A Poem for The Man in the Wings

Mt Iliamna and Mt Redoubt

Mt Iliamna (left) and Mt Redoubt (right), two active volcanoes in the Alaska Range across from Ninilchik, Alaska. Photo by Arlitia Jones


Someone I knew died last night. Suddenly. Heart attack. His passing leaves an empty space in our community.

I didn’t know him well, but that’s beside the point. He was kind and creative and made the coolest puppets I’d ever seen. Each one was a work of art, distinct in their detail and personality. I used to wonder what his house looked like with a crowd of his creation filling it. If they all talked at once, what a fabulous cacophony!

He always encouraged me in my writing. Whenever he saw one of my plays he always made it a point to send a message congratulating me. That meant a lot. I know he’d seen a helluva lot of plays.

He was a member of the IATSE union, worked in the wings at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. When I attended plays there I could always see his distinct outline moving set pieces in the blue dark of the scene-change light.  When he found out my play Rush was going to go up there this February, he messaged me to congratulate me and we made plans to celebrate with a beer at Darwins, his hangout pub right around the corner.

It’s the little things like that you look forward to. Sure, my play is going up, there’ll be opening night stuff happening, all the big deal stuff going on, but I thought it was really great that one of crew, one of the “cool” people in our theatre world, wanted to have a beer with me.

That beer is still going to happen. Anyone who wants to join me, Feb 14, yes, valentines, can lift a pint to Buzz Schwall and all the people who’ve touched our lives. All the people we miss.



Here in the Valley Between


Everything today asks the same question,

the great mystery our lives:

How long do we have here?


Across the inlet, two volcanoes

stare into the east, their steep faces

bathed in the soft light of this particular earth day.


But what of evening? when the sun

fires the atmosphere

and the inferno remembers


why it is here among us

–Creation and Destruction–

How audacious I am


brushing my teeth against decay, boiling water

for an egg three minutes from now, telling a friend I will attend

the Breast Cancer luncheon next Wednesday.


Tomorrow and tomorrow

and the day after that, I have plans

here in the valley between two volcanoes.


Probably not tonight, but eventually

they’ll shatter our sky. Let’s agree now to look

for each other in the morning.

–Arlitia Jones


Goodbye, Buzz. We miss you. (Photo grabbed from Christina Kouris’ Facebook page. I liked this one because of the bee and because of his smile.)

Poem for the Reader to Title

Eklutna Lake, Alaska. Photo by Arlitia Jones.



Think of it as a green forest

where sun travels through

on no particular path,

with no real destination but the whole day itself.

There is song, the smell of earth,

a small table of water where the moon spreads her writings.

Each leaf is a green-lidded eye.

Love who you love. There is nothing

that does not see you.



–Arlitia Jones

There is a man with a gun

We wear boredom and routine like armor. At work in the shop, I inhabit the same chair, strum the same calculator, answer the same phone and field the same damn questions I’ve been dealing with for 20 years. The day to day, same ol same ol is a stultifying fortress we sit inside. Nothing ever changes, right? Until news comes over the radio–which usually plays the oldies because god forbid we should sing new lyrics–news comes over the radio that a gunman is lose in the neighborhood.

In Anchorage last week a man fired shots at a police officer and fled on foot. With his gun. This was two blocks from our shop. A huge man-hunt ensued. They blocked roads. Knocked door to door. Released the hounds and called in the chopper. We had a description. White guy with a gun. That was it. I locked the doors and went back to my desk, and watched for white guys who might be walking through our parking lot for no good reason. Let me tell you, when the news is telling you a gunman is on the loose, every guy that walks through your parking lot has no good reason. They’re all scumbags, rapists, psychopaths. Every man is a suspect. Every man hides a gun.

Let me just say, they caught the guy the next day, clear across town walking around in another neighborhood where he was upsetting status quo for other people, and therefore not my problem anymore, right?

Two things about this whole thing strike me: 1) There was a gunman loose within blocks of our shop and I kept working. I added and subtracted numbers, as if that were going to save me. Oh, he won’t come in here because I’m working. I have to have these invoices done by 2pm. And I always have these invoices done by 2pm. These invoices are ‘perennial with the earth.’ Nothing will stop the billing of a customer!  And 2) Every man I saw walking became a suspect. Not just a suspect. A dirtbag. A piece of shit. A monster to set the dogs on. My distrust is deep. Maybe that’s good. It might keep me alive someday. But maybe it’s also disgusting.

Why do we name it monster?

I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.

I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.

This is my first blog. I am in unknown waters. The online world is scary. Confounding. My writing is done with a pencil and paper. Not with code and tags and widgets that all need to be enabled and mapped and linked and clicked at like an arcade game. But this is the new world. I am crossing a dark ocean to get to it. The monsters I encounter in the voyage become part of the tale. And that is what I’m here to do–find a story to bring back and tell.

Its eyes blazed across the ocean roil. Its teeth gleamed in the bright salt air. A roar rushed from its maw as if a thousand souls had taken up the cry of selfhood at once. You don’t believe me? I tell you, it’s out there. I’ve seen it.

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