James Dale Merrick
“Magic.” That word entices us to dream. When the Mexican government attaches such a name to a city in Mexico, it is indeed magic. It’s an honor based on the municipality’s beauty, historical importance, or its natural wonders. Accolades befitting royalty are heaped upon it, and the venerable title of Pueblo Magico (Magic Town) is bestowed on the community. It becomes a tourist’s dream destination.
THE LAST PERFORMANCE
Where I come from in Southern California, people don't talk about our last performance. It’s not considered socially acceptable dinner talk, even though most of us go to great expense to prepare in advance for that end-of-life finale. If it ever comes to talking about my mother, I have a different reason.
GARDEN OF DREAMS
It all began with an unremarkable decision to plant daffodil bulbs around some boulders during the fall of 1999. The mounds of rock appeared near the neglected rustic A-frame my partner and I had purchased the previous summer in Bear Valley Springs near Tehachapi, California. My goal was to clear the debris from the long-abandoned culvert that snaked its way down our hillside property line. The boulders were partially buried in a depression that worked its way downward to a rough and sagging twenty-foot square redwood platform. I imagined the deck had served as a gathering place for prospective real estate buyers. Not in my driven thoughts did I think the appearance of those abandoned boulders would possess me for the next ten years.
California, June 28, 2013. At first glance, the Bakersfield Californian’s headline failed to grab John’s attention. He was too busy stirring the sugar stuck to the bottom of his coffee cup. Then he sat up--so suddenly the coffee splashed over the words, “California Approves Gay Marriage!” He grabbed his cell and punched in the message: “did you see the headline? gay marriage oked. can’t believe it! we’ve got to celebrate tonight!”
NATURE'S WORST NIGHTMARE
On September 16, 2017, Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico with sustained winds up to one hundred seventy-five miles per hour. It is considered by many to be the island’s worst natural disaster in recorded history. More than three thousand islanders died as a result.
Traveling to Haiti shivers me all over. I've been there before. The trembling starts in my spine and climbs the stairway to my brain. Then Memory plunges its crookedness to the tips of my toes. I shudder and twist in my airline seat. I press my hands against my forehead to squeeze out images of what I know.
JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS
Written by James D. Merrick, January, 19, 2021 In high spirits, my Juan and I departed early that fourth of July morning from our Bakersfield home. We were headed for a family reunion in Redlands. The weather person had forecast a sunny clear-sky day for all of California. That morning, while I put on my sport shirt, the anticipation switch in my brain clicked into fast forward. My fingers fumbled with the buttons as the good kind of jitters circulated inside of me. I knew from past gatherings that being with family members would fill me with good vibes, bad jokes, and scrumptious food. The thought of being immersed in a pool of hugs, handshakes, and kisses made me pay special attention to my reflection in the bathroom mirror: I wanted to look my best. I beamed at the thought of socializing with seldom-seen members of my clan and especially my former wife, Nancy. But the die was cast: no one, not even she, suspected the devastation already taking place inside her body.
SILHOUETTES AND SUNSETS
Silhouettes captivate me! They inspire my poetry. The 5-7-5 haiku that follows is my response to photos taken at sunset during the final fifteen minutes of light. If you have never considered photos of silhouettes as prompts for writing, I urge you to do so. The experience opened my mind to themes I hadn't thought of.
EARTHWORM RECIPES Written by James D. Merrick, July 15, 2021 Have you ever thought about using earthworms for food? Well, we did, about a hundred of us. No, we weren’t desperate for food, or stranded on a desert island. But we were living on an island. Hang in here with me and I tell you how it all happened.
BECOME A LIFE MODEL
BECOME A LIFE MODEL Written by James D. Merrick, July 13, 2021 Pose nude? No way! Rethink that feeling. You can do anything you set your mind to. I did. At sixty-eight years of age I became a life model for college and university art classes in the area where I live, Bakersfield, California. For twelve years, posing dominated my life with exciting, challenging, and rewarding experiences. And I got paid for it! You can too—at any age.