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Bardofthewoods.com

BUCK WILD FOR WEB

“I write in the shadow and spirit of Mark Twain and Bill Shakespeare. My greatest dream and aspiration is that they will laugh with me . . . and not laugh me out of the classroom.”

At the age of fifteen, during the process of being given traveling papers by three high schools and attending four – I was sent to live with my grandparents in Rensselaer, Indiana. There I began writing my autobiography, “Diary of A Dumbass”.  Approximately four chapters into it, I came home to find my grandmother standing over my underwear drawer in my bedroom where she had retrieved my work from where it lay hidden under a stack of BVDs. She was gripping it in her hand and shaking it in my face, screaming, “Kenton Henry – this is a disgrace to our family!”

I replied, “But grandma – our family is a disgrace!” At which point, she ripped my entire work to pieces. It was not until I was in a college creative writing class I again began work on my memoirs. This time, I returned home from class to find my wife shaking my grand opus in her hand much as my grandmother had. And the same result followed. It seems some people simply cannot handle the truth.

It would be thirty years before I began anew. In the meantime, I had graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Social Work. My career goal was to take control of America using hostile measures and return it to the Native American. I intended to get a law degree, move to Arizona and become a “Billy Jack” of sorts. A karate kicking, martial artist carrying a brief case serving as a community organizer for the Navajo and other reservations. I became disillusioned when I determined the Indians didn’t want any more white guys coming on their reservations telling them how it should be. With that, I returned to Texas where I had lived as a small boy and later during my tour in search of a high school degree.

Finding it difficult to save myself, much less the rest of the world, during some difficult economic times, I was backed into a career in insurance kicking and screaming. In time I built a successful business in the medical insurance market. For twenty years it sustained me quite well until recent legislative changes forced me, once again, to reinvent myself.

My metamorphosis on this occasion began with taking chemistry classes at my local community college. Because of wisdom and practical experience – garnered from years in the private market – I have fast tracked my new career by developing two revolutionary products. The first is a pest control product. Specifically, it is a “Cat Food Aphrodisiac” which (when mixed with Fancy Feast) makes cats absolutely irresistible to mice. The second is a chemical sanitation product which when added to raw sewage makes it smell like perfectly good tacos. I am currently marketing it in border towns along the Rio Grande and all the way to the west coast. If I land the Tijuana account it will be an economic boon to Tijuana and all of Mexico as tourists will literally run for the border. I will be able to retire in luxury and hereafter be known as the “Ron Popeil of Poo”.

In my spare time, in addition to riding my Harley, I teach Shakespeare to death row inmates at the Huntsville State Prison and judge armadillo beauty contests. When not attending Mensa International conventions, I continue working on my autobiography, “Diary of a Dumbass”.

The events and experiences which led me to become the person I am today are reflected in the stories and poems which follow. They consist mostly of what I describe as autobiographical fiction. I include the qualifier, “fiction” as a disclaimer of sorts to protect the guilty. For the most part, that would be me.

I believe in some of this you will sense an undercurrent of slight regret and remorse but, hopefully, you will find my tales, rhymes and reflections humorous. Any positive insights or lessons you might gain would make me that much happier. In the words of a famous clown I once had the pleasure of knowing, “We are all actors in a grand play. We can choose to be either happy or sad performers. I choose happy!” I made that clown a promise I would do my part to make people smile. Again, I hope BardofTheWoods does that much for you.

Don Kenton Henry

Poet, Road Warrior, Refugee from Convention . . . Ever at your service . . .

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Pride

“I’m a prideful son-of-a-bitch, I’ll admit that. I’ll gladly meet you half way to love you like you’ve never been loved before. . . .  But I’ll be damned if I’ll cross a bridge to kiss your ass.” – The Bard

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Advice From “Uncle Waldo On My Front Porch”

“The most defining moments in one’s life are his birth. And his death. In between, what counts the most are not his wins. Or his losses. But the opportunities he took. And the ones he passed on. The girls he kissed. And the ones he wishes he had. May you live it all and regret the none of it, Junior.” – advice from “Uncle Waldo On My Front Porch”

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COUNT THE BRAVE AND NOBLE KINDRED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Don Kenton Henry

 

It is to the soul as the sun is to light

It is as steel

It is as clay

It is as diamonds

It is hardened by the fire in the furnace of life

As steel, clay, and diamonds are tempered and cured

So too is character

Steel and clay, by fire

Diamonds by pressure from eons of the physical remains of lives past bearing down

