Silencio

Battered, flooded, toppled, windblown

Marooned, dusted, drenched,

Abandoned, deserted, voiceless, stunned.

(Getty Images)

A world for a moment still.

Then rise, limping, bleeding,

Eyes filled with dust, standing uncertain on shifting earth —

Listen!

Where are the mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers?

Is that light?  A voice?

Listen.

Hardhats, plastic buckets, hands held skyward.

Blankets, make-shift beds, hands in prayer,

A million water bottles scattered.

We have stood on these piles before,

The places we have fallen.

Oklahoma City, trade centers, Mosul, Miami, New Orleans, Washington.

Houston, Rockport, Detroit, Montgomery, Paris, London, Madrid, Mexico City.

Hiroshima.

What we build will fall.

Lessons in the rubble, flashing floods, the muddy destruction.

Silencio!

There might be a cry, a whimper, a tapping.

Listen!

What we do to hate is crushed.

What we do for love rises.

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Cassini

What sparks, the flicker of your heart, the detritus of hope and hurt

left in a distant burning trail.

Signals bouncing off unseen waves, surprising strong, sneaking past defenses, nets cast to repel the unwanted, troubling thoughts, dormant desires, sparked by memory as the pieces of you and I bounce and return.

Seeming gone, cast skyward; absorbed by time and distance, erased.

Hearts told not to cry.

Yet a billion billion pieces of dust ride the universe where nothing is lost, but swirled, returned in tears; collided, coalesced, bounced spinning, repelled, collected; the hurt rubbed off, bruised love.

Take in again the air, taste the necters.

There is silence when we do not breathe.

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Poetry, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Providence Book Festival, Saturday, Sept. 16

The New Providence Book Festival will take place  from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16 on the grounds of the Salt Box Museum at 1350 Springfield Avenue in New Providence, NJ.

Authors will appear to sign their books, talk with readers and answer many literary questions.

The Salt Box Museum will be open. Docents will be available for tours.

Refreshments will be available. Should the weather not cooperate, the raindate is Saturday, Sept. 23

Details: https://newprovidencebookfestival.com/

 

I’ll have for sale and discussion the Frank Nagler Mysteries: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY; A GAME CALLED DEAD; AND THE WEIGHT OF LIVING, published by Imzadi Publishing of Tulsa:

 

“The Swamps of Jersey,” 2014. The discovery of a mutilated body in the Old Iron Bog leads Nagler into a spiraling case of murder and politics that has him wondering about the possible involvement of his companions. The case also echoes an investigation into a serial killer years before that made Nagler famous in Ironton, N.J. and makes him ask if a copy cat had emerged. Deeply drawn characters and settings. Follow the investigation through Nagler’s eyes as he tried to end the killing.

 

“A Game Called Dead,” 2016: Two college women are beaten during a night time attack and one later dies. They are players in a campus game called The Hunter’s Lair, but better known as A Game Called Dead. Is that what contributed to the attack, or is it something else? When acts of urban terrorism arise, a taunting Internet character named #ARMAGEDDON claims the acts. “There are rules to this game, and you need to learn them quickly,” he declares. The plot is a game, fast and changing. Each side is acting, reacting and acting again as Nagler leads the elaborate trap to catch a killer. “A Game Called Dead” was a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Author contest.

 

“The Weight of Living” (2017) The police find a young girl standing in a grocery store parking lot on a cold March night. Maybe she is homeless, the police think, but a phone call to a hotline declaring “She is six,” leads Ironton, N.J. Detective Frank Nagler to a different conclusion. The trail drags Nagler into the century-old and horrible history of a local family which includes the companion of his closest friend, and an old nun who taught Nagler in elementary school. This is a fast-paced, intense thriller. The characters are damaged by a dark past and are fighting to free themselves from the control of a shadowy villain.

 

The Frank Nagler books are available at the following New Jersey libraries:

Mountainside; Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System; The Palmer (Pa.) Branch of the Easton Public Library; Deptford Free Public Library and Franklin Township Library (Gloucester Co.), New Providence Memorial Library.

