Lori R. Lopez dips her pen in poetry, prose, and art. A resident of Southern California, the wearer of many hats, she also writes songs and enjoys filmmaking. Two of her poems were nominated for 2020 Rhysling Awards. Books include The Dark Mister Snark, Darkverse: The Shadow Hours (nominated for a 2018 Elgin Award), Leery Lane, Odds & Ends: A Dark Collection, The Witchhunt, and An Ill Wind Blows. Lori’s verse and prose have appeared in The Horror Zine, Weirdbook, The Sirens Call, Terror Tract, Bewildering Stories, plus a number of anthologies including H.W.A. Poetry Showcases, Dead Harvest, Fearful Fathoms, and California Screamin’ (the Foreword Poem). She and her talented sons co-own a creative company, Fairy Fly Entertainment.
Flora Dooley’s Bad Day
Wipers scrubbed in knife slashes side to side A sheet of thick rain helping tears to hide The world had crushed Flora’s soul again Reminding her at midlife she couldn’t win Heavy tires of Semis kept rolling over The fragile stem of her Four-Leaf Clover Bit by bit, a brittle leaf-crackling spirit Was crying, a dying scream; none could hear it The tyrant had stolen her last gentle dream Like tossing a sack of kittens into a stream Hoping to submerge her with a depth of sorrow Always she clung to a branch of the morrow Strangling, stumbling out to tremble, suffer alone Confront the naked feelings of failure on her own This cataract, an unfought battle’s watery aftermath Like a frigid Baptism, an emotional bath No refuge was left for someone damaged as she Her sobs escaped, then she set them free A kitten abused for a canine’s chew-toy Trauma and fear kept her latched to the killjoy Though never had he slugged her, or even yelled She was battered inside, tethered and belled John had claimed her, a piece of soft property— Too young to know what else she could be Now driving tear-stained and slightly reckless Wounded and bitter, a little mad and feckless Flora yearned to go anywhere except in that house Where she lived without love, hitched to a louse Picking up the pieces endlessly knocked down This time she vowed she would rather drown Than return to a cage, that eternity of walls Both invisible and plain, the unhallowed halls Of a man without regard for consideration Flora lacked the least control, bound by frustration Childless, at his mercy, with only a Library Card To save her from an early grave, but it was hard Not to give up . . . She met her eyes in the mirror Red-rimmed they wept; lids flapped to see clearer As the road wavered, its vanishing point indistinct From rain and teardrops that couldn’t be blinked Flora’s heart was kind, yet today it seemed cold . . . It cut like chunks of glass, no edges to hold Empty of forgiveness, abandoning all hope She was at the end of a very long rope He wasn’t going to change; things wouldn’t improve Sick of his Merry-Go-Round, this needle in a groove Twisted fantasies played out, murder plots to rectify Flora swore if she remained, someone had to die! An Only Child, a lonely woman, nowhere to turn Raised in a home with an absent father, an ugly burn Marking her chest from the end of a cigarette — The reminder of another bad day at a Launderette Mommy said she was to blame, an unlucky charm A second scar itched where a blade nicked her arm Mom got angry in the kitchen for being a smarty What else could she expect? Life was no party John told her at lunch when she lifted her fork He didn’t like fat girls; “Are you expecting the Stork? You should go on a diet. You need to lose weight.” Then, humming, complacently finished his plate. “It was your fault for letting yourself be bruised! For having a weakness!” Flora self-accused . . . Cheeks burned, and her throat was so tight it stung Fists in a deathgrip, the steering-wheel wrung A puffy parched face guarding stifled emotion Filled her view of the rear, channeling a notion She didn’t have to go back; she could leave this town Having thought it so often wore a very deep frown On a visage that tension had weathered too soon Impossible. It took confidence to change one’s tune Flora realized, quite stunned, she was braver to stay Than the courage required for running away! “I have nothing,” she whimpered. He paid for it all The vehicle, this clothing. A shiverous pall Squirmed between shoulders, a chilling reflection How completely dependent upon his protection A woman could become, as if she were owned The enslavement of females historically condoned Like a slug, Time crept when you weren’t looking Altering perspective. Her rage a pot left overcooking Temper and