Grief, Peanut Butter, and a Border Collie


I cannot even find my picture of you, sitting in your favorite chair, the place you would go to eat your peanut butter sandwich after your walk.

Damn you for getting old, for stinking, for dying, you old mop, slopped about the house, black and white, tail curled, licking peanut butter off the roof of your mouth.

You loved to walk, scratching the wall, the leash hanging above, still like death but standing in heartbreaking anticipation. The restraint that so often muted your collie instincts marks your grave, hanging on a green stake above. A small but stunted tree struggles right next to it, above you. Was it the noose that held you back, or have you finally broken free of stinking, aging, and dying?

You were more than an old mop to me; you were my childhood, my youth. You were my companion and friend. You were a sweet animal among the cruel human and the psychopathic nature of Nature. The sound of your nails tapping the floor, the sound of you scratching, and, yes, licking peanut butter off the roof of your mouth. You, it, had a rhythm that gave predictability to the unpredictability of life.  

Your eyes, that of a Border Collie, big and brown, full of feeling, teared up once, when I yelled at you.

You died alone; I remember patting you on the head, your labored but soft puffing. You tried to hang on to the beauty of life, an oft-stealth flicker in this vast and timeless universe. 

I remember the day I got you. You cried for mom, and my fleeting child parenting skills went awash when you peed in my bed. My mom put you next to hers, in a box we got from the dollar store, and you became her fourth son and my third brother.

And I let you die alone; I couldn’t handle death, the death of my friend, brother, and of my childhood. I turned up the radio to block out the sound of the approaching reckoning for you and for all of us. Being denied leave for a dying son, my mother went to work while I went numb and blocked out life.

As silence engulfed my room, I no longer heard breathing from you. There you lay, a fragment of the brother you were, but I summed up courage and mummified you with the discount plastic garbage bags from the dollar store. One over your bottom, and a plastic bag over your head—a head I often kissed and pet; I taped the middle shut and carried you, like a sixty-pound baby into the freezer we call Buffalo, New York. I moved on the autopilot that abuse and harshness perfects.

We would put you in the ground, when life was awakening. 

Written March 1, 2008; revised May 2016

Earl Yarington

The Death of Density

Clickity, click, click

On the simple myth

Click bait, click bait

Why wait?

It’s a click or no?

A yes or a know?

Is that so?

What’s the difference really?

Spell check, spell check

Tell me that.

What to

Clickity, click, click?

We don’t want density

But simplicity.

I can click a life.

I just might

Download a woman here,

A man there

A click for a Clit

Or a click for Dick?

What’s the difference really?

One’s inside out, tucked in

Nicely done.

The other hanging out

While keeping it all in

Not a person really but a myth

An artifact that we

Clickity, click, click

To stop the pain.

If I can’t love you,

I will click yet another.

If we don’t agree

Simply delete.

Yes or no

It’s so?

We can find it all in a

Clickity, click, click

Except a smell,

A taste,

A touch,

Or a feel,

Or a feeling.

No, I want to be free

From destiny

Or is it density?

Spell check, spell check,

Which to clickity, click, click?

Malware, was that you?

What’s the difference really?

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

Writing Brother

In was you and me


That summer

I took $100

And bought a Sears electric typewriter,

A brother in disguise, and

You, a manual one;

 it was a Brother, too.

Oh, who would think that plastic,

And rubber,

And fresh-painted steel

Could be so romantic?

If Hemingway had napkins

We had Brothers;

You and me hugging

The table ,

Our brothers, and

The coffee machine.

We wrote that summer, though we were just boys

I, a novella, of kids running away

From adults,

And you, a boy running away

From life.

Yes, there were four brothers so long ago

In that room there.

Because napkins were too expensive.

Only one still writes.

The Brother(s) embrace no more.

Tribute to my brother; written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

Black Holes Are Where We Find Them

What if your life was at the bottom of that dude’s cooler?

Your eternity, that bit of liquid there,

You see it, rolling around the Styrofoam seams

Lost, wandering, this way and that way

Until it dries up, or the dog licks it

In hopes of something better.

You, YOUR life and dreams,

What then?