 

The Frank Nagler mysteries are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back on Hunterdon radio with Frank Nagler (and Georjean)

On Monday (9/11) I have once again have the opportunity to spend time with friend and radio host Georjean Trinkle on her internet radio show Hot in Hunterdon.

Her show is on from 4 to 5 p.m. Mondays. Here’s the link:

http://www.hunterdonchamberradio.com/hot.htm.

We’ll be talking about the Frank Nagler mystery series published by Imzadi Publishing, THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY, A GAME CALLED DEAD,  and the new one, released in April, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING.

We’ll also talk about the works-in-progress in the series, a prequel, called so far, JUST COME HOME, and the one after WEIGHT, yet untitled.

The challenge of writing this series has been to create a lead character, Ironton, N.J., detective Frank Nagler, who can hold a reader’s interest, and to create a setting, the City of Ironton, whose conditions, and ebbs and flows, present a compelling tapestry upon which to cast the action.

Georjean has suggested that I read a couple short selections. I’m game.

 

We may even talk about storms.

With the knowledge that friends and in-laws have been affected by both Harvey and Irma, it was a storm that kicked off the opening of THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY.:

 

“He had not seen the sky for days, felt the heat of the sun, wore dry shoes or walked outside without that raincoat since the storm blew in and sealed the hills above the city with a dense smothering grayness, a swirling menace of thunder clouds and shrieking winds that pounded the city with an apocalyptic rain that sent the Baptist preachers howling to the hills about sin and damnation.  It emptied the grocery store shelves of everything but a few cans of cream of mushroom soup, and locked the residents in the top floors of their homes as the river crashed its banks, flooded streets and rearranged the city landscape like a madman with an earth mover.

The placid, blue August sky had been replaced by rain that came and stayed. Rain with menace, rain that pulsed around corners dark with dislodged pieces of the earth  as it ripped away every weak thing it could; rain that claimed, rain soulless and dark as evil;  that challenged knowledge; rain that took possession.

The ancients knew what to do with rain like this, he thought wickedly, squinting into the horizontal blast of water.

Conjure an honest man with a ship and spin a parable about the wages of sin.  Nagler laughed sourly. And then get out of town.”

 

The Frank Nagler books are available at the following New Jersey libraries:

Mountainside; Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System; The Palmer (Pa.) Branch of the Easton Public Library; Deptford Free Public Library and Franklin Township Library (Gloucester Co.), New Providence Memorial Library.

 

The Frank Nagler mysteries are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, radio, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Blueberry Strike

We just wanted a fair wage for our blueberry picking.

Little did we know how our struggles would fit in to the grand global struggle between labor and management, the haves and the have-nots, and supply and demand.

Some of what follows is true.

You’ll have to decide which parts.

Mount Vernon, Maine in the late 1950s was a slow, small town that ringed a small lake in the southern end of the Belgrade Lakes region.

Mount Vernon, Maine in the Twenty-first Century is a small town that rings a small lake in the southern end of the Belgrade Lakes region.

  About all that’s changed in the there is a big hole on the lake front where my parents’ hotel used to be, and the big yellow farm house that used to stand across the street is now the site of a post office. The general store is still there, cluttered with everything from night crawlers to local beer, but a new diner opened by New Yorkers is doing well, bringing a new energy and great breakfasts to the old, dusty town. Oh, and the two-room school house is now the fire station.

The town had two churches. The “summer church” was built by the Baptists when there were enough of them to have their own congregation. It was up the hill from the main village and painted a bright white. The “winter church” was the old Congregational church whose bare boards had not seen paint I would guess since the day it was erected.

Religion being was it is, these two feuding groups split decades back because saving the souls of 400 Mount Vernon’s residents was God’s work, and Baptists went up the hill, an elevation of maybe a hundred feet, apparently to be nearer my God to Thee.

