Silence

Do you hear it?
That sound invading the canyon walls?
Echoing and burying itself against and within the vast perimeters of its landscapes
Do you hear it?

That sound so aggressive and yet so simultaneously subtle
That effortlessly pierces the mind, body, spirit and soul with such ferocity and nuance
That nestles rather comfortably on closed lips
That envelops open minds much like an aura
That causes the levees on thoughts to break free
And appreciation to slowly set in
That is the absence of

Shh. Do you hear it?
Listen and listen gingerly
Even pause for a spell
You heard it, didn’t you?
Didn’t you?
Silence

Peaceful Solitude

I am alone and yet I am not alone
I am not surrounded by others
I am not engrossed in conversation
And yet I do not panic although I am by myself
I am my own company
I find refuge in myself

Here presents a moment of acceptance coupled with relief
A moment of self reflection
A moment of thoughts only privy to me
After all, if I am not comfortable being around me

How can I expect others to be?
I relish these moments; these moments of peaceful solitude
Where I can find true understanding
My true definition coming forth and becoming clearer
Without other’s involvement or input

Solo, as I was at birth
Minus the nervousness & uncertainties
Just I, basking in the familiarity of one; myself
And never before have the number seem so enticing and safe

Safety Came for Me

It hurt.

Each smack that fell upon my already stinging red skin sent electrical shocks throughout my body. I wanted to scream. No, I couldn’t scream otherwise another smack will land on me. What I could do now was wait till he was done, leave the room and drink his life away.

He kicked my right side and the pain from his steel-toed boots felt like a knife going through my right side and out the other. I muffled a cry. He shouted at me too. The words stung like a poison. Words that made me feel weak, senseless, terrible, useless, and unwanted. Like if I were to die right now no one would care to realize. He’d probably drag my body out into the woods and bury me deep in the ground to never be seen again.

The kicks, smacks, shoves, and yelling was dying down. After one more kick in the stomach, which felt like I was going to upchuck my stomach from my mouth, he left the room. The door slammed shut and there was a click from the lock. He placed it there so that I couldn’t run away while he drank himself to sleep. He didn’t want to go to jail.

Laying in that corner I stared around my room. It wasn’t much of a room anymore. Everything was a mess and I owned barely nothing. My closet was only filled with enough to last me a week. My bed was covered with enough to keep me warm at night but sometimes I couldn’t make it there. I was too tired to move and so like the days before I fell asleep in the corner of my bedroom.

Early the next morning I got up to make that man breakfast. He sat at the table looking very hung over. Twenty dollars sat in front of him to go get groceries. Quietly I crept to the table and grabbed the money like I would whenever it sat there.

“Come straight back,” His voice had made my skin crawl with nervousness.

Leaving the house wearing only jeans, old sneakers, and a hoodie my feet headed in the same path down to the store that sat at the end of the street. It was the closest one but I had to make sure that no one took too much noticed of me. Like every time I went around and grabbed the things that he wanted. The list was a simple one: eggs, bacon, bread, sausage, and hash-browns. It was like this every time and I had just enough to cover it all with two dollars and sixty-three cents left over.

I was grabbing the thick-cut bacon. Someone went grabbing my upper arm. I flinched noticeably as my heart raced thinking it was him because the grip was tight. The hand had left and I heard them back away a step.

“Carry?” His voice was so soft, confused, gentle, and worried. It was ages ago before I had heard that exact voice. I was in school then, but now I wasn’t. That man back home had pulled me out of it. That following night he was beating me and telling me that I wasn’t good enough for school. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t worth being taught. I have longed to go back because it was the only safe place to be from him. “Carry?”

“Leave me alone, Tony,” I mumbled softly placing the bacon in the basket before going to find the eggs. I didn’t want him here. If he found out that someone was talking to me besides the cashier he was going to lock me away. He might think that I was trying to plan to run away or turn him in. I’ve tried to do that many years ago but somehow he made people think I was crazy, they would whisper about me in the halls not knowing the actual truth. After that was I too scared to try again. He raped me that night.

“Carry, what’s going on with you? Where have you been?” I ignored him though so badly I didn’t want to. He was such a good friend when we were children. He cared so much for me. That man though had threaten me to not to talk to Tony anymore. “Carry, answer me.” I have forgotten how demanding he was after he asked a question. Without a word I went to the cashier and paid for my things before leaving the store.

He followed, my heart started to race. If he was looking out the window or heard Tony I don’t know what would happen then but I knew that later that night I’ll be sleeping my pains away in the corner of my bedroom like the night before.

“Tony, please leave me alone.”

“Carry, what the hell is going on with you?” He grabbed my upper arm again and I bit my lip from the pain that he was causing by touching the bruises. He noticed, “What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing.”

“You think that I’ll believe that?” No.

“Go away Tony.” Please, please leave Tony. I don’t want you getting hurt too.

“Tell me.” I tried walking away but he continued to follow. “I’ve been looking for you for months now, please Carry tell me what’s going on.” Tony grabbed my arms again and I wanted to cry out from the pain but bit my lip from letting it out. He saw the pain in my eyes and stepped closer to me. My feet took an instinctive step back. He pulled me to him before I could do anything to react. I crash against him with more force than needed. Waves of hot pain shot through me and a small cry left my lips. Tony wasn’t going to give up.

His embrace was warm and comforting. Something that I have longed for the last couple years. It was gentle and he held me with care, like I was a fragile china doll. Slowly I leaned into him. The warmth was something that I needed. Thoughts of what could happen if I was caught faded from my mind while the only safety that I have could be the one holding me right now.

“Please, tell me Carry. Something is going on. This isn’t you.”

Safety was holding me right now.

I didn’t want it to slip away from me.

It was probably the only chance I had.

“My father’s been abusing me,” Those words were so hard to speak. My throat had tighten up, tears filled my eyes, and my mouth had felt dry. That feeling you get when you’re just about to cry and know it. It was impossible to hold back. Tony held me closer to him as I cried. He took his phone out of his back pocket.

Safety came for me.

Without my pleading or cries for help, it has come to me because I took that chance to tell someone.

Obsession, Anonymous, Mourning Light

Obsession

For this is bigger, crisis of body and
soul only lifted when I write ─
glorious obsession, going nowhere.

Last quarter moon in a sunny sky.
Birds are endless friends, water waves in both
directions, lake can’t make up her mind.

How far is poetry from insanity?
How far am I?
I live for caffeine clarity nuanced by nicotine,

sustained by midnight kitchen trysts ─
why, when love lay beside me?
Love is my word processor, love is words.

Love is my words on the printed page.
How many roads to wholeness can there be?
For me, this one.

This one.
I have written and now must somehow
find a way to justify the rest of my day.


Anonymous

You’re a writer so write
the voice said.

Seize the inspiration
purring all around.

Your days are numbered
you know.

Do you think you’ll wish
you’d watched more TV?

Or spent what’s left
licking editors’ envelopes,

hoping to breathe life
into the already born?

You’re a writer so write
the voice said.

Your days are numbered.
You know you know.


Mourning Light

The early sun comes callously across the pane,
laying on hands, one that holds this pointed pen
transfusing words into a page.

I have not yet begun to write,
and the hand, exposed, exclaims “No!” 
The skin cannot already be this slack, these

blue and swollen river veins must recede and
bring alabaster answers back
to the quivering question of my tenuous time.

But the light denies my denial, quickening this
stranger’s hand, this hand that’s held the pages of
my plot, and is already foreshadowing the denouement.

In the Still I Struggle

The crisp smell of Fall has long since wandered away.
And I just realized today, to my surprise,
that I miss it.

Crisp, earthy, experient, and contemplative things-
no forced refreshments.
This feeling of frustration, tightly coiled,
set to Spring
My wounds spoiled
Spring, Spring! Talk to me not of Spring,
for in the still I struggle.

I could break my teeth on unready apples.
We haven’t yet gotten rid of Winter;
had a funeral for the funeral of seasons
But I’m stranded back at the hospital room.
Rings of rust-color,
autumnal color,
on the walls.

They painted to cover one last time-
yes, I remember, it’s in my mind-
before falling victim to the brumal claim.
Everything is cyclical.
So sit a little.

Consider how
the Winter wind blew so cold and sharp
and carved out clear ideas from the vague ones in my head.
Consider how it’s been
a particularly bleak and overcast Winter,
and has kept me under a wonderfully oppressive low ceiling of
gray gloom,
forcing me to a frenzy of trying to make brilliance.

They say everything is bursting, sprouting, but it is not.
It is still.
And in Spring, there’s perhaps only one out there
commiserating with my dolefulness.
Though I don’t know if I can trust even her.

The weeping willow’s a widow,
yet she wears a veil of green.
This limbo’s so dense,
I cannot see the newly-foliated trees
for the forest.

Mainstay

What figure am I, to haunt your house of love?
I think I never held a pillar here.
But here you come,
To make another pilgrimage to this place.

The blindest birdies chatter the most,
And the loudest,
On my grounds.
And we, who are not blind, must distract ourselves
From the crumbs of truth they’ve failed to grasp.

Shall you and I break bread together?
I am not a good hostess;
I will not warm it for you.
And I insist on dining alfresco.

Fear not, I am the stature of Justice
Who wears a blindfold, but still sees.
And to my opinion,
In my most loving moments,
Everything you see is captured perfectly
With your sterling sight.

The rest might as well all have splinters in their eyes.
You and I can live in an orchard of cinderblocks,
For all I care.
And have contentment just in
Finding different ways to
Describe it to each other.

And I am confident we might someday build
A monument to our love.
Let me call you my turtledove.
Perch here on my shoulder.

Black Cherry Heart

Calm the hell down;
We lives without luster.
With the first whisper of sunlight, though,
I believe in something more.

Omymoron, whisper of a crescendo,
Speaking to my black cherry heart.
The anger is like ruching.
Pretty on clothes,
Not so pretty in me.

But I am so superficial today.
I’ve got a sucker
And a bridge to sell you.
The flavor is black cherry.
Dark like a haunted wood,
But sweet like the spectres will come kiss you on the lips.
It’s only faux bad-ass.

I see many here at the mall
Trying on the look.
Spikes on the bottom of shiny black boots;
frost-bitten feet with daggers of ice through them.
Is this supposed to express who I am?

My choices are:
Cheesy, cheese dripping off a pretzel
Cheesy freakin’ All American Kids
Cloaked in trends and being snide
And the kids, into eschewing labels and being spiked
are a label onto themselves, and
would like you to think they’re grinding up rocks in their teeth.
They’re eating Pop Rocks.

So this is me,
The mall when I’m fifteen.
Teenyboppers, with lollypops in the hall
Black cherry lollipop, shaped like like a heart
Black cherry heart in me.

Imagine

I lean my brow against
taut, woven rope.
Square board presses on
my thighs, flesh overflowing
from edges of a too
small swing.
I am riding bareback,
a roan beauty.

Stale wind whips
over my body.
I lean further
over iron water
sliding across the bottom
of a bloated canal.
I am hanging from a streaming star,
over the edge

I hear yelling across
vast expanse of graying grass
leading up to yellow brick house.
I hear the beetle black dog barking.
I am anywhere. Anywhere else.

The Visits

Through the passenger window of a taxi Katy saw him. Or was it him? Traffic was moving briskly despite the time of day. So just when she caught a glimpse, he was past. She looked behind through the back window. The sidewalk was crowded.

Then she saw him; head down, shuffling through the maze of people. His height and build were right; his moustache and hair were the same albeit with flecks of gray. Aging hair made sense; it had been several years since she last saw him. He shuffled into the parking garage. Suddenly she became convinced of the identity. It was him. Now she knew basically where he worked and what time of day he got off. That’s when she plotted the visit.

That first visit was a near miss, too. On the predetermined day Katy slinked through the parking garage several times before finally spotting his familiar car and vanity plate. Thank goodness he was frugal and a creature of habit. If he had purchased a new vehicle since she last saw him this visit may not have transpired. Katy checked her watch and then hid beside a van in an adjacent parking spot. She watched wordlessly holding her breath as he trudged from the street into the garage. His head was down. He would not see her. Like a stalker, she stepped forward as he raised his key to unlock the car. He was ambushed.

Despite growing up together, he failed at first to recognize her. When he realized who she was, he was not happy. She didn’t expect he would be pleased. For years he had never returned a phone call, email or snail mail. When one would make the long drive to his home, he was never home. Or just wasn’t answering the door.

