The Peasant King and the Tree of Life

The king rose early. His queen lay still-bound in silk, sleeping soundly atop the toil of faceless millions. Beautiful and delicate, great panes of glass stood as emissary to the cool spring morning; turning away the crisp, earth-laiden air while permitting a tepid flood of pale light to illuminate the intricate fineries of a life possessed.

Amassed over a lifetime of ardently honed discrimination, the king’s estate stood as testament to his worth and individuality. Conditioned since infancy to diligently select or reject from life’s abundant diversity, his sharp eyes scrutinized all they surveyed. Moved to possess beauty, they disregarded any shades of life whose tones did not gratify.

The king’s beautiful world was balanced atop the panicle of a human mountain whose base were the innumerable souls required to elevate Man to such dizzying heights. Well practiced as he was, he discarded such odious musings. He had not chosen this, thus he was absolved.

The king bathed in rose-scented water, dressed in beautifully tailored cloth and slipped soft feet into polished leather.  He emerged from his castle, beholding the realm over which he was master. On either side, from castles of their own, the neighboring kings emerged.

The hollow taste of contempt quickly coated in the dull sheen of habitual friendliness, each king honored the next with a quick nod. A clipped wave. Each boarded their own luxurious vessel and eased it onto the paved vine that connected their kingdoms with millions of identical others.

From deep, unexamined places spun the adage “All men are free. All men are equal.” Within each sovereign were these words seared. Working endlessly in the building and keep of their kingdoms, they asked not by whom.

The King rose as he willed. His Queen, ever-wakeful, hummed with delicate precision the melody of ten billion feet marching in unison. Shrouded as he was by her intricate beauty, The King’s unseen face bore the sly smirk of a magician. While Great Kings of Old bound their subjects in irons, he alone saw the delicate gold chains that everywhere bound her.

On a far away hill, an apple tree rose from the fertile humus of perpetual sacrifice. Its roots wound deep into ancient soil, millions of leaves twisting in the sun before perishing on the heap below.

How sweet the fruit.

How glorious the seeds.


Baltimore. The sun comes down through the empty raindrops, through the leaves on the main street as the soft cries of children arise up to meet it. Outside the birds’ chirping signals the beginning of a new day. The siren song of the coffee pot down stairs begins its revelry with the sound of erupting steam. My wife has already been up for three hours. Baltimore. Everyday this monotony continues. My blonde wife chortles with laughter as our French bulldog licks her face. The children scream with hilarity, their laughter rippling off the walls in primary colors. The wall-paper shudders beneath it as I do.

I am not of this world; Baltimore. I remember that today is Tuesday.

Tuesday is the day of ties. I work in the research and productions department of a retail clothing store. I research the latest trends among white middle class teens and compare them to the latest trends in Japan. Japan dictates all of our professional decisions. My name is Murphy. I’ve changed it three times now. But, I believe Murphy will stick. Anyway, back to Japan. The teenie boppers of Japan are 5 to 6 years ahead of American teenie boppers. As a result, studying the latest trends of Japan gives our research and development team a heads up on the competition. We must stay ahead of the competition. Frankly, I don’t give a shit. Frank, shit, that used to be one of my other names. Of course, I had to change that one as well. Luckily though, I have never had to change my job.

There is within the course of one’s day an underlying structure of events that dictates the gravity and perhaps, though I have not yet convinced myself of this completely, the meaning of one’s life. My life is shit quite frankly. Frank, shit, that used to be one of my other names. I am, and always have been, completely conscious of this structure within my life. And have worked to keep this structure, as it may be, defining my life as shit, quite frankly. I do enjoy a good shit especially on Friday. Today is not Friday. It is Tuesday.  I will wear the yellow tie. I always wear the yellow tie on Tuesday. It defines my life as shit as it is a part of the underlying structure of my life that I have worked so hard to maintain all these years. Baltimore.

Midnight Reflections

Last call sends me home.

Hazy eyes that see my life

reflected at night.

Stumbling back through a miserable February frost, steam rises from the interstate overpass and permeates into my stinging lungs. The bridge’s unforgiving concrete ceiling serves as a home to the dregs, the junkies, and the discarded human waste lost in the bowels of an insatiable society. Walking past like faded ghosts in the fog, their faces reflect the horrors of being left behind. Scars scream the pain of being jumped in the park for a pair of shoes. Teeth cocaine-cracked and jagged from one too many run-ins with the cops. Their earthen shells creak rickety and unstable as they hobble on blistered feet and social paranoia. Hungry, anything helps, his cardboard sign suggests.

“Spare some change?” He asks through mumbled gums.

Parents, principals, and politicians insist he’ll only use it to score a fix or drink himself into a coma. Yet my cold, numb hands finger their way into the deepest corners of barren pockets.

What’s a few quarters

if it helps you through the night?

Who am I to judge?

— Jeff Englehart