Category Archives: Prose and Poetry

Las Vegas Tales VIV

Bill DeSelms II
The Newspaper Reporter Prologue: The Business

by Mark Kodama


My first job was the police beat.
That’s where you either sink or swim.
I remember I once covered
A search and rescue launched
for a missing woman and child.

A few days later they found their bodies.
I was so angry
Those incompetents.
I didn’t want my story to end like that.
Dick White said “Kid, don’t take things so personally.”

Last week, a woman had a fight here with her husband.
She took her two small children with her into the desert.
They found her five-year-old boy about five miles from here.
He was dead.
They found her body with the infant a mile away.
Twenty years later, the same story, the same ending.

My next job was at UPI,
Covering Governor Romney in Lansing.
We were always smaller than AP.
After press conferences, we would race to get our stories out.
AP had a reporter.
He drank heavily, but boy could he write.
I dropped him at his house once.
It was in a nice neighborhood.
And his was the only yard unkept.
In his house, he had closets and closets
Full of shoes.
He ran over a kid.
Killed him.

After that he would never
Let his wife out of his house.
Once we were covering a Michigan state football game,
After the game, he stood over me as I was finishing my story.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” he said.
His eyes were wide and saliva dripped from his mouth.
His hands began to shake.

After I sent my story, we rushed to the bar.
When we were served our beers, he gulped down his.
Such a look of relief came over his face.
He grabbed the waitress and said “Wow, look at those tits.”
I thought “Boy.” Ten year later there I was.

Once I interviewed Richard Nixon at the airport.
It was after he lost to John Kennedy.
One of Johnson’s men had been caught
In a public bathroom with another man.
When I asked him about it,
He hunched over and began to hunker down.

My biggest scoop was about a scandal
At the National Guard.
After a year, I went to work as a flack.
When I went to see my former friends at UPI,
I learned right away I was no longer one of them.
Wow. I was no longer part of the business.

My life in public relations was a bore
But it paid me better than the business.
I got married and we had a daughter.
But it was the sixties.
You know freedom riders, civil rights
Vietnam and assassinations.
And of course free love.

One time my little daughter Marguerite
Saw me on the television.
She asked me how I got so small.
At that time, the revolution was coming.
Well, it came and went.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
I started drinking and fooling around.
One time, Marguerite caught me
In the bedroom with another woman.
I kept telling her “I was not that kind of guy!”
When I was married, my wife would always nag me.

The funny thing is when you are alone its worse:
Nobody cares.
I drank and I drank and then lost my job.
And then I lived on the streets.
Finally I had a heart attack.
As they wheeled me in to surgery,
I prayed to God for another chance.

Well, I gave up drinking and women.
I joined alcoholics anonymous.
I started a garden.
Have you ever planted seeds
And then watch them grow?
If you don’t believe in God,
Raise a garden then decide.

My wife bought me a car and new clothes.
And then I returned to do what I loved best:
Working in the business.
I got a job at the Columbus Dispatch.
And afterwards, came out west.

And now here I am.
I once met a lawyer.
After I wrote a story,
He said I misquoted him.
He then said I made grammatical errors.
So I asked whether he was a literary critic too.

That’s what I like about the business,
We always get the last word.
My poem is about the business,
Freedom of the press,
And the First Amendment,
About the very best
In a great tradition.


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Las Vegas Tales VIII

Bill DeSelms I
The Newspaper Reporter Prologue: The Business

by Mark Kodama

 


What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If
men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern
men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

James Madison


Two movie houses, one closed, and four restaurants lined Main Street. We pulled
into a restaurant bar called Sauce and Pepper, next to the House of the Seven Lepers, for a soda, quick lunch and gas.

Dylan, a balding portly man, was the barkeep
He claimed four day jobs and to never sleep.
He was a little middle-aged man about yea high.
Sporting an awful sweater and an even worse tie.
He claimed two Ph.Ds and a law degree;
And two rich girlfriends of whom no one ever sees.

The first was a Danish fairy tale heiress
The second, a blond Russian mob princess,
Dylan said: “When her thug husband threatened me
I responded by demanding that he should flee.
I put my finger in his face ‘Do you think I am afraid of you?
I used to wrestle in high school.’

“I told my two lovers: ‘I know I’m worth it but please no strife.
Resolve your differences in a tete a tete.
To decide what part of me each one gets.’”
I said: “‘Sorry for my sangfroid;
But might I suggest a ménage a trois.’
Marriage is not in my DNA, not in my bones
Like my namesake said: ‘I’m a rolling stone.’”

We moved from the bar into the shaded courtyard. There was a small stage in
the corner. The musician set up on the stage and began playing “Norwegian Wood” on his
acoustic guitar.

At a table in the small courtyard, a thin, dapper middle-aged man with a craggy
face and short gray hair sat alone in a booth. He wore a freshly pressed dress shirt with a
frayed collar and old tie. A book was on the table: Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My
Lovely. He ordered “an unsweetened ice tea with a twist of lemon.” He was eating lunch
with a shaggy red-haired photographer with a goat beard named Fred.

We asked him his name. He was Bill DeSelms, a newspaper reporter from the paper, the Desert Dispatch. He said he covered city hall, about a mile away, on the hill,
up the street. In the distance was a massive rail yard.

Bill suggested the tuna melt or perhaps the breakfast burrito. I ordered the tuna
melt with French fries and an ice tea with a twist of lemon.

We asked them to join our small company. They agreed.


My name is Bill DeSelms,
No, I am not the editor,
I am just a reporter,
You know “Jus’ the facts Mam”
That’s me.

Boy, I love the business.
How did I get here?
How did I not get here?
This is California, man.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York.
My mother was French Canadian.
She used to tell me in French:
“I love you, I adore you,
You are all mine.”

Never met my father.
He was a mustang in the Marines Corps.
That’s a Marine who rose through ranks
To become an officer.
He was killed at Iwo Jima
In ’45, trying to take Mount Suribachi.
He is buried at the Punch Bowl in Hawaii.
I am gonna to see him some day.

I joined the Marines myself when I came of age.
Spent my time on search and destroy missions in the Philippines.
Surprised? Yes, we burned villages looking for communists.
You don’t believe me?
Well, as we say in the business,
Never let the facts get in the way
Of a good story.

I was busted down for pulling a knife on a redneck cracker.
He was from Louisiana
He talked like he had shit in his mouth.
When I got out of the Corps,
I got a job at the Cheyenne Eagle.
Dick White was the City Editor.
Dick was also from the Corps.
He used to tell me I was just made for the business.
He also taught me the finer things.
Dick liked literature and things like the Opera.
I used to think that was sissy shit.

But afterwards it made me think
‘Well, maybe there was something to this.’
Dick White was a real man, an educated man.
Once he took me to see Billie Holiday.
I told her, “Hey, you sing pretty good.”
At the time, I did not know who she was.

When I first worked for the Eagle,
I had to write an obit.
When I misspelled the dead man’s name,
Dick White took me aside.
He said, “Look, people keep these things
In their family Bible.
Besides, you don’t want to lose your job.”


Continue reading this poem, here.

For Princess Miah

by Mark Kodama


I am a ballerina dancing in the sky,
Looking down at my audience from on high.
I rule from a castle at the edge of the woods,
Where the house of Hansel and Gretel once stood.

I have one thousand and one peppermint soldiers,
Who follow my each and every order.
Pirates, sharks and ruffians beware,
I will throw you in jail if you dare.

I love to eat chocolate ice cream bears,
And pepperoni pizza served in squares,
And drink root beer vanilla floats,
While swimming in my castle moat.

My dad and mom think they know more than me,
But little do they know, I’m the queen bee.
Uncle Mark, I would like to stay but I must go
My dad and mom are here and I love them so.


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Do What It Takes

by J. Niziolek


We will not be defined by the struggles we are facing.
The distance between us has always been like a paper airplane.
It seems like the miles will soar on for forever, but soon we will find ourselves landing in the same spot we’re supposed to be before the air stops lifting the paper wings in the sky.

We will do whatever it takes.
We have a new direction, but the goal is the same.
You and me in whatever our forever will end up looking like.
We refuse to play with the paints of fantasy anymore; we will build something from the brinks and borders of struggles and adversities.

Painting our sky by the faith of the monarch butterfly a blue that even water would envy.
We know the work we have ahead of us to reshape the picture from dream to final reality will take time, but it will be time well spent.
Especially if it makes us a better, stronger partner to one another.
Doing whatever it takes is the hardest DIY project ever done.
Because reinventing a picture for two people meant to be with one another, is always a worthwhile challenge to embark upon.
When it’s love; when it’s real, you do whatever it takes.

The Clothes We Try On

 

by Vivian


The men and woman try each other on
Casually, like suits, rejecting those that do not fit.
The clothes that fit the body snug
Complimenting the curves and concave stomachs
He was here to stay, but only for the season
She found one that fits, one that compliments her eyes
He was just to wear a couple times and then

Forgotten.

But at the end of the day, the clothes come off –

Get switched for a new set.
When she finds another suit, better and bolder
And when he doesn’t compliment her eyes anymore,
Not as much as her, she’ll switch him in
For the one that makes her eyes twinkle.
She’ll be happy with her new clothes for a while…
Until she finds one that makes her eyes sparkle.


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Hunger Calls

by Vivian


As a child, they could not keep me from that cupboard.
During nights when the air is still, so dead you could hear a pin drop.
A slight crack in the door and out peaks a little eye.
The hinges scream in tune to the sound of floorboards moaning.
I float past those sleeping doors. As if one wrong move will make the floors disappear beneath me.

The glass cupboard towered over the marble counter–a high rise for a man trying to scale up the windows with no rope.
My stomach demonstrated a whale’s mating call, piercing the dead silence with a wretched rumble. Wincing, I clenched my stomach.

Searching around, I hugged the square box left over from careless cooks. I relished the cold metal handles that sent thrills down my spine. An overcast hung over the neighborhood as hazy light illuminated through the translucent curtains.

I savored the sight of dim colors that lit up as stray light struck the treasure inside the cupboard. I grabbed the smooth plastic bag, wrinkled with a stretchy soft texture. I unzipped the red ridges at the top to have a piece of what I came for.

I sink my teeth into the sweet, chewy consistency as it sticks to my mouth and warms my tongue. I eat what Tantalus could not. I yearn to relieve the desire and thank the darkness for keeping my secrets.


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Las Vegas Tales VII

The Poetry Contest


by Mark Kodama 


The travelers gathered at the Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles, California. An art movie house, once part of the old MGM Studios across the street, featured The Leopard and Sea Wolf.  A large granite stone statue of Julius Caesar cast its giant shadow over a small greenish copper statue of Thomas á Beckett. St. Thomas, the turbulent priest of Canterbury, open Bible in left hand and right hand raised to the sky, looked out from the center of the square.

Gentle April showers sprinkled the flowers with life giving water and made the water puddles on black asphalt street shine like little looking-glass ponds. The rain stopped and the skies began to clear.  A beam of sunshine broke through the clouds and lit the mitered head of St. Thomas in its bathing light.

The passengers – of all races and creeds in queue — climbed the steps of the bus and then sat down. The driver helped the passengers load their suitcases into the outside baggage compartments underneath the floor of the bus. The engine of the bus rumbled as the smell of burning diesel filled the air.

One passenger carried the Holy Book in one hand and David Hume’s An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding in the other. His t-shirt read Man’s Search for Meaning. A musician furtively peered through his granny eyeglasses and carried his acoustic guitar in a black case. A man in a motor scooter dressed in his green beret dress uniform was lifted by the ramp onto the bus.  

The smiling bus driver greeted each of the thirty-one passengers individually as they boarded the bus. When all were settled, the driver stood up, faced his passengers and doffed his beret. He then addressed each of them in his special way:

 

“Let our challenges be worthy of who we are.