despair had boiled past the rim Until Flora couldn’t imagine a future with him Her foot accelerated while the opposite braked — At a Stop Sign, the gold Sedan jolted and quaked An auto behind slammed against her trunk Mildly denting the boot in a metallic thunk A minor accident, a simple fender-bender Flora panicked the Police might apprehend her Stepping to the pavement, she approached a man Who emerged dragging a child from his Van Flora experienced a strong flash of recognition Peering at the girl, a sharp twinge or premonition She knew the child’s torment, her silent anguish And could not permit an angel to languish In the presence of filth, an obvious thief Gazes met; she must act to end the girl’s grief “Are you out of your mind?” a surly goon brayed His tone belligerent, he vented and sprayed That women shouldn’t be allowed to drive He had the mentality of a disgruntled Beehive And reminded her of an insulting similar jerk Who liked to tell her she was too dumb to work Destiny summoned. Lips formed a pout The child needed help, there could be no doubt A victim glared; her vast well of wrath ignited Long suppressed, now a wrong would be righted As if training for combat in the armor of pain A champion blared “Run!” and charged quite insane Astonished, the guy toppled releasing the child Whose defender grabbed her hand then smiled They darted to Flora’s car. She locked the doors A creep regained his footing amidst furious roars He yanked at a handle and pounded the glass Flora bumped him peeling tires to rescue the lass She sped with the girl, checking the street behind A Van came into sight, its driver Hell-inclined The engine growled; a monster ate the distance Flora swerved, putting up valiant resistance She had never felt so alive, adrenaline racing As two vehicles rumbled forth, the latter chasing Flora screeched to a skidding halt before a Station Blasting the horn, she dashed with trepidation — The girl in her arms. They reached a Front Desk Breathless, she described their pursuer as grotesque Officers investigated the hysterical report An abductor was never captured or taken to Court The family of the girl would be traced and notified A happy reunion, but the hero lied Giving a false name, she had quietly slipped away The Newspaper called it a mystery the next day Flora Dooley read the story then caught a lift With a Trucker down the highway. Life was a gift.
I’ve been trapped in a kid’s Kaleidoscope — Sucked in by a girl who aimed it my way Then cranked the tube and whoosh, I was jerked Out of the broad light of a murky day. Air is multi-colored in a Kaleidoscope, Where you see every detail in myriad fragments. The abstractest designs inhabit these confines, And the residents speak plain Nonsense. It’s tough to stay focused in a Kaleidoscope. The perspective is pointless much of the time. Things tend to change. Atmospherically strange. I cannot find Reason to accompany Rhyme. A Stained Window broke in the Kaleidoscope. Remnants of Rainbows scatter about . . . I’m obliged to duck so I won’t be struck By views twice as sharp as the teeth of a Trout. You can’t pick the flowers in a Kaleidoscope. They move too fast and will flutter off, Disperse in a flash; from a sneeze will they dash — Quicker than Lightning at the hint of a cough. It never rains in the belly of a Kaleidoscope. My Polkadot Umbrella keeps gathering dust. I remembered to bring it; there’s no need to wring it, Yet my Rose-Colored Glasses are starting to rust. The world is a lot like a Kaleidoscope: Dancing mirrors of facets; reeling circles and squares. Mosaics insightful, bright patterns delightful, But the outlook is hazy and leads to nightmares. I am turning to pieces of the Kaleidoscope — Multiplicitous hues, my contours in a jumble! Feeling warped and dissected, rearranged or inspected, Perceptions flail in a state of tumble. There is no escaping the Kaleidoscope, For you can’t survive in fractions alone, Transfigured to shards and shuffled like cards. This toy has replaced my Comfort Zone. Should you pop inside of a Kaleidoscope, There is no need to rely on formality. The rules always shift; the setting will drift, And you won’t even miss Reality. I’ve decided to reside in this Kaleidoscope. Like a Jigsaw Puzzle being nothing but mixed, Confetti that is flung, or Spring when it’s sprung. My combobulation can never be fixed. I am perfectly content in a Kaleidoscope, For the scenery’s grand through the Telescope Eye. Each vivid collage may seem a mirage. ’Tis a wonderful dream, like a Thought Butterfly! Around me was gloom till the Kaleidoscope. Fate, do not pinch — I am happy to stay! You’re the Graveyard Nurse? Things could be worse? It was only Kaleidoscope Vision you say? I’m not really inside . . . a Kaleidoscope. It was all a mere symptom. A colossal mistake. How I miss being there, and I think it unfair . . . I shall eagerly await my next brain-ache! Inspired by the Fifteenth Century painting DEATH AND THE MISER by Hiernonymus Bosch:
The Miser’s Demise
Death arrived in old flesh and fine cloth, partially clad, The arrow of pain or love clenched tight, a bleak visage sad. Rigid of purpose, showing no sign of pleasure. Around the chamber competing sprites took measure. Rascally or hallowed, demons and angels flocked In a candle’s waning, a dim fate to be unlocked. The mortal path divided, the end of road unsure. Amidst a fog of vices, despite a grim humor. The decline of a tight-fisted fellow at hand, Congested shadows breached; unsavories swept in a band. Out of concealment, a swarm of night-goblins crept. Infesting the chamber, a fey congregation leapt. With Heaven to wrangle over a spirit long dripping Of impurities and stain — defective morals slipping. Prosperous, an example of covetous ambition; A lapsed heart, an errant being, tumbled toward Perdition. Beside the man’s bed, gripping a sack of wealth, Did a creature tempt, offer gold exchanged for health? Perchance a fading churl sought to bribe the Devil, His back to an angel; a bare soul in dishevel . . . Naked as a babe, or a pauper who lost his shirt, Robbed of the Five Wits by horrors covert. Indulgent, unrepentant, attempting to redeem By purchasing more life, as if it were a dream! A gentleman’s condition might seem less than hale On devout contemplation, well-nigh the ghastly veil. How he blanched from proximity and wizened for fear, While the vermin of Darkness gnawed at an ear. Yet was more behind the story of his shameful revenue? Could a motive lurk behind this macabre retinue? For a thrifty type, the payment of bills induces woe, Thus a painter depicting his life the Miser did owe, Since the Maestro balked at laboring on portraits for free, And what use to a man in his grave would it be? Glad company brought rent above modest regards For one with fortunes in land, not a game of cards. Whose properties stretched from bakery to pious steeple; An accumulation of tenants, scores of indebted people. Merchant or cleric, brother or nephew bearing gold To fill the coffer within an unadorned household. A pinchpenny’s hearth, no visitors welcome to tarry; For this reason would a delinquent never marry. Enter the Master, himself prone to comfort and ease, But he balanced his religion like the sword of Damocles. Paint flowed in his blood. In the Arts, succeeding Through toil and devotion, his effort far exceeding. Guided by lofty missive, the premonition of alarm. Striving to make examples, shield the ignorant from harm. Simple folk lacking time to ponder, easily stirred As a kettle of pottage; the flights of gnat or bird. Commissioned to honor a sinner’s diminished days — No deathbed confession — a tale of prosperous ways. Presenting instead the warning of a knight’s fall. His last struggle for glory. The vain corruption of it all. Brushstrokes conveyed a less-than-humble man’s greed, Unable to part with his possessions and need. Through disgust or amusement, portraying the surplus In a recreant’s chest; a knave’s overladen truss . . . Like a bony fool bound for the ferry on Acheron! Without insight, examination, no work of art is done. Whether a keen eye recorded the hoarder’s gilt gleam, Or repeated a lesson, a vision, the cause of a scream; Perhaps the device by which to punish or mock, Reducing a patron to a laughingstock. The public can merely conjecture, historians surmise Any dab, every texture’s meaning, what they symbolize. Fantasy or a glimpse of truth? Parable or belief? Ars Moriendi, Memento Mori. A moment of human grief. A painting may not look the same for each set of eyes, The cleverest linesmith leaving points to analyze: Pieces of puzzle to define and arrange, many minds construe. No interpretation identical; no perspective the same view. Upon final inspection, what advisements to conclude? Was the scene a mere caution, or something more rude? A chastisement of fault. A scolding or bewares. The reprobate’s trance. Representing foul mares. A perishing breath while asking Death why. His last thoughts may be of rats — how large and sly From feeding too well in his pantry and cellar — As he aims to steal riches past the gaunt doom-kneller.