[b]the dark ages[/b]

sitting at the cafe
caressing piquant coffee
a decadent slice of cake
half eaten
it is essential
I do not finish the coffee
before the cake
the cafe was crowded
my mind was crowded too
swarming with thoughts and ideas
napkins and empty cigarette packages
the usual evidence of my fervent tirades
but the napkins here are linen

I looked up
just as you entered
I’ve seen you here,
at the Mediterranean Cafe
many times
and I wonder who you were
what you did in your life
what were your passions
I didn’t have the luxury of knowing
my grandparents
so age is an enigma to me
you are an enigma to me

you sit in silence at your own table
in your own world
something like David Bowie in
‘The Hunger’
you are always alone
sometimes you sit with people you don’t know
during a moment when you don’t know your name
so what’s the difference
I suppose they notice the drool
in the corner of your mouth
and I would be amused at their discomfort
if I didn’t feel so damn sorry for you

they sure pick up the pace
when you join them.
any coffee, or dessert?
quickly wiping mouths with linen napkins
pushing half-eaten lunch at the waitress
no thanks, really have to go
that’s okay, we’ll pay at the counter
they collect their possessions hurriedly
you do not notice, nor take offence
there is some peculiar safeguard
residing in oblivion
you use your napkin to wipe your nose

that day, after you finished your lunch
you shuffled right by my table on your way out
I looked directly into your blank eyes
such sorrow
amid such nothingness
for a moment, a very brief moment
there was a glint
something that looked like amusement
and then you forgot what you were doing
and sat down at another table
staring around the room confused
the people at the table looked confused too

I couldn’t help watching
wondering what life has become for you
did you achieve all your dreams?
do you have children?
did you hold your first grand-child in your arms,
still warm from his mother’s womb,
and weep at the wonder of new life
before you no longer recognized your daughter?
age is eating your brain old man
and you don’t notice,
because when it feeds
you are not there

[b]therapy junkie[/b]

she is not dead
but for the twenty years
I have known her
I have waited
for news of the inevitable
I’m so sorry
Suzanne wrapped her car
around a huge oak tree last night
better I think than
she hit a van
carrying seven children
to a summer camp
no survivors
either way
she would be drunk
so many times I’ve heard
Tso kay, em nod drunch
I can drive perfechly.
you can only elude fate
for so long

her driving
no longer my fear
after years of complicated m�l�es
riddled with twist and turns
sexual abuse
physical abuse
mental – emotional
did I miss any?
depression has conquered her
amid sleep deprivation
anxiety attacks
and physical assaults
committed by her own hand
while she sleeps
never reaching REM
revealed in dream therapy
one of the many
that occupy her days
therapy junkie

she stays in her house
hostage of her own fears
pots of coffee
peter jacksons in smoking chains
a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals
that often beckon to her
on darker days
to consume the entire collection
and forget
countless failed attempts
now-she may be too weak
curled into defensive fetus
seeking protection from mother
who looked the other way
when her father in law
made her daughter a woman
at ten

And all I know
is the place where she now lives
ebony filled terror
it is no world of mine
and she is there alone
rocking her self back and forth
like the child she should have been
I offer her my hand
through the darkness
that in her madness
might seem the vicious head
of a dragon – breathing fire
her teeth are honed

[b]full circle[/b]

she held me
small sick child
with tender loving hands
endless hours
through long nights
never enough air
so much effort to breathe

back and forth
back and forth

all this
prone at the threshold
of vague memories
but drenched with
emotional certainty
I recall the warmth
her touch
soft elegant hands
on my back
persuading lungs
to better air

twenty-two years
consumed by life
and I held my mother
with tender hands
endless hours
through the long night
never enough air
so much effort to breathe
I miss my dignity
she sighs
I’m only fifty-three
I smile
ah, Mum
you still have much dignity
and where did you learn
to face death with such grace?
from you Love
she whispered
and I cried

as I rocked her
back and forth
back and forth

[b]If I Could Have These Moments Back[/b]

she told me
on a day
that had no right
to be drenched in sun
‘they are concerned
peripheral flashes
I didn’t know
what an ophthalmologist was
everything will be fine
I lied
in some way
I knew
nothing would

aneurysm coiled
like a snake
waiting to strike
bringer of death
devastator of dreams
knife cuts deep
always casualties
where the brain is concerned
the snake annihilated
but vicious venom remains
‘lung cancer’
she whispered
in a voice so small

