The songs say it all. . .
“Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away. . .and I don’t know where they have put him.” John 20:13 (NIV)
after the men left the empty tomb,
her sorrow rooting her to the ground
her tears no ease, no balm
for her great grief
this morning, three days
from that hilltop
she waited at the foot of the cross?
this hurt beyond hurts,
the man who speaks to her
is a stranger.
and she begs him:
where have you put him?
Where have you taken him?
and then the smile crosses his face,
the smile that healed her of her madness
when they first met:
He says only, Mary.
though she knows the impossibility
of escaping from Death,
that cruel ender of dreams,
she believes the promise
once and for all;
her answer is a gasp:
one word is enough
Poem copyright 2013 by Faire Lewis.
a threat and solace
above the wind;
a low warm rumble
The pine moans a little;
the willow whips back and forth,
of its soft new green.
birds fly unconcerned.
No matter what ill may come
they take care of business
singing indestructible hymns of good cheer
as they flash by,
oils in motion.
the dove alone
above the thunder’s basso
it calls, soft and urgent,
an alto bell
lover, come to me
but there is no answer
Poem copyright 2013 by Faire Lewis.
Another pulled from my morning pages. . .
Long story short: at the now-defunct Blogstream, my friend Sharon (aka Willard Clark) and I used to collaborate on stories and poems about a fictional Knobite Corner psychic called Madame Sadie. This St. Patrick’s Day adventure was one of our earliest, dating from 2008 or 2009.
Madame had, back in the day, a horrible crush on a once-famous British psychic–who was later exposed as a fraud–and used to chase him all over the world. On that St. Pat’s Day, she had just returned from one such expedition, and herb doctor and granny woman Aunt Ornery (also Sharon ;)) was not happy about it.
But on to our story. . .
Since Willard had to work on St. Patrick’s Day, she and I got together a day or two early to celebrate our Irishness. We had no plans–other than checking in on our psychic friend, Madame Sadie. Neither of us had seen her since her return from her trip across the pond. We gathered, from some hints Aunt Ornery had let slip, that Madame’s trip had not been a success; Auntie, unfortunately, would give us no particulars. She’d just shake her head and grumble about that old bat and something to do with watered-down cherry bark cough syrup.
We hopped into Willard’s SUV and rode down the creek, bouncing plans for later off each other. We’d turned onto the lane to go up the holler when–eeeEEE-KKKKK!–Willard slammed on the brakes, narrowly avoiding making mud out of a short man, dressed head to foot in green, who leaped into the middle of the road, waving his arms wildly and shouting loud enough to wake the dead.
Willard shoved the SUV into park and we both flung ourselves out, ready to hang the little twerp up by his suspenders, when up behind him loomed the most terrifying apparition I ever hope to see in my life: Madame Sadie, wearing nothing but her possum skin bikini and a pair of bright green Chuck Taylors, flailing the air with a pink butterfly net. It was evident that she was chasing the leprechaun–as I now realized the little man was–and, if she hadn’t been drunk as a skunk, would have caught him long before now.
The little man had sized Willard and me up and realized we’re Irish hillbillies–her hair’s flaming red (this week) and me–well. . .Willard dove forward just in time to keep Madame from dropping the butterfly net neatly over his head, and he shrieked at me, in an accent more Brooklynese than Dublinese, Mistress Fairweather! Mistress Fairweather! Sanctuary! SANK-CHEW-AIRY!!!
I didn’t hesitate. I ran back to the SUV, dove across the armrest into the driver’s seat, and, with the little man clinging desperately to the passenger’s side rear-view mirror, reversed and made a turn that would have made a Hollywood stunt driver weep with pride. As I put it in drive and took off I roared over my shoulder at Willard, “Stall her! I’ll be back in a few minutes to pick you up!”
The little man had managed to climb into the open window and flop into the passenger’s seat. “Thankee, Mistress Fairweather,” he panted. “The old bat about had me.”
“So I saw,” I said drily. “What was she after? Your pot of gold?”
“Worse,” he said. “Worse.”
“Surely not yer lucky charms?”
That insulted him. He didn’t say another word till we were back at the house. I knew I had to hide him, but I didn’t dare take him inside; God knows what kind of germs the little shrimp might have given Mom, just for spite over that “lucky charms” crack. I finally took him out to the corncrib. Blackadder followed us at a safe distance; when we stopped, just outside the corncrib, he gave Shorty–as I now thought of the little man–a good smellover. He didn’t like what he smelled. He looked pleased when I shoved Shorty into the corncrib. “Don’t try to get out till I come back,” I told him through a crack in the wall. “I’ll let you out when the coast is clear.”
Blackadder promptly mounted guard duty, as only a cat can do. When I pulled out of the driveway and looked back he was marching back and forth in front of the corncrib door, tail in the air and a militant sneer on his face.
I took my time getting back to Madame’s. To be frank, I wasn’t sure what condition her condition would be in. Luckily, just as I pulled into Madame’s drive, Willard came out onto the porch, shutting the door behind her. I climbed across into the passenger’s seat; she got in on the driver’s side and, for a moment, laid her head on the steering wheel. “Was it that bad?” I asked.
Where had I heard that before?
“What the hell was the old bat up to? Shorty told me the same thing when I asked if she was after his pot of gold.”
“She wanted him for a lawn sculpture.”
“She saw him out that big front window and–well, she’s been drinking Guinness the last couple of days and it’s made her goofier than usual. She mistook him for a gnome and thought he’d look cute standing in her tulip bed.” Willard shuddered. “I got her back in the house and gave her a hair of the dog. She’s sleeping it off now.”
