The night of that day was perfect, the moon beaming on every US city and on all the bookshelves and all the silverfish slipping into the book bindings to eat the starch….oh, perfect night…perfect night of the worst, worst, worst day of my life.
Sitting in the dark, the moon lit my hands, like his hands minus the liver spots, soft bruising and root-like veins texturing the surfaces. Much more like him than my Mother, we butted heads all my life yet loved each other fiercely.
Funny thing about high intelligence…in his case, at least. There was no ability to hold opposing ideas in his mind and still retain the ability to function. A retired engineer, tops in his field at the height of his career, his ego would not allow him the fact that he was now only a feeble old man in a retirement home, so he cracked up. Really.
No longer mobile, except for his wheelchair, he had planted himself at the East Wing nurses station and prepared for the siege. World War III was upon us. The potted plants were wired with explosives, any strangers walking by were spies, and the north wall was going to come crashing down any second.
He built little piles of paper trash all over the room and begged people to set them afire so he could guide the planes in. He wore all his seven caps at once as a makeshift helmet. Somehow the sight of his tall, tall head was not at that moment particularly amusing.
Earlier, he had used his manicure scissors to cut off his 24 hour heart monitor, had sprayed his whole can of shaving cream all over himself and his shoes and cut up a tube of denture cream. Camouflage, I'm guessing.
I held his old, bruised hands in mine and gently tried to bring him back to the now, but he wasn’t having any of it. He wanted me to leave before the bombing started. I tried to wheel him toward his room and he plunked down his foot, refusing to let us move. "Go home now, darlin'", he said, "I can't let you stay here and get hurt."
He was a canary in a cage, not willing to let me cover it with dark cloth. He wanted to rant, to cry and husk seeds and toss them on the floor. Yet in spite of his madness, he still wanted to protect me.
The doctor eventually called with med orders. The good stuff, the hard zombie-making, drooling-mouth problem-fixer. And so he sat, day after day, too feeble to stay awake more than a minute, hunched over in his chair, a problem to no one.
Sleeping fitfully, I awake to find myself still trying to hold his dream-hands, as if to somehow go back and help him find his way out of the cold and foggy drear.
Sleep will not return even though this night is perfect, like that perfect night of the perfect moon, on the day his perfect shadow passed out of sight into that dark, dark place where engineers must sadly go, when they can no longer engineer or navigate or accept that it is so, to simply wait and wait til time and breath run out.
Rest in peace, Gordon King. March 2010
--Jo VonBargen 2013
It's a stroke, dumbass!!
There's nothing easy about it...
explaining your behavior,
your lack of memory,
to a husband who has no knowledge
at all of such things,
a desire to learn!!
Even after all the silly things
I've done, he's still demanding REASONS,
(Hell if I know)
even wanting reasons
for things I have no knowledge of. Probably
his own failures attributed
I truly wish
I could wiggle my nose to make him
understand...but he doesn't seem to have
any need to know!! When I'm home with him
it's like two different worlds trying
to exist in one.
Everything will ultimately be
my fault. There's nothing I can say
that will change that.
My daughter Kathy heard of him bragging
to family members about having
accidental insurance on me. Why is that something to
brag about? He knows he's taken care of
if anything really serious happens.
She tells him what to do...how to care
for me...and he says he already knows.
Then...he doesn't do it. Unless it's something I can
myself. How does he know if I'm doing
it right? He doesn't check.
So now he phones up with his good ideas...
he's so proud of himself...
but I think he's just looking to see
what he can be blamed for
down the road some
There's still a lot to be looked at
in the future.
--Jo VonBargen 2013
What is this? An illness? What does it mean? Am I now too old? Am I a new dog and pony show? Am I everybody's new laugh? What has happened? What has happened to my memory? Why am I so silent? Was I truly on the floor of the bathroom? Unable to move? Unremembering what happened?
