Time rolls over into
They all seem to
Begin this way
Or are they ending?
Does it matter,
When time is melting,
Folding, twisting, churning,
Changing under my feet?
When I'm too tired
To count the sheep
That race through my head
Keeping me from sleep?
Or past that-
Does that make
I'm begging to rest
Maybe if I roll over
I can borrow time
And the day will start again
And I'll have enough strength
To get up
Out of my bed
Before the dawn
And meet it
Then Let Me Break
If the stuff of life is born
Of the things that make me ache
Then, Dear God,
Let me break
If tears are what's required
To make my roots go deep,
Then, Dear God,
Let me weep
If a broken heart is one
Of the promises you make,
Then, My Lord,
Let me break
If tears water the soil
Of the harvest that we'll reap,
Then, My Lord,
Let me weep.
If the King of Glory
Was broken for my sake
Then, My Jesus,
Let me break
If scars are of the only thing
From earth that we can keep,
Then, My Jesus,
Let me weep
Sunlight, Moonlight, And Starlight
How might I describe sunlight
And what it does to my soul?
It touches everything with gold,
With gentle heat,
Creating colors and shades,
Turning the trees into a kaleidoscope of greens,
The sky into a canvas,
A constantly changing art work
Stretched over the earth
And how might I describe the moon
With its terrible mystery
Which begs me to explore
And the subtle light that
Makes me want to dance?
How to speak of
The wilderness of stars
Those fires in the sky that
Whisper of worlds far away,
Lavish beauties beyond beauty,
That excite childlike wonder
And sing songs that feel like home?
And how might I write the words to describe
The way I love and am loved by you?
To be in your presence, Jesus,
It sunlight and moonlight and starlight.
To be with you is to be Home.
It’s Too Soon To Say This, But In Case You Were Wondering...
I know I just met you
It's too soon to say
But I just thought you should know
That when you look at me
And I look away
It's because your gaze
Makes me dizzy
And my heart beats so fast
That for a moment I can't breath
And a few nights ago
How was it only a few nights ago?
We'd stayed up talking
For the second night in a row
And I didn't tell you this
But maybe you already know-
Every time I said
"I should go to bed"
But stayed up another hour,
It was because I didn't want the moment to end.
I didn't want to lose the little moments that we had
And I didn't want the next day to start
Because I didn't want us to be apart
But the next day came and we got into our cars
We said a few words and you gave me a hug
And we drove away in different directions
I hope this isn't an indiscretion
But I wish you weren't so far away
And who planned geography anyway?
And remember how I said
That I hate to date
Because I always feel like a bird in a cage
And I end up bolting,
Beating my wings to get free,
Breaking up with a big sigh of relief
I think you should know
That I don't feel that way
When we talk on the phone every day
My family and friends all know your name
I haven't told you that yet
But they all want to meet you
And they're making space around the table
Even though we haven't talked about you visiting yet
And when I'm with the people I love
I keep on thinking
That someone is missing from the conversation
You would fit into my life
Like you were always meant to be there
Like our stories were written
With each other in them
And we're just now getting to that part of the book
I'm not a romantic
I'm really not
I love being single,
Free from commitment,
But suddenly I'm thinking
That maybe I don't want to be
Just me anymore
And love songs keep coming on the radio
And you're stuck in my head
And I think that I'm falling for you
But I never fall this fast
It's way too soon to say any of this
To tell you about all of the coincidences
That might be signs
I'm keeping a list in my head
If we get as far as a someday
So I can tell you then
It's too soon to say this
But in case you were wondering
I'm going to fall in love with you
I just thought you should know
Drinks, Knives, and Doorknobs That Don’t Lock
Once, I ran into a pack of wild dogs in the dead of night, barking and snarling with rabid grins, and I knew I could not run faster than they could.
Once, I was swimming in a sea with a barracuda, and it was staring, watching me with its teeth, and I knew that I could not swim faster than it could.
Once, I was driving across a bridge during a storm and I was nearly blown over the edge, into the waves fifty feet below, and I knew that if I was sucked down into the green water I could not fight harder than it could.
Once, you asked me to look at you, to answer honestly: did I love you the way you loved me. I would have trusted you with my life; I’d known you five years, or maybe it was five hundred years, but now it felt like it may have only been five hours.
You had always loved me, you said. Always. And sometimes you even hated me because you loved me so much. Your eyes pleaded and burned as I told you that I loved you too, only differently. Our love did not match. I couldn’t be with you, couldn’t marry you. But you said again that you loved me, and that you hated me because you loved me so much.
Your eyes were red-rimmed with sorrow and spite; you cried gin tears, they spilled down your face as you hid the empty bottle that we’d been drinking since midnight behind a stack of books on the bookshelf. An old habit of yours.
A woman knows- she is taught from childhood- what can happen when a man braids the twisted cord of love and hatred and intoxication. Sorrow and scorn can so quickly turn to revenge and rage. I listened to you talking, and I tried to see the man I had known for five or five hundred years. But still, I counted the weapons I could reach- a knife, a walking stick, a chair, an ashtray- just incase. An old habit of mine.
We talked a long time, and I swayed between seeing real bits of your soul and seeing newspaper headlines. I told you to sleep on the couch, to sleep it off, and took your keys so you wouldn’t try to drive, and then I went back to my bedroom that has the door that doesn’t lock. I heard you sobbing in the living room, whiskey sobs, and I held the knife under my pillowcase tighter, just in case the doorknob that does not lock should turn in the night. I heard your heavy footsteps on the stairs a few times when you came up to use the bathroom, and every time I held my breath until I was certain the footsteps would not come near to my door. I didn’t sleep until I finally heard you snoring. Because I knew that I could not outrun you, and I could not outfight you, and if you decided to turn on me, I would not be able to reason with you.
I woke the next morning and you were still snoring. The knife was still in my hand under my pillow. The dogs had not torn my limbs, the barracuda had not hunted me down, the wind had not thrown me to my death, and the doorknob had not turned in the darkness. I got up and made coffee and said good morning and handed you an aspirin. You asked what we’d talked about last night and I said I couldn’t remember. You were again the person I had known five-fivehundred years. The real you, the sober and caring and deeply compassionate you, who would rush into danger to save someone he loves, whose life centers around helping others, who is far too quick to self-criticism. The one I trusted with my life but could never marry. I gave you your car keys and a hug and a goodbye.
And I told myself I was never going to drink with you again.
No one slept much the night Ryan was taken. It wasn't a matter of whether the rebels would attack, but when. We jumped at every firefly in the forest. They were flashlights to our imaginations, or the headlights of a four-wheeler, or rebel campfires. They would eventually fly away and we would catch our breaths as the mysterious lights rose above the world, then we'd go back to whispering, huddled tightly around our dwindling fire.
We'd argued over whether it was wise even to start a fire, but the dropping temperatures and our dripping clothes had made the decision for us. Water still sloshed in my heavy boots but I refused to take them off even to let them dry- I didn't want to have to run into the woods barefoot when the rebels came for the rest of us. We weren't hungry anymore, and that was a blessing. The Vulture tribe who we had contacted earlier that day had taken us in and fed us well.
When we finally climbed into the shelter for the night I wrapped a thin scarf around my bare arms and stared up into the face of a thousand stars.
"I'll probably be captured first if they come," I said, trying to sound brave. "I'm the closest to the entrance of the tent. So... hopefully, I'll see you guys in the morning," I laughed.
Reagan, the self-proclaimed least daring of the team, yawned as she rolled over on her patch of grass. "I'd come for you," she said.
"We'd all come for you," said Lance.
I realized then that I'd never had friends who'd looked out for me before. I just whispered, "Thanks."
I don't remember falling asleep, but I remember waking up. Loren was shaking me awake and saying something about a rebel attack on another camp- "Explosion... captured... they're not here yet, got to go- Now!"
He ran and disappeared into the forest with Caleb. Where was Reagan? Escaped? Captured?
I grabbed my water bottle and Lance's arm and pulled him awake, then dragged him out into the forest where we dodged and trekked up an incline. We came to a spot of high grass with a ledge where we could scout out the forest from above.
"Where'd Loren go?" he asked. I shrugged.
"Where's the rebel camp you think?" He shrugged.
"Well, where haven't we been yet? It's somewhere we haven't been. Are we going to go there? I think Reagan may have been captured. Should we try to save her? But how would we do that, they all have guns and we're not armed... Should we look for the rebel camp or try to meet up with Caleb and Loren somewhere?"
"Just slow down, I'm not awake yet..." He put a hand to his head. He hadn't slept in days.
I crouched lower and stared over the ledge. There was movement down in the forest- one of ours? Or an enemy?
"Come on, let's move," said Lance. I followed him without a word.
We made our way back down the slope, hoping that the person below would prove to be one of our men. It wasn't.
"I've been looking for you," said the man with the gun. "Your camp is the only one left. We'll have to go on without the other two."
He led us back to the rebel base where our friends were sitting on the ground a few yards from Ryan and several others, who were bound and barefoot with sacks over their heads and shotguns trained on him. The terrorists wore skeleton masks and checkered scarves, most waving weapons around like toys.
We sat with the others and looked around to see who else was there. Where was Reagan? Where was Rebecca? Loren and Caleb were still missing. They, at least, had gotten away.
The leader of the rebel camp strode confidently before us.
"Your friends," he gestured toward the bound captives, "had a difficult night." His accent was thick and guttural. I scowled back at him. "This one tried to escape in the night." He pointed to Ryan and laughed. "We'll kill him, the girls will be sold." That's where Reagan and Rebecca went...
He balanced his gun upright on his shoulder. "I know you found the way to the Vulture tribe's village."
No one replied.
"You will tell me where it is."
I looked around, thinking of each person there in turn. Would he betray the tribe? Would she? No. Neither would I. We stood silently together in the face of death. The Vultures trusted us, we would not betray them.
The leader pointed his gun to Ryan's head.
"For your friend's life then?" He shouted.
I thought of Ryan- he was going to propose to his girlfriend when he got home. He would be a husband soon. Not him...
Would he give them away? What would he want us to do?
"I will give you three seconds," said the leader, "to tell me where the Vultures are hiding!"
Would he actually shoot? Ryan would gladly die to see the Vulture tribe come to Christ. He would never betray them. I bit my lip and stayed silent. Who would speak? No one, not even Sebastian, who we could never get to shut up, said a word.
"Three," said the leader. He gave a moment for us to think.
"Tw0," he cocked the gun. Not a word....
I squeezed my eyes shut as I waited for the shot to ring out.
Nothing. I opened my eyes to see the "terrorists" ripping off their masks. I relaxed when I saw faces I recognized, chuckling to ease my nerves. Bizlow, the camp director, Michael, Nate with his signature goofy grin. They weren't so intimidating anymore. One went to another part of the camp to retrieve the missing girls, another cut the captive's ropes and took off their blinds. They came and sat next to us, rubbing their wrists. "Hey man," Michael said to Ryan, "Sorry about having to throw you on the ground last night, hope you were okay?" He pat him on the back and returned his combat boots.
"Very good!" Said Bizlow, looking each student in the eye, pacing with his hands behind his back. "You passed the test. But next time, it might not be a simulation!"
Written With A Magic Pen
Oh, what deadly magic the pen contains!
How potent the power of elements so small--
Quill and ink and paper and thought--
What terrible strength is found therein!
And where might mere mortal begin
To wield the power of the word?
By whisps and muses he is lured
To lift the pen and set it to its work,
Hoping his eternal condition might thus be cured,
Alas! His folly is his own mistake.
All his follies become thus engraved
In the stories that they overtake
And the poems that are undertaken
To prove false premise true-
No! Mortal man must not be trusted
With so powerful a tool!
And yet, we are!
So I challenge you,
Dear holder of the pen:
Write what is true.
The Silent Generation
In a world where everyone walks on eggshells-
An exhausting dance, I warn you-
Where the law does not prevent us from speaking
But in fact our own society does,
In a world where offense is so easily taken
Because every eye is turned inwardly on Self
And fixed there, refusing to see beyond-
Where does the writer fit in a world such as this?
When the written word was always meant to be
Thoughts and stories and ideas
And the beautiful mess we call humanity
Expressing freely and without reserve
The things we know not how to speak aloud
How can the raw honesty of fiction
Or the solidarity of truth spoken well
Or the spilling of the real stuff of life
Continue in such a place as this?
Will we not either conform,
Dance this dance on eggshells,
And let our words deteriorate into hollow lifeless chatter...
Or refuse to be told what we are allowed to say,
What story we are allowed to tell?
The decision is to each his own,
But as for me
I will not be silenced.
“No One Can Take You From Me”
The wind blew hard and fast as the storm twisted into being. Not a cold wind, the kind with teeth, but a warm, brutish wind, with a deep rumbling on the back end of it, a thunder that shook the earth and sent the vibrations of its voice all the way up the legs of the little shack on stilts, all the way to the floor high off the ground, and the straw mattress that rested on that floor, and the young girl who tried now to sleep on that mattress.
It was difficult to discern the shaking of the house from the trembling of her limbs, except that in the moments between the storm’s roaring and groaning she continued to shiver in the darkness of the one-room house. The hot air blew in through the open window like dragon’s breath, cueing the coming rain that would soon begin to patter rhythmically and loudly like a drum against the tin roof. Insects swarmed the air and landed on her, the flies tickling and the mosquito’s biting, a gecko creaked from the rafters, and crickets sang outside.
At a sudden flash of lightning, a lizard lost its grip on the ceiling and fell into the girl’s bed, sending her screaming for her grandmother when it jumped up and scampered over her face. The old woman rose from her pallet across the room and pulled the child into her arms. “You’re safe, little one,” she said. “A storm is nothing to fear. We are safe in this house, and you are safe in my arms. A little thunder cannot take you from me.” She kissed the girl’s head. “Nothing can take you from me,” she whispered.
These were the words Grandmother always said to her when she was afraid. “Nothing can take you from me.” And sometimes when she said it her eyes became far away and her voice became very soft, as though she was whispering something secret, or a sacred promise. The child could not know what nightmares caused her to make such a promise. Nightmares she had lived through, that shouldn’t have been memories, shouldn’t have been real, but were.
“You are safe, precious child. No one can take you from me.”
As she grew up, the child had questions for her grandmother, but rarely asked them.
“Where is my mother?”
“Why do other children have fathers and I don’t?”
“If you had so many brothers and sisters, why don’t I know any of them?”
“Why don’t you ever me stories about when you were a girl?”
“What was the Khmer Rouge?”
This last question came after school one day. When the child asked it, the color drained from Grandmother’s face, her eyes turned to stone, and she became very quiet.
“Bad people,” was all she said. She spoke very little the rest of the day, and her mind seemed far away.
That night, memories tormented the old woman in the night as she tossed and turned on her mattress. Forty years was not distance enough to numb the suffering, to blur the images that still dragged themselves to the surfaces of old wounds that would never heal- images of her parents, both professors in Phnom Penh, being lead away at the points of rifles, leaving their children defenseless in the hands of monsters. Images of her younger siblings dragged away from her, screaming, begging for her to do something. Her older brother escaping, running into the jungle. She could still see the mine exploding, smell burnt flesh and gunpowder. She could feel the heaviness of the hoe in her hands. The open blisters on her fingers, the monster in her stomach, the lightness of her head and the ache of her limbs. The weakness. The fear that didn’t stop. Exhaustion to the point of death.
“What was the Khmer Rouge?” her granddaughter had asked innocently. And what answer could she possibly give? How could you explain such things to a child?
The stuff of nightmares. The reason your grandmother didn’t know how to be a normal person, didn’t know how to be a mother, didn’t know how to raise a daughter who knew how to be a mother. The reason your father was an orphan and grew up with a slew of addictions and couldn’t stay in your life or your mother’s life. The reason your mother couldn’t go on living. The reason for all of our suffering.
