Artwork and Prose by Belinda Subraman and Mark Blickley
“Trees are sanctuaries. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” Hermann Hesse
Belinda Subraman is a mixed media artist as well as a poet and publisher of GAS: Poetry, Art & Music video show, and blog. Her art has been featured in Flora Fiction, Unlikely Stories, Eclectica, North of Oxford, Raw Art Review, El Paso News, and Red Fez. She sells prints of her work in her Mystical House Etsy shop.
When I was alive, my favorite joke to tell was the one about the woman who was arrested at a cemetery for peeing in public on her husband’s grave. When the arresting cop said she must have really hated him, the woman was shocked. “Hate him? I was crazy about him. I’m just crying from the place I miss him most.”
Yeah, I know. The joke’s vulgar and silly. But guess what? It always cracks me up when telling it, and truth be told, most people at least giggle if not outright belly laugh. So, if it offends you, get over it.
My name’s Craig Luzinsky and I recently died at age 66 of what my liberal lesbian daughter calls Covfefe-19. Zoe’s a smartass, but I don’t blame my President. I blame China. Both my parents died at 66, though 4 years apart. Who’s to say I wouldn’t have bit the big one at age 66 anyway? I did have diabetes. To quote my favorite President about the hundreds of thousand recent American deaths, “It is what it is.” Not wearing a mask or social distancing didn’t kill me, it was my heartbreak over the loss of my God-given right to protest those fascist restrictions that did me in.
I am honored to have my favorite leader’s signature on my Presidential Memorial Certificate, issued by the sitting Commander-in-Chief to all veterans who died with an Honorable Discharge. God knows what my lefty daughter will do with that noble document. Hope he won re-election.
I’m a Navy veteran with three years submarine service. I earned my dolphins, and am proud to be called a Bubblehead, the Navy nickname for sailors who serve on underwater boats. My wish was to be buried in a National Veteran’s Cemetery, lying in proud solidarity with my military brothers, although I don’t have much use for those Air Force vets who consider themselves military. Most of them were a bunch of wusses, except for the combat pilots. Or if not planted in a military cemetery, I wanted to be cremated (the VA pays) with burial at sea, a proper end for a Cold War warrior.
Neither of my requests were honored. Here’s a tip for those of you still walking above ground—avoid seriously pissing off your kids for long swatches of time. I was estranged from three of my four kids and as luck would have it, the only child who continued to have contact with me was my self-proclaimed “progressive” youngest child, Zoe. I have her to thank for the horrible place I am in today. I can only dream of being buried in a proper graveyard where anyone who feels the need could piss on my grave if they want. I learned in the Navy that urine is sterile.
Every night the news would run sob stories about how all we Kung Flu victims on respirators have to die alone, without the comfort of family beside them. For Christsakes, we’re all born alone and we all die alone. Suck it up. Who needs a bunch of “loved ones” crowding around your bed, gawking down out at you as you rattle out a final breath and lose control of your bowels? Give me a break. They pay people to clean up that kind of mess.
Zoe and her angry what she calls “wife” would often visit and argue current events with me. I think I did an admirable job defending myself, as they usually stormed out of my apartment, speechless. I may have won those battles with Zoe and her girlfriend, but damned if they didn’t win the war. My environmentally zealot daughter is turning me into a tree. And believe me, it couldn’t be further from a green peace. It’s humiliating.
Zoe had me stuffed into this biodegradable plastic pod that looks like a giant egg. To fit me inside, I was placed into a fetal position. You believe that? A powerful, manly person like me going out like some helpless naked baby. Hope she’s enjoying her last laugh at my expense.
Here’s her plan. As my burial pod disintegrates, the surrounding soil gets nutrients from my decaying body and the tree sapling they planted above me begins to take root. I’m so lucky to have died in one of the 33 States that allows this burial mockery of patriotic, God-fearing men like me who served this nation. I went from a proud former First-Class Petty Officer to a goddamn eternal tree-hugger.
I must be planted in some kind of left-wing pod forest cemetery because there are a bunch of other people down here and we are all connected in some kind of crowded, twisted network. Most of them look like brown and beige freaks, but some of the women are still pretty hot, though I could do without the smell of our evaporating gasses. In a weird way it reminds me of being close quartered in a below ground submarine.
A pleasant surprise is how really sweet it can get down here, an added treat for a former diabetic. Every root pumps out a sugar hormone into other roots that often leaves me feeling like a young sailor on shore leave. I did get upset at first when other guys were pumping me full of sugar and not just the ladies, but it’s executed with such organized harmony I can’t help but admire its military-like precision. Sue me.
Don’t get me wrong. This place is no hippy-dippy paradise like my daughter probably believes it to be. Actually, Zoe’s not such a bad kid. She’s just mixed up. I don’t really buy that she buried me in a fetal position to humiliate me. She probably figured it was something joyful. I used to get tired of her always asking me, “Pops, don’t you feel any joy or passion? What gets you excited or curious?” I told her I haven’t felt any of those things since her mother died.
When I was a young sailor, I used to eat magic mushrooms with my buddies. I liked them very much, especially all the intense, colorful visions during sex. But the fungi down here (that’s what they like to be called), these mushrooms, are truly magical. In between my sugar rushes I get crackling jolts of electricity from this internet of shrooms. These flashes of energy pinpoint exactly how we’re feeling. Trust me, it’s not euphoria and bliss pulsing in and out of my body. It’s most often a melting anger alongside cackling surges of fear.
We are all wired. And uncertain. Yet none of us are alone.