Posts in Short
Homecoming

There is something not right about the house.

It is too tall or too thin or the walls are at improbable angles.

Nothing seems as it should, and nobody who enters is ever seen leaving.

You can hear them go in, then a cry, some clattering, a groan.

Silence.

The neighbors say the house always was there. Some say the Germans built it, some the English.

You never can tell whether people really vanished. Maybe they left by an attic, or a basement.

Perhaps there is a back door and they rejoined the crowd in front, pretending dismay at their own disappearance.

I believe each of us will enter the house one day. It is possible that some of us already have, but do not remember.

I was mistaken, that is not a crowd in front.

It is a queue, and I am next.

ShortK.M. Halpern
Curvature

It is easy to prove the Earth round without any scientific device.

How else could everyone imagine themselves the center of the world?

ShortK.M. Halpern
Mayoral

Given that a widely anticipated election is just a day away, I figured I’d post a short piece I wrote a while back on running for office.

Mayoral

Run, run, run for Mayor!
I want to run for Mayor!

If I am Mayor, I can decide things the way they should be decided, the way I want them decided, help the good doing good and keep the bad from doing bad.

But if I run for Mayor, I'll have to decide everything, for everyone, all the time. Meetings and boredom and arguing and convincing and negotiating and alienating and listening. Best not to run, let somebody else do the dirty work.

But if I am not Mayor, then there's a chance somebody will make a decision I don't like, would not have made. There is an other, and he is unpredictable. I do not like this other, he is not me. Something that matters to me may go awry. The good may do bad, the bad may do good. Best not to vote, or I will be responsible for this other.

Run, run, run from Mayor.
I want to stay home.

ShortK.M. Halpern
Poetry Marathon

A couple of years ago I went to a poetry marathon, which consisted of people reading for a few minutes each, back to back. I figured that I’d discover some interesting new local talent. Alas, the following poem (or unpoem) was the only thing to come out of it. For those with no sense of humor, this isn’t an indictment of the entire field of modern poetry. This is. Without further ado, here is the poem:

Poetry Marathon

Me, me, me, me, I, I, I, I, here's some more stuff about me and I.

I'm not really a poet so here's a lecture about this thing I'm interested in. People walk away when I talk about this thing I'm interested in, but you can't because you're sitting and the door is closed.

This is a great poem, but all of you know that, because you're all in my poetry group and will cheer for my success in getting to be in the same room and read to you in a different location.

I didn't really have time during the last six months to prepare for this, so I wrote something on a piece of toilet paper on the way over, but I gave it to a homeless guy who needed toilet paper, and instead I'll read a piece about how I didn't get a chance to prepare. Yeah, meta. There, done.

Somewhere in this disorganized jumble of sheets are a few poems which I couldn't be troubled to find ahead of time, so I'll instead read this poem by someone else I came across in this morning's Times.

I don't really know much about writing or poetry, but wanted a standing ovation anyway, so I wrote about recent events from a perspective with which you are guaranteed to agree, and because we share this political affinity you will feel guilty for not showing solidarity if you do not give me a standing ovation.

I view poetry as a form of healing and catharsis. For me. I have no interest in you or your feelings or your time, so I'll just use the next several minutes as free psychotherapy which, multiplied by the number of audience members, is quite a bargain!

Bad things happened to me, and I'm sure they are much much much worse than the bad things which happened to you, and if bad things didn't happen to you then you come from a place of privilege and plenty and have no right not to appreciate my speaking about the bad things which happened to me, however ineloquently expressed.

Experimental cool brilliant deep profound smart ever-so-smart riveting novel unexpected gimmicky effective, now give me tenure.

This will move you, just like your poem moved me and I cried and applauded so hard when you read, and you'll do the same I know you will understanding how hard it is to be a poet and not know the things which actually would move you to cry and instead just tweet to all our friends about how brilliant you are so you'll do the same for me.

I'm really old and speak with an unmistakeably erudite diction, hence you will take my utterances for profundity, my errors for anachronisms, my idiosyncratic manner for the charming style of a bygone era, and my drivel for a mastery which never existed but the usages of age impute to me anyway.

Now, tell me, why can't we get more people interested in poetry? % to come to these things?

ShortK.M. Halpern
Dark Hues

I begged the doctor for a prescription. My eyes hurt, I said, they always hurt.

He asked if objects near or far were blurry, if the proportion of things was wrong, if men's faces appeared bearded.

He asked if my eyes were bothered by effulgent lights, modern art, politics. I said no.

Why then,'' he laughed, what can be wrong?''

My eyes cannot stand the dark. The dark?'' he pondered.

Where light fails, there remain dark hues, colors that burn, colors that blind, absence of purpose, mocked symmetries, bleeding discord. I see these when light no longer distracts me.

I cannot unsee, cannot unknow. Do I alone suffer this torment?

No,'' he mused. Perhaps,'' he corrected. Suddenly he perked up, aglow.

