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There are several excellent protections against temptations of the heart.
Patience has its limits...
Take it too far, and it becomes cowardice.

The poltroon whose words and heart can bear to torture aught below,
is ever first to quail and start from the slightest pain or equal foe.
-Bertrand Russell

Letters In The Cemetery

black eyed hunters on a marrow rich mead
crowds below confessing with the unsaid worming free

rope ringed bodies, fissured into canopies
breathing for the breathless, living on the lifeless... gazing

as I dig away
to plant another scented seed
a thin note penned with fading hands
another solitary deed


Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

Jan. 19th, 2016

“You must learn her. You must know her reason for silence. You must trace her weakest spots. You must write to her. You must remind her you are there. Impose your ever-presence on her. You must know how long it takes or what it takes for her to walk away. You must respect her grinding effort and match it with your own. You must love her because many have tried and failed. She must know that she is worthy of love, that she is worthy to be kept. And this is how you keep her. In the end, you kill out of indifference or love, but never out of hate. If it can live, it can die."

-Junot Diaz, This is How you Lose Her

Roving Gambler

Unfeigned and churlish, a known an honest man round his parts, but years had passed since any familiar slang or style crossed his lane or the dogged heartsick. A far-walker now, eons from the old haunt now.

Brushed the path gone behind him, laundering any hope from his indecisive mind.

He was rage and sentimentality. A nervous, fragile, volatile vagabond with enough blood left to nurse the strung out suckling within him and give transfusions to the frail archfiends clinging to his back, desperate for a cure he knew he'd never have.

Wry and deformed as Humor was, (the ever-present savior, flaring up like a firewall to back him from the bridge) it didn't always evade the dragnet of Mad Love's fierce piety -the very blaze he burned a smoking path from.

That cast iron furnace quilted with letters.
The Last Mistress.
Renewed vows with routine's mâchéd veneer.

Propensity's suit was a far finer fit.

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

The Night Of the Hunter.

If you could have seen her...

Down there in that deep place,
With her hair waving soft and lazy like meadow grass in the flood water,
And that slit in her throat, like she had an extra mouth.

-The Night Of The Hunter

Lying In Wait.

Muggy, dusty Summer's noonday. Air strangulated with the milky, weightless flurry of desire dispatched by the riverbed's shameless cottonwood willows and brazen sycamores. Plush pastures starved to straw and a shallow Mississippi peeling away from the earth like the gums of a corpse.

A thousand paces behind that weather-beaten plantation mansion, flaking its butter yellow skin in the sweltering wind, stood the greenhouse. Surely an overgrown gateway to Hell, the way steam rose from it and tributaries poured down the inside of those moss-caked windows. Brittle brown trumpet creepers and poison ivy swarmed the roof and fused abandoned tools to the marshy floor. And tangled round the cracked, glass door.

You know those days so hot you think you've gone deaf and even sound becomes a mirage. Everything moving like it's slaving in a sea of honey.

But in it all, through it all rose the thin, squeaking voices of Eli (15) and Daisy (10). Hair full of burrs, stained shift and shirt, arms and backs scratched and mouths stained plum from their blackberry bounty squished into Eli's pockets. The greenhouse had been pried open wide enough for its putrid, thousand degree breath to finally exhale.

Beyond the broken terracotta pots full of dead or dying things and the sprawling, tangled webs of recluses and widows, was a warped, stained mirror propped tall against the slimy green-glassed back wall. Daisy hummed an unmelodic tune while she fished around in her dress for her mother's pink lipstick. Eli's grand discovery was a rusty straight razor full of decay, found in a discarded tackle box lined with empty egg sacs.

Sticky and giggling in the steaming heat, Daisy and Eli stood shoulder to shoulder, shoving side to side lazily to get more mirror while she slathered her lips with that greasy, garish neon coral stick and he scraped his cheeks with the old blade.

"Careful now."

Whipping around, the children's gasps were stifled in the stewed air and Eli's razor, in that instant, tore across Daisy's hand. She screamed bloody murder, immediately shoving her palm into to mouth, wailing around it while she sucked at the blood and hot tears streamed down her face.

