Archive for the ‘Portrait Gallery’ Category

My brother disappeared from my life very early because he was adopted by my grandfather, so I have very few memories of him as a young boy. But sometimes while I eat my morning corn flakes, I imagine him sitting across the table studying his cereal box with a serious adult expression, penciling a line through the maze or cutting out an order form for the Goofy Grape Kool-Aid cup. He was always the scientist and the wise guy, no matter how ridiculous he appeared at the time.

I can see him now with his little felt cowboy hat and the red string under his chin pulled tight with a brown bead. His skin was the color of oatmeal and small freckles dotted his nose and cheeks. His brown hair was always just a bit too short and his cowlick looked like a paintbrush stroke over his right eyebrow. He tied a red bandana around his neck and chased me around firing his silver cap gun because he knew I despised loud noises.

He chewed Bazooka bubble gum and once in awhile gave me a piece, as long as I gave him back the comic because he was collecting them along with Cracker Jack prizes. My brother watched Batman in the evenings and savored superhero comics. His favorite character was Penguin, the aristocratic crook with flashy clothes.

My brother kept boxes full of creepy comic books like “Tales from the Crypt” and whenever I sneaked into his room and opened one of them, it didn’t take long for me to run back to my own room with my friendly Disney toys. (Of course I abused them when I was mad at my brother and wanted someone smaller to kick around.)

On Saturday’s we watched Rocky and Bullwinkle and Underdog and the Wacky Races. I imagined that I was Penelope Pitstop and my brother was Dick Dastardly, especially when he would say “Drat, drat, double drat.” In Underdog he was Sinister Simon. Of course I was Polly, but Underdog never showed up to rescue me.

I worked hard at school to get good grades, but my brother always came home with perfect report cards, straight A’s to be exact. Jealous and confused, I often wondered if you had to be wicked to be smart. That seemed to be the formula for the cartoon villains he admired, so I resigned to the fact that I could never be that smart.

I remember when he got his first job as a paperboy. I can still see him at the table, putting the rolled up newspapers into his canvas bag, and strolling out to jump onto his red bike and riding away. I felt jealous of him at times like these, and even more so when he returned and sat at the table, counting his coins in little round columns and then putting them into his cigar box. He was the only one with money, and sometimes he would walk with me and our little sister to Burger King. We would wear our cardboard crowns as we drank Orange Crush and ate cheeseburgers with mustard and no pickles and plenty of French fries.

But mostly my brother loved to terrify me, his stormy little sister who was already scared of everything. I was the perfect victim for his wicked games unlike my quiet fearless little sister, and he knew this too well. He would chew the warts on his fingers until they bled, light candles and pass his hands through the flame, set off noisy firecrackers- and he told horrific ghost stories. I always asked him to tuck me in to bed since our parents were away, but instead he told me frightful tales he heard over the campfire during Cub Scouts. Blue-eyed Bloody Bones was his favorite, and I would cry when he would wail with a quivery voice “Blue-eyed bloody bones gonna eat you up.” I would scream and beg him to stop and he would laugh and laugh.

His laughter was always odd, because it seemed to emerge from a frown instead of a smile like most people. The sound of his laugh was smooth and gentle, but his top lip would curl back over his small teeth, and the lower lip would contort like the lips of Gumby as if they weren’t sure what to do. His left eye would narrow and his right eye would roll upward like a milky glass marble towards his forehead. I never could figure out if he felt happy or sad, because his face never really told the story.

On Sundays, I would awaken to the sound of the TV in the living room. I would find my brother sitting in his footy pajamas on the cold wooden floor with his cereal bowl and spoon, watching the Lone Ranger or the singing cowboy. I could sense his loneliness at moments like these, because no one seemed to fit into his world. No Tonto or Silver or fair damsels. Only his mask.

Amid all of the confusion of our childhood, I think he discovered his super powers but lost his identity. I am still looking for his face behind the disguises.

It was hard for him trying to be a man at the age of ten in a house with no parents. I don’t know how he endured the pressure at such a young age. I couldn’t see it then, but I can see it now. He wanted to protect me, but he was trying to enjoy being a kid too. It was a terrible juggling act and I think he felt inadequate for the task.

Although I missed him when he left and never got to know him after he came of age, I am pleased that my grandfather offered him a secure world where he could relax and play for awhile.

Film poster for The Legend of the Lone Ranger

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Portrait of Poppy

Here is a recent sketch that my son drew of my father, and I wanted to share it with my readers. I am very pleased with how well it turned out.  My son is becoming an amazing artist!

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(From The Iris Diaries)

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”(Hebrews 13:2)

I walked in to have coffee at McDonald’s and saw a very unusual young man stroll in.  He appeared to be homeless, but more youthful than other wanderers that I had seen.  A stuffed pink heart hung from a string on his backpack.  Small teddy bears clung to his shoelaces and a large seashell dangled from a cord around his waist.  Hearts were painted on the outer edges on his black-rimmed glasses.

I overheard him asking someone for money for food, and heard another man speaking to him.  I handed him a dollar. He waited in line to get breakfast, and then sat in a corner with his tray. I paid for my coffee and sat down on the other side of the dining area, but I wanted to approach the young man.  I was apprehensive because he looked so different, but I finally walked over and said hello, and asked him how he was doing.  He nervously handed me a small photo of himself, which I found rather odd, and I sat down to visit.  He told me that his name was Luke.

His fingernails were painted black with pink hearts on the index fingers, so whenever he pointed at anything, I saw them. He began to show me a scrapbook that he was keeping with cutout photos and clippings and handwritten notes. I began to turn the pages and saw poems scribbled here and there and pieces of torn paper and small paintings.  I felt as if I was reading into his soul. His artistic drive was apparent, and I was happy as he began to talk.

“There are so many negative things in the world,” he said.  “I cut out articles from newspapers and magazines that represent evil things, and then I write or draw something that offers a possible solution.”  He took a pair of scissors and a glue stick from his pocket and quickly cut out a picture from the paper, then dabbed some glue on it and stuck it in one of his sketchbooks.

“I am amazed how God always provides for me.  I scarcely think of something I need before I receive it.  The other night as I fell asleep in the park, I thought of how nice it would be to have a bicycle.  When I woke up, there was a bike just laying there with no one around.  People should trust God more than they do.”

As we talked a man came over and handed him a few dollars.  After the man left, Luke turned to me and said, “Could you use some of this money?”

“No thank you,” I said.

Luke leaned his chin on his hand thoughtfully, and said, “If we receive things, we should also give, because we must keep the cycle of grace flowing.  We should not cut off the grace by our selfishness.”

Then he began to tell me that people often seem offended by his presence and act as if they despise him for no reason.  “I am kind to everyone and I’m no threat, but people act like they hate me for no reason, just for existing.  People have trouble with anyone who is free and is not ensnared by the world.”

“That is because when we love others and are not attached to the worldly system, we will be despised like Jesus was,” I replied. “The Devil can’t stand to lose control of anyone.”

“You’re very advanced,” said the young man.

I mentioned to him that I had written my story and many stories about others in my manuscripts, but they are not published.  He suddenly said, “But they will be.  I assure you.”

“May I write about you too?” I inquired.

“Of course,” he answered.

He stroked his thick black hair for a moment and stated, “I have a word for you.  You are a midwife and a healer.  You have the ability to nurture children until they are ready to survive on their own.”  I was quite surprised and said, “That’s odd. Someone told me before that I am a spiritual mother who can labor and birth children into the kingdom of God, and nurture them. You are my confirmation.”

“Wow, that’s heavy” he said.

“Luke, you have a great mind and a pure heart,” I said.  “Is your mother like you?”

“My mother is very intelligent and is very easy to talk to. She is a midwife.” I perceived that I reminded him of his mother. I told him it was encouraging to see a young man speak well of his mother.

“I try in my own way to offset some of the evil and darkness around me,” he replied. “Most people my age talk about the terrible things happening in their families and in the world, but they don’t try to fix anything.  These little hearts I wear are just symbols of the love I am trying to spread.

“A huge demonic invasion occurred in the seventies and this is why young people have it worse than ever before.  Some people made deals with Satan before they were even born and have already lost their souls.  Some people are fallen angels, and many of them are in our government.”

I answered, “We are on the verge of a spiritual awakening and you young people will lead us into it, because your minds are still pure and they have not been polluted by money and ambition.  You still see God in terms of Spirit instead of in terms of an institution.”

We discussed how the sacred things of God have been ruined by capitalism and greed.  “Jesus did not teach capitalism”, Luke said.

“You are right”, I answered.  “I have to leave now, but this has been wonderful.”  We grasped hands tightly before parting.

 

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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OLIVE TWIST ©2012

There was once a girl who lived on the streets.  She had quit school at the age of thirteen.  She lived in Florida where it was hot and sultry most of the year.  She always seemed to be sweating and exhausted.  Her long flax-colored hair was tangled and sweaty, and her skin was warm and tan from the sun.  Her jeans were covered with hand-sewn patches of various shapes and colors.  She loved tie-dye and shades of purple.  Sometimes she wore a tapestry headband or a bandana around her brow.  She was very thin and sometimes felt very weak and shaky from hunger and hangovers.  She stood on street corners asking for money, so that she could buy a bowl of rice and a cup of tea at the natural foods restaurant nearby.  Sometimes the pretty waitress with dimpled cheeks there would give her some free bread crusts or a piece of carrot cake that had crumbled and could not be sold.

The girl had large wilting blue eyes, which blazed wildly from the drugs she was taking.  Her friend had an apartment next door to a drug dealer who knew that she liked LSD and mescaline.  He needed someone to try out his samples before he bought very much of it, so she would try them out for him.  The drugs seemed to carry her like a feather into the wind, and her senses were awakened in other worlds where she thought perhaps she could find God or a white light or something that would make sense of her existence.  She was hurt very deeply, as if a thorn was in her that she couldn’t dig out.

She was often hungry and wandering and hitchhiking to other states.  Once she had been picked up by an old redneck farmer with a Southern accent who raped her and left her by the side of the highway in the cold winter.  She was thankful to be alive.  She always seemed to be in some kind of danger, but she didn’t seem to value her life very much.

She was taken in by men from time to time who gave her food and slept with her and used her.  Many times she didn’t even know their names, and she would wake up the next morning and find that they were gone.  She fell in love a couple of times, but she found out she was only a toy, and her heart broke like a porcelain doll.  Then she decided to avenge herself, and when men loved her, she played with their minds as if they were marionettes and sometimes had three or four of them dancing in her hand at one time.  She enjoyed watching them suffer on her account, until they grew weary of it and gave up on her.  She had become prettier and more experienced and knew how to lure them.

She loved fairy tales with happy paradoxical endings, and medieval style art. She always had a little bottle of ink and a quill pen and a little sketch book with her and she would sit on a park bench or in the grass against a tree and draw.  She would recite this poem as she scribbled:

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth

And laid them away in a box of gold

Where long shall cling the lips of the moth

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth.

I hide no hate, I am not even wroth

Who found the earth’s breath so keen, so cold

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth

And laid them away in a box of gold.

She drew angels and gentle hands and faces of ethereal people she never met, and magical trees and flowers and birds she never saw.  She often sketched cities and forests and lovely places that she imagined existed somewhere outside of her grasp.  At one point, someone gave her a little lavender bicycle with a basket and she put her art supplies in the basket when she rode around town.  It was nicer than walking in the heat, but someone stole her sketch book out of the basket and eventually her bicycle was taken as well.

She sometimes felt that someone she had once known was calling to her, someone who truly loved her.  In one instance, she was lying on the grass in the park and she had a vision that she was standing at the foot of a gigantic wooden cross that reached into the clouds.  She was trying to see the top of it, when suddenly she felt something wet and warm like summer rain falling on her.  She held out her hands and looked at them, and they were covered with large drops of blood.  She could not see the one on the cross because the clouds were shrouding him in the sky.  But she suddenly realized that the blood was for her in particular, that she caused the death of the one who was bleeding.  She knew that his pain was even greater than her own.

She dreamed once that she was walking through the snow in a long white dress and that she was wounded somehow, and the blood was flowing onto her white dress and dripping in the snow.  She wondered if it meant that someday she would give her life to the one who gave his life for her.

Another time, she dreamed that she was wandering through a huge city and did not know where she was.  She was filthy and barefoot, and she wandered into a huge building with green glass windows.  The polished marble floors were cold under her feet.  As she walked in, she saw people staring at her with disgusted looks and hatred, but she ignored them and went straight to the elevator.  She pressed the button to go to the top, but she didn’t know why.  When the bell rang and the door opened, she stepped in, and the door shut again.  Then she realized she wasn’t alone.  A man with a long white linen robe was looking at her.  Tears were gathering around his eyes as he searched her face.  She tried to look at the floor, but she could still feel his eyes upon her.  No one had ever looked at her like that.  She felt filthy and pitiful, but she felt his love burning a hole in her chest.  She woke up before the elevator got to the top floor.  She never forgot about the man who loved her and wept for her.

This young girl was constantly overshadowed by trouble but always felt someone calling to her on the inside.  She heard him and felt his presence many times, and she loved him but was afraid of him at the same time.  She knew that one day, she would have to give in to him, but she was still bitter and angry at the world and wanted to lash out.

You may wonder how I know this girl so well.  It is because that little ragged girl was me.  I can still see her in my mind’s eye, and she will always live inside of me.

I finally became acquainted with the One who kept calling me, and realized that I am His daughter, and He has always loved me since the beginning.  Even more amazingly, He is a King and I am an heir to everything that belongs to Him, so I no longer have to live in pain and sorrow over the things that happened to me.  He has established His covenant with me, and has placed a Comforter and Counselor inside of me, so that I can always have joy and peace within, no matter what my circumstances are.

(Endnote:  Poem by Countee Cullen)

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