The White Rose

Updated on February 13, 2018

The Walk Begins

A dreary evening, early dusk, the slate sky meets the grime of the streets, hard to tell, at times, where one ends and the other begins, the way it was, the way it is now, the way it will always be.

Hookers showing up for work, punching the imaginary time clock, in at seven, out at five, a ten-hour shift spent on their backs, on their knees, on the road to salvation, jacked up on the cheapest painkiller available but unable to lessen the real pain, no medicines for that, no medicines at all, their pimps satisfied with the 80-20 split as long as they produce, keep producing, twenty, thirty tricks per night, never less, then collapse, as dawn rises from the ashes, onto a stained mattress in a corner of an abandoned, stained like their hearts, a stain no Tide can wash out, sleeping like the dead and wishing for oblivion.

Four brothers around a trash can, fire blazing inside, taking off the chill, rappin’ the truth in harmony, a truth no one hears outside the Hood, truths about e-co-no-mic odds so dismal they don’t even register, odds not spoken about on the walled street back east of here by five miles, might as well be five-thousand, no bridging that gap in this lifetime or the next, truths about poverty passed on from father to son, like herpes ‘cept there ain’t no magic pill to cure it, and the bitterness rising like bile after a hard drunk.

Syringes crack under my shoes as I walk.

Dusk falls
Dusk falls | Source

In the Shadows

Rats stare from the alleyways, their eyes red, unafraid for this is their town now, reclaimed after decades of human decay. Junkies in the same alleyways, their eyes red, unafraid for death is near and with it release.

Cracks in the sidewalk, crack cocaine, crack whores, crack houses, crack babies, cracks in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man on the moon, heating up that spoon, getting’ it ready for delivery.

Burned out houses, blackness inside, an obsidian metaphor for a deeper ash, dust to dust, once thriving neighborhoods, twenty, thirty years ago, mothers and fathers raising families, sharing dreams, building lives, now urban blight, sickness, decay, the dreams long gone, the families long gone, the mothers and fathers long gone, bulldozers scheduled soon, knock it down, tear it down, make room for progress, gentrification they call it, pretty soon three-piece suits sippin’ lattes over laptops, making deals atop the bones of those crack whores and homeless, the way it was, the way it is, the way it always will be.

Dogs run in packs on these street, four legs and two, armed with teeth or armed to the teeth, never read On the Origin of Species but living it all the same, weeding out the weak and establishing a pecking order.

Where have you gone, my Bonny Blue, probably dancing with the pimp that brought her, melting down with black tar, all memories of dollhouses and proms bulldozed as well, scattered by the north wind, dissolving, dissipating, lost in the disease and dis-ease of this asswipe portion of Americana.

No pathway is safe
No pathway is safe | Source

Where Is God?

In God we trust, my ass, God is waiting for the makeover, doesn’t even know this address, nowhere to be seen, His name not heard on one set of lips, a myth, folklore, some slick marketing scheme for those with money and living in an alternate universe, not here, not on these streets, not where the street signs are used for target practice and not one solid pane of glass can be found.

Detroit advertising is everywhere you look, the charred and stripped remains of Fords, Chevys, Buicks, Dodges, a flat tire one minute, sold for parts and burned to a crisp the next, row after row of them, street after street of them, four-wheeled memories of a city once riding high and smoking the cigars of success, now just like this Hood, waiting for a demise thirty years in the making, just frames now, parked in front of storefronts with plywood for windows, or storefronts with iron bars for doors, where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, now that the blonde bombshell is stone-cold and pushing up Daisies?

This is the world I walk through as dusk is pushed aside by the darkness and the soul-less take to the streets, the new business men and women of the 21st Century, God bless capitalism, selling commodities you won’t find in an L.L. Bean catalog, coats bulky to hide the Glock 17’s, the switchblades, the poppers, dusters, and widow-makers, all for sale, the price fluctuating with the clock, cash business only, or barter, my angel dust for your body, that sort of thing, timeless transactions passed down generation to generation, and you better believe that includes the young, big business that sex trafficking, ten year olds peering out second-floor windows, some in sheer, some in their birthday suits, no smile on those faces, no life in those eyes, counting the days until the sweet injection of ecstasy is one too many and they become an after-thought, like after-birth, flushed away never to be remembered.

Conversations are limited on these streets, the less talk the better, no eye contact, no small talk, mostly grunts and bastardized English, some Spanish curses tossed in, understood perfectly by the regulars, it all boils down to established creds, establishing stature, and never showing fear.

