Night of the Scorpion | Or… Surviving my first scorpion sting

Night of the Scorpion 
by Nissim Ezekiel (1924 – 2004)

I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.

Parting with his poison – flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
he risked the rain again.

The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.

With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother’s blood, they said.

May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world

against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh

of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.

My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.

My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.

 **************

I had a most uncomfortable experience yesterday afternoon. After living in Arizona for a little over six years, I crossed paths with an Arizona Bark Scorpion. He didn’t much care for me invading his space—regardless of the fact that he was camping out inside my house—and he let me know of his displeasure by giving me a mighty painful sting to my right hand.

Immediately, I felt a painful burning, tingling sensation, so I instinctively knew it was a scorpion sting before I even set eyes on the offender. Once I found the creepy little pest (although little isn’t exactly how I would have described him in that momenthe seemed more like some giant mutated insect from a campy 1950’s B-horror flick!) I overcompensated for my fear by bashing him over, and over, and over again, with a Kleenex box.

The kindly, soft-spoken woman at the poison control center assuaged my fears, comforting me with the fact that few rarely died from scorpion stings—but to hang on to my hat, because the list of possible side-effects were none too pleasant. She also informed that I would need to visit my nearest pharmacy within the next three days to have a tetanus shot. Oh boy!

I guess I was luckier than most. The pain/burning/numbness/tingling was localized to my hand and wrist only. While I still have numbness and tingling in my ring and little fingers, it should all sort itself out by this evening.

Ahh, the joy of living in scorpion territory.

Well… on a positive note, at least I haven’t been bitten by a black widow spider or a rattlesnake, yet. :)

A grainy photo of the smashed culprit.

And just in case you’re curious, here is a grainy photo of the culprit. After the violent smashing, of course.

Machinations of War | Chapter 12 | A Collaborative Story by Alexander & Kimberley Thomas

Here is this week’s installment of Machinations of War.

For those of you who are new to my blog, (or just passing through :) ) my son and I have been writing this collaborative story project for the past three months.
If you would like to read the story in its entirety, please visit here for Chapters 1-11.

Chapter 12

Nearing the Village of Sharna – 536 AC

In the ensuing weeks, as Aislyn and Natalie continued their trek southward toward Sharna, neither spoke more than a few words. Aislyn, cloaked in her own private misery of sorrow, confusion, and rage over her father’s murder, had become increasingly withdrawn. Although Aislyn believed Natalie, when she declared to have had no knowledge of the Creator’s plan to assassinate the King, the Princess couldn’t help but mistrust the Seraph. Natalie was an instrument of the Creator, and Aislyn knew better than most how one became an unsuspecting weapon in the Creator’s personal arsenal.

Natalie, ever the good soldier, would not contemplate questioning the actions of the Creator. She had learned as a young girl that one shouldn’t question or criticize the Greater Power. She remembered all too well the day her four-year-old self watched in horror, as the inhabitants of the small fishing village where she and her family lived, stoned her mother to death for heresy. To escape the same fate, her father had fled with her and her younger brother in tow, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few days worth of food. They struggled to survive the many months of travel before her father finally stumbled upon civilization. Far to the north of their previous village, the family found themselves at desperate odds in their attempts to adapt to the climate and customs of their newly adopted region.

Natalie’s father found employment in short order, securing work as a mason; yet the position required him to travel to the Capitol City for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Forced to leave Natalie, and her brother Nathanael behind, he arranged for their safekeeping by hiring a nearby neighbor girl to look after them in his absence. A kindly girl, Ruth was not much more than a child herself; perhaps twelve or thirteen seasons had passed since her own birth. Although Ruth tried desperately to provide proper care for her two young charges, Natalie’s obstinate wilfulness, and uncontrollable anger, often overwhelmed the young nursemaid.

