Just a Brief Word | Happy Monday

I expected to return to this space over a week ago. However, the move that was scheduled for November ended up taking place in January. I could probably spend several posts pissing and moaning about how annoying it has been to be living through thcoffeeandjournale holidays in a half packed state, but I won’t because it is boring. I will say that I did plan to get more writing done than I actually did over my break. Actually I did get quite a bit of writing done, if you count the humdrum of my dutiful entries into my handwritten journal, most of which are also quite boring but there are a few pieces that might be worked into drafts here and there.

I have been trying, mostly unsuccessfully, keep from getting sucked into the internet and visual media since the turn of the year. This is largely because I kept finding myself just staring at Twitter or Facebook mindlessly refreshing the screen, and too many hours wasted on the Tube just looking for nonsense to watch. So I’ve been catching up on a bit of reading actual books, in lieu of internet binging. Most notably I have been enjoying Horoscopes for the Dead, a collection of poetry by Billy Collins. As always I’ve been dabbling with a bit of Pratchett as well. Other than that I’ve been doing a little light reading on the technical aspects of writing, but I really have a low vexation threshold for that. Mostly because I find it tedious, unimaginative and, well I guess Raymond Chandler summed it up best when he said, “The moment a man begins to talk about technique that’s proof that he is fresh out of ideas.”1

Anyway reading print books is still difficult for me since the soberness, so it is slow going but steadily improving.

Mostly I am writing this to check in so that I don’t neglect my space too long, and to let people who actually read my what have you that I’m still around.Taking a break every now and then is all well and good, and I do have a lot of personal work to get th
rough. Still unpacking and all. I do suppose however, when you find yourself making a second rubber band ball it’s time to start writing again.

rubberbandballs

That’s all for now.

Happy Monday.


  1. He also said, “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” Which is a reasonable solution to many aspects of life.2 
  2. Viva la footnotes! 

Happy Humbuggery

I haven’t had much time to write in the past week. My job has been a bit on the demanding side what with the caterings for seasonal parties, and the local university’s graduation ceremonies bringing in a couple of thousand extra people into town. All of whom needed a place to have a good meal, most of whom decided that had to happen between five and seven p.m. on Saturday night. I thought I had bulled through it and managed to sleep in on my first day off in a week, but when I awoke  this morning I was introduced to fresh hell that I could no longer put off participating in holiday preparations with the family.

I am neither religious, nor am I a fan of gross consumerism so pretty much the whole holidays thing is lost on me. I am all about good will towards men, so long we’re speaking inclusively about the entire human race. Provided ,of course, that inclusively they leave me to my own devices and don’t go trying to throw any holiday cheer my way. Especially the carollers. I can’t believe we live in world where gangs of roving merry makers are allowed to go around singing at decent hard-working people. What do I pay taxes for, I ask you?

Anyway, the majority of society has these things called holidays. I also have a nine-year old daughter, and as I recall the path to disillusionment and bitterness in adulthood does indeed start with the childhood wonder at the magic of this particular season. In result I am required to do holiday type things. This morning I took her out so she could get her mother a present. To this end my wife is getting a hot glue gun for christmas.

The evening was spent putting together a rather sad little tree purchased at the discount store. Not a real tree of course. I am fairly sure that this one is made from recycled plastics and disappointment. Then, there was the annual sorting of gew gaws so that the could be hung on the skeletal piece of greenery. Nothing glass mind you, because inevitably the damned cat is going to climb up it and knock everything off, and nothing of any significant weight because It would probably make the poor thing look even more depressing. But, it is up and has been sufficiently admired for the time being, and now my family has gone off into separate rooms in order to avoid any uncomfortable togetherness.

So the point of all this is that for the next few weeks I will be busy doing things I do not in general approve of and then moping about how little I have accomplished for the year, and finally making a great deal of overly ambitious and most likely empty promises to myself about the next.

So I hope you had a Happy Monday, and all have a wonderful whatever it is you’re planning on having.

Let’s pick this up again sometime in early January shall we?

Hounds

He was running.

That’s all Josh knew. He was running away. Faster, he had to run faster. He had to escape the howls and barks running behind him.

He had been traveling along the highway, trying to make it south before the weather changed. It hadn’t been a good couple of days. Most of them spent getting hassled by small town cops. He managed to hitch a ride with a guy that agreed to take him as far as Clementsville. The dude seemed alright at first talked a lot of religious nonsense, Josh had learned to tune that crap out after a couple of years of hitching. After a couple of hours in the guy started getting creepy. He started asking Josh a bunchof pervy questions about himself. All sorts of bad experience told him it was time to bail.  He told the guy he needed to take a leak, and  got him to pull over. Josh got out and tried to grab his bag from the back of the truck. Pervy guy saw this and jumped out of his seat. Josh just bolted into the woods. The bag was just stuff, it maybe everything he owned but just stuff.  

He wound up trekking pretty deep into the woods just in case the weirdo decided to be persistent about looking for him. He got farther in than he had planned but, through experience, was able to figure out which way was south and started walking. It was getting dark and all of his gear was in the back of some creeps pick-up. He really hadn’t set out planning on doing survival camping today. At least the moon full so he would be able to see where he was going. He figured on traveling through the woods for a while, find a reasonable place to hunker down and head back out to the highway in the morning and try his luck thumbing up a ride. It was a couple hours later when he ran into the asshole with the dogs.

Josh spotted the light from the campfire a little ways off. He didn’t see any people but he could see the dogs lying about near the fire. Huge black dogs, some kind of hounds he was pretty sure. They were noisily chewing on their evening meal. Josh figured it was just some rednecks out hunting hogs and getting drunk. That type of good old boy was usually friendly enough but he figured it was best if he didn’t spook the dogs by sneaking up on them. While he stood there wondering what to do he felt a hand fall on his shoulder. He wheeled around and came face to face with this really tall psycho wearing a ghillie suit.  Josh started to back away cautiously and raised his hands.

“Hey sorry man, didn’t know you were out here. I’ll just be on my way.” Josh peered over his shoulder at the dogs, they didn’t seem to know he was there.

“You should run.” The man said, as if to no one in particular. He was wearing a crown sort of thing made of antlers.

“What?” Josh heard himself questioning what was clearly a sound idea.

The man took his distant, blue eyes off of Josh’s and motioned with his oddly long chin towards the dogs, “You run, they chase. That’s how it works.”

“How what works?” Josh, looked over his shoulder, the dogs weren’t paying any attention.

“The hunt, now run.”

“Hey look,” Josh slowly backed away, “I don’t want any trouble from you, or your hounds.” Maybe, he thought if I just move real slow I’ll get out of this. He’d been on the road long enough to know dogs. They’re way more likely to ignore you if you just don’t run.

“Run.” The hunter said impatiently.

Josh took another cautious step back. Still nothing from the dogs. He breathed heavily.

Run! The thought screamed into his brain and down his spine. His heart slammed blood into his legs. The dogs looked up suddenly and then Josh’s legs took over.

Then he was running.

That’s all he knew. He had to run. Faster. He had to out run the howls and barks that were chasing behind him. Faster. His lungs burned. His legs ached. He knew he couldn’t stop. He had to keep going. He had to get away. He had to… Where was he running to?

After a few years on the road he was no stranger to running. Away, was important. That was always first priority. But, you needed somewhere to run to. You needed a plan. Dogs, what was the dogs plan? He crashed through the brush and low hanging branches as he pushed forward.

People, People was always part of a good plan. Get to where the people are. People out here, in the woods, nearest to town was maybe twenty miles down the highway. Which way was the highway? Could make it to the highway. There might be a passing car, a cop, someone who could help. The highway. He could move faster on flat ground. So could they.

Running.

Running water. Some how through the pounding of blood in his ears, over the howls of his pursuers he could hear it.

Water. There was a stream ahead. The highway, he remembered. The highway ran over a stream. The water might throw the dogs off. It lead to the road. People, get to the road get to where there’s people.

He surged forward, heading for the sound of the water. Legs pumping faster, burning. His foot slid sideways as he planted it on some wet leaves. His other leg buckled. He fell, sliding down an embankment. His head struck against a rock. The world clouded. For a moment felt warm. He was bleeding. He was falling. He was fading.

Stark coldness woke him as he rolled into the stream. His arms flailed. He tried to right himself. His hand caught something. Sharp. He cut himself. He grabbed anyway. He pulled himself up. The thing cutting his hand came loose. He stumbled. Reached out with his other arm. Found his feet. Standing again. Shaking ankle deep in the water. His bleeding hand still clenched around a piece of rebar he’d wrenched from the mud of the stream bank. He panted heavily as he wiped away the blood from his forehead away from his eye. He could hear them coming. He ran plodding through the water, towards what he was sure the highway.

Down the stream. To the road. Get to people.

He kept moving. He was cold. Blood kept running into his eye. HIs legs ached. He couldn’t tell how bad he was hurt. Later, he knew, later he’d feel all of it.

He stepped out of the stream after a time. He couldn’t hear them after a while. Had he lost them? Where was the highway? He should be able to hear cars, even this late. What time was it. His eyes drooped just a bit. His pace slowed. He staggered from side as he jogged along. He was tired. He had to have lost them. He need to rest just for minute.

A twig snapped behind him.

He spun around and lashed out with his blood soaked right hand. The metal bar he still clung to struck the mouth of the hound just as it was lunging. He cut his hand again on its razor teeth.

The beast leapt sideways and let out a long wail of pain as it rubbed its face in the dirt. An acid smell filled the air. The black dog’s cry was answered by it’s brothers off in the distance.

Josh ran.

A stumbling, half-hearted, run.

He was going to die. He was going to be ripped apart by this fucking psycho’s dogs he knew it. His feet kept pulling him forward. Down along the edge of the stream. It was over.

The sounds of branches breaking behind him.

Tears began to stream down his face, washing the trickling blood from his eye. He passed through the edge of the woods.

Excited yowls and growls of eager mouths

Josh stumbled forward, finally collapsing near the deserted highway, next to the old drainage pipe that let the stream run under it.

Hungry black shadows at the edge of the trees.

Sobbing he pulled himself into the drain and curled up. The cold water flowed around him.

The shadows came forward and stopped at the entrance of the pipe. They sniffed cautiously at its edges and whimpered. They circled the highway, to the other side of the pipe. Josh shook in fear and cried. He waited. The dogs barked and lunged at the entrances to the pipe, never quite coming far enough in to reach him. From both sides of the drain they bayed at him. 

Josh screamed out at them, in great sobbing breaths. Why didn’t they just kill him? They just kept at it, growling and barking. Menacing from the outside all night.

The long hours passed, and as the sun began to come up the dogs quieted. Josh peered through his hands. As one turned and walked back into the woods. Just like that, as if he no longer existed.

***

Josh woke up crying. He sat up and grasped the piece of rebar he kept near his bed. It always made him feel better, more grounded. The dreams were getting worse again. Bea said they would around this time every month.

Sometime after the dogs left, he crawled out that pipe. Made his way down the highway. He found pervy guy and his truck a few miles later. He’d had some kind of spear through his chest. But the keys were still in his truck, as was Josh’s bag. He drove it, through various scenes of horror, south til he got to Clementsville, or what was left of it. There were people there. Most of them digging graves. The rest huddled around a pizza shop and listening to the old woman who ran it. She took him in and got him cleaned up. Some young girl named Harper treated his wounds as he told them his story.

She told him that the dogs could smell the iron in the rust of the drain pipe. That like all fey they were loath to touch it. That corrosion was what had saved his life. That if they had caught him and killed him, he would become one of them. Rebirthed as a hound in the huntsman’s pack.

“Not many people manage to get away from a wild huntsman,” she told him when he had finished, “but you outlasted his hounds and survived til sun up. For that insult to him, he’ll chase you for the rest of your days. Even in your dreams. Best you not wander far from The Circle on nights of the full moon.”

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Glorious Morning

What a wonderful feeling,
To have woken up late,
on such a bright new day.

To have shrugged off, for just this once,  
The unreasonable demands of the clock,
And silence its scream for attention.

Having nowhere particular to be,
And no need to bend to the whims,
Of an all too practical world.

To taste your coffee once,
Then let it just cool a moment,
Before the next lazy sip.

To sit and just simply enjoy,
Even for a short time,
The warmth of wanton idleness.

Oh such glorious mornings,
You will never know
How much you are missed.