The Aristocracy

The Crips, the Bloods, MS13, Barrio 18, the Aryans, the Trinitarians, brotherhoods looking for a piece of the pie, looking for respect, looking for who knows what, the battlefields of today, an urban Khe Sanh, sing it with me, we are family, death rides the white horse, dressed in the colors of the day, funeral dirges replace the parades of yesterday, random shootings is all part of the scene, duck and cover taking on new meaning on any street corner,

And the noise is never-ending, a constant barrage of anger and helplessness, gunshots, screams, pissed-off music, bass so loud it rattles what windows remain, trash can lids, horns, more gunshots, threats, screams for help where none exists, and the general undercurrent sounds of hopelessness, like the Wall of Sound from Motown in the 60’s, sound almost physical in nature, infecting your psyche, pushing you forward, beating you down, sharing the constant truth, there ain’t no way out, folks, and you are just fodder for the modern day Donner Party, pass the salt and pepper, Homie.

The white rose
The white rose

Never in Your Wildest Dreams

But then it happens, no explanation for it, no logic can embrace it, no street-cred given to it, you see it but you don’t, you know? It’s there but it isn’t, that sort of thing, for how can reality be that damned distorted, makes no sense and yet it’s there, at the corner of Irredeemable and Revulsion, there, rising from a crack in the pavement, a single white rose, not some damned flower dropped from a dozen but a living rose, its roots sinking out of sight below, reaching to where there’s no telling, gaining nourishment from what source, what’s that shit, Bro, how can that be, a white rose?

And then an even odder thing happens, no logic to it at all, no way to tell anyone without looking like a damned fool on the downside of deranged, that rose, growing out of the sidewalk, is given wide-birth by everyone who see is, not one fool reaches down to pluck it, not one gangsta steps on it, no drunks piss on it and no rats chew on its petals.

It is allowed to grow!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks again, Natalie!

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 8 days ago from Chicago, IL

      My pleasure. You're a true talent, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I really appreciate your kind words,Natalie, and thank you for catching my error.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 8 days ago from Chicago, IL

      Such an amazing portrayal of a seedy area filled with hopelessness and then the end with the rose, which is such a beautiful image. All the more so for the contrast it provides and the hope found in the last line. You have proved yet again that you can write essays, advice columns and fiction in different genres - you can do it all! Thanks for this incredible imagery.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 9 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I am too, Flourish! Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 9 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Nikki! There is always hope, my friend.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 10 days ago from USA

      Raw and real. People write what they pay attention to. I’m glad it had the rose at the end.

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 10 days ago from London

      A wonderful writing work,,truly admirable.So sorry for no hope but there is always hope in no hope as well.

      You would see the light soon Bill.Great prose.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 10 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks William...tossed the rose in at the very end of the second re-write. I'm glad I did.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 10 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, thank you so much! I will always offer hope, no matter the dismal setting.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 10 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Kari! I wish I didn't describe it well. I wish it didn't exist.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 10 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Wow, Bill. Loved it! You're so descriptive. I can see everything in this piece. I wondered where the title fits in, Such a beautiful ending.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 11 days ago from Minnesota

      Wow, what an amazing piece of writing this is. This is so Sad but true. Love the hope in the essay. Good things can come from pain and ugliness. Thank goodness for hope.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 11 days ago from Texas

      Bill, so sad your painting of sheer desperation

      With no hope of a future

      Nothing furnishes needed nutrition

      Living on nothing but Trepidation

      Then just when we feel no longer alive

      You toss us a rose as a buoy to help us to survive.

      *

      Blessings always

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 11 days ago from Ohio

      Bill, you describe this so well. So well that I feel as if I am there. The heartbreak and hopelessness encompassing all like a fog. Everyone wants a little beauty, although they cannot admit it. It being a weakness. That little beauty, hope in the making.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      A word like "brilliant," coming from you, Manatita, is humbling. Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you sir!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Larry! Always hope, my friend...always hope!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 12 days ago from london

      A brilliant piece of writing. Stark-brutal-an-irredeemable revulsion of a piece! Great lyrics or rather quite lyrical at times. So many great lines!

      An agony of weeping, I suppose, but the touch of the rose at the end reminds me of my sterling best. So an agony of longing. How fitting! A truly Valentine ending. Intended?

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 12 days ago from london

      'Syringes crack under my feet as I walk and ...the soul-less take to the streets...' Fine pieces of writing

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 12 days ago from Oklahoma

      Some bit of beauty always perseveres.

      Lovely prose, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, Sis, you always know how to make me smile. Now I'm blushing again. Thank you so much. It should make me nervous, that I capture the dark side so easily, but I'll take praise any old time I can get it.

