Tag Archives: reality

Things That Go Bump in the Night

24 Aug

Things That Go Bump in the Night

By L. Stewart Marsden

Since a kid I’ve been susceptible to my imagination at night, seeing things or hearing things that weren’t there. The jacket hung on a door hangar, transformed into a ghoulish being by the dark tones of night. The darkest corner of the ceiling, harboring a shapeless “thing” that would suddenly jump out at me. Things skittering about on the periphery of my vision.

I saw “King Kong” down at the beach one summer, and was effected for life. Years later, “The Time Machine,” also at the beach, had me turning my back on the one window in my bedroom, assured that if/when I turned to look, I’d see the red eyes and white-haired blue bodies of the Morlocks staring in on me.

Karloff, Lugosi, Lon Chaney & son, Price, Christopher Lee were the men behind the monsters, and I loved them all. I devoured magazines on horror make-up, anxious to uncover the magic behind Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula and the Wolfman.

Like Cosby’s great schtick on the radio show, “Lights Out,” I loved being scared. Not horrified, mind you (the advent of Nightmare on Elm Street and other blood movies was not to my liking at all), but scared.

Everything was filmed in black and white, even though Technicolor was available.

Yeah. Scare me to death.

The night before I left for prep school I watched a horror film called “Blood of Dracula.” It was about a girls school where one of the faculty had somehow procured the blood of the vampire, and along with a magical pendant, could turn students into creatures of the night. I wondered if one of the faculty members – maybe the science teacher – was likewise preparing for us boys and I would meet my destiny with horror.

At prep school, I was quartered in an old wood frame dorm, House C. I shared one of the second-story rooms with my roommate who was from Savannah. The rooms were spacious. My window looked out onto the delivery court of the Walker Building, a combination dormitory, office, and dining hall structure of brick and antebellum design. Several floodlights illumined the delivery court – a large square with a loading dock along one side. It was the favorite haunt at night of dozens of feral cats, who gathered to fight over garbage and other night-time activities. When late evening fog would roll into the square, and the cats would begin to fight, screeching and growling, it was the perfect soup for my imagination.

After lights out, I would pull out a flashlight, bury myself under my bed sheets, and read from Bram Stoker’s classic horror tale, “Dracula.” The fog, the cats’ yowlings echoing  in the courtyard, were the perfect visual/aural background, and more than elicited my ripe and visceral imaginings.

As I grew older, I outlasted my childish fears. I revisit them for entertainment, as well as escape from the real and far more scary realities of this day – the things that really do go “bump” in the night.




Charleston, SC

21 Jun

Charleston, SC

By L. Stewart Marsden

The Old Slave Mart Museum of Charleston, SC, is located on Chalmers Street, about eleven blocks south of Calhoun Street, where Mother Emanuel AME Church stands.

Historians cite close to forty percent of the slave trade from Africa to the thirteen colonies came through Charleston.

According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in an article published by PBS.org

100facts_slaveslanded_lgThe most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial “gold standard” in the field of the study of the slave trade.) Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.


And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage.


outsidemarket-287x300Between the years 1525 and 1808, when foreign slave trading was outlawed in Charleston [http://oldslavemartmuseum.com/charleston-slavery/], one can extrapolate that close to 135,000 Africans, primarily from the west coast of the continent, found themselves on the auction stage to be sold into slavery.

Interesting that Gates, a black man, uses the term only about 388,000.

More about 21-year-old Dylann Roof is slowly rising to the surface of the media blitz. And, when his profile is compared to those of other 21-year-old males, he is clearly an outlier. His opinions, biases, and compulsion to do harm are not those of the vast majority. As he might have wished himself to become somewhere in his skewed perception of the world, he is the exception to the rule.

Roof and his ilk are out there, embedded throughout our nation. We could categorize him in a Venn diagram with Islamic radicals, Christian radicals, and political radicals. He would share space with the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Eric Rudolph and James Holmes. He would be elbow-to-elbow with proponents of al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. He would share his space with the KKK, Nazi Germany, and a host of infamous groups.

FDR said during his tenure as POTUS, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

As a white man who grew up in the south during the 50’s and 60’s, I have seen a lot of change. Hailing from Minnesota, my dad often said he wasn’t prejudiced against black. “We didn’t have any in Minnesota,” he would allege. Hence his innocence. But along the way by his side, I heard enough to know otherwise.

I was a Republican and rooted for the Republicans because my parents were Republicans. As a kid, it would be like growing up in a household of Mets fans, ergo you were a Met fan.

So was I also biased due to my parents’ attitudes towards blacks?

Mom hired black maids to help keep the house, do the laundry, cook the meals and look after the children so that she could be a part of the Garden Club and the other socialite groups in our southern town. The importance of that was more so because she was a Yankee by birth. Dad’s and her financial success mitigated that fact somewhat.

Mom learned to count the silverware because “it goes missing.” The terms “shiftless,” “non-trustworthy,” and a host of other stereotypes passed to her mindset due to friends’ and neighbors’ input.

When I think about that now, I wonder she could trust her children to be reared by these shiftless, non-trustworthy sorts. Seems a bit counter-intuitive looking back.

Virgie Mae Brown with my brother.

Virgie Mae Brown with my brother.

Virgie Mae Brown was my and my brother’s surrogate mother. She reminded me of the Aunt Jemima illustration — a large, round and brown woman with thick kinky hair. Her bosom was the heart of consolation when needed. Her homespun remedies were as effective as any store-bought medicine (try slicing a potato and wrapping it in a damp cloth and putting it on a feverish brow).

There was a distinct difference between Virgie Mae and my mom. I could talk trash to Virgie Mae and get away with it. I fired her on many occasions, though the firings never stuck.

There was a hierarchy.

Schools I attended were lily-white until junior high. There was no busing. The city was laid out in stereotypical quadrants, with the two quadrants below the railroad tracks occupied by the less-fortunate (as they were politely referred to) and the blacks.

Water fountains were segregated, as were the bathrooms.

Signs declaring “Whites Only” didn’t exist to my memory. It was implied that if a store was on Main Street or other street frequented by whites, “coloreds” were not allowed.

The Paramount Theater had a side entrance for blacks, and those moviegoers climbed steps to a small second balcony. They were monitored for disrupting noise.

I was in the ninth grade before I played basketball with a black student. He was the lone black person on the team. He dressed and showered with us, and traveled to away games on the same bus as we did. Our coach, who we called “Stumpy J,” must have stuck his neck out pretty far to let the guy on the team. The student didn’t start. We were an all-white starting five.

As I grew older, the derogatory words, comments and jokes began to pry into my world. I won’t repeat them here.

Then Little Rock.

And Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malcolm X’s assassination.

The assassination of JFK.

King’s assassination.

RFK’s assassination.

George Wallace.

Televised marches and police responses.

The Freedom Riders.

The KKK.

Greensboro sit-in.


Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.

And more.

A vortex that sucked all I knew at the time and spun it so fast and hard it was like having your bell rung in a boxing ring.

Then gradual change.

The first black mayor of Atlanta.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” types of films.

Busing and integration of schools at all grade levels.

Affirmative action.

More blacks elected to local, state and national positions.

Black studies at the college level in what were predominantly white schools.

Professional sports cracked open to receive black athletes.

Black personalities coming to the forefront in a variety of areas.






Was no progress realized? Have no changes occurred? Are we, as some suggest, going back to Jim Crow days?

Are white Americans, who will not soon, if not already, become less in overall numbers than “people of color,” digging in and refusing the tide of change?

Is there a tide?

All I know is things are different for me. Perhaps not as much as I’d like. I still live a rather secluded life as a white person. I know the advantages I have today largely have to do with the fact I was born white and to white parents.

I feel the stigma of my whiteness when a black instructor or FB “friend” states, “You are racist,” as though it automatically comes with my pigmentation. Perhaps I am. But I’m also addicted to cigarettes, and I haven’t smoked one since the late 1980’s.

I feel the helplessness of the repeating news stories of blacks seemingly accosted by both white and black law enforcement because of their color and where they live.

It is difficult not to agree with a pervading attitude that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t know what the solutions are. I only know that calmer heads need to prevail for meaningful dialogue and change to occur.

Wow! More change needed. We still fear one another. Thought that one got checked off years ago.

Then Charleston.

We were wrong. The struggle is not over. We might have seen the mountain, but we are far from conquering its summit.

Notice, I said “we.”

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 21 June, 2015


18 Jun




by L. Stewart Marsden


Um, hello?
May I come inside?
Do I know you?
I know you.
You do?
All your wants, all your needs.
Um, have we met?
I know all about you.
Even so, I don’t care.
You don’t?
I like what you’ve done to the place.
It isn’t much.
Even so, it’s so you!
I need to clean up.
No — it’s fine as it is. You are fine as you are.
I am?
You seem tense.
Just a bit.
Mind if I do this?
Um — wow!
And this?
B- but . . .
No buts. No ifs. And no ands.
I don’t . . .
Understand? It’s simple.
It is?
I am yours.
You are?
And there is nothing I won’t do.
Am I on Candid Camera?
No cameras.
Are you a cop?
Am I awake?
Yeah . . . what’s the catch?
No catch.
Ningun. Nada.
I could get used to this.


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 18 June, 2014

The Rock and the Knight

23 May


Don Quixote by Salvador Dali

Don Quixote
Salvador Dali



The Rock and the Knight

by L. Stewart Marsden


I was the rock you chose to scale
The pinnacle from which to see
The leeward shelter from each storm
The harbor into which you’d sailed.

I was the knight you held aloft
Who rode a noble valiant steed
Whose armor shone like polished steel
Whose heart was strong, yet warm and soft.

Who matched the meter of your verse
Who fleshed your fantasies to fact
Who knelt and bade you for your hand
Forever good, or ever worse.

Now but a rubble — stone and sand
where no advantage can be got
where there’s no protection from the storms
Nor from the seas or from the wind, and

Gone the stalwart, strong brave heart
Who’s now astride a boney nag,
Whose armor’s but a rusted shell
Who’s lost the luster from that start

And goes to find another trail
Perhaps to other distant lands
Where lasses aren’t idyllic there
And stories can be ended well.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 23 May, 2014

The Love Trap

25 Mar


The Love Trap

by L. Stewart Marsden

If love’s a pit in which you fall
is it possible at all to scrape and claw
your way back to the top?

Or is it more a dark abyss
which, entered into quite amiss,
was thought to be a safe and shallow drop?

Those first few pangs of laboring love
are portents to the struggles of
idyllic joy ‘gainst stark reality.

For no mere mortal here
can stave off doubt or hide from fear —
to think love would exude such falsity.

There is yet no like emotion
whose depths compare to vast, deep oceans
that swell and crash upon the heart’s lone shore

And, pounding quite relentlessly
erodes the will to be left free
like castles in the sand and nothing more.

So as I stop and consider this
and how the innocent first kiss
can lead to such an endless spiraling down

I sound with all my will and might
my troth to fight such future plights
that would force me to my knees upon the ground.

So please, if you’ve an ear to hear
take note when love approaches near
lift up your guard — be wary to the end,

And do not trip or slip or fall
if you can, avoid at all expense and say,
“Can’t you and I stay just friends?”

Absolute Divorce

16 Jan

Absolute Divorce

by L. Stewart Marsden

The second one.
Less of a hassle than the first —
but not without worse effort and strain,
and moments that burn memory and flesh.

More technologic.
Emails and texts —
Cleaner, meaner (in the sense of commonhood).

Like the first — victims in the wake,
seemingly at ease and safe above the water line.
Yet, legs thrashing to keep afloat,
Clothing soaked with a heavy past and unclear future,
pulling down,
tiring noble efforts.

Absolute, though?
On paper.
Documented. Decreed.
Yet sinewy strands of connection —
nearly translucent —
intact and resolute despite the absolute absolution.

The hand to the switch.
The ax to the trunk.
The genuflected stamp of man and God.
The notarized death of what once was.

The thought or the hope that one last strong wave will wash the beach clean,
leave amber foam and bubbles to dissolve and burst silently in the salty breeze.

A vague, momentary watermark on wet sand.


And, gone.

The Voice (not to be confused with the reality show)

10 May

The Voice
(not to be confused with the reality show)
by L. Stewart Marsden

A person gave advice to me
(and, by the way, hers was free)
she said, “You need to go and find your voice.”

I think I said, “Well, thank you, Ma’am,”
While in my mind thought “I’ll be damned!”
Wond’rin if I had another choice?

‘Cause, you see, I’m sixty-two,
Don’t really know just what to do —
Been speaking with this voice for quite some time.

To turn around and suddenly
Find another voice that speaks for me?
That’d be just like a poem that doesn’t rhyme!

“You’re work is scattered here and there
“and rambles almost everywhere!
“Focus is the thing you’ve got to do!”

“Enhance a speci-al-ity
“Become the voice you’re meant to be
“All eyes and ears will then be trained on you!”

“Well, thank you much, and God bless you,
“I know your comments must be true
“‘Cause I haven’t sold a novel nor a tale;

“And it’s pretty plain to see
“As far as all my poetry
“No agent has his eye on me as well.”

“But I’ve had this voice since I could talk
“which was long before I could walk
“It’s the only one I’ve really ever known.”

“And when I write it’s in my mind
“And speaks to me ’bout all the time
“and to it quite accustomed I have grown.”

(That last line that I just wrote —
the one that’s captured ‘tween the quotes —
Is what my Voice told me to write down).

Tho it may not be like Willie S,
Or any of literature’s best,
It’s exactly how my voice does sound.

So, shall I find another voice?
Dump this one for some other choice?
I think I’ll keep the one that found . . . me.