Eli (seeing that it was only Old Joe) spat into a fractured flower pot and narrowed his eyes. "Careful a what. One day Ima be big enough to own all this round here... including you, Old Joe."

Old Joe stood hunched in the jammed doorway with his head ducking in, sweat pouring down his bronze aged face, pooling into his overalls.

"I reckon you quite right Mr. Eli, but I was just aiming to warn the two of you. Warn you bout what you were playin at just now. That game. Playin at adults. You know, you'll wake em up if you keep on like you were."

Eli shook his head slowly, muttering "what you on about, old fool" as he bent to reclaim the bloody razor and turn back to the mirror. Daisy had retreated to an upturned bucket to inspect her tetanus gash in a sunbeam.

"Well, Mr. Eli... shame yo parents neva told you... but I guess it's my lot now since you ain't knowin and you should. You know why there be so many adults around?"

"...Well yeah, that's dumb. They were kids... and then they grew up." Eli spat again while his face sneered into the mirror, staring hard at Joe through the reflection.

"That's where you wrong, Mr. Eli... adults don't grow up, they grow out. Now, inside of every pregnant woman there be a curled up baby, just waitin to get out. But inside of every curled up baby, there's an adult that wanna get out just as bad. Maybe worse. If you start actin like an adult when you a child and you do it enough, that can wake up the adult inside. And when that adult wakes up, he gunna wanna get out."

"That grown up'll start to roll out his arms and legs inside of you... which is why your arms and legs stretch, get longer and it hurt so bad. The man inside of you already got a beard... so when his face starts growin inside yours, his beard will come shooting through yo skin like needles. He got his own voice too, and he'll eventually swallow up the one you got and replace it with his own, which is why your voice is already startin' to crack."

"Eventually, Mr. Eli, he'll get so big and stretch your skin so much, that it'll just...rip away. And he'll end up wearing you just like that shirt you got on yo back right now. Won't be nothin' left of you after that."

"Ever wonder why, when you look at pictures of your parents as kids, you don't recognize em? They ain't be lookin the same, right? It's because they were playin at bein adults just like you was, and the grown up inside woke up and ate them alive..."

"Lots a kids know that and they would never do what ya'll were doin, and because of that, they'll be kids forever. But Mr. Eli, just might be too late fo you. I reckon you and Daisy'll be grownups by the end of the week... and in a few months, old folks. Bout old as me. And by the end of the year... dead and gone. Coulda been young forever too. Now, ain't that a shame."

Old Joe ducked back out and shuffled around, rustling through the tall grass back to the yellow house.

Eli watched Joe's reflection in the mirror shrink as he lumbered away, the old dry corn and wheat closing in around him. Ever-so-slowly, moving his face within half an inch of the mirror, Eli studied his reflection and every pore he could spy with a dark, tunneled, paranoid stare while the greenhouse flooded with the blood orange light of setting Southern sun. Daisy got up and dreamily wandered out, stumbling toward the sound of their mother's call, still nursing her gaping palm.

Eli's razor had long dropped from his moist, filthy hand, swallowed by the nest of grey webs near his feet. A rhythmic, deafening noise steadily grew in volume between his ears. Helicopter propellers. Roaring. Swooping. Louder. And louder still. Threatening to split his skull. Heart convulsing in his chest. That fat drum thumping up his throat, up and up.

And at long last... the final ray of day crept across his blanched face, illuminating the thin, wretched beginning of a solitary, stiff, brown bristle sprouting from the shallow cleft in his chin.

Never averting his gaze from the mirror, Eli gingerly crouched down, reached for the razor and sawed the rusty blade deep into his chin. Red began to weep and bloom on his grimy undershirt.

The hair would be carved.
Along with the rest of the adult that was waking up inside of him.

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

The Ivory Coffers

7:30 PM

Little Sammy kicks his feet, stomping up the chipped, dark wooden stairs into his chilled, shadowed room. Navy eyes flashing, tomato sauce stained gash of a mouth barking curses through the gusts of his hot breath. A mud-caked firetruck clenched in his tiny white-knuckled fist, with its inexhaustible siren wailing on a raging, ringing loop.


