After Jeremiah 31:16

After Jeremiah 31:16

Did they cry for their mothers?
Pray to a god? Ask for mercy?

Perhaps they died without a sound
not a whimper or tear.

Nobody talks about their actual deaths
about this slaughter of innocents.

We remember them for their could-have-beens­:
hopes, wishes, childhood dreams

delusions of a better place where children
are safe from madmen’s hands.

This one an athlete another a chef;
this one perhaps a dancer, poet, doctor, nurse

a writer of tales a lover of dogs.
Now bloodied and their faces blown away.

Did they wonder why their fathers did not come?
Did they shudder at the popping sounds?

Did their dying bodies jerk
about the classroom’s cold vinyl floor?

I wonder if they cried in pain.
Can we explain to them why
that madman came to school that day?

By Kenneth Weene


Good Morning – Goodbye

Good Morning – Goodbye

I say good morning to them all…by name. Do inanimate objects have names? Perhaps even souls? I think so. I greet them in order. First the stuffed animals. Thackeray the sloth is always first. After him, I make the living room rounds. Bloomie, also a stuffed sloth—this one looking like the businessman turned politician—never responds. On the other hand, I refuse to greet his Samoan imaginary followers who somehow live with us—six original delegates to the Democratic convention plus one born here, all he has to show for $500 million spent campaigning. I don’t know their names, only that they insist on ordering imaginary spam for which I refuse to pay.

The list goes on. I won’t tell you all the names, not the categorizations of their being except to mention the last two greetings of each morning. Delores del Rio and Rive Gauche sit beside our comfortable chairs, the ones in which we watch television and in which we plan to die. Delores and Rive have a lot to do with that last statement; they are the means of our self-exiting. Tanks of inert gas, one for my wife and one for myself.

I won’t spell out the methodology for our exits. Suffice it to say that we have studied up and that we are strong supporters of Final Exit Network and a related group, Choice and Dignity, in our home city. When it comes time to exit, I don’t know if I will say goodbye to Thackeray, Bloomie, or any of the other beings, real, imaginary, or in-between, with whom I interact each day. Indeed, at that point I may not remember their names. No longer remembering is one of the metrics I have set out, the measures of when enough of life is enough.

To me, life is a thing of choice and of dignity. I want quality, not quantity. When I can no longer live with the joy and sense of accomplishment that has become my expectation, I will use Rive, my tank, and the accouterments which are stored nearby to end the downward trajectory. Those metrics are the method by which I will measure when the last day has come. Remembering all those names is one of the metrics.

Another might seem rather simple: bending over and picking up a small piece of debris from the floor. That’s a simple act, but when balance and coordination go, the simple becomes difficult. I don’t have to drop something on the floor to test myself. There are enough bits and pieces floating through our lives to provide the test kit without having to think about it. Just pick a bit of paper or a crumb of food that has found its way to the carpet, bend over—albeit with the sense that a can of WD-40 might be in order—and pick it up.

A third is doing my on-line banking. I have three linked accounts. Each morning, I go online and quickly add them. The grand total is my goal. Not because of the money it represents but because it requires some quick mental calculation. Can I estimate the sum or am I befogged by numbers?

For now, just one more daily test. What will I have on my bagel? Today, it was butter and some bacon on the side. There are usually four or five cheese options plus that butter and then there is lox in addition to the bacon. Quick, Ken, what are you having today? Can your mind work that flexibly?

One day, I won’t pass all the tests. Then there will come a day when I fail two. When that happens, it’s time for goodbye. I will give Thackeray a hug. I don’t know if I will remember his name. I won’t hug Bloomie. As for the rest of the crew, well, I have no idea. I only hope I can remember how to hook everything up and how to turn Rive’s valve.

No doubt, you are wondering if I will have Thackeray on my lap when I turn that valve. No. He might try to talk me out of it. I will have my stuffed moose, Potty, on my lap. I know that he won’t try to intervene. He will say, “Whatever,” and kiss my nose. Potty understands that life and death are waystations on an adventure and who are we to know where souls may be found.


A Gesture of Love

A Gesture of Love

I hear the tree branches hitting what sits above me and the howls of wind outside the house.  I rush to mom and sit at her side. She strokes my face and tells me it is okay; not to be afraid and it is only wind.  Yet, I am fearful. Even when she kisses me on top of my head, I can’t keep my fear at bay. She leaves the room and I am alone.

What’s that noise? I think it is coming from the kitchen, so I move and peek from the office door and watch. Is mom upset? Because she is forcing Joey into a cage. Why would she do this? He is howling and fighting to get free. A patch of his hair falls to the floor. He looks horrified and keeps screaming as mom latches the door shut.  I don’t understand.  She would never harm us.

Next, I see her pick up CharLee and stuff her inside another large cage. CharLee holds the door open and is screeching. She scratches mom with her long nails. I see the blood begin to form around moms’ wound. Yet, this does not stop her. She pushes CharLee back inside and again slams the door shut and locks the latch Though CharLee is screaming, mom ignores her pleas and I watch as she runs from room to room, bringing with her bits of clothing and personal items. I watch as she stuffs them in a plastic bag.

Her gaze turns to me. There is panic in her face, so I back up as she approaches. I hear her say, “Come here, little guy. Mommy loves you; I won’t hurt you. Come here, sweetie.” Well, I’ve heard those words before, and they mean only one thing – something I shall surely detest is about to happen.

The dogs, Harry and Rooney rush to her which averts her attention from me. I take this chance to hide in the closet and pick a spot I can still peer out to see what is going on but be safe from getting discovered. I watch mom attach a leash to both dog’s collar. Guess it is ‘potty time’ Yet, she tells them to stay and she’ll be right back. I cannot see her now

She is calling for me, but I stay silent. Something is going on and I do not want to be a part of any of it. I hear scuffling and then the slam of the front door. I slip into the secret hiding place within the wall. She’ll never find me here.

You see, I know mom is growing old.  She already must carry two animals and pull the two dogs, on foot. I know dad takes the car each day, so I wonder why she must do this now.

As if to answer my question, she shouts out, ‘Mommy has to go, sweetie. They are evacuating us. Fire is heading our way. Please, honey, please come to mama”

Fire. I’ve seen pictures of it on TV and I did burn myself by touching the hot burner on the stove-top. Mom told me to be careful; that I could catch the house on fire. So, I know fire is not a good thing.

After two more attempts to get me to come with her, I hear footsteps leaving the room. I am so afraid.  If only mom knew how much I want to leap into the safety of her arms and be carried away.  If only there was a means to tell her how much I love her. I love her so much that I must be brave and strong this time. I must remain hidden until she leaves.

The wind is howling through the rooftop and I hear mom talking to someone outside. I can’t make out what she is saying. Maybe I should run to her right now and tell her she is right; that I am weak and cowardly. Dad and mom are always saying I don’t have to be afraid, but everything scares me. Well, this is my time to prove them wrong.

I run to the window and peer out. Mom is gone as well as the animals. It is getting dark now. The last thing I heard mom say to me was she loves me. The room is filled with something I’ve never seen before. It is thickening the air and it is grayish-black in color. It smells funny. I hear crackling above me.

Look, mom, I am not afraid anymore. I am brave and strong as you asked of me each day. I hold your last words of love within my heart as I fall into a deep sleep from the smoke-filled room.


It has been a couple of weeks since I last saw my family and my mom.  I keep hearing her calling my name and directing me to where she and dad are now living. The force of their love is drawing me toward them. But I can’t get through into their dimension. I am now floating through space and time and find myself on a farm. I see dad drive up and when he opens the car door, I jump into his arms.

Dad cuddles me and holds me close to his heart and rushes to open the milk barn door and bring me to my mom. She squeals with delight and grabs me from dad’s arms and puts me on the bed. She strokes my hair and kisses my head. It feels so good to be home. I sit in her lap and purr and purr and purr.


The woman awakes to the sound of the cell phone’s alarm. She sobs and wails in disappointment. No! How could it be a dream? She’d held him in her arms. She’d petted his coat. She felt him just as if he was in the room with her.

She rushes to her husbands’ arms and tells him of Stubby cat’s visit; how real it was; how she smelled him and touched him. How his body was alive and warm and how it all crashed to pieces when the alarm brought about reality. Yes, he was gone. In her heart and soul, she knew this and as she lay down on the bed, tears of grief, blame and love poured forth.


I watch mom cry and wish I could be with her again. Dad is at her side trying his best to fight back his own tears. If I could tell them one thing, it would be how I chose to sacrifice my own well being to ensure the rest of my family made it to safety. More than anything, I want mom and dad to know, when faced with such danger, my love for them meant more than my own life. For I saw that mom could never carry my big orange kitty body, along with all the other animals, to safety Yes, I was no longer fearful. But proud I had shown I was no longer the Scardy Cat mom had saved from being euthanized so many years ago. I am brave and strong and will watch over my family, in spirit, for as long as they live.

And, I purr loudly.


Monica Brinkman,

Host, It Matters Radio
Another Life

Another Life

Another Life

By C. Stene Duckworth

In another life, Chris saw himself running with the buffalo.  His moccasin covered feet kicked up the dry dirt of the rain-starved land, tracing the ancient path of the herds that use to roam here.  While the smell of sweet-grass and sage flooded his nostrils as he crested the small hill before reaching the plains that spread out before him.

The last five miles had been the hardest for Chris, but now he could no longer feel the aches and pains of his body, or the straining of his muscles taunt against his skin.  Perspiration fell in beaded rivulets from his face and down his chest; releasing the impurities through his skin.  Spirit, mind, and body were becoming one a process that had begun in the ‘Inipi,’ceremonial sweat-house. 

He finally stopped to rest at the base of Shining Rock leaning over to rest his hands on his knees while his lungs sucked in the chilly air between clenched teeth.  The Sun’s rays had not yet touched the pointed Rocks that loomed before him.  He wanted to be in place before the first fingers of light touched the rocky peaks.  He wanted to watch the Father caress Mother Earth’s body with the warm breath of early summer. 

“Mother yearns for the touch of Father on her body,” He heard his Grandfather sing.

Climbing up as far as he could he sat between two rocks hoping to warm himself from the lingering night chill clinging to his damp skin.  He had chosen this place because it reminded him of his Grandfather he had begun his vision quest here when he was just a boy.  They had come here when Chris was just fifteen to watch the sheep. 

Grandfather told him about the old ways.  He sighed, that was before the ways of the world began to entice him away from his people and the land.  Chris only barely listened to what Grandfather had told him that day because he was in a hurry to meet his friends and see what new treasures they had brought back from town.  A bottle of wine maybe some cigarettes, or a little weed.

“There is no going back!” he heard his Grandfather whisper on the wind.

He had wasted many years in the world, but now this would be the beginning of his quest, his purpose, the meaning of his life, and the journey to self-discovery.  His time in prison had taken that away from him, instead of a name they gave him a number, instead of plains to run across there were bricks to wash.  No that is not true, he said to himself.  I went willingly, I gave it away. 

He grabbed the beaded leather pouch tied to his belt, fingering the blue design that reminded him of her.  It made him smile thinking about the time she spent sewing the designs on the bag so full of love and kindness.  He closed his eyes to draw on the memory of their last meeting when he had stood behind her mother’s house and sung the words of love four times.

Chris smiled and wondered.  What would she say to him now?  Too much time had gone by and he had been ashamed of all he had said and done when he left this precious world and sold his soul to the cities that surrounded the reservation.  What were his last words to her?  He did not remember.  The song meant nothing now.

The bread still warm from his mother’s stove.  Honey smeared on top and the smell of wild clover enticed him making his mouth water in anticipation.  He bit into the crispy flour and chewed slowly, savoring each morsel as he swallowed, feeling it slide down his throat.  Taking a drink of water only after the taste had long disappeared. 

Chris exhaled noisily and leaned back against the rock while wishing all his days were like this one.  The kind you didn’t appreciate when you are young.  Looking out over the plains below he watched the high grass sway in the wind as first light touched the long blades making them look golden.  

For a moment, he felt his resolve begin to falter.  Why was he doing this now?  It wouldn’t bring her back.  He and Grandfather would never fish again together and he would probably not win the trust of his family.  Stop, he chided himself, there were no deals to make anymore he had let his dreams fall through the torn hole in the web of his boyhood Dream Catcher. 

He heard his Grandfather say, “Look to your future!”

He leaned back and smiled to himself.  I can’t give up now, he thought.  No more will I sell myself, or try to serve the ways of two worlds.  I will choose what is right and walk the path of honor.

He took out the willow twigs, beads, and deer sinews laying them in front of him on the ground.  Then he began to weave the string of his new Dream Catcher through the twigs while he waited for his vision quest to appear showing him the way to another life.

…Good dreams slip through the web and into the sleeper during the night…bad dreams become caught in the web and are perished by morning light.