outside to read, but ended up writing a short poem.

blue fire lightning strikes desire in eyes

like red tide swells that fold & fall

then merge on the surface

feeding

flickering

wishing to be a flame

II.

Sevilla. Waiting hours between connections. San Jose Del Cabo, that’s what it looks like. But that was another time. Just a few years ago, but another time.

A few streets away from the station I came across two Brits playing broken riffs for Spanish coin. He played and she smiled with a tin can, collecting. They’d been in Sevilla for about three weeks and were making something like three thousand pesetas a day. They slept in a van parked on the edge of town. “Lovely here,” she said over and over. Nigel offered me a turn on the guitar, then helped me muddle through a few chords of “Sweet Jane.”

“Where’re you headed chief?” he asked with a broad Lancashire accent.

“Morocco… Marrakesh. I’m supposed to meet a friend in Algeciras in a couple of days to make the crossing.”

“Not exactly the right time for a yank to be in Morocco. With the bombing and bloody ramadan you might better hold on to your fuckin’ head.”

“Handley’s idea…”

“Handley?”

“Yeah the guy I’m meeting in Algeciras. Talked me out of Bordeaux and Biarritz and…”

“The shops are opening up, would you like an ice cream.” said Nigel’s girlfriend.

“Sure.”

Over ice cream they talked about strawberry season and how they’d done pretty well as pickers.

 

III.

Some young Spanish girls were returning to their school which stood adjacent to the  train station. As they passed, some smiled, their eyes like twilight. The ancestors of Mexican girls embroidered in the Americas with indian motifs. I smiled back, innocently.

Their latin lovers followed the line of their gaze, then looked at me with contempt.

I was hungry again so I set off across the main square in search of food. After walking the perimeter of the square I ended up in a sort of cafe across the street from the station. I ate a sort of hamburger and drank a coke and was stared at by a few very old people. They knew and I knew that I wouldn’t be there long and soon they would be free to talk amongst themselves and perhaps guess where the fair-haired man had come from and where he might be going and where they themselves had been but never where they might go again.

 

IV.

As the sun set over the Guadalquivir, a group of excited students got on the train and sat in the seats around me. Some of the girls smiled and giggled as they discovered the foreigner in their midst. The boys smiled and giggled at them. They were traveling light and I asked them where they were going and where they had been. One of the serious boys informed me that they were on a day trip to Sevilla to see the Museo Principal de Bellas Artes. Had I been there? Yes, but not this trip. I was in Sevilla only to make a train connection.

“El museo was ‘brilliant,'” said one girl.

I smiled and turned away and settled back and noticed two very nice looking women to my right. I smiled and they turned away to speak between themselves, as is usually the case, once you’ve shown some interest.

Shiny Boxes – A Love Poem by Philip Scott Wikel

good-things-come-in-small-packages-1Shiny Boxes by Philip Scott Wikel

 

If we could but place

afternoons like these

in shiny boxes

 

God damn the bittersweet

give me the lotus

and let me dream

 

damn the cold

and how it creeps

and shame on me

for letting it

 

If we could but place

afternoons like these

in shiny boxes

I’d open the rainy day in december

and never close it again

 

Easter Sunday – 15 Oxford Road, Goshen, NY sat on an acre of springtime green…

egg_huntEaster Sunday – 15 Oxford Road sat on an acre of springtime green…

by Philip Scott Wikel

The house that surrounded them at lunchtime was an extension of Olivia and Morgan’s inner life. 15 Oxford Road sat on an acre of springtime green. An entire wall of the living room was filled with books ranging in their subjects from the influence of sea power on ancient history to the collected essays of H.L. Mencken to the essential Basho and a modest attempt at creating a library of the classics. Paintings, in some places floor to ceiling, chronicled the developments and pinnacles of several movements; Olivia’s favorite being the Impressionists. For Morgan it was the Fauves.

Philodendrons, Boston Ferns, and Ficus trees gave the house the feeling of a jungle, especially at that moment in April of Dylan’s eighth year. And Dylan liked being eight, especially since today was Easter Sunday and they’d just returned from the annual Easter Egg Hunt.

The hunt was held around the imposing stone structure of the Presbyterian Church. The grass of the grounds was as green as Ireland and the spires of grey stone in the center of this was no less magnificent to the citizens of Goshen than the Eiffel Tower. It seemed that every kid in town was there if not every kid in the world and the hunt was alive with the same excitement as the classic foxhunts of old England. All of Dylan’s friends were there but today it was understood among them that it was every man for himself. There were only a few golden eggs to be found and golden eggs were not something one could share.

“All right,” Dylan said to Franklin and the boys as they awaited the whistle from Mayor Whittingham, “may the best man win.”

The whistle blew and they were off. Every squirrel in the vicinity dashed for points north, south, east, and west as the hordes descended on the trees, bushes, stones and benches around the church.

“Remember the Alamo!” one boy yelled as he made his way to the front of the pack and toward the thick shrubbery where it was guaranteed there’d be treasure. Dylan took a slower tack. He watched the crowd fan out over the grounds and then made note of the places being overlooked. He then systematically inspected each patch of bushes and stones the others had passed. In one he found a baseball, in another, a Yo-Yo. He was down to two patches now. His father, not understanding his plan, yelled, “Over here Dylan!” Dylan glanced at his father and smiled but continued toward his aim. In the first patch there was a bag of Jelly Beans “this is getting sweeter,” Dylan thought. From there he moved to the final patch. He saw, in the corner of his eye, another kid breaking away from the crowd. Dylan quickened his pace and made it to the spot just seconds before Skeeter Hanlon, the town bully. He felt his heart pounding out of his chest as he reached down through the bushes, pushed aside a stone, and wrapped his sweating hand around the Golden Egg. “It’s mine he thought. I’ve done it.”

Dylan turned toward the crowd looking for the Mayor. Dylan bolted in his direction, catching sight of his father as he ran. He held the egg up over his head and smiled. His father smiled back, then moved in the direction of the church, the mayor standing on a makeshift stage near the front door.

“You’ve done it young man,” said Mayor Whittingham, shaking Dylan’s hand, “now hang tight until the rest are done with their search, and I’ll present the Grand Prize.”

News of the discovery traveled fast and many of the children abandoned the hunt, leaving many treats undiscovered. A crowd gathered around the Mayor and a reverent hush came over the green lawn. As the Mayor extended his hand, Dylan stepped up to the stage and saw the eyes of all the kids he knew from Sunday School, and quite a few more. Mr. Whittingham broke the seal around the egg, removed a slip of paper, and read:

“The finder of this Golden Egg is entitled to anything priced up to $100.00 at Lippincott’s Toy Store”.

“Yes!,” Dylan exclaimed as his parents and Grandpa Felix made their way to the front of the crowd.

“You did it kid,” his father said, “you’re the man of the day.”

One Second Saviour

randomkindnessOne Second Saviour by Philip Scott Wikel

 

don’s liquor store,

a homeless woman kisses my hand

my heart swells and i’m a one second saviour

 

her husband bows as if in reverent prayer

i gave him 3 dollars on thanksgiving and

he probably drank it all but he’s still alive

so he must be eating

 

i see them and now every time

hope that the shelter opens soon and

i know it will and they’ll be warm at night

and less dirty

 

she’s red in the face

with the swelling of skindrenched

in alcohol and relentless sun

but her spirit’s intact

and she kisses my hand

i’m her one second saviour

and they’re happy to see me