Old Man On a Country Road

An old man, stooped and tottering through the snow. He holds his collar close. Stars twine his eyes and sicken his stomach, a flash convulsion grips his throat. With heated ears, chest heaving, his heart drags with stress. He wears no hat, no gloves, just a tattered, long grey overcoat.

He leans forward under the weight of his 85 years, and the wind picks up with each step. He can’t let go of what he used to be and he falls to the ground. He has waited too long to cry. There is a little spotlight that always seems to follow him at night, hovering above, lighting the way through the woods at night and during the day, always close by. He coughs up phlegm and blood, but he doesn’t spit it out with anger, as over the past few days; he just opens his mouth and lets it flow over his lips and chin onto the snowed over gravel road.

Two old oak trees spar in the wind, cracking, rubbing, creaking. He envies them; two old oaks, fighting and embracing, fighting and embracing, in all conditions of extremity. He remembers some of the people who have come and gone; and those to whom he didn’t matter enough to be remembered for all of the little things he did for them. He remembers certain commitments he made in his early years; some edifying and some not so, which chased him for a lifetime, demanding some accounting or another.

He often was unwilling to do his part, but there was always those pestering details and negotiations, and the command, “YOU DO NOT CRY!!! Never let people see you cry.” He had hard evidence that he was a bearer of this, his father’s creed, despite his mother’s objections, from infancy. (For four months after birth, he cried incessantly due to a petulant stomach, and dad disdained him from those days onward.)

But the generations kept raising the bar of behavioral acceptability. He wore his father’s genes and he was tired with fighting them for so long.

“…allz i remember is he had tears in his eyes, officer,” the man sobs to the police woman on the scene. “I mean, i never seen him. Why was he walking in the road like that out hear in the middle of no where…oh, god, what have i done?”

 

Z

 

This was originally a story I blogged many years ago as a prose poem. It was a real stinkaroo with many clunky adjective phrases, but it still managed to get some very, very kind “likes.” And I was thinking about those who liked it, not counting the likes from the marketer blogs and others who didn’t actually look at the post, but those who read it and found something that struck them. It was a poorly worded story jammed into a sort of lyrical phrasing and called a poem.

I read a blog post from a teacher regarding German Expressionism yesterday, which was on my mind when I came across this story in the junk pile. I have always loved German Expressionism as a way to convey psychological impact. Minimalist styles have always fascinated me with their ability to spark an epiphany while I am experiencing a particular work of art, but German Expressionism with its distortion of reality and exaggeration of human feeling was something that has long influenced me

This dramatic quality is what I was sort of working on when I was writing this story before, and now that I am an older writer I can see some of these influences perhaps a little more clearer. With lyric, I was trying to convey an emotional moment like in an Edward Munch painting. It was just that my mind was not mature enough to be more cognizant of telling a story to others that conveys something for a reason, has a character that lives for them and not a naked author presenting something vague.

This story easily fits into that of Littlefield. With Littlefield I have the vehicle to take some of these earlier works that look so awful now, and see what I can do with some of them as someone who has a better idea with a use and purpose for them. If you have been one to have “liked” a stinkaroo because you realize some way in which the immature author has connected with you in spite of his clumsy style, you are like me, part of a community that recognizes our kin. We see something there worth our notice and we just want to acknowledge it.

 

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