"NO!! You're not the boss of ME, WOMAN."

Burning white fury ricochets from one of her black eyes to the other, hot on his heels nearly grabbing the rocket-ship butt flap of his onesie jammers. Jeans smeared with pasta he flung about the room, pale noodles braided into her mop of permed curls. She lunges into his cave just as he propels himself into a nest of sheets and pillows, yanking them over his overgrown brown locks.

"ALREADY in bed!! Can't take me out." (A screaming squeal of triumph erupts from the pillows. Sweet, naive belief that he's outsmarted his mother).

His carpet is carpeted with a second layer of every ankle-breaking toy parenthood never bothered to warn about in any child-rearing book. She crunches down on a jagged Rubik's cube, the corner diving into the fleshy, naked arch of her foot. The screeching truck carries on, lost somewhere in that undercover world, in a cluttered fabric sea.

"YOU LITTLE SHI -Sammy..." (She mutters in a hybrid of coos and growls)

Flicking on his Joker lantern, the dim glow of purples and greens begin leisurely spiraling around his room. She cranks the portable heater beneath his window and gently sits down, swiping comic books and Garbage Pail Kid cards onto the heavily congested floor.

"Would you like a story... seeing as you've decided to not brush your teeth tonight or give me any indication that you're actually a human child."

Red-faced, the creature emerges. A puckered scowl twists his skinny visage like a tree root. His blaring truck tucked away and hidden, still punching out a death wail, now from suffocation. "I want a new one. A SHORT one. Because I'm busy and have *lots* of things to do," he barks, snaking his truck out with a filthy hand and shoving it into his mother's face.

Snatching it with a lighting grip, she whips it behind her back and in a split second pops the battery latch, pulls out the juice, replaces the latch and places it back on the bed. The banshee, finally dead.

"HEY!!" Shocked, he yanks his toy back and closely inspects it, bewildered.
Abandoning this particular battle, he collapses into his pillows, waiting expectantly, staring with narrow-eyed indignation into his mother's sweaty mug. She watches as his finger wanders into his mouth, prodding and pulling at a tiny tooth dangling from his gum by a few bloody ropes of flesh.

"I'll tell you where your teeth come from. How about that."

"Okay!!!" Sitting up quickly, he kicks off his covers. Violet and emerald hues again distort and crawl across his shiny eyes.


You're a human, just like me. And humans like us have been on this planet for about 200,000 years. But when the very first humans existed... there was a special bank that the very first mothers of our species created. Not a money bank but a Tooth Bank, and it was filled with all the teeth from all the babies that didn't get to grow up and become an adult like me..."

With a measured gaze, she watches his seven year old brain fire and click, turning over each morsel, examining. Comprehending.

"And so, when a woman found out she was pregnant, she would go to the Tooth Bank which was built deep underground in a pit where rivers of lava flowed around it. Only mothers were allowed inside. She would enter, and from the mountain of billions of tiny teeth in the vault she would select 64. Then she would climb back outside and go to a lake filled with eels and crocodiles (because they would make sure she had a human baby and not give birth to a different animal), gulp down a few mouthfuls of lake water and swallow up the handful of little teeth.

And when she finally gave birth to her baby... over time all of those teeth would begin to sprout in her child's mouth."

"Wait. So I have the teeth of dead babies in my mouth from a thousand years ago?!!?! And I'm going to have 64 teeth too?!" Sammy squeaks, appalled.

"Some of your teeth are probably pretty new. You may have some of Tommy's teeth from next door because he's older than you, but some of the others I swallowed could defnitely be 200,000 years old. And you already have 64 teeth darling but half of those have to fall out just like that loose one in your mouth right now. And when 32 of your teeth have finally fallen out and you put them under your pillow, I'll take them to the Tooth Bank. One has to be fair, doesn't one? So other mothers can swallow your teeth and give them to their babies."

He sits up, unnaturally straight-backed. Disturbingly still. Thinking hard. Broad, crimson mouth of the Joker stretching wide across his face for a moment as the lantern sticks... and then carries on with its endless carousel.

"So... YOU get to go to the Tooth Bank but not me? And you're going to steal my teeth so that other kids can have them?! What if I don't give you my teeth? I'm not going to give you my teeth. I don't want another kid to have my teeth in his stupid head, they're MINE and I'm keeping them...OR you have to show me the Tooth Bank. Then I'll give them. Maybe." Turning his face away, feigning indifference.

Scooching in close to his pillow, she leans over, right next to his humid, pink, burning ear. Soft lips barely gazing his lobe.

"But... I haven't finished the story yet Sammy..."

Shifting his cheek, almost imperceptibly. Salivating for the last page, he says nothing. His breath quickens.

"All mothers, since the beginning of mankind, have been given an incredibly special gift. An unbelievably unique power not unlike the villains and superheroes in your comic books."

Turning his body to face her and pulling his covers all the way up to his chest, he peers into her mouth, watching in a trance while her lips move as she speaks. The lantern carries on creaking in the silent room.

"If our children decide not to give up their teeth but to selfishly hide them from us instead... we'll choose a very warm night, when the moon is just a toenail sliver in the sky and the stars unloaded their guns and stopped shooting.

Then, we feed our children a spectacular, irresistible dessert that will make them sleep and prevent them from waking up.

We dig a deep grave in a far away field.
Carry them out of bed to the hole.
Bury them alive...

And wait until Summer."

She gets up, finished, quickly striding across his room out into the hallway, reaching to close his door behind her.

"WAIT!!!!!!! But...but... what happens when SUMMER comes?!?!"

"Oh!! Nothing much. A big sunflower sprouts where the child used to be and when the sun begins to burn on the hottest day, the sunflower fills up with five hundred teeth and they all fall out. Then the mother collects them and adds them to the Tooth Bank. The End."

The door clicks behind her.

And then:

Blessed Silence for The Night. Each Week A Pillowed Pearly White.

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

The Satire Of Sacrifice

Nearly forty years an undertow caught him up in the whirlpool of a hunger strike; a tossed rag doll in the machine of selfish sacrifice. Fighting old, industrious currents to right wrongs and wrong misguided rights. Cranking vice’s volume to drown out the depravity of loss.

There’s always a teeming Eden, shunned and verdant, fertile trees on fruiting carpets,
tendrils fishing round his window, flora taxed with honeyed meats.
Heady bouquets leeching through cement clefts.
A technicolor world radiating from the field beyond his razor-wired bastille.

Hunger strike in a habitual box while branches snap outside his gate
fleshy boughs expectant with sun-kissed bounty, estranged,
stonewalled by salivating cheeks just beyond his mouth-made moat.

Eden Denied.

Well nigh forty years of ghastly fear, paralyzed in a tarred yellow room,
The swinging bulb an unblinking eye, a canvas cot, cornucopia rot, starvation pangs and loosely clenched fists.

Eden Disowned And The Craving Persists.

Nature’s feast riots ceased, lurching into their fortieth year,
delirium devoured his timeworn panic, decades lost and Xanadu shunned,
his gaunt strike over, he galloped outside
to a barren, bald land and a famine begun.

Copyright © 2015 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

Freight Train

Screeching, velocious on a keloid track

Open vein
twixt the cast iron lanes
splashing oil florets
hacking brumes of gloating gas

Bullet fury shakes the panes
Smoke-stacked lore and steam-domed dreams

Ear to ground, settling down

Taut prophecy for a derailed train

Copyright © 2015 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

My Second Death.

I know *exactly* what people feel like now who are about to be, and are killed, specifically by beheading. I'm convinced it must be a wholly different feeling from being shot. Perhaps death by poison gas could be relatable in the realm of sheer, deafening terror.

The Dark Ages.

I was in a cold, damp cell. The moldy walls, the slick cobbled floors, stone bench built into the wall and cast iron grated windows offering a glimpse into a black, visionless night. I was in a white gown, floor length and filthy and after days or months or years on that night, I had finally sleuthed two long winks, two long moments of possessive Time to sleep and settle into eternity. But as soon as I began to lose awareness of my rhythmic breathing, the steel boned doors of my cage were flung open and four hands, women's hands, black robed women dragged me up and dragged me out into the torch lit corridor.

Everything in hues of brown. Russet, sable, sienna, hazelnut, chocolate, walnut, caramel, coffee, toffee. I was shoved down the frigid hall into a room covered in bricks the shade of cedar, water dripping down them, as if they were anxious to be fed, knowing what was coming. There were five people in the room altogether and I knew none of them save myself. Two were the women who pulled me weeping and protesting from my cell. One, a goliath of a man with a burlap hood over his head, jagged eyes cut from it. Another woman in a black habit like a nun, but she was another creature, another kind. Not of that faith.

When I woke with a exploding shout I knew I had re-lived something I had already experienced once in real time. Heart flopping bloody on the pillow beside me, a trail of red from my lips to the organ. My slippery red tongue.

There was a umber red plank of wood, a kind of human-sized backless bench saturated and chilled like the room. I was laid on it. Nothing inside but the women and men. Heavy, thick sepia steel door slammed and bolted with an impossibly large plank behind me. My filthy white dress with its frayed and tattered bottom, smudged and stained with tears and cold sweat. They yanked me in the middle of the night without warning, kicked me out of my first and only moments of black, still, sleep.

When I was laid down on the plank, I was facing up. I could clearly see the blade, a dull gun metal silver. Massive, well used. Long and wide.

I kept begging for something to make me sleep, to knock me out. Something to put me under. Heart racing. The figures shadowed and the one woman in the black uniform stood beside the executioner, explaining everything. Wooden voice, sharp, shrill. Telling me I was expressly forbidden sedation. I screamed and writhed while they strapped me down, leather tethers smelly with oil, creaking while they stretched tight around my thin ankles and wrists. I screamed murder, shameless in my panic. More sweat.

I knew I wouldn't escape. I knew it. No pardon. No final intervention. No savior, no angel, no case of mistaken identity. I was there and it seemed I was meant to be. Meant for a sudden death. Right now.

Whites of my eyes exploding, capillaries popping, bleeding down my cheeks. The foaming mouth like a mule pushed past its limit.

I kept begging for them to adjust me, to adjust my body because it was too low or too high up the plank. No, if you fastened me there the blade would slice down into my collarbone and stop at my spinal column keeping me alive and in excruciating pain for countless seconds or minutes. No lower me and it would slice through half of my face instead of my neck. Move me please. PLEASE. MOVE ME.

SOMETHING PLEASE. Stalling, every precious second of life in my claws, and I clenched those seconds as if they were a fistful of sand and not atoms they were, bouncing in and out of my knuckle-white grip against my will, playing their incomprehensible game.

She was saying a prayer but her earthworm lips slimy, pink and narrow were twisted into an unforgivable grin. Enjoying herself. Enjoying her role in the The End.

Startled repeatedly by my predicament I now was moving into soupy flashes of what I suspect I might be seeing after death. I was straining for the reassurance of something. Black blotchy white flares in the dark and tinny, lightless space and unintelligible faces swirling too quickly. I strained for a vision of some paradise I had never believed in but was frantic to discover now. Was my belief buried. DIG FUCKING DEEPER. DIGDIGDIGDIGDIGDIGDIG

Squealing like pig being stuck with hot irons, frantic in my leather straps I twisted and convulsed, ripping my skin loose while the straps worked in tighter. Howling and gnashing. The sound I was making, the kind of sound no human ears should ever have been tuned to.

I was positioned a final time. I begged, I screamed for a count, please at least for a count of three so I wasn't surprised, so I could in a second, in the last instant prepare for my final vision, my final breath, my final heartbeat. Would they do it now without a count. What would happen if I had no count. NOW? NOW. NOW?! I prayed I would die of fright while I pleaded shrilly, incessantly for the count. A surprise death would be the worst cruelty, the worst kill.

The woman, that matronly eel in her ink cloak spat out "COUNT?! You want a COUNT?!? These DEMANDS"

The executioner grunted he would count through his brown burlap hood and without even a half-breath spared after his last word he shouted "RIGHT THEN. ONE."

I was delirious with agonies unknown. The room a kaleidoscope of bricked, clawing, bladed terror folding and unfolding in and around itself. I willed every part of my body to faint. I must be close to cardiac arrest. I felt the searing pain before the blade would fall, and I knew it wouldn't kill me. It would get stuck on my spinal cord and delayed, would death be, sputtering my scream with the pain of torture, and I would witness every person I had ever known, cut between the legs all the way to the skull or quartered by four horses all racing rabid and crazed in opposite directions.


If it was Space, would I reassemble in the dark of it? Be blown apart in the moment of withering and fly together into another form, in another time to live again? That must have been it. It couldn't be horror and then a silence, eternal. The blade was so thick, too thick. It wouldn't cut a block of butter, it would just flatten my trachea, crush it and grind it into a nothing mash. That would be more painful. So much more painful.


I screamed myself hoarse, voice suddenly cut with just a raw blast of air of my exhausted lungs streaking through the room. Veins in my neck bulged and thumping, whole body thumping while my heart swelled into my entire cavity, urinating and defecating in the same instant, unaware and vividly, vigorously aware of that sound of rope being untied near my feet, the slipknot jerked open, the fibers scratching along each other, the blade galloping down, a wild stallion flying toward my teeth and chin while I strained my neck up willing to make the cut clean.

But the true terror of it... was that I felt it all. I felt the blade in that instant cut everything away and my head sever and snap back, eyes still seeing everything at an unusual angle now, staring at the inside of the basket. I heard the eel stab a whisper "heretic" over me, my ears still hearing, ringing in a final panic, I smelled my metallic blood fill the room and I heard my head thump heavily into the basket below, I saw the rattan wicker of it and smelled its damp straw, nose gulping in the last scents. The pain was like birthing a mountain through my cervix, like someone ripping my jaw off of my face with their bare hands or crushing my skull in a vice, squeezing it tighter and tighter until I hear my own skull splinter around me, in my own ears, while I perish.

And then. Pummeling through the open dark and the popping spots of light, the pain gone, finally gone but the hysteria, the frenzy replacing it reaching its fever pitch.

And then. Awake. 3am. Awake. To the toilet. Vomit. And repeat and repeat and escape to my balcony to sit on my chair, naked, under the moonlight, freezing, gasping, silently screaming.

It was real. My second death. I recognized it and lived it again. Forgotten now remembered.

Real as the pyramids. As Andromeda.

Why was I shown? I was shown because my mind is more than my mind, it's a Guardian. A Keeper and a Guide and it's monitoring the progress of my Spirit, the evolution of it, or the other way around. It makes a release of knowledge, of information -not all horror and destruction but releases these truths, when it feels I've reached a new plateau, whether I'm aware of it or not. A Goalie, a Score Keeper. A Watcher In The Woods. It's been doing this since I was a child. The things I've done and seen, that I've been allowed to witness. I'm forced to move forward despite my resistance, when I remember to resist.

This was a blow. This was my own Hillsborough Disaster. The Crush inside. I'll need a great deal of recovery time but like a doting doctor, I know I'm being watched and nursed by my Guide. Patiently waiting for my next pocket of illumination, when more can be released.

The pain. The suffering. It lasted through the whole bloody show. Severed head and I could still hear, see, think and smell, so sudden was the cut my mind couldn't catch up. Boiling red irons shoved down my throat and through my gut. This was the pain, an implosion of unforgettable insufferable, harrowing feeling experienced the entire time. Any person who has ever been or will ever be beheaded... Now I know everything. Every step, fear, flash, alarm, feeling, sound, sight and the punching mania of what might come, and even the moment... The thin silver line of sight after death. I was so close to knowing nearly everything.

In the end, when I woke and vomited and sat out in the frigid air... I was thankful the dream hadn't stopped my heart in this reality, now. It could have. I could have died of fright this early morning in my bed.

How many other ways were there. How many other lives. Will I see them all.

Do I need to.

I watched my first death in a film while I was very much awake, but it had a similar effect, long lasting and I couldn't deny that it had once been me. I had forgotten and was reminded when I found it. Like being locked in a freezer with your dead twin.

How many more.

It was called Dreams Of A Life.

"The Somnambulist" John Everett Millais, 1871

Copyright © 2015 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved