Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Christmas Lesson

The night was icy and still. Sleet whooshed through the trees morphing from bright sparkling diamonds to dirty water before pelting the ground. Bernadette swiped the wetness from her bangs with the back of one hand. Some liquid escaped and rolled down her nose to drop off the tip in luxurious defiance to her efforts.

"Why in the hell didn't you fill the car with gas before we left! I told you to!" She screamed at her younger brother, polluting the wet, dark night with her high-pitched shrill.

"I forgot. Okay? I forgot."

"Now we're stuck in the middle of nowhere on Christmas eve. Aunt Polly will wonder where we are."

Blank, faceless sleet pounded down harder as the two continued their trek along curvy Hilty Road. No street lights, they walked in total darkness except for flashlights they carried. An oncoming car would have been a welcome sight, but an unlikely one on Christmas eve.

Bernie's mouth watered for Aunt Polly's Christmas turkey. She always raised the bird herself on the farm. The whole family always gathered for Christmas Eve at Aunt Polly's.


"What?" Her icy reply telegraphed a lingering annoyance with her brother.

"This road is so desolate. To tell you the truth, I'm scared."

Bernie stopped to turn around and glare at him. "BE A MAN!" she bellowed.

"I'm just saying...anything can happen out here."

She ignored him. The sleet-rain continued to pelt her face. The icy mess did little to appease her frustration.

After an hour's walk the two realized they were lost, no small wonder on the unlit country road. Finally, Bernie dropped to her knees, exhausted. Her clothes were soaked. Her hair was saturated, her hopefulness washed away. "Well, genius, what do we do now? I have no idea where we made a wrong turn, but this sure isn't the road to Aunt Polly." She noticed the sleet had turned to snow. The road ahead was dressed in white. The sight gave her a chill.

David dropped to his knees as well. "Well, since we're both in the right position, maybe we should start praying!" He folded his hands and bowed his head.

Bernie snorted. "I'm sure that'll work. When you're done, St. David, we'd better start walking some more."

"I'm done."

They started again, finally reaching a fork in the road. Black cascading trees lined the path, their thick branches blocking out all moonlight. Only one small star pulsated in the sky. But it had little light to offer. The two stopped, unsure which road to take. They paused, lost in time and gently mesmerized by the silence and the dancing star. The rest of the world stepped back out of the way for an amazing moment. Then a voice broke into the dream.

"Who the hell are you?"

Bernie yelped and turned on her heel flashing a light on the man who had spoken. He gawked back. The guy sported hair long enough to reach his shoulders, and he dressed all in black. The dark clothes were tinged with streaks of gray, a sure sign of weeks of wearing. A stiff, salt and pepper beard surrounded his grimy face. He glared at her with eyes that burnt and drilled into her.

"Holy Moses! Where did you come from?" she exhaled it out in a hoarse whisper.

"I think it doesn't matter so much where I came from as where you're going."


"You look lost. Where are you trying to go? Timbuktu?" His words came drenched in sarcasm.

Bernie paused before replying. His attitude threw her. "Boxcar Road. Our car ran out of gas."

"Boxcar? It's a sheet of ice. You can't go there."

"And so where should we go?" She shot it out in defiance. The fellow irritated her, and Bernie's spunk returned. Although she felt uncomfortable in the stranger's company, she was ready to defend herself. She was ready to fight, but part of her felt weary from this journey and wished they could run away. David shifted behind her as though he longed to bolt as well.

"Follow me." The words dripped with disgust. He took off like a cyclone. For such an ugly creature, his step was light and quick, demanding the two trot along at his speed, a frantic dance where they had to run while flashing the light to see his path. It wasn't long until they reached the crest of a hill.

"Boxcar Road is at the bottom. As you can see, it's quite an icy drop. You'd be better off to look for a place to wait out the storm." A hand emerged from his coat, and a blackened finger pointed toward a tiny church. "Go there," he said.

Bernie was surprised to see the church. She'd been coming to Aunt Polly's since she was a kid. Although she knew the big hill, she'd never noticed the tiny structure nestled in a grove. She turned to question the man. He was gone.

"Where'd he go?" David asked.

"I dunno," she replied, tiffed that someone has pulled a fast one on her. She turned her attention back to the church "Do you want to go there?" she asked.

"I guess. Where else are we gonna go?"

David made a good point. And it was a church after all.

The little building was ablaze with activity. People filled the social hall where coffee and sandwiches were being served, while in the chapel many gathered to pray. You can imagine Bernie's surprise to spy Aunt Polly and the others sitting at a table munching cookies. When Polly saw them, she motioned the two over.

"I was so worried about you kids. No one could get to the house on that icy road. Everyone ended up here at the top of the hill instead, but you were nowhere to be seen."

"A guy showed us how to get here. We ran out of gas and started walking and got lost. It was touch and go until he came along."

"Must have been an angel," Polly mused.

"Ha! I don't think so! You should have seen him! A devil, more likely!" Bernie frowned.

"He brought you here, didn't he?"

"Well, yeah."

"That makes him an angel. Angels come in all styles and temperaments, I imagine," Polly said. "Just like nieces," she added, glaring at Bernie.

The remark was a slap, turning Bernie's face red. Aunt Polly was her biggest critic for the boorish way she pushed and shoved through life. Angels come in all styles and temperaments, indeed. What a wonderful Christmas lesson! Bernie learned it well.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Word Catalyst - My Column This Month

A snippet from my column this month in Word Catalyst Magazine. Bragging rights, I'm a 2010 nominee for the Pushcart Prize Award.

When Worlds Collide

Grandmother Hutchinson shifted in her seat. She was too old for train trips, by her estimation. All that rocking and noise! It would have been nice to go by car, but no one offered. Oh well, a wedding is a frantic event with all there is to attend to, flowers, dresses, cakes, reception halls. Small wonder they issued her an invite and then forgot to offer a means of conveyance. Well, a granddaughter only gets married once. Or was that true these days? No matter. She wanted to be there for the nuptials, thus this godforsaken train ride.

With a belch and a hiss, the train pulled into Friendsville Station, the last stop before Oak Run. Two new passengers eased down the aisle. One was a portly fellow in a plaid shirt that bulged along a row of uneasy buttons straining mere thread to the limits. He lifted his suitcase to the overhead rack and risked blowing the shirt wide open in the process. Next, with a grunt, he settled in the seat in front of Grandmother. The other newcomer was a man of obvious refinement, dressed in a clean and pressed black suit, freshly shined shoes, and a bow tie. He lifted his valise and pushed it on the rack with thin, delicate fingers. The slightness of his hands matched his long face and big eyes, the overall impact being cartoonish in its simplicity. But a contrary and elusive dignity lingered in his steady gaze.

Grandmother Hutchinson paid the two newcomers little mind. Glancing at her watch, she wished this mechanical torture chamber on wheels would hurry up. Her granddaughter needed her. A frantic call this morning from Leslie had set Grandmother to fretting. Something about her fiancé's best man in the hospital. An accident. With heavy hearts, they intended to go on with the wedding. The fellow had insisted even though he couldn't be there. Leslie needed her Granny, and the sooner she got there, the better. Read more...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Word Catalyst November - The Waiting Room

My column this month, a snippet:

The Waiting Room

The old man pulled back a wrinkled sleeve to spy his watch, elastic band stretched to the limit around his fat wrist. Two-fifteen. Already fifteen minutes late. A hefty fellow, he shifted in the shiny vinyl chair, making it squeak. The lady next to him scowled in annoyance. Perhaps she thought the squeak was something other than an innocent rub between cloth and plastic. The man twiddled his thumbs and whistled, but still wondered why he should act like he needed to prove his innocence if he did nothing wrong. It was the lady's fault, judgmental as she was.

The door squeaked, then opened with a soft bump. But in the church-like silence it seemed as though a gun went off. A young man entered and found a seat in the middle of the straight line of vinyl chairs lined up along the wall. He chose a navy chair. The old man's was brown, and the judgmental lady sat on black vinyl. The office manager had gaudy taste in decorating, or perhaps the chairs were hand-me-downs from somewhere. Read more...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Interrupted

Of course, I can't let Halloween go by without a little story...

Halloween Interrupted

A broom resting against the wall of the rocking caboose rattled in unison with two white cups on the wooden table. Clyde casually lit his after dinner cigar, his wire rimmed glasses slipping down his long, skinny nose as he leaned forward to light it. Sam, hat pulled forward covering half his face, took a sip of java, following it with a smothered belch. They always had dinner break as the train raced toward Blackwoods.

The meal was never much. Coffee and soup from thermoses, sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and stuffed in brown paper bags, all skillfully prepared by Maggie at the diner in Clintville. On a lucky evening, they'd have pie straight from her oven.

“Oughta pull into Blackwoods soon!” Sam commented.


Sam took the response at face value and shut his trap. Clyde never talked after dinner. He liked to let his food settle in peace. Sam watched while he picked up his newspaper, gave it a good snap, and opened to the editorial page.

At about that time, they heard the first rattle. Not a gentle tap tap, but an alarming sound in sharp stabs like if you could pound a knife into metal, and it would reverberate in screeches of pain as you drove the blade in over and over.

“What was that?” Sam asked, eyes wide, lips tight.

Clyde looked over with acquired disdain. “It's probably just some pipes rattling on this old buggy or something.”

“Sure doesn't sound like anything I ever heard before.”

“Don't question my authority.” Clyde flipped his newspaper page and went back to reading.

Sam saw red. Clyde always flaunted his intellect. “Okay, just because you graduated sixth in a class of thirty-six at Ambridge High School, that doesn't make you an authority on weird noises.”

Clyde ignored him which enraged Sam further, but he let it go even though he was steaming. It was then the green mist appeared. Like a ballerina arriving on stage it it danced in a lovely swirl; but it soon turned into a frenetic whirlwind like a tiny tornado racing in circles around the little caboose. Sam leaped out of its way.

“Are you seeing this?” He screeched out in a hoarse whisper, jumping up to stand on the chair like a frightened housewife who'd seen a mouse.

Clyde saw it. The newspaper rattled in his shaking grasp. He threw it down and jumped up onto his chair as well. “I'm sure it's just exhaust from the train or something,” he sputtered.

“Exhaust? Are you crazy? I just remembered it's Halloween. Did you know that?”

“Of course, I knew that. I know everything.”

Sam glared back. “Well, if you know so much, what are we going to do NOW? It's Halloween and that could be something evil, very evil.” He watched the mist continuing its trails as he spoke.

“I'll let you know presently. I have to think on it.”

“Oh, you and your thinking. I'm so sick of hearing about your superior brain!”

“Well, that figures. The mind rejects what it can't comprehend.”


“Am I? You figure it out. Oh wait, you might be too stupid. Do you think you are?”