I wish.
I had made her go
to England then
instead of
as she said
waiting until she felt better
back home to England
with her boyfriend
seventeen years younger
eyebrows would have arched
there is no male version
of the word mistress
she never felt better
than that day

I wish I hadn’t been so afraid
to touch her back
with its landmines
I wish I had asked her
straight out
is he really my dad?
I wish I had purchased
illegal fireworks
and set them off
outside her window
for fun

when I brought her
to the hospital
that Sunday night in April
the doctor whispered
‘she is very close’
I knew
that is why I brought her

down the hall
a man cries out
demanding his dentures
‘poor old soul’
she managed through her pain
I wish I had known
I could have stayed that night
in the hospital
reading Shakespeare, Shelley
holding her
but I didn’t

the next morning
I arrive
they were calling her Theresa
I wish I had told them
no one called her Theresa
they called her Tess

an hour later
she was struggling for breath
as they cleared her lungs of fluid
I couldn’t listen
to the loud sucking noise
of that machine
I left the room

and I wish
in those last
few minutes of her life
that I wasn’t talking about floor wax
with the janitor
I wish instead,
I had been brave enough
to endure
and hold her hand
and whisper love
into her perfect ear

by Paddy Gillard-Bentley (c) 2002
([email]skydragon [at] sympatico [dot] ca[/email])

[b]Author’s Notes:[/b] Paddy Gillard-Bentley is the author of two published children’s books. At twenty-two, she wrote for a Rock magazine, and since then, has had several poems, short stories, reviews and articles published in magazines and e-zines. She is a member and board trustee of The International Centre for Women Playwrights, and an associate member of The Playwrights Union of Canada. She is also the Poetry Editor of Painted Moon Review. Paddy was in her first play, Bringing up Ginger, when her mother was four months pregnant with her, and has been involved in most aspects of theatre since. Paddy is in her third year of Writer’s Bloc, a playwright’s group affiliated with Theatre & Company, where her play, White Noise, was professionally produced. She lives near Toronto with her husband, artist J. Caz Bentley and her ten-year old thespian son, Samuel.

The House on Bretton Heights

a short story by Tom Sheehan
([email]tomsheehan [at] attbi [dot] com[/email])

For nearly a month, from a cliff shoulder on Pressburn Hill, August rain and sun taking turns at him, birds accepting him, Brisque Validarn watched the house on Bretton Heights, watched every movement, change of light, visit and departure. From his post the house, on the very summit of Bretton Heights, was about half a mile distant, sitting there the crown jewel of targets, its parapets breaching the skyline. One precious stone, slipped with dark ease from that crown, would last him for a year; Nice, Bordeaux in the old country, any beach without reservation in the New World. He watched, he clocked, he measured, he posted entries in a burgeoning logbook. When a light went on or off, he bent over his logbook and marked the time, the quadrant of the big house, calculated routines. When a FedEx truck crawled up the long driveway, Brisque swore he could hear the gears at work, both coming and going, as the drive back down the hill could prove challenging.

There was no easy way in. Or out. And heavy rain would make it adventurous. But all these details, one by one, would be noted, calculated, put in place. Nothing took the place of care, and care took care of confidence.

Marie had come to him, contrite, diffident, her hat twisting in her hands, as if she were trying to make up for being a woman the last time around. [i]You don’t play games with Brisque Validarn[/i], he had pointed out to her, initially laughing at a bit of thigh, her hand lingering at the Mound of Venus pushing against a blue silk, finally a breast cupped in that hand.

“I swear, Brisque, she had rocks on her hand would knock your eyes out, the wifey. Eight, ten carats, I’m telling you. This thing on her neck could choke a horse, too. Dazzling, and it not yet noon. She must wear stuff like that in a shower probably big as city hall. Not bad either, come to think of it. I’d give her a go myself. She’s got a butt she should be proud of.” She rolled her you-know-me eyes.

“What about him? All this sudden revelation is as subtle as a broken leg, Marie Lavoren. You’d do anything to get what you want. Prostrate, vertical, you name an angle, and you’d find it and fit it. What’s his age? Condition? Athletic looking? What do his eyes look like? How deep inside you did they go?” He gauged her again. “When Marie the clerk becomes Marie the opportunist you can be devastatingly clear and concise in your observations, in your intuition, but you have great trouble leaving sex out of your judgment.”

Her gray-green eyes lit up, and then narrowed, blonde tresses falling over one eye as she nodded, and another button of her blouse was slyly opened. “Sitting on top of the world, he is, Brisque. In shape, lean at the waist, wide-eyed, jaw like a movie star with that intriguing cleft in the chin. Can undress you in a second, he can, explore you a bit, he can, but lets you know he’s putting your clothes back on. A little class with his act, I’ll tell you. He’s looked at me a few times in the store.” Leaning forward, using her body as punctuation, loading it up with exclamation, she added, “He’s about fifty, though he looks younger. It’s his physical training adds something special. Has great color, oh my, yes. Must lift, but not too much I’d bet. Moves like Gene Kelly or Freddie what’s-his-name doing a waltz in one of those old movies. Blue eyes like a lagoon must look, like they’re a second away from inviting you in for a shower or a swim or even a tussle.” She punctuated her description with another, ” Oh my, yes.”

“How would I immediately recognize him?” There was something in Marie’s eyes that said she had a piece of information put away, held in reserve. He’d counted on that from the beginning. It was her [i]modus operandi[/i]. She wouldn’t let him down.

Marie the opportunist smiled. “Two fingers missing off his right hand. And he is right-handed. The index finger and the sex finger, both gone almost to the knuckles, but not messy. Not like they were smashed off but a surgeon took them off. Clean. Neat. Not ugly or bulgy or toady looking.” The smile continued. She had come loaded for bear. “Harry’s sold him stones out of the store he says for eight or nine years now, since he cut the big crust. Says it came overnight. Figures it’s clean crooked, if you know what he means.” She could not have twisted the offer of her body any more than it was at that moment. “He’d be a great hit.” Her eyes rolled again, trespassing on the ultimate potential.

“Anything else Harry offer?”

She leaned forward again, never letting a chance slip away, her mouth slightly open, her eyes slightly closed. Brisque thought there should be odors in the offing too. [i]She’s a piece of work[/i], he said to himself, [i]a magnificent piece of work[/i].

“Lots of stuff kicking around, the kind Harry picks up in the trade. Stuff that follows big spenders, high rollers, the quick rich. He’s got a sweetheart stashed away in a condo down in Revere, right on the beach. His fingers came off via a machete, they also say, in the hands of a Cuban brought up from Miami to fix a wrong. If he soured somebody bigger, welshed, got in the sack with the wrong broad, he paid for it. But he come out of it clean. Well, kind of clean.” She smiled and broadcast her desire again, the blouse almost open the way barn doors swing wide, her blonde tresses falling over part of her face like cover playing games, her eyes finding at last a glimpse of libido down in the well of the master thief. “‘Cept the index finger and his sex finger, of course.”

“You got something special in the bag, haven’t you?” Brisque Validarn slid a hand against the texture of her blouse, grazed the risen nail head, watched her eyes close.

She held his hand against her breast. “I don’t do this just for money, Brisque. I have dreams too.” The risen nail head struck back. “In his cellar, someplace in the house, in against that whole cliff, he’s got treasure your dreams couldn’t find. They say he brought something up out of the Caribbean would stand Fort Knox on its ear. I mean treasure treasure, Captain Kidd or Bluebeard himself, bigtime baddies’ treasure, like he found it or stole it from someone who found it and was hiding it from the whole world. [i]Treasure[/i] treasure!”

She cupped the back of his head, his lips at her breast. “We could be famous, Brisque. No more talk about Jimmy Valentine or Second-story Jack Finnegan. It’d be us, Validarn and his chick. Wouldn’t that make ’em sit up and take notice?” Her mouth was open as wide as his.


Two more weeks, Marie at the listening post in the jewelry store, pumping her boss for information, bringing tid-bits to Brisque Validarn, him still collecting data, charting, and the heist of the century was at hand. Invaluable Marie came with the final tid-bit. “He’s going to Switzerland next week, Brisque. That hunk is going skiing. Imagine him maybe breaking a leg, or worse!” She rolled her eyes, played with a button. “His wife’s already in Paris with her sister. Been there two days. Two nights now he’s been down to Revere to the condo and the girlfriend. Would I like to be a fly on that condo wall.” She rolled her eyes, hung her tongue out, let a gurgle of a laugh rise and fall in her throat. Took his hand in her hand, brought it to the nail head.

“Marie, you are something else!” He cupped her, the inanimate nail head now alive. “I suppose you know when his flight leaves the airport?”

Back she leaned against the couch, shifted a bit for comfort, moved her buttocks into prime time, pursed her lips. “Flight Six-oh-two, Magellan Air, 9:30 P.M. next Wednesday evening. Harry Donnelley’s Limo is picking him up at 6:00 O’clock.” Her simple touch of him was not an idle touch. Results were quickly evident.

“What did you have to give up to get all this info?”

“There’s plenty left for you, Brisque. Here, have a look.”


By eleven O’clock on Wednesday night, under brittle darkness, heavy overcast but no rain promised until late morning, Brisque Validarn, master thief, was deep in the cellar of the house on Bretton Heights. He had by-passed the alarm system that tied into the Masco Security Company in nearby Wakefield, and studied the walls. It was a piece of cake to spot the false wall, find the keyway that moved it out of the way. In frozen awe he studied the contents of a small room, ten feet deep into the cliff, five feet wide, the sides all natural rock. Michelangelo himself must have done the sculpting, the chipping, set shelves of marble in place holding astounding treasures. As his flashlight beam found each piece the sparkle of immense stones leaped back at him, then a ray of near golden shine like a sunbeam loose of the sky, and footings so elaborate on pieces of large and ornate emblazonry that he was frozen in place. It was the mother lode of mother lodes. The thieves of the world, from London, Paris, Budapest, Raffles himself, would stand in awe.

[i]All I planned on was one good stone[/i], he said to himself. [i]My god, look at all this treasure. Marie was right. I’ll need a truck to carry it. I can’t carry it all and I can’t leave it. Not by a long shot can I leave it. I’ll take one piece now and come back tomorrow night[/i]. His mind leaped at ways of carting the stuff off the hill, and then he thought of a FedEx truck or a UPS truck. [i]Another piece of cake[/i], he muttered as he reached for small chalice set with dozens of stones. It was like the sun being refracted through a special lens, prisms scattering against his eyeballs. A deep breath was hauled down into his lungs.

A short while later Brisque Validarn came out of the darkness at the foot of Bretton Heights into the sudden glare of lights and beams and screaming and authoritative voices for him to stand in place or be shot to death. Deftly he placed the stolen chalice on the ground and raised his hands. A dozen policeman surrounded him. Headlights on a dozen cars also chipped in with their own pieces of daylight.

The very first thing Brisque noticed was a hand, with two fingers missing, resting comfortably on one hip of Marie Lavoren standing off to the side. Brisque suddenly realized Marie probably had her own condo down in Revere, right there on the beach.


you are stoned
cold fluorescents

you are two hundred miles
away from lake erie in
the first summer of your
son’s tiny life and
the news isn’t

a tumor possibly
or a body dug up or
maybe as many as
a hundred

maybe the neighbor disappeared
and his wife found
hacked to pieces in the

all of this talk of
a simpler america that
never was

and do you still dream of
the cages
your grandfather helped build?

of the women
herded into them at

even here
three hundred years later
in this air-conditioned room
there is till the smell
of burning witches

is still the stench of

and what the two of us hide
is the fact
that we know each other

that we number
the bleeding horse among
our friends

and at the end of the day
you lock up your desk while
i kiss your wife good-bye

we pass on the street
without a word
and two hours later
the first candle is lit on the
hill of fifteen crosses

like everything before it
it will fail to
drive the dark away

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