Victor Henry

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The Coming of Consciousness

He stands amongst a swarming and madcap crowd of semi-militant Iraq protesters, proudly holding a sign that says, Get a Brain! Morans Go U S A.  His head wrapped in a stars and stripes bandana, with only degenerate dwarf stars showing.  I see black spaces in between them, see the curvature of his bandana, wrapped around his head like a galaxy in another universe.

Many summers, when I was a kid, helping the family to pay the weekly bills, I worked in the fields of the San Joaquin, picking peaches and grapes, wearing a traditional red bandanna, worn by migrant workers, their badge of honor.

The young activist, wearing a gray St. Louis Cardinals Baseball tee shirt, stands flat footed, his jutting chin sticking out in defiance. I quickly deduce he was once a jock, a high school football or baseball player.  But definitely not a scholar, a sage, a wise person. 
Now, he stands silent, mute, like a terracotta figure in Qin Shi Huang’s army.  No doubt, he’s listened to Rush Limbaugh daily.  Never questioning Limbaugh’s assertions.  Never taking time to discover truth, with a capital T or a lowercase t. 

Before I get two feet beyond him, I stop, go back, and look at the sign again.  Ask him what a moran is. Then I look into his eyes, ponder what kind of soul has evolved so far. Knowing on the face of it, intuitively, he’s not an old soul. 

He looks back at me, sizes up my Veterans For Peace tee shirt.  Glances at the logo, a dove inside a helmet, surveys my thousand yard stare, remains aphasic, closemouthed, mum.

In a moment of clarity, I conclude, what a great metaphor for life.  On the Great Chain of Being, we’re all morans until our DNA test proves differently.

Behind me, a grammarian and a linguist argue out loud about what the word morans means.  The linguist claims it’s descriptive.  The grammarian claims it’s prescriptive. 
Nearby, a middle school girl, holding her mother’s hand, looks up at her mommy and asks spontaneously, What’s a M-O-R-A-N-S?

Others in this crowd wonder what a moran is as well, their faces puzzled, their eyes squinting, scrunched up.  I have no answers other than it could be from an undiscovered dialect, found deep in the rural areas where fields of wheat still grow, where time is measured by the stars and seasons.

A young woman, a student from Saint Louis University, a Jesuit school, wearing a Billikens baseball cap, begins taking notes in a binder that has SOC 110 inscribed on it.  
I thought I was the only one who decoded the message.  But energy is flowing and for a moment I feel everything is connected. That the universe is finite, turning in on itself, like earth does.

From a blurred prism I see a shimmering cloud, a primordial speck, hidden in a corner of my subconscious, a supernova explosion, sacrificing itself.  I fast forward through the cosmic soup to the present, glance at his sign again, see reptilians sunning themselves on the rocks.  


A Compromised Animal              
               If there are no dogs in heaven, then I want to go where they went.
             --Will Rogers

He drops them into a large metal box
Gathers more of them
Handfuls actually.
Piles them on top of one another

Shuts the lid
Trudges back to his workspace
Turns on the gas
Never facing their cries, their low whines

At night he has Zyklon B Kafkaesque nightmares
Dreams doggie dreams
His breathing shallow and irregular,
Legs twitching, running, running, running


Victor Henry's work has appeared in various small press magazines, anthologies, and Ezines.  He holds two earned master's degrees, enjoys working as a reference librarian, is a Vietnam veteran, and a member of Veterans for Peace. Website: