The Worth of a picture

22 Nov

The Worth of a picture

By L. Stewart Marsden


A thousand words with you
are worth far more than one mere picture;
the timbre of your voice;
the spark of your eyes;
the warmth from your near skin;
the smell of your cologne;
the laugh of your response . . .
all dimmed and flat on matted memory.

The photo somehow doesn’t do.
And so I ask: one thousand words more with you.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 22 November, 2015

Venting: About security, sympathy and the two sides of facing the refugee predicament

22 Nov

About security, sympathy and the two sides of facing the refugee predicament

By L. Stewart Marsden


If only everything were so black and white in life!


WE ARE A NATION COMPRISED OF REFUGEES, LET THEM IN, return those sitting at the other end of the see-saw.

But the absolutes are more like fifty shades of gray. Nuances. Fine lines. Blurred edges. Not so simple.

What’s a person to do?

Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof, found himself struggling with various questions. “On the one hand,” he reasons, and then “on the other hand” he argues with himself. Link to his now-classic song:

On the one hand, it is reasonable to want to protect one’s family and loved-ones from random senseless acts of terrorism. Last night in a conversation with my son, who is employed by an organization that has presence around the world, I asked him if the recent violence was cause for concern where he works. He hesitated in responding, and I could tell he was searching for an answer that would allay my projected worry over his flights and business abroad. Beirut is an upcoming site for a gathering.

On the other hand, it is impossible to look at the history of the US without recognizing how this land was much-sought by many who were oppressed for their faiths, or who wanted to escape a cattle-chute to a life of poverty and worse.

I imagine there are those with influence of some sort — politically or economically or other — who will have less of an arduous experience in coming into the US. But I also sense that those who are downtrodden, weak, and relatively defenseless, who love their lands of origins and don’t want to leave, want only to survive and to protect their families.

In their shoes, that would be my desire. And I would do everything in my power to make that happen. The problem for them is the vast majority is powerless.

Not an easy problem. And it shouldn’t be. Those who want to bar refugees from the Middle East should struggle with the essence of what it means to live in America. Those who want us to open the flood gates should struggle with the possibility evil people will somehow slip in with the crowd.

I’m for erring on the compassionate side. Those insanely bad guys will find a way. And by saying these two things I’m not burying my head.

You might hold the opposite opinion. This is not a PC issue. Unless by PC, you mean Purely Compassionate.


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 11 November, 2015

Removing the photo

18 Nov

Removing the photo

By L. Stewart Marsden


The photo,
finally down from where its slick blacked frame once observed daily goings on,
leaves a hue years younger which stands in stark contrast to the sun-bleached wall.

Considering all the time and sweat and paint I’d need to match this small square spot,
I defer,
then hang the image once again to cover its darked headstone.

It does, after all, hide a time once ago that has not entirely faded.


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden

The Dream

14 Nov


The Dream

On thinking of the attacks in Paris

By L. Stewart Marsden


The dream endured throughout the night, even though he awoke several times in a sweat, his bedclothes twisted about his legs and ankles. He had but a moment to realize it was not real before he plunged back into the chaos as his head hit the pillow again.

He stood before a vast, open desert. Nothing grew on the plain but dirt and the occasional stone or outcropping of rock. In the long distance a bluish outline of a mountain range undulated. The sky was yellow-hot and cloudless. There were no birds aloft.

Between him and the far mountains, which seemed to be his goal, the dirt ground was pocked with small holes. Thousands — millions of holes. As he stepped towards the mountains, the head of a snake would suddenly pop out of a hole near his foot, which was bare of shoes. The snake would unhinge its jaw, as though to swallow him up, even though his foot was several times larger than the maw of the reptile. Its fangs protruded, ready to sink into his skin and inject a deadly venom.

He carried only a stick, and swung it low toward the head of each snake. The stick transformed into a machete at the snake’s head, and the beast was decapitated. Its body withdrew back into the hole and the severed head dug into the soil like a mollusk or crab. As quickly as each snake attacked, he dispatched it and it disappeared into the earth.

Behind him, he left a wake of sand splotched with blood.

Why are there no trees?

Above the scalding sand before him shimmered mirages of large lakes of water — a promise of respite from the heat and his sere throat. As he approached, each lake vanished, only to reappear some distance away, teasing him.

He continued to step and swing his machete, lopping his way towards the mountains with no perceptible progress.

He finally came upon the dried white bones of an animal. He could not tell its species nor kind. The vacuous orbital holes in its skull were like vacant eyes, and its death grin mocked as he passed. A dry wind whistled through its gaped teeth.

You will never reach them. It is useless. Why don’t you turn around and go back?

“There is nothing to go back to,” he heard himself say, and watched himself from a distance.

Then turn aside. Surely going on will result badly for you.

“There is no turning aside.”

Ah, yes. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

“Something like that.”

The snakes will eventually prevail against you, and you will end up like me — bones in the desert.

“The snakes are slow and small. They die easily.”

But there are many of them. As you cut off their heads, they burrow and re-seed into new snakes. They do not stay dead. And their number grows.

“Possibly true. But in the mountains there is water. Enough water to flood this entire plain. Enough to flood out every den of snakes and drown them all.”

You believe that?

“What other choice is there?”

You are a fool! Give up. Give in. Lie down and die.

“It’s not an option I will ever choose.”

Suit yourself.

  • * * *

The Foothills


Three more times he awoke, and on the last time staggered into his bathroom for a drink. He leaned over the sink and turned the cold water spigot. It soothed the dryness of his mouth and throat. He guessed he had been sleeping with his mouth open.

He crawled back into his bed, the area damp with his sweat. He closed his eyes and was back into his dream.

Behind him stretched the desert. Before him, scrub bushes and dried grasses and weeds appeared. He had managed to reach a gradual incline, and saw a pathway twisting up and away out of view.

The snakes still attacked, but with less frequency. There were fewer holes, but he still determined to be on the alert.

The first part of the climb was easy. The sand cooled, and ravaged his bare feet much less than before. He pulled some grasses out of the soil and fashioned a simple hat, weaving and twisting the dry material. The hat afforded him some relief from the hot sun, which was perpetually at its highest point in the sky.

As the pathway rose from the desert plain, the temperature also cooled noticeably, and his hope of finding some source of water grew stronger.

Rounding a bend on the pathway, he saw a shaded area sheltered completely from the sun. Sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree, a bit hunched over, was an old man clad in light linen. His tanned and leather skin was in stark contrast with his clothing. His hair was bleached white, and his eyes sunken deep into his face. He, too, had a hat — made of straw and more finely fashioned than the one of the dreamer. He appeared not to notice the dreamer, and remained undisturbed.

The dreamer approached and reached out his hand to touch the old man’s shoulder, which startled the man from his sleep.

“Oh! There you are!” said the old man.

“You were expecting me?”

“Eventually. Unless, of course, the snakes got you. Which I see they did not.”


“You must rest a bit with me. And then we will continue.”

“Continue where?”

“To the mountain, of course. You were headed there, yes?”

“Yes. To find water and release the flood to kill the snakes.”

“Killing the snakes is no longer the goal.”

“What? Of course it is!”

The old man smiled and looked deeply into the dreamers eyes.

“You have much to learn. Let me show you something.”

The old man slowly pulled himself up from the log, and walked toward and past the dreamer back toward the desert.

“You’re going back?”

“No. Come look.”

The dreamer stepped up to the old man’s side and looked out over the plain he had crossed. It was no longer a desert, but filled with vibrant vegetation and animals, rivers and lakes, as far as the eye could see. He was amazed.

“I don’t understand.”

“If you look carefully, you will see the snakes.”

The dreamer looked. In the waters and on the ground he could see snakes of all kinds winding along.

“Are they not dangerous?”

“At one time they were not.”

“What happened?”

“All you see — all of the wonderful creations — were destroyed.”

“How —?”

“Not how, but who?”

“The snakes.”

“Ah, were it but as simple. No. Not the snakes.”


“Who, then?”

“The ones with the power. It has been so since the beginning of time.”

“What power? Who?”

“The biggest, at first. Then the strongest. Then the smartest. Throughout all time it has been so. Power overcomes the weak. The trusting. The naïve. Power leverages its way, has its way, and ensures its way will rule.”

“Is that bad?”

“Not for those in power. But for those taken advantage of and oppressed? It is intolerable. It is what changes the weak at some point.”

“Changes? How?”

“The weak tire are of the oppression. The weak understand in order to survive, they must defeat the powerful by adopting the tactics of their enemy.”


“If you are oppressed, or come from those who were oppressed, do the oppressors not become the enemy in your mind?”

“I don’t know.”

“Because you have not been oppressed.”

“But I have never oppressed anyone …”

“Ah! I suppose not. But having gained from the oppression of your ancestors, do you not still value those gains?”

“I don’t have anything I haven’t worked for. I haven’t oppressed anyone for what I have.”

“Have you not? Is not advantage gained from past oppression?”

“I don’t know. What advantages do I have? And how have those been gained from past oppression?”

“Status. Education. What I shall call ease of movement within your society. Are these not advantages? Have they not been attained at the suppression of others?”

“I don’t know! Why is this important at all? The fit survive!”

“A maxim of incredible conceit! In uttering it, those who do not survive are thus unfit. Do only the unfit suffer unjust ends? Are their prayers no less noble and honest?”

The dreamer stood and shook his head. This was stunning to him.

“Are you telling me we have brought this devastation upon ourselves?”

“Whom do you speak for? The oppressors or the oppressed?”

“What’s the difference?”

“Ha! Obviously you’ve never been oppressed! Still, the question is valid. Mark those who have risen in power and have held their power over the heads of others.  The Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. All of the conquerors throughout time have oppressed others and fallen. So in one sense, the oppressors have brought it on themselves by eventually falling. In the subsequent sense, the oppressed have earned their just rewards.”

“What’s the point?”

“Exactly! You tip-toe through the desert, snakes viping at your every step. They are the enemy to you. They are to be exterminated. Yet at one point, they were the oppressed. You and yours marched into their land, their culture, their lives to take from them what which they could not develop themselves at the time. Oil, gems, minerals and other resources. Out of their ground and under their mountains. All the while giving them pittance for their wealth.

“And as their governments and countries and people came into their own, they suddenly realized how they had been used deceitfully.

“And then you are surprised at their reaction? You are amazed they do not receive you with the same open-arms of decades ago?”

“But it wasn’t me! I didn’t do anything!”

“True. You didn’t own slaves. You didn’t rob the American Indian of his land and his heritage. You didn’t suck out the vitality from country after country. You are, in a word, innocent.”

“Yes, exactly!”

“Nonetheless, you occupy the end results of those atrocities. You have the advantage of station and class in life. You are on the inside looking out.”

The dreamer awoke and sat up in his bed. It took him a few minutes to realize where he was. It was still well before sunrise, and looking at his watch he realized only a short spell of time had elapsed.

He was wary of going back to sleep. He did not want to return to his dream.

  • * * *

The Mountain


The old man was surprisingly agile and quick, and made his way up the inclining path to the summit of the mountain. The dreamer had difficulty keeping up, though many years younger than his guide.  There was little talk and no rest along the ascent. The dreamer suppressed the urge to ask his guide to slow down, as he did not want to appear weak. “Are we there yet” was an entirely inappropriate question to ask.

Toward the end of the day the two crested the top of the mountain. The sun, which had held its post at the noontide position for the longest time, finally relented, and began to sink slowly in the western sky.  The aura created by sun and clouds and late-day colors was nearly too incredible to grasp, and both sat beside a monumental stone that topped the mountain. Before them lay an incredible sight: the world in all of its glory, going forever.

“What do you see?” the old man asked the dreamer.

“It is difficult to put into words,” he replied.

“There are no words to describe this. It is beyond comprehension. And please remember, that a millennia ago, it was a hundred times more spectacular. We — you and I — are complicit in its erosion and destruction.”

“How so?”

“We accepted the status quo. We turned our heads when we should have raised our voices. We allowed the evil to seep into our flesh and into our blood.”

“What evil?”

“The evil of the power. That we need to have it. That we need to wield it. That we need to suppress the weak and the lowly. King of the mountain. Conquer at all cost. Demand our way and our agenda.”

“So this glory is at jeopardy, then?”

“No. Not entirely. But its fullness is. We get but a dim view of its fullness. We diminish its full potential. And this is not only in Nature, but in our fellow mankind. Remember the weak?”

“If I am partially to blame, then what can I do to turn things about?”

“What did you say?”

The dreamer repeated his question.

“Ah! That is at least a beginning. Let me ask you — was the ascent to the mountain top an easy thing?”

“Absolutely not.”

“But, was it worth it?”



“I would never have beheld this glory had I not attempted the climb.”


A shaft of light awoke him. It splattered on the bedroom wall and ricocheted to his closed eyes, which he opened reluctantly. The dreamer did not want to leave his dream. He sat up in bed and everything he had dreamed during the night flooded back into his memory, unlike any dream before. Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, he breathed in deeply, and prepared for a new day.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 14 November, 2015

My personal social media guidelines . . .

7 Nov

My personal social media guidelines . . .

By L. Stewart Marsden


I was there when My Space began, and the novelty of connecting with someone halfway around the planet was still mind-boggling.

That was then.

Then Facebook. Twitter. Now Instagram (which my teenage daughter says I should not participate in because “it’s just weird!

I remember AOL, and the beginning of email, and you’ve got mail!

Ah, a whole movie on that!

I will give a disclaimer that I, like many other hapless people, have been sucked into that vortex called Facebook, and have ranted, revealed, pined too much. I’ve bored everyone with my iPhone pics of family and children and vacations and sunsets and a myriad of other “stuff.” Remember George Carlin’s routine on “Stuff?”

Over time I’ve watched as “those people” have made virtual asses of themselves in a variety of ways. I’ve written comments to expose false stories, or to complain of spelling, or to “weigh in.”

In short, I have sinned on social media.

And it doesn’t matter the platform. We think of Facebook, but I’ve done it on LinkedIn and Twitter (I keep calling it Tweeter by mistake) as well. Not Instagram, because of what my daughter said.

Think about it: You go to the Bahamas. You post all of your great shots of Great Exuma to your Facebook page because you want your “friends” to know you have the money and chutzpah to take a trip outside the country, and some thief uses the information to go to your house or apartment — or worse, some friend — and take your stuff. See George Carlin.

Jimmy Kimmel has come up with a great idea, by the way: National Unfriend Day. Kind of puts the whole Facebook (and all of the other social media stuff — see George Carlin — in perspective). It’s pretty radical, and may offend. Here’s the link if you dare: It’s become quite popular, by the way.

So it got me to thinking about writing down a set of guidelines that I will try to follow in all of my social media venues. I’m a bit frightened by the prospect. There are no 12-step programs for social media addicts that I know of.

I hereby resolve:

  1. Not to post more than an average of one post per day. Recognize that this means I can save up to the end of the week and make seven posts;
  2. Not to post anything that says “like if you agree.” Things like I Hate Cancer, God is my Pilot, You Will Find Money Soon, I Like My Pet, I Love My Wife/Girl/Boyfriend/Country/Soldiers/the USA/Freedom/Unrequited love . . .
  3. Not to tell you how miserable I am or that no one understands me and I am on the brink of a complete breakdown;
  4. Not to post Donald/Hillary/or any other politician is an ass;
  5. The Democrats/Republicans are steering this nation directly to HELL!
  6. Not to post “If you know what this is …” posts;
  7. Not to post “Remember when …” posts. I’m older than the hill and I remember EVERYTHING!
  8. Not to post cute pictures of my kids picking their noses;
  9. Not to post a picture from the balcony of my hotel room in Barbados and comment tauntingly, “Don’t you wish you were me?”
  10. Not to post the death notices of famous people;

On the positive side:

  1. I will post my writing work only if I think it’s good and you should read it.
  2. I’ll make comments on posts for which I disagree with a statement.
  3. I’ll check to make sure that a post is true and somewhat accurate. By the way, Stallone, as far as I know, is still with us.
  4. I won’t “Like” just because you think I should. I generally “like” the posts of family and friends.
  5. I will also edit my posts for spelling and grammar. As a writer, I feel I need to lead in that regard. Sometimes I have to go back and edit a post. If you catch an error in grammar or spelling, please feel free to alert me. I’ll go back and edit it. By the way, there, their, and they’re are three homophones and are NOT interchangeable. You have the right to be ignorant, if you choose.

In closing (yes, I took public speaking, too), this is not an easy path to take. I will challenge you to write your own resolutions. I promise that if you do, and if you like this stuff (see George Carlin ), you will come into a sizeable amount of money within six days.


Copyright© by Lawrence S. Marsden, 6 November, 2015

The sycophant

6 Nov

The sycophant

by L. Stewart Marsden


Toady, spongy, sick-o sycophant —

so full of high praise and endless rants

will appease and please and seize his or her chance

for a bit more than a mere fifteen minutes.


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 6 November, 2015


31 Oct

Halloween 2010


By L. Stewart Marsden


Gourd of ghouls
Light of witches
Frightening stare
from emptied brains
sitting there
still, not twitching
ready yet to pounce and scare
it remains throughout the night
and in the early morning light
is neither more nor less a fright:
the Punkin



Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 31 October, 2015

Hallow’s Eve

30 Oct


Ah, the witching hour has arrived!

Originally posted on Writing Odds n Ends:

Hallow’s Eve

By L. Stewart Marsden

The great horned owl has gone a-fowling

Flapping through the misted forest;

In the distance, wolves a-howling —

Baying at the ripened moon;

Soon will come the ghouls and goblins

Seeking treats, but full of tricks;

Moaning, groaning – set on frightening

All who offer scrumptious mixes;

All who open up their door

To these creatures of the moor

That want to bite and tear and chew

Those chocolate morsels filled with goo

And cram their craws with sweet and sour

Until the church bells ring the hour

That Hallow’s Eve has come to past

And ghouls and goblins do at last

Trudge back again to murky swamps

And toppled castles and other haunts

Until the owl flaps once again,

And lonely wolfish howls begin

To fill the air on risen moon,

But, not too soon –

The graved gray sleepers again arise


View original 25 more words

The Autumn Burn

4 Oct

Source: The Autumn Burn

Falling off the “A” List

1 Oct


The “A” List

By L. Stewart Marsden

Don’t have a recollection of ever being on the “A” list;

wasn’t really a goal;
not really …
not that I coulda taken the pressure
or the scrutiny
or the criticism that comes with the territory.
And you gotta know the territory.

“Leave me alone,” I heard them say.
One by one.
At some point in time.
In so many ways.
And so, I do.
And burrow down into soft dirt
and curl — mammal-like —
to hibernate
and await a new spring.

“How you doin’?”
“Oh, hey! Yeah, fine … just fine.”
And the talk is awkward and full of hesitation.
“Well, nice talkin’ to ya!”
“Yeah. Me too.”

(And Chapin drones in the background . . .
you know we’ll have a fine time …”)

So, while the list was never really a goal . . .
not really . . .
I sometimes wonder what it might have been like . . .
you know . . .
if someone asked, out of the blue,
because they happened to think about you,

and had you on their “A” list.

Copywrite © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 1 October, 2015





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