The Garden of Diminishing Returns


chart of peter camejo's diminishing electoral ...
chart of peter camejo’s diminishing electoral returns (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


There were cantaloupes, squash, tomatoes galore,


Green beans, watermelons, green peppers and more,


Growing fast, trying to crawl out of sight,


I thought I could hear the garden growing at night,


But in the mornings when I checked the plants,


The vegetables were half eaten and covered with ants,


No matter what I tried or wherever I turned,


The results were the same—-diminishing returns!


I sat out in my chair with my dog on the lawn,


Hoping to see some critters, I’d wait until dawn,


Ground squirrels were scurrying, rabbits came dancing,


Cicadas were chirping, deer were prancing,


Everywhere I looked there was some kind of motion,


The garden was alive with activity and commotion,


Chomping new flowers and munching new shoots,


They were all dressed up in their evening suits,


There was a call to order and they all sat down,


The biggest rabbit was worried, I could tell by his frown,


“We’ve got to control our classes at school,


There’s been multiplication against the rule,


Deer have been entering and then going out,


I’m not sure what’s that all about,


And the squirrels have been going nuts,


So there you have it, no ifs, ands, or buts,


We’ll have to move on and find new grounds,


This garden will be tagged as “out of bounds”,


But if we destroy too much we’ll soon learn,


One small garden yields diminishing returns,”


They thumped out a vote and gave him a hand,


It was clear they agreed with his conservative stand,


The majority was liberal enough to see,


If they harvested carefully there’d be enough for me,


I did my share, toiled all my life,


Built up my security without any strife,


I planted, watered, and tended to more than enough,


I thought if they wanted, they could help me with stuff,


I explained to them I still have lots to learn,


But I don’t like the idea of diminishing returns.






Returning Home


Fear & Anticipation
Fear & Anticipation (Photo credit: hartlandmartin)


Returning home


With trepidation I set out across country, driving towards the sunset.  After months of wrestling over what to do, my destination was set, my mind made up, and now I was on my way.  One hour passed and already I was waffling. “What if I can’t do this?  I’m not ready for such an undertaking.  I should wait until my life improves.”


I stopped for coffee and took a few deep breaths.  “I can do this.  One mile at a time, one city at a time, and one day at a time and I’ll be there before my mind rebels again.”


Into the dark forbidding night,


I worried and fretted as I took flight,


Taking charge of a new life direction,


Heading for my faraway destination,


Discovering old fears in life’s seams,


Finding new fears in all my dreams,


Returning to my hometown,


Facing the emptiness deep down,


Nothing before me, everything behind,


As I traveled what would I find?


Mile after mile the night called,


And with morning’s light I was appalled,


Everything was arid as far as I could see,


This was not the place for me,


I had left the forests in my hectic pace,


Now rocks and sand were in my face,


Still I was determined I had the power,


To continue traveling hour after hour,


Yet as I left my old world behind,


I became eager to see what I might find,


All the resources I had at hand,


Became power under my command,


My confidence grew as the miles flew by,


Life was insisting on yet another try,


My fears were gone and my strength reborn,


I was no longer tired and mentally worn,


I decided life wouldn’t be easy but I’d stay the course,


Until I claimed my fortune and then I’d rejoice,


One mile, one day, my world loomed large,


My fears were gone, I was back in charge.










Heartbroken-A Scene From Hell


Thrill Kill
Thrill Kill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


His world was in turmoil,


He was not getting the breaks,


It was easy to blame others,


When his life was at stake,




The pressure was on him,


To try harder or give in,


And escape those safe walls,


That he’d built within,




His environment prepared him,


It whetted his appetite for blood,


He learned to hate,


Things that weren’t understood,




Physically and mentally,


He wanted an enemy to destroy,


And he searched diligently,


For his skills to employ,




He needed a thrill,


He decided to shoot and kill,




He connected with new friends,


Who disdained boundaries and borders,


He roamed the internet daily.


And dreamed of a new world order,




Disturbed by foreigners who came,


Seeking peace and a brand new start,


Into the land of opportunity,


Each visitor ready to do his part,




Some were dressed differently,


And different languages were spoken,


But to him, they were invaders,


The immigration system was broken,




He knew how to kill,


And he wanted a thrill,






He blended right in,


He was a neighbor but no one’s friend,


If he turned on unsuspecting people,


The population could be thinned,




He was ready to protect the country,


It was the latest trend,


He believed aliens were terrorists,


Ready to strike from within,




Into the air he shook his fist,


He didn’t understand,


That he might be the terrorist,


Who would stir terror across the land,




If his plan worked well,


It would be a scene out of hell,


He was cold and analytical,


As the final moment fell,






He would have liked to confide,


But he listened to the voice inside,


He rushed into the room,


Prepared to meet his doom,




A shot echoed from wall to wall,


He stumbled and fell,


A bullet from a policeman’s gun,


Erased his intent and broke the spell,,




There was little time for a warning,


The policeman acted on a hunch,


Within moments a crowd grew,


And they were an angry bunch,




“Police brutality!” they shouted,


“The young man didn’t have a chance,


He hadn’t harmed anyone,


We saw that at a glance.”




The young man’s weapons were loaded,


The bullets were real and live,


It was obvious if he had started,


Few would have survived,




The crowd refused to listen,


After he showed them the guns,


They stubbornly insisted,


“He didn’t shoot anyone,”




Labels of victim, martyr, innocent man,


Were quickly applied,


Stories were widespread,


Saying the policeman would be tried,




The policeman could see,


He was in a real fix,


But he’d rather be sued by a few,


Than carried out by six,




There was quite a commotion,


Until notes were found,


That explained the young man’s intent,


To put dozens in the ground,


The policeman was declared a hero,


By the mayor of the town,


But there were scores more,


Who greeted him with a frown,




Outside the sun was shining,


On the policeman’s ceremonial day,


But another young man lay buried,


In a grave not far away,




A slaughter had been aborted,


A man’s plans exposed by his mother,


The policeman was heartbroken, too,


Because he shot and killed his brother.














Love Found a Way


Golden Valley, AZ sunset funnel cloud
Golden Valley, AZ sunset funnel cloud (Photo credit: Uncle Jerry in Golden Valley, AZ)


Red sky at night, sailor's/shepherd's delight.
Red sky at night, sailor’s/shepherd’s delight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In the icy throes of winter,


Your love was frozen too,


My heart hoped for early spring,


There was nothing else to do,




Inclement weather and funnel clouds,


Took away your romantic bent,


I waited for the signs of summer,


To show you my intent,




In the sizzling heat of summer,


Your heart remained frozen still,


Packed among wounds not forgotten,


Love had long lost its thrill,




Summer days were too hot,


I thought our shadows would melt,


You kept me at arm’s length,


True love you never felt,




There was one season yet to try,


Before all was declared in vain,


Autumn rains swept the past away,


Allowing love to soothe your pain,




I was patient though eager, too,


To see what you might say,


When I asked you to marry me,


Love finally found a way.


























The Reality of Life

Everyday Life in Armash
Everyday Life in Armash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am bathed now as I once was, Sponged off and towel dried, But where are the powder and soft skin, I think both were gone long ago, I eat now as I once ate, Soft spooned foods then towel wiped, But where are the foods that I like, Gone with the teeth I once had, I listen to stories as I once did, Short stories that make me glad, But where are the fairy tales of greed and lust, Swallowed up in the reality of everyday life, Where are the friends I once knew, Who traveled down these roads of life, Have they changed, too, as time went by, Or have they escaped the ravages of time, As I sit and remember the days gone by, I find I have returned to my nest, Where things are the same as they once were, Swallowed up in the reality of life.


Winter of 1946–1947 in the United Kingdom
Winter of 1946–1947 in the United Kingdom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clouds surrounded you as we walked along the beach,

Wisps of clouds were caught in your hair,

You laughed as I tore them away,

Telling me that wisps could never keep me from you,

That was untrue,

For many small things have come between,

My love has slipped away,

Your head is still in the clouds,

And I can hear you laughing once again,

At those wisps that block the sun and hide the moon,

But this time your laughter is not for me,

Wisps mask my pain and gentle rain falls,

I will remember and I’ll tear the wisps from my dreams,

For the small things, those wisps which block the sun and hide the moon,

Kept me from loving you.

Why I Write

"browned" gets a mention in the press!
“browned” gets a mention in the press! (Photo credit: mr brown)

“Uncle Dan, what did you want to be when you grew up?” My nephew’s words tore into me, reminding me of people who had stood in my way urging me to do sane sensible things. “Go out into the world and get a real job!” “Do something useful.” “Working for a living is honorable.” Not one of my friends or relatives told me to follow my heart or pursue my dreams. In fact, one of them scoffed when I said, “I want to write poetry and short stories. I want to describe the world.” “There’s no money in writing,” he said. “It’s a waste of time,” said another. “Who has time to read?” My nephew looked at me curiously. He was still waiting for an answer. What could I tell him? I began as I believed I should, honest and straight forward. “I always wanted to be a writer and I waited until now to begin.” In the early evening Cicadas were saturating the air with a steady din and it continued even after the stars began poking through the black velvet sky. I’d listen and try to imagine a far away planet where strange creatures buzzed about giant cities. As the animal kingdom came to life small animals in desperate flight raced to stay ahead of their pursuers. The chasers were relentless. A scream, then silence. Another hunter had made a kill. The actions were out of sight and sudden, but I could imagine even the smallest details. My thoughts would drift back to space where my other world existed. My imagination was rife with possibilities. Were larger animals chasing smaller prey just like the ones I knew about, or did the smaller animals control the larger ones? My dreams were filled with stars and planets and my travels were swift. After hours of dreams, I would wake early in the morning. I would bounce out of bed, get dressed, and go outside ready to be immersed in new adventures. But sometimes my dreams didn’t stop on time. “Danny, wake up! You’re wasting time. There are animals to feed and chores to do.” My brother’s voice stirred me to action. A few minutes later the cows were contented again, eating oats and hay. The pigs were fed and after scattering corn for the chickens I went inside and cleaned up for school. I could hardly wait to tell my friends about the sounds of night and my imaginary planets. As part of our seventh grade English class Miss Brown often let us decide what we wanted to write about. Then she looked directly at me. “Nothing about planets and stars or stories about aliens or animals. Write about things you do during the day.” I wanted to protest but I knew Miss Brown would stand her ground. Many times she had told me, “Write about the things you know, not the things you imagine. Start over, Danny, and this time please follow directions.” After many attempts at describing real things, Miss Brown and I finally agreed upon a compromise. If I wrote and satisfied her requirements, I could write sci-fi and fantasy stories. In order to get my needs met I had to write more. Although my production increased, the quality of my writing didn’t. “Your writing isn’t good enough,” Miss Brown told me. “Don’t quit your day job.” At conference time she told my parents I daydreamed too much. “I don’t think he can be good enough to become a successful writer. Guide him towards the trades. That’s where the money is.” Throughout high school my teachers reminded me, “Very few authors became famous. Many of them suffered through bouts of depression. Some died young and others died poor. You have some potential but get a job that pays a steady income.” In college writing was on a collision course with literature. One professor ranted, “Read every story seven times and squeeze it for meaning. Otherwise you’ll never learn how to write.” Because of him and other like minded souls I decided that newspaper writing was the way to achieve success. But times were hard and over the next ten years several newspapers folded or consolidated for financial reasons. Jobs were hard to find and harder to keep. “Get out of the newspaper business,” a crusty old reporter barked. “Writing doesn’t pay very much but it steals your soul.” By then I had become an English teacher, although I still freelanced for small magazines. I continued to produce articles just for my vanity. I was not the only educator who dabbled with poetry or stories. Education was packed with aspiring writers with distinguished backgrounds. “You’re nothing special,” I was told. “Other writers are ten times better than you.” I joined writing groups but even there the news was grim. “If you submit your stories or novels to publishers, expect to get rejection slips. Even the famous authors were rejected enough to paper the walls of their houses.” Years passed and technology changed. Now older and wiser, I decided to write for fun and to entertain. If someone actually liked what I wrote, it would be good for my self-esteem. I became a blogger. There were a few followers but mostly I wrote for myself. I wrote stories and poetry but I didn’t really know how to entertain. I didn’t know how to add music and color. All I had was words. As I look back I still have not achieved my goals nor have I satisfied my soul. I still write because I want someone to understand that life is more than video games and TV. Perhaps I also write because I want to learn more before I die. As I write, my understanding becomes deeper and sharper but I think I’d have to be immortal in order to become a good writer. I still have so much to learn and so much to describe. Life is real. Life is earnest. Life is too short. I looked at my nephew. “I’m still growing up,” I said. “I’ve only changed on the outside.”

“Beware of the Fourth Tomato” (Revised)

State fruit - Tomato
State fruit – Tomato (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Beware of the Fourth Tomato!”

“Four tomatoes for a dollar!  Four tomatoes for a dollar!”

I watched as eager customers hurried towards her.  The tomatoes looked ordinary, yet people were patiently waiting in line.  In reality I guessed it was not the tomatoes that drew people to her booth, but her own ability to mesmerize crowds by her mannerisms and antics.  I studied her more closely as I looked for signs of magic or hypnotism.

A small crowd gathered at the downtown farmer’s market listening and watching every move.  Her voice floated down the aisles, “Four tomatoes for a dollar!”

At first glance I saw nothing unusual.  Her features did not demand attention.  She had short brown hair, a pleasant smile, and a mature body with generous hips and breasts.  In this part of the world that was common.  But what was different?   I listened closely.  Her voice had a distinctive ring to it.  When she spoke, everyone stopped what they were doing and faced her.

Her eyes searched everyone, looking for the bravest and the most curious.  The group wiggled and squirmed as if they were on a hot plate.  “I’ll take some,” a small woman shouted.  “Perhaps they’ll make me taller and more beautiful.”

