Archive for the ‘Personal Stories’ Category

Deep Sea Salmon

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Dad where have you gone?

Did you leap quicksilver into a big run

of legendary June Hogs now long lost?

Or are you too smart for that?

Did you break through the trap of extinction

holding to the shadows of that dam

in back of my mind—thinking

but not showing much?


Once in a great while I hear your voice

and feel a quiet grin in your tone

So I ask again after

all our wrong guesses about each other

Is it me you like

or is it just a charm you like to turn on

that gloves a hard bargain?


When your dad came around

did you cover up or trade him blows?

Or maybe you leapt his traps too

and thought yourself free?

No you didn’t beat me but his fist

was still in your hand held back

You couldn’t quite bless anything I did

All the bright eyes you praised

but never your son

Or was it a hard stone you couldn’t explain

that praise breaks hollow against luck

luck that always runs out?


But out of our long fishing past

you come in behind me

your hand down over mine

and you whisper that luck has a feel

Let your line drop through a rip

where the current runs against itself

and what might not be there comes into play

Then again if the tide takes you out

deep off the coast I’ll be looking for you

flashing in the dark


—Eugene Marckx


June Hogs, a salmon species, each eighty pounds or more, up to a million of them migrating along the Columbia River into Canada, were wiped out in 1941 when the Grand Coulee Dam was built.

Paul – a last moment

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

Among my brothers and sisters we don’t send cards on birthdays, but we always try to make time to call — to talk and listen, even if for only a few minutes. These moments are often forgotten but not the sound and warmth of the voice.

It was my birthday in the middle of the month and I heard from my family, but not from Paul. He and I had talked a couple of weeks before on the phone and it ended badly. He told me he’d lost balance coming out of Target and fell. A couple of people helped him to his car.

I was worried. “Give someone nearby your phone number.”
He became angry at me, cut short and hung up. I texted him a few times. He didn’t reply.

Late on my birthday when I was out Paul called and left a couple of garbled attempts. “Ha– bir—day.” Twice he called.

I heard those drunken sounds. They were an attempt, I thought, and I should accept them as a bit of honest love with the warmth he had left in him, under that thick fog of alcohol. I almost wanted to keep them, to record them, but I didn’t.

A few days later our sister called and said Paul was in terrible shape. Long ago a pipe had broken at his little home —he kept saying he would fix it but never did — and every so often he had been going to her place to shower and shave. But he hadn’t been coming. In talking with her I decided to go there — a four-hour drive — and see if the two of us could get him into rehab.

I arrived and picked up my sister for the cross-town drive to Paul’s. We got out and she stepped up to Paul’s window, a four-inch opening for ventilation. She asked if he would come to take a shower. He said he didn’t want to after all.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

I stepped up to the window and she stepped back. Paul’s little Terrier dog was right there, frantic to get out and frantic for attention. I put my hand up and the dog licked and whined and scratched. Paul was lying about ten feet away in the dark on his couch. There were flies and the smell I won’t forget — fast-food, cigarette butts, dog-shit, laced with stale alcohol and mold.

I said, “Can you come to the front door, brother? I want to see you and give you a hug.”

“You see me,” he said. “I don’t want a hug.”

“I can’t see you in the dark. Come to the door.”

“No, I didn’t ask you to come here. Go away.”

“Oh, I think you were asking.” I was thinking of this garbled birthday message. But he was not buying any of that now. He called it out. It was a lie and he never asked. As I repeated, asking him to come to the door, he started getting angry and called me a bully and then a fucking sonovabitch. He said our older brother never bullied him but was always cordial on the phone.

This went back and forth, my plain request and his angry swearing. I thought he might become angry enough to get off the couch and go to the door to tell me off to my face. It was my fantasy in that moment — my asking for a hug and his obscenities. He did try but couldn’t quite rise from the couch. I stayed at that window talking with him ten feet away in the dark — and the little Terrier sniveling and licking and scratching. My hand bled from a couple of scratches. I was trying to make something happen that would change the scene.

But I got the picture. Paul wasn’t there at all. I was talking to his addiction, which had him wrapped up in its own reasoning. Don’t listen to him out there. He is nothing to you. They are all nothing. I alone will give you the calm you crave, the calm of oblivion, without troubles. I am all the reason you need.

So I let Paul go and drove home again. We heard he died ten days later. I didn’t really need to record the birthday message he’d left the month before. It is still here in the back of my mind, with all the warmth he could muster at that moment.

A Vision – Sacred Circle

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

by John Thompson

No words can speak the power of “I AM HERE”

For when black thunder cracks on blood-red plains

The horseman comes, the storm-chaser of dreams

His feathered spear raised high he splits the wind

And silences the babbling tongues of men.

My words mean nothing, nor is my story told

But lived, and permeating many worlds at once

I find to howl more eloquent than many poems

And dancing on this mountain top my greatest deed.


This is no ordinary company that I have joined

With men named Wolf, Coyote, Frog and Crow,

Red Tail-Black Tail, Salmon, Eagle, Raven, Bear

And other appellations from their savage souls:

No cowards, they, to seek the anonymity

Of lesser men. My brothers wear the garish robes

And fearsome masks of spirit warriors,

Singing, dancing, drumming high on mapless plains

Where lesser men would count it mad to go.


Invoke the Powers, fear not! For you have earned

The right to call the Elements to your command.

Our Lady of the Forest and her retinue

Have come into our circle where they move about

Within without the boundaries and the core,

And so I counsel silence, for our Mother speaks,

But softly! They will only hear who hold

Their place with firmness and transcendent love,

Those deaf to talk of “What” and “Why” and “How.”


Within your deepest heart say only, “I AM HERE!”

There’s nothing else the Universe requires of you,

For with these words the rivers flow, the flowers grow

And mountains push their heads up through the clouds,

These words invoke Above/Below, the Ancient Magic,

Birthright of our Brotherhood! These words unite

The midnight with the blazing noon, the Sun with Moon,

Desert with rain, Lover with pain,

And Cosmic Minions with this earthly realm.


And I am here this moment; in the next I’m gone,

For I follow the Horseman, chasing storms in dreams!

While I am with you, take the fullness of my love

And all my power, my shadow and my savageness

You get it all, for I will not divide myself,

Nor will I sit in judgment, less will I be judged.

The Lady of the Forest bade me start a stream,

Become a river, froth and rage unto the sea

Where she awaits, my Mother, ever calling me.


And I obey.



Wednesday, December 27th, 2017


by Eugene Marckx


Among the dogs in my life one stands out, a Black Labrador mix that came into our family when we weren’t looking for him.  We were looking for a small black Cockapoo that had run away from us, a dog one of my sons had gotten off his paper route.  That Cockapoo did not want to live with us, or any humans, I suppose.  Whenever the front door opened he ran for it.  One day he got away and never looked back.  We put up notices, and people sighted the little black runner here or there, a dog they could never catch.  In the course of a couple of weeks we traced him to the woods, where he disappeared.

In our search we visited a woman who lived near Schmitz Park, not far from our neighborhood in West Seattle.  She had picked up a Black Lab puppy while walking the trails of the park with her own dog, a tall French Poodle.  She said to my son, “If you don’t find your dog, come back.”

And so we did.  We named him Jet, not for his speed but for his color, pure black.  Jet had a lot of natural intelligence, but I gave him very little training.  He knew well enough to be polite around people, especially children.  I could have done better by him, but I treated him in much the same respect as my three boys and two girls.  Jet could fetch a ball or a stick, but then he would wrestle you for it.  So he was a natural in our “good Catholic” family.

And he soon became omnivorous.  He could eat just about anything, fruit mixed in with gravy and vegetables, even lettuce if it had enough mayonnaise on it.  He was eager to please and didn’t demand much.  When we took car trips to the coast, our car was packed to the gills with seven people and our belongings.  Jet lay on the floor in the back under the children’s feet.

I remember one stormy Friday night we were going through Clatskanie, Oregon, and a patrolman pulled me over for speeding, just over the limit.  He checked my driver’s license and insurance and then looked into the back.  He must have seen the dog, that pair of eyes reflecting between the children’s legs.  He let me off with a warning.

One winter when our girls were four and six there was a snowstorm of about five inches.  Our boys had fun on the hill a block away.  But we got the idea that we could hitch a sled to Jet, with his big Labrador chest, and he could pull around our two little girls.  It worked beautifully.  As I ran alongside to guide him with the leash, he pulled and pulled with tremendous passion.

On that day Jet discovered what he was meant for, and I remembered he was from a breed that pulled fishing nets to shore on the east coast of Canada.  Jet could have gone on pulling and pulling, long after our two girls got cold and wanted to go in.

Two years later it snowed again, but only a couple of inches.  We decided to hitch the sled to Jet, but our girls were six and eight, not so little anymore, and gravel showed through the snow.  Jet pulled them anyway.  And pulled!  And pulled!  He did not stop.  Then I knew that he was about to tear his paws into bloody shreds.  He would die before he stopped pulling.  I untied him and got him inside.

Some years later, after I was divorced, I told this story to a friend, and he said, “Gene, that was you!  You wouldn’t let go, and you’d still be pulling if she hadn’t untied you.”

It was true that this dog and I were deeply bonded, especially after the divorce.  I would pick up my girls from grade school and keep them at my place until their mother got home.  Before going to my night job, I would often take Jet to Schmitz Park, where the kids, the dog and I had gone for many years.  But now just the two of us, a dark man and a black dog, would find our own company in the silence among those ancient firs and cedars.  In his last years, Jet got pretty stoic.  The boys had left home, and so I became the one to take the dog out, into his own element, which was my element too.

Stoic, I say, but there were sly eruptions.  I heard that something unbelievable happened in that household on Christmas.  The girls and their mother made a Gingerbread House, and they set it on top of the upright piano in the living room.  But after Midnight Mass that Gingerbread House was mysteriously demolished.  Who could have done such a thing?  Not a fat old dog that could barely climb the stairs?  And had nothing better to contemplate in an empty house?  But Jet would always go to the greatest lengths—even to teetering on his hind legs up from the piano bench—in pursuit of temptation, sweet temptation.

Those last late winter days of his life I took Jet to the vet a couple of times to drain fluid from his body.  Nothing could be done for him.  We were hoping our son, who had long ago wanted a dog, would return from Europe before Jet died.  But it did not end that way.  I would have gladly wished that Jet might have faltered on one of our walks through Schmitz Park, and breathed his last.  But no.  He died in his own backyard with my ex-wife fretting over him.  I did not even get to see his old body.  It was disposed of in the way nearly all dead dogs are in the city, day-in and day-out, by the ones who work in that sack-of-bones business.

All these years later, I console myself that Jet came into my life because someone else had lost him, and he left that way too, without a trace.  Long after he was gone I finally understood.  He wasn’t mine.  I was his.

But the best memory I have of Jet was when he was in his prime, and we were still a happy family, as happy as we ever were.  It was a summer Sunday afternoon.  We were picnicking with another family in a small cove where Lincoln Park extends north along Puget Sound, a quiet place of sand and tidewater, away from the crowds.  We ate and played, got sandy and wet.  And then I had to drive off to work.  Everyone else would go home later in the other car.  So I picked up a few things, and reached in my pocket for my car keys—and then into my other pockets, one by one.

“I lost my keys!”

Everyone looked up, slightly irritated, and then around at our clothes and toys scattered over the sand.  They picked up blankets and towels and baskets and coolers, murmuring, “He lost his keys.”  We were at it only about ten minutes, but I was getting anxious that I’d be late for work.  The sand looked vast and inscrutable.

Then I saw Jet digging right in the middle of where we’d been.  He dug and dug, and there were my keys.

Davison Stivers

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

Davison has been a part of A Gathering of Men almost from the beginning. He has participated as a story teller, board member, president, facilitator. He’s been a mentor to many men over the years.

Additonally he’s participated in The Noble Journey, sponsored by Counceling Associates, Which helped me explore four primary male archetypes (King, Warrior, Magician, Lover). These trainings assisted men to access the energy of these mature architypes.

Recently, Davison was diagnosed with Lymphoma and has chosen to forgo medical intervention and instead concentrate on vigorously living his life.

He continues to write, study, and work at his relationships with family and friends.

Here, is a message he made for us. It spells out just what the Gathering has meant to him. Additionally there’s a few photos of himfrom over the years from over the years

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