I will not remove your eyes, for you do not see with them, but I have a solution. Live in light, and listen to music.''

That is no answer, I barked. What value has a doctor if he cannot cure so simple a thing?

But, the music,'' he whispered as I left, the music is always with us.''

I smiled. He heard dark tones. This man was unhappier than I, but did not know it.

The world brightened, dark hues receded.

ShortK.M. Halpern
Fall

There was a bird
on a sill
of a house
on a farm
that sang
for me.
I chose not
to listen.
It went away.

ShortK.M. Halpern
Counsel

There are four warnings which must be given to any man, that he may pass through this life unscathed.

What? How would I know what they are. Do I look unscathed? Are you saying my father was smarter than me, possessed this critical wisdom but neglected to pass it on? That’s insulting; I probably should scathe you.

When eating a tangerine, there may still be seeds, but they are small and can only break your teeth if you too are small. That is the reason you should decide to be big.

I’ll admit it, I don’t like your face. I may rearrange it. Do you think my dad is a pervert, the type of freak who puts his hands on little kids’ heads, teaches them things?

If you fall backward, you won’t see where you land. It is not likely that the person in whose arms you end up is the person for you. Best to fall forward and know whom you are falling for. Breaking your nose is a small price.

Do you always go around insulting the people who hate you? There are so many of us, where do you find the time. My dad was one. He hated you. He told me so. He said I should hurt you if ever I can.

We all want a child who is like us, so it is best to have yourself as a child. There is no law which prevents this, so if it does not happen that must be your fault.

You look like a no-can-do kind of guy, the sort who picks fights with people by not picking fights with them. Well, I’m itching for a can-do fight with a no-can-do sort.

If you are called upon to perform a blind taste test, it is best to lie. One or the other will be insulted, and you never should insult a large corporation. They are bigger than you and hate losing. Instead say that you love them both equally and unconditionally and have no taste.

Why would my dad tell you these things, but not me? He loved me, nurtured me, ate my brothers. Why would he do that but not tell me how to live my life? Why would I tell my dad these things instead of me. You’d think you already would know better and have told me them first.

ShortK.M. Halpern
Bitter Woman

There was a bitter old woman who scowled at me in passing.

What cause do you have to be bitter? I asked her. It seems unfair to be bitter without a cause.

Do I now need a reason to be bitter? Who are you to demand this of me?

It is wrong to scowl at passerby, I insisted. I know this because I am a passerby and you scowled at me.

A child presumes to lecture me, she laughed. That is why I am bitter.

I smiled. You are laughing, so you must not be so bitter after all.

No, I am twice as bitter now because you made a bitter old woman laugh.

ShortK.M. Halpern
Beware the Fly

When you are at home in the ordinary chaos of things coming and going, it is easy to ignore a fly. This can be a mistake.

There are flies, and there are flies. Pay close attention to the shape of the wings, the striations, the abdominal patina. These may be the give-away, the sign that this fly, out of billions, is a killer. It is the anathema, the 1943 copper penny, the brown recluse.

This does not mean it necessarily will go out of its way to kill you. It may be busy or lazy or simply not in the mood. It may bide its time until your child is asleep or it may decide you altogether unworthy of the effort. Then again, it may not.

You won’t know you are dead until some time has passed. This fly looks almost identical to any other and seems innocuous. Perhaps if you hadn’t shooed it or tried to swat it or made eye contact or failed to offer it a lucrative compensation package it simply would have gone away. But it did not, and the fault probably is yours.

Of course, you may not have recognized the fly, thought it ordinary, harmless. That is no excuse. If anything, it is insulting.

There are 230 visual characteristics that can be used to identify a fly. Killer and ordinary flies differ in only one of these, and nobody is sure which. Even the most renowned expert has little chance of telling. But perhaps you can do better, since you care, since you’re the one who will die.

There’s no certainty, only statistics. Find a way to bend these in your favor and perhaps you will live another day. Avoid the fly, run from it. Sometimes ignoring it can help; if there is no such thing it cannot hurt you.

Why should there be this fly? It has no right to exist, to threaten you and your child! But it does, and if you encounter it perhaps you can seduce it, persuade it to find somebody else – somebody less important, somebody less you (or your child). This rarely works, or perhaps you are that somebody else.

The sad truth remains: the fly is out there, unrelenting, buzzing, waiting. You must accept that it will kill you. If it is indeed a killer. Does it want your death or just some sugar?

Once the fly has bitten you, you will die. The fatality rate is 100%. Sometimes it is quick and painless, other times it can last for decades, culminating in one of many lingering, debilitating conditions. The symptoms are indistinguishable from ordinary illness, it is probably best not to bother with a doctor.

Save your money for a quality tomb. Finding a good place to spend eternity is difficult. Do you think there is room left in heaven or hell? Real estate is in high demand, you’ll likely end up stuck in your grave. Be certain it’s a nice one. Most important, make sure there are no holes, or a fly may get in.

ShortK.M. Halpern