“Oh, I hate you! I hate every single day I've been stuck in this damned caboose with you and your SUPERIOR BRAIN!”

It went on, the two men screaming until the mist eventually stopped its twirling. It hovered in air, evil ignored, soon drooping in resignation. Its work here was done. The two had forgotten it completely. The mist shuddered and dissolved into a drop of stinky green goo that flopped to the floor. No one noticed. The two men argued all the way to Blackwoods and beyond. Halloween is simply wasted on some people.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From My Journal...

October 14. 2009:

This morning I toasted whole wheat bread to make toast. I eat whole wheat because experts tell me it is healthy. I spread it with an equally wholesome omega spread and finally smear on the good stuff, apple butter. The apple butter makes the rest palatable. I rushed around; I slept late this morning. My body rhythms are screaming to turn back the clocks, but these days we have to wait until November to conserve energy -- longer days for an extended period of time. In the old days, we turned them back in October and didn't care about conserving. That felt right. October turnback to me is as fundamental as salt and pepper or the ABC's. But what do I know? I'm not an expert.

Maybe I'm not using my head right. My Dad used to tease us kids by saying that. "You're not using your head right!" I remember the first time he said it to my husband, "Ronnie, you're not using your head right." When he said it, I smiled inside...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Haiku for You!

Guess what! With the demise of Word Catalyst magazine where I served as story editor, my time is free to post to my blog again. And now, I offer some haiku for you. I pulled these from my journal, randomly expressed, unrelated.

Times rushes past me
thumping, gasping, short of breath
leaving me behind.

January growls
while February looks back
at that windy glare.

Sun rays inviting
sultry flashes in between
or just a mirage

Thoughts glide like ships pass
sails ballooning with ideas
tenuous as air.

Drooping limbs dragging
verdant life yawns and leans back
blackening the night.

With bright-eyed laughter
a troubled soul shares its pain
outlined in black pen.

Distant voices chime
dowsing my thoughts with gold dust
born on winds from home.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Story for Bob

Repost from a group dedicated to remembering Bob Church, writer and blogger extraordinaire. If you knew Bob and would like to join us, here is the address:

The prompt:

Let's all write about one incident that we would have loved to
share with Bob knowing he would appreciate the story. Write as if you are
telling him today, because you are and I'm sure he is listening!

Bob, my friend,
If there was one niggle that chattered at me from your writes, it was the simple truth that life is absurd. No matter how beautiful, hip, or talented you are, there comes a day when the planets align, laughing, and with a hearty kick in the arse send you whirling into the most absurd situation on earth.

When was my most absurd moment? Well, truth be told, there were countless ones. But today I share with you an absurdity, a mind game if you will, that came simply and unexpected out of nowhere and with a certain elegance in its execution. The absurdity gods outdid themselves.

Being a non driver, I am by necessity a seasoned bus rider. I rode buses every day, not only in Pittsburgh, but also when we lived in a small town in Maryland, a very small town. I hate to say it, but when rednecks drive buses, there's no more stopping for stop signs or obeying speed limits. These rebel bus jockeys yahooed and drove those buses like the Indy 500. On my route to work every day just three successive quick swerves and I'd be thrown to the floor were it not for my great preparation to stay seated, clinging to the bar of the seat in front of me. I grumbled to myself as I hung on, knuckles white, one day so consternated when I got to work I wrote an anonymous letter of complaint to the company.

Not long after, one gloomy evening, I sat in GeeBee's having coffee and waiting for my bus to go home from work. They didn't run often, so frequently I had a long wait, thus the coffee interlude. I wondered how it would be that day, since my rides were steeped in never-ending drama. Would the bus be on time? Would it be early? Their schedule keeping ran as fast and loose as their driving. Would the goddarn driver be yeehawing and simply speed right past my stop, leaving me without a ride? It had happened before.

To my surprise, a half dozen bus drivers, caps in hand, arrived and lined up at the counter directly across from where I sat. I had never seen such a collection of brooding faces. Might I mention here, a sad redneck is a tragic sight. Those uneven teeth, usually blaring, now hid behind brooding, closed lips. Red flushed faces were replaced by pale listlessness. They had not a single yeehaw to offer from the bunch.

"Indy 500! Hmmph," one said.

I leaned forward to listen, my heart pounding.

"You better watch those quick swerves!" his friend shot back with a generous snort.

"You redneck!" another one growled, forcing it out in a slow, breathy hiss.

My heart screeched and my hands shook. Those were my words! I had written that scathing letter to the bus company, and the drivers were now quoting me, apparently reprimanded by their superior. Unbeknownst to them, their very critic was at that moment staring at them from across the counter in sheer panic.

Now, what are the chances a person can end up close enough to rub noses with those he ridicules in print? It was too weird! The subjects of my words, in this case, redneck bus drivers, were supposed to be a collective group of anonymous boobs whom I would never see or know.

I fled. I fled with more speed than those rambunctious drivers. I broke speed limits, knocked over old ladies, and I got out of there. I waited for my bus down the street, whistling an innocent tune, boarding said vehicle without looking up, scrunched in my seat all the way home. I wonder what you would have done, Bob...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Word Catalyst Magazine - The Operator

A snippet from my latest column in Word Catalyst Magazine:

The Operator

The switchboard lights blinked one after the other, frantic callers, demanding to know more, say more, talk more. Busy day, busy world. But Eleanor found all her callers boring, despite their hype, regardless their loud voices or insistent vibes. Truth be told, she loved her job as switchboard operator for Acme Finance, but lately it had lost its luster, become empty and repetitive, until the hour approached noon each day.