The brutal murder of her mother; the long months of fleeing, dirty and hungry, through the wilderness; her father’s abandonment of her and her younger brother to a complete stranger, proved to be too much for young Natalie. In her struggle to cope, she became uncontrollable, lashing out with unrestrained fury against everyone in her path. Ruth was ever patient, treating her and Nathanael both with love and compassion, but Natalie would have none of it. Over time, Ruth and Nathanael developed a deep attachment to one another, and Natalie found herself increasingly ostracized within her own home.

Their first winter in the North was bitterly cold. Raised by the sea, in the sunny clime of the southern territory, neither Natalie nor Nathanael’s constitution was strong enough to resist the winter sickness, which was common to the region. For those raised in the North, the sickness was nothing more than an annual annoyance, making the sufferer mildly ill. Natalie and Nathanael however, became enfeebled by the sickness. Plagued by persistent coughs, vomiting, high fevers, and difficulty breathing, both children languished throughout the winter months, at times, hovering near death. Unwavering in her responsibility to the children, Ruth sat by their sickbeds day and night. She wiped their small foreheads with cool rags, as the heat of the fever dripped off their tiny furrowed brows. She tucked their threadbare covers tight around their diminutive forms, building raging fires in the cooking pit, all to ward off their violent throes of shivering. She sang soft lullabies, to quiet their restless sleep. Fed them watery broths, and mashed root vegetables, when they were able to emerge from their illness-induced stupor.

Natalie’s father came and went during that long winter, never staying for more than a few days at a time. His first stop upon arriving in town was always to Ruth’s mother, paying her the agreed upon wages for her daughter’s service. He would then secure provisions, making sure Ruth had enough food and firewood to last until his next visit. Occasionally, he would fetch the doctor, more out of guilt than love, but the diagnosis was always the same, “Nothing to be done,” the doctor would gravely utter, “It’s in the Creator’s hands, whether these children survive the winter.” With regularity and precision, Natalie could expect her father’s departure for the Capital City, by the moans of union as her father bed the young Ruth. Before daybreak, he would be gone.

It was during their father’s absence that Nathanael finally succumbed to the sickness. “Ruth?” he wheezed, “Hold my hand. Hold my hand, please?”

Ruth rushed to his side, “Yes, Nathanael. Yes, little one. I’m here.” She took his tiny hand in hers, while gently patting it with the other. “It’s okay, Nathanael. Everything will be okay,” she cooed in a sing-song voice she reserved just for him.

“I know, Ru…”

Her name simply faded on his lips, and he was gone.

********************

With the back of her hand, Natalie roughly wiped away a tear. She hadn’t thought of Nathanael in such a long time, years in fact. Crossly, she thought, “Why? Why am I recalling all of this family crap? The last thing I need now is to deal with this.”

Fueled by those long ago memories, she found herself barely able to contain her anger and pain; a growing rage permeated her entire being, infecting her like a poisonous venom. Every nerve ending screamed with fury at the recollection of her wretched childhood. Her eyes began to glow brightly, the unnatural blue of the Creator’s enforcers, while the sigil of the Creator upon her chest and the sword tightly clutched by the alien tendrils protruding from her back, began to radiate their peculiar white light. Natalie was completely oblivious to the consequences of her rage.

“Um, Seraph?” The Princess had stopped dead in her tracks.

After weeks of virtual silence, the sound of Aislyn’s voice gave Natalie immediate pause, snapping her out of her tormented recollections. She turned abruptly, rounding on the Princess with an unexpected vengeance. “WHAT IS IT!” she fumed.

The unexpected excessiveness of Natalie’s response startled them both. “Oh. I’m so very sorry, Milady.” I, um, you caught me off guard.”

“Let’s dispense with the formalities, shall we?” said Aislyn. “I think we are going to be in this together until the end, so I’d prefer that you call me Aislyn. No Princess, no Seer, no Milady, okay? Just Aislyn.”

Natalie glared at Aislyn impatiently, “That’s what you stopped our travels to say?”

“No,” replied Aislyn, her growing annoyance with the Seraph beginning to show. “I stopped our travels because you are beginning to glow like the Sea Ghosts that invade the shoreline on warm summer nights.” Natalie stared at Aislyn, perplexed. “You have seen the glittery blue light that spreads across the sands of the beach in the summer, right? The Sea Ghosts?”

“No, Mi—Aislyn, I can’t say that I have. Regardless, I don’t understand the significance.”

Aislyn pointed at the Seraph, “Natalie, look down at your chest!”

Natalie looked down and gasped, finally aware of the white light emanating from her black leather armor.

“Your sword glows too. And your eyes seem to be smoldering with the eerie azure light of the Sea Ghost.”

Reaching around with panicked swiftness, Natalie quickly snatched the sword from the slender appendages fused to her back. She was met with the same haunting laughter she had heard in the old Lorne Abbey when she had first retrieved Tizona, the weapon forged by the Creator himself.

The ephemeral creature suddenly materialized in front of her, “What a perfect host you’ve turned out to be Natalie Clark,” he murmured. “Your anger and hatred fuels my energy and strength, Seraph. Together, you and I are unstoppable. We will fulfill the commands of the Creator.”

“Natalie?” Aislyn stood dumbfounded.

Natalie stood dazed, seemingly detached from her surroundings. Several minutes passed. Finally, the Seraph turned to Aislyn and responded, “It is the spirit of the sword, Tizona. He directs us to continue on to Sharna. It is critical we reach our destination by the morning.”

Aislyn intently inspected the Seraph. She seemed cold, calculating, emotionless, and it terrified the Princess in a way she had never known before.

Without another word, the two women continued their journey.

When the sun rose on the next day, Natalie and Aislyn stared down on the still sleeping village of Sharna.

“Well… here we are,” said Aislyn, as she surveyed the village below.

“Yes, here we are indeed,” replied Natalie, then in a faint voice she added, “may the Creator’s blessings be upon us, always.”

Celebrating Poetry | Walt Whitman

Continuities 
by Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)
(From a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist)

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world,
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere
confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the field and
nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left
from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim shall duly flame
again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings
and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible land
returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and
corn.

 

Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, journalist and humanist (1819 – 1892)

Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, journalist and humanist (1819 – 1892)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image attribution:

Music Monday | Judy Garland

Happy Monday, everyone!

It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through the month of September!

I’ve decided to change things up a bit for my #MusicMonday posts for the rest of this month. I’m going to forego using music as a writing prompt to recall memories of people and events that have shaped my life, and instead, I’m going to keep it simple and easy by posting songs that are near and dear to my heart—my all-time favorites.

I’ve learned that a good many of my favorite songs are now considered “Oldies music”. :D

While I’ve always had a special fondness for the “oldies” (as a teenager in the late 1970’s, I was the weird kid listening to Doo Wop and Elvis Presley alongside the likes of Genesis, Foreigner, and the Eagles) I genuinely enjoy all genres of music, old and new.

This week I’m sharing one of my absolute, all-time, favorite songs, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, from one of my absolute, all-time, favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz.

Originally sung by Judy Garland in this clip from the 1939 film

 

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
― Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), The Wizard of Oz (1939)

 

Music Monday (469x288)

 

Wishing all of you a wonderful #MusicMonday!

 

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Intermission

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I know. I know… all of you visiting today expected to find my biweekly contribution to Machinations of War. Umm, what can I say? My muse decided to go fishing. :D

In all seriousness, I do apologize to all of you who have been faithfully following this weekly serial, which my son, Alexander, who blogs over at Riding Into the Sunrise, and I have been writing for the past 3 months — but, I decided to take a much-needed vacation. I hope y’all understand. <3

I promise though that this intermission will be short-lived. Chapter 12 will be posted next Wednesday, bright and early.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Featured image courtesy of City of Vancouver Archives

Music Monday – Ada Jones and Billy Murray

Tonight and tomorrow night, September 8th and 9th, will bring us our fifth and final supermoon of 2014. Excitingly, this supermoon is also the Harvest Moon, the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox.