The people who took my family from me.
In the darkness that night, the old woman did something she had not done in a very long time. She let one long tear trace a stream that glistened in the moonlight. From her eye, down the side of her nose, over her chin, and down her neck into the fabric of her blouse. Another tear fell then, and another, and the stream turned into a river, a river with currents, and without the ability to hold back the tears she’d stored up so long ago, the old woman wept. The rain started to pour outside in the swollen hot air, and the sounds of her mourning were twisted up in the sounds of a rainy-season storm. To cry felt like freedom. To cry felt like painful healing, like pressure released from an infected wound. And with that relief, the old woman felt two little arms wrap themselves gently around her neck to comfort her.
The small voice whispered in her ear,
“You’re safe, Grandmother. No one can take you from me.”
It's a local haunt, the ancient stone prison which still stands on a small city street. You might miss it if you drive too fast. The city's best kept secret is the view from the abandoned building's roof, but to get there you need to do some sneaking, some climbing, a little manuevering. It's anyone's guess what ghosts haunt the crumbling structure's abandoned cells, or what makes the noises in the basement. There are stories of murder, torture, hangings. There are stories that would scare the ghosts themselves away, but not the teenagers.
No. Nothing deters the young, the invincible.
Not even the police. There's a constant battle of wits between the cops and the kids when it comes to this old prison. The police find a way to seal it, the kids find a way to break back in.
There is a hole broken through at the base of a wall on the first floor, currently the only way in or out of the building. A small hole, perhaps three feet in diameter. Just large enough to squeeze your shoulders through and drag the rest of yourself inside.
And there! See? If you look very closely you can just see the movements of tonight's crowd. Three bodies jumping and sliding between shadows, locating the break in a chain link fence by the lazy light of a street lamp in the distance, leaping over the drainage ditch that encloses the old brick stronghold. If you come closer- walk stealthily now- you can just see the spot where the bricks have been chiseled away and removed. One by one, they disappear inside: first the smallest girl, the apparent leader of the crew, then a young man, who seems slightly less sure but dives in anyway, throwing himself past his fear into the dark unknown on the other side of that tiny opening. The third person, larger than the first two, seems to size up the space, debating whether he will be able to fit through, and then with some coaxing from his friends also squeezes through into the prison.
Ironic, isn't it? To break into a structure that countless others have so desperately wished to break out of.
What say we follow them more closely?
The break in the fence, it's here, see? I'll go through first and hold it open for you- careful, it's snagged a piece of clothing. Don't want to tear any holes, do we? Now, can you make it over the ditch? It's not so very wide, see? Just a good jump, you can make it-
We're almost there now. I hope you aren't terribly claustrophobic. The wall is thicker than you think it would be. But you're only in the tunnel for a moment, out on the other side before you know it. Well, no I have no idea what's in there. Of course it's not safe, why else would we do it? Just go on in now, I'm right behind you.
Inside the prison, the cells stand small and close, the bars mostly rusted away, but some relics still resting not quite in peace here and there- a toilet bowl, mostly broken, long unused. A rusted metal plate on the floor of a cell. A tin can. What's left of a bed. Anything wooden has decomposed long ago. But what is metal or concrete or brick has somewhat better stood the test of time. Most of the windows are shot out or broken, but some of the glass is left intact. Stay away from the windows now, we don't want to betray our presence.
There is a staircase at the end of the hall, going up to higher levels and down into a cavernous basement. We dare not descend. Up it is. One flight, the next, and another.
Of course the structure is sound. Yes, I'm sure. It's stood for hundreds of years, it won't cave in tonight. Keep climbing.
I said stay away from the windows!
What did you see? A police cruiser? Here, let me look.
No lights, and they're driving away from us. It's just a coincidence. They don't know we're here. Come on, I'll show you the roof.
There's a ladder on the top floor, perhaps fifteen feet tall, extending to a hole in the ceiling. Treaturous to climb in the winter time when there's ice on the rungs, but in this warm time of year it's perfectly safe. I've climbed it a dozen times.
You're afraid of heights? And you tell me this now? Come on, you can make it. I promise, the view from the top is worth it. Would you rather I climb up first or follow you up?
Alright, look- I'm right behind you. On the rung below you're feet. If you fall I might even be able to catch you!
Okay, come on now, you're only six feet off the ground. I know you can do better than that. There you go, one rung and the next. One at a time. I'm right below you now, so don't take any steps backward.
Oh, if you keep shaking like that you will fall off! Now come on, you can't move when you're grasping the ladder like it's a ship's mast in a storm. Keep it moving! I promise, the minute you're up an the roof you'll feel better. There you are. So close now, just a few more feet. Don't look down now. I said DON'T look down! Oh, come on.
Okay. You're on the last rung you can climb to now. You have to take one hand off the ladder- stop shaking so hard, you're making me nervous! Yes, like that. Hold on with one hand and use the other to push up on the metal door in the ceiling. There you go! Now just climb through the hole- Yes! Perfect! You're up. See, that wasn't so bad. Come to the ledge now, look at this view! You can see the whole city from here. My favorite view. There's downtown. And there's the river. And there's the freeway over there, see it? And the stars- aren't they bright tonight?
What are you looking down for? Nothing interesting on the street and you're missing this view! What? The cop car is back? It's parked now. Across the street. Did you see an officer get out? I can see through the windsheild even from here, and there's no one in the driver's seat. I'll walk the perimeter of the roof and see if I can glimpse anyone moving at the base of the prison. If anyone comes in we need to get down the ladder fast and find a place to hide.
There!! I see someone! He's at the entrance where we came in. But... why isn't he entering? Is he waiting for someone to leave so he can catch them coming out?
No, wait. Look closer. What is he holding? Bricks? Is he... he can't be! I think he's sealing the exit! Come on, we need to go!
Fast! Down the ladder! Faster! I don't care, we have to go!
Now run down the steps. I said run, not fall! I swear, if we get trapped here because of your clumsiness... You're ankle? We don't have time for a sprained ankle! Lean on me, I'll help you down the rest of the stairs.
Okay, we're almost there. I think we can make it. One more flight of steps. Ten more steps. Good. Almost there- five more, four, three, two, one- we're on the bottom level! Okay, I'm going to leave you here and make sure the entrance isn't sealed off yet. I'll run. I won't leave without you. The officer must still be here. He can't be finished yet. I'll make it. I can make it... we can't get sealed in....
"Hey!" I yell. "Hey, we're still in here!" I bang on the brand new brick filling in the hole that used to be our exit route.
"Hey!" I yell louder. "Come on! You can arrest me, I don't care, just don't lock us in here!"
I yell louder, "HELP!" But there is no reply, no hurried chiseling from the outside, only the echo of my voice as I start to give up hope.
I hear the scuffling of running feet echoing in the cavernous hall behind me and the blinding rays of flashlights.
Three teenagers come up behind me, shining their lights in my eyes.
"Who are you?"
"What's going on?"
"Why the yelling? Do you want to get us all arrested?"
They jump when they hear you dragging your bad ankle, limping and groaning through the pain. Like they've seen a ghost down here in this dusty hole of a place. I might welcome a ghost at the moment. Maybe he would know how to get us out of this predicament.
"We're sealed in," I moan. "They sealed the exit. We're trapped."
You gasp and almost pass out. One of the kids catches you.
"We can't be..." the timid boy says.
"Does anyone have phone signal?"
My own phone is dead.
"There has to be another way out," says the small girl, the one who first climbed into the building.
"That was the only way I knew of," I say. "But maybe we could signal from the window?"
We spend the rest of the night trying to flag down cars with our flashlights shining from the windows, but it's a brick building in a small city of brick buildings, situated along a little-used road, and if you drive too fast you miss it. No one sees us, no one hears our cries for help when we yell until our voices go out. Ironically, the bars across the windows are the only ones still intact and strong enough to keep us from being able to climb out.
We are trapped, enclosed, entombed in this abandoned building.
Imprisoned in a prison.