I Don’t Own a Tie | Happy Monday – December 12th, 2016

It occurred to me recently, as I thought about attending my daughter’s holiday chorus performance, that I do not own a tie. It’s not like it was a formal event but it just struck me. When I announced that I intended to rectify this deficit in apparel, my dear wife was gracious enough to point out that I did not in fact own any clothing that wearing  a tie could possibly enhance. I was dismayed by this and skulked on back to my room to consider this.

She, as is usually the case, was right. I don’t own anything resembling actual dress clothing. The last time I needed a suit was our wedding day. Since then my activities included working all the damned time, lying about the house, abandoning my hopes and dreams, and until about four years ago1 being out drinking in dives till they threw me out2. As a result of this my wardrobe has evolved in a more utilitarian direction. When the odd situation comes up where looking like a bum isn’t generally desired getting myself dressed has become a bit of a stretch.

To start with I have to carefully sort through my pants. They are basically all the same make and model of slacks. Black, or at least most of once were when purchased. What I’ll be looking for is the pair with the fewest, and smallest spots where bleach or degreaser has splashed on them. It would also be preferable if all of the belt loops were intact. Speaking of which I don’t seem to own a belt either, the last one seems to have disintegrated with age some months ago.

There is then the matter of a shirt. Now I own what seems to be an endless supply3 of worn and wrinkled t-shirts. They are stored in drawers, baskets and various laundry piles throughout our apartment. The very best of them have little in the way of stains from sweat, olive oil,  or other remnants of grease, grime, and general food service detritus. What marks they do bear can be reasonably hidden by tucking them into pants or the donning of a jacket or overshirt.

Since the goal of this is exercise it to avoid looking like a homeless man, or the Unabomber, the hoodie is out of the running. This leaves one of the two flannel shirts hanging in my closet that survived the latest purging of undesirable, worn out, rags in my possession. Both of them are brown, so the choice there is of little to no consequence.There lies a third and arguably more desirable option. I do in the recess of my collection of attire a black, pinstriped shirt that has through some small miracle never been worn anywhere near my place of employment. This is reserved for truly special events, and I rather think a school concert in the park warrants that designation.

Socks are a blessedly easy affair to manage for me. Due to reasons, I buy them in bulk from the discount stores a few times a year. Even in the unlikely event that all available pairs have a small hole in the heel, then well at least my shoes will cover that up.

Ah yes, the shoes. Once I maintained a pair of exceedingly nice, leather dress shoes. They were black and shiny, and always put me in mind of something a secret agent might wear. I hardly ever needed to wear them. Which was a bit of a relief because their soles had shit for traction and it was hard to feel like a super spy if you felt like you were going to fall on you ass if you ever broke out into anything riskier than a brisk walk. Whatever did become of my shiny black shoes? Lost, no doubt, or left behind in one of my frantic, yet all too necessary, moves from one home or another, or to some intermediate safe locations when I drank all the rent money. So, that now leaves the choice of which pair of old sneakers to don. Will it be the grey and green ones with the soles worn thin and, what I assume to be dried on tomato sauce? Or, perhaps the camouflage print ones with the silver trim, paint stains and whatever the hell that brownish substance is?

I think the tomato sauce clashes less with the paint chipping off the frames of  cheap set of reading glasses I’m planning on wearing.

Honestly I had no idea that things had gotten to such a state with my clothing. I am left wondering how it got this way4. Frankly I find it appalling. Clearly one of my priorities for the coming year should be to a complete overhaul of the wardrobe don’t you think?

That and a bit of rabid political involvement on a local scale. But that’s an unrelated matter.

At any rate,

Happy Monday.


  1. Four years, two months, two weeks, and two days at the time this was published. But hey, who’s counting? 
  2. To clarify I have never been physically ejected from a tavern, but I was often asked very nicely to leave. 
  3. According to my wife anyway. 
  4. I despise shopping. 

Old Cat

The old cat lay in its warm spot on the grass.

Its fur tattered and patched, teeth mostly broken or gone.

It rarely bothered to get up anymore. Its spine hurt with age. Its back legs barely worked through the pain of old injuries.

The others would go and rub against the small girl that stopped by everyday to pet the strays on the lot. 

It just ignored her through its crusted eye.

Wondering if the old woman was going to come by to feed them today.

Laying there, waiting out the remaining days in its little patch of sunshine.

Rest Stop

Harper stalked away from the gas station leaving the others to fill the tanks. She just need a moment of calm quiet away from Josh and Erin’s constant nagging. It was obvious they didn’t want her along, and only took her because Aunt Bea insisted. Sometimes she hated that the old woman meddled so much on her behalf, it just made everyone else not want her around. She took the faded red ball cap off her head and let her hair down to feel the warm summer breeze blow through it as she crossed the empty highway. When she reached the median she sat down, placed her pistol beside her, and ran her hand along the carpet of fresh wild flowers. She reached into her bag and retrieved a  sandwich.  Peanut butter, again. She was so tired of peanut butter. She took a bite and chewed it thoughtfully as sat among the flowers, enjoying the cleanness of their scent carried with it.

The air at home was full of the choking smoke of the foundry and the fuel exhaust of the generators. Out here the sky was clear and blue, for once she didn’t feel like she was constantly suppressing a cough.The world out here seemed so beautiful and vibrant. So much more colorful and alive than behind the built up wall of grey cinder blocks and rusted iron scrap that she lived behind. Out here the only thing blocking her view of the world was the tall green of the trees.

There, at the tree line on the other side of the highway,  a deer stood staring at her. It was an enormous buck, antlers crowning it majestically. Sitting on its back was a woman, elegant and tall. She wore a sheer gown, its color just a slight shade away from the sky’s hue. Her legs both draped over the beasts right side as they casually approached Harper.

When she was small she had been raised on all the old fairy tales and as she got older she came to grips with the difference between make believe, and the ugliness and boredom of the real world. Then it all changed, everything. Oberon and his people had returned, and the new reality of things took hold day by day as she grew up in the hot noise and dust of The Circle. Now here was one of them. Beautiful and perfect, and in the flesh. This is as close as she had ever been to one, before this there had only been brief glimpses of them from the top of the wall. It was singing.

The woman sang as she approached. A faint, soft song in a voice that seemed to be part of the wind, and harmonized with the bees as they buzzed among the flowers around where Harper sat. Those beautiful sweet flowers, that used to droop and turn grey here on this strip of lawn as cars belched their filth into the world as they sped their owners up and down the flat dark roadway. Harper felt her hand brush against the pistol beside her. Ugly thing, she thought as she pushed it away, cold and ugly metal thing. Just more crude death that we carry with us, more ways to destroy. More ways to be ugly. Not like them. They are life. They are beauty. They brought back the flowers, and the birds. They didn’t just return to the world, they returned with the world.

The woman rode closer, still singing. Harper could hear it so clearly now, that beautiful song in an unknown language. She heard herself singing along, as if she had known the song all her life. The woman in blue held out her hand invitingly. Harper stood and took the offered hand, and looked up into the enchanting face, its eyes staring at her with pity and forgiveness. Harper could still hear that song of love and sweetness, even though the woman’s lips were not moving. Those pale and pink smiling lips. The other hand came into view holding a long knife. Harper was still singing along with the woman’s thoughts. She tilted her head up waiting for the cool blade against the flesh, waiting for a final and warming stroke of the razor sharpness across her throat.

Then the song ended.

It ended in a sharp crack, like thunder and a fast whisper, like silk. The beautiful whiteness of the woman’s face became marred with a streak of red velvet leaking from her temple. The clean air now smelled of burnt flesh from where the iron slug had pierced it. First the knife fell, and then the woman slid sideways off her mount. The beast shook its head and then bolted back towards the woods as another shot rang out.

Erin came running up, panting, smoke still curling from the barrel of the hunting rifle. She caught her breath for a moment.

“Fuckin’ elves!” She spat, “Be more careful and don’t wander off next time damn it. Bea ‘d have my ass if I let anything happen to you. C’mon now, Josh’s loaded up all the gas we can carry, let’s head back home.

Had/ Has | Happy Monday – December 5th, 2016

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“I’m fine, I just don’t want to do this.”

“I wish I could go with you. I still can,” I tell her, “You know, I can at least just go down there with you.”

“One of us has to pick up Kate.” She replied.

“I know. I’m sorry” I say.

“I’ll be fine.”

This was part of the conversation my wife and I had last week, before she left for her oncology appointment.

My wife had/ has cancer.

We found out about it in June, and she had surgery in July to have the tumor, and half of her large intestine removed. Thing we soon learned about cancer surgery isn’t like other kinds of surgery, it’s not really over with right away.

For instance, I had to have surgery on my knee when I fractured my patella in three places while coming home drunk one evening. I got taken to the ER, had to wait a day, then they operated on my knee. A couple of screws got thrown in there, and four months later I was able to walk around and go back to work. A few aches and pains aside, I was able to just move on with my life.

After cancer surgery, even though they are very sure they got the whole tumor, she still isn’t considered cancer free. Not until after five years have passed without a recurrence. This means that my wife doesn’t really get to move on with her life for five more years. For the next five years it’s a game of Schrodinger’s Tumor; it’s neither there, nor gone until it’s observed, and she has to live in a state of has/ had cancer. These five long years are supposed to involve several trips to the oncology unit for CT scans. Those CT scans are the first line of defense when it comes to detecting if the cancer is really gone or not. They are also priced in a range that I’d classify as unreasonably expensive for someone in my particular income bracket, at least without insurance.

That’s where the ACA becomes important to our lives.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is, quite frankly imperfect. I only enrolled to avoid a penalty imposed by the individual mandate. The policy I can afford, even with subsidies, offers relatively little coverage. It has however one thing going for it.

At least it is something.

I am not going to get into the mire of financial details explaining how expensive everything actually is in my particular case except to say that without that minimal amount of coverage we would not have been able to afford my wife’s surgery, or her post surgical medications. We would not have had the money for her recent CT scan. Going forward, without the ACA we will not be able to get her the rest of the follow up treatments and scans that the medical professionals have deemed as necessary.

Her next scan will be scheduled for sometime next year. After the new administration of the American government is in place. One of the things on the chopping block is the ACA.

2016 is coming to a close, and my insurance policy with it. I am tasked with spending the next few days reviewing coverage options and re-enrolling with healthcare.gov. I have to, not just to avoid a tax penalty this time. I have to enroll in a policy, that I won’t be able to afford without a subsidy, to be able to pay for the CT scans that might detect if my wife’s cancer comes back early enough to save her life again.

And it’s all a giant gamble because I don’t know if that policy will be valid, or affordable if the ACA get’s gutted, or defunded, or replaced. The words, high-risk pool  have been bandied about as well as, voucher system. Those are frightening terms to people who are in the had/ has category.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

What’s on your mind?

Happy Monday.

The Big Idea

I have noticed a quirkiness about my handwriting in the weeks since I returned to keeping a journal, and using cursive once again. I mean other than slowly relearning how important it is to have a proper grip on your pen, or how seldom I need to write the letter “L” at the beginning of a sentence on a day-to-day basis.The thing the oddest I find is that I tend to capitalize the word “idea” regardless of where it falls in a sentence. As I look back across the many pages I have scribbled since the middle of October, this would seem to be the only word I have this problem with. I don’t have tbigidea2his problem when typing or writing any formal correspondence.

It’s as if the word itself referenced some higher concept deserving of a proper noun. Perhaps a dignitary from some foreign land requiring some formal address; some oddly dressed ambassador from the forgotten recesses of my thought process. Or maybe some Napoleonic abstraction puffing out it’s chest to make up for it’s otherwise small stature.

When I first noticed it I would angrily scratch out chunks of text, often rewriting entire sentences just to obscure this slight offense to proper style. Lately though, I have been embracing this little errant piece of capitalization. Regarding it as if it were some old friend. Waving at me from across the room, trying to draw my attention. Jumping up and down shouting “Hey! Look at me!” in some flailing attempt to point out the very thing I’ve been looking for all along.

Or maybe I’m thinking too much about it and just need to slow down and pay more attention to what I am doing as jot down my random thoughts, before I’ve even finished my first cup of coffee.

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I Never Meant to Sleep

I never meant to fall asleep,
Before my work was done.

I felt so weary,
I just laid my head down,
Only for a bit.

The room was cold,
I draped the blanket about me.

My eyes burned,
My head throbbed,
I drew down the blind.

I dozed for that perfect moment,
In the warmth,
Soft and dark.
I dreamt of abundance,
A world of peace.

You threw the blinds open,
I was awake once again.

Jagged rays of midday declared,
Here still is toil,
A place full of strife.

I never meant to dream,
Before our work was done.