What does 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60

Or 70 matter … a century even?

Some live a week, maybe only a day

Others lose count or don’t count

They simply stop working.

It could be worse, right?

It could be maybe that muddy hole instead?

You know, the one your bare-child foot got stuck in

Back when you had hope and dreams?

No, better than plastic-type white

This one dark, warm and dirty—the primordial soup

–A mommy’s womb–

The other bright, artificial and painfully clean.

What we all seem to want but do not want.

What we want to be but are not.

But critters lie there

Or do they lay?

Often hard on the outside, soft on the inside

We, all wrong, soft on the outside and hard on the inside.

What if we are like bugs, too?

What if God is the squished bug you see, over there,

On that old book that no one reads

But you keep for no reason?

You like its oldness but don’t care about the inside.

Books are not like people with God’s innards smashed on the outside.

Maybe he, no her, yes, her

Those girls don’t need us.

They clone themselves and make a better you-me.

Because they cannot find love anyway.

But did you ever look close enough?

To stare at the dark eyes, all chocolate chip,

And see what 120 million years sees?

What does she see in thee and thee see in she?

What if a bug is more than a bug?

What if they are significant—in years—

And prophesied that they flew around the sun?

That they are the center?

How many have you killed

Like the dog that licked you up

Or the half-eaten chicken wing that you cannot finish?

It died for that.

It’s whole life to be “lick’in” or bitten only once

And tossed aside,

The creator mushed on a book,

Your life a pang of indigestion;

What if you could see you like others see you?

What a legacy in thee?

Are humans that important?

But how many have fallen in coolers, in mud pits

Or down a nose and throat

And swallowed?

No worries, they are healthy, much protein

Even spiders and houseflies.

Even you, with some extra fat and sugar though.

She made us all wrong.

Too big to be eaten

And too small to save the world.

Maybe we are just a mistake—the experiment that won’t go away—only 4 million years

And for all of this?

Maybe that is eternity? Chocolate chip eyes,

Or little black beads of pearl …

Black holes are where we find them.

No, it’s all wrong, the agnostic prophesy, of the once priest-like


That loved to love others that did not love back.

I’ve learned that God harbors in dark spaces:

Crouches, lurks, where no “good” soul wants to go.

We run from nature … from the natural

And drown and die in artificial coolers

All the while, believing that we are more important.

Look up at the sky

When it’s very dark

Drive out to red-neck country

And get a good view of what lurks above.

It looks just like a chocolate chip eye, the sky,

Only so much bigger than you

Staring back at you.

What is better?

When it’s dark?

Or if it’s white?

Does death know the difference?

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved (also previously published in book form under pen name yogiortner)


Should I love my IED

That goes off so suddenly

Not hidden underneath,

But for all to openly see?

It’s a love-pain in reverse,

Seldom often under earth,

Hidden horrors underneath,

When strangers plant IEDs.

The victims are living canvases

At the hands of angry “terrorists”

Whose bleeding bleeds through

The paining of others,

But what about their mothers?

The seed that is planted in

Love, lust, joy or hope

Despite life contraries

And love of Jove;

Living succeeds not in killing

With IEDs but from those

That succeed their decaying faiths

And dying fathers.

Legs cut off from the knees

No noses, hands or feet,

Or perfectly intact

Brains forever in

A “new crazy” retreat.

But should I love my IED?

The one that created me

Placed as a seed


In a womb

In hope

Or in lust,

Or wished love;

But when daddy is an IED,

Where the pain is tucked


Where the bomb is loved

From up above

Who then is the terrorist

To love?

Is it daddy, mommy,

Or thee?  

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved


They are scattered

Maybe all but gone now,

But I wish for a hint

Of them

In seeing them shine, then

A beautiful kind of embarrassment

for you, and for me.

That first day I was trembling hard

Away from mommy, the first time, pulled

From her smile and mommy’s tender-warm love

 to the looming pale-green dome

of bus number 46 in ‘76.

Toward the cold, stern and tired eyes of Mrs. Katiner.

I spell it wrong now, and would get Mr. Yustock’s paddle.

Him, too, I misspell, but I don’t misspell you, Renee.

But she put me with the tall and pretty blonde, more like a

mantis than a unicorn,

but so pretty was she,

with long powerful and lovely legs, for a child.

She knew I would not cry or tell,

so she kicked me hard for my sins

I had yet to commit.

Black and blue shins

All up and all down.

Her eyes flashed with a hatred,

I know not why

But I summed up the courage and stood up

No longer peeing in my pants

Too afraid to ask

I said, with big eyes and trembling voice,

“May I sit next to Renee?”

With long red hair and timid-shy face,

Glaring down at her coloring book,

I and she never said a word

For 9 months

we sat together.

You were the first girl … I asked.

You, were beautiful Renee,


Kind and feminine and lived at the

End of my childhood


in ‘76.

Whenever I see a little girl

With red hair and freckles,

I think of you.

She is iridescent, like you,

And, I the hopeful child again,

Just wanting to have a true friend.

Just a moment,

a happy spot of my childhood back,

one lost . . .

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved (previously published under yogiortner)

382 miles away

I drove back

382 miles and

39 years

To what’s no longer a home

Searching for something.

I killed him years ago,

But we have unfinished business.

The shovel is so cold to the touch;

Sad to think that such a thing

Puts one in the ground


Can dig one back up again.

He lay their 39 years just outside my bedroom window

When I was a child, and I killed him.

It is dark now, rural dark, not like you New York City folks,

So dark that only the demon eyes of your childhood stare back at you.

I trace my steps, though much bigger and slower now;

no less scared, maybe more,

to 10 ½ feet just outside the willow tree.

She’s still standing, towering over it, like his anger

That drove him in it.

I hesitate looking around at what was my identity

That no longer belongs to me, and I think that if I get …

Let me just dig a little first, I will fit nicely …

I dig in slow motion unconcerned about waking those sleeping

Unconcerned about waking him.

It is too dark to see, but I feel myself sinking

Sinking deeper into the clay-laden earth of Western New York.

I think, though numb, will some skin still be there?

Will the head I so often touched be unrecognizable to me?

Will there be his coat of tan and black and grey?

I panic, as the soil moans and the shovel screams less discrete;

She’s warm to the touch and is caressing something,

Maybe bones.

There is a flash and a bang from up above.

I recognized it once as my father’s window, right next to mine

Followed by the bathroom.

I felt a pulsating shock roar through my chest and something warm

Ooze all over me; then I heard another

Blowing my leg out from under me, and another

Killing the shovel this time.

I dropped in his grave.

The score is even now.

I was guilty when six, maybe seven,

When I rode over his paw with my Tonka truck.

He wanted to kill me but didn’t.

A week later my dad killed him with three shots

Just out of the window over there.

He attacked my dad, you see, because I made him angry when I rolled my truck

Over his paw.

I am 382 miles from home now.

Can you take me back to my daughter and son?

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

Just Want

Guys just want to see pretty girls;

Girls just want to be unseen;

Seen only by lovely Desire;

Guys like them young;

And say, “I like [young] … girls women?”

Women girls say, “I like bad boys”

Boys men say, “my bad”

But how bad-good or good-bad?

Guys just want to see pretty girls

Girls just want to be unseen;

Guys like them how young;

Girls like them fun;

Guys can look at your daughter;

And see what you used to look like


Girls don’t look at boys;

Women don’t look at boys either,

Or bother to smell their sneakers, socks, stockings, and what else who knows?

Guys may pause though

Even if not into girly stench-ed scented sneakers,

Because you looked like she when

You were young, and life smells only sterile.

Like we died inside formaldehyde.

Who is more beautiful?

The tensed and troubled face attached to your body that looks like mine,

Or a face that evokes and mirrors Desire at the same time?

We cannot have it Desire permanently.

She comes fast and goes slow and may never come back again,

Though her remnants lingerie-like linger, longing long after.

Even after you are gone, she will be there.

Just not with you.

Nothing to smell or hold on to, no one that is.

Guys just want to see pretty girls

Girls just want to be unseen by

Low self-esteem.

That’s why they want to be unseen,

Because they cannot be in love if they are in love with love.

But guys I know better;

They just want to look at [young] girls,

And girls just want to be seen by what they like to see.

We can choose to chase life, or

Choose to move closer to death.

There’s a sense there’s danger in both there is.

Girls just want bad boys;

Guys just want to see pretty girls,

Both just want a thrill

But to see if they are still alive

 or alone.

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

If it’s a thing

It’s funny if a unicorn was a thing.

A thing to touch

To feel;

It’s funny if a rainbow’s end

Was a treasure trove

To steal;

It’s funny if treasure was real;

Was there ever a pot of gold

For real?

It’s funny if people loved freely

As they do hate

For what is real;

I prefer rainbows, and fairy dust,

1-million-year old nymphs

Trapped in adolescence;

Where unicorns gleam,

Even in the midst of misty


Over, what is there to

Imagination’s lost?

To being sane,

Or is it better to be static,

Manic, hypo- or hyper-manic?

It’s funny if imagination is a thing

To eliminate my pain

For real.

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

Kids Are Not Meant To Be Puzzles: Tales From the Brig

Syrian girl wounded, credits Abd Doumany / AFP / Getty

[Reflections from the Brig[1]: Kids Are Not Meant to Be Puzzles]

“Is that one over there peeking out?” I say, waving to a gunner. The dirt just under the toenail smiles at me. Or is that a frown? Silly me, I think, I am looking at things the wrong side up.

These, though, are independent digits. Like reddened slugs or overfed worms. Their status miniscule, yet their usefulness has helped rule the world. Here they appear to be shitting red on the ground.

“These didn’t have a chance … yet.” I say it to the seasoned boy-gunner, whose searching for friend number 5.  Having walled off shock, he looks at it. It’s smiling at him.

“This is what’s called a tragedy, if I am getting my Shakespeare correct.” I say.

“FUBAR[2] is what we call it, Zoomie[3].” He says.

He nods decked out in cammies[4], and I think that this is what a philosopher would like if 23 and a Marine. I am too numb, and he too young to know the digits’ effect on us. It will come soon. At present, one survives with humor or acronyms.

There is one, and another. The last digit I wrestled from a feral. Pulling a John Wayne[5], the gunner shot it. I thought, then, of my cat, who’d nestle on my bed and affectionately nip at my own toes.

Maybe that feral is not a feral but the girl’s cat wanting her back? I do not say this to the gunner though. I push it in like a toe stuck in the crack of a dam. Even Marines have their limits, their heroic vulnerabilities. But I must have looked at him like Puss in Boots.

“Don’t be a Wookie[6],” said the gunner thoughtfully, “Come to think of it, that’s a promotion for you, Zoomie.”

I smile. I think he’s connecting with me.

Feet are safe. I recall driving next to an SUV. The girl on the passenger side had her feet stuck out the window. She was young, a minor, but I don’t have any idea how old. She had black stockinged feet, transparent, the kind guys like me like. I looked at them and then at her face. She looked at me looking at her and smiled, approving my approval of her. The moment is still vivid, though I , too, was young then.

They are supposed to be safe, even for a fetishist. They are seen everywhere.  Yet, if emphasized, shown off, they become the most intimate parts of us. I recall the red-faced dad scolding his beautiful daughter for having her bare feet up on a public table. I liked them; mad she took them down. I accused the dad for being embarrassed. When I was gunner-young, like the Marine, I was not so corrupted. Trauma, the eighth deployment, has taught me otherwise.

There is a humanity in them, in feet, and especially with young girls. Both are taboo yet in plain sight. I knew that the girls liked my uniform more than I. With age comes such a realization. We all like what we cannot have, so we pretend and accuse others. Like bare feet, we dress up what IED’s[7] strip away. The terror of our bodies, of death. Each pair is different, a unique history in a commonly fearful world. If I love or admire them enough, I know whose feet I am looking at.

I need more than digits. Not all match either. When together, each toe is unique, that is if they are on the same foot. One must look at the other foot to notice perfection, to get it right. Yet no pair is alike.  Some toes, when together, form an arch, while with other feet; a toe pokes above the others, almost awkward. They are the narcissistic toes. Toes, though, need arches and soles.