No one suggested that there was no chance for that.  They were caught in the moment, believing the tomatoes were magical.   The crowd surged forward, pushing and shoving and the tomatoes sold quickly.

Even I was spellbound before I woke from my stupor and bought the last basket.  “Beware of the fourth tomato,” she whispered.  “It’s very special.  You’ll see,” she stated ambiguously.

Since her tomatoes were gone, she waved goodbye to those who were still milling about.  Her words continued to echo inside my head.  “You’ll see.  You’ll see.”

As evening approached the fourth tomato seemed to emit a red glow but the glow faded and was soon gone.  It had to be my imagination.  But when it was completely dark the vendor’s words returned.  “Beware of the fourth tomato.”

Eagerly I bit into the first tomato.  Nothing happened.  No genii appeared and showered me with money.   No magic carpet appeared and I didn’t get smarter.

I stuffed the second tomato into my mouth.  Juice splattered everywhere, running down my chin and onto my shirt.  Still nothing.  “This is disappointing,” I murmured.

I sliced the third tomato and nibbled each piece daintily.  If I showed I had manners, maybe magical powers would descend on me.  I waited patiently, but just like the first two times nothing happened.

“Every tomato in this basket looked the same.  The first three tasted like ordinary tomatoes.  How could the fourth tomato be any different?”

I had already eaten three tomatoes and I didn’t feel like eating another one.  I started to throw the tomato into a dumpster but small movement caught my eye.

An old woman staggered from behind a bundle of rags and cardboard boxes.  She motioned me closer.  “Please, sir,” she croaked.  “Give me your spare change so I can have one last meal.”

I didn’t want to give any money away.  Did she think I was some kind of fool?  Quickly I said, “You’re in luck.  I have a special treat for you.  See this lovely tomato?  It’s magic.”

I placed it in her hand and walked off, feeling pretty smug with myself.  I didn’t have to share my money and I could feel charitable after giving the tomato to the old lady.

Sir?” The woman’s voice was different.  “Sir-r-r-r-r.” she purred.  “Please come back.”

I turned around and gasped. The old woman wearing rags had changed into a beautiful young woman, her shapely form revealed even in the darkness.

“Where did you come from?” I asked.

“Sir, you gave me a tomato.  I took a bite and here I am.”

That was my magic tomato!  I snatched it from her outstretched hand and took a big bite.  Juice squirted in several directions.  If the fourth tomato could change the old woman, it could also change me.  Expecting immediate results I danced in front of her.  “How do you like me now?” I croaked.

Something was wrong!  I was not young and athletic.  My legs wobbled and my balance was off.  I stretched out my hands.  They were wrinkled and old.  What had the tomato’s magic done to me?

I faced the young woman.  “I love you.”  Why did I tell her that?  The words spilled out of their own volition.  I had no control of what I was saying or doing.

“Get away,” the woman shrieked.  “You’re hideous.  I don’t know you.  I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

“Please let me explain,” I said hoarsely.

She continued to back away, her eyes wide with fear.  I stood still, confused by all that had transpired.  We were both different and I didn’t like it. How could the magic be undone?

But the magic was still at work.  As dawn’s first tendrils of light reached into the darkness, energy poured into my body.  My youth was returning.  I raised my head to give thanks.

Even as I grew younger and stronger, the young woman was aging.  “I love you,” she whispered.  The magic was returning both of us to our original state of being.

But as before, I was wrong.  Every morning and every evening our lives changed as we passed each other in youth and old age.  We were put together by magic and the outcome was already set.  There was nothing to do by accept our fate.  I grew to love her frailties and she mine.  We thought it would be until the end of time.  But I was wrong.

I would like to say we lived happily ever after and that would be partially true.  But that’s not how magic usually works.  It teaches a lesson.

In a dream I was given a choice, a choice that left me in a quandary.

Sweat dripped profusely from my brow.  Once I decided what I wanted there would be no turning back.  What should I do?  Would my choice be “Old woman during the day/young woman at night?”  Or should I choose “Young woman during the day/old woman at night?”

The dream was as real as it could be.  I knew things would never be the same. I awoke still undecided.  But while I lay there an arm flopped across my chest.  Startled, I opened my eyes. Next to me my wife lay peacefully dreaming.  She looked younger today than yesterday.

I slipped out of bed and walked into the bathroom.  I glanced into the mirror.  I had gotten older.

I returned to bed but this time my wife watched me with interest.

“I had a dream,” she said.  “We were both old and young at different times. I was not comfortable being separated from you. I realized that I’m enjoying growing old with you.”

My worries about growing old were forgotten.  I just needed to enjoy my life every day, morning and evening, and take life as it came.  I pulled her close.  “I love you,” I said simply.  Being young or old didn’t matter as much as loving each other just the way we were.  Life would always be good if I kept that perspective.



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