The churches are important because they have a direct tie-in to the point of all this.

The sexton was a man named Grover. He lived in a shaded tiny house tucked lakeside between the backside of the Congregational church and the end of the hotel extension.

It is possible that old home was the vicar’s house. But the churches hadn’t had a vicar in so long no one was sure, especially us eight-year-olds.

We weren’t sure how much sexton-ing Grover actually did.

But Grover owned a blueberry barrens in Vienna, which being Maine is pronounced “VYE-enna,” just as Madrid is pronounced “MAD-rid.”

Vienna was a couple miles north of Mount Vernon and home to famous Flying Pond—Um, OK…The pond was so-called because according to what is probably an English version of an Indian tale, a warrior seeking food found the pond, and when he returned to his village and brought back fellow warriors the pond was not there, having apparently flown way. The pond is also home to the floating island…another day.

So, Grover hired  us Mount Vernon kids to help harvest the blueberries, maybe eight or nine of us. We were part of a team that included some teens who had worked the barrens before.

Grover might have been as stoic and old Mainer as we knew, but he was no fool. Berries on the bush were not dollars in his pocket.

Blueberries grow on low, tough bushes, and at that time were extracted using a blueberry rake, a metal contraption with a row of forks and a receiving bin.

The method of harvest was to rake the bushes till the bin was filled, empty them contents into a bushel basket, and when the basket was filled take to the winnower, which with the turn of the crank, separated the berries from the leaves and small sticks.

The smaller kids worked the winnower and we older kids manned the rakes.

We worked on, raking and winnowing, making the grand sum of ten cents a bushel.

Given the economics of the time, ten cents at that time translated into two Cokes from the ice filled soda bin at the general store, or a pack of bubblegum with baseball cards.

Once we got the idea and developed a rhythm, we rakers could fill 15 bushels a day because the berries were plentiful.

Labor trouble started when we found out that contrary to our understanding, Grover was only paying us for bushels of clean berries. Out 15 bushels our labors were recorded as seven or eight bushels of clean berries.

Thus, we learned the first lesson of labor-management relations – understand the terms of employment.

We later learned the harsher lesson of macro economics versus our version  of micro economics.

Toward the end of the season Grover brought in a local adult farmer and three helpers. He assigned them to the fuller bushes and reassigned us to the already-raked bushes.
And he cut our wages in half to five cents a bushel.

Now in a macro economic sense, the wholesale price of blueberries peaked during the season, since it occurred during the peak of tourist season and all those fresh berries had a ready market in restaurants, and grocery stories because what is summer in Maine without blueberry pancakes.

Toward the end of the growing season, the value of the crop rose because there were fewer berries but there were just as many tourists wanting their pancakes.

I don’t know the size of Grover’s market, but I suspect it ranged from Augusta to Farmington – maybe fifty miles – each town with sufficient restaurants and groceries.

In our micro economic sense, the pay cut enraged us, well, as enraged as a bunch of little kids can be enraged.

We engaged in a little labor-management negotiation during which Grove skipped past the academics of cost-per-unit, the relative value of less skilled workers versus the more qualified workers, blew past any cost-benefit analysis, and told us simply “take it or leave it.”

So, we left.

I’m not sure the six-year-olds understood they were pawns of big business working for insufficient wages to do a back-breaking job, but they left with us.

I think the prospect of having to walk alone the five miles back to Mount Vernon was more frightening.

But us older kids understood there was something dishonest about Grover’s stance, whether he was right or not.  Don’t change the terms of an agreement in the middle of its term.

We felt ripped off and the value of our labor diminished.

Had we known any of the great labor songs, the blues of the working man, we would have raised our voices in protest and celebration.

The group of us, straggling along the Vienna road, were the great labor martyrs sacrificed to the unfeeling capitalists, ground into poverty by unequal wages, brutal working conditions, the have-nots in the endless clash with the haves.

Instead we stopped at Flying Pond and threw rocks at frogs and tried to guess which of the islands might be floating.

Our celebrity lasted maybe a day.

Some cars during our march home stopped and asked what we were doing.

Some drivers laughed and cheered us on, and others called us stupid kids.

A guy with a pick-up offered us a ride, but by then, with us almost home, even the little kids recognized the value of continuing our protest march, so we declined.

The Great Blueberry Strike ended with us sitting on the steps of the grocery drinking nickel Cokes.

But they tasted sweet, didn’t they?

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Creating Frank Nagler; ‘Just Come Home’ the prequel

With a character  like Ironton, N.J.’s Detective Frank Nagler, the subject of three books, the question is how did he get to the spot he is in?  That what I’m try to answer in the prequel to the three mysteries so far. This one is called “Just Come Home.”

It will with luck explain about his wife, Martha, the city of Ironton, the serial killer, Charlie Adams, and Frank.

Here’s a look:

Frank Nagler slipped the blue jacket over his shoulders, and with a shimmy, pulled at the lapels to square it up.

It was Martha’s idea that he needed new clothes for his new job. He would have been happy just to wear his comfortable brown jacket, even if the elbows were shiny, but she insisted. At least he had his old, worn-in shoes.

She had dragged him to Benny’s Menswear where for an hour she had him model suits and jackets and pants, smiling at his reluctant effort as the selected and rejected clothing piled up on a display case and nearby chair.

“I’ll not have my detective go to work on his first day looking like a sad sack insurance salesman,” she whispered in the store while she draped one more new tie around his neck.

He gazed at himself in the bedroom mirror again, tipping his head from side to side. Okay, not bad.

When he tried to put his hands in the side pockets, he laughed.

“Martha,” he called out over the clock-radio blaring Top 40 hits.  “Do you have a small knife or something I could use to open these pockets?”

He side-stepped into the family room from the bedroom, looking for his wife of two years. This house had too many doors, he thought.

“I have a seam ripper,” she said seductively, stepping from behind the kitchen door leading to the living room and slipping her shoulder out of the over-sized t-shirt neck and winking. She spun out of the kitchen into the pantry, opened a cabinet drawer and removed a sewing box.

“That’s not all you have,” Nagler said, as he reached around her waist when she returned and kissed her neck.

“Oh, how true,” she said as she kissed him, while displaying a small instrument with a plastic handle and a short, curved metal blade. “Watch it,” she laughed, leaning in. “I could swoon and accidently trim your nose hair.” She comically rolled her eyes as her red hair glistened with scarlet highlights in the morning sunlight. Her hair was her singular vanity, Nagler knew.  Long and thick, it cascaded off her shoulders to her waist.  She wore it loose, and teasingly buried her face in it when they loved; let him part it and discover her bare shoulders and breasts; he would bury his face in it to draw in the scent of her. So much better than those months when as a teen-ager the cancer and the chemotherapy stripped her hair of its color, the days of despair and loathing when she chopped it off, and nearly bald, wrapped her head in a black scarf while she had tried to hide from the world what her pale, thin face announced.

“With luck it would be the only violent thing that happens to you today, Mister Detective,” Martha whispered, before biting his ear. “I like saying that. Mister Detective. My Mister Detective.”

She pulled off his jacket, laid it on the kitchen table, cut way the stitches and opened the pockets. She smoothed the fabric.

“There.” She watched as her husband again donned the jacket. Then she leaned into his chest and hugged him.  “You worried?”

He kissed her hair. “First day jitters.  But it’s cop work, right? I think I’m more concerned about the potential for turmoil after the latest round of lay-offs. A lot of popular guys, senior guys, are gone. People got passed over and you know how that goes. And I’m a young guy with only a couple years on the force. Gonna get my share of grief, I suspect.”

Martha hugged him tighter and then buried her head into his chest.

“The forces of evil are many, my love. Battle well,” she laughed.

“Where did you get that?” he asked with a surprised, wrinkled smile.