Character by choices in one’s own life pressed upon us

Forged by life’s trials not averted but endured

The value of all these things are unknown until tested

Integrity is not haphazard

Under fire and pressure, all hold fast or fracture

And yet―unlike the others―with no existence outside their physical

boundaries . . . your character cannot be touched or held in one’s hand

Rather, it touches all those with whom you are intimately connected

 

Character begins like the virgin diamond

Raw and uncut, encumbered by worthless stone

Then life chisels and hammers and chips away

And either temptations and indiscretions fall aside

Revealing uncompromising clarity

Or the diamond breaks and becomes as worthless as the rock

which held it

So too is character honed to something pure or as worthless as the weakness

from which it cannot break free

Will it be a casualty of truth

Can the Blacksmith separate the metal from the dross; the steel from the slag

Can the Potter separate the clay from the sod

The Miller, the wheat kernel from the chaff

And you, your character from transgressions

 

Under the glass, most have at least a hairline fault

The sword, the vase, the diamond, the soul

Yet, when the blow is struck the best, their integrity remains

When you lie down at night, can you say the same

When you lie down at night what can you say

about the life, you lived this day

 

All lives are filled with decisions large and small

Did your character meet the tests that came its way

Did you stand tall or did you fall

And when knocked down, did you rise and reenter the fray

Or keep your knee

Did your character strive to be pure

Or prove itself flawed

 

Virtuous character is not a mistress

You take a vow to it

You keep it not with flourishing―but soon forgotten―promises and a fleeting kiss

It’s measured day by day but judged in full at the end of a life lived

It does not need to be informed of infidelity

It is the first to know

Character follows life through the exit

It’s the last to go

 

The truest test of character is to do the right thing

Even when bad tidings for oneself are all it can bring

One of good character has no thought of self-preservation

Only preservation of good conscience, unwilling to yield

As belongs to one who enters the battle with no chance of victory, without hesitation

His only hope . . .

the respect of his kindred brave and noble be the shield on which they carry him from his blood stained station

Will you get in the ring with the devil or will you take a dive

When all the cards are dealt, and all the hands are played

What will you say about yourself on the last day you’re alive

 

Material things are subject to the whim of Providence and attachment by others

Virtuous character cannot be garnered by kings or thieves

It matters most to our fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, and mothers

It is owned in lesser portions by masters than by slaves

It is irrevocable except by abdication

It is held in sacred trust by knights and coveted by knaves

 

Your character is the tree; the shadow it casts―your reputation

A life well lived―or not―is the sun illuminating the first

Which creates the latter

A subjective manifestation

Sometimes accurate

Oft twisted and distorted by others . . . Sometimes not

Your conscience knows which

 

All sin

All stumble

But the noble steady themselves and seek redemption

 

Your character is the one thing you take to your grave

What will they speak of yours at the dimming of your last day

 

Let them not say, “Et tu, Brute”

Pray not a Judas

Let them say, “I stand with Spartacus”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SECOND KISS (PUT TO POEM)

By Don Kenton Henry

 

Often I reflect on a memory I count among the better

And feel the fullness of her breasts beneath that cotton sweater

I feel the tenderness of her lips

The warmth of her breath upon my chest

 

All this

then some to come

under dim gymnasium lights

I recall the sweet taste of her mouth as she kissed me once more

It was the second kiss of my young life

 

I do not remember at what point it ended

Nothing of what transpired until then fades with time

Not a thing

Not all powers―either earthly or otherworldly―could have transcended us

Beyond innocence lost in what seemed but a dream

 

Wars were being fought around the world

Flags fell, then raised and unfurled

And there we were

Locked in a moment on that hardwood floor

Babies were born and old people died

In both cases, their loved ones cried

But no thought of things behind the arena’s door

A hallowed coliseum and only two of us inside

 

Men were in space and the world kept spinning 1,000 miles per hour

In the center of the court; in the paw of our regal school mascot; she opened up for me like a budding spring flower

Oblivious to our inexperience we were losing in the grip of first love’s spell

The tiger held the orchid

And the petals fell

 

Deep, below my lips

Deep in my genetic material

Herds of wildebeest crossed the Serengeti

The saber-tooth gave chase―deep, deep into her hips

Deep into the fertile jungle where she did lie

A wooly mammoth trumpeted

And some prehistoric relative of mine raised his club to the sky

 

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MY FRONT PORCH WITH UNCLE WALDO

By Don Kenton Henry

 

“Ok, Junior. Take the usual seat here on the porch and let’s parlez about the latest Sabbatical you are about to take.”

That’s how it always began with Uncle Waldo . . . him telling me to take a seat. Always direct (most times painfully so) but on this occasion, he was more somber than usual.