Let our courage be our North Star.

If we use our gifts in service of others,

We will succeed in all our endeavors.

We must embrace life; not fear it.

No task is too great nor mountain too tall.

Let’s go forth with an optimistic spirit,

With the knowledge that love conquers all.

“The passengers are now on board,

Our Greyhound bus will soon depart.

My friends let us make an accord,

Before our adventure starts.

 

“Las Vegas is far from LA  

Let’s have a poetry contest,

To amuse us and pass the day,

At end, we will vote for the best.

 

“Who’s on deck and who’s in the hole?

Come drop a five spot in my hat.

Tell a tale new; tell a tale old.

Take your best swing when you’re at bat.

 

“Chaucer’s pilgrims told stories too

On their English religious fest,

We can make our poems anew,

On our American capitalist quest.

“I hope I do not sound untoward,

But I cannot resist to say,

The English pilgrims loved the Lord,

We Americans worship pay.

 

“My good friends call me Christopher,

I will be your good host and guide,

I am your faithful protector,

Under my aegis you will ride.

 

“Nine muses please inspire us,

To create works of great beauty

Tales to entertain and teach us,

Of virtue, justice, piety.

 

“Teach us the Nature of Things

What is the true meaning of life?

What does life offer, what does it bring?

Love, hate, courage, peace, strife.   

 

“I now sing the song I author,

Let the wheel of fortune spin,

God Bless good Geoffery Chaucer,

Let the literary games begin.”   


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Drifting Away

by Tylia L. Flores


 

Sitting here in my wheelchair,

Staring at our pictures on the wall,

Thinking about how much we’ve changed.

 

Drifting away like a boat out at sea,

I guess that’s what happens when you start to love young,

people change and their paths begin to change.

 

It’s hard for me to see you as the same

‘Cause I know we’re drifting away from what we used to be.

I don’t want to say goodbye but the more I look at you


The  more and more I know it’s that time,

‘Cause we’re drifting and things are changing  

And I can’t hang on anymore…


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Summer Daze, Summer Haze

by Vivian


The sun blasts through the window.

Hazy rays of light illuminating

Through the translucent pink curtains.

Specks of light fall through green leaves and little eyelids.

Little legs run through fresh-cut greens.

Silky grass grazes through little toes and tickles little armpits.

The warm air kisses the tips of little foreheads and flat noses.

“Weeeeee,” yells Prince Charming as he slides down the yellow slide

That will take him to the Fire-Breathing Dragon:

A test he must past before he can rescue Princess Peach.

“Cha-Ching” goes the lemonade stand. “Splish-Splash” in the pool all day long.

And in one blink of an eye, the little legs run off to school for the first time, ever.

 

The sun blasts through the window,

Leaking through magenta curtains –

The ones with glitter and girly assortments.

Shadows cast on boy-band-covered walls,

Revealing the horrid of a mess from yesterday’s first make-up run

Dirty, brown makeup wipes on the dresser and uncleaned brushes.

Strips of light shine through the window on to hot pink Hannah Montana sheets.

The active legs run down the stairs into the backyard,

Glittery pink eyelids squinting underneath a lavender hat that reads:

I LOVE JUSTIN BEIBER

Walking down aisles of clothes, trying on new dresses that rumple-rumple with every move.

Flick, flick goes the red nail brush,

Coating manicured fingernails and pedicured toenails.

And in one blink of an eye, the adolescent legs run off to high school for the first time, ever.

 

The sun glares through the white curtains –

The ones with the floral décor.

Its disgusting brightness pierces through the tired eyes of a restless teenager.

And on the counter are polaroid pictures of friends,

Scratched out faces of frenemies, and encircled hearts of cute boys.

A bracelet catches light and shines like gold,

Bestowing promises of love and life.

As backpacks swing onto broad shoulders

And aching arms from yesterday’s rowing practice

Carry heavy books to summer classes,

The hours pass by like centuries, a voice speaking at the front of the class.

Something about Ernest Rutherford? Or was it “Earn this rusted Ford?”

“Ring-Ring,” goes the bell as the teenagers throw their papers,

“Crunch, wrinkle,” deep into the black hole at the bottom of their backpacks.

Was it the beautiful summer air that warmed all these stolen moments?

From the stolen kiss from a boy who said, “I love you,”

To the Lana del Ray sing-alongs.

And in one blink of an eye, they throw their caps into the air,

First time to be whisked away to new dorms and the Land of No Parents, ever.

 

The sun glares through the blinds, white and monotone.

Slightly bent, but not that broken from last Friday night.

The half empty beer bottle sits beside an e-invitation, as they laugh in pity at

The pile of returned grades beside a break-up note.

Rays of light illuminate from the curtains with the floral designs and

The familiarity hits of waking up in that old room with boy-band-covered walls.

Old memories of the warm summer air that used to kiss little foreheads and flat noses.

The warm air peaked its head out from behind the tree of leaves

Ran to greet its old friend, kissed the tip of a familiar forehead.

Once again, what lasted for only one blink ended,

As the suitcases rolled to the airport, belts got buckled,

And grumpy grown-ups got whisked away to Adult-Land.

The first time they’d wished to go back to the time of translucent pink curtains, ever.


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Fatal Attraction

by Vanessa Carter 


I don’t think he understands the hold he has on me, but then again no one does. And I don’t think he understands that the idea of me without him makes my stomach quiver uncontrollably, like the uncontrollable shudder your gut makes from what I imagine is your heart descending from its original position in your body.

I don’t think he can feel the void I feel from trying to fill him with my love and commitment, I thought–thought that if I could just show him what authenticity looks like and what devotion felt like–you see, I devoted myself to him and it wasn’t easy but with time I broke down my walls and barriers and chains. I let it all go with him.

He knows everything. Now I hate to sound cliché, but it was love at first sight with him. The kind of love that took my breath away with just a simple gaze into his perfect brown eyes.

I loved him.

At that very moment, he had me under his spell. It was a marked fatal attraction and I couldn’t get enough of his insatiable stare. I was hooked before we even touched. Before our bodies ever touched, I felt him inside of me,

He was a part of me and I, him. No matter how hard he tried to fight it, we were connected by something neither one of us understood and we couldn’t walk away

We tried.

I remember when I asked him how much he loved me and his response was: he would kill and die for me. That excited me, but why?

Attraction grew into addiction and addiction grew into obsession and he was all mine! Funny thing is, I loved him the way he did me and any time an enemy attacked our fort, I envisioned fatalities.

We were meant for each other, except one thing:

He never broke down his walls for me and he never exposed his demons under the confidentiality clause so it created a stagnant pause in our potential to grow, like how it was intended to be because he doesn’t understand all the good he has to offer underneath all his baggage.

I was willing to bear his burden, but he had a different idea of how he would release his pain and I would be the punching bag.

The first time felt like a dream, at least, that’s what I forced myself to believe because he loved me. We loved each other.

That gaze in his eyes was unrecognizable every time, so maybe I convinced myself that it wasn’t him. But rather, the demons in control because he didn’t trust me with them.

Now I know it sounds crazy, but I understood and could hear his cry for help with every blow. He needed me to live, even if it meant I wasn’t.

Ironically, I felt his pain when he inflicted that on me.

Breakdowns create breakthroughs and it felt like there was no alternative because I needed him to break through the constraints in his mind and finally let me in.

Fighting a battle alone can bring the worst out of the best people and unfortunately, an unnourished brain isn’t equipped to sustain the fight without destroying everyone else on the battlefield.

I don’t think he understands that this was a team thing because he fought me like I was the enemy and I thought–I thought I could just show him that I was ride or die.

I mean, the hood part of me screamed Bonnie and Clyde ‘til the end, but now the end feels nearer than I anticipated. So that’s what comes with fatal attraction. Someone has to die in the end, even if it’s just figuratively.

So just die. Let all of who you were die, and all of what you’ve been through establish a new foundation in life and take control of your destiny.


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