As the clock inched closer, her hands quickened, her imagination raced. She did the job of switching calls with verve and intensity, click, click, clicking them away one by one with "Acme Finance" and "One Moment Please" finality propelled by thoughts of the approaching magic hour.

She was seeking the jackpot, his call. Any ring of the phone could be it, his tone, his romantic aura, a cloudless ghost that emanated, surrounded her, incorporating the lady's soul into itself, engulfing, snatching, her heart.

And then... "Hello, my sweet!" more

Monday, July 06, 2009

Like Leaves Quiver

Paul Cezanne - Big Trees

I meant to semi-retire this blog, but find now and then a poem creeps in...

Like Leaves Quiver

Like wind, time rushes,
rustling thoughts like leaves quiver
in God's mighty breeze
designed for transformation
from one season to the next.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Word Catalyst Magazine--July Issue Posted

A snippet from my column this month:

Loser Takes All

"I'll stay." Clyde shot Jasper a look, one of those looks that cuts through like a knife. Even softened by the shadow of his white fedora's brim, the eyes shot bullets.

Jasper looked away. He didn't want to show how his heart was thump-thumping like the vibration of a thousand horses galloping. He dropped one hand over his chips and pushed the entire stack into the pot. "I raise you, and I call," he murmured.

The boy shifted in his seat. His Sunday-go-to-meeting pants itched his tiny behind, and the suspenders cut into his shoulders. He longed for his everyday dungarees...and he dreamed of home. Swatting a fly from his face, he hunkered down to watch the men. The round table gave him a position of equal importance to them.

Clyde and Jasper were in a deadlock, eyes resting on each other, each refusing to look away. Jasper's skinny frame held rigid against the other man's stare. A man who threw all his chips into the pot needed that. He had to look strong, unflappable...a winner. His mustache under normal circumstances would twitter when he felt nervous. But he had the presence of mind this time to hold it steady, even though it itched to move. It was like holding back a colony of ants on the run.

"Are you really going to bet all your chips at one time when the prize is so important?" Clyde's expression of outrage reached across the table like slaps to the face. Read more...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Raking Leaves

Two small poems for a workshop challenge where the prompt was "raking leaves."

excitable mob
flying, coerced frenzy
raked leaves

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

forlorn leaf piles
whooshing in sad day songs
once verdant dreams
stacked high.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Monday, June 08, 2009

Forest Murmur

Forest Murmur
(A Triolet)

Innocence peeking through shrouds of green
sparkling, curious, childish delight
glimmering with new light unseen.
Innocence peeking through shrouds of green
untouched, unknown, in morning's first gleam
shedding darkness, its murmurs of night. 
Innocence peeking through shrouds of green
sparkling, curious, childish delight.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Word Catalyst Magazine Column

An excerpt and link from my column this month in Word Catalyst Magazine:

Of Simple Words and Deadly Deeds

More crimes were plotted in Bloody Harry's Bar than anywhere else in the islands. Small wonder it was, too, what with the gruesome ambiance and grimy air of the place, the kind of suffocating filth you breathe in and then feel bad about yourself, like you're slumming, or hurting, or dirty. Old fish netting hung from the rafters to decorate but also to catch God knows what, while salty aromas from the ocean wafted in to mix with the thick air like sultry dancers drowning in a sea of melancholy music.

Harry tended bar, his parrot Squawkers perched on his shoulder. The bird jiggled yet remained undisturbed when his master scrubbed the bar with wide strokes, jostling the parrot. Squawkers, it appeared, was used to the action. He hung on tight with his sizable claws digging into Harry's shoulder.

"And what will you be having?" Harry asked a forlorn fellow who sat at the bar.

The man's grubby index finger rolled across lines of text in an open book. He looked up, a quizzical expression on his face. The bird, Squawkers, repeated the barkeep's question, bringing the inquiry home. With this second round, the man understood. Read more...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Downwardly Cascading

Fulfilling a workshop prompt using forest and waterfall:

Downwardly Cascading

With sighs that bleed in glass sheets it flows

downwardly cascading eternal

harsh whispers in forest falls crying.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Monday, June 01, 2009

Remembering Bob Church

For all of those who knew and miss Bob, I found an interview I did with Bob Church from about 7 years ago. Read it here. Enjoy, it is Bob at his finest.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Too Much Love

I thought you might enjoy a workshop prompt I have written.

Too Much Love

A Whimsybuggs Writing Workshop prompt to write a poem or story with these elements:
  • a clever two year old
  • a sheet of paper
  • pencils
Too Much Love
Rain pelted the window, elongated drops that seemed to stretch and reach trying to keep up with the moving bus. Inside where it was warm, the lights contrasted with the somber gray outdoors like day unto night. The man pulled up his coat collar even though the space was stuffy. With a jittery hand, he pulled back his sleeve to spy his watch. Still an hour to go.
They were counting on him. It was nerve wracking. The bus slowed for a light then started up again. The rain continued its assault on the windows. In his agitated state, the drops sounded like cannonballs hitting the glass. His watch again, two minutes had passed. He wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.
“That man looks scared.”
The voice rang out like a parade of trumpets, blaring and fierce. Now his heart pounded faster than ever as he scanned the crowded bus for the source of the remark. It was a kid. A damned kid, sitting across the aisle, a tablet on his lap, pencil in hand, some scribbles on the paper. His mother sat beside him, an open book on her lap.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “He meant no harm.”
She was pretty, large brown eyes and soft hair that scooped around her face, angelic. How could such innocence exist in this world? He nodded but didn’t speak. It was important to keep a low profile. He checked his watch again. Fifty more minutes. Leaning his head back, he turned to face the window. Out there, somewhere, they were waiting for him to do it. They were waiting to celebrate the victory his act would give them. He pulled his coat closer, checking to make sure it was hidden. It wouldn’t do for anyone to spy what was strapped to his chest. Read more