“‘Parlez’ ― what’s that mean, Uncle Waldo?” I asked.

“‘Parlez’, why that’s French for shoot-the-shit. You know I served in France in World War II don’t ya, kid?”

“Yes, sir. Everybody in town knows that. Seeing as you lead the 4th of July parade every year wearing your ribbons and all those medals.”

“Yeah. I suppose. But what with your father gone, I guess the job of trying to figure out what makes you tick and keep you between the railsas much as that is possible― falls to me. And seein’ as I’m your dad’s older brother and me livin’ with you and your mom and siblings, and all . . . I guess it’s only right. But Lawd, son, I don’t seem to be doin’ a very good job, do I?

“It’s not your fault, Uncle Waldo,” I said. I felt genuinely sorry for him. He had problems enough going on in his own head without having to figure out what went on in mine. He had a  metal plate in his that had been placed there to go along with the shrapnel left in his brain. The shrapnel from an exploding shell lodged there when Nazi incoming fire caught him in the ball turret of his B-17 bomber during the latter days of the war. Awakening in a body bag after being taken for dead when his bomber made it back to base was disturbing enough but now he had to contend with the voices and music from the radio waves he claimed his plate and shrapnel picked up from as far away as WLS in Chicago.

“I’ll tell you, if I have to hear that goddamn In-Na-Gadda- Da-Vida hippie piece of crap of a song one more time, I’m gonna drive all the way to WOWO in Fort Wayne and shoot that damn DJ with my M1 carbine!” he’d say. And we were rightly afraid he’d actually do it! The fact that, that song by Iron Butterfly consisted of 17 minutes of incessant pounding bass was bad enough for any person of parental age (or someone not stoned out of their mind) but when you coupled that with the inability to adjust the volume―as was the case with Uncle Waldo―you can understand how maddening it must have been.

“It’s not your fault, Uncle Waldo,” I continued. “There’s just something wrong with me. When I get what seems like a good idea in my head, things just start going bad. I just can’t stop myself. It’s like one part of me says, ‘take it a little further, it’ll be fun!’ . . . Then everything just seems to go wrong.”

“Well, son. Let’s just review your first sixteen years and see if we can put our finger on what causes this sordid history to keep repeating itself. You finished your freshman year in fine fashion, didn’t you? That grave-robbing incident provided enough publicity to satisfy most budding delinquents but you couldn’t stop there, could you? You would think the Finn’s Landing Republican givin’ the play by play on their front page of you and that Bullock boy playing baseball in the mausoleum with Dr. Farrah’s head would be all the notoriety a kid could want! But a summer of working in the cemetery without pay apparently didn’t teach you any more respect for the dead than it did for the rest of us, did it? Cause by the end of the summer you were surgically insertin’ a bomb in a dead cat―frozen in attack modecourtesy of your mother’s deep freezer. Then you put that gift from hell on a Senator’s front porch before setting it off! By God, son―that was one count of grave-robbing and one of terrorism all in a three month period! And you weren’t finished yet!”

“But Uncle Waldo, it wasn’t really a bomb. It was a burglar alarm! They just mistook it for a bomb!”

“Minor fucking detail, Junior. The Senator; Finn’s Landing police department―and the entire neighborhood they evacuated―took it as a bomb! Then how do you start your sophomore year of high school? By inciting a riot between the sophomore speech team and the senior football team! How did ya’ think that was gonna end, tell me!”

“Well, sir . . . ” I tried to explain . . .

“Don’t bother, son! We all know. It ended up with you on the bottom of the pile with the entire football team on top of you leaving you with a busted collar bone, broken nose, and all your teeth knocked loose! And it hurt your poor mother more than it did you, I think!”

“Well, I don’t know about that, Uncle Waldo . . .”

“Hush your mouth, son. Don’t you talk back to me! I’m one elder that won’t tolerate your backtalk. If the damn Nazis couldn’t take me out ― what chance you think you got!”

“Yes, sir,” I said, humbly hanging my head.

“Now let’s pick up your resume where we left off. . . . So you get out of the hospital and, while still wearing a brace for your busted collarbone, you saw a rifle off to hide under your jacket in order to shoot the tires off the opposing team’s school bus at Finn’s Landing football games! But before you can complete that mission, you decide to get in a little target practice by shooting that Shuler kid through the ankle. And where do the police find the illegal weapon? Why under the pile of stolen street signs in the crawl space of your mother’s basement of course!”

“Gee, Uncle Waldo. You make it sound really bad when you run it all together like that. It’s not like it happened all in one day or something!” (I muttered in my hangdog attempt to soften the blow to my already damaged psyche.)

