Posts by Ed Lehner

I am a retired professor and presently a luthier, musician, poet, and novelist, and live and play in Durango, Colorado. When not writing, I repair stringed musical instruments, hike, bike, do yoga in our beautiful San Juan Mountains. I am the author of "San Juan Sunrise" and most recently, "The Awakening of Russell Henerson". Please follow me for more of my musings and poetry on my blog, www.oldturkblog.wordpress.com, and my author webpage at www.amazon.com/author/edwardlehner. I'd love to have you follow my page.

Seven Angels

Seven Angels flitted ‘round my brain

as sweet butterflies of light might

lighten my darkness in deep nights

of existential despair.

 

Seven Sisters of Pleiades suffer

from the heavens of Taurus to 

salve the desire to return to 

my souls nakedness.

 

Hyades comfort me as Athena

protects me from Atlas’s shrugs

holding this lonely blue planet

above with its eternal turmoil.

Why I Write

I write because I have learned to love the process of involving myself in a fantasy that seems to unravel itself as I enter the words into my notebook or computer. I began writing free form poetry and journaling back in the 70s when I was in college after I had my first literature class where I discovered how to really read during our reading and discussion of Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. I had been an avid reader from when I first learned to read and had read many books, but there was a difference after I learned to really dig into a story, see the plots and subplots, and see the characters and how they were developed by the author. I also remember reading my first poetry in that class and was particularly taken by the words and the simplicity of Robert Frost’s writing. 

Later on, as a professor of graphic design I became interested in Concrete Poetry. I discovered Mallarme, other verbal abstractionists such as the Beats and loved the crazy poetry that they produced. I researched the concepts of not only why and how they created the design but also the words.  

I continued to buy notebooks in which to journal my thoughts, my dreams, my observations, and more free form poetry. This continued for many years, but other than my journaling, prose was never anything I attempted. Writing a story simply seemed too scary and overwhelming for someone who almost failed high school english..

Around 2014 I did start to experiment with prose and wrote several short stories that weren’t really short stories because, as I later found out later, they were too long and complex. 

Then, in the December of 2015, I came down with pneumonia after a European trip. I am normally an overactive individual who could never sit still long enough to write anything longer than a page. With the pneumonia, I was kicked in the butt and my energy level rather than lasting a whole day, would only last until noon or shortly after, at the best, and I would have to sit down and rest. One day, I began to write a poem which strangely turned into a short story? But there was more to the story so I kept on. Every afternoon for three or four hours, I wrote and wrote. The characters took over my life and literally began to tell me their story. I know this may sound weird, but that’s how I found the excitement of writing. I begin the story, develop my characters and let them tell me their story. I don’t outline anything. It is totally free form and I let it go and simply put down the words.

When I was at the Naropa Institute some twenty years ago on sabbatical from teaching at Iowa State, one thing I came away with was the phrase, “First thought, best thought”. That has been my mantra ever since and has helped keep me from overthinking my art or my writing. Of course, there is much editing involved after all the fun. 

I like to write in the afternoons. I read and do some quick editing on what I have written on the day before. This both helps me clean up some things and puts on the path to continue. I then write for usually one to two hours, maybe 1000 to 2000 words without editing other than what spell check pops up on my laptop.

I have written two novels this way, the first, San Juan Sunrise, which came from my connection to a women’s support group in the town I live in that my wife was a board member and which we both continue to support. The story centers around the amazing town of Durango, Colorado and the area in which I am privileged to live.

My second novel, The Awakening of Russell Henderson, came from my several readings of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and is loosely based on the many camping trips my wife and I had in the western United States as well as some of my experiences over the years. However, while the characters are completely fictional, some are based on composites of folks I have known over the years. And again, the characters, once developed took on a life of their own and gave me a great story.

Dana’s Story, Part 15

The band played two nights in Iowa City, then onto Des Moines for two nights. I contacted my parents and asked if I could come and see them. My mother said it would be best if I didn’t since my father still had not gotten over my divorce and subsequent three year relationship with a woman. I was both disappointed and a little relieved. I did manage to convince my mother to meet me for lunch. She was stiff and uncomfortable which made me feel the same. We parted on awkward terms promising to ‘keep in touch’.

After their gigs in Des Moines, we moved on to Omaha, Denver, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and then Durango, Colorado. I had called my office and extended my leave. I had settled into the rhythm of the road and was having the time of my life. My four companions were good to be with. They all knew of my situation and were sympathetic and supportive. However, my two weeks of freedom sadly came to an end and I had to get back. After tearful good-byes, I flew out of Durango to Denver, then Chicago. 

Back in Chicago, I reluctantly went from the airport to the condo and when I walked in, I got sick to my stomach. Thankfully, my stomach was empty an all I did was retch into the commode. I felt like a stupid fool, used by that  two timing deceitful woman. I couldn’t bear to stay there and went to a hotel. The next day I went into my office and tendered my resignation. I committed to two weeks to get my caseloads and affairs in order and I was free without a clue as to what I would do or where I would go. I knew Chicago was history.

One year later

I walked out of my rented old adobe house, my home for the last nine months, two blocks off the plaza into the dazzling bright New Mexico morning sunlight. I put on my sunglasses which I learned early on to always have with me. I love living here in this amazing magical place. The sky was more blue than any I could ever remember seeing. The deserts and mountains offered spectacular colorful canyons and vistas. Sunsets were most always as spectacular as Fourth of July fireworks.

During my trip with the Movers, I couldn’t stop thinking of Santa Fe. The two nights and one day when I was there with them was enough, I was smitten. During my two weeks finishing up at the Chicago office, I had done inquiries into some firms down there. Several expressed interest, impressed by my resume, and one in particular sounded like a good fit. I flew to Albuquerque and took the commuter train up to Santa Fe for an interview with the man who started the firm and two others, a men and a woman, both close to my age, a paralegal and an office manager/receptionist. 

The interview went well. All of us seemed to fit together well. I left the interview thinking of these people as old friends. After passing the New Mexico Bar exam, I was in full swing. I loved the work, everyone was laid back, normal dress being jeans and open collar shirts, comfortable dresses and slacks, unless we were in court, then it went more business like. We had a mixed group of clients. I was usually delegated to family and divorce cases which was my expertise and my first love.

I again felt free and alive. I had nobody in my life other than my colleagues who all became close friends. I kept in touch with Russell, Hannah, and Karen.  It was like I had a rebirth. Everything was new and exciting. Santa Fe had so much to offer in culture, restaurants, and beautiful places to explore. 

I had not heard anything from Jess since I left a little over a year ago. Then one day to my surprise I received a letter from her, with a Paris postmark. I left it unopened, sitting on my desk staring at me for over a week. Over lunch on a Friday, I told my female colleague, Susan about it. She was the only one in the firm who knew about my past which I spilled out one night over dinner and too much wine.

Susan insisted , “When we get back to the office, open it. At least I want to know what she might have to say.”

“You’re just so incredibly nosy, so all right, I’ll do it, but I may need a drink afterwards,” I responded, chuckling as we walked back the single block to the office.

I sat down at my desk with Susanne sitting across fro me, took a breath, cut it open and pulled out the single handwritten sheet of paper.

My Dearest Dana, 

I have finally gotten the nerve to write this. I want you to know that I was truly in love with you. I wanted to tell you about Rémy and little Isabella many times, but lacked the courage. I am ashamed of the way all this happened. I can only ask that you forgive me for my deceit for which I am truly sorry. 

I have sold my business and moved permanently to Paris to be with my husband and child. He is an important and respected financier and my absence was becoming a problem for him. I do love him and my daughter very much and am happy I made the decision to leave Chicago and my mid-west roots for good.

I am working for a gallery here in Paris in Montmartre that specializes in rare prints so I am fortunate to be in my element. It’s not the same as running my own business but in many ways it is so much easier and less stressful. My French improves every day now. I am working on getting rid of my Chicago accent. 

I think of you often and wonder where you are, how you are, if you are okay. I pray you are doing well. If you can find it in your heart, I would love to hear from you. Please forgive me.

With love and regret,

Jessica

I kept staring it for a moment, finally letting it slip from my hands onto my desk. So many memories flooded my head, so many good and now this. I was so naive and vulnerable those few years ago. Never again. 

“Are you okay?” Susanne asked, interrupting my revery. 

“I don’t know. I feel like such a fool. This letter . . . this letter is just her bullshit, wanting forgiveness, wanting . . . wanting? ‘Love and regret?’ What does that mean? I have no idea. I’m so done with her . . . forever!” I was starting to choke up with anger, sadness and regret.

“It’s okay,” Susanne said, trying weakly to reassure me. “It’s okay. You’re here. This is now. And you’re amazing. You’ve moved on and are continuing to move on. You have friends here. Good friends.”

“I know, I know. I hear you. It’s just . . . just hard.”

“I can only imagine all you have told me. It’s weird for me to comprehend, I know. I don’t know what else to say.”

“Say nothing. I know. Everything you say is true. It’ll be okay. I was getting over all this and then she had to write this bullshit.”

“It is bullshit. Total bullshit. So let it go.”

“Thanks. Let’s go out and have dinner and celebrate tonight. Celebrate freedom. Yeah!”

“It’s a date. Let’s do some lawyer shit. Okay?”

“Hell yeah. Let’s do some law.”

Finis

God Has Left

God has left the building . . .

How was her performance?

Was there a sing along?

Did she have the harp band?

Or solo with only her guitar?

Did she wear her black gown?

With the high collar?

Or her white suit and flowers?

Was there screaming?

Was there gnashing of teeth?

Did the crowd wear sackcloth?

Who cleaned up the ashes?

Sorry I missed . . .

Maybe I’ll catch the next show.

Or . . . maybe not.

Railroad Days

railroad days

freight hopping

cigarette smoke

filled

lonely box cars

rolling 

clattering

empty liquor

bottles

back and

forth with

rocking 

rolling

track steam

engine soot

from here to there

from there to here

grey faced 

bib coverall

spirit broken 

old men

from dusty

unpainted 

hobo jungle 

tin cup 

coffee empty

lost souls

going home

gone 

since

the old dirt road 

was paved.

Dana’s Story, Part 14

I met up with the group at Russell and Karens’ parents farm near Iowa City that afternoon. I was nervous about seeing my ex-in-laws, but they were more than gracious towards me, making me feel more than welcome. So much had changed in the last few years since divorce.

I had neither heard from Jess nor had I called her. When she left, our relationship seemed to be falling apart. I needed, I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to try to sort things out. So, late the first night at the farm I excused myself and went outside into a little garden area with several outdoor chairs and called. It would be early morning in Rome and I might catch her. Her cell went to voice mail. She had told me many times before each and every trip she took to always call her cell, never her hotel. That never did make any sense to me, so I decided to call her hotel and was quickly connected to her room. A man answered after the first ring.

“Bonjour, c’est Rémy.” (Good morning, this is Rémy.)

“Oh, I’m sorry. They must have connected me to the wrong room, I was calling for Jess . . .”

“Oh, Jessica. Of course. One moment. Jessica, Sweetheart. You have a phone call My Love.”

A moment later she answered, “Caio, Marco? We should be there around 10:30.”

“This isn’t Marco and who the hell is Rémy and what’s with the ‘sweetheart’ and my love’ stuff? What’s going on?”

“Goddammit! I told you to never call my room! I can’t talk now! Don’t call back!” Before she could click off I heard a child’s voice, “Maman, Qu’est-ce?” (Momma, who is it?)

I stood there starring off into the night with the phone still to my ear waiting for someone to tell me it was a wrong number, that it hadn’t been Jess, somebody else named Jess. I felt dizzy, like I was suddenly transported into another dimension where nothing made sense. Rémy? Sweetheart? My Love? Maman? I felt nausea rising and I went to a bench and sat. I was barely able to breathe. 

After a few minutes with my head between my knees, the nausea and dizziness passed. I called her cell which went straight to voice mail. What would I say anyway? Nothing made sense. I had been in a relationship with this woman for over three years. She had a child? A family in Europe? Was she married? I suddenly felt like the biggest fool in the world. Six week long trips to Europe every year interspersed with numerous week long trips to New York. She was not only print shopping, she was seeing her family. What had I gotten myself into? 

Karen came and joined me, “Hey, you’ve been out here a long time. Are you okay? My god, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s wrong?” 

My shock had turned to anger and now, with Karen, it turned to tears. I blathered out everything to her through my sobs.

“I’m such a fucking fool. How could I have been so blind and stupid? I don’t know what to do.”

Karen put her arm around me, “It will be okay. Truly. This is bullshit, but you’re gonna be alright. You’re with friends whether you believe it or not.”

We sat for a long time, not speaking. Karen’s arm around me was comforting and felt good. Things were rolling through my mind like a runaway freight train. I didn’t ever want to go back to Chicago, much less ever see Jess again. My life as I had known it was no more. 

The band was playing two nights in Iowa City. The next night I went in the to help Karen with the merch table. It was fun and took my mind off Jess. My anger with her had turned into seething hate. Neither Karen nor I had shared what had happened with the others. I tried to act normal and must have since no one seemed to notice my mood.

The next morning, Jess called, her first words, “What doesn’t, ‘never call my hotel’ mean to you, you stupid bitch. You could have ruined everything. Goddammit! Where are you?”

So I’m a bitch now? Interesting. I managed my cool, answering calmly, “I’m in Iowa at Russell and Karens’ parents farm and plan on hanging out with them for a week on the road or maybe longer if I feel like it.”

“So, what prompted that?” she asked incredulously and angry.

“They invited me, and since you’re off in Europe, I accepted their invite and took a week off to travel with them. I was lonely and needed a break.”

“Just like that?! How can you just up and leave your work on the spur of the moment?”

“I lied and told them I had a family emergency,” I answered with a chuckle.

“Dana, how could you be that stupid?! I they ever find out you’ll . . .”

I was smiling inwardly at her pathetic attempt to avoid the elephant lurking somewhere in the nether world of transatlantic cell phone connections.

“So what the fuck if they do. Right now I give a shit, Jess-i-c-a, m-y  l-o-v-e!” I drawled with an exaggerated French accent. “So who the fuck is Rémy? And Maman? You have a child?”

“He’s a friend, just a friend. Nothing more. And . . . ”

“Yeah right, ‘my love’, sweetheart.” Fuck you Jess. What are you? A fucking lesbian in Chicago and a hetro with a family in Europe? Fuck you!”

“You’re overreacting. Really. You don’t understand . There is an explanation.”

“Over reacting?! Explanation?! You’re the one with Rémy calling you ‘sweetheart’ and ‘my love’. And  who is calling you ‘maman’ a trained monkey?” I asked with sarcasm oozing from my words. “What the fuck is Rémy? A lesbian with a deep voice and a man’s name?”

“I can explain . . .”

“I’m sure you can conjure up more lies like all the lies of the last three years. Fuck you! I hope to god I never see you again. You’re dead to me . . . Bitch!”

I clicked off and turned off my phone.