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Barber

Meteorite scissors streak across a darkened sphere,
edgy, taking away rather than giving.
Forlorn hair strands, unwanted,
scatter in paisley patterns on a checkered floor
to mix with words already dropped
that rest next to a waiting urn
soon bombarded by shrieking tobacco missiles
incoming from the man who cuts.
Above all, there is talk.
Fresh utterings take flight and fill the air,
dewy stuff, words of the day,
squishy soft and insignificant,
future floor droppings
until those meteorite scissors cut closer, inward
to cut, snip, set free the mind of the oppressed
and heretofore dull talk, deepens.
The barber, soothsayer, wise one, listens
to a rugged barber chair confession
as secrets are told
amidst falling hair follicle snows.
Advice is murmured
amongst tobacco ca-chinks
just as an old door squeaks
and a darkened thought cloud wanders in,
overgrown with portent above a man.
He sits on a vinyl chair that hisses,
chastises in protest.
He hangs bedraggled head low
to stare at checkerboard floor squares
while awaiting silver metallic meteor showers
replete with good advice
along with an excellent cut.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maytime Whimsy

photo copyright JO Janoski

Maytime Whimsy

Life grows on a tiny green stem
surrounded by green-leafed mayhem.
Shaking, fluttering swift breezes,
wind comes and goes as it pleases.
Until one day tiny pips dressed in white,
all smile as one in morning's softest light
while in tall trees music gathers from birds
singing hymns graced in beauty without words.
And the flowers open and hum in turn
until blustery winds again return
scattering leaves and blowing dirt
in chattering rainy dripped spirts.
Each precious flower turns its face away
and hides sweet smiles for another day.
And even if winds destroy it,
nature will again with joy employ it
every year in May, every spring, 
the pips look up when musical birds sing.
Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Monday, May 04, 2009

Musical Streets

Musician in the Rain - Robert Doisneau


Musical Streets

Just-written songs, anxious, encased

awaiting poetry's embrace 

to make musical rain-slicked streets

in hypertensive heart-flung beats

to make musical rain-slicked streets

awaiting poetry's embrace

Just-written songs, anxious, encased

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Word Catalyst Magazine -- Hot off the Press!

The May edition of Word Catalyst Magazine is posted and yours to enjoy. Each month offers the best art, photography, prose, poetry, and columns available anywhere.

Below is a snippet of my column, Tales of Whisper Gap:

The Bomb Scare

The brown paper bag, although smudged with grime, was nothing special, except for the fact it lay along the curb with no owner in sight. No one saw who left it or knew where it came from. It rested there now, as Mildred the secretary, who was the first to notice, punched out 911 with trembling fingers scrambling across the keypad on her cell phone.
"Police? There's an abandoned package at Fourth and Main!"

Patty, the operator, transferred the call in order to stir the bomb squad into action. Next, she leaned back and let out a humongous sigh, the kind that runs out first like a gentle tributary, before next building volume to gush out like a raging flood.

"What's with you?" Dan who sat across from her removed his headset, a bemused expression taking over his face.

"It looks like we're not gonna get out of here anytime soon. That's what!"...Read more...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

For Bob Church

Bob Church's soul passed from this earth last evening. At his birthday party last September a book with inscriptions from his friends was presented to him. I'm posting my contribution below in respectful tribute to a man larger than life. Rest in peace, Bob! Oh, and I'd better add, Behave yourself up there!

My Friend,
It is hard to get mushy when writing you a poem, so I decided to stress the power of your words instead. That's what you are, a vibrant, colorful, smiling force who has at one time or another cornered each of us in a room (cyberally speaking, of course) ... and charmed us with your gracious humor and heart. Always stay your rowdy, crazy self. Not to worry, we all know the teddy bear who lingers behind the pen. I can't tell you how thrilled and honored I am to spend your Birthday here in MO with you, your family, and our circle of eccentric [snort!] friends. Love, JO

Powerful Words

Lazy dog writing
is for others, not for you.
Your words blast through air
with unabashed energy
irreverent now
and passionate forever.
Still breezes tingle
from your mighty pen's assault.
And your words are etched
in broad strokes flying through space
straight to open hearts
simultaneously touched
with Bubba-esque verve.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Daffodil Chorus

photo and poem copyright Jo Janoski

Daffodil Chorus

Smiling faces aglow with sun
waiting with heaven's ambiance
posture perfect, lined up as one.

Consummately grand eloquence
a single grin, forceful and sweet
as each speaks in proper sequence.

Yet heard as one musical feat
in notes profound, haunting my soul
with messages divine, complete.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Train Tracks

Dusty roads intruded with train track snakes,
metal trails zing with somber glints of steel.
A man stands aloft balanced on one heel,
poised to perish with locomotion shakes.

A train comes rumbling just along the lakes,
roaring smoking thunder riding on wheels.
Dusty roads intruded with train track snakes,
metal trails zing with somber glints of steel.

What tragedy that roar leaves in its wake
as flesh and bones their weaknesses reveal.
Hearts cannot withstand angry pounding steel
on saddened men with souls inclined to break.
Dusty roads intruded with train track snakes.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Chef

The Chef

He's a triumphant Italian chef,
expression glazed in a determinant glare
while chunky hands like gracious G clefs
spark in culinary genesis
with a life beat staccato
pounding dough
before twirling it on one finger,
a flattened cloud where angels float
awaiting splatters of tomato sauce
to soil their wings
while dodging pepperoni slices
in a flattened pan flurry.
Those big hands sprinkle cheese
in scatterings of genius put to music
for an aria of love, opera of life,
this symphony called The Chef's Pizza.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Her Hats

Hats like music hiding her face.
Melodies race
past my logic.
Ribboned magic.

Gauzy glances vibrant flowers
exert powers
meant to deceive
what I perceive.

Lurking under ribbons with plume
eyes speaking doom.
Her hat obscures
dark smile demure.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Gardener

Ted dropped the cardboard box to the ground, stood tall, and took a long, deep breath. Spring! He'd just heard the lively chirp of a bird, and there was sunshine this morning. Both were sure signs of spring and time to plant his peas. The sky hummed in a soft blue murmur with white wispy clouds feathering across. And an imposing sun beamed warm enough to make him remove his dusty, brown gardening jacket.

"Life is good," he muttered, setting about to spade the soil. "Yes, sir! There is nothing like communing with nature on a beautiful spring day." Kneeling, Ted worked with diligence, depositing several neat rows of seeds, next standing to survey his work. With a battered watering can poised and ready, he covered the rows in sparkling streams of water. Finally, he brushed the dirt off his pants and went inside the house for lunch, satisfied.

Tessie, his wife, sat in the kitchen eating. Grabbing a tuna sandwich, he plopped into a chair next to her and gazed out the window at his handiwork, beautiful rows of seeds planted and moist from being watered. He had taken a fresh bite when he jumped out of the chair with his mouth full, sputtering and spitting bread, "WHAT THE HECK?"

"Ted, what's wrong?" Tessie asked.


Ted ran to the yard flailing his arms and screaming, "SHOO! SHOO! STOP EATING MY SEEDS!" Unearthly squawks and fluttering black wings encircled the poor man, leaving him to swing his arms about wildly until finally the birds disappeared into the trees. Exhausted, Ted looked at his neatly sown rows and sighed. The soil was pushed around and the rows of seeds were picked clean.

He spent the afternoon pondering how to scare away the birds for good and decided on making a scarecrow. First, he found some old blue jeans and a red flannel shirt in the rag box. A search through the house uncovered an old straw hat, and he packed some rags into a pillowcase and fashioned it into a round head for the scarecrow. He stuffed the clothes full of rags and attached it all together into a giant doll, then set it up in the garden by tying it to a wooden post. It loomed as if guarding him while Ted replaced the seeds that had been stolen by the pesky feathered creatures. This time he completely forgot about how invigorating spring can be. Mostly, he cussed under his breath.

The scarecrow worked well. No birds returned, and the next day as he enjoyed his lunch while gazing out the window. Ted again felt satisfaction for his gardening work.

"Looks a little like rain today!" Tessie commented as she took a bite of her sandwich.

"Nah! It's not going to rain! Even if it does, it will be good for my garden," Ted replied.

As if by magic a burst of thunder rattled through the kitchen, and raindrops pelted the window.

"Good for the garden!" Ted repeated.

The rain, gentle at first, intensified until its pounding on the roof drowned out all other noise. Ted gazed lazily out the window. Suddenly, he jumped out of his chair. "MY SEEDS! THE RAIN IS WASHING MY SEEDS AWAY!"

Indeed, the teeming rain didn't have time to absorb into the soil and instead flushed through the dirt, uplifting the seeds and carrying them downhill in a muddy river to the neighbor's yard. Next, as if bowing out in response to events, the water-soaked scarecrow slid from its post in one slow, sweeping motion with a whoosh and a plop.

The next morning, Ted rose early and started anew. He picked up the scarecrow and placed it back on the post. He sowed new seeds and fussed around building a dam so a rush of water wouldn't wash his seeds away again. He had forgotten by now the joys of spring and cussed out loud rather than under his breath.

His diligence paid off. The birds stayed away. It rained again and the floodwater was diverted away from his freshly sown garden. Now he was ready to check every day for sprouts to appear. One morning he came running into the kitchen from the garden, flushed and jubilant.

"Tess! Come outside! My seeds have sprouted!" He led her out, and she paused to admire the tiny green shoots.

"Ted! Oh, they are so cute," she said. After a thoughtful pause, she added, "Ted...what about rabbits?" She pointed to a bunny at the edge of the garden studying them, sitting up, one ear twisted in interest. Ted and Tess looked back at each other in dismay.

The next day, he bought a six-month supply of frozen peas and a bag of grass seed to cover over the garden. Store-bought peas ... good enough!

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Saturday, March 07, 2009


I love this Van Gogh. The colors can't help but make you smile, and the painting itself is neat and controlled, an unusual product coming from this artist.

Flower Beds in Holland 1883 - Vincent Van Gogh


Flowers humming soft winging songs
I tread through sounds of yesteryear
hearing voices that still belong.

Wind carries cries muffled by tears
like rushing light on petal's dew
fluttering as their ghosts pass near.

Light archaic reveals anew
holiness wrapped in remembrance
Life's gentle garden reconstrued.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Pitcher of Milk

A rewrite of a story from a couple years ago...

A Pitcher of  Milk

"Oh, MAN!" I moaned as we pulled into line at the drive-through. "I'm definitely going to be late for work now."

"I'm sorry, Dad!"


My genius of a son spilled a pitcher of milk this morning and in the havoc ended up missing both his breakfast and the school bus. His school was on my way to work, so I was driving him. My wife, Sally, insisted the two of us stop for a breakfast sandwich, too. "He's a growing boy," she said reminding me of my fatherly duties.

"I hope you know the trouble you're causing me." Glancing at my watch, my heart thumped louder as I realized the meeting at work I was supposed to chair was about ready to begin. "Is this line ever going to move?" I pounded the steering wheel with my fist. The navy blue Ford in front of us inched forward. "What were you doing taking the early bus anyway? I thought you go later."

"I'm in the play, Dad! Rehearsal."

"Oh...I didn't know that," I mumbled. My thoughts returned to the pitcher of milk tipping off the table. White liquid soaring through the air...

"Mom knew."

"Oh." ...Milk raining, some slapping against my chest. "What play is that?" 

He looked at me like I was green with antennae coming out of my head. "The Senior Class Play!"

"Oh...You're a senior this year. That's right." The pitcher crashing to the floor and milk spreading like a river...out of reach, out of control...

Cars moved while we spoke, and the navy Ford in front of us jumped up several spots.  I looked at my watch.

"Dad, we could skip the breakfast if you want."

"No.  I promised your mother." The blue car ahead inched again. "So what's the play?"

"'You Can't Take It With You.' I must have told you a thousand times."

"Oh, I guess I forgot." The milk spreading across the floor, never to be contained, neat and tidy, in the pitcher again...

The navy Ford finished at the order window. We were next.

"Welcome to McDonald's! Can I take your order?"

"Two egg McMuffins...and a coffee..."  I looked at my son.

"I drink coffee, too, Dad."

"Make that two coffees." I turned to him. "When did you start drinking that stuff?"

"About two years ago!"

"Oh." The milk making rivers with tributaries running into cracks and corners, never to be mine again...

I drove while we ate in silence. We pulled up to his school. "So when is this play?" I asked to break the silence.

"Friday night."

"Oh, I'll be out of town on business Friday."

"I know. I already assumed you wouldn't be there." He paused. "You never are." Our eyes met and he turned away. "See ya sometime," he said swinging open the door and bursting out. I watched him walk away.

Reaching for the shattered pitcher...the broken glass cuts me, makes me bleed. I looked at my watch; I could still make the end of the meeting.  I decided I couldn't worry about the pitcher. Besides, it was only spilled milk.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Monday, March 02, 2009

Word Catalyst Magazine-March Issue

A new issue of Word Catalyst Magazine has been posted, chock full of fabulous Art, Poetry, Stories, Photography, and more. Here is a snippet from my column, this one entitled My Dear Husband:

...He fell into the room rather than walked. With one grimy hand along the wall for support, the other one swung wildly seeking balance when it came in contact with a lamp, bumping the shade and sending the precious antique flying off the table. Gloria released a tiny yelp of alarm when it hit the floor. That was when he spied her.

"What did you do? Wait up all night for me?" The effort of formulating speech was too much in his drunken state, sending him catapulting to a nearby recliner. The overstuffed chair rocked and squeaked when he landed.

"Did you blow your paycheck again?" she asked, standing taller, preparing for battle.

"Is that all you care about is my money? What about me?" With both arms he struggled to lift himself out of the chair. He failed.

"At this point, I don't give a damn about you. But this was my mother's house, and I'm here to protect it."

"Protect it from what? Me?" His outrage propelled him out of the chair. "I ought to kick your ass across your 'mother's house' just to show you who's in charge now."

"You lay a hand on me, and I'll kill you."  More...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Here We Stand

Here We Stand

Side by side statuesque, unmoving
King with his fawning Queen
regal bearing, cloaks of alabaster
soulfully translucent, pearly white
whispering supremacy
loyal subjects flanking left and right,
as glaring lights clamor from beyond
raucous, laughing, despicable
mobs wielding torches of discontent
transforming supreme royalty to filthy silhouettes
blackened in insignificance
overrun by cheap epitaphs hurled
until dignity speaks in a king's voice
a whisper in the deep
that roars, reverberates its name,
and the mobs fled.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Song of Love...For Married People

Violin Serenade by Nora Hernandez

A Song of Love...For Married People

Let me play a song of love
on our violin sculpted from hearts
born with urgent yearning
guided by luminous stars
while lovingly fired by fate
igniting our desires.
We'll don old clothes
like our parents
playing house and buying groceries
doing all mundane little things
and enjoying it
while we pretend to be grownups
knowing all along
the violin awaits
for those in-between moments
longing to play passion's fiery inspired song
over and over again.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Storm Brewing

Gray and Gold by John Rogers Cox

I love this painting, the contrast, rigid form--it all comes together to make a bold statement.

A Storm Brewing

Gray armored thunder crossing ways
Deafening roars of discontent
darkening golden sunny days
Gray armored thunder crossing ways
lingering intending wishing to stay
locomotion madness malcontent
Gray armored thunder crossing ways
Deafening roars of discontent
Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Friday, January 30, 2009

To Dance Alone

Swinging on air suspended by thoughts deep
white sand beaches warming away your ice

while palms dust away your face in broad sweeps

and I contemplate if it's worth the price.

To drown your memory in waters blue

and chase away that voice to worlds unknown

of darkened clouds and to your nature true

with bumpy roads and winds that whine and moan.

I'll float in space warmed by a happy sun

while soft breezes hum songs of paradise

an island built on happiness for one

to dance alone, true spirit realized.

Alone and real with nature by my side

the only sound defined by rising tide.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

A Word Catalyst Prompt to write a poem for the picture.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Word Catalyst - February Issue

Don't miss the February issue of Word Catalyst Magazine ! It's chock full of art, photography, prose, poetry, and even a children's corner. Did I mention my column, this month's entry entitled, "The Tango?" Here's a snippet:

They met every afternoon in the glade--just as the sun dipped in the sky and got moody, glowing orange in its heat. The surrounding clouds quivered with anticipation as that recalcitrant orb served as a back drop for the couple. The woman, dark hair sleeked back out of the way, revealed her white porcelain face, cheeks rouged like cherries and lips glimmering like red wine sparkling in a crystal goblet. Dangling gold hoops danced on her ear lobes with more to say than the woman herself...more


Friday, January 23, 2009

Shallow Victory

Shallow Victory

Sara abandoned her wine, carelessly plopping the glass on the sun-warmed deck, while she watched an unforgettable drama play out on the lake. The waters around the row boat shot ripples across the glassy wetness while two men struggled in the tiny craft. Clearly, one reached for the throat of the other, only to be pushed back by a magnanimous display of defiance encased in swinging fists and harsh words loud enough to reach Sara's ears. Dad and Jake were at it again. Fishing rods lay askew on the deck and an abandoned beer bottle, empty and overboard, jiggled along the disturbed waters.

They fought every time the two started drinking, but this episode was different. She had never seen such anger, the kind that could blow the top off a hot cooker. She had to stop them. Kicking off her shoes, Sara dove in the water.

With each stroke, she strained to see what was happening. In one glance, she spied her brother, Jake, fall into the water. And she felt the ripples belting against her in the wake of his enormous weight crashing into the lake. When closer, she tread water to pause and watch the scene. Her father, no small man himself, was hanging over the edge of the craft, his big calloused hands pushing down on Jake's head, forcing the fellow under water. Jake fought back.

Her dad suddenly spied Sara in the water and let go, his arms flying up in an air of surrender. Her brother, clinging to the boat and gasping for breath, followed his gaze. Seeing her, a shadow of guilt whooshed across his face.

"Hey!" her brother said, acting like nothing unusual had happened. He reached for his father's outstretched hand and crawled into the boat dripping, next shooting her a boyish grin, accentuated by wet hair plastered on his forehead above bouncing blue eyes.

"What are you doing here?" Her father heaved a humongous sigh and glared her way.

"I saw you two. You were trying to drown him!"

Jake chuckled, a tiny nervous giggle, too lightweight to hoist any real meaning. "You're crazy. We were just monkeying around."

Father merely glared her way. Sara, tired from maintaining her own in the water, looked backed in dismay. It was always like this. The two would drink, try to kill one another, and when she showed up, they denied it. It was her feminine presence that changed everything. When she came, they stopped, no doubt to protect her innocence. But what if one of these days, she didn't show up. Then what? Her blood iced over at the prospect. But they wouldn't talk to her and would never say what was wrong. They walled her out.

The two were waiting. Waiting for her response, and probably hoping she would go. They'd never tell.

"Monkeying around, I see," she said, turning to swim back. "Fine. Don't be late for dinner."

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dark Corners

Dark Corners

Shadows, muffled cries where they meet
crouching in dark corners of love
in this place, so quiet, discreet
love is unleashed, hear the heartbeats
in the closet with coats and gloves.

Stifling moans encased in dark walls
wrapped tight in wool, sealed in leather
pondering love of the other.
Outside said door her husband calls
knowing not what's behind the wall.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bob's Book

I talk a lot about Bob Church. Recently, Nan Jacobs, a fellow staff member at Word Catalyst Magazine comprised a book of Bob's Work to present to him. Well, here is the whole story:

Dave's Tech Blog

Friday, January 09, 2009


Evening Glory by Steven Mitchell

A Word Catalyst Prompt


Light majestic with touch Divine
inspired illumination
meshed with life, mosaic sublime
I alone see this Light of mine
such welcoming isolation.

Copyright 2009 JO Janoski

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Word Catalyst - January Issue

The January Issue of Word Catalyst Mag has been released. The front page is a wonderful tribute by Harry Furness to the poetry of my very dear friend and mentor, Bob Church. I must admit this month's artwork has stolen my heart away, some wonderful viewing for nature lovers everywhere. The photography section has a few shots I took of our recent snow/ice storm; and of course, Tales of Whisper Gap, my column, is ready for your perusal. Here's a snippet:

A box of cotton balls plopped down on his head from an upper shelf. The supply closet was exactly that, a tiny room barely big enough to turn around in. And he was trying to put the moves on a wiggling nurse.

"Dr. Ramsey, are you trying to seduce me?"

He looked at her with disgust as she spoke delivering the lines without feeling. How in the hell did they expect him to act with such an amateur?

"CUT! Marvelous, Pauline! We'll pick up tomorrow! Have a good night, everyone!" The director grabbed his black satchel and raced from the set.

"George, I didn't feel like you were with me in this today, were you?" She asked in gentle tones, slipping the script in her purse as they walked towards the corridor.

He shot her a blank stare. What was he supposed to say? Her acting was abominable. Who could follow her lines? But they were married...more