“Macbeth, Hamlet, Dylan Thomas, I don’t know,” she shrugged as her smile faded to worry. “You do a lot of reading when you’re in a hospital bed trying not to die.”

He kissed her hair.  Oh, Martha. No. “But all that reading is about dying. ‘Don’t go gently…’”

She reached to his face and caressed it in both hands. “It felt like practicing, Frank,” she said, her voice dry and hollow. “Back then, I couldn’t tell you how real it was.”

She buried her head into the crook of his shoulder, slivers of tears caught in her eyes. “No more,” she said as she wiped her eyes and turned her sad smiling face upward. “I’ve already worn black for another reason. I’m not ready to do it again.  Just make sure you come home,” she fiercely whispered.

“Always.”

In the driveway, Nagler slipped behind the wheel of the ten-year-old gray  Impala he’d been assigned and listened as the suspension groaned when he sat.  He glanced at the speedometer:  115,312 miles. Hard miles of slamming and grinding on Ironton, New Jersey’s pitted, pot-holed streets; a mile of downtown had been finally repaved after century-old trolley tracks resurfaced and the mayor’s new silver Caddy bottomed out making a left turn.

The day’s heat had already set in, even before the sunlight dusted the hilltops east of Ironton; he knew the new blue jacket would spend the day draped over the passenger’s side seat, his sleeves would be rolled to his elbows and the tie wrenched to one side. Nagler had listened as a radio weatherman happily babbled on about Bermuda Highs, the jet stream this, the jet stream that, all of which was unusual for the Northeast in mid-May. It’s like August, the weatherman exclaimed, with too much cheer, Nagler thought.

Nagler paused the hulking car at the end of the driveway and waved to Martha framed by a second-story window and then exhaled deeply.

“What was all that about?” he asked, slightly shaking his head so she might not see it through the window and at that distance.

He waved again and smiled up at her, still in the window. He knew her routine: A quick shower, an eye-rolling, Yes, Mom, I know, Mom, conversation about grandchildren with her mother – Frank and Martha lived in the upstairs apartment above her parents in her childhood home – and then off to work teaching English and reading to preschoolers; maybe coffee at Barry’s diner at the end of her day. Sometimes Italian at Marco’s.

The car’s police radio barked to life and dispatcher Mattie Washington called out his name.

Nagler reached for the mic just as he entered the street in a wide curve and nearly backed in reverse onto the lawn and into the shallow drainage ditch alongside the road. “Crap! Hold on.” He braked hard, jerking the car to a stop. “Jesus.”

Mattie’s deep laugh filled the car.  “Ain’t that hard, Frank. Drive the car. I ain’t going anywhere.”

“Um, so. Hi, Mattie. What’s up?”

“Nervous?”

“More than I want to admit,” he replied. “But this is my chance, you know, and the way this place works, maybe my only chance. I just want to do well.”

“Ah, Frank,” Mattie purred. “We got your back.”

 

“Thanks. I hope I can start with something small, familiar, a robbery, something like that, maybe easy, not bloody. Or maybe nothing at all. How’s that?”

 

A sigh leaked out of the speaker. “Sorry, Frank.  Can’t oblige. Not sure what this is, but patrol is at a house on West Harvard, off Princeton. Baker Hills.  Neighbors reported a couple dozen newspapers in the front yard and driveway. Home is listed to a Marion Feldman.”

“Not a vacation? Moved away?”

“Don’t think so. A neighbor told the officer that Mrs. Feldman is older, a widow, and doesn’t travel much or get many visitors. She said the house has been dark. Little creepy for a nice neighborhood.”

“West Harvard, huh. I delivered newspapers there as a kid.” He laughed at the memory. “I always felt like a thief.”

The Baker Hills section of Ironton was developed more than a century ago as a swanky neighborhood by one of the city’s rich bankers for the business owners and managers of the iron industry. The soft, greenlined roads featured large, fancy homes with turrets and wrap-around porches, landscaped, fenced yards, some with small gazebos, a few with wrought-iron gates across their stone driveways. The neighborhood was on the west side of the city, set on rising hills planted with fragrant flowering trees and a wall of tall Norway maples that blocked the view across the river of the black, belching mills and the workers ghetto where soot rained down like Hell’s mist.

Nothing bad ever happened in the Baker Hills.

That’s what Nagler was led to believe. As proof, he had always looked at the names of the streets there: Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, the Ivy leagues, as if living on streets with such names raised the aspirations of their children.

In truth, he had grown up believing, rather, having to believe, that nothing bad ever happened in Ironton, his hometown, at least nothing that could not be overcome. It’s what you do in a poor town, he learned. The floods, the factory closings, the homeless living under the bridge, the permanent bend of his father’s back after work, then the thousand-yard stare when the mills closed. Somehow Ironton survived, got up from the knock-down and trudged on, the limp a little more pronounced, the tear stains a little deeper on the dirty faces of hungry kids. He grew up believing that things would always be better. Martha Shannon, his true love since the third grade, was proof enough of that: She hadn’t lived in the workers’ ghetto; she had led him out of it.

He had grown up on Fourth Street, a block over from Third, and two blocks from Sixth. They weren’t street names, just lines on a map — Street One, Street Two, Street Three – designations created because some city engineer had needed a way to make sense of the tangled mass of alleys, odd-sized lots and trails, nothing more. What lived beyond the engineer’s solution were the informal names of alleys that reflected the immigrants, the Germans, Italians, Irish, Poles —  the whatevers — who, despite hard lives, filled the tiny homes with generations, spilled over the hillsides brawling and battling with life, dancing, joyously laughing and singing, trying to stand, then to be knocked down again, wishing the rays of sunlight were not so gray, and that the air didn’t taste like ash.

Nagler slipped off the state highway into Baker Hills and left the bright clutter of commerce behind; like a gate silence descended and deepened as he drove along the shaded, darkening streets where the morning sunlight had yet to penetrate; a sterile silence, sound absorbed by sentinel homes, by the dense leafy overhang, more a setting, a stage, than a place.

Nagler maneuvered the Impala cautiously over the scattered speed humps, as if unneeded speed would disturb the unnerving peace. There is quiet, he thought as he searched for the turn to West Harvard. There is quiet with movement and light. Then there is too quiet; this.

The Frank Nagler books are available at the following New Jersey libraries:

Mountainside; Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System; The Palmer (Pa.) Branch of the Easton Public Library; Deptford Free Public Library and Franklin Township Library (Gloucester Co.), New Providence Memorial Library.

The Frank Nagler mysteries are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

 

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A more perfect union

Travelers slide into the South on Route 81 and into the American Civil War.

The wondrous and beautiful Shenandoah River Valley was home to four years of that war from 1861 to 1865, and in the end was subjected to U.S. General Phillip Sheridan’s scorched earth campaign.

 The deeper south one travels on the interstate the more battlefield, memorials and museums rise to honor the failed Southern effort at secession.

In 2007 I was traveling through the Shenandoah Valley on a newspaper assignment.  It was a few days after the shooting at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. that left 33 people dead.

The bridges across the highway in Harrisonburg and Staunton, homes to several colleges, and others, were draped with banners in VT colors, expressing sorrow and solidarity. The pain of the event flowed throughout the deep and long valley.

Today, I imagine, those same overpasses proclaim the pain over the death of Heather Heyer, a woman killed during the right-wing marches and the street battles that engulfed Charlottesville last week.

The signs, I imagine, call out the hatred of the organizers, pray for Heather Heyer, and proclaim NEVER FORGET.

That was what they said in 2007.

But we do forget.

And when we do, Charlottesville happens. As it happened before, and not just in the South.

We are and have always been, a country running to the future.

Our declaration that all men are created equal is both a belief and a goal, and it fueled in two-and-a-half centuries a cultural, economic and social change worldwide.

But it takes work.

We don’t want to believe that disposed ideas can come back to life, that thoughts and actions so heinous they generated war, can still exist.

But in our rush to a more perfect union, debris falls to the roadside. It gets fed by resentment and then fueled with money and power, grows roots and survives.

There is room in human hearts or both love and hate, and all the wishful thinking won’t change that.

So tear down the symbols.

Stand the generals in the battlefield memorial parks where they can be reminders of the horrors of the place where thousands of combatants were killed and wounded. Send the politicians to a corner as dark as the ideals that let to conflict.

And then get back to paying attention to the real horror: The systematic and institutional erosion of hard-earned rights to vote, earn a decent wage, love whom we choose, to plan and dream, and even stumble on the way without being labeled a failure, in other words, to celebrate “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,”  in all its forms.

The Union troops on Little Round Top at Gettysburg did not hold the line so that an organization like the Klan with its history of terrorism and slaughter can unhindered march down modern city streets.

The troops on Omaha Beach did not claw inch by inch up the stubborn slopes so that Nazi flags could fly here without opposition.

Our founders sought a more perfect union; they were human, not holy.

It is an inclusive phrase and dream.

Each generation gets to make its choices about the meaning of that phrase.

Today, in this moment — as it was for the women seeking suffrage, the workers seeking better pay and working conditions, and for all those who sought civil rights — it is our turn to stand and advance the line.

 

 

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A thousand years of drought

Thunder rumbles like distant gun fire,

The echoes of endless battle.

The statues all have swords,

Huzzahs not to sacrifices, but to campaigns for glory forgotten.

Let the metal rust and the stone melt.

Remember the faces and tears,

Not the cries, nor the gloating words of conflict.

Let love be as fierce as war.

 

Dry rivers mark deserts, hunger descends to hollow eyes;

Cries of pain can not penetrate the smiling evil of power.

Dry bones nestled in soft sand for others to find,

The poetry of need crushed by the metal wall of self.

 

A broken heart sighs behind a smiling face.

What splinters of your dreams are mine?

An old woman’s shaky letters cry for life and love,

Words full of times and weariness, rest that has not come.

 

Hate is easy, blame easier still;

And easier yet it is to let the past poison.

 

Pray the rains come and dissolve the walls

And tears soften to forgiveness.

Pray that soft words balm the wound that festers still.

Pray the sunlight cracks the hardness.

Pray that silence stirs to sound, that stasis turns to motion.

Pray we step from the porch hands held, voices raised

Love aroused to wake the gray day,

And to end a thousand years of drought.

 

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Making ‘The Weight of Living’ local news

Trying a little local online advertising.  Testing, testing, testing. The fun part is getting to interview myself. And we reporters used to accuse politicians of making up quotes. Ha!

 

http://tapinto.net/towns/morristown/articles/new-jersey-author-releases-new-mystery

 

http://tapinto.net/towns/bridgewater-slash-raritan/articles/new-jersey-author-releases-new-mystery-1

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New Nagler: ‘Just Come Home’: Who is Martha?

One question that lingers through the three Frank Nagler mysteries, is who is his wife Martha. She is described as his great love. But what did that mean? As I write the prequel to the series, called JUST COME HOME, this scene presents one answer:

“The river flowed in golden setting sunset below the bluff; to the east the water darkened to orange, then purple and the shoreline slipped to darkness.

The park above was silent, save for the separate calls of a pair of jays rattling the treed edges.

 Nagler welcomed the silence, soaked it in to purge the clamor of the past ten days; welcomed the darkness to cover the flashing lights, the pale face of the latest victim; welcomed the drifting aroma of the wild roses that draped the wooden fence along the bluff.

The discovery of second victim, another older woman, was more disturbing than the first, found a week before. More damage was done to the body, and more effort was made to overturn the house. But at least we had a victim, Nagler thought.  The first, Marion Feldman, had not yet been found.

The chief had sent Nagler home for a night after finding him at his desk sifting through drawings of the homes, making pages of notes and then scratching his head in worried confusion.

“Frank, she’ll still be dead tomorrow,” the chief said.  “Take your wife out for a night.”

Martha picked a spent rose from a bush and pulled off the remaining petals one by one. “He loves me; he loves me not. He loves me…uh-oh, you’re in trouble Frank. There’s only one more petal and it’s a ‘loves me not.” What are you gonna do about that, huh. buddy?”

Nagler snatched the flower from her hand and tossed it over the bank. “Guess we’ll never know,” he said as he kissed her neck.

“Do you remember the first time we came here?” she asked as she picked another, fully petaled rose and inhaled its soft scent. Then she offered it to him, and he buried his nose in the flower before kissing her hand.

“It was seventh grade, after you played Juliet, opposite, what was his name?”

“Bennie Garza,” she smiled. “Bennie, Bennie, where for art thou, Bennie? He was always trying to tongue me when we kissed. But I had braces, and he’d jam his tongue against them. I almost laughed in the death scene.”

She leaned against the fence and shook her long hair away from her shoulders. “I pointed at you in the front row when I said, ‘where for art thou, Romeo.’”

“I remember. I felt there wasn’t anyone else in that auditorium but you and me.”

He leaned over to kiss her, but stopped and pulled down her lower lip. “Nope. No braces.”

She turned to face the river and pulled her hair to one side.  “Zipper,” she whispered.

Martha shivered when she rolled her bare back on the wet lawn; her hair stuck to her shoulders and legs and strands were glued to her sweaty breasts.

“How many times have we been here?” she asked smiling, an arm draped across her head.

Nagler laughed. “Enough times to remember to bring a blanket,” he laughed.

He rolled her over and softly bushed grass clippings from her back and legs.

“I liked acting a lot,” she said.  “I wish I hadn’t gotten sick when I did. I would have loved the chance to act in college.”

Nagler laid down on his back beside her. That had been the shock and the great test, he knew. Leukemia at seventeen. And two years of treatment, then two more of recovering her strength and watching her parents’ worried faces sag, the voices crack; the distant stares.

“I would have been a better Juliet in college, you know,” Martha said to the sky after she had rolled onto her back. “I knew about the loss, the pain, had already experienced the great love and felt the poetry flow through me, the words of a soul’s awakening coursing in my blood, bursting through the brain’s barrier, throwing open the world.”

She rolled to her side and faced Nagler, gently touching his face with a single finger, and kissing his eyes, cheeks, and mouth.

“You were my Romeo, dear Frank. “And for a moment I thought I would lose you.”

“No.” Words were trapped in his throat, unable to move. “Never,” he coughed.

She kissed him, holding his damp face in both hands.

“I had already lived the death scene,” she said. “Had already known the poison in my veins, felt the dragging pain of disease and how it felt to fade away, to feel limbs stiffen, breath slow, colors fade, to see a descending haze and have no way to cry out. Acting that out on a stage would have been easy. To die and then recover. The tears on my face at that moment would have been real.”

Nagler rose to an elbow, alarmed. “That’s past, right?”

She touched his face. “They think so, the doctors. There has been no sign of it returning.” She sat up and faced him. “But is it called remission for a reason.”

“Are you not telling me something, Martha. Is it back?”

“No, Frank. No, no.” She shrugged. “Still they test. As long as they’re testing, we are okay.”

She stood. “Got a shirt there, buddy?  You got a naked woman covered in grass clippings here. What would my mother say?”

As they left the park, his pager sounded with a short message: “New victim.”

 

The Frank Nagler mysteries are: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY; A GAME CALLED DEAD; and THE WEIGHT OF LIVING.

 

The Frank Nagler mysteries are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

The Frank Nagler books are also available at the following New Jersey libraries:

Mountainside; Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System; The Palmer (Pa.) Branch of the Easton Public Library; Deptford Free Public Library and Franklin Township Library (Gloucester Co.), New Providence Memorial Library.

 

 

 

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