“One day or three months! Why the Finn’s Landing police department saw less action when John Dillinger robbed the station, locked all the officers in their own cells and took every last one of their guns and ammo! Why boy, your reputation eclipses the great John Dillinger in this piss ant farm town!”

“John Dillinger,” I mouthed slowly. “Wow! You suppose they’ll make a movie about me one day too, Uncle Waldo?” I asked with all sincerity.

I reckon I should slap you up the side of the head, squirt―is what I suppose! You expect me or any other sane person to glorify your behavior and we’re half way to figurin’ out what’s wrong with you! Is it any wonder the high school and juvie court tried to get you committed? And you gave them all the help you could, didn’t you? Feigning that schizo-shit like you did! Good lord!”

“Well, I thought as long as I had to go along with six months of counseling, I might as well have fun with it. Besides, I never thought they’d buy that act. Talking to the dead and little people coming out of the walls at night and stealing my homework and stuff! I mean who believes that kind of thing? Somebody would have to be really crazy to believe . . .”

“Why, yes!” interjected Uncle Waldo. And that’s exactly what you―Mr. Captain of the speech and drama club convinced them! That you, ‘Donald K. Henry, Jr.’ were crazy. Certified bat shit crazy! And it got you six weeks of observation at the Logan Mental Hospital where you took over the group therapy sessions and tried to orchestrate a coup! This, before you finally convinced them you were just a dumbass! . . . Well . . . that’s one damn diagnosis they got right!”

“I never meant to hurt anyone, Uncle Waldo. I was just trying have some fun.”

Uncle Waldo and I sat there for what seemed to me an eternity of silence. “Well, the fun’s over now, Junior,” he said. You dodged a lengthy term in the booby-hatch and your mother―God bless her!―took out a second mortgage on this house to give you a second chance by getting you into one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. Howe Fucking Military School! Fourteen grand for one semester and a chance for a clean slate and a coveted diploma and what do you do? You beat up a superior officer and steal an eight hundred dollar Bell &Howell projector so you could show stag films to all your new found buddies! More zombie followers they must have been!”

“Well, every officer was superior to me, Uncle Waldo. I was just a plebe!”, I explained.

“There you go―smartin’ off again!” he said, at the same time raising his hand as if to cuff me. I flinched and reflexively raised my arm closest to him, as though to block the blow. But it never came.

His voice took on an even more somber tone. “You haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be knocked around have you, kid? Well, I’ve never hit you and I never will. It never did you any good, anyway, did it? I never believed in that shit. But the same can’t be said for your dad. And now you’re gonna get on a plane and fly fifteen hundred miles to the Rio Grande and live with an alcoholic who’s on the run from the law for castrating a homosexual and makes weekend runs into Mexico for cigarettes, booze, and drugs while engaging in the kind of carryin’ on that would make Pancho Villa blush. Why his resume makes you look like a piker. . . . . . . . . God help ya, son.”

(Uncle Waldo left off the part about my old man throwin’ the forty pound boar raccoon in the back door of my maternal grandmother’s Better Homes & Garden home. Awakening from the collision induced coma it suffered making contact with my dad’s car, it proceeded to trash virtually every inch of my grandparent’s home before being clubbed to death with wrenches and crowbars. Those were shop tools wielded heroically by five or six garage boys my grandfather summoned from his Chevrolet dealership to rescue grandma. In my opinion, the blood stains coordinated surprisingly well with her expensive floral print wallpaper. Also absent was any mention of the year dad ran two thousand pounds of pot bi-monthly from Mexico to Chicago, sliding past Rio Grande Customs and Border Patrol by posing as the “starched shirt and tie traveling salesman” with sales brochures scattered across the front seat of his Buick Electra. He cleaned up really well when the occasion called for it.

I guess Uncle Waldo knew this story was going to be limited to five pages for contest purposes.)

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COME HOME POET MAN

By Don Kenton Henry

 

So you thought you’d seen it and heard it all, my friend

And that life ran true without ever a bend

That other’s words were sanctified and you trusted without end

To every orphan, stray, and stranger you shared your home and heart again and again

 

You were not a stone

 

But reality is that perception is often a façade

For what appeared linen walls were often made of brick

And seeing through them, like a lover’s words, was too often a trick

But you listened and you trusted and they kissed and they lied

To your face with insincere flattery and guile

Picking your heart like a pocket all the while

 

So you asked yourself

Why try to hide

It’s a house of mirrors in want of a God

And when once you gave, you now deny

 

And now, time has lined your heart with armor

And your soul is steeled by life’s lessons learned

Never giving into other’s schemes

Or even the most well-meaning of intentions

You proceed with circumspection

Sharing neither your dreams or confessions

Safe but alone

Your former self has become a distant reflection

An island with no connection to a greater, higher thing

 

You’ve become a stone

 

Suitors elevate what they cannot have

Admirers hold you on a pedestal

And your hubris runs amok

And love is always finite and nothing good perpetual

You trust nothing to luck

 

You are safe alone

 

In your mind, you’ve become famous as a sagacious judge of character

You approach romance like a business plan

Trusting nothing to fate

Your reality is manicured

Self-served on a gilded plate

Kismet and serendipity in which you once so much believed―

Which in your poet’s heart once had a home . . .

Have been evicted

 

You’ve become a stone

 

Judgmental words of critics abound but are dismissed with resignation

Their acceptance is not sought

Self-absolution rationalized by denial born of adaptation

from pride’s hammer is what’s wrought

You are pragmatic in the throes of preservation

 

A stone repels all rain and hail

Against the elements it doth prevail

 

You gird your mind with an elevated perception of self-worth

and your loins with the company of co-conspirators in mutual, consensual exploitation

Conspirators for whom you cannot care and therefore by whom you cannot be hurt

To the point your wisdom has become a curse

 

Oh, please do not remain a stone

 

Let the poet man come home

Let him find his heart again

Let him see a world with less sin

Let his resurrection now begin

Permit the poet man not die alone

Permit his poet heart seek not to roam

Forsake the persona jaded by years of infidelity of others

And his own

 

Oh, please poet man do not remain a stone

 

Call poetry and love and fate

And tell them to come home

Let them find a way down a friendly road to an open gate

Where once more the poet man trusts each

Where love owns the mortgage on a heart that lust once leased

And where that heart heeds the call of what your soul doth preach

 

Hearken to your poet heart o’ poet man

Come home

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WORD WEAVER DREAM BELIEVER

By Don Kenton Henry

 

Woven of your words is a cloak in which you wrap your mind

A verbal and written tapestry which serves counsel to your soul and a shelter to your heart

What a  beautiful dreaming word weaver are you

Stitching thoughts of love, and loss, with rhyme

 

But there are holes within your cloak

And through them blows the chill of self-doubt

And sometimes colder, darker thoughts penetrate within

And you loathe what so clearly should only be loved

 

So we will weave patches for these holes

Patches from your words

And we will thread them with my hope for you

And this new cloak you will wear with grace

And it will carry you through time

To a loving, more forgiving, more accepting, better place

 

This cloak will protect you and keep you safe

It will fend the hurt from loss of the undeserving

Those whose straight line expectations you fail

Those whose self-interest you assail and disappoint

You will come to color outside the lines with guiltless, reckless abandon and ambition

 

Along the way, your wonderful words shall weave a psychic clipper ship on which to sail

And you will set your compass and draw a perfect line on a shore of self-adoration

My hope for you will become the wind which fills your canvas

It will carry you to the edge of continents of land and consciousness

There, your wonderful words shall weave a passenger train which will port the world along

through poetry, tales, and song ―

An Orient Express of emotion rolling on the universal rails of the heart

Expressed, at times, as lightly as a spring rain on the cherry blossom petals of our hearts and minds

At others―crashing like thunder claps―shaking the rafters of our insecurities

 

Be calm word weaver

You are not in this alone

 

That wind at sea―born of hope―and the fire in the belly of that train―stoked by my belief in you

 

These shall be your muse

 

And so you will persevere

And so you will prevail

 

And on your way to self-actualization, you will romance us with your expectations, aspirations and the nuanced implications of all you experience

We will listen in awe as you fill the sails of our own ships with inspiration

 

Tell us of the feelings which give birth to words which flow like spring water from what seems a parched desert floor all about . . . barren but for you

Forsake the solitude of that island of self-protection

An island born of the rejection by and the ignorance of others

 

So many words lie with within you like water in the deepest, purest well

Unbeknownst to the eye but untainted and waiting for a life to water

Let them rise to the surface and flow over us like a waterfall of melodious contentment

Quenching our thirst for beauty, cleansing our psyches with your transcendental introspection and reflection

 

Cloaked in your own words and birthed by final recognition and acknowledgment of your own genius . . . You transform

 

Oh, beautiful word weaver ―

Permit me a front row seat on the edge of your universe where all the galaxies are thoughts

Where metaphors―like meteors―shower

And all the stars, your words

Where―when I am lucky―a falling word streaks across the sky in my direction

And I catch a sonnet in my pocket

 

 

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