Katy felt an ache in her heart, much like their mother felt so many times. A brother, a son, a godfather, an uncle had abruptly fallen off the face of the earth and didn’t want to be found. He mumbled a response to her greeting, got into his car and didn’t even say goodbye. Katy shouted, “We love you, don’t cut us from your life!” as he pulled away. But he didn’t hear her. At least that’s what Katy told herself.

The rest of the family would claim to have no idea why Derrick abruptly left the fold. After all, they were a large robust family that always included the younger brother despite his air of aloofness. His mood swings were legendary. But he was still loved and invited everywhere. At first, he attended every family gathering; seldom speaking, but a physical presence. Then, he just stopped going. Siblings would say they were at a loss at his sudden departure. That is everyone except Katy.

“It was the relentless bullying and teasing.” Katy said to her mother. “Especially about being a sensitive.”

Mother refused to believe it at first. As far as the teasing by his brothers went, boys will be boys was her motto. “He brought on the teasing,” she would say in defense of her other sons. The “sensitive” aspect was personal and best kept quiet. After all, Mother was a sensitive and very few knew. Most people – especially family – would not understand. In the past such a gift was swept under the rug or else held to ridicule. Mother encouraged Derrick to keep his gift quiet. And he did. Until he saw the man hanging in the rafters of the attic. Derrick was just a child and his reaction was commiserate with his age. He screamed and ran down the stairs to tell his mother. His brothers were in the room. They laughed and heckled him. Mother said he was imagining things. And so began the relentless bullying began.

“The longer he stays away the harder it will be to come back,” Mother would say at family gatherings. His absence broke her heart.

The children in the family noticed he was gone, too. “Why doesn’t Uncle Derrick ever come to our reunions?” a niece asked. Katy knew but simply shrugged. Later she would recount to her mother the last reunion her brother Derrick attended.

It was Christmas Eve years before. Family members had traveled far and near to the parent’s home. It would be the last gathering in the old house where they had grown-up.. The home was filled with joy and spirit. And was the place where Derrick as a child had seen the hanging man.

The picture Katy kept from that night was haunting. On the many faces of the photographed relatives was powdered sugar smeared amply around each and every mouth and face. Even Derrick had a white face. Except he wasn’t smiling. 

Mother had put on a feast, as usual, for all the guests. Following a turkey with all the trimmings came all the goodies. But the cookies, divinity, fudge, peanut brittle, candy and cakes that were passed at the end of the meal fell short to some. Inevitably Mother was questioned about the one treat that had graced the table each and every holiday that was now absent.

“Where are the rum balls?” one of the brother’s asked.

Mother shrugged. “There’s a ton of goodies here,” she replied.

“Your mother has been cooking and baking for a month,” replied Father.

The brother grumbled. “I look forward to those all year. I can’t believe that you didn’t make any.” Mother looked away with raised eyebrows and a strange grin. Then the crowd all teasingly grumbled.

The teasing continued as the dishes were cleared from the table. While putting away the fudge in the refrigerator, Katy saw a suspiciously sealed Christmas tin. Upon opening it, the familiar aroma filled her senses. Taking off the lid, revealed Mother’s elusive powdered sugar rolled rum balls.

Katy started to laugh and popped one in her mouth. “Great Mom, now I know where they are hidden.”

“Hey, hey,” Mother said. “I didn’t put those out because there are not enough for everyone.”

The complaining brother had gone to the porch to checkout Mother’s stash of holiday goodies. Katy found Mother’s powdered sugar and quickly instructed the nieces and nephews to spread powdered sugar on everyone’s faces. They had just finished dabbing the last person, when complaining brother/uncle returned, chagrinned.

“There are no rum balls,” he groaned. Suddenly he saw a multitude of white guilty faces. “Hey!”

Chuckles greeted him.

Complaining brother powdered his face white. Then the final retort. “Hey Derrick look – I see dead people.”

The laughter was deafening. Katy’s husband snapped the photo. All the brothers and sisters were there along with parents laughing at Derrick’s expense. He abruptly left.

