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by Marc Alexander Valle
One of the earliest memories I have of my mother is her teaching me how to spell words.
She would draw the stick figure picture and write the word beneath it.
I asked her multiple times to run this lesson for me.
My mother didn’t have a diploma, but she somehow knew the value of stimulating the visual cortex.
It didn’t raise my verbal IQ by much.
I was a decent student in mid-level classes, and I scored below average on my SATs.
I don’t know what it did to benefit my education.
I just know that if you asked me to choose between my sight or my hearing, I’d probably have to give up music.
Then there’s the story of the mother, who lifted a truck to rescue her son.
I don’t believe she did it, but I believe that she tried.
A creative non-fiction piece. Please comment, if you’d like. Feedback is welcome.
Please comment, if you’d like.
Please, I welcome FEEDBACK. Feel free to comment.
First published in Potato Soup Journal on October 20, 2019
Daybreak on the Banshee
by Marc Alexander Valle
The women cried and wailed and prayed behind us, and my 7-year-old mind thought the dead body would look like something from the movies. I never saw a dead body before, and I was certain that it would look like a skeleton from a cartoon or at least Freddy Kruger. It would definitely be something that comes out only at night.
I stepped forward with my father and older brother towards the casket. All the conversation and noise in the room became silent inside of my head. I could only hear my thoughts, and all I could think was that I had to let dad step forward first and to be careful.
The toy soldier in my pocket poked into my thigh, and I readjusted it.
“What’s wrong?” my father said.
I looked up at him. “Nothing.”
I peered into the casket, and took in a deep breath.
It was my adult cousin, the one who lived down the street. No skeleton or wounds or blood or winkled skin. Just my cousin. It reminded me of a wax figure. My cousin. Then the silence fell to the back, and I could hear the wailing and the prayers of the woman once more.
“That’s it?” I said to my dad.
“Yeah,” he said. “Quiet.”
I felt compelled to go into my pocket and leave my cousin the toy soldier amongst all the flowers. I didn’t dare.
Death had only been a concept to me. Outside of television and movies, I only had urban legends. There was the time they found a dead body down at the end of the street in tall weeds. My older friend, Vic, said that it was done by a serial killer, who broke free from the Allentown State Hospital. He said that the escapee planned on killing all of the adults and torturing the children to exact some form of revenge. Despite my father’s assurance against this claim, I feared a man was roaming the streets with a gun that night. I couldn’t sleep. They ruled it suicide the next day, and I was relieved.
There was the story of the boy, who drowned in the Lehigh River next to Bucky Boyle Park. They said he swam too close to the whirlpool that swirled in the center, and he couldn’t swim back. For that reason, they told us kids to not even so much as step into the water.
Then there was the story of the boy, who fell out of a window in our former Brooklyn apartment complex. They said his ghost haunted the court yard. I had nightmares about him until we moved.
The wailing and the prayers grew even louder, and it began to make me sick to my stomach. I had enough of looking and standing still.
I looked back up to my father.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said.
“Quiet,” he said, then took my hand and we walked away.
Back in the car and on our way home, my father reminded me and my brother that although our cousin was dead in the physical form, he was still alive in spirit. And that spirit is everlasting and although we cannot see him, he’s still with us. The moment he described my cousin, I imagined the translucent ghost of Christmas past from a TV version of Christmas Carol.
“Do you think Freddy Kruger could beat a ghost?” I said to my older brother.
“I don’t know,” my brother said.
“Cause Freddy’s got claws,” I said.
“You’re dumb,” he said. “Nothing can beat a ghost.”
I looked back out the window and noticed that it was a beautiful day. When I got home, I would go outside and play with Mitch. Mitch was fun, and he would let me lead. We’d race and play with our toys, and I’d give him the soldier that was scarping my thigh, and I’d tell him that I don’t think I like funerals.
It was a beautiful day. No clouds were in sight, and I could see a faint moon above, immersed in blue sky. A couple of sparrow streaked across it. A gust of air from my father’s window blew into my face. The sun touched everything. And there was plenty of time before dark.
by Marc Alexander Valle ©2019
I’d always play with those bugs that curl into balls. They called them roly-polys. I’d dig them up in the dirt and touch them with a small twig so they could roll up. I always wondered what it would be like in that ball, only seeing myself in shafts of light. Was it warm in there like when I’d stick my head into my winter jacket? Does he feel untouchable in there, safe and sound? Can he fall asleep?
I’d cover my entire body with the blanket at night so the zombies wouldn’t see me. If I can’t see them, they can’t see. This bed sheet, my midnight steel.
I’m a grown man and now believe that nothing is free from harm. Not my body. Not my life. Not my world. Not my dreams that can turn into nightmares right before I wake and throw off this thin bed cover.
But I still cover up completely even if it’s for a few seconds late at night, trying to fall asleep, and I wonder what all the boogeyman fuss was about. And maybe that was the Universe’s evolutionary plan with those roly-polys. Like the ancestor to the roly-poly lived in a world of bigger bugs, predators, boogeymen, and the only ones that survived were the cowards that curled into the ball.
I lie in bed waiting to feel dozy. Two hours will have to do. Just two hours.
