THE GOLEM & THE NAZI

Genesis, dusk . . .

With the sweet crunch still fresh in his mouth, Adam perceives a change.  A cool breeze causes him to shudder.  He sees traces of dirt packed into the cracks of his palm and feels like a golem, clay brought to life, raw form kneaded as bread into a shapely husk, and yet, forever dust, coming from dust and to dust returning . . .

After cryptology . . .

Anunnaki writes the shem, a name for God, on a scrap of papyrus and inserts the honied text into a golem’s mouth.  Like Pinocchio coming to life, the golem speaks, “Aye,” turning into a man, almost.  Then Anunnaki writes emet, truth, on his forehead, so he’ll never tell a lie and warns him, “I can cut the aleph from your inscription, creature, changing it from truth to death, emet to met.”  But the golem only stares back with his sunken eyes, illiterate, uncomprehending . . .

WWII . . .

The Nazi scales the synagogue stairs, determined to find the golem, forged from clay from the Vltava River bank then awakened through rabbinical ritual—a golem who can raise the dead and become invisible.  A bolshevist’s puppet, the Nazi thinks, teeth clenched, a demonic fiend who challenges the swastika, a murderous rapist who lost at love, hidden in the synagogue attic (a place no Nazi should trod alone).

He opens the door.  He scans the darkness.  He raises his knife, careful on his shiny black jackboots.  When the golem springs from the shadows, monstrous as a gargoyle, the Nazi slashes at the inscription, scratching off the aleph, changing emet to met, truth to death.  The Nazi turns to ash in the synagogue’s burning, but the golem escapes into the night, the crystalline, starry, starry night.

blood moon
what a single spark
will do

 

Anna Cates

THE GOLEM & THE NAZI

HERE THERE BE DRAGONS

My eyes have turned to glass, beautiful things that can never see a full moon eclipsed by cloud like a pirate’s patch that censors blindness.

A parrot squawks at me, muttering the same phrase repeatedly, a reverie about poetry, words comprising a vast sea where sail the golden gods on glistening ships—Plunders, pillages, and rapes, songs sung to cinch the irony as bull whips crack with time across backs or boards, creaking with sea-sickness, decks slippery with vomited rum.

Elsewhere silence locks like a peg leg, stuck in nocturnal quicksand—Jungle muddle livid as God with snakes.

vine-covered cave
on a stone tablet
curious cuneiform

 

Anna Cates

HERE THERE BE DRAGONS

A Grim Reaper’s Letter to the Editor, Miami Herald

The list and scythe are only a myth, and, though my given name is Reaper-1, my friends call me “Steve.” It’s less formal and more relatable, which is everything in this business.

Animals are the most accepting of my visit, particularly the reptiles. When I pick up the ball pythons, I simply tell them that they are going to a place that never runs out of mice, and they curl up in my arms with a contented smile and flick of the tongue.

It’s not a good career fit for everyone, though. New reapers are produced every so often to replace their predecessors. There’s a lot of burnout in the first months on the job, and everyone has their own soft spots. Mathieu quit on the spot after Dachau, and my last trainee, Shawn, quit the first week after gathering several thousand frogs who succumbed to chytrid.

My first case under Andrei (who insisted on being called “Reaper-13”) was in a small Russian village before Catherine the Great’s reign. The cottage floor was dirt—and cold—when we arrived for the little waif in the corner. Her blonde mops of curls covered bright green eyes, and she sucked the fingers in her mouth as if they were little breadsticks. She shivered under her patched shirt, shrinking from us. Nishka was her name. Little Nishka, followed by Alexei that spring (TB) and their mother in fall (TB).

spring snow on the roof—
drip, drip, drip, sizzle
fireplace ashes

The clients that always tug at my cloak-strings are the iguanas. Loyal and affectionate when they get to know you, iguanas really are simple folk—peeking around a bush, nibbling on a patch of “Mr. Grass” or a serendipitous freshly-planted hibiscus flow, or diving from their sun-drenched perch to the deep clue canal at the sight of a shadow. Of course, they’ll head-bob anything within 20 yards—minus me.

The year of 2010, rumors of snow circulated through the greater Kendall area faster than coffee in a Keurig. The iguanas were particularly hard-hit, ashen footballs falling like missed passes from their perches in the trees to the streets below only to be stepped on by a linebacker named Ford or Toyota. Many did miss the passing cars and revived in the sunlight, but I picked up several stragglers.

Their ashen hue revived to a healthy green when I stood next to them. They usually cocked their head to the right and to the left and back again before leaping into my arms with a glimmer in their eyes and a faint song on the lips.

reviving iguana—
tummy so happy filled
with lychees and warmth

It’s not always mass casualties in this business. There’s a lot of one-offs, typically the mundane stuff—accidents, disease, predations—but also more of the weird than one might expect—asphyxiation by orange slice, heart attack while pleasuring one’s self, a case of the bends, even a seagull who downed a ghost pepper off the dock and drank himself to death on seawater. Lizards, spiders, squid, and mice are frequent fliers, and amphibians are becoming routine these days.

A common misconception is that if a creature sees me, he’s a goner. It’s a myth that we are the ones who cause death. We simply appear in cases where death is probable and disappear after the case resolves itself. Some people—and animals, in particular—sense when I’m there. Blood running cold. A chill down the spine. Even a moment of breathlessness or an unseen shadow. Ever seen a jumpy gazelle or spooked horse?

Some people avoid death or prepare for a loved one’s death by heeding those signs. A twin sister feeling the chill surrounding her sister 1500 miles away. A Liberian nurse filled with dread when Patient 0 arrives and puts on her gloves, urging others to do the same. It’s a particularly common phenomenon amongst infantrymen. I remember a case in Ramadi—2007—where a young sergeant saved his unit from an IED and rooftop sniper in wait by heeding my heeding my warning.

So, the next time you see your neighborhood reaper, don’t panic; talk to us. Heed our warnings. We don’t want to carry you off any more than you want us to, and we’ll give you ample warning of the approaching danger. And, if you happen to make it, you can always thank us with freshly-baked cookies.

shadow creeping
behind house in twilight—
tornado siren

 Colleen M. Farrelly

A Grim Reaper’s Letter to the Editor, Miami Herald

A Prayer For The Man In The Red Raincoat

Our Father;
the sins of man
beaten out of him

    This morning, like every morning, returning home to a cold empty flat along the cinder packed towpath, under lichen covered bridges and across frictionless rancid-black footboards from one side of the lock to the other and back again, holding tightly to the gate rails to prevent slipping into the cut and being pulled down with the swell and through the paddle into the chamber to almost certain death.
I passed a young man wearing a red raincoat, speaking as if to Himself in a timbre that told me His adolescence had been drawn out, and I thought, that thought, that one, that one day He will be dead, and what will be left of Him will simply be graffiti in the minds of the ones, if there were any, who had loved Him.
In His name, Amen.

 

Brendan Slater

A Prayer For The Man In The Red Raincoat

So What

Newport Jazz Festival 1958. The year that accelerated jazz into a new era. The white race was catching sight at black music, and Anita O’Day, white as snow, swinging “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Tea for Two”. Fashion was cool, simple and stylish. It was high-level art and completely irresistible. The world would find itself and the music exploded.

She was 10 years old and explosive. She had just saved her father from committing suicide. Or maybe he used her, realizing he would not die by drinking a whole bottle of snaps in one go. However, the gas? Turned up to minimum strength, she barely noticed, when she opened the window and shouted for help, while her father lay in a bloodstream with a hole in the head. Her nose and the smell of alcohol and blood mixed with gas saved them. She had had some experiments with her father’s “circus performance”, making sure he did not jump out in front of a train at North Harbor Station. The repeating pattern: dad on a bender/mom wants a divorce/dad threatens suicide. “Oh, my dear, poor daddy!” Subsequently she drove her mother to madness with psychological questions. Was she malicious? Did she try to save herself by releasing her pain in this helpless manner; did she really resemble her father that much? She had to find out if her mother could withstand her pain and sorrow without giving up, like her father, because she felt empty, selfless and abandoned.

Now her world should change too, so she could find herself for real. What a process, what a chance. In addition, life, so damn slow, lying right there like a big bleeding sparkling love ball, calling for help.

The fool
loses face
So What

Mona Larsen

So What