By now we were back to the house. Blackadder was still on guard duty in front of the corncrib. I swear he tried to snap a salute when I said teasingly, “You’re relieved of duty, Sergeant Blackadder.” He stalked away, then broke into a slow trot as he headed toward the house–no doubt to tell Mom about his big adventure.
Shorty’s clothes were covered in cornhusks, but otherwise he was fine. Willard told him, “She’s asleep back at her place, but you’d better clear out. I can’t guarantee she won’t chase you if she sees you again.”
“Thanks for savin’ me, Mistress Willard and Mistress Fairweather,” he piped.
Willard said, “How about leading us to that pot of gold?” and grinned. She knew as well as I did that the pot of gold was strictly for the tourist trade.
“Turn your backs and I’ll leave a little somethin’ for yer troubles.”
We raised an eyebrow at each other but turned our backs. We heard a thump and a few tinkling sounds, and then jumped as we both felt PINCHES ON OUR BUTTS!
We turned in a hurry, but the little man was gone. But he had indeed left something–a cast-iron pot full of–gold wrapped Godiva chocolates!
I said through a mouthful, a few minutes later, “Been a long time since I got pinched on the ass.”
“Me too, and I better not tell my man,” said Willard. She thought for a moment, then added pensively, “Thank God I wasn’t wearing my Daisy Dukes.”
Any resemblance to persons, living or legendary, is purely intentional.
Happy St. Pat’s, everybody!
St. Patrick herds the snakes
like slithering sheep: catching at them
with crozier efficient as a shepherd’s crook.
no lass of Holy Ireland,
shall be seduced by sibilant subversion
forked tongue flicking
at the end of a rainbow rope
dangling by an apple
dappled with sunlight;
no, Ireland will remain
an emerald Eden
as it was in the beginning
until the end of time.
Poem copyright 2013 by Faire Lewis.
I was heartbroken when I found out there apparently never were any snakes in Ireland to begin with–
In any case, this poem is inspired by a long-ago St. Patrick’s Day card similar to, but not exactly like, the second image of the good saint–born a Romanized Briton, not an Irishman–driving the snakes away in an aged jalopy. On that card, he was telling one snake with a Pat, I gotta go! look on on its face Ye shoulda thought o’ that b’fore we left!
In addition to being the saint’s day of Valentine, martyr and patron of lovers, February 14 is the anniversary of a number of bloody deeds that have nothing to do with love or romance.
Certainly this holds true for the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre, the bloodiest episode in Chicago mob history. A culmination of a turf war between “Scarface” Al Capone and an Irish mobster named George “Bugs” Moran, its intent was to get Moran out of the way. Two things intervened that day to save Moran; he saw a couple of men in police uniform entering 2122 North Clark Street, where the massacre took place, turned around and left, while a Capone gunman mistook Moran gang member Albert Weinschenk for Moran himself, thus setting the massacre in motion before Moran’s arrival.
There are stories that the empty lot that once was 2122 North Clark Street is haunted to this day by phantom gunshots and the traumatized spirit of a German shepherd, the pet of one victim. Less well-known, perhaps, is the haunting that followed none other than Scarface himself, beginning in 1929 and, it’s said, continuing until his own death in 1947.
Capone thought it expedient, once the smoke of the massacre had cleared somewhat, to get out of Chicago for awhile. He and an associate took a road trip to Pennsylvania, where they fell afoul of local weapons laws and were sentenced to eight months in Philadelphia’s infamous Eastern State Penitentiary. Capone’s money insured that, in theory, he did not do hard time.
Or did he?
It was during his stay in Eastern State that early reports surfaced of a weeping, terrified Capone begging someone he called "Jimmy" to leave him alone.
Jimmy, it transpired, was the specter of James Clark, one of the seven men who died on that bloody February 14th. Born Albert Kachellek, Clark was Bugs Moran's second in command and brother-in-law. Why he, of the seven–not to mention all the other men who, down the years, had died on Capone's orders–should show up to haunt Scarface Al is a mystery. Some have suggested that Capone was already suffering from softening of the brain and possible hallucinations due to neurosyphilis; others, that Clark was a fragment of Capone's guilty conscience, if such Capone had; or even, perhaps, was a ghostly union rep of sorts, leader of all those whose secondhand blood stained Capone's hands.
There were those among Capone's guards and close friends, however, who would claim to have seen Clark's ghost, staring fish-eyed at Capone as Capone begged for mercy.
Capone is said to have called in a medium named Alice Britt in 1931 to try to find out what Clark wanted. Apparently, Britt was unsuccessful, and Clark continued to follow Capone: through his trial for income tax evasion, through the first years of his eleven-year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, and then, in 1934, to the Rock–Alcatraz, where Capone did three turns in "the hole" for rules infractions, played a fifteen-hundred-dollar banjo in a prison band and in the shower, was confined in solitary after attempts were made on his life, and slowly lost his mind.
Paroled in 1939, Capone left Alcatraz a broken man. Back in Chicago the mob had moved on; new leaders had taken his place, and even those loyal to him realized, once they saw him, that Capone would never control the mob again; as one observed, "Al's nuttier than a fruitcake."
Capone died, ironically, in his bed, of cardiac arrest following a stroke and a bout of pneumonia, in 1947. The ghost of James Clark, it's said, was with him till the end.
After Capone's death, no one reported an encounter with James Clark's spirit again.
The Haunting of Al Capone at prairieghosts.com
Dennis William Hauck, The National Directory of Haunted Places (1996 edition)
Ursula Bielski, More Chicago Haunts: Scenes from Myth and Memory (2000)
Jeff Belanger, Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales from Around the World (2005)
For stories specific to the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre:
Dale Kaczmarek, Windy City Ghosts: The Haunted History of Chicago (2000)
Richard T. Crowe and Carol Mercado, Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (2000)
And may your Valentine’s Day be a happy one–just sayin’– 😉