When I wake, I will shed this bed sheet one more time to meet the day that will always arrive regardless of my fears, or what childhood I had, or how strong my daddy was, or what goals I’ve planned or failed to meet.
Just two hours. A few hours will have to do.
by Marc Alexander Valle ©2019
by Marc Alexander Valle
The boy looked down at the worm, squirming on the backwoods trail. A ray of light illuminated its pinkish hue and a warm breeze hit his face.
“Eat it,” she said. “I’ll kiss you.”
“No,” he said.
“Then no,” she said.
But he had wanted to kiss her all summer, floating in the deep in the pool, bumping her hand at the movie theater as he reached for soda, lying on the grassy field with the late morning sun warming him enough to feel bliss.
He looked back down. Then kept squirming and picking up dirt.
“It tastes like nothing,” she said. “Go ‘head.”
He thought of candy then reached down and picked it up.
He could feel its life force as it wiggled and expanded on his palm. Candy would be pointless, he thought, “It’s too fleshy.” Then he imagined roast chicken instead.
“I’ve done it,” she said, “You won’t get sick.”
He popped it in his mouth and could feel it slither then contract, the dirt turning to grim on his tongue. He swallowed it and closed his eye. It slide down his throat quickly and he could feel it move. And like everything else he ate, the feeling disappeared just before reaching the stomach.
He opened his eyes and looked to her.
“Yuck,” she said.
He stepped forward and closed his eyes again.
His lips touched hers.
But he felt nothing in return. He held the kiss and waited for her to reciprocate. But he felt nothing in return. He stepped forward and moved his face closer to her. But he felt nothing in return. He could feel nothing but the dead lips, hear nothing but the cicadas and crickets chirping. Just the dead lips and live bugs and the hope of something in return.
She pulled away and jabbed his stomach.
“Gross,” she said, “I’m not kissing bugs.”
As he held onto his gut crunched over he could see her walk away down the path and out of sight. The pain spread across his abdomen and he wasn’t sure if he needed to go to the bathroom.
He could hear the bird chirping and an animal moving in the brush. He had to go home now. If he was late for dinner one more time, he’d be grounded for two days.
Rays of light disappeared as a cloud rolled in. A cooler breeze hit his face. He wondered what boy he’d get to tell first.
Hour of the Muse. A video poem that I wrote, directed and performed in.
A video poem written and directed by Marc Alexander Valle ©2018
“My mom says I gotta separate the laundry before we can play games,” Sal said. “Want to help?”
It was my first sleepover and this was new to me. My mom never let me touch the laundry. I said yes.
“Whites, darks, and lights,” he said. “That’s how you pile them up, Marc.”
I dug into one of the two bins that was closest to me.
This is dark.
This is light.
This is white.
Until all three piles formed into mounds.
“You’re a liar,” he joked. “You’ve done this before.”
“Nah-uh. First time.”
This is dark.
This is light
This is white.
Holy snap! It’s got doo-doo on it!
I backed away from the bin.
“What’s the matter?” Sal said, continuing his work.
“You’re not gonna help?”
“Yeah. I gotta go to the bathroom.”
“Well, can it wait? Just a little more, right?”
That had to be the only dirty underwear in there.
Maybe it was just a one-time thing.
“All right,” I said.
I stared at the bin. Another pair of white underwear stared back.
“It’s just clothes,” he said. “It’s not gonna bite.”
I couldn’t tell if it was soiled. It was too crumpled up. Not enough light.
I’ll grab the elastic. You can’t do boom-boom on the elastic.
“I’m done on my end,” he said. “Anymore?”
Maybe I can pretend I don’t see anything.
“What’s the matter, slowpoke?” he said, laughing.
I kept staring, debating, not wanting him to know that I knew.
12/26/2017 (6:39 am – 6:54 am)
And the thought arose from the ocean of my mind and said, “Ask the breath. The breath will tell you both your question and answer.”
I had a vision. I thought about a current situation that I cannot control and a thought-emotion-image popped into my head. I was in early elementary school and I felt a bad feeling. I didn’t like early elementary school. Especially, the first two grades. I remember coming home crying to my mother one kindergarten day, saying how no one likes me. School was a jungle to me. People were wild and heartless animals and I could not understand their language. I was used to a certain level of attention and nurturing from home, from mother, but these kids just didn’t react to my jokes and TV references and my personality.
People were just mean without reason and no matter how many decent classmates were actually there, the sucky people stuck out the most. They were into who-likes-who-type things and who’s-being-bad-type things.
I always wanted to go home early in kindergarten and first grade. I was quiet and inside myself with no sense of social intuition. These kids were like Soviet gymnast on steroids when it came to socialization and I was Popeye pre-spinach.
I felt those feelings in that split second of meditation. I could see how those feelings began in early grade school and still follow me until this day. I had no control. Everyone and everything else did have the control, at least the illusion of it. But it’s better than nothing.
I formed my ego in the middle of a cursive writing lesson, writing out my name in the hope that one day I could sign autographs like Michael Jackson. The seeds for becoming a writer were planted on that paper with that lead pencil.
I don’t know what seeing that image and feeling that feeling will do for me. My guess is that its benefits will not take effect for another few months. For now, I’m made a connection and I know now with more certainty what meditation has been telling me for last year: God is in the breath, not the concept.