I find one on a roof and the other the gunner found, sunning itself near a well. Marines are multitaskers. I like them like I like feet. They can smell good or bad and are shaped differently, but you always know a Marine is a Marine, just like you always know a foot is a foot, whether barefoot, socked, or booted.  

There are others scattered about. I learn to compare them. After hours, we find and match carefully preserving them under the immense heat. Through the carnage we peer for more toes, feet, and body parts with mechanical indifference.

I think that is a head there with a colon on the side; no that foot is the wrong hue, the other worn. It must be an adult’s. If the feral was still alive, it could have that one.

No worries, the gunner found friend 5 intact, sound in body but the threat of TBI[8] after effect. He simply rose up among the ruins. After getting him in the chopper, we continued. His friend telling him to carry on.

“People are not meant to be puzzles,” the gunner says.  

“Don’t you have an acronym for that?” I blurted back, fighting against the depth of the statement.


I nod, wondering what the difference is between FUBAR and TARFU. Who thinks of these things, I wonder. Is there a Marine board of officers that debate the nuances and how each are applied?

I try to reconstruct, recalling the picture of a little girl. Her tentative face shown behind all ten toes ending just below the balls of the feet. She was sitting in a car posing for daddy. They were going to the park. The beauty of that image, the vulnerability of it was intoxicating. I think she didn’t like the picture but did not know why. Daddy did and posted it, not seeming to mind the sexual comments like, “I came a lot.” She is just a kid, I thought. Thrill knows no boundaries, pain becomes a permanent shadow.

I blurt out, “Maybe seven or eight?”

“Negative, we have eight.”

“I mean the girl, about seven or eight?”

The gunner is silent for a moment, then looks at me sincerely, “This is a different kind of Shit Storm[10], Zoomie. You can tell the age of a toe?”

“When you see enough of them, gunner, you can see the whole person,” I reflect.

The Marine observes methodically what’s in his hand, “Kids are not meant to be puzzles.”

Girls have beautiful feet, I thought. These, too, were so. There is no time for fungus, calluses, hammertoes and yellowed nails. These, though, are no longer so natural. We tag them, put them in a Ziplock, and put them in the cold. On a bad day, we wrestle the remnants of girlhood from her grieving mother, our weapons, “Lock and Load[11].”

Without thinking, words flooded out of my mouth, “I sniffed a girl’s sock once.”

The Devildog[12] hardly seemed to notice.

“I mean, a woman’s,” now sounding more stupid and perverted.

Walking in front of me, the Marine turned, equal in rank but younger in age, “SNAFU[13], PeeWee[14], we all have our poison.”

The gunner, turning back and scanning forward, “I sniffed a Doggie’s[15] ass once, not a Jarhead’s[16], too much respect for the latter, but like feet, an ass is an ass.”

He turned back, “What did it smell like Pouge[17]?”

“Nylon and sweat. The only high I ever got. They were those little black, transparent socks. You, know, like pantyhose but socks.”

“Yep, SNAFU, it is. But I guess not all feet are the same then?”

“Yes,” I agreed drawing parallels, “All asses shit and all feet walk, but they look different, some prettier than others. The high, though, is daring and intimate. It can bring the person back to life, so to speak.”

Seeming to read my mind, the gunner asked, “Why … girls?”

“Because there is a thrill in having what I cannot have. I am not someone that would hurt them, you know.”

The gunner grinned. “Even though you’re a Zoomie, I won’t tell. I didn’t smell a Doggie’s ass, though. I like belly buttons but try and focus on tits to make me feel normal. I get the girl thing, PeeWee, little chicks.”

We moved toward the beach, spotting someone buried in the sand. Only the head was shown.

The gunner turned to me, “Now regardless, Zoomie, this is a perfect example of a new kind of Shit Storm. Who gets to find out?”

I pulled a coin out of my pocket, a child’s toy I found on my last deployment, and said, “Heads or Tails?” I won or lost, depending on how one sees the world.

As we approached the person, the age and gender became more apparent.

“That appears to be a women-child” the gunner said,” That’s the worst. Sorry Pouge, given your predilections.”

There was no blood. IEDs are weird that way, one moment we trudge through liquid bodies and blood, the next is a perfectly enact human being or body part that rises above mounds of human grief and anger.

The face is pretty, as little girls’ faces are, and the eyes are open, large and sad. I gently grab the dark wavy hair, hold my breath and pull upward.

A blood-curdling screech came from somewhere, a scream that sent both of us back to boot camp. I fell back on my ass, dropping the hair. The Marine almost pulled another John Wayne. Getting my senses, “I yelled, “Don’t Fire! Hold your fucking fire!”

The gunner froze. The head’s face was trembling, tears running down the cheeks.

“She’s buried!” Without further instruction, the gunner covered me and called for assistance. I dug and dug thinking what to say to a traumatized girl?

I knew Arabic as much as a smartphone, but I repeated the words, “Aman, mamun, hob” as I dug. The girl was trembling, but the warmth of the sand may save her. As we pulled her out, the gunner pointed, below.

“Her fucking feet. They are gone.”

Otherwise, the girl was as intact as if she dropped from the sky. I could tell the gunner was startled. I’ve seen many dead kids, but not the living dead. I put her in my arms, all eight years of her, and ran toward the approaching buzz of the chopper. I looked down to see if she was still conscious. She peered through me toward heaven. I repeated, in panting breaths, “Aman, mamun, hob.”

It then came to me suddenly. “Devildog,” I yelled, her feet! We have them tagged in the Ziplocs.” Get them to the Medics.”

I knew they were hers.

In the two minutes I held her, she felt like my own. I pushed her toward the medic and motioned that we have more of her in a bag. The Marine, handed over the cooler. The girl’s hands clutched to my body and would not let go. The medics put us in the chopper.

I saluted the Marine below and would never see him again.

Walking toward me, stumbling on what makes us conquer the world, was Ayda with those big eyes. I held an American flag. It was The Long Walk[18] toward me. I tried to stop from crying but could not. She was crying, too. As she got near, I gave her the flag and told the translator that this was from Sgt. Brian Forthwinger’s family. He was the Marine that helped me save her life and put her body back together. Sgt. Forthwinger was severely wounded by an IED a few months ago and penned this letter just before he passed:

Dear Ayda,

When carrying you to the chopper, my friend, the Zoomie, with his poor knowledge of Arabic (to be expected from Zoomies) kept telling you, “safe, secure, and love.” We have an acronym for secure, because, for service members, security is everything: we lock up, close, take care of, and finish up for the day. We don’t have an acronym for safe because there is nothing safe about our mission. To be safe is to put others in harm’s way. We can make things secure. Making things safe is what a puddle jumper[19] would do (I love you guys, really). I think I am dying, and will not see you, but you make me feel secure in dying, in knowing I played a part in saving you when having to kill others. You are not an enemy but a friend. Life may be TARFU but security makes them SNAFU. We don’t have an acronym for love, but in the Marines, love is something that is understood. The love of country, freedom, family, and God, or Allah, as you say. For this Devildog, the acronym for love is you, Ayda. You are indeed “one who returns.”

With Love,

Sgt. Brain Forthwinger,


[1] Military Prison

[2] Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition or Repair.

[3] What the Marines jokingly call a member of the Air Force

[4] Camouflage

[5] As noted in USMC Hangout, any brave or bold act that is done in the movies but not done according to USMC (military) protocol.

[6] A term used for a female Marine

[7] Improvised Explosive Devices

[8] Traumatic Brain Injury does not always show all symptoms immediately.

[9] Things are really fouled up

[10] Usually means combat or a violent occurrence

[11] Loading your weapon

[12] Another name for Marine

[13] Situation Normal but Fucked Up

[14] A reference to a popular childhood character who was played by a man that was caught masturbating in an adult theater.

[15] Member of the United States Army

[16] Marine

[17] Anything other than infantry, used here as a general term for a military guy that is not a Marine.

[18] Often, a service member walks toward a detected IED alone, in armor, known as The Long Walk. See Brian Castner’s book The Long Walk.

[19] Teasing term used on members of the Coast Guard

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved