Had She Been Me
Had she been me,
and me been she,
this might have gone a bit differently.
Had me been she,
and she been me,
do you think it could have gone more carefully?
With her and I,
still side by side,
with no clue that knowing might change the tide,
to protect oneself,
is to project oneself,
in another's mind can only truly help.
Had she been me,
and me been she,
the fact is I'd be dead and she'd be free.
The wind whistles about the tops of the great pine trees around us and swishes about the bells of my grandmother's wind chimes so that a song seems to always be playing. The air smells of the piney woods and of coffee and of rain somewhere down the road. He and I are nestled together on the front porch swing and he rocks me, tucked in against his side as he pushes us off the ground to go higher and higher. That man always was the best swing pusher in the country...if not the world. And he would sing to me, most of the time little ditties from when he was a kid, or a hymn, one of his favorites on the porch swing was 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot", but he would change the word 'chariot' to my name. He did that with all of his grandbabies.
It was like that until the day that he died. Every time I would come to visit, whether I was a baby or in my early twenties, whether he was sound of mind or lost in his own memories, he always asked me to go sit on that swing while he drank his coffee. He'd start by remarking about the weather, about the countryside, how East Texas is truly 'God's Country' and how I will move there some day along with my dad and the whole family. Then he'd sing for a bit. Then, when I was old enough to understand, he started crafting in words this wonderful life that he knew God had planned for me.
I could go to college at the local university and live with him and my grandma. I could drive him around town, and we could go on vacations together all across the states. I'd have a lovely job, a wonderful husband, and children of my own someday. And he would always leave himself out of that part of my story, because he knew somehow that he wouldn't be there, and he was at peace with it.
He never told me what to do or who to be. He always listened to what it was I said I wanted each and every time, and when I finally confessed that I wanted to be a music teacher he supported me more than anyone else in my life ever thought to, immediately thinking of the 'millions' of children's lives I could change for the better, the grand studio I could have at the local university, the summer programs.
The one thing that absolutely never changed, even when he had forgotten my name or exactly how I was related to him, is that he loved me, and he was proud of me.
The swing is still there. And we all go there when we miss him. On 'rainy days' when I'm feeling low, I tuck myself up in that memory and hold on tight. I'd live there if I could, but I know what he would say....I got to go live my marvelous life that God has planned for me. I can tell him all about it on some porch swing up in heaven, where he sits right now with his coffee waiting for my grandma, and probably swinging the little boy who's grave lays right beside his in the plot he bought all those years ago.
Scars Among the Stars
Most would think that being blind would disable one from being able to truly view the beautiful spectacles of the nature of life. And in a sense that can be true. While she laid in the brig of a ship hurtling through space toward where, she was nearly certain she knew, she could not see out of the small porthole windows and see the wonders of the universe the way that he could. The son of the Mourning Star, the dejected and rejected former general of the very crew that now captained them toward certain painful death saw the faintly flickering stars, whose light hit them from millions if not billions of years ago, sending an oddly cold feeling spreading throughout his chest. The beauty of twirling planets, streaking comets, swirling galaxies, the universe in all its miraculous splendor, send the man deep inside himself. His heart was frozen. He felt nothing.
Meanwhile, the young woman in the cell across from him, feeling the pain of yet again being separated from the people she had learned to call her family, had a heart that was still aglow. Her eyes left her in perpetual darkness, nothing but a black abyss in front of her and around her. Yet, after many a year, she had learned that there is so much left to be perceived with her other senses. This kept her warm while the man, the monster responsible for her blindness, grew colder still.
Her hope resided in the faint warmth of the astronomical bodies, stellar, planetoid, and other, that silently remained in place around them as their ship dove through the vast emptiness. Her hope rested in the life that surrounded her and her worst enemy. And most importantly, her hope resided in the fact that her friends always found a way to reach her, no matter how long it would take, no matter what the cost. And that even if they did not reach her in time, she could accept her own death whole heartedly. She would die for her people in a heartbeat.
In this instance, they would have to traverse the large stretch of emptiness between Earth and wherever they were going. She had a few guesses, but the largest guess was not the one that most would have ventured.
All was silent and still around them, the only sound, the faint buzzing of the ship’s thrusters and an occasional footstep above their heads. Their cells were surrounded in a very much impenetrable glass as well as a cacophony of other violent countermeasures should either of them get the idea to attempt escape. Even if they could, there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, nothing to do but wait. And that they each did, backs against the bulkhead of the ship, her staring blankly at nothing, he staring blankly through the porthole over her head.
They hadn’t spoken one word to each other since being put on the ship. In fact, neither had spoken a word since their respective capture: she out of self-preservation and duty, he out of heart-brokenness and defeat.
