Lost

He sat down on the cold marble, and he waited.

Rain cascaded down the glass, rivulets and streams gliding down to cement making small lakes, forcing people to maneuver to reach the double doors and enter the hotel.

Even after all this time, his jacket still smelled faintly of his sister’s cigarettes and orange blossom perfume from when he’d taken her to the symphony. He’d asked her a thousand times to quite smoking. Now the traces of it clinging within the folds, the collar, were an anchor.He sighed and leaned back against the wall. He was tired, but he didn’t allow himself to close his eyes. He might miss it. Today was his only chance. He felt around in his left pocket, eventually pulling out a tooth pick which he put in his mouth and worried with his teeth. He hated waiting. He hated rain. He hated the feeling his heart was making in his chest, which made him hate everything, which he hated.

He inhaled deeply and adjusted the collar of his wool sweater. It was hot. The walls were covered in a rich red velvet, a fire had been stoked and patrons were gathered around it pulling mink lined gloves off their hands, giving directions to bell boys, drinking hot tea. They all spoke languages he couldn’t understand, all from a different world, a world he never should have known. And suddenly, in that moment, he knew he would give anything just to be free.

His shock of blond hair fell across his eyes, and as he brushed it aside he saw it.

Sprinting up, he overturned a serving oval carrying hot chocolate and coffee, causing the server to curse. He had also startled an exceptionally small dog who was not fond of tall men or coffee, and it began to bark fervently at him, windmilling his little legs at a tremendous speed as he strained to chase the man upsetting his calm.

Leaving behind the bustle, he had made it out the door, oblivious to everything except a yellow pair of rain boots. The revelation of color had flashed through the glass doors amid a sea of legs, and was gone. He ran out to the sidewalk and searched desperately, determined but lost in the waves of movement and rain.

From inside the hotel emanated a sound that pierced his heart, and suddenly the whole street stopped. The dog had worked himself free and sprinted for the hem of a leg pant, and was promptly run over by a bellhop cart. The ensuing wail from it’s owner, a sharp keen of pain and loss, made everyone pause. The dog turned into vapor that rose to the ceiling and disappeared. Everyone stood still for a moment, half a moment, and that was all he needed. He kept his eyes locked on a small, sleet gray cloak, and he ran. As the crowds recovered and proceeded forward, he grasped and pulled the hood back, and found himself face to face with a young girl.

She had dark, dark eyes that seemed to look through him. A small thing with black hair and sweeping eyebrows, dressed in an unassuming  black dress that reached to her knees. But those boots, the yellow. He forced himself to stare into her gaze, his pulse filling his ears, and waited an eternity. But nothing could make him look away, not even her, this sentinel. He would wait forever, and she understood. She lifted her small fist up and opened it; a silver key. She blinked without expression, waiting for him. He took it. She turned around and disappeared into the bustle.

He crumpled to the ground, cradling the small key to his chest, and finally allowed himself to dream of home.

3 AM

My face was pressed deep into my pillow, and my hands that had been tucked under it were clutching a vibrating phone. I blinked once, then twice into the darkness, inhaled deeply. My body was in the same position it had fallen asleep in, and I felt warm. I was still in the midst of  realizing I was awake when I heard crickets outside my open window singing to the moon, eclipsing the faint, dying life of my dreams.

Oh, a phone. My phone.

At that time of night, my brain couldn’t reason that it was an indecent hour, and that I wasn’t obligated to answer. So I did.

I groaned when the light from the screen hit my eyes. Charlie.

Charlie.

I brought the phone to my ear.

“Hmm?”

“Kat, you awake?”

“What?”

“Sorry it’s so late.”

“I’m sorry, too.” I murmured.

There was patch of silence. Then a quiet, “Kat?”

“Mmhm?”

“I . . . need to see you.”

“Right now?”

“Yeah, I mean, could you?”

I rolled onto my back and gathered my thoughts.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“Nothing, it’s just this girl.”

“Oh. Who?”

“I think I love her.”

“. . .”

“Kat?”

“Yeah. I’ll meet you underneath the tree.”

“Alright, see you in a bit.”

“Bye.”

“Thanks, Kat.”

And I turned my head back into my pillow, this time to suffocate the tears.

Day 28 (Flash Fiction)

What secrets they whisper behind closed doors, drawing the curtains to check the pathways of light;  they think darkness inspires health, but I feel my spirit repining in these shadows. My breaths come at a dearer price every time. The clock strikes 11 in the mourning. I notice the rooster has finally stopped crowing, and I wait. And he comes.

He stands at the foot of my bed. His cloak is black, and inside is blacker. I cannot discern his face. I sigh as he sits by my bedside, kneeling over me as I feel smooth, gloved fingers grasp my own, the weight of the fabric from his sleeve resting on my waist. All other noises die away, all the hushed worries and pitying eyes. Only him.

“She will die.”

I shiver. His voice is older than the stones that fill the hills. A strangled sound escapes my throat. I compose myself, murmuring, “No.”

“Yes,” He says, unflinchingly. “What can you think to argue? You cannot deny me, so I will take her.”

My heart runs cold, for I know He never leaves empty handed. I clutch my little on in my arms, press her closer to me.

“Me. Take me.”

He grows very still. His thumb runs absently inside my palm, following the lines, as his hooded face gazes at the child I have barely known.

“You?”

“Yes,” I breath. “Yes.”

Very carefully he bends over, pulls back the hood and kisses me. For a moment, half a moment, I am captivated by death.

And then I am gone, and there is nothing.

Day 15 (A picture is worth a 1,000 words)

One day they weren’t there, and the next they were.

They had been left on the sidewalk, blithely placed in front of a brick walled apartment, some charming shrubbery.

At first people had walked past them, but then something would catch their eye. A boy had bounded down the steps for his morning paper route, hand checking the cap on his head that was threatening to free itself, and his gait was abruptly cut short by an odd shadow, a reflex of his eyes that searched for movement, kinetic energy, life, yet found none. Slowly he had traced his steps back and stood before the listless figures and stared. He looked for a very long while, and then eventually turned away and continued at a sober pace, a mysterious emotion playing in his eyes.

But, where had he found the clothes? they wondered. The bright pink coat on the girl provoked sadness for some reason, as she stood captivated by the man, clutching her small, black purse. The boy at attention like a soldier. What kind of paints could produce such startling, sharp realism? And their expressions, people would whisper.

The reactions were undependable. Many would pass by on their way to someplace else, notice, and decide to nervously ignore them, too afraid to stare as if the figures possessed a sense of propriety and the rudeness would become a palpable, real thing. Children would always ask to stop and look, and would even reach out to touch them, drawn to the children clutched by the stern man, and mothers would scold before remembering they weren’t real. A few women would gaze silently at the still family and tentatively pose beside the man as someone took a picture, pretending to be a wife and mother. Neighborhood kids rushing down the street on their bicycles would gather at the manikins as if they were a new club meeting spot.  Word spread and soon strangers came driving by just to catch a glimpse, to prove the rumors and stories they picked up while shopping for tunafish in isle 7, or while at church during meet and greet. Over black coffee in a friend’s parlor. A little girl stuck daisy chains on their heads, men would carefully study them, baffled and intrigued. They captivated everyone.

Then one morning the old man emerged from his room on the 8th floor, rode the elevator down to ground level and stepped outside. He was nearly ancient. His hair had gone completely white, his long beard snowy and soft. He wore an argyle seater vest over a white, button-down shirt, slacks, soft penny loafers and a wooden cane, which he did use. Something about him begged a sort of esoteric eccentricity, like he knew things. His neighbors always wondered what sort of hobbies kept him so occupied; no crackle and song emanated from the television during humid summer evenings. No morning papers, no parcels. Not even a dog.

He silently made his way to the manikins, back hunched over, and picked them up. Everyone kept perfectly still as he swayed first to the left, then to the right, and eventually steadied back on his heels. People in arm, he walked over to the double doors as a girl quickly opened them, and disappeared.

It took everyone a good while to reconcile the fact that the family was gone. No one ever figured out why he did what he did, what was the purpose in making them, because they never asked him.

And he never told.

DP writing challenge

Day 12

He met her gaze and saw the fury churning in her gray eyes, unwavering as the sea, gloomy. He could not bear it and turned away. His love, his desire, could not be tempered by her anger. As she realized this, something within her lost all hope. She felt her life slip out of her grasp, and inwardly she died. Her cheeks still held their color, her body kept it’s strength, yet her spirit fell cold.

She had not thought it would be this way. A new way of life was so tempting, a life filled with different textures and sensations, different emotions. She had also known what would happen if she chose to reveal herself, had known what was to happen and be since she first laid eyes on him.

She looked out onto what she had sacrificed; the sea was rife and troubled, the spray reaching to the sky as the waves crashed against each other. But she knew what lay beneath.  She knew that sound of peace that rested just below the surface, the calm and silance that permeated the soul.

A pang of physical hurt shot through her heart for a moment, half a moment, before it turned to stone.

She turned to him, and he saw her mouth set and the color of her eyes grow dim.  Her tone was dispassionate as she spoke to him for the first time, “Come, my husband, and take us to your dwelling.” For a brief moment he considered giving back what he took, but then he realized how the darkness of her eyes matched the splendor of the midnight blue sky, how her irises glimmered faintly like stars, and he was lost forever. He slowly folded the seal skin and tucked it under his arm. With his free hand he carefully took her by the elbow and guided her out of the rocks. She followed without resistance. She looked over her shoulder on last time, and she allowed herself a trace of wistful sadness for her children when the time came for her to leave them.

For a time when she could no longer bear the call of the sea, and came home.

To be heard

I write in order for my voice to be heard. Not the voice that comes up through your throat, but the one that weaves and wanders through your sleeping dreams. The voice that tells you why you like sunsets and the feel of cool sand beneath bare feet. The one that whispers softly in your ear of love, blushing cheeks, and the reason for a sigh. The voice that sings with the winds of a storm, and pushes you to dive from perilous heights into crystal azure waters. A voice that resonates with the unambiguous laughter of a small child. If I can capture one story of that voice, but one murmur, I know I have not scribed in vain.

To be a Poet Laureate

My poetry always ends up sounding like something out of a yet to be discovered Shell Silverstein book. I read Where the Sidewalk Ends, when I was little, not Robert Frost, and my young mind appears to have soaked up every bit and stored it away. I feel like I have some sort of bizarre, latent gift that surfaces every once in a while, briefly, and then leaves. Or rather the desire departs from me.

Words are so difficult to arrange. My favorite book is The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia Mckillip. It’s on of her earlier works, and it also garnered her a World Fantasy Award. When I had discovered it for the first time, I had been attracted to the woman on the cover with dark eyes and white hair, standing serenely beside a lion. It smelt musty, like an old dust jacket, but inside there had slept a different world that came to life wherever my eyes touched. She wrote, I discovered, as if she had been handed a specific number of words, and she had rearranged them into what they had always intended themselves to be. I didn’t know it at the time, but something caught in me when I read that book. That fantasy novel was not like the ones that lined the shelves at my local thrift store, with gaudy, glossy covers of women in tight leather, riding dragons, red and purple and black splashed heedlessly through the illustration. I wasn’t listening to a middle aged woman venting her vivid, fantastical dreams. It was carefully sculpted and lyrical. It was warm, yet precisely refined, like a diamond. I then and there if I could write like that, then that would be enough. To paint with my words without seeming melodramatic, and to relate my dreams without growing lost in the sea of voices.

To write not one word more, or less, than is needed. That is my struggle.

Now, my poetry. The very idea seems ludicrous. Me? My poetry? It always leans either to the whimsical or the deep, heavy stuff the heart is made of, and is rarely, if it ever was, good at all. Yet none the less, there are those moments where I pick up a pen, and I begin to write. Words start filling the page and all I can do when it’s over is stare at them and wonder where they came from. All my other writing is vastly different. Like right now, for example. My regular compositions often reflect what I happen to be reading at the moment (for the curious: Laurie R. King’s God of the Hive). That truth has often put me in odd bearings depending on the quality of my sources. I’ve noticed that if I don’t read at all, my writing suffers, and if I read books that are beyond my comprehension, my brain absorbs, quite hungrily, I must say, and adapts in ways I am only aware of when I write. And my writing also is effected by sheer hours I put in writing. I picked up a pencil when I was fourteen, wrote every day, and two years later my writing was often confused for an adult’s. But my poetry.

Ah, there you have it. My poetry is always what it is; in my poetry, behind the rhymes, is the face of my childhood and my grown-up heart, woven inextricably together.

 

 

One day under a sky so clear

And a sea so calm

Stood fear

In robes made of the darkest stuff

Whose irises reflected night

And whose breath reached out to spread decay

Whose voice was gravel

low and rough

Would never cease all time to convey

The desperate desire to both run

And stay

Until the heart gave out

And the bravest hand gave way

 

He simpered in the open ears

Of rulers warming ornate chairs

While men marched quiet to their death

And the children softly wept

Because the quiet in the dark

Consumed the noise of life and took

The hope the heart, it’s treasure, stores

 

But an army rose to speak

Truth with banners bright

Against the bleak

With light ablaze behind their eyes

And a blade of truth to try

They shook the earth with steps unchanging

Never wavering

And never blinking

 

He hears a rumble distant, faint

And turns his face to feel the warmth

Of a burning inside the soul

Of worthless men

Of pluck that’s quaint

 

But distantly

Still yet he hears

Them coming nearer

Across the years

Until at last upon his face

Something far different from a sneer

Overtakes his features, slack

And a foot once planted firm

As if made of stone

Steps back.