Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oak leaves fall in spring

Oak leaves fall in spring, in the south. Our ground tattooed with mellow browns and gutters plugged with crisp. It is a double-edged drop, as I stop scraping and lean on the rake, remembering decades back, preparing for white and ashen in a colder location. Now, the release brings an abundant pale of new growth which, in a few days, will toughen and deepen its green. Heat and heavy air is soon to follow. But the smell of the different times and places is the same as gusts of breeze send leaves skittering across the sidewalk and down the street, to rest in front of other homes, where my thin curly gems become another man’s bane.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Scepter

I have safely returned from a journey through urban dangers and, on this day, ventured into the sweetness of the spring forest. It was there, near the center point of the two hundred acres—only about fifty yards east of Fishhawk Creek—that I found what appeared to be a scepter, an item simple in form and adornment, which leads me to believe that it is owned by someone who rules a plain and common people or is worshipped by the same. I do not know who the owner could be, or how it came to be in this place, at its resting spot not far from the base of the fungus tree. I do not know if it holds any powers, but, personally, I am always leery of anything that lacks complexity, because such things are underrated by being ignored. However, simplicity is often a deception for things, living or not, and humans have come to admire the simple, it being so opposed to our way of living. It draws us close by lowering our defenses, unless we are cautious.

I call it a scepter because of its appearance and location. It was made of a single palm frond with the stem of the frond, maybe four to five feet in length, forming the staff or handle. The crest, or crown, was fashioned by the frond’s leaves being trimmed to within a few inches of where they attach to the stem. Around the crown there was a tangle of delicate vine, lightly wrapped and tied. Two sprigs of ripe beauty berries were tucked into the loose vine. Some may consider the workmanship crude, yet, to me, it carried a tone of legitimacy. 

There were also oddities about the scepter’s placement and other events. The steps to discovery began when I noticed a large flutter of sulfur butterflies, brilliantly reflecting the stream of sun, in the bushes and scrub surrounding the point where I had stopped to take a drink of water.  These butterflies are normally very nervous and flighty and are difficult for humans to get near. Yet, the kaleidoscope only took flight after I approached and was within touching distance of most; the air filled as though there was a tossing of golden coins. I followed the butterflies to a spot about thirty feet off the path. That is where I looked down and noticed the crown was resting within a triangle, formed by three golden-yellow mushrooms. Perhaps it was placed there to regenerate its powers, or, maybe, the fungus, in some manner, acted as protector. So, based on these facts, it does not seem that this item was merely dropped or misplaced. I only happened upon the spot while following one of the butterflies through the thicket. It was as though I was led to the artifact.

There was no intention of disturbing the scene. I circled it slowly, then bent down for closer examination, fighting the urge to run my fingers along the weathered smoothness and natural beauty of the find. However, curiosity won the struggle within and I gently lifted the scepter to examine its detail. Instantly the natural ornamentation disintegrated and fell to the ground, not a straight drop inside the triangle, but fragments of the vine garland and jewel-like berries dropped on each of the three growths of golden fungus at the triangle’s points, pulled to each as if magnetized. This was an unnatural act and startled me.

At that instant the stale and quiet of the forest was interrupted. A raucous flock of blackbirds dropped into a nearby longleaf pine. The birds became silent, as a breeze developed and rained leaves in great density. Within minutes the dusk of day quickened its descent. Throughout the area, within several yards of where I stood, there came a crunching and rustling among the dead leaves on the forest floor and scratching scuffing in the palmetto scrub. I saw nothing other than the waving and bobbing of plants and limbs through the downpour of oak leaves. Large drapes of Spanish moss also began falling in clumps.

 I placed the scepter back in the place and position it was found, unsheathed my Buck knife, and hurried back to the path. There I encountered a drove of feral hogs, rooting and furrowing madly, standing their ground, which was not typical. I backed slowly to a medium-sized pine, ready to climb to safety. A large boar dashed toward me, sending me into action. I grabbed the lowest limb and pulled myself up and onto the next level. The snorting boar was stopped by a clash of thunder. It returned to the drove, which drifted into the dense scrub. The wind subsided and I came down from the tree, made my home bearing only minor scuffs and a tear in my shirt. Due to the intensity of the events I have only these few photos to share. I will decide whether I should return to the place and visit the item again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Carnival

In late spring, when the carnival came to town, it was like summer vacation had started early and it was that way every year I can remember. Maybe because the weather was slowly clawing its way higher on the thermometer, maybe because the carnival brought us a color preview of summertime blooms or, maybe, we just came to realize that it was the beginning of the end of another school year. We always knew the date the caravan would arrive, usually a Wednesday or Thursday, and there must have seemed little reason, to the teachers and principal, to keep us in school after lunch on the chosen day. Homework was not given, just delayed, with an unspoken agreement that the next day or two would have a heavier load. Small towns, with their small schools and personal familiarities, made life tolerable in that fashion.

When the afternoon bell rang, there may have been a rush of bodies, but the minds had already vacated the building and were waiting at edge of town, surrounding the lot where raggedy and dirty-clothed men were busy unhooking, unloading, staking, stacking and testing what they had hauled over freeways, city streets and country roads. Even though the festival was at some distant place in the days before, it seemed to be a special delivery for our sole enjoyment.  We would gather, sit, stand, squat and wait on the cotton candy-fresh spring grass that would, by the end of Sunday, look as crushed and dead as grass on the football field the coming fall. But, damage to the spring newness would not be a permanent. The grass would return to normal within a few weeks, as it was washed with rain, waxed with sun and blessed with an absence of feet and vehicles. It would be ready and waiting for us to play a summer’s worth of baseball.

The brothers, Pavel and Tibor, the twins who were good at every sport, sat a short distance from the rest of us. I walked in front of them. They were talking in whispers and watching the scene with dilated pupils. You did not need to hear the conversation to know that their sentences contained words like “what if” and “ how do we” and “when.”  At an empty spot, between my friends and the twins, I was pulled by forces,  either participate in the elation or join the sons of the crazy Slovakian, the butcher with the shop on Third Street, who, people said, strangled the Altmeyer’s German shepherd, because it was German. The clatter of overworked engines and smell of diesel fumes mixed with sweet smoke from the bratwurst vendor added another tugging force. I fell in that direction, dug in my pocket and pulled out a dollar.