      Hugs from balmy Olympia

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 12 days ago from Houston, Texas

      What a dismal look at society and in particular those who have grown up on the so-called other side of the tracks. Some people make it out against seemingly insurmountable odds and just like that white rose gives hope to others who have the will and fortitude to try. This is an amazing powerful piece of writing Bill!

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      Paula 12 days ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Little did I know that Toby would have so much to say this morning....it was like being back in the audience at one of his marvelous talks. I am blown-away, bro. You simply amaze me! (Speaking of your "personal best...")...every time you leave me breathless and mesmerized, I'm sure I've chosen your best! Of course, only until the next time, when you've tossed me around in a funnel of reality & dropped me SPLAT! in a vast open field of endless pathways.....daring me, prodding me to choose one.....the only one we should. Your incredible writing is all the aerobics needed. Love your mind! Sis

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Always hope, Linda! Always hope!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rasma! I appreciate that....I've known some of these people, and most of them still retained a sliver of hope despite the bleak surroundings.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I love your conclusion, Pop! Thank you for reading my mind.

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      Linda Lum 12 days ago from Washington State, USA

      Difficult to read, but all of it so true. Even if it doesn't manifest itself in what you have described, there is so much hurt and anger and sadness in this world. It's as though we have given up. Thanks for the reminder that there still is beauty and hope.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 12 days ago from Riga, Latvia

      What a walk! I have always known to avoid the danger of streets like these and areas which my hometown NYC is full of. You made me walk them. A fantastic write. That rose of hope gave just the right touch even in parts like this there are people who still hope and still pray.

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      breakfastpop 12 days ago

      Your portrayal of life in these parts is accurate and painful. The rose symbolizes hope, and that hope can materialize when people who have made it out of despair give back to their communities.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I want to believe that, Devika! Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Intense for sure, Linda...thank you for wading through the muck.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! Hope is always my message, that and love.

      Have a love-filled weekend, Janine!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Mike, thank you! I'm not sure why this is where I always gravitate in my writings, but thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Welcome back, Alan! Thank you for your historical thoughts....thrives on neglect....indeed, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, MizB, for your perspective. This is a situation that affects us all in one way or another.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      That is always my message, Zulma. Thank you for finding it in this ugliness.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your thoughts, Rodric! It was meant to raise blood pressures, so I guess my job is done. :)

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      Devika Primić 12 days ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      All is not lost there is always hope.

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      Linda Crampton 13 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an intense piece of writing, Bill. It's tragic that such conditions exist in real life. The white rose at the end is a beautiful symbol of hope.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 13 days ago from New York, New York

      As bleak as the picture you first painted, hope definitely sprung from that last portion. And appreciate your showing here that even in the bleakest of times there still indeed is hope. Thanks for that and more. Hope you had a wonderful Thursday, my friend :)

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 13 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill - Nobody does it better - makes me feel sad for the rest.

      That was not my first thoughts as I finished reading this presentation.

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      Alan R Lancaster 13 days ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Deeply dismal setting - we've got them as well. Mill towns in in Yorkshire and Lancashire, steel mills, ship yards, gutted houses boarded up for demolition and redevelopment to supermarkets for people with little money to spend aside from coupons issued by the Employment Office and signed for every fortnight. The lucky have got away to welding and building jobs in the burgeoning and ever-developing Metropolis (London, Manchester, Birmingham - see, we've even got the same place names).

      Then in between concrete slabs and uprooted railway sidings a dog rose proliferates. A whole bush, small white blooms and thick, lush green growth.

      Elsewhere they've turned pitheads into museum exhibits, "My lad'll never go down t'pit!" miners swore. Thanks to bull-headed politicians and union leaders he wouldn't have to. If he knew where his bread was buttered, he'd be off south like a shot. And there's another community gone, only old men, women and children - and someone in the shadows with a needle.

      Painted with words, Bill. The setting doesn't matter. Could be Essen in Germany, Detroit in the US, Mexico City, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England or Lurgan in Northern Ireland. A flower will always shoot up between concrete slabs. Water it and watch it die. It only thrives on neglect. What are un-planted or un-potted flowers after all, but weeds?

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 13 days ago

      Bill, it reminded me of the saying "hope springs eternal," whatever that means. It's hard for me to even comment because I own properties in two of those blighted neighborhoods, and I work very hard to not be a slumlord, but to provide a better home for those people you describe. Too bad most tenants don't care.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 13 days ago from United Kingdom

      Even amidst ugliness and strife, something beautiful can emerge. Perhaps all is not lost.