Here in the northern hemisphere, we can all begin to look forward to shorter days, and (thankfully for all of us living in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert region) cooler temperatures. :D

In celebration of this year’s magnificent Harvest moon, I couldn’t resist sharing a song my mom used to sing to me, around this same time every year, when I was young – “Shine on, Harvest Moon”.

This particular version of “Shine On, Harvest Moon” was performed by singers Ada Jones and Billy Murray in 1909.

 

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
Inscription from the Apollo 11 lunar plaque – text credited to James C. Humes, William Safire, and Pat Buchanan

 

 Music Monday (469x288)
Here’s hoping all of you can take a few moments tonight, wherever you might be, to step outside and enjoy the beauty of the night sky! <3

 

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Celebrating Life through Poetry

Starfish 
by Eleanor Lerman

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who say, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

 

** This week my youngest son was confirmed cancer-free. The large mass he had removed from his thyroid this past week seems to have been the cause of his numerous health issues. I’ll settle for “lucky” and joyfully relish the “sandwich, and pie for your / late night dessert …” that life has so generously bestowed.

Me and my youngest, Matthew – January 2014

Music Monday

In honor of the Labor Day holiday being celebrated in the United States and Canada, for today’s Music Monday I give you a song devoted to all those workers who labor for fair treatment and equitable pay.

“Which Side Are You On?” is a song written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer. Reece penned this song after her husband’s struggle to unite his fellow mine-workers in Kentucky, turned violent.

 

 

Income inequality is at an all-time high in the United States. As the power and influence of the organized labor union movement decreases, American workers have found themselves earning much less for substantially more work.

According to new data released this past week from the Economic Policy Institute:

“Between 1979 and 2013, productivity grew 64.9 percent, while hourly compensation of production and nonsupervisory workers, who comprise over 80 percent of the private-sector workforce, grew just 8.0 percent. Productivity thus grew eight times faster than typical worker compensation.”

For a more in-depth look at the “poor performance of American workers’ wages in recent decades” take a moment to read this important study, “Why America’s Workers Need Faster Wage Growth—And What We Can Do About It” by economist Elise Gould.

 

“They’ll never keep us down.”
Florence Reece, American social activist, poet, and folksong writer (1900-1986)

Music Monday (469x288)

 

 

Have a great week, everyone!

Featured image courtesy of The Blog of Progress

Celebrating Poetry – Stephen Dunn

Mary Shelley in Brigantine 
by Stephen Dunn

Because the ostracized experience the world
in ways peculiar to themselves, often seeing it
clearly yet with such anger and longing
that they sometimes enlarge what they see,
she at first saw Brigantine as a paradise for gulls.
She must be a horseshoe crab washed ashore.

How startling, though, no one knew about her past,
the scandal with Percy, the tragic early deaths,
yet sad that her Frankenstein had become
just a name, like Dracula or Satan, something
that stood for a kind of scariness, good for a laugh.
She found herself welcome everywhere.

People would tell her about Brigantine Castle,
turned into a house of horror. They thought
she’d be pleased that her monster roamed
its dark corridors, making children scream.
They lamented the day it was razed.
Thus Mary Shelley found herself accepted

by those who had no monster in them —
the most frightening people alive, she thought.
Didn’t they know Frankenstein had abandoned
his creation, set him loose without guidance
or a name? Didn’t they know what it feels like
to be lost, freaky, forever seeking who you are?

She was amazed now that people believed
you could shop for everything you might need.
She loved that in the dunes you could almost hide.
At the computer store she asked an expert
if there was such a thing as too much knowledge,
or going too far? He directed her to a website

where he thought the answers were.
Yet Mary Shelley realized that the pain she felt
all her life was gone. Could her children, dead so young,
be alive somewhere, too? She couldn’t know
that only her famous mother had such a chance.
She was almost ready to praise this awful world.

 

Image courtesy of Poetry Foundation

Stephen Dunn – Image courtesy of Poetry Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured image: Frontispiece to Frankenstein by Theodore Von Holst (1810-1844) (Tate Britain. Private collection, Bath.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons