A Vacation Paradise, Poem

A Vacation Paradise ( Pfeltner 1994)

It was a vacation paradise the trip of a lifetime.
Hunting in the rain forest, it didn’t cost a dime.
We were proud to be chosen, just lucky they said.
Stories to brag about, but don’t lose your head.

We walked through the forest, enjoying the trees
When the new guy tripped, knocking me to my knees.
The machine guns swept, as I fell on my gun,
I lived, they died, and that’s how it’s begun.

Eighty-nine in one day, it was all I could carry
I stacked them like wood for mothers to bury.
Alone in the dark, I couldn’t stop crying
It’s not about death, it’s the manner of dying.

My life continues with a new set of friends,
It didn’t seem fair, but that’s not where it ends.
The helicopter exploded, it burned in midair
All dead but me, it didn’t seem fair.

I bagged my friends for two years and a day.
A miracle they tell me, a morbid curse I say.
The months slowly pass, but life quickly changes.
My friends are my weapons and books of their ranges.

We joined their club to prove we were men,
But they put us in bags and gave us a pin.
Make sense of it, if you possibly can,
War is death, and the dark side of man.

Interested in miracles? Then read this again,
It happens all over with shiny new friends.
A few made it home and I am here to stay.
No more friends, there is no one to play.

I showed this to my brother, he threw it in my face.
“I thought you could write, this things a disgrace.
Where are the children and the freedom to win?
Where is the purpose for the death of those men?

I want to see agony, men walking through fire
Show me their hearts, there winning desire.
Schooling to write, where the Hell have you been
Get back to your room, leap fire from that pen!”

I picked up the paper, of course he was right.
I had neither skills nor ability to write.
With headache and pen I start writing again
About life and death and the valor of men.

Posted in Family

A Quick Glance Down the Wooded Lane


I rolled over in bed, gazing at the picture on the bed stand. It was a picture of a blond seven year old boy and his dog, in front of an old two-story white house. I’ve been ill and illness makes me lonely. I detest loneliness. I picked up the picture and brushed away the years. There is something magical about the age of seven.
“I can’t stay in bed forever.” I pulled back the white linen curtains to look out the window at the farm. It’s late evening on a typical Kentucky midsummer’s day. Mom and dad will be taking their sunset stroll in a few minutes. I pulled on my jeans and a red shirt, and ran downstairs to the kitchen.

Grandmother was cutting the chicken to fry and mom was peeling apples. When I walked into the kitchen, grandma seemed surprised. “I see you finally decided to rejoin the living! You shouldn’t spend so much time in bed.”

I smiled, “Hi grandma, hi mom. I can’t stay in that bed any longer. I thought I’d walk with mom and dad to the marsh.”

Mom set the bowl of apples by the pie pan and laid her hand across my head. “Are you sure you can walk that far? You still have a fever.”

I shook my head, “I’m okay, mom. Where is dad? I thought he would be home by now?”

Mom put the apples in the pie pan and folded over the top crust. “Go wait on the porch. Your dad will be along in a minute.”

Mom saved a small piece of dough and rolled it into a ball. I smiled and stole a small piece of apple. The apple was green and made my mouth pucker. “Sour apples in a pie? That doesn’t sound right to me.” I headed back to the porch shaking my head. As I opened the screen door, Queen ran up to me jumping, licking my hand, and generally going crazy.

“Go sit down,” I said as I sat on the porch swing. The white paint was pealing from the arm of the swing and the house needs painting again. I was born in this house and so was my mother and grandmother. The house lives and breathes, because we live.

Mom and grandma are school teachers. Mom says she was teaching school before there were pencils, but grandma was teaching before there was chalk. I have never understood their humor. I learned to read and write long before I went to school. Dad is a lumber jack and he taught me the names of all the trees, flowers, and animals in the woods. I don’t think I have forgotten a single thing in my life. Not everything should be remembered, but I can’t have it both ways. I remember pain and I feel the pain of too many years.

Grownups ask me what I want to be when I grow up, but it’s a dumb question. “I just want to be seven. Isn’t that right Queen?” I rubbed Queen’s head as her tail beat against my leg. I could swear her tail is made of wood. Queen is a brown and white English pointer that dad raised from a pup. I’m seven years old and the dog is eight. “You’re my best friend.” I said, scratching her head.

Queen jumped up and ran down the road toward the corn field. I suppose she saw a rabbit. The corn is eight feet tall, tasseled and green. It’s hot and humid and I can smell the subtle scent of corn tassels blowing across the road. Finally, dad came down the road with Queen jumping all around him. Dad was wearing a red plaid shirt, just like mine.

Dad waved and smiled as he approached, “Well, look who’s out of bed!”

“Hi dad, I’m going to walk to the marsh with you and mom tonight. Is that okay?”

Dad stepped up on the porch fending off the dog’s affections. “That’s my boy! What did your mother say?”

“Mom said it’s okay. She’s finishing an apple pie for dinner. I miss you dad.”

“I know son. I miss you too. I’ll see if your mother is ready.”

Dad pushed queen out of the doorway and scratched her head. Queen walked over to the rocking chair and curled up on the porch. I heard mom and dad goofing around in the kitchen and the dough ball plopped against the wall. When she makes pies, she saves a small dough ball to throw at dad. I guess that’s love?

Queen stood, barking at a rabbit that wandered into the dirt road in front of the house. The rabbit ignored Queen at first, but after further consideration the rabbit ran back into the corn field.

Finally, mom and dad came out of the house. Mom wore a blue dress and was carrying a sweater. I suspect the sweater was for me, but she didn’t make me put it on, yet. Mom held out her hand to help me down the stairs.

Dad said, “Let’s go, the sun will be down before we get there!”

I jumped down the stairs, two at a time. “It’s okay mom. I feel much better now! Queen is going to catch a rabbit!”

The dog and I led the way. We had to take the long way to the lane, because mom won’t climb fences. We walked through the barnyard and dad opened the gate for us.

Uncle Joe was herding the milk cows up the lane to the barn. He waved, “I see you finally got out of bed!”

I yelled, “We’re going to see the sunset!”

We walked down the lane to the woods on the backside of the farm. The woods to the left were dark and damp, and the evening shadows seemed to follow us. The dog barked at the woods, but I saw nothing. The woods are scary in the late evening, and I never go in them at night. Queen ran ahead, sniffing the air. “Queen, there goes a rabbit! Awe, it’s too late! He ran into the woods.”

Mom and dad stopped by the sweet gum tree, calling out the names of the wild flowers. I yelled out, “May apple and ginseng.” I knew all the flowers on the farm. Flowers were my life’s study.

We looked for a possum in the persimmon tree, but he was nowhere to be found. A beautiful blue winged teal swam near the edge of the marsh with her baby ducks.

Queen showed great restraint, but I held her collar all the same. It was only a twenty minute walk to the marsh, but it seemed as if we had walked to another world. The marsh at sunset is a magnificent sight, and life itself must have begun in the marsh.

I walked ahead of mom and dad with Queen, spotting the birds as they took flight over the marsh. The dog and I were several steps ahead of mom and dad as they talked in whispers, pointing to the moon. I watched as the sun touched the marsh. The animals so active, only moments before, stopped and quietly watched.

The dog and I sat quietly as the sunset transformed the vague pale gray clouds into beautifully painted sculptures drifting across the sky. I searched the sculptures for the face of God, because I was told this is where he lives. I rubbed the dogs head, while she sat in my lap. We watched the red-winged blackbirds flitting among the cattails. We listened to the frogs for several minutes, until the sun finally disappeared. I sat in the twilight enjoying the warm afterglow, as a large owl made a single pass over the marsh. The owl landed in a high tree overlooking his territory.

Queen nudged my arm and I turned as mom and dad walked into the woods one by one. “Hey, wait for me! Where are you going? Don’t go in the woods!” I ran to the edge of the woods, but I lost them in the shadows. They didn’t answer. Queen barked several times and refused to enter the woods. I stood with Queen, facing the forest in the twilight.

“Why did they take a short cut tonight?” I looked at the dog, disappointed. “Now we have to walk home alone, in the dark!”

The beauty of the sunset was forgotten, abruptly replaced by the uncertainty of darkness. A chill crawled along the ground from the damp woods into the lane. I saw a frightened look on the dog’s face as something touched my back. The dog winced and ran for the house. There was no need to turn and look. I took the dogs advice and ran toward the house.

I could hear the crushing of the leaves and I knew he was close behind me. When he touched me again, I redoubled my efforts to fly. I ran along the edge of the woods, passing trees with long bare branches that hung over the lane. I scared a rabbit from his hiding place and I saw the owl take flight. I ran past the rabbit and heard him scream. I don’t know if the owl caught the rabbit. I couldn’t chance a look.

The house was in sight as I ran by the apple orchard and jumped over the fence by the wood pile. The dog was on the porch, clawing for someone to let her in the door. I reached the sidewalk and screamed, “Grandma! Mom! Dad!” I opened the door and the house was dark and empty. The dog ran ahead as we ran up the stairs to my bedroom. We jumped on the bed and crawled under the covers. With hearts pounding, I held the dog, waiting.

I heard someone open the door downstairs and slowly climb the stairs to my bedroom door. I wanted to scream, but there was no one to hear. The dog had left me to face the demons of the night, alone.

I lie in bed, arms heavy from fear. There was a strong presence at the door. I listened afraid to breathe and could hear nothing as Death quietly entered the room. I saw the face of Death, then I pulled the covers over my head gasping for breath.

Death pulled back the covers and I was a much older man with gray thinning hair. In total darkness, I could still see the calm face of Death. I grabbed my aching chest as the sound of an irregular heat beat finally came to rest.

Death held out his hand and I saw a knowing kindness in his face. I took his hand and he took my pains; past, present, and always. There were many questions I wanted to ask, but now they didn’t seem important. Released from the pain, I hugged Death with a sincere embrace. “Thank you, thank you for allowing me to visit my old friends!” I held his hand and rose from the bed for the first time in many years. We left the house and headed back down the lane.

The exquisite clouds slowly drained of color until only one remained. There was a moment of silence for those who feel the need to pray or perhaps for the awe of the sunset years, as I took that final walk down the wooded lane to the death of day.

The End.

Posted in Family

A Christmas Dinner Prayer, Haiku

A Christmas Dinner Prayer.  Pfeltner 1994 Haiku

“Why don’t you give the Christmas blessing this year,” mother said.

I had never given the blessing much thought and I didn’t really know what to say.           During the blessing, I normally eyed the table trying to pick out the best piece of fried chicken and locating the gravy and butter for the mashed potatoes. I looked around the table trying to recall what had been said in years gone bye. Dad would usually make excuses for the missing faces, and then say something about being grateful for the ones who came, and being grateful for the food. There were other items he mentioned, but I don’t recall what they were.

I made a quick count of the missing faces. I thought of the car wrecks, heart attacks, and a war whose outcome amounted to nothing. There was much to be said, but nothing that would mater. I thought of the millions that have died and the countless lies that had been told that were supposed to make it all right.  The centuries of deaths that lead to our existence and the future of our unborn children and what we have left them to face.  I thought of the ozone layer, chemical poisoning, politicians, and wondered where it would all end. The food was getting cold and people were waiting for me to begin.

I looked at the table colorful and grand with a craft of wine, a large bowl of salad covered with shrimp, a roast beef, the fried chicken and deviled eggs, and finally I spotted the gravy bowl just to the left of my plate. The food was what we were here for so that is what I should talk about. I closed my eyes in search of poetic thoughts. I saw the tears of grapes saved in a bottle and from the barnyard I saw the young butchered calf roasted tender and rare.  The little red hen fresh form the frying pan placed neatly on a platter.  The twelve little chicks that could have been were boiled, halved, and covered with red powder. Suddenly my heart was frantic as tears began to form. I heard the silent screams of torn lettuce drowning in oil and the shrimp boiled alive and the crushed cranberries floating in their own blood.  I shook my head and opened my eyes.  Somewhere along the way I had taken a wrong turn. A few words like that and no one could eat. I was sweating, minutes had passed, and still I had nothing to say.

I took a couple of breaths and wiped the sweat from my face. It was Christmas so He would have to be in the prayer somewhere. Each new thought only proved worse than the last. This wasn’t working so I bowed my head and blindly began.

“We stand on the shoulders of millions, yet we are allowed to mourn only one.  I am grateful for all I have received and for the opportunity to fight for the future of the yet unborn.”

Mother raised her head and smiled, “That wasn’t so hard, take a biscuit and start them to the left. You can say the blessing every Christmas form now on.”

I passed the rolls and looked around the table. I was sweating and my heart was slowly returning to normal. We don’t eat rocks so something must die for us to live.  I hate living a lie, but the truth is hard to accept. We are merely vultures in the trees awaiting the calf’s dying breath. The mind is complex and sometimes requires one to deal with life and death, or even a meal. I approached the roast with my fork and stabbed it in the eye, carving the largest piece. After all the calf was dead and I am not. Let’s keep it that way.

“If you insist mother, has anyone seen the butter,” I replied?

Posted in Family

Valentine’s Day Off (Haiku Poem)

Valentine’s Day Off  (Pfeltner Feb. 3, 1994)

She rested poorly, weak from failing health. Visitors seldom came because she could no longer speak. The days passed slowly as she gasped for breath, but lately she seemed unaware of time. Her bed was near the open window and the sounds of birds were her only comfort. As the sun rose casting shadows across the room, a stranger tapped gently at her door.

The door opened and solemnly he walked across the room to her bed. Death leaned over her and pulled back the covers to take her in his arms. The Grim Reaper should have touched her immediately, but the sunlight touched her face and he pulled back his hands in awe. Her beauty was far greater than any he had seen in all of his centuries. He leaned closer, careful not to touch her. Her face was thin from hunger and her blue eyes grew dim in the morning sunlight. Her lips were dry and fragile, but still there was more beauty in this frail body than he had ever known.

He pulled his hood over his face so not to frighten her, but it was unclear if she knew he was in the room. This was no mere woman, for she had stopped Death in his tracks. He replaced the covers and stepped back pulling the list from his cloak. Her name most clearly appeared near the bottom. He had always been an obedient servant, but there must be some mistake. She was in the prime of life and yet as he listened he could hear the faint murmur in her heart. But surely there could be no reason to end this wondrous life.

As he stood listening to the struggling heart, she gasped for breath and her body shuddered. The Grim Reaper lowered his head and a tear of acid ran down his cheek. He stood up straight and marched to the door, but before leaving he turned and removed the murmur from her failing heart with a flick of his wrist. He heard her breathing ease and the color returned to her cheeks. As he walked outside, a storm was brewing and there was a rumbling in the sky.

He tore the list and threw it on the ground screaming, “I am Death! I answer to no one!”

He stood defiantly facing the Heavens as a shower of lightning fell around him. “You cannot scare me! Five thousand years I have done your bidding! One lousy day off, is that too much to ask?” The rumbling grew louder and moved off to the East as the lightning bolts felled trees along the path. “It’s Valentine’s Day,” he added as an afterthought.

Death shook his head. There would be Hell to pay. He placed his hand on the door and could feel that all was well within. He turned and headed back to his lair, a simple cave with a place for a fire. He wanted to throw furniture, but as he looked around, he had none. The cave was bare, no vase, no bed, not even a chair. Only the robes on his back, the scythe in his hand, and on a rock near the fire, rest the Sands of Time. The hour glass had served him well, but even the lowliest worker would have received a watch of gold after all these years. Five thousand years of faithful service to be precise, and all his possessions could be carried in one hand.

Suddenly he grabbed the rocks on the floor and threw them against the walls. The pounding grew as Death became enraged, screaming of the many plagues and his faithful service in the Christian Wars! He pounded a smooth spot on the wall and then with his bony fingers, he clawed a crude circle that in his eyes resembled the face he had seen today. He gathered the stones into a bed and lay on them, admiring his newest possessions. A life he was allowed to save on Valentine’s Day and a tear he knew not that he possessed. He felt the streak the tear had etched on the side of his face. A reminder of compassion, and the knowledge that she would come to him in her own time. This Valentine’s Day was a day he would remember in spite of it all.

Posted in Family

Abuse starts at home

Abuse starts at home. It doesn’t end there, abuse is everywhere. Over 90% of a typical Therapist workload is abuse related. Abuse and bullying are unnecessary, sometimes anonymous and perpetrators should be held accountable.

Abuse has different meanings for all of us because there are many forms of abuse. There are the ones we hear about on TV almost every day. Criminal abuse that makes you angry, helpless and hopeless partly because, if the criminal is actually caught, the criminal will typically be out of jail before the victim is out of therapy. There are many types of abuse and bullying  and they can physically and mentally injure victims and the mental injury can be far worse and longer lasting than the physical injury. A broken bone is much faster to mend than the feeling of insecurity and recurring nightmares. Victims of abuse are facing professional help for years and may never recover completely.

Criminal abuse is perhaps the first type of abuse that comes to mind, but abuse covers far more than criminal abuse. I will attempt to describe several typical forms of abuse and some forms of abuse that we have not been made aware of at all. One is abuse by big business of their workers. Stay tuned and open your eyes to what is being done to you and millions of others and some of it without your knowledge.

A lot of abuse and bullying could be stopped cold with a little knowledge and a plan of what to do if you see it coming. Be aware and be prepared for your next encounter with abuse and bullying.

More to come.

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