“That was his last time with us,” Katy said privately to her mother. “You and Dad moved to assisted living and he never visited. When dad died Derrick came and left the funeral home without words. Our family now calls him a crazy recluse. Mom he is not crazy. I saw the hanging man – ”

“I saw him many times,” Mother interrupted dismissively. “But you just don’t talk about those things.”

“He was just a kid. Why didn’t we defend him?”

Mother turned away. “I have had to live with being a sensitive my entire life. He needed to learn how to deal with it.”

“Mother, what kind of gutless wonders are we?”

Katy again watched as her brother trudged into the parking garage. This time her face didn’t bring him to anger. Instead, it was total apathy.

“Can I get in the car and talk to you?” She asked. “It’s cold out here.”

“Suit yourself,” he mumbled. It was the first words she had heard him say in a decade.

She climbed in the front passenger seat and began to talk. She rambled on about his siblings, their spouses and children. She told him how mother was doing in assisted living and missed him terribly. He stared ahead out of the windshield and said nothing. Then she apologized on behalf of herself and the family. She thought maybe she saw tears in his eyes, but she wasn’t sure. His face was expressionless.

“And I want you to know that I saw him, too. The hanging man in the attic. I went up there to get a toy and he was there. I told mom that I saw him and she said to be quiet or that I would be teased. So I kept quiet.”

“There was no man,” Derrick said softly.

“No man physically, but his spirit was still there hanging. He had on rumpled baggy brown corduroy pants with a grayed button down shirt – “

“With rolled up sleeves,” Derrick said. “The shirt used to be white but was grey from all the washings.”

“He had on worn dark brown shoes,” Katy said.

“There were holes in the soles. You could see that because he was hanging,” Derrick added.

“He had a full head of dark blonde hair and it was messy.”

“His clothes and hands were dirty, like he been a laborer and just came in from outside …” Derrick said quietly.

“Those glasses haunt me,” Katy said.

“Black horn rimmed,” they said together.

“And his eyes were opened – they looked like glazed marbles,” Derrick said sadly.

They were quiet for a few moments. “That house was over a hundred years old with many different occupants. Originally it was a farm until the land was subdivided and sold off.” Katy had done her research.

“I always thought he was a young farmer with a family who simply grew despondent,” Derrick said suddenly.

“There are no records of a death in the house,” Katy said. She shrugged. “I was always so terrified to sleep at night. Had to have the light on. Now as an adult, I see the man as tragic not scary.”

They sat quietly before Katy said her goodbyes. She kissed his cheek. He didn’t respond.

Katy visited Derrick every few months, ambushing him in the garage keeping her brother updated on family events, inviting him to every activity. He never came.

The last summer reunion the family traveled to the Lake Inn. On the final night of the reunion, a campfire was lit near the lake. Ghost stories were told. Then, Katy’s husband brought out night sky lanterns. There were enough lanterns that each individual family was designated their own light. As the lanterns were lit and floated up over the lake, that family would silently place all their burdens, cares and worries on the lantern and let them float away.

The busy chatter and laughter stopped suddenly when the first lantern was launched. They watched in wonder as the cares and burdens were lifted and carried away before disintegrating harmlessly into the lake. One by one the lanterns floated up, up and away leaving everyone teary and awestruck on this perfect night.

In the end, there was one extra lantern.

“To Derrick,” Katy said softly. And watched as the final lantern floated away.

 

Nailed

Tess Mcgonery

I was biting my nails again.

I just couldn’t help it though. Every time the teacher gave a surprise recitation, I felt so nervous that I couldn’t stop myself. Even though I knew my mom would hate me for ruining her latest creation on my nails, I couldn’t stop it even if I wanted to.

On the plus side, it somehow got under the skin of one very moody Christian Sanders. And I just love getting under his skin.

“Hey!” He half shouted, half whispered. Speak of the devil.

Our teacher was in front slowly murdering one of my classmates with her stare, and I didn’t want to be in the receiving point of that. I tried to ignore him, biting into my nails deliberately. A crumpled paper flew to my desk, and I bit back a smile as I opened it.

Stop that.

I wrote him back, carelessly throwing it over my shoulder.

 

Christian Sanders

Bite me.