It had been several days since their departure. They had no means of telling the time, whether it was night or day relative to where they had once lived. They each took naps on and off, as that was the only thing to do and each were in dire need of a heavy sleep.
“Do you remember?” The man nearly peed himself, jumping to his feet at the sudden sound after not hearing anything for days. He glared at the young woman, and then realized she had not opened her mouth to speak, but had spoken telepathically to him.
“Remember what!?” He screamed at her. She didn’t even flinch, her eyes remaining in the same spot affixed to the back wall of his cell.
A voice resonated down the hallway, screaming angrily in his native language. The woman didn’t understand the words, but she got the message. She felt the man writhe angrily at the order. He didn’t enjoy being told what to do by someone who used to be way beneath him. She could feel the anger further ignite when she didn’t answer him. He very much didn’t like repeating himself either.
But given that she would be his only company for some time, he eventually asked again, “Remember what?” this time at a much more reasonable volume.
“When we met. It’s strange, that of all the memories I have of you, all the unpleasantness, fighting you, trying to kill you, thinking you were dead, even hating you, that this one moment in time still persists to overwhelm me now. A soldier from either side, scouting out for the perimeter of each other’s armies, coming across one another on either side of a lone stream in the middle of the woods. We sat and talked for hours, forgetting we were enemies, forgetting we would likely never see each other alive again. It was a time in which I pitied you. A time in which I partially considered you a friend.”
The man felt the warmth and depth of her thoughts penetrate the wall of his mind, at first fighting it with every morsel of his being, but the further she persisted, painting the once beautiful picture of their past innocence, the less he attempted to force her out of his mind. He remained guarded, fearful she was trying to lure him into exposing his innermost mind for attack, but he allowed her mind to be figuratively at arm’s length.
“We were foolish children. Two young, stupid fools.” He said gruffly, glaring at wall next to her as he slumped back to his original position against his own wall, his long, unkempt hair making him appear an angry mop of black streaks and sadness.
“Perhaps. It is definitely difficult to remember how we used to see the world through those younger eyes. It makes one ponder how we will perceive the world now in older eyes. Perhaps we will say the same thing once more in the future.” The man thought he saw a smirk overcome her face, but upon closer inspection, convinced himself he imagined it. Her expression was stoic.
To him, his brig-mate seemed to have withdrawn inside herself, not looking at him when she spoke, refusing to change where her eyes looked, even refusing to use her own voice. In reality, she had spread her awareness far beyond the walls of her physical form. Being blind gave one that advantage, making it much easier to focus on things outside, up and around the corporeal form. Her ghost stayed put, but her mind stretched to the far reaches of her consciousness. While she focused on things floating in and around the ship, the bodies moving about in other rooms, the heartbeat of her fellow prisoner, she also envisioned the memory she had depicted so elegantly for her former friend, clear as day.
The man decided to say nothing. He didn’t want to think about that far into the past, and he had a sinking feeling that his future didn’t extend that far either. At the present moment, he was so far fixated on the recent past, the last week to be exact: his worst enemy taken captive, a palpable hit on her team resulting in the death of one of her companions, his immediate mutiny by his own people. What had he done wrong? Had he become so engrossed with his enemy’s defeat, by his obsession with causing her pain that he hadn’t seen the signs leading up to his being overthrown?
“Do you remember what it was like? Being that child all those years ago?” His enemy continued, unprompted. “It’s terrifying to think that every second that passes escapes to one of two places: either memory, or a forgotten void of nothingness. Even this very moment transforms into nothing but a memory even as I finish the sentence.”
She couldn’t let him at peace. Even after her capture, she tortured his every waking moment. “So what?” He said at a volume that was just quiet enough not to be humiliated again for being too loud. “What should I give a damn about anything going on in your head? You’ve been captured and you’re going to die in a matter of however long it takes us to get home. Then you’ll be nothing but a memory.”
“I could say the same thing about you old friend.” The feeling that she projected onto him in that moment was so unsettling that he was physically rocked. The amount of confidence behind her statement shook him to his core.
“I’ve come to terms with my fate!” He whispered harshly. Even as he said it he knew it was true of his enemy, but not of himself. He shivered as her gaze whipped to meet his and a humorless smile upturned her mouth. She didn’t have to say anything.
His heart fumed further at the realization. He lashed out, "I have a memory for you then dear," his whisper gravely and nearly painful in his throat. "A badly broken leg, and you bleeding out in the snow, thinking you just escaped the woeful, horrific fate of your comrades only to be dragged back by an observant tracker into the depths of a dank, dark, hell pit. There a year you faced the worst of your fears until they were surpassed by new ones greater than you could have ever imagined. Only to escape to find that the darkness that had you in its cruel tendrils will be with you for the remainder of your life, no matter how far you run." He couldn't help but sneer, his voice raising to the end of his description. This prompted another shout down the hall, followed by a violent banging on the bulkhead behind him.
The woman's gaze shifted and suddenly she caught his eye, seeming to stare deep into his soul. For a brief moment, he believed that she could see, believed that she had escaped the damnation he had condemned her to. Then she spoke the last words she would say to him until they had reached their destination, "And yet it compares not to the darkness that you've crafted around yourself and now must lay in, alone, and able to see it all with no reprieve."
While she was the one he had forever scarred, the man realized how much more deeply he had been scarred himself, and by his own hand. He drew his knees up to his chest and wept silently, thankful that she could not witness his true weakness.
El Violinista Se Atreve al Silencio (Translation Included)
Por toda la casa, por todo el mundo,
Pero, puedo oir,
Las voces de los violines,
Y sus canciones antiguas y nuevas,
Bailando por el aire.
Con manos viejas y arrugadas,
Pero también muy fuertes,
Con el sabio de un sabio,
De experiencia solamente que tenga de muchos años tocando.
pueda tocar como el,
Con abandono sin preocupación o miedo de fallar,
Con pies como alas de angelos,
Girando por los calles con feliz.
Díme los secretos,
De una vida antojadiza y libre,
Cuando sus dedos vuelan rapidiosos,
Con sus notas animadas y conmovedoras,
Y mi corazón deja por solo un momento en tiempo.
The Violinist Dares The Silence
Throughout all the house, throughout all the world,
But, I can hear,
The voices of the violins,
And their old and new songs,
Dancing in the air.
With hands old and wrinkled,
Yet also very strong,
Smiles at me,
With the wisdom of a Wiseman,
With experience that one only has from years of playing.
I could play like him,
With abandon without worry or fear of failure,
With feet like angel’s wings,
Spinning happily throughout the streets.
Tell me your secrets,
Of a life, fanciful and free,
When your fingers fly rapidly,
With your lively and moving notes,
And my heart stops for just a moment in time.
The Red Bonnet
The floorboards creaked annoyingly as I paced back and forth across the display room of my hat shop, the sunlight streaming in through the open slats of the windows and bouncing catty-wompusly off every surface. I sniffed loudly as a proper English gentleman, my mustache bristling, and simultaneously and silently berated each of the young women that worked dutifully at their stations for not working more efficiently, and the clock for not reaching closing hour soon enough. Both the workers and the clock paid me no mind as they always seemed to do.
Finally, right as the minute hand found its way to the twelve, I reacquainted everyone diligently at work with my voice, as a trumpet reacquaints those asleep with consciousness so early in the morning. Rather used to the daily routine, each young lady finished tidying up their station, gracefully hoped off their stool, and bid their kind 'good evening' to me as they headed out the door, homeward bound.
Gleefully, I pranced about, closing the shutters, drawing the drapes, and set about to locking the door with the ridiculously large brass key my father had left me all those years ago. Happy to retreat to my own living quarters above the shop and enjoy reading over my dinner, I was greatly peeved when a resounding knock rasped at the door behind me. I spun on my heels to address the matter swiftly, albeit in the most gentlemanly fashion I could obtain on such an empty stomach.
I turned the key and swept the door open to find the largest red bonnet I had ever seen staring back at me. To be frank, the bonnet was simply worn by the wrinkly faced inquirer, rather than doing the inquirer, but it was the first thing I saw as I stood several heads taller than the woman at the door. She had two beady blue eyes under a tuft of white hair, and a nose the size of a bulb, reminding me of a sweet potato that I had for dinner the night before. Other than the red hat, she wore a light blue dress patterned ridiculously with white flowers and birds and two red shoes no larger than a scone each. She carried an enormous yellow handbag, speckled with little pink lady bugs and a great wooden handle. While I knew that I had never met such an absurd character in all my life, something at the back of my mind was telling me otherwise.
"I'm sorry madam, but we are quite closed. You may return tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock. Good evening." I said in proper English fashion, delivering the appropriate nod of my head and quite proud of myself for my politeness on an empty stomach. Thinking that was that, dismissing the faint recognition in the instinctual part of my brain, I shut the door with a click and turned the key back in the key hole.
Now if that were the end of the story you would wonder why I wasted your time with such triviality, but indeed it was not.
Once again I turned on my heels, approaching the stairs to my living quarters when who should appear sitting on the top step but the red bonnet herself once more. I blinked, mustache bristling with anger and fear, and stormed up the steps toward her. "Dear madam, I don't quite know how you arrived at this step without my seeing you, but I can assure you that we are indeed quite closed and this area of the shop is quite restricted to the public. I bid you a quiet good evening." I said, perhaps a bit less gentlemanly than appropriate, and pressed myself against the wooden railing of the stairs, pointing the way down as if the woman did not know her way to the exit.
The red bonnet smiled up at me, further wrinkling her face like an old prune. "Now is that any way to address the woman who is responsible for all your success, my dear sir." Her voice was creaky and muffled, as if it were being transmitted through a payphone into another payphone somewhere expansive and dank, and her sweet potato nose bobbed up and down as she spoke.
"Responsible for- I do say I know nothing of this nonsense you peddle. And I want no more of it!" My pointing finger grew more insistent in its direction toward the door.
The red bonnet stood up, a bit more spry than expected for her age and tossed her lady bug speckled bag at me, muttering "carry that for an old woman won't you?" and retreated to my living quarters down the hall.
The weight of the handbag nearly knocked me down the stairs had my red-faced adrenaline not been presently coursing through my veins. I stamped up the steps after her, shouting incredulous turns of phrase at her, hoping any one of them might so greatly offend her as to make her leave; but none did.
When I arrived at my quarters she had already found her way to the kettle on the stove and begun to brew herself a some tea.
"Madam! Whatever gives you the right to go prancing about in my quarters, above my shop, brewing yourself my tea, in one of my tea cups given to me by my father as you fancy?" I dropped her bag with a heavy 'thunk' on the floor.
"My, my, my. What your father neglected to mention..." The woman whipped around pointing a crooked, wrinkled finger at me. I fell, and began bouncing across the floor, rolling like a red buffoon to land at her feet in a crumpled heap. There she stooped to pick me up and run her fingers over my new body; a red pearl necklace strewn together with blue wire.
"...is that the price of his hat shop was his first born son." She placed me around her neck, and we disappeared into the quiet evening.
The stars glittered above my head like shattered glass sprinkled over the heavens, providing the only light my soul could bear for miles and miles. I had strayed far away from camp, unable to take in the lively music and dancing fire, the smiling faces of comrades and kin. The lonely night made a much more understanding companion.
I let the wind whip at my bare shoulders and neck, content to shiver in its embrace. The grass tickled at my feet, the occasional rock burying its head into my soles, the dirt caking itself onto my skin. I sighed, happy to know I could still feel, and that I made some sort of impact on the world.
There was no moon to cast so many shadows; instead the world was one giant shadow, and I was in its depths, skulking. A hoot owl made known its presence off in the branches to my right. I silently nodded to it, like an affirmation that I was not in charge of this nighttime domain. I was merely a guest in his kingdom, a traveler passing by to nowhere in particular. To my left a snake slithered hurriedly through the tall grass, he traveling just as I. In my mind I pictured a toe sack hitched over his shoulder, bunched up in a wad, as he marched low to the ground, a hobo with no place to go, and I allowed a faint smile to ghost its way across my lips.
The night air smelled of moss and dirt, and of nature, untouched by civilization. Cicadas roared their symphony, their timbre changing slightly as the owl surely picked down performers one by one.
And I walked, my feet carrying me where I pleased, down the hill, through the briars, up the rocks and boulders, through the stream which bogged me down to my knees. For the first time, I was not running from anything, nor toward anything. I walked to walk, alone to be alone, pensive, melancholy, severe, wandering, but not lost.
A sigh found its way from my lungs and rode the cool midnight air in a cloud of fog, drifting over the tops of the trees and losing itself among the stars. It was here that I became one with his majesty, the mountain woods, the sand, the pebbles, the thorns, the land without a path. I melded into the night, a wanderer without a cause.
The Unfailing Persistence of the Light
In the darkness,
When the noise ceases,
When my mouth is dry,
And I am once again alone,
There are two voices that remain.
One voice tells me things I believe about myself,
And the other does not.
One voice sounds like my own,
And calls me the name I call myself,
And the other does not.
One voice will be heard consistently no matter what I do,
And the other voice is only heard consistently when I try to hear it.
The first voice exists as a hiss that encompasses my entire being.
It points out my flaws,
It exposes my fears and shoves them right back down my throat.
It tells me:
That I’m a burden,
That I’m sinful,
That I’m a coward,
That I’m a slob,
That I’m lazy,
That I am not worth the breath in my lungs,
Or the roof over my head,
Or the kind people in my life,
That nobody cares,
That nobody should.
That voice is the darkness,
That keeps me humble,
That keeps me melancholy,
That shoves me down and swallows me whole,
Until I cannot see,
Until I cannot breathe,
Until i cannot hear anything but it.
But the other voice does not exist within me,
It comes from somewhere else.
He is loudest when I’m trying to hear Him,
When someone else reminds me to listen for Him,
When I feel a quiet nudge from behind.
He tells me that I’m not a burden,
He tells me that where sin was, forgiveness now stands,
He tells me that He will be my courage,
He tells me that He will keep me clean,
He tells me that He will fill me with direction and energy and motivation.
And while I am not worthy,
He tells me that He loves me without measure,
And that He has sent me so many more that love me too.
He has sent me strong arms to hold me,
Shoulders to lean on,
Musicians to play with,
Walls to bounce ideas off of,
That voice is The Light,
That provides the only path that I can follow if I am not to die a permanent death,
The only viable option.
That keeps me joyful, hopeful, helpful,
That swaddles me like a warm blanket,
In my Father’s arms,
Until I CAN see,
Until I CAN breathe the breath of eternity,
Until I CAN hear,
And while that darkness is visible to me more often than not,
That Light will cut through in the most powerful way when I cry out to Him.
While the evil hiss drowns out all logic, all reason, all hope,
His thunderous voice shatters through like a great earthquake when I cry out to Him.
When the cold threatens to freeze my very heart and soul every single night,
His warmth spreads like an eternal flame that thaws me to my core.
And the truth is,
Sometimes I only want to hear the dark vile evil that spews from my own mind,
I focus on the negative,
I press my hands to my ears when I hear anything counter to that pain,
I pretend to know what pure, unending torture and hate really means,
What it means to be unloved.
But He doesn't let me.
It may not always be what I WANT to hear,
When I want to feel sorry for myself,
When I’m trying to be miserable,
But He makes sure that I damn well listen to what I NEED to hear.
Through the voice of a friend,
Through the words of a song,
A theme of a story,
A weirdly connected metaphor from life itself,
The way a leaf falls down on my shoulder,
He simply projects his voice in my mind louder than anything else.
It is an illusion that the darkness is ever the only thing there,
Cause He is always there,
Whether I see Him or not.
In the darkness of my heart,
The King and I
We’re sitting on a flat, rocky, ledge, above the world. We’ve been sitting here for hours, looking over the domain beneath us, the trees, and the mountains, the streams, and the others. As the clouds roll past, I turn my head to look at him, and see that he is dozing in the sunlight that seeps down on us between the cottony bunches of rain yet to come, which is just fine. We are at peace with the silence between us.
Perhaps hours go by, the wind whipping through our hair, the cold droplets of condensation from the clouds that seem to surround us. I lay over on him, running my cold fingers through his warm fur, feeling his chest rise and fall underneath me. His mane is beautiful and matted, and I begin to comb through it gently. A single one of his brown eyes opens, but he does not move, just looking at me. I notice that he is awake, and smile tiredly at him. Still, we say nothing to each other for a long time, just enjoying the quiet.
Finally, it is I that casually breaks the silence, sighing at the weight of my words, and looking off into the distance at nothing in particular. “What do you suppose it is like, to be truly free?”
“My child, freedom is for the foolish.” He replies, a yawn racking his deep, mellow voice. “To love, is to be tethered to someone, and if we are tethered we are never truly free. Now tell me, my dear one, would you really rather be free?”
“No.” I paused, rolling over to feel his mane on my face, his fur enveloping me like a warm blanket of calm. “I guess not.”
My body is as if it is asleep,
But somehow I am alive, aware.
Through the wooden slats that smell of freshly sawed pine,
The sunlight streams in milky rays of warmth.
My arms are their own shackles,
Unable to move freely,
Unable to scratch the itch that persists on my nose.
Birds chitter around me,
I’ve watched a mother robin build her nest in a tree across from me,
Holding out through the seasons,
Weathering the storms and snow and wind,
To protect her tiny little speckled eggs with her own person.
And I in my box, like under my own mother hen,
Am safe and as warm as ever.
My whole body is a dreadful creaking croak,
Full of dust and weariness.
I’ve been here forever,
Although my memory sometimes catches glimpses of another life before,
As if in a dream amidst a fog far away.
I need not sleep nor eat,
Nor care to leave,
Under iron limbs and a lead heart,
The free meadows that roll between the slats do not call me that strongly.
Those that left me here are gone away,
Perhaps they have their own little pine boxes and beside me lay.
Forever still, surrounded in yellows and green,
I lay here in my box, content to dream.
Love this line. Very sweet