I don't like not knowing. I HATE IT. Whatever it is, let's find out and treat it. I know, I know, appointment coming up. There are thousands of us. This is not the country. Get the appointments set up. Make the visits. Get the apps done. What, we still don't know? Why the hell not? Oh, Dr Visit next Wednesday? Will we then finally, know? Probably not. This is not going to be easy. Nothing I have ever done has been easy. This is not name it, face it, work it. My husband hates not knowing. He think we're up to something. We certainly are not. He wants me home. It's too far to go to work this odd schedule. Kathy has other appts to meet with her children. Her life is not easy. nor is mine. My husband phoned last night, out of his mind with fury. Why doesn't he know? Why doesn't he care? Why hasn't he gone to the pains my children have gone to to find out what happened? He keeps saying he's my husband. I AM YOUR HUSBAND! Why don't I know? I'm sorry, husband, I don't know why you don't know. I really don't. Or perhaps you do. AND THERE LIES THE PROBLEM!
This will be over soon. Next Wednesday. The doctor will know and we will know and I will be treated. If it is treatable.
--Jo VonBargen 2013
NORMANDY (For the tearful US vet viewed on PBS and all his fellow wounded)
I came up over the rise said the vet, to find myself face to face with death, a German soldier pointing his rifle straight at my chest; I had no chance to raise mine.
We stood there awhile, youth to youth, desire to desire, tandemly clothed in drab weeds of war, intent on a mission planned out by strangers, safe and sound in a room full of maps far, far away from this once verdant meadow, this river of blood I saw in his eyes not man, not monster, but an unwelcome glimpse of forever;
he saw in mine a quivering flame, unready, unwilling to be snuffed to that darkness ahead of my time in that frozen moment, he summoned a courage far beyond killing for country or cause his eyes slowly softened, freeing the breath I’d held as my last, and,
shaking his head, he dropped to the ground the cold, hard steel, leaning upon it as if it were now a cane said he in a soft, wistful voice, "for you, the war is over"
I live every hour, each undeserved minute, burdened with knowing for absolute certain I’d never have been that brave or that kind
--Jo VonBargen 2011
The girls took me to Cancun, Mexico for Mother's Day!! We had such a great time at the resort,
the Hacienda Dos Rios, first, then the Playa at Cancun when our trip was extended because of a plane cancellation!
Boyhowdy, the staff treated us like queens!! I could live down there forever!
Those two days we spent at Playa were miraculous!! Thank you Charity and Kathy for your contributions toward the trip!! And of course, Reggie!! It was a lovely time with lovely treatment by the staff!!
What a wonderful staff at the Cancun!! They waited on us hand and foot, like we were princesses. I would recommend this trip to everyone who needs somewhere to go!! The Playa Cancun is a beautiful resort with everything in place and the staff ready to serve!!
Thanks, Charity, Kathy and Reggie for a wonderful trip!!
JVB: Tell us about your most recent book (or whichever of your books you’d like to discuss) and the inspiration for it.
PD: My latest project… And I say that because everything seems to be a project nowadays. I like to have several things on the go at once. My most recently published book was last July, but I’ve been busy since them and expect to have four books published during the next eight months. I’ve just completed two manuscripts that will form the first two books in a four book Sci-Fi series, and I’m just about to start writing the first in a three book YA Fantasy series. The YA Fantasy series is a follow-up to my novella, Ryann, which was published last year. As for inspiration, that has never been a problem. There are a lot of books I want to write, about a lot of big themes. My problem is time – or lack of it!
JVB: You have said that as artists we must create for ourselves, not others. How much time do you spend actually marketing what you have written? Do you make use of any of the automated services?
PD: I write primarily for myself and then when I’m done with the first edits, I get feedback from a few people and then try and see the book from the eyes of a reader. That’s when I may make some adjustments. My world is topsy-turvy in favor of writing as opposed to marketing. I wish I knew how to market better or had the time to do it better. In 2011 I employed a marketing company for a while. They promised the world and delivered a teacup. The experience taught me a very good lesson. I’m sure there will come a time when I employ someone to help me again, but next time around I’ll go in a lot more prepared. Until then it’s Twitter, Facebook, and my blog.
JVB: You're a pretty prolific author. How do you manage to find balance with family life, your own reading and pursuits, etc.? Do you, like I and others, get flack from family for spending too much time writing?
PD: Firstly, my wife is very understanding and encouraging. Secondly, as I’m a plotter and not a pantser, this helps me organize my writing time somewhat. I can spend all sorts of odd hours for a month planning out a book and then spend an hour or so a day for two months completing the actual manuscript (approx. 80,000 words). I try and fit in reading other books, writing reviews, marketing, evenings out, and everything else, in the other two hours a day. By the way, did I tell you I also have a full-time job that takes me away from home for eleven hours a day? J
JVB: I see that you've dabbled a bit in writing poetry. Is it something of you'd like to do more? What other poets do you like to read?
PD: I love poetry. Especially comedic poetry. I would love to have the time to write a lot more. I loved the poems of A.A. Milne growing up. I’d like to recreate a book of my own poems one day.
JVB: What authors have impressed you over the years and have had an influence on your writing and outlook? If you had to pick three favorites, who would they be?
PD: I’ve been reading everything I could get my hands on since the age of about eight! This means I’ve gone through a lot of authors over the years. I like to read Fantasy, Sci-Fi and some comedy, and preferably books that are series. I like to get into the characters. That said, my current favorite authors are Robin Hobb, Kate Elliott, and Jacqueline Carey. Ask me again in another year, and the list will have changed! Do these authors have an impact on what I write? I don’t know the answer to that.
JVB: How much of your own experience, if any, do you weave into your writing? Have you ever made a character out of someone close to you?
PD: I’ve been very fortunate to have traveled a lot of the world for my job and I try to use some of those experiences in my writing. I’m a very visual person and so I need pictures and photos to help me write. As for characters, I’m pleading the fifth!
JVB: In writing for young adults, do you endow your stories with a moral underpinning or do you let other authors tend to the teaching and preaching?
PD: I think most stories have some kind of moral to them. In my series books I try to create an underlying theme about something big in life and weave it into the story. As I’ve written about on my blog before, most Fantasy series are either about politics or religion. Or both. These are two topics that lend themselves to big storylines and also big messages. I enjoy books that push boundaries and force the reader to ask themselves questions. I like to do the same in my writing.
JVB: Where do you get your ideas for a novel? Do they strike like a thief in the night or work their way slowly into your thoughts over a period of time?
PD: Sometimes it’s the oddest things. I’ll give you an example. One day last year I was listening to The Once And Future King on audiobook (I listen to a lot of books in my car), and there was a small piece in it about an ant colony. I thought it was really cool and decided it would make a great element to a book. Scroll forward several months and I read Wool by Hugh Howey. Other ideas hit me. Lastly, I was watching the new Dallas season on TNT and I was intrigued by the wonderful politics in the storyline. My book idea had come finally together! NotDone, my upcoming sci-fi novel was inspired by these events and then had several of my own elements and twists added.
JVB: Walk us through a typical writing day.
PD: Because of my other full-time job, my writing day consists of one hour! It’s a race to get the 1,500 words or so written before I have to do something else that needs my attention!
JVB: Do you have any hobbies, collections or fanatical pursuits?
PD: I have a few. I like to spend free time with my wife and we like to travel as much as possible whenever we get a day off together. My other passion is wine. We love to visit wineries and explore new tastes. I follow the local Seattle soccer team, the Sounders, have a season ticket, and try to get to all the matches. My wife and I are currently building a house and that has taken up a lot of time during the past few months!
JVB: What advice would you give to new authors just starting out? What mistakes have you made that they could avoid?
PD: My mistakes are legion. Is that a quote from anyone famous? If I could list two things to help new authors, I would say number one, edit, edit, and edit. The more eyes the better. Number two, don’t give anybody money to market your book unless you’re really, really sure they will work for your benefit (as opposed to working for their benefit and their profit). Bio Paul Dorset was born in Poole, Dorset in England but has been living in America since 1995. He has been writing for many years and some of his early works were published in 'teen advice' columns. He has also had many technical articles published, mostly in the field of Computing. Paul currently lives in the Pacific Northwest but has traveled extensively and worked many times with teens and youth groups. It is this background combined with a vivid imagination that has enabled him to weave a tapestry of magic into complete novels. His first epic fantasy series, aimed at young adults, is entitled 'The Southern Lands'. However, the storyline is more than exciting enough to keep adults turning pages as the story unfolds. Paul is a father of five who has worked as a computer consultant for more than 30 years. His publications include fantasy novels for ages 12-plus, how-to books for adults, and dark paranormal thrillers for ages 16+. He incorporates his extensive experience in computers - and his insightful perspective on the possibilities therein - in novels that include layers of contemporary intrigue, romance and mystery. You can follow his blog at http://blog.pauldorset.com Links
A book on Amazon: Ryann
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HAND AND HEART
The old ones say that poetry is
a ladder to God. Reading this, you may
not agree. But I knew it the day
you...god-like...helped me find
my voice again, a day dissolved in
the screech of a madman, clothing tossed
in a bag, fearful fumbling
for keys, an engine gone dead. You
sent me a note, an arrow drawn
in your lifeblood on a stone,
pointing the way to
the mountain top where
you waited, hand and heart
toward my own
--Jo VonBargen 2013
HOW WE STILL DREAM
To think how we sit in our dark nights
under the full moon pouring down its
clear light, mulling events of the day,
coming up with speculations of no
particular worth, not even
particular fact, while they, whoever
they are, that would keep us
blind and ignorant, feed on our
angst and fears, and spoon-feed
that slow poison that erodes our
in a nation that long ago gave
up its freedom and spat
on the graves of its martyrs in
the name of greed and all its
soulless cousins, and how we
still dream this is a relative paradise,
too remote from the rest to
become them, too lofty in our ethos
to founder in quicksand, too
well-intentioned to imagine our
character anything less than
distinctive and heaven-blessed, and
how the gods of mirth must
laugh at our naïveté, our magical
thinking, our pitiful lives sheltered
from blood, piss and shit, from
even our dead, whom someone
else washes, prepares...
unseeing our desperate
poor, our hungry, our homeless, each
a pesky dust mote on the polished
marble floors of our Eden,
our American dream, our splendid
garden dangling over the abyss,
and always best viewed in the still
of night so that lovely moon-ball
can forgive all laid bare by
the sun...the deformed flower,
the mottled leaf, the rotting branch -
all swallowed by shadows,
leaving our illusion of perfection,
silvered by the shine of stars,
gilded by rat-cheese moonlight
and how, even if we know the truth,
it's still the best
place to be
--Jo VonBargen 2013
we had a lovely dinner
with dirty Martinis
just as the sun-ball dropped
with a splash
into the Mexican Gulf
haunting strains from a sax
as the saxophoniste strolled
toward us playing
Satchmo's "What a
that moment, that
magical instant of time
that particular beautiful
Hacienda Grill at Tres Rios,
Now Paul Anka's "Put Your
Head on my Shoulder"
cool breeze rustling
a total mellowing out
to soulful wails
(sugar bowl), or just 'Sugar'
tucking those sweet
strains into our
all time, as if
the world we would
be changed, and just
--Jo VonBargen 2013
THIS ONE MOMENT
Let us fill the holes in our hearts
with love, let us look to the One Spirit
which binds us all together - even
the wicked. Let us not repeat
the hatred and spread it
further along. Let us refuse
to walk in fear, but instead
run with courage.
Let us not turn silently inward,
but reach out with compassion
to those around us. Let us
ever keep our eyes cast
upward toward hope, not
down toward doom.
Let us be in love with love,
and live in this moment,
always this one moment, which
will never be ours
--Jo VonBargen 2013