Sunday, September 3, 2017

Forgetting

Forgetting stumbles in the dark basement,
stifled in his too-thick sweater,
playing an ever lengthening game of hide-and-seek.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Friend

I can’t breathe. The air I catch in scattered fragments enters my lungs sharp, cold, fast. My skin is hot.

It’s not real.

But I want to grab her hand and run, escape from the horror grasping at her ankles. It used to be her close friend, a boy. She trusted him, but obsession has twisted him, and he’s not even human anymore, not really, or maybe he’s all too human, all too real.

It’s a story, and I know before the door opens that the hero will save her. It’s not real; it’s just a story.

But I still can’t breathe. My eyes burn, but I can’t cry. I suck down water to douse the fire under my skin. I cry.

It wasn’t real.

My big sister finds me in our room, breathing too hard too fast.

I brokenly tell her, the unreal and the real. She understands. It’s July, and she’s known since last September when one Sunday afternoon I sat on my bed, bawling, for an hour, until all of my emotion mixed with salt had streamed from my eyes, leaving me numb and tired.

She waits until I’ve expelled most of my distress in carbon dioxide, pushed from my exhausted lungs. She distracts me, takes me to watch a show with her friends. She doesn’t like to be touched, but she lets me curl up against her.

He used to be my friend, someone I trusted.

I’m hollow again, numb.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Letter to Bees

Hello,

As I sit in my backyard, bare feet nestled in soft blades of thriving green, the hum of your wings fades in and out while you take the time to visit one bloom and then another, pressing your faces into the little purple trumpets for a taste of early spring pollen. You wander inches away from my unprotected skin, leaving me to my own devices as I leave you to yours. We are both content.


I'm not sure if I was ever afraid of you, as little girls often are. Perhaps there were times I was worried by the small, quick insect capable inflicting pain that at times unexpectedly circled my head, but I recall holding still for the occasional sweat bee traversing my nine year-old arm. When my sister was stung beside Great Grandma's gooseberry bush, I was more fascinated than horrified. You've never stung me, except, of course, the time I stepped on one of you, which was entirely my own fault. Some days, when the sun warms my skin and you seem to be everywhere I turn, I rather wish I were more like Beatrix Potter, able to render you soft and intricate in watercolors. Maybe English bees are simply more willing to pose for portraits.

Your friend always,
Kara

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Press Room Flowers

A gentle cross breeze meanders in and out of doors and windows while I work this morning. Unseasonably warm, but none of us are complaining. I bend the paper, letting this tame air ease between the pages. The stack drops briefly to the table. Tap. Tap. Pages settle into alignment. I slide them into the machine and tap them in place once more.

“You ready, Toby?” I whisper to the machine.

His motor continues rumbling his monologue, which I carefully interpret to be an affirmative.

Leaning back from the safety sensors, I push both hands underneath the work surface, pressing twin buttons and holding them in place, while the blade of the machine slides down with a soft swoosh through the paper stack and thunk reaches its limit and thunk returns to starting position. I sweep the paper trimmings into the recycle bin beside me, thin ribbons of waste tumbling into their confinement. My process continues, repeating. Jog the paper into a neat stack. Tap. Tap. Register the paper in the cutter. Tap. Tap. A gentle but excited murmur. “Here we go, Toby!” Swoosh. Thunk thunk. Slivers of paper tipping over the edge and tumbling, tumbling down. Then gone, and I reach for the next section of paper, only to find I’ve finished already.

“Thank you, Toby. I’ll be back soon enough.”

My feet carry me across the press room floor along a weaving line between machines, paper stacks, and rolling tables to the bindery station, my own space in this planned chaos. Here, I perch on my rolling chair, old enough to have plastic wrap wrapped around and around and around the seat, trapping in the exposed orange foam. Here, I shape the brochures in careful thirds, pressing each fold into sharp lines with the tool in my hand. We call it a bone, and I cannot help but imagine the years of hands that have held it, tilted and pressed it into paper creases. The bones wrapped in their own skin strangely similar. In reality it is something akin to a tongue depressor but plastic and thicker in the middle because of the years of wear on the edges rubbing against paper. As I near the end of my brochure pile, I glance over to the clumsily made metal flower I taped upright on the desk weeks ago.


The shrink wrap system had partly broken that day. The metal wire that heats to melt the plastic together was hanging down, a limp and partly severed appendage, when I went to package a finished job. I stared at it, the broken wire. It twisted at an odd angle, no longer straight, strong, and shining. “You poor, baby.” I rub my hand against the metal blue casing surrounding most of the system in an attempt at comfort.

As a coworker clocked in for the day, I called her over. “Sarah, what do I do?”

