Friday, November 24, 2017

Dance In The Place Where We Find Ourselves

I who never danced at all for fear of being noticed
Began to let a broken hearted rhythm guide my feet
I struggled to learn to dance in the place where I found myself
On this square foot where I found myself
And you who had gracefully danced all the days of your life
To your own broken hearted rhythm, on your own two feet
Now have joined your dance to mine in the place where we find ourselves
On this square foot where we find ourselves
We awoke from a dream to a new morning together
With the single rhythm of two mended hearts as our guide
And now we dance forever in the place where we find ourselves
On this square foot where we find ourselves

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Don't they know you're mine?

Why does the world still hound you
Now that we have found each other?
Don’t they know you’re mine?
Don’t they see you’re blind to them?
Can’t they hear my screams like fire?
Can’t they see you’ve raised me higher
than I’ve ever been before?
My love, my guide, my shining star,
You heard me calling from so far away,
A song sung for your ears only,
To rescue you from your lonely tears,
A song sung with screams like fire
That won’t end until we’ve risen higher
                than anyone’s ever been before.

Monday, October 23, 2017


I find the tracks of your kiss
on my flesh,
happy scars,

The spark of your smile ignites,
I burn, I
become ashes,
I am scattered

by your breath. Naked eye to
naked eye,
I gaze upon
you, and see

the reflection of myself,
in reverse,

We burn together, then we
rest together.
We, always,

And closing my eyes I see
yours above me,
Shining like

over the sea, a blanket
of blessing
to cover
my dreaming,

Two lamps in the darkness by
which I can finally see.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

And so I seek you out

which ‘tween my fingers twist like flames, never burning or consuming,
a flame which only warms my icy heart and sparks me to desire;

yet neither do I seek for you, my sweet angelic paramour,
for those eyes, those sea green eyes, which seek out mine and in which I would
drown and drown again a million times until I’ve reached the bottom;

and though your arms, my darling one, sweet resting place, as soft as down
yet strong as steel, secure me always to your heart that beats beneath
the breast which, nourishing with sea-salt scent, does satisfy me and
beguile me, these things are not why I have searched;

nor, mi amour, for
your legs, so strong and straight, which ‘round my waist you wrap to hold me, and
clasp me safe, close to the center, to the fire, the holy place where
I disappear;

your lips so sweet and welcoming I dream of in
the night, I taste them in my dreams of you, and hear the voice that comes
from them to soothe me when my dreams grow dark, yet even these are not
the reasons that I have pursued you through the lonely years, my dear;

no, I seek you for the simple reason that you are my home where,
like a nomad lost for years amid the dunes or a sailor tossed
on wayward waves without shelter from the sun, I long to be, to
ever lay my head and rest my weary self beneath your shade.

Friday, October 6, 2017

She looked at him like he was Aristotle

She looked at him like he was Aristotle
So smart, so wise
He looked at her like she was a super model
That hair, those eyes
You’ll say those things aren’t true, and that love is blind
But, no
Love is what lets you see the things that
Otherwise don’t show

She had a vision of him like some kind of saint
Despite all his sins
He worshiped her just like a goddess of old
Dispensing boons
You’ll say those things aren’t true, and that love is blind
But, no
Love is what lets you see the things that
Otherwise don’t show

They wrap themselves up in each other’s dreams
And dance in the spaces between their empty existence
And as the universe spins on its dizzying course
Their embrace is the central point of calm and stillness
These things are truer than ice, truer than fire
Truer than the sun and the moon and the winds that blow
Truer than the scars of a life as yet unlived
For Love is what lets us see the things that otherwise don’t show

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Day Owen O'Leary Blew Into Town

That day in 1982 when Owen O’Leary stepped over the threshold into Murphy’s Twin Shamrocks was the day it rained for the first time in over 2 weeks, ending the worst drought the city had seen in a decade. It was August, and the heat had been almost unbearable, until that morning when the wind changed directions bringing cooler air from the north along with the cleansing rain.
Now, that might sound like symbolism, like I’m trying to imply that Owen was a breath of fresh air, bringing some sort of relief after a period of oppression, or something like that. In actuality, pretty much the opposite is true. Owen’s entrance was more like a hurricane than a refreshing shower. More disruptive than healing. Fortunately, Sophie was a strong enough person to weather the storm.
Sophie and Owen had a lot in common: they both had dark hair with fair skin and light colored eyes. Both were parents (a girl for him, one of each for her). They were both in the alcohol distribution business, sort of, if you count bartending as alcohol distribution and if you consider Owen’s brand of extortion and racketeering as “business”.
Of course, there were some significant differences, as well. She was very happily married, while he was a widower who’d never been in love with his wife even when she was alive. Sophie was a brutally honest, law-abiding citizen; Owen was a savagely ruthless criminal. She was witty, funny and instantly likable; the sort of person women wanted to be friends with and that men fell in love with. He was a bully who carried himself with an air of intimidation that prevented almost everyone from even considering trying to befriend him. She was pretty, some would say beautiful, if not in the classical sense. He was anything but. If ever he had tried to follow the old cliché about “following his nose” it would have led him on a crooked path with multiple changes in direction, having been broken more than once during his brief career as a boxer. Her eyes were bright and expressive. His were deep set, under a heavy brow, and always half hidden behind drooping lids, often giving people the impression that he was nodding off, which was never the case. He was ever alert and aware of his surroundings, ready to take advantage of any perceived weakness and seize any opportunity. She also was always aware of her surroundings, but always with an eye toward helping others.
Owen arrived at Murphy’s an hour early for his meeting with Joe “The Polack” Nowicki, of the Chicago Nowicki Family. Joe was bringing a young woman with him, 19 years old. Owen’s interest in her was not sexual, though he’d heard she was a beauty. She had a very unique ability, which Owen planned to use. Her name was Windy VanderSlooth. Owen intended to use her gift for his own protection, as long as she was willing work for him, and he planned to pay her a significant amount of money to do just that.
Having grown up watching American Westerns, Owen had learned the importance of never sitting with your back to a door. He took a seat at the farthest end of the bar, beyond where it turned the corner, giving himself a view of the entire room. This spot also let him see the full length of the space behind the bar, including Sophie. It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon, in that lull between lunch and dinner. Two seats away from Owen sat the bar’s only other customer, Dennis Bauer, comfortably situated with his back to the room, though not to the door.
Dennis was a man of routines and schedules. He ate one meal a day, at a different local establishment each day of the week, repeated week after week. This single meal was at 2:30 in the afternoon. He had a specific meal that he ordered each day, depending on the establishment. On Thursdays, for instance, it was always a burger and a stout at Murphy’s Twin Shamrock. The exception to the one meal a day rule was Sundays when he had brunch at Lou-Lou’s Café on Central Street around 11:00 and then hit Murphy’s for steak and a baked potato in the evening. Murphy’s was the only place he hit twice a week. Today being Tuesday, anyone who knew Dennis would be surprised to find him here, instead of over at The New Town Café on the east side. Sophie, for instance, would have been very surprised, if Dennis hadn’t told her in advance that he’d be there to keep an eye on Joe Nowicki from Chicago. You see, Dennis worked for a fairly secret government agency which, among other things, was interested in the affairs of America’s leading criminals. Sophie didn’t know all the details, but she knew a bit, and Dennis knew he could trust her.
One of the things Dennis and his agency were interested in finding out was who Nowicki was meeting. They knew he was bringing his new recruit with him, along with one or two of his usual entourage. And they knew he was meeting someone from Europe or The British Isles. They knew the meeting was to take place at Murphy’s. They wanted to know who Nowicki was meeting and why. They knew all this because one of Nowicki’s “usual entourage” was really working for them. The fact that Nowicki had not told even his own closest confidantes what the purpose of this trip was made Dennis even more interested than he normally would have been. Now as he sat at the bar eating his burger and sipping his stout, seeing Owen O’Leary clarified a few of his questions for him. His agency was aware of Owen.
Owen O’Leary had built an organization that controlled nearly all of the alcohol distribution in and around Belfast. If you owned a pub or a restaurant, you bought your whisky and stout from the O’Learys or you didn’t buy it at all. And if you owned a distillery or a brewery, O’Leary Trucking was the only way you were getting your product to market. It was a monopoly he had built more through strong armed tactics and disregard for the law than business expertise. It was clear to anyone paying attention that the O’Leary organization was looking to expand beyond Belfast, maybe even beyond Ireland.
What Dennis still needed to find out was why O’Leary would be meeting Nowicki. What sort of deal were they planning to strike?
“Good afternoon. What can I get you to drink?” Sophie asked Owen.
“Jameson’s, neat, please.”
“Very good…and will you be ordering some food this afternoon?”
“Not just yet. I’m waiting for someone.”
“You’ve a lovely smile….Sophie,” taking a pause to read the name stitched in her shirt, and to admire the shape of the breast beneath it.
“Thank you, sir. You have the Irish charm to match your accent.”
As she turned away to pour his drink, Owen’s gaze followed her admiringly. “And you’ve the famously slender American waist to match your own.”
Sophie let that pass, and delivered Owen’s drink in uncharacteristic silence.
Dennis, meanwhile, was thumbing through a paperback book. The day before, he and Sophie had attended the funeral of a mutual friend, Terry Anderson, who’d been a regular customer at the bar since the days when it was called The Brat-haus. Terry had earned one of Sophie’s famous nicknames, “The Librarian”, because he was always reading. He had left all of his books to Sophie, who wasn’t too sure yet what she was going to do with them. She had brought some of the books to the bar, and it was one of them that Dennis was inspecting now, a paperback edition of “The Arabian Nights”.
“Imagine how many people have referenced these stories without ever having read the original”, Dennis said, apparently to Sophie. “Everyone’s heard of Sinbad and Aladdin, everyone knows about genies and ‘open Sesame’ and flying carpets. But hardly anyone realizes how much sex and violence there is in here. The whole premise is built around the idea that the king sleeps with a different virgin every night and has her killed in the morning.”
“What is it with you men and virgins?” Sophie asked. “Wouldn’t you rather be with a woman who knows what she’s doing?”
“That’s wisdom there, Miss Sophie,” said Owen. “I’ve always preferred a woman with some experience. And if she’s as smart and good looking as yourself, all the better. It’s a bit like any other endeavor: if you’re bringing a companion, it’s best to make sure it’s someone who knows a thing or two about whatever it is you might be likely to encounter.”
“Then again, sometimes your best bet is to just go it alone.” Sophie replied.
“Ha! Wisdom again, Miss Sophie.”
Dennis said, “You know, the name Sophie is a variation of Sophia, which is the Greek word for wisdom.” 
“Dennis here knows a little bit about pretty much everything,” Sophie said to Owen. “He’s our resident Alex Trebek.”
“Don’t give me too much credit, Sophie. I’m not all that smart, really. I’m not as smart as you, that’s for sure. And while I do know that Sophie was the name of King James of Scotland’s first daughter, I don’t know much about Ireland, for instance.”
“Perhaps our new friend can fill you in,” said Sophie, heading to the other end of the bar to pretend to clean some glasses.
“What was your name, sir?” Dennis asked Owen, extending his hand.
“It’s O’Leary, Owen O’Leary, from Belfast.”
“Pleased to meet you, Owen. I’m Dennis Bauer, from right around the corner.”
The two men clasped hands, briefly.
“How long have you been on this side of the Atlantic, Mr. O’Leary?”
“My plane landed at noon today.”
“Ah, just arrived. And what brings you here to Murphy’s? We’re a bit of a drive from the airport.”
“Lucky chance, I suppose. I’ve some business to conduct, and this seemed a convenient spot for a meeting.”
“Excellent. I recommend the burgers, if you’re planning on eating while you conduct your business.”
“I’ll take your recommendation under consideration.”
It was at this point that the door opened and Joe Nowicki was swept in by the gusting wind. He paused to shake out his umbrella, and then made his way around to where he had spotted Owen. He and Owen shook hands, and Joe suggested they take a table. Owen agreed.
“Sophie, m’dear, my associate and I will be over in the corner here. Could you bring me another whisky and a cold mug of lager for my friend?”
As she pulled the beer from the tap, Sophie spoke quietly to Dennis: “Is that the gentleman you’re here to observe?”
“It is, indeed.”
After she delivered the drinks to the table in the corner, she returned to behind the bar and quietly rearranged some bottles to give Dennis an unobstructed view of the two gangsters in the mirror along the back wall. Dennis switched on the radio receiver in his inside jacket pocket. Sophie had stuck the microphone he’d given her to the bottom of the table Owen and Joe had chosen when she delivered their drinks. For neither the first or last time in his life, Dennis wished he had two or three people in his agency as competent as Sophie. He was sure he’d be able to end crime in the entire country within a week.
After about 10 minutes of comparing complaints about their flights, O’Leary called to Sophie: “We’d like two burgers here, Sophie. And two mugs of that beer, if you please.”
Sophie walked to their corner table and asked the necessary questions about how they each liked their burgers, then through the swinging door to the kitchen.
Dennis heard Owen say, “That’s a fine looking woman, Joe. I’m almost tempted to stay an extra day in this shit-hole.”
“I suppose she’s alright, if you like ‘em skinny like that,” Joe responded. “Not enough to be changing your travel plans for, though, if you ask me.”
“To each his own. Speaking of women, where’s the girl?”
“She’s in my limo, ‘round the corner. I thought it’d be best if we talked things over first. To be honest with you, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to bring her in here. Better to make the transaction outside. You can’t really trust her, you know that, right? I’ve explained to you the way she is.”
“You told me. I think I’ll take my chances. You’re not trying to back out of our deal, are you?”
“Oh, no. Just don’t want you accusing me later of not being open and honest.”
“Fair enough. You’ve warned me, I’ve heard you. I’m taking the risk. You’re getting plenty of compensation in any case.”
“That’s true, I ain’t complaining. About that, you do have the cash with you, don’t you?”
“It’s where I can get it.”
By now Sophie was back behind the bar. In anticipation of the dinner crowd, the evening shift waitress had just arrived: Julie, Sophie’s best friend and the person who’d been working there the second longest amount of time, after Sophie. Also just arrived was Kenny Auerbach, CPA. Kenny had his office on the 2nd floor of the building that Murphy’s was the ground floor of, and it’s safe to say he’d spent more time in the restaurant than anywhere else in the world, his office and his home included. So much so that when the previous owner had run into some trouble with the IRS, Kenny had purchased the place and made Sophie the manager.
“Kenny, the usual?” Sophie called, already filling a glass.
“Yes, Sophie, please and thank you.”
Several other people had also entered, including an elderly couple who had taken the table next to the one Owen and Joe sat at. Between one thing and another, it was a moment before Dennis realized he wasn’t hearing any conversation between the two gangsters. He looked into the mirror and saw that they were still there, and appeared to be speaking in between bites of their burgers. But the speaker in his ear was silent. Damn government budget cuts, he thought, can’t get decent equipment any more. He considered asking Sophie to check on the hidden microphone, but he didn’t want to put her in any more danger than she might already be in. Instead he decided to check the neighborhood to see if he could spot Joe’s limo “around the corner”. He stood and pulled on his trench coat and hat and told Sophie he was going to step out for a moment.
“Ok, Dennis…should I pull you another stout?”
“Yes, please. Won’t be a moment.”
The rain had eased up considerably. Dennis lit a cigarette and began to circle the block. He spotted two nearly identical black Lincoln limousines parked at opposite ends of the street that ran parallel to the one Murphy’s was on. Clearly, one was Nowicki’s and one was O’Leary’s. He strolled past them both, like any citizen out for a walk and a smoke might do, noting the license plates like only a cop would. Both had dark tinted windows so he was unable to see inside them. Once he was out of sight of the two Lincolns, he pulled out his notebook and pencil and wrote down the license plate numbers. Most likely they were both hired just for the day, but it couldn’t hurt to look into who made those arrangements.
Returning to Murphy’s Dennis found the situation had changed significantly. Owen and Joe were gone. The table they’d been sitting at had been knocked over, and Sophie was sitting on the floor beside it, holding a towel to her head, Kenny and Julie crouching beside her, supporting her.
“What happened?” Dennis asked.
“They were on to you from the beginning, Dennis. As soon as you left they hit me, grabbed your microphone from under the table, and went out through the kitchen,” Sophie answered.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Go.”
He went through the kitchen, down a couple of twisting hallways and eventually out to an alleyway that led to the street he’d seen the limos parked on. Of course, they were both gone. Five minutes, that’s all the time that had passed.
He returned to the restaurant, the way he’d come out. The table had been straightened back up and everything was seemingly back to normal, except that all the customers other than Kenny and the elderly couple had left. Sophie was back behind the bar, with a pretty good sized bruise on the side of her face. Kenny on his stool, sipping his beer. Julie serving the elderly couple, who were the only ones still showing signs that anything had happened.
“You ought to see a doctor for that.”
“You ought to call your office and tell them what happened. Want to use the phone in the back?”
“Yeah, thanks.”
She handed him a shot glass, he swallowed its contents and handed it back to her. “I’ll be right back. Then I’m taking you to the hospital to have that looked at. Kenny, Julie can cover the bar, right? It’s Tuesday, it’s not going to be busy. Don’t argue with me, Sophie.”
“He’s right, Soph,” Julie cut in, “I got it.”
Kenny nodded. “Of course. We’ve got it covered.”
Sophie didn’t have a chance to argue as the front windows shattered and bullets started whizzing through the room, peppering the back wall. They all hit the ground, Dennis covering both Sophie and Julie as best he could. Once the barrage had clearly ended he pulled his gun from its holster and ran to the door, but again he was too late. No signs of the limos or anyone else with guns. Now he ran back in and headed straight for the little office behind the bar. He dialed 911 to report the shooting, but then he heard sirens heading toward them before the dispatcher answered. So, someone else in the neighborhood must have already called it in. He hung up and dialed his boss to give him a quick report. He was just finishing as the cops entered.
“Everyone ok in here?” the first officer called out through the shattered window.
“No one’s been shot,” Dennis answered, showing his government ID. “They were firing at me. I was doing surveillance. Two out of town mobsters, each with his own black limousine. Here are the license plates.”
“Well, there’s only one of them still on the road. One crashed a block from here, looks like the driver lost control or something,” the cop answered.
“Which direction? I need to see that car. Was there anyone in it?”
“I’ll walk there with you, sir. I understand the driver is dead, and there were no other occupants.”
“And no sign of the other car?”
“Not that I know of.”
“OK, let’s go.”
And they went.
Looking at the shattered windows Kenny said, “Well, I guess we don’t have to worry about whether or not you can handle the place alone, Julie. Looks like we’ll be shutting down for a few days. I’ll stay here and clean up. You go with Sophie to the hospital.”
By now an ambulance had arrived. One of the EMTs was attending to the elderly couple, who were uninjured but understandably shaken. The other had taken a look at Sophie’s bruised face, flashing his light in her eyes. “I don’t think it’s serious, but you should probably let us take you to the ER.”
“Can I ride along?” asked Julie.
And they went. 
Down the block Dennis was looking over the limo that had crashed into a row of parked cars. The driver was slumped over the wheel, no visible signs of injury. Judging by the relatively small amount of damage to any of the vehicles, it seemed the limo hadn’t been traveling very fast at the time of the crash. The back doors were both open, and there was no one else inside. Dennis found the driver’s wallet in the inside pocket of his suit coat. Illinois driver’s license. So this was Nowicki’s car, but where was Nowicki? And what about O’Leary, and the mysterious “Windy”?
Popping the trunk he found his informant, the one who’d been working undercover as part of Nowicki’s organization, bullet hole in his forehead.
What a disaster. He’d lost a man and gotten Sophie injured, not to mention the danger to the rest of the people in Murphy’s. And he’d learned nothing at all of value.
O’Leary and Windy were already at the airport boarding their plane under false names. They’d be in Belfast in time for breakfast.
Nowicki and what was left of his entourage were headed back to Chicago in a newly rented car, without the money O’Leary had promised. As soon as they got back he’d be setting up a contract to take care of that cheating Mick.
It’d be years before Dennis would learn what had happened, or what it was about Windy that had driven O’Leary to want her in his organization. You see Windy had the ability to kill someone just by thinking them dead. She could stop someone’s heart from beating as easily as you blink your eye. That’s how Nowicki’s driver had died. Owen had told her to kill all the people in Nowicki’s car, but her first act of rebellion under his command was to kill only the driver, who’d been the one who’d stayed with her in the limo while Nowicki and O’Leary were inside Murphy’s. She’d been ready to kill him anyway if they’d left her there alone with him another five minutes. He wouldn’t have been the first attempted rapist she killed. Nor the last. 
After Dennis left the crash scene, he went back to Murphy’s, where he found Kenny sweeping up broken glass. He helped him nail plywood across the gaping holes where windows used to be. When they had everything as neat and secure as they could get it, Kenny poured them each a stout and they sat together at the bar in silence, sipping, until Julie returned with the news that Sophie was back home in bed.
“The doctor said there’s no concussion, and no broken bones. She’ll have a headache in the morning and a nice black eye for a few days.”
Kenny poured her a shot of Tequila. “The glass company said they’ll be here in the morning to replace the windows. We should be able to reopen Friday. I’m thinking about leaving the bullet holes in the back wall…adds some character. Maybe change the name of the place, redecorate with a 1920s speakeasy theme?”
Julie said, “Don’t do that, Kenny. Murphy’s Twin Shamrocks is a fine name, and those retro themes never work. I can get George and Teddy to patch up the bullet holes, I’ll paint. It’ll be as good as new. Frankly, the place needed a new coat of paint, anyway.”
“She’s right, Ken,” Dennis added. “It’s not gonna cost you anything, you might as well take advantage, give the place a little face lift.”
“Not gonna cost me anything? How’s that?”
“I’ve got it covered, Ken. My fault this happened. And no need to tell your insurance company that, either. Let them pay whenever they get around to it. Maybe you can use that money to finally update the records in the jukebox.”
“I’m not putting any of that New Wave crap in there, I’ll tell you that. What’s wrong with the records in there now?”
Julie said, “Kenny, nobody wants to hear Sinatra and Bing Crosby. At least get some rock and roll in there. I mean, we all love Louis Prima and Ray Charles, but it’s 1982, we ought to at least get the jukebox up to the ‘70s.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll think about it.”
But as he was saying that, he was punching D-62. Jo Stafford, ‘You Belong To Me’.
“This is a song. How could people not want to hear this? Anyway, one more round, my friends, then let’s all get out of here.”
“Ok, Kenny. Ok.”
“You know, I was thinking,” said Dennis, “maybe you could put some bookshelves up there, put some of Terry’s books on them for folks to help themselves. He was The Librarian, you can have a little library in his memory.”
“I’ll drink to that.”