The window above our bed is open, and there is a hot and salty breeze. Or is it his breath? I open my eyes, brushing the wet ends of my hair out of my face. He is beside me, on top of the covers, and I am underneath the covers and underneath his arms and one of his legs. The top half of his face is warmed by the peeking red glow of the Everglades sun. He looks for all the world like a child— save for the stubble around his gaping, snoring mouth. We were married yesterday evening, an autumn chapel wedding in Florida with family and a few close friends. I am now a wife.
I am 18 years old. I slap a mosquito bite on my arm, then one on my thigh, then one on my chin, then I sit up in bed and shut the window. I feel both matronly and very young, kneeling in my long pink gingham nightgown. He wears just his gray cotton boxers and looks naked and smells like sweat. He is also 18. I want to sit and look at him for a while because he is now my husband, and this is my first morning having a husband ever in my life. And he still is so handsome to me, even today, even drooling on my hair and on our pillow. But he smells like sweat, I smell like his sweat, the room smells like his sweat, and I decide that I will watch him sleep some other time. I want to bathe. I need to make breakfast. And as soon as he wakes I still need to air out the sheets, which will never air out in the sultry Florida air. A fresh new mosquito bite stings on my lip and then on the soft back of my hand.
We are staying for our honeymoon in my great aunt’s farmhouse, and I have only been here once before. The master bathroom has a great big window with no curtains or blinds. I won’t change in here. I will change my clothes in the closet after I make breakfast and then bathe. I splash water on my face and brush my teeth with the toothbrush we share as of last night, since he forgot to pack his. It is the pink toothbrush I brought from the pack in my bathroom at home, my parents’ home. My brother has the purple toothbrush and my sister got the green one. I can taste my husband’s breath. I spit the sparkly blue toothpaste and rinse it down the sink.
The sound of the running water wakes him up, and he calls, “Good morning, sunshine!” My heart flutters like a bird. Through the doorway, he is sitting up and grinning. The sunlight is changing from red to yellow. Hopping back to the bed, I hug my arms to my chest. He wraps me up in his strong arms, kisses my forehead and I laugh. My voice sounds like a little girl. We say nothing else and just sit on the bed. I am so very hungry and have not eaten since before the ceremony because of the butterflies in my stomach. On cue, I hear his stomach growl. My ear is on his chest and I don’t know if I should make a joke or not, and the moment passes, so I don’t. Through the window I see the grapefruit tree and the chickens. I will have to collect the eggs and squeeze the bitter juice for his breakfast. But for now, I close my eyes, listen, and wonder how many of his heartbeats I will have the privilege to hear in this lifetime.
PERSONAL VIEW: “The Pond in my Back Yard”
By Jim Lamb
There’s a small pond in my back yard fed by a river connected to the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve seen mullet jump, baby tarpon turn, and alligators lurk like semi-submerged submarines waiting for prey to slide by.
The pond is a stone’s throw from my writing room. When I’m stuck on a paragraph, I look out the window for inspiration. Birds and butterflies fly by. Squirrels zip through trees, jumping from limb-to-limb, defying gravity. Before long, inspiration returns, and I’m back hacking on the keys of my iMac.
As I’m writing this, the sun has not yet risen. Tops of trees are mere shadows. The pond has yet to appear. I’m listening to the late great R. C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier Ministries, who was born in my home state of Pennsylvania and later moved to Florida, where I now live.
His sermon title this day: “Is God Just?”
Or, to put it another way, “Is there unrighteousness in God?”
“Of course not,” I think as I watch the pink-orange orb bull-doze into the sky.
Why then, Sproul asks, did God choose Jacob over Esau before they were born?
Not based on their behavior. Not based on what they would do. God sovereignly chose one over the other so that His purposes would stand. He didn’t need anyone’s permission. He owed no one an explanation.
The sky is pink now with swatches of light blue—layer-by-layer-by-layer. The pond picks up on the sun’s glory and honors it by adding a slight shimmer-glimmer.
Beauty begets beauty. Light begets light.
The orchestration of this sunrise happens with no help from me. Not one drop. Not an iota. Not a speck, jot, dot, tittle, or particle. Yet I am blessed by its appearance.
R. C. Sproul has just quoted from Romans 9:15 …
“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
Today, God will have mercy and compassion as He sees fit. With His sunrise, He has already blessed me. It almost seems greedy to ask for more—yet I will. It’s my nature.
It’s Going to Be Alright, Mother
A woman is seated at a table with a man and a child. She feels out of place. She feels like she would rather be anywhere other than where she is, playing a role she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know how she fits into any of it.
The man is charming, the child well-mannered. They make her uncomfortable. She is wary. She waits for her role to become clear. They will tell her who she is, soon. She hopes, as well, to find out who they are, and what the three of them are to each other. Because she doesn’t remember.
The child is darker than the man, whose skin color matches hers. The child’s hair has the appearance of a soft black cloud. She is mildly put off by it, although she isn’t sure why.
The child has something to give you, says the man.
The woman turns to the child, expectant, and receives the rolled up piece of paper held out to her. She smooths it open on the table and stares at it, unsure.
It’s a plane, the man offers when she’s been quiet for too long.
Thank you, she says to the child, and manages a smile that makes her skin feel like tissue paper, soft and crinkly and likely to tear if stretched too much. She doesn’t say that she doesn’t like planes. She’s sure they should know this. She expands her smile to give it authenticity.
The child’s smile is shy, the man’s indulgent.
The woman feels hot, suddenly. Hot like she’s outdoors on a blistering day. Hot like she’s burning from the inside out. And yet, not a bead of sweat dots her skin. She looks at the man and the child. Their skin is dry, and they seem fine.
Isn’t it a little hot in here? She wonders out loud.
No, no. The sun doesn’t shine in here, the man says, smiling at her as though she has told a joke that only the two of them know the punchline to.
Her skin tightens. She can’t see it but she can feel it, and it feels like stretching, except in reverse.
My skin is shrinking, she whispers, more to herself than anyone else.
If the man and the child heard her, they make no indication of it. She stares at her hand, the one holding the fork she’d forgotten about. She stares at the fork as though seeing it for the first time, before remembering that she’d meant to use it to eat the meal in front of her, which she had also forgotten about.
Your food will get cold, says the man, his voice gently chiding.
She looks from him to the child. Is this alright then? she asks, not talking about the food.
The food is wonderful. But you seem anxious. Are you alright?
I’m fine, she snaps. Instantly contrite, she softens. I’m feeling a little tired.
He nods in understanding. It’s to be expected.
She wants to ask him what he means but she is distracted by the child tugging on her sleeve. She cuts up the food on the child’s offered plate into small cubes and hands it back. There you go.
She watches the child eat. As she does so, a thought occurs to her. Am I your mother? she asks, picking up her fork without thinking and stabbing at her meal.
The child’s head turns left then right in the manner signifying the negative, with cheeks stuffed with food.
The man laughs. No, he says, you’re mine. He takes her hand, the one not holding the fork, in both of his, and it is then she notices, for the first time, that her skin is soft and papery. That she is clearly old. This fills her with sadness.
Are you alright? The man’s frown is concerned, his tone sincere.
I’ve become old, she says mournfully.
Yes, the man agrees sadly.
The woman nods, resigning herself to her current state. She addresses the child again: Where is your mother?
Wordlessly, the child reaches over and taps a finger on the drawing of the airplane by the woman’s hand. She thinks, When did that get there?
On the plane? she asks the child. Is she on her way?
She’s dead, says the child, speaking for the first time.
I’m sorry, says the woman, her skin tightening.
It was a long time ago, says the man. He brightens. Perhaps you’ll see each other soon.
I’m not sure. But any minute now.
The woman is despairing. I don’t understand anything.
That’s alright. I suppose I ought to tell you now, since there’s not much time left. The man’s gaze is soft and full of gentleness. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
She doesn’t know what she’s going to ask until she asks it. Is the child yours?
Yes. My child, and your grandchild.
So dark. Nothing like you or me.
The man’s smile never falters. No, nothing like either of us, not in that way. But very much a part of us. We are, after all, family.
If you say so.
Is that all you want to ask me?
You’ll tell me everything I need to know anyway.
The man leans close, gently prying the fork from her other hand and clasping it, so that he’s holding both her hands.
Everything you need to know, he repeats. Will you listen? Once and for all?
In that case, here it is: You were wrong about a lot of things. And I forgive you.
The woman waits for him to say something more, but that appears to be all.
Is that it?
Yes. It’s everything you need to know. You can let go now.
He grips her hands firmly when she starts to pull them away. No, not like that. You know.
She doesn’t fully understand yet, but she’s begun to realize that she’s losing something precious. Her skin feels impossibly tight, but when she glances at it, it appears fine. She’s worried she’s disappearing, that she’ll fold in on herself until she’s nothings. That she’ll fold out of existence.
I’m burning up, she whispers, inside.
But it’s over, isn’t it?
The man, her son, nods sadly.
She glances down at their entwined hands, then at her grandchild, so silent. Her family. The first tear drops onto the back of her hand, followed closely by another.
Her son folds her in an embrace, which she returns. It’s going to be alright, he soothes. It’s going to be okay. When he pulls back his face is wet with tears.
He turns to the child. Say goodbye to your grandmother.
Goodbye, grandma, says the child.
Give her a kiss.
The woman presents her cheek to her grandchild, who gives it a soft peck. Thank you, she says to the child. Then, because it feels like the right thing to do, she says, I’m sorry.
It’s alright. I love you, says her son.
At this, her skin loosens, and she is no longer hot inside. Whatever needed to be done is done. It is then she notices the only doorway in the room, leading to a corridor. Her way out. She stands up slowly, uncertainly, trying to see what lies at the end of the corridor. She can’t.
Panicking slightly, she asks her son: Where am I going?
Hopefully somewhere good.
The woman squares her shoulders and nods. Alright then. Goodbye, she says to her family.
Goodbye, reply her son and grandchild.
She walks through the doorway and down the corridor, which has no doors lining it, and whose end doesn’t seem any closer or farther than when she went into it, even after walking for quite a while. The only way she knows she’s making progress is that each time she turns to look back at her son and grandchild, they appear smaller.
At last she reaches the end, where there’s an open door. She pauses with her hand on the handle and takes one last look at her son and grandchild, both of whom are now no more than specks in the distance. Then, bracing herself, she turns back to the door, pushes the handle, and steps beyond it into eternity.
To bleed onto paper and act like we aren't hurting;
To soap up our pain and make something pretty with the stain;
To hide things behind metaphors and similes.
As poets we describe feelings we can’t name
and write moments we can’t remember.
We feel too much of what others have forgotten
and so we try to remind them
of what it feels like to walk
around with your heart
beating in your
Same Woods, Another Day
From tree to tree
she slipped for to see,
did this child with her basket of bread
Whilst wand’ring along
and whistling a song
as insurance against her dread
A dread of the stories
of witches and worries
read to her whilst in her bed
Stories that frightened
and twisted and tightened,
childish fears so easily fed
And here now her path
was the same as that last
little girl who’d been dressed all in red
A girl too on her way
to her Granny’s one day
who’d ended up lost, they said
On queue the trail thinned
and the canopy dimmed
and her courage completely shed her
Unsure of her plight
Her feet took to flight
and with terror her little feet sped her
And green eyes did gleam
and screech owls did scream
whilst behind her more horrors were bred
Into werewolves galore
and witches and war-
locks spinning ’round through her head
And just when it seemed
that like in her dreams
her young life was nearly bled
She broke through the gloom,
her Granny’s house loomed
… she was saved one more day from the dead.
Lady in Waiting
One day, Helen took the status quo in her hands and set it on fire. She was sick of being its puppet. She went to the right school, married the right man, raised the right children. All that earned her was chronic back pain and crippling debt. She was a good mom, of course. She waited for the young ones to grow up into their own directionless followers of the approved life script. Then, she ran away to start anew in Venice. Her family didn’t even file a missing person report. They were too busy to notice she was gone.
as i was cleaning out my email last week, i stumbled on some old notifications from prose, and realized it's almost been two years since i've gone on here. it's been a combination of being super busy, school stress, and just not actively making time to write. i forgot how much i love being on this site and just how helpful writing is, so i really want to start making an effort again. it's good to be back ;)
I had a terrible dream
And I’ve been running from it all day
I dreamt that the two of us had conspired
To kill our own kind
But at the last minute
I had a change of heart
And crept up on you in your sleep
Put six bullets in your head
Emptied the wheel
And the last thing you cried was,
“Help me brother, help me…”
I woke up so sad
It’s hung with me all day
I don’t know how it happened
Just before I went to bed
I left you a voicemail
Information about my pain
Then I got to the point
I miss you
A menthol haze reached heavenward, separating them.
"We never talk about us," she exhales, glaring. Resting against the hotel headboard, her sweat-slicked legs stretch for miles across tangled sheets.
"You're gonna get a smoking fee," he says, unsated, unsettled.
Smirking, she shrugs, nodding. "Talking isn't what we do," she admits.
Just published. Now what?
Tbh, I really have published my first sci-fi novel on Amazon. I'm not joking. It's out there in the universe. "City of Deloro". Whatever nobody cares. I made only 2 sales which is an achievement and my personal best. Gave it to a random neighbor. You know what she said? "You should pitch this to Netflix, coz it reads less like a novel and more like a movie..."
So now, I'm taking this challenge as a second chance and imagining that my real novel made "dream" sales. Question is, what do I do with the chunk change?
50 % will be invested in my next novel. Coz I need publishing money, I'm broke af. The other half for my family. And the other quarter for a dream vacay. Wait that doesn't sound right. Math is not my strong point.
Anyhoo, that's what I would do with the moolah. Thanks for reading. Peace!