My comrade in arms looked at the wire for a moment, frowned, considered pushing it into place with the end of a pen, and finally said, “Let’s ask Kyle. He usually fixes it.”

Kyle, a gentle man nearing retirement, smiled as he accompanied us to the heart rending scene, despite the inconvenience. “Sarah, could you unplug it?”

“Sure.”

He reached under the device and retrieved a cardboard box, two sides of which were labeled Shrink Wrap Parts in bold swoops of a Sharpie pen. Talking to us as he did so, he unfastened the old wire, blackened and bent. “I don’t know what this could be used for now. Probably something.”

“We could make a flower out of it,” I offered.

He twisted the pliers to the left. “Sounds like an art major thing to say.”

I shrugged, watching him unspool the new wire while he continued in a conversation with Sarah which I can no longer recall. The shining strip of metal reached nearly from one anchor point to another, barely too short.

“Here. Make a flower out of this.” Kyle handed me the failed wire.

It rested with a gentle weight in my hands as so many sticks had throughout my childhood. I pressed and it bent without breaking, so I set about my task, bending and straightening, wrapping and twisting, until a flower as crude as a child’s fifth finger painting emerged, but a flower all the same.


I reach out and gently touch the edge of one wire petal. Smooth and cold, it contrasts to the stacks of paper I’ve been handling my entire shift today. My shift. I should get back to work. The job ticket, this lovely orange sheet of paper with the standard instructions from above (that is to say, Amanda’s office upstairs), dictates that the finished brochures be packaged in three groups of one hundred, so I count. I count in piles of ten until each stack is ready. I slip them into thin plastic and melt the ends together to seal them in. I place them on a blue table to my left. Before I’ve even turned on the heat gun, I’m singing ballads again, and while plastic tightens around paper in reaction to the hot air, the Lady of Shalott looks out her window to see the water lilies bloom.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

In Which I Am Simply Human

Wind and leaves sway their lullaby above my head as I slowly wake up. The cygnets have drifted back to their mother on the island in the middle of the pond, no longer waiting by the fencing that encompasses their world for me to hand them clovers that grow out of their reach. I hear them faintly muttering to their mother and other siblings as I stretch a little, eyes still closed. Music continues to play through my earbuds, one of which has fallen out of my ear and into the grass I rest on.

The kingdom of the morning star
can pierce a cold and stony heart. 
Its grace went through me like a sword 
and came out like this song. 
Now I'm just waiting for the day 
in the shadows of the dawn.

Gray Havens' "Shadows of the Dawn." It's just after the song I was listening to when I drifted off. But has it only been the length of a song, or have I been asleep the whole album and it started playing again? I put the question from my mind and inhale deeply, the grass, dirt, pond, and gentle summer air, smell like sweet colors that fill my mind. The grass murmurs as someone leaves the concrete path and approaches. I know this pattern of steps, the soft chuckle.

I stretch, smiling, and open my eyes. Seeing him smiling down at me, my own smile broadens. "Hi."

"Hi." The laughter gracing his shining eyes tickles his voice as well. "Were you asleep?"

"Not just now. I was thinking."

"Sure you were."

"I might have been sleeping for a while beforehand."

He chuckles again, pulling a leaf out of my hair. "Let's get going, Silly Woman." Taking my hand, he helps me to my feet.



Evening autumn chills have wrapped themselves around my fingers like strips of cloth as I leave him at the door, worry prodding my heart with icy fingers. He's sick. Just a cold, but I still feel lost, unable to help him recover. Instead of going straight home, where I can make cocoa and wrap myself in a blanket, I wander along paved paths while the chapel bells sing songs. Eventually I make my way towards the glowing sunset. An illusion from the distance told me the sun had set the fog to a red glow, but no fog exists to greet me when I reach the cliff's edge. I lean on the fence and gaze down at the water, its strange surface a mix of dancing textures, waves that dissolve into the shore and ripples that resemble the wrinkles of a fluttering silk cloth.

I drift away with the breeze, back up the path, leaving behind the people hammocking, chatting among themselves. When I am behind the library, I pause. We've sat in the grass here together, he and I, talking about various universes. This evening, I see something I have repeatedly overlooked when the grass was green and vibrant: a well worn path. Without consciously coming to a decision, I find myself following it. I place one foot at a time, not rushing myself when it's even a little steep. I've learned caution from a childhood of running through fields and walking along ledges beside creeks. I gently lower myself down large rocks similar to the those at the cliff point I just left. At the end, I stand on a flat slab that overlooks the lake below. I feel different here, more myself than work has allowed me to be in a while. There is no fence here. No fence to protect me, but none to confine me.

I sit down, alone but for the occasional owl call and cricket symphony. The sun continues her near completed journey, settling ever so slowly behind the tree blanketed hills in the distance. As I trace senseless shapes and patterns in the red clay dust that covers the stone, I study the almost twinkling cities in the distance and the reflections of lanterns on the lakeside docks. Watching the water so late at night, I understand the writers who came back again and again to ink. It's so dark I can hardly imagine ever seeing through it clearly, but even as I accept the obsidian depths, remembering my mother's inks and pens with which she does not write, but draws, the words to paint the universe, I cannot help but notice how much clearer the reflection is in this black mirror. Eventually I take my camera out and try to capture a fragment, but none of the pictures satisfy me.


After a while, I return up the path again, find my way to my room, curl up with a blanket, and make cocoa for my roommate and myself. The night passes gently, and I fall asleep in a deep pile of blankets.

The next day, I wake in a cocoon of warmth but manage to force myself to get dressed and out. I see him at lunch, still miserably ill. He eats quickly, and I walk him back to his place again. Again I wander to the cliff behind the library. Today, I notice a path that enters the trees. Curious, I follow it until I find a place to sit. There I build a small fairy house in the base of a tree. Inside, I place a sun-bleached snail shell. The rest of my time on the path, I take pictures. There's something about light that touches the human soul. So many stories from all around the world, and light is almost always a force or symbol of good.


Before I go back to my room again, I sit on the stone slab for nearly half an hour, staring out at the lake and surrounding countryside, far away but somehow close enough to see. Despite the chilly weather of late, I am warm in the sunlight, warm and content. Absentmindedly, I reach up and touch my hair. My fingers encounter a stowaway there, a yellow leaf. Its edges are jagged and must have caught in my hair while I was hidden away along the forest path. Although I am not certain why, I give it a gentle kiss before I return it to the trees.

Standing, I stare out one more time at the vast segment of the enormous garden I am a part of. It's not the perfect garden, the Garden of Eden, but it's still a garden, brimming with life, beauty, and the fantastical. How wondrous. I brush the dirt from my jeans and sigh happily.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Song of Polyphemus

My days were simple.
Care for my rams and craft cheese.
Simple. They were simple.

My people are more
than savage killers and thieves.
They are more than you.

We had a prophet
many, many years ago.
He spoke. We listened.

 He told me “Someday
the man Odysseus, will
steal your gift of sight.”

This man I pondered.
I considered and wondered
whom this man could be.

Strong? Of course he is.
Impressive? Oh, he must be.
Smart? Certainly so.

But my life passed on.
The prophet died, and his tales
ebbed from memory.

My rams. My kinsmen.
These filled my days, and I was
content in my life.

You. You came and stole.
You demanded I give more.
You told lies, small thief.

You and yours are not
the same as me or my kin.
Your blood is bitter.

Did they deserve more?
Was their leader truly good?
No, Thief, you are vile.

But you refused to
lay down and die easily.
You tricked me, Mortal.

You filled me with wine.
Bitter falsehoods you fed me.
My mistake: I slept.

Searing pain. My screams.
You wretched worm of mankind.
Oh, this white, hot pain.

Have you had your eyes
stabbed out with a burning stick?
No. You have both eyes.

You robbed me of mine.
My sight. My dear brothers’ trust.
You stole these from me.

Taunt me. Shout at me.
I hear you. Poseidon hears.
He will avenge me.

 And these, my dear rams,
I will tend with my last breath,
but not near as well.

Rest is my freedom.
I dream and my eye still sees
the pastures, the rams.

You could never take
everything from me, Thief.
You can’t take my dreams.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Night Pondering



What lingers in the dark?
What muffled horror?
What passing chill?
What monsters stand
and wait
and listen
for coming feet?

Warm breezes pass through screens.
This, a whispered calling,
a gentle summons,
peaceful, humble,
brings me,
camera in hand,
out.

Far from fields of barley,
late night coyote calls,
star freckled sky,
and solitude.
"Safety"
I exit
and on sidewalk step.

No roaring night life here,
no drunken people,
no speeding cars.
Slam on the brakes.
Stumbles,
not of feet
but souls.

I wander,
pause,
and breathe.

A yellow lamplight stands,
glowing of long past,
sad memories
for which I was
absent.

Lens open,
I gather together
stray pieces of light,
parts of shadow,
and dissmissed colors.
Now still
memories
trapped
within.

Illuminated trees,
reflections on water,
a lonely wooden bridge.
How different
the world is
in obsidian hues
with the faintest
kisses of light.

I pause and
breathe,
wonder.

In the darkness of night,
when fear writhes in hearts,
fevered nightmares come
from within me.
Streetlights
and
glowing stars
light the way
Home.