Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Among the Common

By Pamela R. Cone

When you hear warning signs and still keep walking the results are
equivalent to stumbling into a snow storm. Your only reason is what you
have been searching for has suddenly appeared on the other side of the
hill. These sightings are rare. You have come to realize you weren't meant
to walk among the common. You don’t exactly blend in no matter the
intellectual composition of the crowd. Your last attempt was an affair held
in some place you wouldn't normally frequent. You introduced yourself but
your name didn't sound familiar in their pitches. And their tongues seemed
to cling to the roof of their mouths like that of liars. This is why you
are searching for this aberration reported by those consecrated to the
same. Your allegiance to one another is tighter than the secret hand shakes
other members of various clubs salute one another with. Armed with a flash
light, you hope you won't return still common.


We all are but men. The wicked man preys on the common. The ignorant man
who stands head bowed holding his hat in shame. The shame of being hungry
and powerless. His faith in a creator to lift up his formation. The father
to even the bastard. To him, his soul sits high, his words silver flowing
from his tongue. But the vile man's lips are his own. He refuses to exalt
another. He stands high at every corner. With bloody hands he professes
himself. He too is but a man.


The street was crowded with people headed all in the same direction. Moving
as if an alarm had sounded warning them of the end of time. They marched
like slow stepping soldiers headed for certain death with their eyes
looking straight ahead. No one was directing them; but they all were
responding to the same voice shouting orders over the intercom in their
mind. In the background haunting music played providing them their rhythm.
Their destination seemed un-mark able and their passage incessant.


Riding on the street car, the passing streets are untitled. They're
intertwined like a spool of yarn finally unraveling at the intersection of
town where the homeless woman searches for her lost life buried in her
rubble. Her face is exposed. But her identity is found on the stamped
passport she keeps strapped to her waist telling of places she once roamed.
The sidewalk will roll up at dusk--both tired of the feet that has tread on
them all day. Their assigned position in life, it seems, is to scurry for
the crumbs that fall from the table, to answer when called, to not curse
when their mouths taste of bile.

Pamela R. Cone is an interior designer and writer residing in Dayton, Ohio.  She has been published in The Clarion Review and on her blog, Sometimes I Talk to Myself.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


By KJ Hannah Greenberg

At one point in my life, my husband and I purchased a home in a fairly upscale neighborhood. Although ours was the small cottage among towering McMansions, our domicile was our heaven, sanctuary, and laboratory. Our youngest child was born there. Our interest in sacred matters was nurtured there. My rebirth as a writer began there.

That revival came about through a process of weeding. Somewhere, amidst our intentional gardens and our wild flora, I found a piece of me that I had previously and wrongly believed ought to be discarded as no longer serviceable. When we moved from apartment to condo, when we transported from rental to sublet, when we had no backyard, I had focused my energies on greenhouse beauties, both real and figurative.

In other words, rather than allow myself to become vulnerable to the enchantments of motherhood, e.g. to the chromatic nuance found in moon flowers and in other funnel-shaped blossoms, I directed myself toward things academic. That is, I allowed myself passion for only those blooms which are easily identifiable in catalogs. I cared nothing for dandelion or for chickweed, or for any other potentially healing agent. Artifice sufficed until goopy faces and filled diapers returned me to sensibilities.

Whereas it’s difficult to pursue footnotes with a toddler howling in the background or with a nursling plucking at your blouse, it’s not impossible to double dig a row of eupatorium or to sow seeds for a crop of hormone-friendly wild carrot while the kids fling mud. When I could no longer concentrate on the third level of linguistic abstraction, literally, on “the gist,” of a passage about deconstructed prose, I was still able to discern between chokeweed and horseradish. During that period, in preparing lecture notes, I frequently confused ancient criteria for determining truth with contemporary skepticism, but had little trouble teaching my preschoolers to nibble daintily on the petals of lemon sorrel or to suck the sweetness from honeysuckle.

I am forever appreciative that my family had the opportunity to own enough land (albeit far short of even an acre) to watch groundhogs borrow after eating our plantain, to observe local deer tasting our wintergreen, and to spy on tiny spiders that made their way across the arches of our Dutchman’s pipe. Together, my loved ones and I learned a lot by listening to the warbling emanating from within our junipers and the chirping echoing out from beneath our spreading wild grapes.

Remarkably, such moments occurred many years ago. My babies are teens now and getting older. My family’s home is no longer in a hardiness zone with regular cycles of heat and of cold, but in an area classified as a desert. Today, I am not mystified by milkweed or bewildered by lavender. I know thyme to be a powerful friend against respiratory infections and I recognize aloe as an ally for skin ailments. I applaud the march of tiny hedgehog feet across grand stretches of asphalt and smile as lizards scamper on my sun-soaked merpesset.

I still encourage my children, though, to celebrate life’s diverse goodness. Yet, during this chapter, it is my teens who overtake me when identifying roadside artemisia or distinguishing a parking lot full of prickly poppy. My not-so-little ones see as commonplace a bud’s ability to restore and to teach and they take for granted that their mother dances not only with research on semantic veracities, but also that she documents her life’s answers in essay and in verse.

As for me, bereft of those times of sticky fingers, while gladly rid of that span marked by performance-based outcomes, I watch the hummingbirds, bright in their iridescent dress, drink from the geraniums sprouting in my office window. Beneath those fliers’ busy wings, I track submissions to trade publishers, to staid literary magazines, and to women’s journals. As I move words around on my electronic pages, I remain thankful that some time ago I learned to value those seemingly undesirable elements that were growing around me. Specifically, I remain grateful that someone taught me the worth of “weeds.”

KJ Hannah Greenberg and her hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs fly the galaxy in search of gelatinous monsters and assistant bank managers. Although Hannah had worked as a rhetoric professor, she gave up all manners of academic hoopla to raise children. Evidence of that endeavor can be found in Oblivious to the Obvious: Wishfully Mindful Parenting (French Creek Press, Spring 2010).