I groaned, throwing mental daggers through her head. If only she stopped biting her nails like that, then maybe I could concentrate on what the teacher was saying. I was afraid she’d call me all of the sudden while I was busy getting furious with Tess Mcgonery. That girl was impossible, and she was biting into her nails like it was her lifeline made me hate her more.

If only she knew that I wanted my lips to be the one she’d be biting, then maybe she’d stop doing it too much.

I smirked as I wrote another reply to her, hopefully making her stop biting her nails.

 

Tess Mcgonery

Another crumpled paper made it’s way to my desk, just as the teacher turned around to waste chalk on the board with her pointless lecture. I breathed out a sign of relief that she was distracted for a moment.

I’d gladly will. Shall I start with the ones you’re using to bite your nails?

A blush crept up my face when I suddenly imagined his lips on mine, and I tried to bury it down my deepest subconscious. The teacher began to babble on in the background, calling the guy who was half asleep at the back. Poor guy.

I tried to think of a smart retort to what he said, but I felt another surge of blood threatening to fill my cheeks.

I crumpled the paper and threw it in my bag, determined to put Christian Sanders out of my mind. He was too handsome for his own good, and flirting with him will only be trouble.

 

Christian Sanders

I watched as she kept in her bag the note, then proceeded into biting her nails again. If only I could kiss her, if only I could feel what her nails feel right now, then maybe I’d stop thinking about her all the time. I’m loosing my edge, thinking about a girl who has strawberry art on her nails.

I mean, who paints their nails a different artwork every week?

And who bites them so she needs to change them every week?

No other than Tess Mcgonery.

 

Tess Mcgonery

The poor teacher almost had a heart attack when one of the students raised their hands. No one dared to raise his or her hand in class. It was a silent agreement between all of us.

I didn’t know if it was a look of surprise or despise when she turned to the hand calling her attention. And of course, it was Christian Sanders.

“Yes Mr.?” She tried to focus her eyes to the culprit of the class disruption, something we have dubbed as ‘zooming in’.

“Sanders.” He answered.

Of course she didn’t know our names. I bet she doesn’t even know what subject this is!

“Is it hygienic for someone to keep biting their nails even though every week they get a new design on it? I mean, the chemicals from the nail paint must be dangerous.”

I felt all blood from my body suddenly rush to my face, as I noticed the already chipped strawberry. I looked down as the professor seemed to actually contemplate on Christian’s question.

“Well young man, what do we suppose we should do with that?”

 

Christian Sanders

I inwardly panicked, trying to figure out why the hell did I raise my hand. The professor, whom I never did catch the name, looked at me quizzically.

Think fast!

“Honestly? They deserved to be kissed senseless so that they knew that there was something tastier than their nails.” I smirked as I watched Tess make herself invisible, slumping down her seat.

The whole class roared with laughter, most of them being awake because of the word ‘kiss’.

“Quiet down!” The professor commanded. When everyone settled down, the professor turned his attention back to me.

“Well Mr. Sanders, would you demonstrate that?”

“Certainly.”

I instantly saw the other girls bite their nails, trying to get my attention.

But there was only one girl I needed to kiss.

One girl who got me nailed.

 

Tess Mcgonery

I tried to stop biting my nails for the next few minutes. My professor looked bored and went with it, my classmates were now wide awake, and here I am, hoping he isn’t talking about me.

But when he stepped forward from his desk and stopped beside mine, I actually quivered.

And not the bad type either.

He grazed over my hand, caressing it in a way I couldn’t understand. I’ve never been so close to him before, so when he pulled me up, I wasn’t expecting to see his attractiveness in full bloom.

He had this faint stubble and firm pinkish lips that made him look like a man, yet his cute nose and dilated eyes made him look like a boy.

And when he kissed me, every cell in my body agreed with him.

There were tastier things than my nails.

 

Christian Sanders

I kissed her for a while longer, her hair tangled in my fingers. I was literally lost in her lips, and when she bit me, I thought I was going to melt in the middle of the classroom.

That’s when the professor cleared his throat.

I leaned back, seeing Tess’ face closer than before.

She had a button nose and brown eyes that seemed to be sparkling at me. Her lips were swollen, her cheeks red. I think I like her better this way.

As I stared behind her once again as class resumed, one thought was clear.

I’m never getting her out of my head.