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      Rodric Johnson 13 days ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      A dismal view of how a success story can happen in the most unlikely places. This one made me upset. My Blood pressure was raise the entire time I read through because I know this is true somewhere, many somewheres! The Rose, White Rose is the hope that comes no matter the environment. The people who succeed no matter the filth. It left me vindicated that some people do rise above the fray, even if it is one. Also, that people in the fray allow it to rise because it is beautiful. That's what I see here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Threekeys, it is for sure emotionally upsetting. Still, I wanted to leave us with some hope. Thanks for making it through this and for your kind words at the end.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Shannon you had more faith in me than I did. The rose was a last minute addition...in fact, I changed the title at the last second to include the rose. LOL

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Peg! For those of us who have seen this side of any major city, it is a memory we will never forget.

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      Threekeys 13 days ago

      This read for me was intense and emotionally upsetting. I didnt like where you took us only because its a place which could be classed the place closest to hell.

      We are all victims of circumstance, the people that surround/trap us together with trying to survive and maintain our inherent worth.

      To write with attention to such detail is beyond my abilities. Interesting read billybuc.

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      shanmarie 13 days ago

      Rapid fire is a very good description of what you do. It does a lot emotionally to the reader, too. . .at least when I can think straight enough. LOL. 30 minute lunch breaks go to one quickly so I was trying to eat and read at the same time. Maybe I shouldn't do that. Haha. But I did come back to finish and ready read what I tripped over earlier. I knew you wouldn't leave me hanging in the dreariness of it all with no hope!

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      Peg Cole 13 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      These are sobering thoughts brought to mind anytime one wanders past that invisible line that divides us. My dad took a debit route after he retired from the Navy. It involved collecting weekly insurance payments in the poor side of town. Sometimes I rode along with him when he ran his route. It was my first real exposure to poverty and has always stuck with me. You've captured the essence here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      It sure does, Lori, although, as Larry pointed out, the reality of that situation has little room for hope.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Shoot, Frank, that's what I get for being in a hurry. What the heck is a gangsa? LOL Thanks my friend.

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      Lori Colbo 13 days ago from Pacific Northwest

      A white rose growing through a crack in the hood spells hope.

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      Frank Atanacio 13 days ago from Shelton

      Billy, every-time I read a story like this my entire darkside improves. Couldn't stop reading and love the descriptive fast-paced engrossing tale that drapes dreariness.. Love the 80/20 split.. whose better than the pimps.. LOL hey not one gangsa.. is that what you meant or gangsta.. just curious and tell me to mind my business and read.. I'm just trying to keep up with the Joneses...

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Kathy! I appreciate your kind words and thoughts.

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      Kathy Burton 13 days ago from Florida

      I think it does read "rapid fire." It is a compelling piece to read more than once. And hope, like this rose, comes in surprising times and places. It is not always predictable. Love the twist of the white rose in all that darkness.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Yep, Shannon, it is a lot to digest and yep, I do that when I visit the dark side. That's my voice for that type of writing, like a machine gun wiping out a neighborhood in rapid fashion. :) Thanks for plowing through it.

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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Then again, Larry, you may be better off "not of this world."

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      shanmarie 13 days ago

      Hi Bill. Don't take this the wrong way because I love your work.... But sometimes I wish you would break some of your long, run on sentences up into more manageable sentences. My sleep deprived brain is too tired to properly digest that all at once. I noticed, though, that you tend to do that when you're telling some truly compelling, if not dark, tale. So rest assured I will be back to finish this later today when I have more time.

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      Larry kitzmann 13 days ago

      As the Phoenix my friend. I may return to the word yet.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Larry, believe me, this is a serious stretch which can only be accomplished in fiction. LOL I know your image is much closer to reality. Good to see you rise from the ashes, my friend. Thank you!

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      Larry kitzmann 13 days ago

      I admire indeed respect your hope/optimism in such settings circumstances if you will. Being born in the D and now living in Chicago well we see the world differently my friend. Again though the world needs more of your hope and less of my pessimism. As always though respect and love. ✌️

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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Jackie! I know you know it well.

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      Jackie Lynnley 13 days ago from The Beautiful South

      That rose! I know it well, Bill. May not always appear as a rose but it is always there even when we think there is not a hope in sight.

      Love it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for "getting it," Eric! In the end, all we can hold onto is hope and love.

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      Eric Dierker 13 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Reminds me of "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" in the reverse.

      That one rose surely is more beautiful than my whole Rose Garden.

      Thank you buddy for renewing my hope.

    working